GVL / Sam Butcher

Samantha Butcher

GVL / Sam Butcher

Samantha Butcher

Jon Garcia perches his video camera atop an oversized, empty container of Utz Cheese Balls, adjusting the lens as he sits at his dining room table. Finally centered in the frame, Garcia begins the long and sometimes arduous process of recording for The Minute Vlog, his YouTube channel.

The process is a familiar one for Garcia, who began recording and uploading videos to the popular website
in August 2010.

“I had this idea because I’d always liked the idea of people making videos and putting them on the Internet, and this was my first summer after college,” he said. “I had a really tough summer where I couldn’t get a job for a while, I started to struggle with depression and things like that where I felt like I wasn’t at home anymore
away from school and away from all my friends. I felt like I was split between two places and I knew about vlogging and had tried my hand in it before, … but I got this idea of staying connected with people on some level.”

Garcia, a Grand Valley State University junior, is running for King of the Web in an online, user-voted contest at The contest, which awards monetary prizes between $7,500 and $100 for competitors who place in the top nine, holds elections for “King” each month. If he is ranked ninth or higher, Garcia plans to donate two-thirds of his winnings to the International Justice Mission, a nonprofit organization that fights human trafficking.

“One of the reasons I started looking into King of the Web is because I’m not that financially viable,” Garcia said. “I’m keeping up with rent, but that’s about it. There are so many more opportunities out there, and if I got the couple thousand dollars that I didn’t donate (to IJM, from winning first place), I could catch up on rent and start paying back student loans and go to some more (YouTube) conferences.”

At press time, Garcia was in 11th place with 3,892 votes, trailing the next-ranked contender by 1,200. Users must register to vote and can vote 10 times per day as well as earn bonus votes for voting multiple days in a row.

Modern-day slavery

“(IJM is) one of the largest organizations against human trafficking … and I wanted to find the organization
that would be the least controversial charity,” Garcia said. “I needed to get something that wasn’t going
to make people be like, ‘I’m not going to vote for him if he’s going to donate to that.’”

Human trafficking, sometimes called sex trafficking or human slavery, is defined by the United Nations as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

The $31-billion industry leads to the purchase and sale of 800,000 people worldwide each year, with 18,000 of those brought to the U.S. According to information from the Polaris Project, Michigan is considered a hot spot for human trafficking because of the state’s shared border with Canada.

Garcia said although he is not involved with any organizations that fight trafficking, it was important for him that at least some the money go to someone more deserving than himself. A $30 donation can provide an after-care package to a trafficking victim, while $4,500 would be enough for the organization to conduct a raid and rescue mission.

“With King of the Web, I can specifically do this tangible thing instead of, like, sending off money and having
it go somewhere to do something,” Garcia said. “One donation can do so much to change people’s lives.”
A breakdown of how various donation amounts are spent can be viewed at

Variety show

While the content of Garcia’s YouTube channel runs the gamut from history to activism to music, one thing is always consistent: the time. All of the future teacher’s videos clock in at one minute. The filming and production average an hour per minute for The Minute Vlog, but some of his more complicated projects have taken him up to six hours to film and edit.

“At the time, YouTube was extending video limits and there were people who were giving themselves four-minute limits, and I was thinking to myself, there are all these things with limits on time — what if I had something that was specifically one minute long, give or take nothing?” he said. “It’s always a minute, and I’ve been able to talk about things and give them a full summary in under a minute.”

Update frequency for The Minute Vlog varies, but it updates at least three times a week, although Garcia
has recently been vlogging daily.

The vlogs, which began the summer after his freshman year, provided a way for the Three Rivers, Mich., native to keep in contact with college friends who were scattered across the state. They also provided a way to meet new people with similar interests over the internet.

“There are people I’ve met through the Internet that I interact with just as much as people I know in real life,” Garcia said. “I might talk to Kym (of the YouTube channel TheMunchKym) more than I talk to Akshay (Sarathi, Garcia’s roommate) on some days. The boundary between the Internet and real life is not that big of a deal. It’s becoming less and less every day.”

Garcia, whose videos have more than 80,600 views, credited the Project for Awesome, a YouTube channel that started in 2007, for the idea to use his vlog to promote IJM on King of the Web. The collective organized their viewership to make, like, comment on and favorite videos about charities en masse for a day, flooding YouTube’s “Most Popular” category.

“I think the mark of this era in history is that we have this connectedness,” Garcia said. “We have this thing in the U.S. where people are connecting not based on where they are, but on who they are and what they like and what they believe. … With the Internet, as long as you can type, you have a voice. It doesn’t mean anybody’s going to listen to you, but everybody is represented.”

Voting for King of the Web ends on Dec. 15, and a new competition, in which Garcia plans to compete, begins Dec. 16.

To view Garcia’s videos, visit