Introduced to the world of YouTube just a mere two years ago,”Emi” Shepherd is now a prominent YouTuber in the London community, as well as the Host of London Phandom meetups. Looking back at how all of this came to be, Emi contemplates the friendships she’s made in the small London Youtube community.
In the short two years since “Emi” Shepherd created her YouTube channel Embly99, she has flourished into an integral member of the London YouTube community. It is not, however, the almost three thousand subscribers, the fifty-six thousand views of her AS level video, nor the popularity of her “Phandom Meetups” in which most of her pride resides, rather it is the close friendships that she’s formed that means the most to her.
“my internet friend, Camryn, suddenly started squealing a lot during a Skype session”
“I first got into YouTube in October 2013,” Emi reveals one morning over a Facetime, “Because my internet friend, Camryn, suddenly started squealing a lot during a Skype session.” The occasion that prompted this raucous reaction, involved two “YouTubers” who would soon have a huge impact on Emi’s life. They were “Dan and Phil.”
It is often a phrase of platitude when one propels the notion of a dignitary celebrity figure entering one’s realm, who then changes the course of his or her life forevermore. The application of this almost fanciful circumstance onto Emi’s personal experience after discovering Dan and Phil however, would not be a hypobole.
“Dan and Phil really started everything for me”
“Dan and Phil really started everything for me. They really got me into YouTube,” recalls Emi, “Because I was exposed to it more, I started using Twitter a lot more and I then began watching other big YouTubers, Emma Blackery and stuff.”
Being inspired by her new YouTube idols, Emi then went on to embark on a course to find her place in this new world. Mustering up her passion for YouTube, Emi became part of a “Collab channel.” This type of YouTube channel often involves a group of friends making individual weekly videos on a specific theme, Emi however, would soon find this constricting.
Despite being in a channel with various Facebook page admins with similar interests Emi found, “I felt like I was really different from the other people in the channel. I was different, the videos I made were different and I had a different idea on what I wanted to do on the channel.” Pausing momentarily, Emi retreats from her webcam for a moment of contemplation. “I didn’t really get on well with anyone that well, and I argued a lot with this person,” she discloses darkly.
“The collab channel restricted me from what I wanted to make, which was why I needed my own channel because the only person that can decide what to post is me”
Emi discloses that the main motivation for leaving the collab channel at the closing of 2014 was, “I found that the collab channel restricted me from what I wanted to make, which was why I needed my own channel because the only person that can decide what to post is me.”
Starting her own channel with her online pseudonym, “Embly99,” she discovered the freedom that she was looking for. With an air of one finally being released from the shackles of bureaucracy, she expresses, “If there was a relevant topic for a video that I wanted to make as soon as possible and needed to go up quickly, I could now do it. If there was a time sensitive video about a gathering or on an important topic, I now didn’t need to wait three weeks to post it or wait for them to post 6 videos first. I now had the freedom to post it immediately.”
“I now had the freedom to post it immediately”
Although it wasn’t without drama, it would be wrong to assume that 2014 was a year of despondency, for it was also during that year, Emi stumbled upon an entirely new world, the world of YouTube gatherings. It would be YouTube events and Twitter in unison that would cement internet friendships in her life. Emi recalls the Upload Tour, April 2014 for being particularly significant for it was the incitement for her meeting with Mikey, her first small YouTuber friend. Emi comments, “Just before Upload Tour 2014, I tweeted saying I was going to that and then someone tweeted me back, “omg, that’s really cool, I’m really jealous tell everyone I said hi.””
Upload Tour 2014, and Emi’s contact with Mikey was hugely significant for her place within the YouTube community. She acknowledges, “It was through Mikey and his videos that I started getting into a community a bit more, going to Youtube conventions for example because I met up with him at my first Summer in the City.”
Being her first YouTube convention, Emi admits to knowing almost nobody, “I went to Summer in the City (2014) knowing almost no-one, just three people in total, including Mikey and Camryn, but Mikey knew some people in the small YouTuber community so he introduced me.”
“Summer in the South was like, we all met at the station and wondered around all day. There’s more of us now, so that’s what’s changed over the last year”
Although on a technicality, one could consider Summer in the City as Emi’s first important experience of a large YouTuber gathering, she instead considers the “Summer in the South” gathering as her first. Set in Bournemouth just three days later, it was the first of the many park based gatherings she would attend from this day on. “Summer in the South was not only very different from YouTube conventions but also very different from the more organized gatherings I go to and organize these days such as “Russell Square Stay in the Park,” which was like a picnic with lots of musical instruments. Summer in the South was like, we all met at the station and wondered around all day. There’s more of us now, so that’s what’s changed over the last year.”
