If you could give your younger self advice, what would you say? YouTube tasked its biggest personalities with recording a message, starting with “Dear Me,” and addressing concerns like low self-esteem, bullies, and mean girls—the kinds of things that are supposed to become irrelevant as an adult—in honor of International Women’s Day. Michelle Phan, Grace Helbig, Hannah Hart, Laci Green, and Issa Rae all vlogged about the importance of being strong, confident, and unique, while encouraging others to upload their own “video letters” containing prescient words of wisdom aimed at supporting girls around the world currently dealing with similar issues.
Inspired by #ItGetsBetter, the project started by Dan Savage in 2010 following a string of teenage suicides spurred by harassment over sexual orientation, #DearMe hopes to have a similar impact on a different demographic. “YouTube is a place where people can come together, share interests, relate experiences and offer each other support,” YouTube marketing manager Cathy Tang said. Each individual dispenses different takes on growing up with characteristics that, while potentially perceived as flaws as adolescents, will grow into unique traits in adulthood.
"I remember constantly feeling like I wasn’t what was expected of me and a lot of that had to do with skin color," Rae said in her video, which was posted on Monday and has received nearly 10,000 views. “It had to do with not feeling black enough, like I wasn’t the right kind of black, like I wasn’t cool enough, like I wasn’t fun enough, I just wasn’t good enough.” She continued: “I would tell myself now you don’t need to be that, it’s totally fine, everything’s going to be OK and to embrace who you are now, embrace what makes you different.”
While these confessionals are certainly inspiring, the videos have—like everything these days—drawn ire. Opponents call these type of “being an adult is awesome” messages more damaging than they are helpful for teenagers. At that age, they’re so self-consumed with the here and now that getting from day to day is the issue and focusing on the far-off future doesn’t offer much solace. On the main video, which has received more than 1 million hits, commenter GamerZakh noted that as a teacher her students often find this type of tip patronizing and condescending, causing them to feel like their elders just don’t get it. And while the peg for the hashtag effort is International Women’s Day on March 8th, many find dispensing generic gender-neutral advice to just girls quite sexist. Neonie feels the statement is “disingenuous,” partly because female empowerment comes from both sexes, but also because she doesn’t think anyone would go back in time and deliver one size fits all advice to themselves.
Regardless of perceived faults, it’s indisputable that everyone would jump at an opportunity to take a trip in a time machine to talk to their younger self. Even if it’s just to give clairvoyant stock market tips.
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