I am the product of the 1990s middle school and high school experience. To say that it was a different time, would be an understatement. I doubt that 18 year-old Eli would have made it out of high school with any dignity and energy remaining in this decade. I still remember that I would empathy from absolutely anyone that would listen during the times which I was feeling awful about people making fun of my weight, my clothes, the fact that I was a ‘band geek’, and even my first and middle name. My home life didn’t help too much either. My Mom, a career alcoholic, tried to relate, but was simply too wrapped up in her own depression and anxiety to be of much assistance. Add to the fact that her brand of empathy came from an experience 30 years out of date and well, one begins to see a path where there were many possible paths that scared little me could’ve wound up on. I got lucky though… real lucky.
Today, most young adults I encounter are ages 24 to 27; old enough where I meet them in the course of my day-to-day activities in my career. Some of the stories I hear from their younger experiences are light-hearted, even happy recounts of the good times that were had mud boggin’ in south Georgia, playing with friends in the neighborhood on a snow day up north, or group get together at the mall. Sometimes though, the stories are much darker, and much more despairing. Sometimes, they come across my ears as outright emotional warfare waged by classmates and peers in the name of being the cool kid or an attempt to deflect attention to someone else perceived to be less cool.
If I’m honest, I can’t begin to relate. Bullying and teasing has taken on a new existence with the invention of mobile devices and social media. Much like the 24-hour news cycle that we get on the Internet, bullying doesn’t end with the 3:30 PM bell anymore. It carries over into social media. I find myself absolutely dumbstruck by the coordinated efforts that young people are able to spearhead in the name of being popular and it’s truly heartbreaking to read about. At the age of 39, I have the wherewithal to simply block someone and move on with my life. To a high school kid, it’s often not that simple.
Enter 19 year-old Colby Brock and Sam Golbach.
Brock and Golbach, known better as “Sam and Colby” on Vine and YouTube, have had a following that dates back to their high school days in Kansas. They garnered their first 10,000 followers by January 2014. As of January 2016, they had well over 2 million across several different social media platforms. They’re pretty much the definition of “vine famous.”
I’ve been following their Vine channel since I joined in mid 2014 because truthfully, it’s pretty damn funny stuff… like Daz Black and Brittlestar level funny. They put together content that isn’t too cerebral, but it’s not ubiquitous pie throwing or name calling either. Their YouTube channel, while the comedic value is present, is much the same with the added value that it has some really good life advice and conversations which are very well thought-out for their intended audience.
As one produces content for YouTube and Vine, you develop a fan base much like any other traditional television show or movie. This certainly has been true of Sam and Colby. By their admission, they get dozens of letters and notes each week from fans expressing admiration, amusement and I suspect, sometimes infatuation. Lots of them are snail-mailed. One letter arrived though which changed their lives and gave them a mission in addition to entertaining.
The letter, from a viewer identified as “Ally,” details her existence. In it, she paints a picture that is really heart-breaking. She describes being bullied at school and on social media, emotional invisibility with her family and school acquaintances and states, “I even thought about ending it all.”
Sam and Colby really seem to value the friendships that they’ve made online through their Vine and YouTube channels. To that end, they don’t refer to them as fans. They refer to them as “family.” A member of their family being in pain and despair sung to them a loud and clear call to action. This was a call to do something to make things better, drawing on their own experiences as teens. In beginning a very well developed friendship with Ally, they also began a new endeavor called “The Life Project.” Two years in the making, Sam and Colby’s have interpreted a call to create a community where teens (and I suspect young adults as well) can talk directly to them and others in a safe space, moderated by them. Colby indicates that the purpose of the community “is teach you about the personal life issues that you have to face every single day” because “nobody teaches you that in school.”
In the interest of encouraging my readers to check-out “The Life Project” for themselves, I’ll not offer anything else other than the hope that you’ll take 15 minutes out of your day to see their videos (one geared to kids and another just for parents). Of all the people who “go viral” in the age of social media, I’m super stoked that Sam and Colby have. What they are doing with the platform they have been given at the age of 19 is nothing short of amazing. Plenty of adults over the years have tried to relate to kids who are in Ally’s space, most notably, in my opinion, Peter Yarrow (of Peter Paul and Mary) with the creation of Operation Respect. It’s really encouraging to see this appear as new endeavor on the internet and in the United States. It really does give me hope for the future.
I had some very keen-minded, emotionally well-equipped adult friends that definitely loved me into a deeper, more meaningful existence as I ascended into adulthood and on into college and full-fledged young adulthood. These days, in a world filled with strong desires for instant gratification and social status enhancement, I often wonder where an 18, 17 or even 16 year-old me would have been today if not for the countless throngs of people that moved in and out of my life, offering guidance, a hand to hold and warm hug.
I wish nothing but the best for Colby Brock and Sam Golbach as they cultivate this very important need in the world from a young adult perspective and I pledge my full-throated support for them. I hope my readers will share their story and their site with everyone who will listen. I know I will.
Below are links to their site and social media accounts. PLEASE DO CHECK THEM OUT. There are few better uses for your internet bandwidth.
And if you’re not completely overloaded on Sam and Colby now, I hope you’ll have some time later to check out The Forum High Atop The Thing for more discussion and comment.