I have a large amount of respect for people who eke out a living from doing something they love. Yousef Erakat, better known as the face and operator of “Fouseytube”, a channel that originated by churning out prank videos that were mostly based on social interaction.
I admit, I watched many of his videos. He is obviously a well-spoken, extroverted man who likes to push social boundaries and sees what happens. As a prankster, he still shows respect and tries not to make people too uncomfortable, whereas other pranksters strive to elicit anger. It isn’t hard to see that he enjoys making a person laugh and talking to his fans.
There are few careers where one trait is essential to success – a career as a YouTube content creator requires the person to be engaging. Far from a mystery, the successful YouTube personalities are able to leverage their brand into views, which earns them money.
Fousey is a prankster who turned more into a vlogger and openly admits that the life of a Youtube content creator is very demanding. His prank videos lost steam as new content creators took to Youtube. Fousey started to expand into other content and proclaims that he “burnt out”. His content lapsed into a sleazy area of fake relationships and fake arguments to augment his view count.
I think somewhere down this path, he realized that he was losing genuine fans for people who consumed large amounts of video for the pure entertainment value. He was losing the dedicated fans who liked his content because it showed his personality. That brings me to the present, where Yousef has started a journey, with his first video titled “Dear YouTube, I’m Homeless”.
The premise of his journey is to abandon his worldly possessions to live on the streets and push his personal boundaries – compelling, I know. He claims to have frozen his bank accounts and ended his lease in preparation for the series of videos that are to come. Yousef is supposed to find ways to earn money to feed himself and to fund his travels. He challenges himself to contact people he hardly knows to ask for a place to sleep. Five videos in, all his “income” has come from fans or friends that essentially pay for a collaboration with another YouTube sensation.
The feeling of candour is absent. Many of Yousef’s followers are aware that he is well off, a fact that Yousef himself admits. He brags about his new car, an amazing condo, two pet dogs and a number of other luxuries that can only be afforded by a large paycheck complements of YouTube and his viewers. He identifies homelessness as a huge part of his series of videos, but how can he know the true feeling of desperation when he lives in custom busses and downtown apartments that are open to a person because of his celebrity.
While I don’t agree with much of what he is doing in these videos, there is an aspect of donation. For every dollar someone donates to him, he will double it and give it to charity. Hold your non-existent applause. A man who spent upwards of $50 000 on his car ended up giving $100 to charity.
The title of his first video is a little misleading, as Yousef is not actually exploring the lifestyle of a homeless person. Rather, the whole experience seems like it is an excuse for him to talk to more people and collaborate with other YouTube celebrities in what is supposed to be a journey of self-discovery. However, self-discovery rarely has a timetable, let alone one that can be vlogged.
Five days into his “Eat, Pray, Love” journey, he has done little charity work and cared for the homeless through small donations of money he received from his rich friends and occasional leftovers, which were also bought for him. What irks me about the entire series is the fact that his experience only shows how much celebrity can help a person. Many of his conversations with strangers revolve around the novelty of his project, which allows him to ask for money in support of his journey.
While Yousef has explained that this journey is meant for self-discovery, the way he forces his non-materialistic, live-for-the-moment view upon his audience edited in a professional manner dampens my ability to enjoy his videos. Several times in each video he awkwardly builds an image of a recluse, childish, incapable person that is now changed because of this journey. Even if I didn’t see his videos and did not know a single thing about this person, the confident man would be a far cry from the pitiful figure he was portraying.
You cannot divorce professional content creators from their content-creating roots. No matter the circumstance, Yousef’s videos will be search optimized (“What Happened When I Slept With Two Girls”), his content will contain phony excitement, and he will still be the same person he was before the journey. The ideals he spits out are clichéd – true but overused in all types of media.
Since he is not actually homeless and far from it, I would have to think that his first video, which sparked the most conversation, is just another clickbait title. He gets food, money and transportation from his fans while posturizing that he is learning the value of money and experiences, all the while still circulating around Los Angelas, his hometown.
Is it a publicity stunt?
Probably. I cannot possibly see how this wealthy young man faces any challenges, even on this proposed journey. He totes around an expensive camera and obviously has access and time to do some complex video editing. While he repeats that he doesn’t know where he is sleeping, he often gets invited to high-end apartments, like a recent video with another YouTube star who apparently does not get along with Yousef.
I would be supportive if someone were to embark on what they think would be a life-changing journey. I just don’t think you can force life-changing experiences, let alone time it with your filming schedule. The process of vlogging his journey takes away from the overall experience and that into itself is the paradox of self-awareness. It’s hard to share.
I was reading the comments from his latest video where Yousef tries to aggressively donate $100 to two homeless men and is met by negative reactions from both men. I would think that this would be attributed to their hesitancy to accept a situation that is too good to be true. What hurts the most is that the comments left on the video has turned towards homeless bashing and how ungrateful the homeless are.
Isn’t there a better way to put this money to use? I understand the whole concept of giving to feel good, but there are so many other ways that his money can help without potential backlash.