YouTube content creator Onision — Gregory Jackson — is under a massive firestorm from the release of Discovery+’s latest documentary. Onision: In Real Life explores his complicated behaviors, suspicious relationships, and fiery downfall. (Photo courtesy of Onision on Flickr)
There’s no denying that we live in a tech-savvy world. Gen Z and Gen Alpha are the internet kids, raised off YouTube and Vine, Music.ly and Kik, the “good ol’ days” of budding social media. Online safety, cyberbullying, and community guidelines quickly reached the forefront of people’s concerns, and adapted accordingly to the ever changing world. There are multiple gaps in these guidelines though, allowing toxic and dangerous people to escape consequence through their internet personas.
YouTube’s Most Hated Man
One of the biggest draws Discovery+ had for me was the immense number of true crime documentaries the platform boasted in their commercials. One in particular caught my eye immediately — Onision: In Real Life — a saga exposing popular YouTuber Onision for multiple accusations of violence and misconduct.
I personally have never heard of him before I watched the documentary. His popularity skyrocketed during the early years of YouTube, where edgy, MySpace-style, random videos reached millions of views. I was four when he uploaded his first video in 2006, and uploaded hundreds of videos since then. Specializing in edgy sketches, Onision reached an audience brimming with teen girls, which is where his story gets tricky.
Interactions between fans became more intimate, and a suspicious fixation on age of consent starts raising some red flags. I won’t go into too much detail — the sheer violence and abuse outlined is quite disturbing — because the biggest message I took was the flaws throughout these massive social media platforms.
Diet of Drama
It’s kind of an open secret: social media exploits the most vulnerable to make a profit. Every monetized interaction means more money for the platform, so why would they inhibit such a symbiotic relationship? Instead, YouTube just put out incredibly vague community guidelines to “protect” the exploited.
Human nature feeds off drama, so it’s easy to see why drama channels on YouTube are some of the most popular on the platform. When the Onision story started getting bigger, drama channels across YouTube blew up the story exponentially. Every party involved utilized the sensationalized story for profit.
A facade of sincerity hovers over the drama channels. Even though they’re offering a platform for the victims to speak up about their trauma, at the end of the day, their stories are being exploited for cash. Each share, like, comment, and view pushes the story to greater heights, and the creators to higher paychecks.
Young kids make content on YouTube for fun — filming dance videos, games, and just going through life as a vlogger — because they were raised with it their whole life. These young kids see these large celebrities with lavish lifestyles, and try to walk in their idol’s footsteps. Because these kids are so innocent, they don’t know their millions of views are coming from the dark community of pedophiles; the majority of these videos are even monetized, with million-dollar brands placing ads on the intro.
It’s incredibly concerning that such a large influencer like Onision was able to get away with his predatory behavior. His content raised lots of red flags, from videos with his 18-year-old girlfriend at the time (he was in his early 20’s at the time) revealing the abusive nature of their relationship to videos rating if he’d “smash” his fans (some as young as 12).
When the documentary released January 4, 2021, YouTube pulled Onision from their Partner Program, effectively demonetizing all his channels. In response, Onision announced that he officially “quit YouTube.”
Onision built an empire off the foundation of exploiting young women. It’s disgusting and disheartening to witness, but sadly he isn’t alone. Instead of feeding off the drama, we need to keep the pressure on these big creators. If we as an audience stand idly by, we are letting these minors fall into the darkest reaches of the internet, putting them in much more danger than they’ll ever know.
Hi! My name is Ellie and I’m a senior editor, trending editor, and print editor for The Mycenaean. I am also a second degree blackbelt at Triangle’s best karate, floral assistant, and a self-proclaimed starving artist. Just a chaotic libra whose only personality trait is how often she dyes her own hair