TheMingThing: Storytellers for change

AMONG the countless YouTube videos of cute dogs, laughing babies, and Vevo-branded channels, lies also more meaningful content with the intention of sparking lasting change.

It takes a village, they say, to raise a child.

In the age of social media, video-sharing giant YouTube is the metaphorical village, capable of shaping minds everywhere for posterity's sake.

That's where the YouTube Creators for Social Change comes into play, and this year, Malaysian channel TheMingThing has been selected to represent the country with its creative content.

Its video on the theme is scheduled to be out in September.

Comprising the Ho brothers Ming Han and Ming Yue, and Bryan Lim, TheMingThing will join 46 other creators from all over the world including Mexico, Canada, Indonesia, and the Middle East and North Africa region.

Through the platform, these inspiring creators will each share their messages of hope and acceptance.

If you've been keeping up with TheMingThing, its journey began with Ming Han, when his first uploaded video detailed common frustration of waiting for a parking space on campus grounds.

After a couple more successful uploads, he was soon approached by Bryan and another videographer, Raffi, who is no longer with the team.

Younger brother Ming Yue joined shortly after returning from his studies in England.

In a recent interview at Google Malaysia's headquarters, TheMingThing trio spoke about its adventures and the conundrum arguably on every content creator's mind.

"Do you trade functionality for aesthetics and art, or do you trade art and make your videos absolutely functional instead?" said Ming Han when asked if the popular platform is too saturated with similar content.

"It's the inner conflict," chipped in Ming Yue.

Ming Han continues: "Do you want to make a four-chord song or the fancy eight-chord jazz blues song that expresses yourself better?

"It's the whole irony between pop culture and art house flowery stuff."

With the number of creators increasing every day, they all acknowledge it's a positive occurrence because it takes a bunch of creative minds to have a community, but "it's definitely getting supersaturated."

According to Ming Han, the environment of growing up in an Asian population, particularly, drives many people to make it a feasible career by monetising their work.

"The minute that comes in, priority over money takes precedence over priority over art, because you kinda need a salary.

"You don't need to live off, I made a beautiful thing, you can't eat that.

While he believes there's use for functional videos like DIYs, makeup tutorials, and travel vlogs, he adds: "But when you're talking about something that's created just for the sake of entertainment, it's getting tough.

"Some people use boobs, babies, puppies, for the formula to put in your thumbnail, so people will click.

"So there's clickbait titles, and ... the recent Logan Paul thing that happened, like how far is too far for views?"

It's an undeniable fact that social media wields immense power to influence the way we think, act, and speak.

Ming Yue said: "Every time we go for … social events and YouTube [related] events stuff like that, unfortunately, it's not a conscious thing but conversations kind of gravitate more towards how big are you, how big's your channel?

"But when we were in London and we were among the other Creators for Change, from all around the world, there wasn't any of that."

It was a refreshing change, according to Ming Yue, who initially thought TheMingThing - with less than 490,000 subscribers - was going to be one of the smaller channels at the event.

However, he was pleasantly amazed to meet creators with only a couple thousand followers.

Ming Yue adds: "That was amazing because that means YouTube knew, and YouTube is putting a message out there that it doesn't matter if you're the biggest channel, it's about your message.

"I want to be about the message instead of just trying to be the biggest."

Bryan agreed saying: "It's more of a social change movement, [and] this is the first time that Malaysia has a competitor in Creators for Change."

By plucking everyday ordinary situations and turning them into hilarious sketches and web-series, TheMingThing has evolved to wanting to create more meaningful content, and even set up production house, Core Studios in 2013.

Bryan said: "Some people think it's easy, but actually, there's a whole lot of behind the scenes work that you don't see."

"We tell them the honest truth," added Ming Yue. "They want to earn money from what they enjoy doing. That's the ultimate goal, right?

"And I think YouTube, and [TheMingThing] has become somewhat of a dream. It's become almost like a heaven and earth kind of job, right, to some people.

"Like oh, you get to have fun on YouTube, and you also get paid. So, how do I replicate that success? How do I replicate what you're doing in my own life?"

Once the reality check hits, the guys say that only the people who really want to do it because they're passionate about creating, will stay on.

As Ming Han puts it: "Not to crush dreams, but I think it's nice to tell, so they have a realistic view of what to expect, and we don't tell them the glitz and glamour stuff.

"We really tell like, [are] you sure you can do this?"