The Men and Women without Quality
Even as what they have to say (and how they choose to style themselves) may rankle, it's tough not to acknowledge the origin of their ostensibly purposeless narcissism. In many ways, these people only respond to the incredibly successful examples of reality TV mentioned above. As television entertainment increasingly moves away from scripted dramas with whole personalities, crafted toward a larger thematic objective, it's filled with personalities who justify and sell themselves merely by existing. The gesture of gazing fondly on oneself in the mirror becomes less shallow and deficient of spirit when accidentally tuning the television to any of a hundred channels results in the same image broadcast back at them.
In fact, many of these people can be so frustrating because you can easily determine the profound feelings lurking under the learned posturing of the reality-TV format. There's a human being in there who has no functional mouth yet still must scream. Painful glimmers of the universality of loneliness, rejection, apprehension and ambition shine beneath affected behaviors and millionaire-moneymaker modes of keeping shit real. You want to reach through the screen and shake them by the shoulders, telling them to just talk like a fucking person. You want to tell them that the shame of human existence is that feeling bad isn't that special, because everyone feels it - which, coincidentally, means that virtually anyone you can connect with can, at some level, understand your pain.
Many of these people didn't start out as tediously self-important snowflakes. They just hurt, and their lives sucked, and when they turned on the TV, The Real World showed them that everyone is special and that there's no difference between being famous and being what you are right this minute. In accidental partnership with reality TV, YouTube has both democratized and cheapened the truism that every life is a story, because the immediate sensation that our own is of equal significance to everyone else's has allowed us to forget that every story deserves to be told well.
Perhaps a dim awareness of this last injunction informs the frequent vlogger compulsion to obsess over hallmarks of pop-culture ephemera (Star Wars, Harry Potter, Apple computers, video games). Videos mention these works, but few ever comment on them thoughtfully, explain their obsession, or even what they like about them. At best, it seems like the references follow the Family Guy/Big Bang Theory storytelling fallacy that referencing something else that was funny or smart actually constitutes being funny or smart yourself: awareness of other content means that you have some of your own. At worst, these references come across like that Saturday Night Live skit "The Chris Farley Show," where Farley asks a celebrity, "Hey, do you remember, um, the Terminator? That was cool." Like any subculture of people, they exist within an echo chamber, saying and hearing the same things about the same things over and over again, without any room for critical thought, self-aware irony or an attempt to extrapolate the fantasy of their selected entertainment into the real world in order to affect their lives.