That time Casey Neistat saved a human life thanks to his masterful communication

How a 5 million subscribers YouTuber uses semiotic and other sciences to help a good cause

I’m not here to tell you a story. Today, I just want to tell you about an event that happened today, September 30, 2016.

35-year-old youtuber (as he defines himself), but more realistically multiplatform communicator and astonishing videomaker, Casey Neistat has today released his daily vlog with a rather sad news.

Casey enters in his quiet and peaceful studio and sits in front of his audience and asks for help. Not for himself, but for his friend and UPS driver Marlan Franklyn, known to the subscribers of the channel for his multiple numerous appearances in the vlogs.

Marlan tells us that his sister is not well, and he can no longer afford the treatment after some years that he has been paying for it by himself.

Therefore, he decided to open a Go-Fund-Me campaign on the advice of Casey and Jack Coyne.


Needless to say, the campaign was founded in a few hours after the video was uploaded, sending it to the trending campaigns on the site and exceeding the goal by thousands of dollars. Going to the website you could see the donations continuing to arrive at a constant rhythm of “1 minute ago”, “2 minutes ago” and so on…

The non-stop donations

And the most beautiful thing, greeting messages from Casey’s fans all over the world.

Hundreds of comments like these

But how was this possible?

If you think it would have been possible with the sponsorship of any other youtuber, you’re completely wrong.

To engage in this way your audience, you need their trust. And trust takes time.

How long does it take? Well… in this case 544 (approx.) DAILY vlogs. Every day, for a year and a half, recording your life, editing the movie, uploading it to the web. Obviously, it is not that simple. There are a myriad of factors to consider, and it would be impossible to list them all.

Casey has an innate gift, the ability to communicate and over the years thanks to his experience in the video field, he has perfected his art.

I am not merely referring to its ability to speak, but its ability to make use of signs, images, words, video, gestures, shots, editing techniques to convey a message.

In semiotics, the «communication process» is defined as:

“The sender must encode the message into a form that is appropriate to the communication channel, and the receiver(s) then decodes the message to understand its meaning and significance.”

And Casey is a great videomaker or, talking semiotically, a great «communicator»:

“An effective communicator understands his audience, chooses an appropriate communication channel, adjusts his message to this channel and encodes the message to reduce misunderstanding by the receiver(s).”

A more practical example?

Casey is known for his custom sunglasses and he ALWAYS wears them. He also confirmed how the shades help him in getting filmed, by being able to look at the screen instead of the lens, while giving us the feeling of being directly involved, as if he is looking us in the eye.

And besides that, the glasses make his face a highly recognizable icon everywhere.

But during this episode, as we said, he had to talk about something serious, something important. So he takes the good chair (and not the wooden stool) and he sits, because indeed when a bad news comes, it is always better to be seated, and… he raises his glasses. No background music, quiet studio, good illumination, eyes at the camera: the vlog stops.

He’s going to talk about something important, he is symbolically saying “You, viewer in front of my YouTube video, please, listen.” even before saying it in words.

Shortly after Casey’s introduction, the picture changes and his friend Marlan appears. Behind him, the whole studio is lit with warm lights, which following the color theories (Johannes Itten, Gestalt psychology) have a tranquilizing effect and create a contrast with Marlan’s brown suit, recalling the golden yellow of the UPS logo on it.

In this way, probably happened by chance, the viewer is put at ease and simultaneously directed to the subject.

But Casey never leaves the shot, after a moment he sits down next to him, back slightly, smaller. By doing so, he doesn’t steal the limelight from his friend whilst — as the branch of semiotics that deals with proxemics tells us — he’s giving the viewers the perception that he supports and personally shares Marlan’s cause.

Sunglasses are now on, our eyes are connected only to his friend’s eyes and we are not distracted by him. In semiotics, the engagement between our eyes and those of Marlan is called with the italian term «funzione fàtica».


“I never ask you for much”

And that’s true. He offers us his contents without asking for anything back.

But this would be enough to make donating nearly ten thousand people? Of course not. Casey is so valued for its apolitical, transparent, original style, because its career started from the bottom and because when he’s on an airplane with a 21.000 $ seat, he does not behave differently from the way we would do.

While I have been writing this article, I’ve seen the campaign raising up to 130.000 $, starting from around 40.000 $ (which were already near to hit the initial goal of fifty thousand dollars).

Opening the GoFundMe website after seeing the video and after realizing what was going on, I was immediately struck by an electric shock of joy, fascinated by what a video on YouTube was making possible.

If you would like to help, this is the link:


By way of conclusion, congratulations Casey for achieving 5 million subscribers on YouTube. You deserve them all, and I’m glad of being one of them. You never stop being an inspiration for me and motivating me to keep going.

Written by
Matteo Fusco,
Verona, Italy, 30/09/2016
@matfsc on Twitter
email: fusmat11@gmail.com