Last week, the popular Christian vlogging couple Sam and Nia posted what’s become their second most viral video ever: a pregnancy announcement where—twist—Sam “surprised” his wife Nia with her own positive pregnancy test after stealing some of her urine from the toilet. The video has garnered 13 million views and counting, despite the tearful update that came just three days later: Nia miscarried.
Though their public ordeal has captured the attention of millions on the internet (even Ashton Kutcher!), Sam and Nia are not the first young vloggers to go viral by sharing what many would choose to keep private. The couple is part of a subculture of Christian moms and dads online who share every personal moment of their lives on YouTube for the sake of bringing more followers to Jesus.
They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share... [1 Timothy 6:18]
Sam and Nia’s decision to share their pregnancy news on YouTube was not a novel one, but their story—dramatic, emotional, tinged with a Christian pro-life sensibility—set off many a viewer’s bullshit detector. There is, first of all, the highly condensed timeline. Then, there’s the couple’s admission that they never saw a doctor about the pregnancy or the miscarriage (“I’m a nurse so I know the signs of a miscarriage,” Sam told People); their tendency to talk about their unborn child in terms of views and social media engagement and Sam’s announcement, directly after the videos went viral, that he quit his job due to the success of their YouTube channel. The couple has even admitted to fabricating some parts of their story, like the unborn child’s sex. Nia has been referring to the baby as a girl, despite the fact that she had no way of discovering this information. (“We wanted to give her an identity,” Nia explained on Twitter. “She served a purpose and we love and bonded to her immediately.”)
Our tiny baby brought 10M views to her video & 100k new people into our lives. She turned our life around & brought us closer together.— Sam&Nia (@SamAndNia) August 9, 2015
Despite skepticism from commenters and doctors alike, Sam and Nia have welcomed all new viewers of their videos as friends. In one of the first vlogs the couple posted after the pregnancy reveal video went viral, Sam addressed his new followers directly and thanked them for making his transition to full-time YouTuber more comfy:
I see all you guys—the new viewers—as the people our little girl brought into our family. I’m so proud of her, and so thankful that she did this. She just changed our life. I put my two-week notice in before you guys got here, but now that you’re here, it makes it a lot easier than I imagined it was going to be.
Buzzfeed notes that Sam and Nia are likely now making $9.60 per thousand non-skippable ad views, “which could easily lead to a six-figure salary for the channel if they can maintain even just a fraction of their recent numbers.”
If the idea of parents profiting off of a (real or imagined) pregnancy seems immoral, know that Sam and Nia are not the first good Christian vlogging couple to do it. Plenty of young, attractive mommies and daddies with Jesus in their hearts and expensive cameras in their hands have been live-vlogging their reproductive successes for years now. Babies are a gift from god, these vloggers will tell you, and they are also the most surefire way to rack up views and subscribers on YouTube.
He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD. [Proverbs 18:22]
Successful Christian vlogging often starts with an attractive, heteronormative young couple in the process of growing their family. Sam and Nia realized this quickly; in their first viral video from last year, a practiced lip sync of a Frozen song, they christened themselves the “Good Looking Parents.”
Watch the video and the formula becomes clear: “funny” dad, attractive wife, kids in the background acting natural. This is the dynamic that’s worked so well for YouTube’s first insanely successful Jesus-loving family, the Butlers, who are better known by their YouTube name “Shaytards.” (The dad, Shay, once wore a unitard on camera, prompting the family to adopt the moniker.)
The Shaytards are a Mormon family of seven from Idaho who post daily vlogs about their suburban activities with vague, exclamatory titles like “CHEERLEADING MOM!”, “BRIBING CHILDREN”, and “YOU BETTER STOP THAT!” Shay estimates their channel brings in $771,ooo per year.
I believe intrinsically family is our greatest source of happiness. My wife is prettier than most moms, and I’m probably funnier than most dads—that helps—but ultimately, it’s the family. What viewers really want to see is my wife and kids together. We get happiness from families, because people need that hope.
It’s a strategy that Sam and Nia and hundreds of other Christian vloggers are desperately trying to mimic, right down to video title construction. (Some recent Sam and Nia hits: “OUR HOUSE JUST GOT FUN!”, “SPICING UP OUR MARRIAGE!”, and “SISSY GOT HURT!”)
The ultimate goal in sharing these mundane but sometimes intensely private moments with the world is, the vloggers say, giving as many people as possible “hope.” Or, more directly, bringing them to Jesus. Sam explained this philosophy in a new vlog this week:
Welcome, guys. We call our fans here on the Sam and Nia channel “fanBASIC”. It’s a play on words with fan base. BASIC is an acronym for Brothers and Sisters in Christ. We understand that not all of you are believers in Christ, but we do this because this is what we want for you. Here on our channel, this is a part of our mission for god. In order to have the most fulfilling life possible, you need to have Christ in your life.
The quickest way to gain followers and convert them, Sam and Nia have discovered, is to have a baby.
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. [Psalm 127:3]
The most popular Christian vlogging families have three, four, or more children. Kids who were lucky enough to be born after their parents’ foray into YouTube will one day be able to watch their entire lives—from the discovery of conception through puberty—on the very public internet. This is because a “pregnancy announcement” video is a guaranteed viral success. The Shaytards’ last pregnancy announcement in 2013 racked up over 2 million views: a new standard.
A well-done pregnancy reveal video can catapult mildly popular vloggers to Shaytards-level fame. Sam and Nia played this game and won. They’d been flirting with the pregnancy reveal idea for at least a year, based on their archives, which contain fake-outs like “WE HAVE A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!!!” (not a pregnancy), “GUESS WHO’S PREGNANT?!” (not Nia), and “THE PREGNANCY RESULTS ARE IN!” (negative).
Sam and Nia aren’t the only ones. Popular Christian vloggers Sam and Jennika, known together as “Samika Vlogs”, announced in May that they were just thinking about having another child. The video instantly racked up 60,000 views.
The next best thing to actually being pregnant is talking about being pregnant.
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. [Proverbs 22:1]
After a Christian vlogger mom confirms, for real, that she is with child, there is still plenty more to announce. The unborn baby’s sex, for one. And, if one is chosen prior to birth, the child’s name. Below, Christian vlogger Missy Lanning of “The Daily Bumps” announces the name of her new baby to the tune of a quarter million views. (It’s Oliver.)
And here is Tiffany of the Christian vlogging family “The Daily Davidsons” announcing the name of her third child by spelling it out in baby blocks. (It’s Carter—for a girl.) 190,000 views.
Gender reveal videos tend to be even more popular. The Shaytards’ last gender announcement, in 2013, clocked in at almost 900,000 views.
(It’s a boy.)
The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, “Glory!” [Psalm 29:9]
Once vloggers have shared every personal detail about their pregnancies with the world, there is nothing left to do but bring the camera into the delivery room.
Or the wading pool they’ve set up in their living room for a home birth, as Christian mom Jessica, of “GabeandJessss”, did last year.
Aside from pregnancy reveal videos, birth vlogs are the most likely to go viral—Jessica’s water birth got over 2 million views. Viewers see almost all of her labor, including the exact moment her baby Landen enters the world, mom screaming, camera rolling. A lifetime of involuntary surveillance just begun.
If Sam and Nia are so blessed, they’ll get to do all this one day, too: the (confirmed) pregnancy announcement, the gender reveal, the naming, the live birth. But why?
Sam admitted it plainly to Buzzfeed yesterday: “I’ve always had a dream to be famous.” He’s on his way. In Sam and Nia’s latest vlog, they reveal that a production company is “very interested” in turning their lives into a reality TV show.
Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples!