When it comes to YouTube vloggers, few are as entertaining and underrated as Thomas Arnold. A Dublin based Vlogger and Freelance Videographer, Arnold has amassed a YouTube following of just under six thousand at the time of writing. Combining an impressive knack for editing and videography along with a confident and fun personality, Arnold’s vlogs are a refreshing combination of filmmaking prowess and light-hearted escapism. From successfully sneaking into Trinity Ball, to roaming the busy streets of Dublin in a dinosaur costume, to giving practical and helpful advice on how to survive the Leaving Certificate, Arnold’s content is far from onenote. Having been a fan of his work for the better part of a year, I got the chance to sit down with Thomas over the Summer for a quick chat. Thomas was keen to sit down and discuss everything, from his own story, to the trivial, to the slightly more serious.
Express: How would you sum up to them who you are and what you’re doing?
Thomas: So, my name’s Thomas Arnold, I’m a twenty-one year old college student studying Business, and I’ve been making videos for about half a decade now. I first started making videos when I was around thirteen. I made this like, skit thing about Justin Bieber that I was chuffed with. When I was done I was like “this is so good, it’s definitely gonna go viral”, and I showed it to my dad and he was like “this is absolutely embarrassing, you’re never going to post that”, so that was a bit devastating at the time. After that, I was thinking about what I could do differently. I knew cricket, so I decided to do, like, a cricket tutorial. Anyway, I think my dad vibed with that a bit better because it was instructional and informative and more acceptable, basically. So, I made one of them and dad was like “yeah that’s grand as long as I get to review them before you put them up”. This was about 2011/2012 and over the course of the next eighteen months I made twenty-two of them, I had like 250,000 views, and that was basically the start of my whole YouTube experience. But, yeah, in short, I make videos, go to college and try to live every day as best as I can, to its fullest potential.
Express: You really have come a long way since then, and I know this is possibly a bit of a cliched question but I think you must have taken some influence along the way, right? So, who would stick out in your mind as giving you that initial spark to transition from making those older videos to the vlogs that you’re doing now?
Thomas: In terms of an actual person, I know exactly who it was. I think that’s a bit of a, you know, “how I got started” story. But I think the more interesting thing for me is the person that led me on the path I’m on today, like, the older Thomas who just moved into college. Cause, basically, I dropped out of DCU – in short, when I did my Leaving Cert I missed my top three preferences, which were Science in Trinity; Science in UCD and then BESS in Trinity, so I ended up in DCU – a place where I just never thought I’d ever be. After three months of being there, I just didn’t like it, so I decided to drop out. I started working full time selling alarms all over Dublin and it was an absolute shit time. I was working 1-10 Monday to Friday and wasn’t getting payed because it was all commission-based. It was around March and I just thought “Fuck this, like, what? Can I remember what it was like to be happy? What were the feelings that made me happy?” And I immediately thought of making videos, like I did them a lot when I was younger, so I said “Fuck it, I’ll just start doing them again”. So, I went on YouTube and I saw this guy called Alex Brooks who was exactly my age at the time. He was a videographer, basically, who was making daily vlogs from the U.K. And I was like “Holy shit, he’s doing exactly what I want to do. Surely I can start that off”. Fast-forwarding to today, that’s what I want to do for a few people out there. I want to show that it doesn’t matter if you’re young, it doesn’t matter if you fucked up in your past, if you can do something you really enjoy, and put as much of your heart and soul into it as possible, you can get money off it ,but more than that, you can be fulfilled and live a meaningful life, and essentially that’s all that matters, I think.
Express: In the vein of many successful vloggers, I’ve noticed that you seem to have mastered the art of just not giving a fuck at all, basically, when you’re in public. How does one achieve the level of no-fuck-giving required to, say, walk into a crowded UCD lecture hall in an Easter Bunny suit and start dolling out Easter eggs?
Thomas: (laughs) Well, It’s just skill, man. It’s just like anything else. Like, do you play sport? It’s the same thing as someone wanting to be a good free-kick taker in football or have a sick drive off the tee in golf, it’s just practice. People forget that I’ve been doing this for two and a half years. I made over a hundred vlogs in first year of college alone. On my channel I have 270 videos, 230 of which I’ve been practicing in, every single week to, not give a fuck. When I started it, if you go back on my channel to when I was eighteen, I was interviewing people in town. That was hard, but if you take a step each week to do something that’s slightly more outside your comfort zone, that’s when it can progress to stuff like vlogging with your shirt off at the Spire, or doing the Easter Bunny thing. It’s just a skill, like.
