If you want proof social media technologies can transform lives, look no further than 6th grader Greyson Chance of Edmond, Oklahoma. Two weeks ago Greyson’s father used a hand-held camera to record his son’s piano and vocal performance of Lady Gaga’s song, “Paparazzi” at a local church. The video went viral within 2 days of its posting on YouTube, with over 1.5 million hits in the first 48 hours. Currently the video has over 11.9 million views, but that number does not include NUMEROUS copies which have been posted by others seeking a moment of YouTube fame from the web searches for “Greyson Lady Gaga Ellen” and similar search engine queries.

Greyson’s video and personal fame received a huge boost yesterday on May 13th, when he appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” spoke to Lady Gaga over the phone on the air, and then performed his song again for a live television audience.

The first video I’ve linked above and embedded is from Greyson’s actual YouTube channel, but I hesitated to embed the second video. Numerous false “Greyson Chance” channels on YouTube and Twitter are proliferating, attempting to attract viewers and page clicks based his viral notoriety. [UPDATE: I CHANGED THE EMBED FOR THIS SECOND VIDEO TO BE THE ONE ON GREYSON'S ACTUAL CHANNEL, TO NOT FURTHER AMPLIFY UNAUTHORIZED UPLOADS OF THIS.]

Not official Greyson Chance YouTube or Twitter Channels

Some sites, like the YouTube channel below, were apparently created to lure people into clicking phishing links which lead to Facebook applications or pages infected with outright malware.

Phishing for YouTube clicks

Other “official Greyson” Twitter accounts have been created in an attempt to attract followers, I would guess for marketing purposes but maybe just for fun.

Not Greyson Chance's official Twitter site

With the background of my own 9 year old daughter’s viral YouTube experiences last fall, I have several responses to this situation regarding fellow-Edmond resident Greyson Chance. I linked nine past posts about our experiences with Sarah’s YouTube response video to President Obama in last month’s post, “Lucrative rewards of viral videos encourage parents to put their children on YouTube.”

First, in case Greyson, his family members, or someone who knows Greyson reads this, here’s my advice for you:

  1. Have one of your parents sign up for the YouTube Partner’s Program for your channel ASAP. Given your age you may not be able to do this personally, but if possible have one of your parents do it. There’s no reason you shouldn’t immediately start to monetize your global YouTube fame, and those ad-views and ad-clicks can add up. (I’m not saying that because of personal experiences, but because I’ve read articles like “5 Secrets of YouTube’s Success” from the April 2010 issue of Wired Magazine which confirm that contention.)
  2. Consider moderating or turning off commenting on your videos. YouTube is like the wild west, and because of the nature of your videos you will hopefully not be the target of sexually-explicit attacks or hate speech. It’s common for people to use profanity in comments, and it is YOUR channel. It’s not hard to figure out and you may know already, but if not this post explains both why comment moderation can be a good idea for viral YouTube videos and how to turn it on. If you DO choose to moderate, bear in mind this can anger people. This post discusses why and how this can happen, and why (in some cases) turning OFF comments can be a better solution than moderating them.
  3. If you’re watching the proliferation of videos, Twitter accounts, etc that are using your name and your Dad’s video content without your permission, you’re probably feeling like you’ve lost control over this situation. You have, but there are still some things you can do and YouTube provides you with tools to do them if you or your parents want to. My post “Addressing the R Word Proactively and Flagging YouTube Videos” gives some background and how-to advice. In short, you can use YouTube’s flagging feature to ask for take-downs of YOUR dad’s video and your copyrighted content. Given the scale of your visibility this might seem hopeless / fruitless and not worth the effort, and perhaps it’s not. Still, know that it’s an option. My experiences with my own daughter’s video showed that YouTube is VERY responsive to alleged hate speech, but slower to process claims of copyright infringement. They WILL respond, however, and obviously your video has a lot of people’s attention so they’re likely to respond to YOU in a more timely way I’d guess.
  4. Protect your YouTube/Google account password. If you haven’t lately, change it now to something VERY secure. Make sure you don’t give it out. I’m sure YouTube has a good handle on security, but one thing you definitely do NOT want is someone taking control of your account and posting content there “as you” without your authorization. That may not be super likely, but it’s definitely less possible if you use a secure password on your account and change it every once in awhile.
  5. Think about the positive, constructive, world-changing messages you’d like to share with others RIGHT NOW. You’ve literally got the attention of MILLIONS of people. Thousands of people are subscribing to your YouTube channel, and I’d bet you’re receiving a lot of direct messages / email within YouTube from people who are enamored with your talent as well as people who want you to view their videos / pay them attention. Carpe Diem, my fellow Oklahoman. Since you were sharing this video at a church talent show here in Oklahoma, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you’re a Christian. If you have a Christian testimony to share, now is the time. You may not get this moment in the global YouTube spotlight again. You literally have a chance to speak directly to millions of people through your YouTube channel. You’ve probably noticed the 3 million views your other two videos on YouTube have attracted together. That’s because after people see your first, most famous video, many people want to see more. You have great musical talent, and that is certainly the reason for this lightning bolt moment of global stardom. I’d encourage you to think seriously about what ELSE you want to share with others. What would you share with millions of other strangers around our planet, if you had just sixty seconds to do so? That is the opportunity you have NOW, and it’s a big one most people don’t have in their entire lives. Consider the possibilities, and your opportunity to not only share your musical talents but also messages from your heart.
  6. Remember to protect your private and personal information, and if you have any of it online take it off immediately. Make sure your cell phone number is NOT on your Facebook account (if you have one) and neither is your email address. People are almost certain to try and contact you DIRECTLY because of your stardom. You likely have received and will receive hundreds of messages via YouTube mail, and I don’t think you can block that, but definitely make sure you’re not giving public access to your other personal information. This is a key lesson in virtually all “Internet safety” lectures which you’ve hopefully heard at school and at home, but I know lots of kids don’t take it seriously. You absolutely need to at this point.
  7. The “stranger danger” risk in the world is real, and you need to be both aware of it and take reasonable precautions with your family. I’m not encouraging you or your parents to become paranoid or react in a way that’s over the top because of this incident, but be aware that LOTS of people you didn’t know two weeks ago now know who you are, what you look like, and what school you attend. There’s definitely an exciting and fun side to fame, but there are also real costs as well as dangers. If you haven’t already, you might consider contacting the Edmond police and having a conversation with them about things they recommend in terms of safety. It’s better to have this conversation SOONER when it may not even be needed, rather than later after a problem happens and you’re not sure how to respond. I don’t think we’ve had a YouTube viral video situation on the scale of yours in our community, so the law enforcement personnel with whom you and your family initially visit may not be completely prepared for the sort of advice you’re seeking. I’m sure (sad to say) the Edmond police DO deal with plenty of situations where people are stalked, harassed, etc, however, and what you’re looking for is advice about what legally CAN be done if you run into some weirdos as a result of your online stardom. You should find out what kinds of reasonable / common-sense safety precautions you should take now to make sure you don’t become a victim of someone with malicious intentions who learned about you because of this YouTube situation.