“I was like “Oh, hello, lets add each other on Facebook.” That’s how Emonia started”
Everyone can recognize a moment, an event, from their past that molded together the friendship group they are part of now. The Summer in the South gathering was Emi’s true entry into the small London Youtuber community. “Right after the gathering, I added everyone on Facebook and then I got invited to my friend’s birthday gathering,”reveals Emi. Recalling the moment she met her friend Toni, she recalls, “I saw a girl wearing the same hat as my best friend at the time, so I went up to her and said “Oh, hello, lets add each other on Facebook.” That’s how Emonia started.”
By early 2015, Emi took the next step in her journey in becoming more involved with the small YouTuber community. She started to become familiar with less visible British vloggers including Doddleoddle, Nicky and Sammy, and thus started attending the gatherings and meetups they were part of. In February of that year, she attended her first London Phandom meet up.
” It’s with that group of friends that kinda made me feel I was in a YouTube community”
These “Picnics in a park” style YouTube gatherings were crucial in Emi’s search for her place within the community. “During that time, I hung around with my YouTube friends a lot more, in gatherings, picnics, gigs and just hung around with them in general. It’s with that group of friends that kinda made me feel I was in a YouTube community. Although there are lots of little groups and cliches, we all link together to form a larger community.”
“There are now thirty people in this group chat, including Jedward”
Physical gatherings aren’t the only way Youtubers get to know each other, Emi explains how a Facebook group chat “Junicorns” has connected a huge varied collection of Youtubers, from Jedward to friends in Germany and the Netherlands. “(We the Unicorns” originally started for a gathering that was held in May, but then after the gathering was over, we added more people and then more people. There are now thirty people in this group chat, including Jedward.” These large group chats are surprisingly personal too, Emi recalls, “Jedward once called our friends weird for getting drunk. I don’t drink tho. I am a good egg. There are a lot of group chats, but I’m only in one, and a lot of people that are in it aren’t necessarily the London people. We have friends in Germany and the Netherlands and Scotland. There’s a lot of them, they’re all people in our friendship group, and we all meet up a lot.”
“I couldn’t go anywhere without bumping into someone I knew”
The culmination of Emi’s extensive participation in various YouTube and Phandom meetups in 2014/15 was Summer in the City 2015. “I couldn’t go anywhere without bumping into someone I knew.” This disparity in experience from her first Summer in the City a mere year ago radiates the transformation of Emi’s role within the community.
“I’m someone who goes to a lot of gatherings, and that’s how I meet people, however I know that lots of people come into the community by watching my videos”
Something that amazes Emi even to this day, is the different ways people come into the community. “I’m someone who goes to a lot of gatherings, and that’s how I meet people, however I know that lots of people come into the community by watching my videos,” says an excited Emi, “For example, my friend Will subscribed to me because he saw my GCSE results video and came to my Christmas gathering, “Emblymas” from that.” Emi explains that this can be done by pretty much anyone, anywhere, “You have to go on the lookout on Twitter and search for indirects to find (meetups)” in your local area. Will’s entrance into the community is an example of how even a viewer can get involved in the small YouTuber community, showing that having connections with YouTubers isn’t a pre-requisite.
“I’ve noticed that people who want to meet their internet friends and Twitter mutuals are the people who come to these gatherings”
It’s an almost utopian notion suggesting that anyone from any walk of life can become involved in the small YouTuber community, however, the acknowledgment that only a quite specific demographic tend to be in the community does diminish this belief. “I’ve noticed that people around our age group (Teenagers to early twenties) who want to meet their internet friends and Twitter mutuals are the people who come to these gatherings.” That isn’t to suggest that there’s a lack of variety in the demographic, “There are small YouTubers there obviously, but there are also their friends, Facebook admins, Twitter fan accounts, their friends, and generally lots of people taking photos, filming things and having a laugh.”
“I don’t really monitise my videos and I’m not on a network. I make videos for myself”
Emi doesn’t see her channel changing significantly in the foreseeable future, believing the self-fulfilling approach of producing the content that she wants for herself, as the healthiest basis for her channel. “I don’t really monitise my videos” explains Emi, “I’m not on a network, I make videos for myself. Even with my A level results video, yes it has over 50,000 views which is insane, but I made that video for me.” This approach can also be seen in Emi’s recent “PMS” monthly vlogs, which are huge half-hour long vlogs recording the time she spends with her friends, “I don’t want to make them short because I make these for me, so I can remember the times I’ve spent with my friends.”
Written by Dennis Fang;