by Christiana Holland
Sabia Reiche and Loren Schauers are the co-creators of the successful YouTube channel called “Sabia and Loren.” Their channel centers around the traumatic life altering accident that left Schauers with only half of his body. The two of them began their YouTube journey on December 18, 2019 with a video titled “Loren’s Accident” (previously titled: “Loren’s Story: Viral TikTok Story Time”), but their first actual post was on TikTok where they have accumulated around 832,2000 followers and 7 million likes. Their main platform, YouTube, now also has around 543,000 subscribers. These platforms are their way of venting about these new hardships and spreading their story to show support for any other people who may have disabilities or be in similar situations as them. In this interview with UM student Christiana Holland, Reiche discusses how the two of them decide what kinds of videos they want to post and what aspects of their personal life they want to share with the world. Below is a transcript of the conversation, edited lightly for brevity, clarity and style.
Q: How much time and effort do you usually put into your work and social posts?
A: I put different effort into different forms of social media based on the type of following we have for each. Our YouTube channel is our main form of social media, so it gets the most attention from both us and our followers. Most of my effort goes into our YouTube channel over the rest, I film, edit, and release all of our videos to take the workload off my husband as his condition already takes up much of his energy. When we first started, we posted two videos every week until we realized that was over the top for us and we couldn’t portray our natural selves with such forced content. We now post every month to three months with a decent size update video. Most people with our sized following have hired editors, but we prefer when I edit our videos myself as our true selves shine through the most when we are the ones clipping what stays. Due to this, the week that we post is mostly filled with YouTube all day whether it’s figuring out what to film, editing, or everything that goes into filming. Our TikTok and individual Instagram accounts are where we have some slack, as it’s much less effort to post a 30 -second clip or photo. It also allows us to be a bit more free since YouTube is our main platform, we don’t feel as tense or required to portray a certain aspect of our lives on our other forms of social media.
Q: When posting certain videos do you consider what audience you’re trying to reach, and which posts may do better?
A: Yes, much of our audience consists of people who have also faced hardships in life, whether it be disability, mental illness, or the loss of a loved one. Due to this, we make sure that we are as real about our situation as we can be as to allow others to relate to us and know that they aren’t alone in the struggles they face. Our best posts are always the ones that highlight my husband’s condition in terms of views and outreach, but within our returning followers I think our best posts are the ones that just show us living everyday life and enjoying our second chance at a future. Although those videos may not get as many views, they are very important to our returning viewers, which to us is more important than views. Our biggest goal is to portray our life as close to our reality as possible, and so our target audience are people who either need that inspiration in their lives, or people who just sincerely care about how we are doing.
Q: What are your top priorities when representing yourself online?
A: Our top priorities when representing ourselves online is to stay as true to ourselves as we can. So much of the media these days are so rehearsed and misleading. At the end of the day, regardless of our situation, we really are just normal kids who are trying to survive the world. We have it worse than some, and we have it better than others. We don’t ever want to put a misconstrued idea out there that we are better than others, or that we deserve pity of any sort. It’s another reason why I edit our videos myself, for the short time that we did have an editor – the videos just didn’t feel like ours. They felt falsified, so when we do it ourselves – although they are a bit amateur- they are just truer to us. We never started our social media journey for money or popularity, it has always been about awareness and allowing people to not feel so alone in their own difficulties.
Q: What is one pattern or trend that you have noticed with people interacting with your posts?
A: The biggest pattern/trend that I have noticed with people interacting with our posts is how entitled people can be behind a screen. I appreciate our audience a lot, as most of them really are very caring and supportive. However, we also get a large amount of people who think they are entitled to more than we give just because we are sharing our lives on the internet. I see it everywhere, not just on our own posts. People assume they know everything about a person just because they have interacted with their social media posts, and due to the parasocial nature of social media they don’t realize when they cross a line and overstep boundaries. It is very easy for people to forget that others represented on social media are not only strangers to them, but human as well. Although many people mean well within their entitled opinions and how they portray them, it is – for lack of a better term – unsettling.
Q: What are your strategies to market your work to a larger audience?
A: Once we are ready to expand our audience, we are going to set up a nonprofit organization. Our goal is to do public speaking events with local vendor booths. These events will not only allow us to share our story, but allow others to share theirs as well. The profits of the events will go toward the community to help others in similar situations. Whether it be obtaining disability equipment that insurance doesn’t cover, help with legal fees for workplace accidents, physical and mental medical costs, helping to renovate a home to be ADA accessible – the opportunities are endless. Not only will this help those who have helped us all this time, but it will allow us to expand our audience which might open up more opportunities for us as well.