That just about exhausts my “advice column” for Greyson and his family tonight.

I’ll close by noting it’s quite ironic a remixed version of a Lady Gaga song was Greyson’s choice to share at a church talent show. It’s too bad it wasn’t a culture jammed version, since we could certainly use more counter-cultural messages both on YouTube and in the mainstream press to those espoused by Lady Gaga’s music. For several months now I’ve been wrestling with issues which this YouTube / Lady Gaga / Greyson Chance situation brings into further focus. These connect with some ideas I shared in my January 2009 post, “Iran, Sovereignty, Colonialism and the Values of the West.” In his interview with Ellen, Greyson shared that Lady Gaga is one of his greatest inspirations. That’s likely not an isolated sentiment among youth today. In March 2010, CNN (via Mashable) reported Lady Gaga is the first artist with over a BILLION views. Her cultural influence today is HUGE. And what, exactly, is her message? It takes about thirty seconds of watching one of her videos or just listening to one of her songs to figure that out.

Have you had any cognitive dissonance lately when it comes to Gaga? When Greyson talked “live” to Gaga on Ellen’s show yesterday, she encouraged him to “stay away from girls.” That was a surprise to me, but it falls in line with what People magazine reported last month, “Lady Gaga Tells Fans: ‘Don’t Have Sex.’” Interesting. That’s certainly not the message the over 204 million people who have watched Lady Gaga’s official YouTube video for “Bad Romance” received.

I’ll write more about these topics in a later post, but the main thing I want to point out here is that a CULTURE WAR is raging today for the hearts and minds of our young people and their values. Greyson Chance has fantastic musical ability, but he’s certainly not alone in idolizing Lady Gaga. I love the power and energy of many of her songs as well, but I absolutely reject the value system which these songs encourage people to embrace. This is a BIG deal. Words are powerful, and the words with which we program our brains using our iPods and YouTube viewing time make a big difference in shaping the people we ARE and the people we will become.

Social media is not a fad, and we’re all just a few potential clicks away from stardom on the global stage. Is this good or bad? It can be both. Hopefully in the case of Greyson Chance, it will be all roses. It’s not every day you get a chance to share your heart with millions of people on every continent of our planet.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Tonp1

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