We the People and the US Shutdown

25 days. 

The United States government has been in a partial shutdown for 25 days, with no end in sight.

This is the longest shutdown that has occurred in the entire history of the US, with the previous record awarded to Bill Clinton’s 21 day shutdown in 1995.

The Guardian has sources that say President Trump told advisers that this shutdown is a sort of win for him, but roughly 800,000 government employees are now working without pay.

Parts of the government have shut down or are operating with skeleton crews, with more employees giving their resignation as the days wear on—or, at least, trying to get a job in the meanwhile.

That’s the rub: it’s the American people who are being directly affected by Trump’s shutdown.

While Trump tweeted yesterday morning, “I’ve been waiting all weekend. Democrats must get to work now. Border must be secured!”, there are families who cannot make rent this month because of his stubbornness.

Americans have been through this all before—I distinctly remember the 2013 government shutdown under Obama, which lasted 16 days, and stupidly joking about whether or not I had to go to classes during the shutdown.

That was bad, but this is worse.

800,000 federal employees haven’t received a paycheck since January 11. As the days tick by, and bills and financial responsibilities begin to accumulate, the situation becomes more dire.

My brother and his very pregnant wife, who were in the process of buying a house, cannot proceed with the purchase until the shutdown is lifted.

Social Security checks are still being issued, since they are tax-funded, but I worry daily about when that will change and affect my family.

Meanwhile, Trump sits by, determined to get his precious wall by any means necessary. Someone has to cave in this situation, and whether it’s the Republicans or the Democrats, the House or the Senate, things have to change.

And for the sake of the American people, I hope it’s soon.

 

Social Media for Newborns: Is The ACE Family Going Too Far?

Parents love to post photos of their babies on social media. But is it normal to make an Instagram account for a newborn—and have it garner 1.3 million followers in three weeks?

The ACE Family’s new baby was born three weeks ago. If you aren’t familiar with the ACE Family, the family consists of Austin McBroom, Catherine Paiz, their daughter Elle, and their three-week-old baby Alaïa.

They have 13 million subscribers on their YouTube channel, on which they post incredibly long vlogs about their life as a family.

All of this sounds adorable… but isn’t it a little messed up?

Austin and Catherine started their channel two years ago, where they initially posted prank and challenge videos—and once their daughter Elle was born in May 2016, she also became a feature in their videos.

Let’s be clear: vlogging your life is not inherently a problem. Austin and Catherine both had a strong social media presence before they started making videos, so it’s no wonder that people are interested in their lives.

The problem is that as soon as their videos featuring Elle got more views, they started making her do things—seemingly, just for the vlogs.

Elle is now two years old. She has her own Instagram account with 4.3 million followers, and her own vlogging camera. She knows when she is being filmed, she can work a camera—and although she cannot fully speak, she already tries to say Austin’s introduction to The ACE Family’s vlogs with him.

Because of the success that Elle has brought to her family, Austin and Catherine decided to go one step further when their daughter Alaïa was born in October 2018. They not only include the newborn in their vlogs, but they filmed her birth and made her an Instagram account only two weeks after she was born. The account already has 1.3 million followers.

We’ve all seen the effects of being famous too young—just take a look at Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes, Justin Bieber, and all the other ‘troubled’ celebrities who grew up in the spotlight.

Granted, being in movies or having hit singles seems like a much bigger deal than being in YouTube videos, but The ACE Family’s channel is growing so quickly that they are being seen by millions of people each week.

From social media, Austin and Catherine seem like good, loving parents. Even though their channel has been bringing them a lot of money (Alaïa is not even a month old and she is already wearing Fendi), they often mention that they will never let money change who they are.

It’s clear that the most important thing for them is family, which is probably why they attract such a loyal fanbase—who they refer to as their “family members”. However, they are clearly using their non-consenting children for fame and money.

From the videos they have been posting, Elle seems to be loving the attention. But, will she feel the same way when she grows up?

Due to their fame, she will probably not be able to attend a normal school. Furthermore people on the Internet can be incredibly mean—who knows what kind of comparisons they will make between Elle and Alaïa, and how that will affect their relationship as they grow up?

We can make assumptions on how this attention and fame will affect Elle and Alaïa from history. Mara Wilson, known for her roles in Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda, wrote an article on why most child stars go crazy.

In it, she explained that although she chose to act when she was little, she knew many child actors who didn’t have that choice, and that it made them resent their parents. She also talked about how hard it is to get used to love and attention and then lose it.

How will Elle and Alaïa feel when the Internet finds a new cute child to obsess over? Or when her family’s channel stops growing? Their parents will be fine, but the girls will not know anything about life outside their little YouTube bubble.

Family YouTube channels are increasingly popular, but it has to be done right. Vlogs are fine (as long as they are not as staged, as some of The ACE Family’s videos seem to be), but making Instagram accounts and posting on behalf of a toddler and a newborn seems to be taking it too far.

Do you think that The ACE Family’s content is harmless, or lowkey messed up? Let us know in the comments.

#YouTubeBlack: A Review

Last week in Washington D.C., the black community on YouTube were left overshadowed beyond algorithms, as the second year of the annual fan fest, #YouTubeBlack, took place.

