First of all, I’d like to apologize. Apologize because I will not transcribe here in its entirety the full conversation I had with Simon Maingi and Sharon Bodo. It was a conversation so unfiltered, so uncensored that such a family site may not be able to handle its full magnitude. Those are the wages you bank when you sit down with two candid and unapologetically real people who know not how to sugar-coat their thoughts or subscribe to any hypocritical societal conformities.
At exactly 9.13p.m on the Monday of 14th February, 2005, the domain name www.youtube.com was activated. Cheers to my very good pals Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, the trio who conceptualized YouTube. To date, the latest 2017 statistics indicate that there are a total of 1.3 billion YouTube users worldwide, with over 400 hours’ worth of YouTube videos uploaded every minute, over 30 million visitors per day, and approximately 1.5 billion logged in monthly users. It is estimated that the average time someone spends on YouTube per session is 40 minutes, bringing the overall amount of video content watched on YouTube per day to a whooping average of 1 billion hours. And no, you haven’t had the full of it yet. Apparently every year, people watch 46,000 years’ worth of content on YouTube. That’s an equivalent of 402.9 million hours. So we may not be mortal, but in YouTube we’ve already lived close to forever.
Side note; Don’t worry about all these insane statistics. You see through me entire 8.4.4 voyage, so much Mathematics got pumped into my unwilling brain despite my vehement protests that I would never need it thaat much in my line of work. So this is just me eventually doing my teachers a favor and applying the loads of numbers they shoved down my throat, and sounding very comprehensive and thorough in the process.
I sat down with some two creative and insanely witty YouTubers to share insight on what it takes to be a content creator on the platform and the dynamics of how to navigate our current multiplex digital media space. Simon Maingi, known by his YouTube alias of Simon Says, is a graduate of Mass Communication from JKUAT, while Sharon Bodo is a fifth year student of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. When I first met Sharon (through YouTube), I had the immediate impression that she was one heartless sadistic lady. You see in the video with which I debuted watching her content, she made four students compete in eating red hot chilli, fresh from the farm no less, for a cash reward! Needless to say, she enjoyed every bit of it. I still stick to my belief that someone must have really gotten into her nerves that day for her to have even thought of that crazy idea. And that person must have been a man. So as payback, she heartlessly sought out four of our kind, sat them down and made them eat chilli. Ordinary people serve their revenge cold. Sharon serves it spicy hot, and sends you tearing straight to the toilet.
But let’s not reduce Sharon to just one day when she was in a bad Engineering mood. She does much more awesome stuff on her YouTube channel, and to her, the drive is to do relatable and relevant videos. “I focus on doing something people can watch and feel like it’s a reality in their daily lives. Something that can appeal to a particular emotion of my viewers,” she adds. Simon agrees, that people will only consume content that is strategically made for them. They must feel like they own the content for them to relate with it.
The Simon Says channel is the definition of crazy. His basic focus is on current affairs, but with an abundant dose of real uncensored talk. Basically he is the Miguna Miguna of YouTube. He says it as it is. From matters politics, to economy and social affairs, he’s your ultimate destination for a good laugh and some real talk. In his own words, “I try to give my own Simon Says twist to everything I decide to address, and give that version that everybody is afraid to touch. Ultimately, I make sure I put across a particular focal point in every video”
So how does a busy final year Engineering student get time to produce YouTube content? For Sharon, YouTube is a welcome escape from all the hectic and intensive academic demands that the JKUAT Engineering experience generously offers. But that’s not all for her. Ultimately, she plans to use the platform to bring about change in people’s lives, especially women. “There are so many girls in Kenya still subjected to FGM, and many more with no access to Education. They need a voice, and I want to be part of that change.” Needless to reiterate, her heart is in the right place. Which reminds me that Wednesday 11th October will be the International Day of the Girl Child.
A recent feature on a local TV station revealed a disturbing reality of girls having to engage in sex to be able to access sanitary pads. It’s a painful and shameful reality. It should have all of us cowering our heads in a unified societal shame and disgust. But not just that. There’s need for change. There’s need for action. Sustainable solutions. It is good to note that there are already good efforts towards the same, but a lot more needs to be done. Tuwakuze Africa is one such organization that have their vision trained towards the same. This is a youth-driven volunteer organization focused on adding value to life through various initiatives chiefly through helping underprivileged children access holistic Education.
This coming Saturday 14th, they head to Bungoma Primary School in Laikipia County as part of commemorating the International Day of the Girl Child. They will be giving mentorship to the girls, and donating basic requirements such as sanitary pads. Want to be part of the noble cause? Just give this nice lady a call. 0723 569 922. Or simply do an Mpesa magic. Make a donation via Paybill number 488488, Account number 1004024296. Now, what were we talking about again?
The Simon Says channel was breathed into existence at the height of Kenya’s digital migration. “When the media blackout happened, it hit me that there was need for an alternative source of content for the Kenyan audience, and I hit the road running,” opines Simon. So where does he hope to go with this ultimately? Obviously not something as visionary as Sharon’s. All Simon want to do is focus on building a formidable brand with a positive impact in the society. When you ask the question, who is gonna tell me the truth? He wants to be the radical voice that answers that call on the affirmative.
There have been several cases where YouTubers have died while filming extreme stunts or videos. So just how extreme should you go in your content creation, and is it worth dying for? For Sharon, it’s an absolute yes. Why am I not surprised? “Go as far as it takes. There’s nothing wrong dying doing what you love,” Yes, she said that on the record in case you’re wondering. Simon’s rejoinder? “See all those people doing crazy risky stuff? They’re all white. We black people are very smart. We’ve been through slavery, through colonization. We don’t want to prosecute ourselves any further. We’re good. What I think is that one needs to have certain parameters, that’s all.”
The YouTube platform virtually gives everyone the power to be a producer of content in any particular subject, but is YouTube for everyone? Sharon’s strong opinion is an absolute NO. In her own words, there are people who were just born to consume content, and others born to create it. So don’t get it twisted. Simply being in love with the idea is not enough. You have to put work in it, and if you’re seriously considering venturing into content creation, then there’s no better time than now. Simon holds that what matters most is consistency once you hit the road. “People relate with your content when you’re real and candid.”
And if you’re interested in some authentic Simon Says merchandise such as t-shirts and hoodies, simply link up with him here.