Express: With the online popularity you’ve gained so far, you don’t seem to have taken much interest in going down the route, or taking on the persona of an ‘influencer’. Do you think that you’re part of a dying breed? What are your thoughts on the superficial way YouTube and social media have gone in recent years?
Thomas: I think there’s always going to be more superficial people than real people in the world. I’m part of a minority but it’s not a dying breed, there’s just a minority of us. The reason why I’m like that is because I despise superficiality, I hate people being fake. I hate people selling out. I hate all that stuff. I am, on a daily basis, like “Fuck, am I being fake?”, I’m always having to question myself. Am I being authentic? Because, there’s no such thing as being truly authentic, it doesn’t exist. Again, it’s a process. It’s an evolution. You’re constantly trying to be as real as you can. I think part of that, on a very practical level, is that I don’t try and sell stuff on my channel. I have a link in my description where you can go to my website if you want to hire me for video work, but I don’t push any products or anything. One: because I’m not big enough yet and I haven’t got any companies yet that I really want to work with; and Two: I actually make money outside of YouTube from doing videography and I don’t need a social media presence for that. I use my YouTube and my Instagram as a way to just try and be myself, and to give people an alternate view of the internet, like “Oh fuck, there are people out there who are just trying to help people and they’re not all just there to be glorified egotistical assholes who just care about getting more views”.
Express: You tend to avoid things like politics and other contentious topics on your social media. Is that, like, a conscious effort to avoid controversy and hassle, or are you simply not interested in all that stuff?
Thomas: It’s both, actually. I have zero interest in politics. I look at ‘drama’ on the internet as pure entertainment. I sit there with my fucking Coco Pops on a Sunday morning and love to see what drama is going on, but I don’t want to engage with that on my channel. So, it’s a bit of both really. I don’t really care about it, nor do I think it fits with the brand I’m trying to build. I’m trying to build something different to that. There’s been a few things in my personal life that I made videos about and just never posted, because I reviewed them afterwards and was like “This is ridiculous”. There’s definitely things, other than politics, you can even bring it into a sphere of – a lot of my videos are quite topical-based. Very few of them are sort of “This is Tom. This is me.”, because I like to make a separation between what goes on in my own life and what I put out on my channel. Even though my subscribers know a lot about me, equally there’s parts of my life which I’ve never spoken about to the camera and which I may never talk about. I feel like those two things have to be separate.
Express: Is there any particular destination you have in mind for where you’re going with this YouTube journey? Do you have some grand master plan in mind for where the Thomas Arnold YouTube channel is going?
Thomas: When I started in college, I was like “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could document each year?” so I remember having a little goal in the back of my head that I’d love to document four years, and you could follow the journey of someone in college, because that wasn’t really done before. But these platforms change all the time. YouTube could be gone in three or four years, we don’t know. So, I sort of take things day by day. At the moment, I know what I’m going to be doing next year – it’s going to be more focused around my internship and working life. I’m moving out of home in September, so stuff like that. I know short-term, up until September/October, what I’m going to be doing. There’s going to be some more travel involved as well. But, other than that, no. I’m just going with the flow.
Express: To finish up, What would you say is the most important life lesson you’ve learned so far?
Thomas: I haven’t really thought about this, to be honest. When I was over in Japan, the people were so unbelievably nice, they were very kind. When I was done my two weeks over there and I was leaving Tokyo, I was like “Fuck me, like, them being so kind made such a difference”. When I was younger, it would always say on my report card from school that “Thomas is very caring towards other people”, and I would have thought that was a weakness in some respect, particularly when it came to stuff like girls because it’s like “Tom’s a bit of a bitch, he’s not really a man”but, the more I’ve gone on, the more I’ve realised that kindness is so important. The older you get, you suffer setbacks, like, people die, shit starts to change, and you learn to appreciate people who are kind. So, given that I’ve always had that in me, I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to try your best to be kind to people. Try to smile and try to be positive, in everything you do, not just the interactions you have in life, like if you’re someone like me, a content creator, try to be a positive influence. That can have a tremendous impact, more than anything else.
If you’re interested in following along with Thomas’ journey, you can find him on: YouTube: Thomas Arnold, Instagram: thomasarnoldfilms, Facebook: @thomasarnoldfilms.