Do you feel as if mainstream media and marketing has taken a toll on the way we perceive information?
A: Absolutely. So much of mainstream media and marketing, as I stated above, are very misleading. Obviously everyone wants to portray their product; whether the product be themselves or physical merchandise. Due to this, any type of social media or marketing directly related to that product through the supplier will be spoken of very highly. It also sets unrealistic standards for the products, to the point where the consumer is likely to be disappointed. That’s not to say the product is bad, but that it is always advertised as better than it actually is. This of course, is a result of everyone else doing so which causes an unrealistic standard for all producers to release the best product. This goes for people as well. The editing done of people sets such high standards of who they really are, that not only do they set unrealistic standards upon themselves, but upon anyone who follows them. Not only this, but due to all the unrealistic advertisement of both people and product, people either perceive it as great as it’s advertised and then are slightly disappointed, or they assume it’s going to be worse than it is advertised and take their opinions too far.
Q: What does avoiding bias look like in your particular field, and do you try to avoid it on social media?
A: Since my field is social media and YouTube, to me avoiding bias is sticking to what our channel is about. I will do my best to explain, as sometimes I convey it incorrectly. Our channel is about overcoming life-altering happenings and learning to start life again with the same amount of love and drive as we had before; because of this, even if I want to scream my opinion into the universe, we avoid any conversation pertaining to politics and religion. We hold very strong opinions within both politics and religion, and our viewers are everywhere within the spectrum of those. We have heavy conservatives, heavy leftists, super religious, and atheists. They range so heavily that our opinion on those things, in terms of our channel, do not matter because that is not what our channel is about. Our channel, and our presence on social media, is about living, overcoming obstacles, finding joy in the little things. By avoiding conversations about our personal opinions on such matters, we are able to keep the attention on what is important about our message.
Q: How do you grab someone’s attention right off the bat?
A: Unfortunately, the best way for us personally to grab someone’s attention right off the bat is with a photo of my husband. Due to the severity of his condition, a simple photo of him draws everyone in. I wish there was more to it, but as he put it best “everyone wants to see the world from Loren’s perspective, but nobody wants to be in Loren’s position.” People see a photo of him and are immediately intrigued, or disgusted (sadly).
Q: Do you have a personal set of guidelines you follow when you post on any social media?
A: Our main personal set of guidelines we follow are all those I’ve addressed before. We just try to remain true to ourselves and portray ourselves as realistically true to our lives as we can while also avoiding conversational topics that stray from our purpose on social media.
Q: Is there content you would post on social media that you wouldn’t post for a website and why?
A: For us, personally, there is no content that we put on social media that we wouldn’t put on a website as our existence is our brand. If that makes sense. Everything we post on social media, even those separate from our main content on YouTube, still has to do with our everyday life, emotions, and situations. Any website we might create, would be an extension of what we have built on YouTube, whether it’s our merchandise site, nonprofit site, etc.
Q: How do you deal with criticism when people have opposing views on your content?
A: I do my best to avoid reading criticism. It is quite easy to spot early on when someone’s comment is critical of us. This allows me to avoid it the best I can, but on the off occasion I do come across criticism, I just remind myself that in the end it is our lives. We are the ones who live it. We are the ones who go through everything we go through daily, we are the ones who decided to share it with the world, and we are the ones who have control over what decisions we make. So, in the end, it doesn’t matter what people think of us because it does not change the reality of our situation, how we go about it, or how we feel about it.
Q: Is it hard being on social media differently for your virtual presence than in your personal life?
A: Slightly. My only personal form of social media is my Facebook account, technically. Loren and I both have separate Instagram accounts, but I still have to be particular about what I post on Instagram as it’s open to the public. However, once we started gaining a following I did make all my Facebook posts private to just my friends and will not add anyone I don’t know. It’s nice having a form of social media that is separate from my following but it does have a downfall. As I spoke about entitlement earlier, I get many message requests from followers who want to be my friend on Facebook and some of the messages are rather rude. They think that because I opened my life up to them I am required to allow them access to all forms and aspects of my life on social media; including Facebook. Which will just never happen. I need my own space to unwind (and even complain) from YouTube, which Facebook allows me. It’s the only platform where I have an identity separate from being my husband’s caregiver.
Christiana Holland is a student in the UM School of Journalism’s Social Media and Engagement class, which conducted Q&As this semester with journalists as part of a research project on best practices for journalists on social media. See more of the Q&As here.