The Influence of Influencers: Live Streaming’s Impact on Singaporean Youth

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The digital age and the ascendancy of the internet have revolutionized the daily lives of Singaporeans. As Howe (2005:2) puts it, we are living in a time of ‘media multiplexity’, a phenomenon in which media content being delivered by the various technologies merge together, and the rise of the internet and the decline of traditional media is evidence of this. This phenomenon has led to the rise of online digital content, live streaming Singapore being one of the latest. Live streaming Singapore is a relatively new digital experience which allows an individual to broadcast a video in real time to an audience through the internet. This is akin to hosting a live TV broadcast over the internet, allowing viewers to watch and interact with the host. Sit et al. (2019:389) states that the most popular streaming platform in Singapore is Twitch, a website dedicated to streaming video games, though recent times have seen an influx of influencers using live streams via social platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. Initially, before the rise of the digital age, popular media from television to newspapers led to what Newhagen and Rafael (1988:156) described as ‘The Mobile Media Paradigm’. This was a time where the media had a significant influence on individuals, driving people to quickly adopt new media that better fit into their lives. Fast forwarding to today, the new form of ‘mobile media’ is the smartphone, and the digital age has led to ‘media mobility’, a state where the media has influences on how we lead our daily lives, allowing for media access anytime and anywhere. An example of this is the live streaming of events, where people are virtually participating in an event through media. This is similar to how Lim (2004:240) describes the Singaporean idea of ‘home entertainment’, using media to simulate the experience of public activity within the home due to the national stress on work and education. This ‘media mobility’ is particularly pertinent in Singapore due to its highly modernized and fast-paced nature.

The Rise of Live Streaming in Singapore

The rise of live streaming is a complex issue that involves the interplay of many factors. The adoption of live streaming by Singaporeans is a development that reflects changing patterns of media consumption amongst youth, as new media gradually replace the old. The portability of live streaming via mobile phones circumvents earlier barriers to Internet TV to bring instant entertainment to Singaporeans. The social element of live streaming, where hosts and viewers may interact in real time, creates a vicarious experience that is appealing to youth who are familiar with media multitasking. The abundance of localized content is appealing to Singaporeans, with hosts discussing familiar topics and trends from a distinctly Singaporean POV. This stands in contrast to earlier perceptions of online media as a predominantly Western cultural space. These characteristics complement the present state of youth culture in Singapore and are thus key to understanding why live streaming is so popular within this demographic.

The Effects of Live Streaming on Singaporean Youth

In 2013, Singapore’s Cybersports and Online Gaming Association (SCOGA) organized the first-ever national eSports team selection to compete in Dota 2 at the 27th Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar. It was found that youth are more drawn to live streams or videos of gameplay compared to the actual game itself. With the increasing viewership of game videos and live sessions, the positively influenced groups of youth may provide a new breed of cyber athletes in the near future.

The impact of live streaming on Singaporean youth has led the country to become an incubator for globalizing the business of live influencers. It’s common for influencers to host gaming sessions and chat stream sessions on different live streaming websites. These sessions allow the viewers to interact with the influencers on a personal level. Parasocial interaction from these sessions can lead to the mass emulation of influencer lifestyles, and according to the Impression Formation process, possible judgment and the misinterpretation of what the influencer’s true personality is. This can be detrimental to youth if they adopt and are influenced by any negative behavior displayed by the influencer during the sessions.

One of the more popular online video platforms, YouTube, is quite impactful due to Singapore’s youth. In 2007, 60% of Singaporean youths visit the site at least once a week, and since then it has gained a steady stream of viewers. YouTube Partners who frequently engage and influence their viewers have now transcended their viewerships to live streaming on different live streaming websites. Live streaming websites allow the youth to connect with the influencers in real-time, and this might result in them feeling more connected to the influencers. Over time, these influencers are identifiable and Singaporeans might be influenced to follow them. This could lead to lifestyle changes and the adoption of certain consumer thinking due to parasocial interaction with the influencers. This might bring about both positive and negative effects on the youth. A study by Rambus Marketing in 2014 revealed that top figures in Singapore aged 15-24 years old have indicated 40% of subscription to local influencers. This is a strong indication that youth are becoming more connected and influenced by influencers.

Live streaming is fast becoming one of the most popular forms of entertainment for Singaporean youth. According to the Media Development Authority (MDA), Singaporeans spend 7.2 million hours a month watching online videos, full-length TV shows, or movies. YouTube and live streaming websites are no strangers to Singaporean viewers; they each attract at least 70% of Singapore’s web population monthly. YouTube.sg and Yahoo! both attract 1.1 million viewers each month, while at present, live streaming websites have gained immense popularity.

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