My Constructive Criticism of Colleen Ballinger

First of all, I want to preface by saying I actually really like Colleen as a public figure and I have been watching her content for many years. I never got into Miranda Sings (I had already aged out of that genre of comedy by the time Miranda was at her peak,) but as a twenty-something year-old with a similar ADHD/OCD adulthood arc, I found her daily vlogs and main channel videos to be very comforting and interesting. I do appreciate that Colleen is such a transparent and unapologetic content creator; I empathize with her feeling like an outsider for most of her life and the growing pains that emerging creative people go through as they come into adulthood. Watching her daily vlogs is definitely something I characterize as a form of escapism and comfort in my life; it’s like catching up with an old friend after a long day.

With all that being said, I don’t have an adverse problem with the fact that Colleen is infatuated with filming her life and putting out dozens of daily vlogs a month. She’s a grown adult, YouTube is her income and her career, and I don’t feel like it’s my place to comment on how or why she chooses to upload so much of her life to the internet. However, I do have a concern with this pattern when her children come into play, who are all under the age of three and clearly not able to consent.

I do believe that Colleen is an amazing and doting mother who LOVES her children more than anything else on this planet, and while it is heartwarming on one hand to watch her raw interactions with Flynn and the twins, it also just feels…wrong. It feels like I am being granted far too much access into a toddler’s intimate childhood moments with his parents. Even if Flynn doesn’t completely understand the scope of his publicity to millions of strangers on the internet, it will almost certainly catch up to him in the future, most likely in a Truman Show-esque way. I cannot fathom growing up to learn that nearly every day of my early childhood was documented and broadcasted to millions of strangers on the internet- unfortunately, likely some creeps as well. Strangers who have seen my birth, my bedroom, the inside of my house, and all of my intimate milestones of childhood. I think Flynn is obviously completely innocent in this situation, but Colleen is opening her children up to online banter and input, and probably bullying by his future peers as well. She recently uploaded a vlog of Flynn drinking her breastmilk for the twins, which, in itself, is inherently harmless and just a funny family moment. But that’s the key word here: it should stay a family moment. There is no reason Colleen needs to share this much of Flynn’s childhood moments on her channel.

This issue gets even more problematic when you remember that Colleen earns adsense money from all of her uploads. If there wasn’t a minor involved, obviously this wouldn’t bother me, but it does get really tricky when Colleen starts using her son in thumbnails or titles, or mentioning him in her sponsorships. The monetary connection does make me a little uncomfortable.

For some context, I am a healthcare worker in the field of acute psychiatric care. Childhood trauma or grudges almost ALWAYS come up in patients who are struggling with mood disorders, suicidal ideation, etc. I’m certainly not saying Flynn is going to go down that exact route (and it’s also not really appropriate for me to content on Flynn’s mental development or state,) but I would not be shocked in the slightest if Colleen’s children grow up to struggle with feeling like they are financially obligated to produce content for their mother. I feel a similar way about Jessica and Chris’s channel; again, I do feel like they are probably outstanding parents, but it profoundly bothers me that their entire income is based off of the success of documenting their children’s births, celebrations, daily lives, etc. This newfound age of performative childhood YouTube fame is too novel and undeveloped for us to understand the full psychological effects of. We are already starting to see these accounts of child stars emerging (both in and out of the YouTube realm), such as with the 8 Passengers channel, and with cases such as Jennette McCurdy.

8 Passengers is a very extreme example of child exploitation on the internet, but it all boils down to the same basic idea: children cannot consent to being filmed on YouTube when monetary incentives are involved. It would be one thing if Colleen occasionally showed her sons face or mentioned him in passing on her channel, but unfortunately, her two year-old’s son is plastered across hundreds of thumbnails, videos, and social media posts. By now, it’s too late to undue to the psychological damage she may have (unknowingly) inflicted onto him in his developmental years.

Now, let’s talk about the NICU babies. First of all, I am so overjoyed that Colleen’s babies, although born premature, are thriving and as healthy as they can be with their current circumstances. The love that Colleen feels for this babies is palpable, and definitely tugs at the heartstrings. I actually think, on one hand, it is remarkable that she is being so raw and forthcoming about women’s issues and the incredible things our bodies go through to make children. As someone who wants to be a labor and delivery nurse myself, I am so interested in this content and I give major props to Colleen for being open and honest about “the fourth trimester” that so many mothers go through. However, that’s pretty much as far as my applaud is going to go in this situation.

