Every year for Christmas, I can guarantee that I will be in receipt of a selection of popular books from the past year. Christmas 2015 was no exception and, amongst this year’s haul, was “Binge” by Tyler Oakley.
During my time at University, I almost entirely missed the YouTube phenomenon, so it was only a few months ago that I was even introduced to the Tyler Oakley channel. Suffice to say that I was initially skeptical; but considering the first video of his I saw was entitled “MY FIRST TATTOO feat. Queen Jackie” I’m not entirely surprised by that. So when “Binge”turned up underneath the Christmas tree I was anxious that I wouldn’t be able to connect with the content of his essays collection. I mean, we aren’t exactly similar people. Although we are both young adults, he has been far more enterprising with his time over recent years. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed it, even if I would only describe it as light reading.
To begin with, “Binge” is an incredibly suitable title for this book because that is exactly what I did. I binged on the book until there was nothing left to binge on. I refused to put the book down until I simply HAD to put the book down, and even then I wasn’t happy about doing so. I was surprised to find myself relating to the contents of the book and being able to mirror some of his earlier experiences with my own – who wasn’t forced to walk around school with a bowl cut at some stage of their life?!
Tyler allows us a deeper glimpse into his life, sharing with us intimate details that were otherwise unknown; for example, did you know that his name is actually Mathew?! His voice and personality shine through in his book, written in the same quirky manner in which he would have delivered this if it were a video. It definitely won’t be a book that everyone will enjoy, but it is perfectly geared to cater to his fans.
However, in saying that, there are many criticisms that can also be lobbied at this book. For example, does allowing ANOTHER YouTuber to pen a book run the risk of degrading the publishing industry and putting additional barriers in place for budding authors to overcome? Maybe it does, but in this situation I don’t believe that it does. Tyler is not claiming to be a novelist, or trying to solidify some YouTube/literary culture crossover. He is merely exploring another medium through which he can share more of himself with the world.
…Tyler has a shocking number of personal mishaps and shenanigans to reveal in his first book…
Despite the blurb claiming to “shock” any who read it, the misadventures noted in the book did not leave me reeling in “shock” at all. Although the stories were self-deprecating and for the most part hilarious, they did not break new ground or enter previously unchartered waters. The occasional essay did brush over topics of slight vulnerability – for example touching on the messier details of his sexual encounters – Tyler tended to gloss over the facts in a fashion true to his @tyleroakley self.
The underlying principle of the book is simple: it is Tyler’s decision as to what he chooses to reveal to the reader and what he chooses to keep to himself.
Throughout my now eight years online, I’ve found that what I want to give to the world is my decision. As soon as I feel bound by these expectations, it’s okay to step back, reevaluate whether it’s actually something that I want to give, and proceed accordingly.
With this statement, Tyler is completely right: it is his decision to give the world whatever part of himself that he feels is appropriate and I believe that this is a valuable lesson that anyone can take away and apply to their own lives. Give to the world what you want to give, but keep to yourself what you need to keep.
Although this book will never go down in history as a literary great, and it has not left me feeling anymore #TeamInternet than when I started it, I am left with a greater appreciation for who Tyler Oakley truly is. Tyler is true to himself. He isn’t prefect, and he knows he isn’t perfect, but importantly he understands that it is okay to be such. Hopefully that is the message that young readers will take away from this little indulgence.
Thank you for introducing yourself to us, Mathew. Until next time.