Supporters of the event and YouTubers alike took to Twitter and their channels to display their excitement—but those who disagreed with the event used social media to prompt a debate on the intentions of #YouTubeBlack.

They accused the event of inciting inequality. However, the event was created to address the racial inequalities that currently exist on the platform. Despite the backlash, #YouTubeBlack is being positively recognised by the majority as a space for celebration of black contributions to the globally recognised platform—and there’s nothing wrong with that!

When individuals claim that #YouTubeBlack is exclusory, it takes away from what the event is trying to do–create visibility for black content-makers.

One Twitter user stated, “It’s segregating content specifically by black people for the enjoyment of black people. That is the opposite of equality.” This was just one of the accusations that divided Twitter users on the issue.

But what’s more is that for years now, black content creators have been battling to be heard amongst YouTube algorithms who don’t display their content as frequently as other well-known creators. This means that many black YouTubers’ content is being lost within their own platform.

Attendees of #YouTubeBlack, such as Kingsley (who has 2.9m million subscribers), De’arra & Ken (5m subscribers) and LaToya Forever (1.4m subscribers) are just some of the well-known black content creators who you are unlikely to see on the trending or recommended pages of YouTube, despite their large following.

This is just evidence of how creators of colour have fallen victim to platforms that use algorithms to promote video-makers, but have lacked in promoting the black community as equally as other races.

The majority of entertainers of colour we see in our trending pages are generally globally known and Grammy award-winning musicians, who don’t reflect all genres that black creators represent within the social platform.

By allowing events like #YouTubeBlack to exist, these voices can be heard. The annual fest not only gives fans the chance to meet their favourite black YouTubers, but also unites the voices of the new and existing generation of black YouTubers.

This allows more creators who believe they couldn’t make it because of their ethnicity to be inspired and grow. It’s significant to see more black people celebrating these front-facing roles as they support and encourage others within the community, spreading a message that their opportunities are just as tangible and equal as any other race.

With a demographic of 50 million creators on YouTube, many agree that #YouTubeBlack is about uplifting an overlooked community amongst the mass shared platform.

By allowing black creatives to thrive by celebrating, supporting and mentoring fellow black creators, they can gain recognition within and beyond their community.

As one Twitter user defends, “#YouTubeBlack was created to acknowledge black creators who are often stuffed under the algorithm. Black YouTubers do not get nearly as much visibility/opportunities as other races, yet are consistently the forefront of every trend. The initiative was created to help balance that.”

The Stress of Being Sober at University

It normally starts with the dreaded question, “Why aren’t you drinking?”

You sit there, clinging onto your pint of Pepsi that you hoped nobody would notice. The realities of explaining your personal life choices can be daunting, to say the least.

The struggle comes from a societal pressure to conform–and the burden of socialising is changing the way non-drinkers experience university. This irrational, generational fear of missing out is causing a struggle for those who don’t want to fit societal pressures and norms.

For some, alcohol abstinence is just part of the dreaded anticipation of peer pressure, potential exclusion and social challenges.

It’s no secret that drinking culture has long been associated with 21st century university life, and alcohol is–in some ways—deemed as the university student’s social beverage of choice.

The initiation of Fresher’s Week starts the school year into an alcohol-fuelled string of social events, from post-lecture pub drinks to clubbing events. Here, being a non-drinker can cause anxiety and apprehension.

As someone who chooses not to drink, I often find it’s one of the first things people notice about me during any social event.

Sometimes, I wonder if it’s just me being paranoid. I’ll unintentionally let the fact that I don’t drink slip, as if it’s a dirty little secret—but do people assume I don’t drink because I drive to classes? It’s a difficult situation that heightens my self-confidence, and I’m sure I’m not the only person to have been in this situation.

For those who choose not to drink, the act of declining an alcoholic beverage from their peers can cause an intense fear of being judged for their choice to stay sober. But, according to the Health Survey for England 2016, the biggest drop in adult alcohol consumption has been among young people between the ages of 16 to 24.

It seems that sober-culture is, somewhat, becoming socially common. However, as the number of non-drinking students goes up, the social pressures put on students to drink still prevail.

It’s safe to say that the perceptions surrounding non-drinking and peer pressure can contribute to some forms of negative stigma around alcohol abstinence.

The suggestion of “not being up for a good time” are just some of the behavioural preconceptions of a non-drinker by their drinking classmates. The association between alcohol and socialising a direct effect of this and—as a result—non-drinkers can find themselves isolated from classmates and friends.

Many non-drinkers can relate to being told, “Just one drink, it won’t hurt.” But, for someone who has made an informed personal, religious or health choice, this can be an uncomfortable scenario.

The easy solution would be to take this with a grain of salt, but for some, it can be far more problematic than this. Consequently, university students are still experiencing the same pressures of social drinking—although it’s no longer as rare.

With statistics showing that the proportion of both men and women drinking more than the recommended 14 units of alcohol a week has decreased between 2011 and 2016 (from 34% to 31% of men, and from 18% to 16% of women), there is generally a decrease of alcohol consumption overall.

With that being said, non-drinkers university should feel free to embrace their sobriety, trust their peers and put these societal pressures aside. Today, turning down a drink does not have to be a big deal.