In 2018, when Colleen’s water broke with Flynn, the birth video Colleen uploaded showed a deliriously happy event of chaos and excitement; Colleen comedically and frantically doing her hair before going to the hospital, most notably. And at that time, for me and many other fans, that was very funny and on-brand for Colleen. Fair enough. She had a healthy and quick delivery.

This time, Colleen was in the middle of an extremely high-risk pregnancy with twins, who were both in breach, she had cholestasis, and her water broke almost TWO MONTHS early. In my personal opinion, all of these signs point towards one thing: go to the hospital immediately!

However, much to my surprise, Colleen included footage in her twin’s birth vlog of her straightening her hair, eating breakfast, wandering around her house, and even calling her friend before she finally left for the hospital. When she arrived at the hospital, she was informed that her baby had umbilical cord prolapse- an extremely dangerous pregnancy complication that can result in the death of the baby. She was rushed in for an emergency C-section, where, luckily, both her her babies were safely delivered.

Forgive me for sounding blatantly upset, I truly could not believe that Colleen decided to leave in the footage of her floundering around her house for a half hour when her babies went into labor 8 weeks early. Clearly, that is an emergency situation and not one that a camera should be picked up for. Why would you not rush to the hospital immediately in those circumstances? Or furthermore, why would you then choose to upload that footage of you making a terrible mistake into a video that will be broadcasted to millions of people? I am so happy that the babies are okay, but frankly, I was horrified in her oversight of that situation and could not begin to understand why she would leave this footage in her video. Maybe she was just panicked and too overwhelmed to understand the scope of the emergency. Fair enough- but why pick up your camera?

This leads into my final point today: Colleen, in my opinion, is developing an unhealthy dependency and impulse with her camera. I feel like this is getting into a tricky area, because of course, excluding her children, Colleen has a right to film her life in all of its intimate moments of fear and turmoil. It’s not my place to psyche-analyze her or tell her how she should or shouldn’t interact with her audience, or what she wants to share. I think there is a very thin line where being honest and open about your personal life can quickly get damaging, and unfortunately, I think Colleen is crossing that line for herself. Like I said, this isn’t about her fans, this is about her. Watching Colleen push out three, four, five blogs in the mere days after her majorly traumatic surgery with the twins, I felt like I was watching an episode of Black Mirror. I’m glad that Colleen is feeling open to talk about her feelings, but I worry for her that her instinct is to grab her camera and cry on camera for her fans, instead of allowing herself to feel these intense emotions and personal problems in privacy. It is actually rather upsetting for me, as a viewer, to see Colleen spilling so much of this onto the internet with a disregard for her own wellness. I wish I could reach through the screen and hug her, and then tell her to please put the camera down and get some rest.

With all that being said, I wasn’t planning on writing an article about this at all, because I just didn’t feel like it was my business, nor was my input really needed. I quickly changed my mind last night when I saw that Colleen had already announced touring dates for 2022, when her NICU twins will only be five months old.

Colleen…

In closing, I just want to say this: I still think Colleen is a good person who genuinely tries to do good by her and her family, but she is so attached to her online presence and has such an unhealthy dependency on her vlogs for a level of therapeutic validation, she is starting to create a really damaging pattern for herself. I will probably continue to support Colleen and I certainly do not think she deserves to be “cancelled” or lose her career, but I do think she needs to reevaluate her online presence for both the safety and well-being of herself and her children. Things have started to feel really eerie lately; like I said, almost Black Mirror esque. I really hope she continues to recover and learn new ways to take care of herself, and while I do hope she continues to be open and inspiring about her struggles on the internet, I would really love to see her set better boundaries. Especially with tour dates now looming in the future, I don’t think I can bear to see Colleen work herself into a mental breakdown. I really enjoy watching her content, but lately, and I’m sure for many other people who care about her, there are some red flags emerging that I think she needs to acknowledge privately.

That’s my two cents.

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