YouTube has long been an open platform for discussion, but in recent years, it seems the platform has become more hostile.
In one segment particularly, the platform has caused serious emotional damage: Vegan.
Vegans of the past have been seen as nature-loving, happy-go-lucky people, striving to “do no harm.” And while that type of Vegan still exists, according to the Atlantic, it seems the culture of YouTube has grown to highlight a radical and often vicious community of vegans fighting over what is “right.”
Take, for example, Stella Rae, a nineteen-year-old Youtube Influencer with thousands of subscribers to her channel promoting Veganism.
After struggling with an eating disorder in her early teens, Rae came to see veganism as “morally righteous” and began aggressively pushing a vegan agenda, often posting confrontational videos like “Dumb Things Meat Eaters Say,” in which she tells non-vegans, “Eggs are literal chicken periods. Why would you want to eat that? That is so disgusting!”
But her tone changed once she started getting harassed online by many of the people she thought would most agree with her views.
“A lot of people would expect comments from people who aren’t vegan, like, ‘Oh, you need to be eating meat,’” Rae says. “But the majority of the negative comments or comments critiquing my diet, they actually come from vegans.”
According to the Atlantic, Rae’s experience is not unusual among vegan social-media stars. These content creators are regularly held to a standard of perfection when it comes to their diets.
Being a “perfect vegan” does not just mean not eating animal products. It can mean a vast variety of things to different people: There are gluten-free vegans, refined-sugar-free vegans, raw vegans, “Raw Til 4” vegans (who only eat cooked food after 4 p.m.), high-carb and low-fat vegans, and the small but vocal group of junk-food vegans, who try out vegan versions of popular treats. There are so many opinions about the right way to be vegan that anyone who posts meals online almost inevitably receives some amount of backlash, sometimes to a concerning degree.
Most vegan YouTube stars are not as savage as others. Same goes for vegan YouTube fans. Many vegans active on social media point to veganism’s core tenet of “do no harm to others” as a guiding principle for peaceful online behavior. But each vegan YouTuber The Atlantic’s Jordan Bissell spoke to recognized a common trend of negativity in the comments to their videos—sometimes with lasting consequences.
For more about this story of Youtube’s vegan community, visit The Atlantic.