I’ll have to be honest. Before VidCon, I did my best to keep any and all expectations at bay. This was my first ever experience with any YouTube gathering, much less a whole conference. Hell, before our trip, I had only ever really met three other bona-fide YouTubers in person, and one of them is my boyfriend! So even as we boarded our flights in Tampa and Atlanta, I had absolutely, positively no clue what Will or I were getting ourselves into. Some might find the idea of charging head-first into the unknown to be a bit intimidating. I, for one, couldn’t wait.
On the flight from ATL to LAX, though, my brain finally came up with a reason to be apprehensive. I knew we were on our way to meet the likes of Tyler Oakley, Dan Brian, Nicola Foti, Miles Jai, Joe Birdsong, Michael Buckley, and let’s face it, almost the entire “who’s who” of the gay YouTube community. Surprisingly, though, this thought wasn’t what intimidated me. What made me nervous was actually quite the opposite. When you watch all of these people online, they’re dynamic, engaging, hilarious, and seem very outgoing. That said, most of the YouTubers I had met prior to then (keep in mind, this means two out of three) were actually fairly quiet and reserved in person. So there I was, thinking I was on my way to socialize and party it up with the online A-List, and then it occurred to me that all of these people could be reclusive, anti-social misanthropes. As we drew closer and closer to the West Coast, all I could do is sit there and obsess over the fact that I was placing my entire enjoyment of this trip in the hands of people I’ve never met in person. Luckily, I had Tate Taylor’s The Help to help distract me.
Almost immediately after we got off the plane in LA, we met up with the first YouTuber of the conference, Hank Chen (Hanksterchen). Luckily, his and my interactions were more than just YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. We’ve also corresponded many times via phone and Skype, so I pretty much knew what to expect from him, which was for him to be the same ambitious, fast-talking, outgoing person you see in his videos. The real moment of truth came maybe 90 seconds after we first set foot in Anaheim. Will and I knocked on the door to our hotel room and were greeted by our two roommates for the weekend, Dan (mallow610) and Jess (jstevens428), along with two guests, Tyler Oakley (tyleroakley) and Cam Elder (TheCamCamera). As we sat and hung out for the next several minutes, I’d get very apprehensive any time the conversation lulled, and make sure to stomp on any silence that took place. As we went to grab lunch, though, I started to feel at ease. I was among a group of intelligent, outgoing, engaging, hilarious people. What struck me, too, was how much our conversations had sped right by the usual pleasantries that people talk about when they first meet someone. There was no “so what do you do?” or “where are you from?” We all knew each other pretty well from each other’s videos, so it was more “how’ve you been?” or “so what was the deal with what’s-his-face?”
As the days progressed and the fans arrived, though, I definitely got to witness the change in certain people. By Thursday, we couldn’t walk more than ten feet alongside Tyler without him getting stopped. And when someone like Tyler or Miles Jai stops, next thing you know, a line starts forming, and it’s turned into an impromptu meet-and-greet. People who are that big on YouTube have created a divide in their personality between who they are professionally and who they are personally. Mind you, these two personalities are still genuine, dynamic, and fun, it’s just that one is much more carfeul than the other. I mean, we all do this, in a way. We’re not the same person around our boss as we are around our friends. But YouTubers have the unique challenge of having to stay true to that person that we perceive in videos. Luckily, for me and Will, we don’t do anything special for our videos. We can be very “what you see is what you get”. However, someone like Michael Buckley isn’t afforded the same luxury. This was made apparent when he came to hang out and grab a drink with us and some of our friends in our hotel room. Within minutes of his arrival, someone whipped out a camera to record a little bit of the festivities. Michael immediately asked them to put it away. “I’ve been on camera working all day…” he told us apologetically, and it made perfect sense. The on-camera “Buck” is energetic, quick-witted, and talks at Mach 3. Off camera, Michael Buckley was way more mellow and attentive (not to mention exhausted—poor guy). Sure, there was the same wit we’ve come to know from him and his channels, but he seemed much more interested in what we had to say, which was a refreshing change of pace.
I’d strike up a conversation with someone, and then two-thirds of the way in, find out that I was talking to one of the guys from “Is It A Good Idea to Microwave This?” Hell, I would interact with someone briefly in the lobby of our hotel, then find out, at a mainstage performance, that they were a huge sensation who has tens of thousands of subs. That was probably my favorite part of VidCon, getting to hang out and get to know fellow YouTubers as people rather than personalities. This culminated in our last gathering which took place Saturday night and took us all to a Denny’s at two in the morning. By the end of the night, I felt like I was able to really bond with everyone who was there. Oh, and I also got to motorboat Meghan Tonjes’ boobs…which was everything you could ever hope for and more.
I also met tons of great people whom I am now happily subscribed to, such as Julian Dujarric, Greg Breeden, 5 Second Films, Jenna Anne, Natasha Pomonoff, Hannah Hart, Gerrard and Jason, Ryan Yezak, the list goes on and on and on…
Thanks for a great time, guys! We’ll see you next year!