On July 6, 2021, YouTube star David Dobrik uploaded his 643rd video blog (or “vlog”). That’s two to three videos a week, every week, for six years. Each one clocks in at about four minutes long, and each one gives viewers a glimpse into his outrageous life.
Dobrik rose to prominence on the social media platform Vine, where he posted comedic six-second videos. In 2014, he began posting short vlogs on YouTube showing his antics with his friends, then transitioned to that platform completely after Vine’s discontinuation in 2016. Dobrik and his group of friends, nicknamed the “Vlog Squad,” have gained notoreity for pranks, high energy, celebrity appearances and more. His channel has gained more than 18 million subscribers and six billion views over his six years on the platform, making Dobrik one of the most popular vloggers on YouTube.
If the name David Dobrik sounds familiar to you for less innocuous reasons, however, you’re likely not alone. Over the first few months of 2021, Dobrik was subject to several accusations that he creates a harmful and toxic culture when filming his vlogs by bullying and mocking his collaborators. In March 2021, an unnamed woman accused Vlog Squad member Dom Zeglaitis of assaulting her during the filming of a vlog in 2018. Dobrik posted a video claiming he cut ties with Zeglaitis before announcing that he would be going on an extended break from YouTube and social media. He acknowledged that many of his videos rely on an extreme shock factor that creates an unfair power dynamic between him and those he films, which he promised to rectify in the future. “It’s important to show that change is possible,” he said before turning off the camera.
Three months later, Dobrik returned to YouTube, almost one million subscribers and one Vlog Squad member down. Now, it remains to be seen whether he’ll make good on his promise.
Dobrik clearly cares about his friends, and the dynamic between them is often fun and high-energy. He often uses his money to surprise them and to take them on vacations, or give them cars or pets. In one vlog, he gives a childhood friend $60,000 for a hip surgery to fix his lifelong limp.
In his last video before his three-month hiatus, “03/22/21,” Dobrik seems genuine in his desire to change, establishing his support for victims of sexual assault.
Sexual content and language are extremely prevalent in almost all of Dobrik’s vlogs. A single, four-minute video will likely contain anywhere from five to 10 f-words, as well as multiple s-words and misuses of God’s name, with no attempt made to censor them out.
Women in revealing outfits are seen constantly, and jokes are made about “hooking up,” same-sex relationships and sexual arousal. One prank involves Erin, a member of the Vlog Squad who’s also engaged, asking other male members to sleep with her. She uses sexually explicit language and references female genitalia. In another video, Dobrik sees a man watching pornography on a library computer; the screen is censored, but the video is discussed at length by the group. Another of Dobrik’s friends, Corinna, has an account on OnlyFans, a platform where users can pay to watch explicit videos from content creators.
Drugs and alcohol are also used and discussed. One of Dobrik’s friends claims he’s “high as f–k” while in the car with him. Dobrik pranks another of his friends by posting his drunk texts on a giant billboard in Los Angeles. Bottles of champagne are popped, whiskey and beer are shown, and alcohol is served while the group is on vacation in Hawaii.
Occasionally, the Vlog Squad’s pranks and antics involve destructive behavior. In one video, they fill a large garbage can with ping pong balls and liquid nitrogen. The can explodes, shooting balls all around the room. A few of Dobrik’s friends jump off of a dangerously tall tower of trampolines into a swimming pool.
So, did Dobrik make good on his promise to change his vlogs for the better? Yes and no. While the few videos he’s posted since his return focus more on friendship and philanthropy than pranks and shock value, the strong content concerns his vlogs possessed before his hiatus remain.
What’s even more concerning is that Dobrik is clearly aware of his audience and demographic. He’s incredibly popular among children and young teenagers; in a few videos, he meets fans as young as 11 and 12 years old. It’s disconcerting, then, to imagine those same fans watching Dobrik confront his two friends while they’re naked in bed.
The Vlog Squad’s high energy and short videos make this group incredibly appealing for kids and young teens. But parents should be aware that the content squeezed into those few minutes is anything but family friendly. Even setting aside his recent controversies, the behavior and language David Dobrik promotes on his channel is something to steer far, far away from.
Lauren Cook is serving as a 2021 summer intern for the Parenting and Youth department at Focus on the Family. She is studying film and screenwriting at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. You can get her talking for hours about anything from Star Wars to her family to how Inception was the best movie of the 2010s. But more than anything, she’s passionate about showing how every form of art in some way reflects the Gospel. Coffee is a close second.