Taking the Red Pill: From “The Matrix” to Politics

If you’ve ever seen the 1999 science-fiction classic “The Matrix”, or have simply been keeping up with certain socio-political events, it is likely that you will be familiar with the red pill/blue pill analogy. However, to those of you who are unaware, let me briefly explain:

The whole concept of these two pills – and no, we are not talking about recreational drugs – is that it’s a metaphor for truth. The idea was first explored “The Matrix”, where the protagonist is offered to take a blue pill and wake up believing whatever he wants, or take a red pill and be exposed to the truth (no matter how unpleasant it may be). A peculiar but somewhat useful analogy, which is currently being considered from a political point of view. A lot of the time, people refuse to explore ideas outside of their comfort zone, thinking that their beliefs are the only ones worth listening to. It doesn’t matter if the opposing party brings rational, valid arguments – in most cases, the red pill will always be discarded for the blue.

Speaking from a political standpoint, it is no secret that there has always been a major divide between the left (liberals) and the right (conservatives). As of now, this division is perfectly reflected by the current state of America. Now, if you are a US citizen, please don’t be insulted and automatically assume that I am bashing your country; it was just a very tempting example, since things are evidently messed up at the moment. Ever since Trump came to power (and before that too, come to think of it), there has been an open conflict between the two sides. Liberals are often referred to as “Social Justice Warriors” and “Snowflakes” by the right, whilst they themselves refer to the right as “Nazis” or “White Supremacists”. And with the popularity of the internet, disagreements like this are much more intense.

Since a significant number of the younger generation (i.e. everyone under 30) seems to lean more towards the left, the internet – especially websites like Tumblr and YouTube – have always been populated by liberals. However, at some point, they ended up going overboard, giving birth to the Buzzfeed generation. Suddenly, left-wing politics stopped being about tolerance and acceptance, and became a frighteningly radicalized form of liberalism; people began screaming “oppression” at every corner, privilege became a crime and anyone who disagreed with them was either racist, sexist, trans-phobic, Islamophobic or trying to harass them. This angered conservatives, who turned to the opposite extreme and started a trend of “Anti-SJW” channels, some of which include Andy Warski, Bearing, Hunter Avallone and many more.

Initially, the main motive of these channels was to show how brainwashed these extreme liberals are, and point out flaws in their arguments. However, instead of encouraging an intellectual debate, the two sides ended up being at war. There was no dialogue between the two political and social spectrums, and almost no middle-ground – you were either on the left or on the right; either worshiping Trump or hating his guts.

Nonetheless, there has been some progress recently in terms of encouraging dialogue. I would like to bring the example of Laci Green, who was – up until now – a complete Social Justice Warrior meme (not offending her, she said so herself). However, Laci had a change of heart, and decided to reach out to some conservative content creators and discuss their points of view. Here’s what she had to say:

Personally, I neither like nor dislike her. I found some of her content educational, but most of it was somewhat annoying. However, after this video, I gained some respect for Laci.

I guess you could say that I am one of the rare cases that are neither on one end of the spectrum or the other. I like to stay as informed as possible, choosing the most logical argument instead of the one that best corresponds to my beliefs. This whole conflict really got me thinking about how we, as a society, should learn how to communicate with people that hold opposing viewpoints to ours. Although we may have some strong beliefs on certain controversial topics, in doesn’t make them the only valid ones. Also, it doesn’t automatically mean that anyone who disagrees with us is fundamentally wrong – it just shows a clash of ideas.

Going back to my initial metaphor, everyone has a choice. One can either go through life taking the blue pill, staying oblivious to the fact that other opposing viewpoints can also be rational, or take the red pill and acknowledge the validity of some of those viewpoints. Once again, it’s an individual choice, but the second option promises a better life and – on a grander scale – a more stable political climate.

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Why Are YouTubers Making So Much Money?

Just a decade ago, many people viewed success in terms of career growth, striving to be lawyers, doctors, accountants and senior managers. Likewise, some people preferred working towards acquiring positions of fame in the entertainment/fashion/sports industries, all of which are very profitable. However, in this day and age, a growing percentage of the population is becoming interested in an online entertainment career – YouTube, to be precise.

If you’re anything like me, you may have grown up watching a couple of content creators on YouTube, after randomly stumbling during evening internet rendezvous. I remember being around the age of eleven or twelve, binge-watching channels like Shane Dawson, Smosh and Community Channel (aka Natalie Tran). I later moved on to watching several other channels, opting for more serious content as time went by. Now, at the age of 20, I’m subscribed to over 30 people who I watch on a regular basis, not to mention several other channels not included on my list. Although my life is significantly busier than it was ten years ago, I still find it oddly relaxing – not to mention informative – to watch these (very) different people talk about their lives, share their experiences, give advice, document events and even create short films.

The example above is one of the many reasons why YouTubers are getting such a large following. With the rise of digital media, things like television and radio have become much less popular – especially amongst the younger generation. More and more people are turning to the internet for entertainment, and YouTube seems the place to be. You can find pretty much anything on the site, including:

  • Tutorials
  • Lifestyle/daily vlogs
  • Advice videos
  • Travel series
  • “Storytimes”
  • Educational content
  • News reports (which often do a better job than official news corporations themselves – just check out Philip DeFranco)
  • Musical content and song covers
  • Comedy skits
  • Short films
  • Q/As

And those are just some of the more popular categories.

Although the website has been around since 2005, it grew in popularity over the last seven years. The main reason is that, aside from a wider range of content, creators were granted the opportunity to monetize their videos via Google AdSense. In short, Google would allow ads to be placed next to/before videos, splitting the ad revenue with the creator.

Speaking of creators, YouTube Entrepreneur Hank Green provides an excellent insight into how YouTubers make money in this brief, 8-minute summary:

As mentioned in the video, content creators have the follow options: ad revenue, merchandise, brand deals/sponsorships (i.e. promoting products in their video) and YouTube-funded shows, such as Crash Course. Considering that these people are becoming actual stars, there are also specific events such as VidCon and Playlist Live, dedicated to bringing together creators and viewers for a few days (not to mention other options such as individual tours and meet-and-greets).

With all of these options, more and more people are becoming interested in the prospect of becoming a content creator. Moreover, they are seeing these new channels grow from a couple hundred subscribers to over a million, become full-time YouTubers and earn ridiculous amounts of money (just Google “how much money do famous YouTubers make?” and you will be surprised at the range). However, just like with any popular industry, the website has become highly competitive. People are investing in professional cameras, learning how to use sophisticated editing software and working hard to make their content appealing. With such huge competition, and such a tempting income, becoming a content creator is both intimidating and desirable at the same time.

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