By Evan DeSimone
In the digital media world, Taryn Southern has more or less done it all.The YouTube star has conquered the video sharing site with her comedic vlogs and music videos, created a feature length film for Vimeo, and will soon be hosting her very own web talk show “Between The Sheets” in partnership with Moxy Hotels. It’s hard to imagine anyone who would be better qualified to dole out life advice to the connected generation. Fortunately, Southern now has a platform to do just that through a partnership with NBC’s “Today.”
The self-described internet addict is joining the “Today” team with “Self Help For Your Digital Soul,” a new online video series aimed at providing tips for living your best life in the social media age. The latest episode. which premieres today (check it out above), hilariously helps fans bring up their online dating game. We caught up with the prolific creator to ask her a few questions about her latest project.
You’ve done just about everything in online video from vlogging and comedy to a recent feature length film, “Searching For Katie,” on Vimeo. What brought you to this latest partnership with “Today”?
As a kid, I always wanted to work in news. Obviously I’ve departed from that quite a bit, but I was really excited about working with such an established news outlet, but also one that has fun. My agent Adam Nettler at CAA set up a meeting there with a variety of people — in TV and digital. “Today” was launching its own YouTube channel and was looking for an opportunity to collaborate with someone who had an established following on YouTube. I pitched them a few ideas, one being “Self Help For Your Digital Soul.” They were immediately like, “Let’s do it!”
Are you interested in doing more work in television or other forms of traditional media?
I just want to tell stories and connect with people on whichever medium is best, and, for me, for right now, that’s the internet. My background began in TV — hosting shows for networks like G4, MTV and DirecTV, then acting in sitcoms. I had to make the decision to put all of that on the back burner to focus on creating digital content. I love television, but being a part of the digital movement and the democratization of media is just far more exciting to me.
How will the segments be promoted on the Today Show? Will you be appearing regularly?
We are working to figure out an appearance this summer to promote the segments, and possibly integrate “Today” talent into the last online episode. Right now we’re in the process of throwing around ideas!
How is creating content in partnership with a network news program different than working as an independent creator?
Not all that different, really. I certainly made these with the “Today’ show audience in mind, but the producers were very adamant that I maintain my voice and style. They really wanted the series to feel like “me,” which was incredibly kind and freeing, though also terrifying. I wanted to make sure I made something their audience would still enjoy, so I certainly had to make some guesses along the way.
What kind of viewers are you aiming your advice at?
Primarily moms and their teenage daughters. I’m hoping a mom sees one of my segments — like how to effectively take a selfie — laughs, and then emails it to her daughter with the caption, “Now I get why you do that.”
I’m just a giant kid in an adult body, so my intent is to speak to both audiences.
Can we expect to see any familiar faces join you on screen?
Yes! I reached out to a myriad of my digitally native friends who are stars in their own right to lend their advice and expertise — Flula Borg, Simone Shepherd, Davey Wavey, Chester See, Julia Price, Alan Weischedel — and then some people from my personal life, like my Dad.
You’re the definition of a digital native. What one piece of advice would you offering young people growing up in a digital environment?
I really feel for young people growing up in a digital world. When I was a kid, if someone liked you, they would make you a friendship bracelet out of clovers on the playground. Now, you know who likes you by looking at numbers of likes and comments. Nothing about this new world is normal or easy — in the late 90’s, we didn’t have to see photos of exes with their new girlfriends posted everywhere… party invites weren’t sent out over social networks… and we certainly didn’t have to maintain two social lives. This isn’t easy for 30-something year olds, so I can’t even imagine how 16 year olds must feel!
My advice: remember that this is a new world we live in, and you can choose to navigate through it however you please. If deleting your Instagram account makes you a happier, freer person, then do that. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, and remember to put your phone down every once in a while at a concert so you can actually hear the music.
Man, if only I could take my own advice!!