The Selfie Generation (what I learned at the YouTube O2L Digitour)


Last night I took Jessica and her friend to the 2014 YouTube O2L Digitour in Atlanta. The Digitour is a collection of the most talented and popular teen YouTube stars who pack our venues around the U.S., putting on performances. Some of the performers are known for their musical talent, but mostly for their comedic talent, which is evidenced for their YouTube videos that go viral. The main O2L guys are: Connor, Ricky, Sam, JC, Trevor, and Kian.

We rolled into Atlanta about noon, staked our place near the front of the line, and hung out there for the next 6 hours until it stated at 6:30pm. The venue was The Tabernacle in downtown Atlanta. These Digitours especially appeal to teenage girls. There were teen guys there for sure but I’d so it was weighted 70/30 in favor of the girls.

I haven’t had much time to reflect upon it after not getting much sleep last night, but here are a few first thoughts on how I experienced it.

1. Teens are done with fake and want real.

I was scratching my head a bit during the actual performance. There was no band, no epic stage production, and no flash or theatrics. Basically, it was a group of teenagers in jeans and t-shirts who looked like they are just gotten out of bed and walked out on stage. Other than some general organization, the rest of the performances were rather spontaneous and unrehearsed. There was no attempt to “perform” or live up to some great persona, some of them even seemed a bit awkward on stage… not really the live performer type.

But the crowd could not get enough of it! My ears are still buzzing from the screaming and roaring fans. I became a fan myself last night. I loved it. Once I let go of what I expected to be in terms of some high-production polished performance, I totally enjoyed what it was. It was actually refreshing to watch these teenage YouTube stars come out on stage, and just be the fully-expressed and authentic kids that they are. It wasn’t hype, it was real. It wasn’t perfection, it was real. It wasn’t polished, it was real. It wasn’t fake, it was real. As they put it, “I don’t give a what!”

2. It’s about the people, stupid.

The YouTube O2L Digitour is not about the performance itself; that’s just icing on the cake. What it’s really about is people, connection, and interaction. The Digitour intentionally chooses mid-size venues (3,000-5,000 people) so that the experience can be more intimate and relational. Before the show, the YouTube teen personalities are out in the parking lot and line hanging out with the crowd, and doing an endless number of selfie shots with fans. During the performance, they will bring lots of fans onto the stage to be part of the show, and take phones handed to them from the crowd on the floor to take selfie shots from the stage, and hand the phone back. After the show they make a quick exit, and the security personnel tell people to vacate the premises. This usually cuts the crowd down considerably. Most parents are ready to go anyway, and being told it’s time to leave pretty much does it. The fans who know better don’t leave because they know they will come back once the crowd dwindles down. Sure enough, one of the YouTube personalities will Tweet that they are coming back to hang out with whoever was patient enough to wait.

3. The selfie is a monument to the moment.

Contrary to popular opinion, the teenage selfie is not some insanely self-absorbed and vain phenomenon. If that’s all you think it is, you’re missing it. The selfie is a marker or monument to the present moment. Teens are not word-driven but image-driven, which is why teens prefer Instagram, Vine, Kik, and Snapchat over Facebook. A selfie is basically saying: this is me, this is us, this is here, this is now. The selfie captures the spontaneity of the moment. It’s a visual personal journal. It’s raw. It’s real. It’s life as it is and as it happens. In a way it’s social media scrapbooking.

4. Teens are extraordinary.

Though I lost about five pounds in sweat, and my back is a little tight this morning, I had a great time yesterday and last night. Standing in line for six hours with a sea of teenagers was both entertaining and enlightening. I expected the attitude might be… who is this weird old guy hanging around. But once these teens realized that I wasn’t either an axe-murderer or a cop, we all became friends and in some strange way I became one of them… well, as much as that was possible. I felt accepted. You get to know people standing in a line for six hours. You sort of ban together. You hold spots in line for each other when you need to use the restroom, get something to eat or drink, or chase down a YouTube star. You endure the heat and drama of it all together. Jessica and her friend traded social media info with a lot of folks they met and got to know while waiting in line. I met some amazing, brilliant, extraordinary, intelligent, kind, considerate and alive teens – beautiful human beings.

That’s all for now. Gonna get these kids up, do breakfast, and start back to Nashville.

Latest Comments

  1. Jesse Collins says:


    I don’t know where this will appear but I have to write it. A friend of mine told me about you and I looked you up. Just reading a couple of your blogs told me I needed more. You see, I have been on a fifty year spiritual journey and like you I got the message “there is more too it than this” and I told my pastor and left the Sunday night service never to return to that church. So, I bought your first three books for my Nook. I have read “Divine Nobodies”, am reading “Wide Open Spaces”. I won’t bore you with the details but you are bringing me to a point of clarity and for that I am forever grateful.

    That is enough for now, and thank you.

    Jesse Collins Randallstown, Md

  2. BarbN says:

    Great post. When I hear older folks complaining about “teenagers today” I always think–you must not have hung out with any teenagers lately. We have a 16yr old and he and his friends are amazing. I watch what goes on at his high school with awe. There are some bad things, sure, but overall, those kids are just fine. They just need to get all of us old fogies out of the way so they can make the world a better place without us screwing it up. 🙂

  3. Katrina says:

    Hi Jim – I love your blogs and have read your books and they have definitely contributed to a shift in how I see Jesus and experience my life as a Christian – which has been a lot more joy and freedom. Thank you so much!

    I just had one question regarding this blog post. I totally agree with all your points – however – I think you have deduced your first point that teens want real from what you experienced as lack of polished and productionized. I think that teens want real but I do think you should take into account that you went to a white teen concert and what you might experience with other teens of different ethnic backgrounds might be different. I also think they want real – but it might look different. Just a thought!!

    • jimpalmer1 says:

      It definitely was not a white audience. There was a tremendous amount of ethic diversity… African American, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, etc. Of course this may have been because it was in Atlanta. It may be different in other cities.

      • Katrina says:

        Hi Jim – thanks for your response – just wanted to add that I was basing my ideas on the performers – I didn’t really know what the audience was. The performers you listed were all white.

      • jimpalmer1 says:

        There were other performers who weren’t… but your right that the O2L guys are.

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