Earlier this afternoon, on my lunch break, I came upon the following article: “21 Insane Ways Celebrities Get (and Stay) Rich.” I can’t really recommend it. Some of the items are mildly interesting, but could hardly be described as insane, unless you consider selling a business at a profit insane. I did find one thing curious though, and that was the following sentence about Jake Paul, who is apparently a YouTube star:
His Hip-Hop music video “It’s Everyday Bro” was reacted to by dozens of other channels, including Pewdiepie.
This sentence seemed strange to me at first sight, perhaps because I may never have never seen this combination of words before (I’m generously classing Pewdiepie as a word). Of course, as a cool young modern person, I understood this sentence. Even then though, that phrase, was reacted to by dozens…, sounded strange in my head. Grammatically of course, it’s fine. It’s a passive sentence, which explains the longer structure. And in this case it’s logical that the writer used a passive structure, because we’re focussing on the video more than the people reacting to it. No, it’s not the passive structure itself that was strange, but rather the use of the verb to react in the passive voice.
When you think about it, before the advent of YouTube, it would be very strange to use the verb in the passive voice:
Let me tell you: I was shocked! The situation was reacted to very badly by me!
Perfectly possible, grammatically, of course, but it sounds terrible. Because the focus when using the verb to react is always on, well, the reaction, and not the thing we’re reacting to. It therefore makes much more sense to use the verb in the direct voice.
In fact, regardless of whether it was passive or active, before YouTube it was strange to simply use the verb to react on its own, without an adverb:
-Oh my God, I can’t believe that happened! What did you do?
-What else could I do? I reacted!
-You… you… reacted?
-Yes, it was an instinctive response to just react like that!
In fairness to YouTubers though, the way they use react on its own does make sense. Reaction videos are a popular genre of YouTube video, where people record themselves reacting to various things, such as new songs, or movie trailers, or videos of people reacting to things. I guess if these people are charismatic enough, it’s interesting for their followers to watch their reactions. I’ll admit I’ve never really watched any reaction videos, mainly because the snippets I’ve seen have been very annoying, though I do find their appeal slightly easier to understand than unboxing videos. I watched a couple of Pewdiepie videos for example, and they just seemed to consist of him playing video games and occasionally screaming. Though I think he doesn’t really make videos anymore because apparently he’s now a Nazi.
Anyway, I digress. It makes sense to title a video something like ‘Pewdiepie Reacts to “It’s Everyday Bro!”’ rather than ‘Pewdiepie Hates “It’s Everyday Bro!”’ (which I think he might, because I listened to the beginning of the song, and I think Jake may have been making fun of Mr. pie). It’s not too clickbaity a thing to do to entice the curious viewer, wondering just how Pewdie will react, because at least they’ll get to see his reaction. And hear it. They’ll definitely hear it.
So even though I found that sentence in the article strange, I don’t want to criticise modern young YouTubers (having to keep capitalising that T is really annoying) for using react the way they do, because in their culture, it makes sense. And it’s interesting to see a word continue to be used with the same basic meaning, only in quite a different way, based on the way technology affords us all the power to record our reactions to whatever we want, and share them with the world. And who knows, perhaps I’ll start my own series of videos soon. I could react to people making grammar errors, or do unboxing videos of deliveries of books at my school. Or new stationery! Everyone seems to have a niche on YouTube, so I’m sure I could find mine. And this would not be a petulant reaction to the apparent injustice of a world in which a man calling himself Pewdiepie can become an actual millionaire by being a possible Nazi who screams at video games, and doesn’t even have to go to the hard work of proofreading blog posts. No, not at all.