Cole had started out some time back with a YouTube channel called Food For Louis - for which he ate, among other things, a smoothie comprised of ten mice, a roadkill fox, a live tarantula, a live giant slug thing, and his pet goldfish. The latter of which he was roundly and rightly criticised for, and which I had a vague memory of reading about.
Since then, however, Louis had reinvented himself as a travel vlogger, a self-styled "Global nomad". Of no fixed abode, he's constantly on the move, jetting from one country to another, occasionally hooking up with members from his extended network of vlogging friends, and running to get the best vantage point to film the day's sunset, or videoing his coffee.
Somewhere along the way, we got hooked. The daily FunForLouis vlogs became what we'd watch while having our tea. For at least a year, we never missed one. Louis became a friend we never really knew - a daily presence in our lives. We lived vicariously through his beautifully shot videos.
We were there when Louis went vegan, when he began his relationship with fellow vlogger RayaWasHere, and got depressed because the video he did of his hot air balloon flight wasn't as popular as he wanted it to be. The vlogs seemed harmless, gentle, entertainment - with no real agenda. Louis wasn't hurting anyone, we believed.
Gradually, though, I reached a tipping point that made me see Louis through very different eyes.
That point came when Louis and his rich friend Dave Erasmus (whose own YouTube channel is mostly him reciting eye-watering poems and performing songs, having gone the full David Brent) went on a "world tour" for their so-called Solvey Project.
A vague, and incoherent humanitarian effort, Louis and Dave went to 8 countries in 30 days to hold social meet-ups - "Solvey Jams" - organised off the back of Louis' 1.8 million YouTube subscribers. As Dave and Louis sat there in front of a handful of local kids, nodding and giving advice while the youngsters spoke about the issues their countries faced, it felt condescending and narcissistic. Two wealthy, white, Western men helping the poor foreigners, from their privileged pedestal. Exploiting their need to be heard and helped, to benefit their own egos.
The end goal of Solvey was to invite applications for social projects, and Solvey would select seven winners who will receive between $1,000 and $10,000 for their ideas, along with "intellectual and social aid". Whatever that means. I'm not certain either Louis or Dave knew themselves. I strongly suspect they were driven by a need to feel good about themselves.
I've no issue with charitable efforts, but they do rankle with me when those being charitable lack the self-awareness to know that generosity is rarely selfless.
It's like... I gave a bunch of my Patreon money to charity last December. At least I know it made me feel good about myself - that it was an attempt to off-set some of my guilt about taking money for Digitiser2000, like a frequent flyer trying to balance his carbon footprint by planting a shrub.
The mask dropped; Solvey seemed to be all about Dave and Louis, not the people they thought they wanted to help. It threw new light on everything else in Louis' vlogs; the constant glances to camera, the way he'd never pass up an opportunity to get his shirt off or dance "spontaneously". His irritating habit of saying "bro" and "guys", and skateboarding through airports.
I realised how utterly stupid his vlogs were, and that watching them wasn't a two-way street. He was getting more out of my viewership than I was getting back.
Solvey was bad, but the final straw came during a road trip across America with yet more vloggers - the constant singalongs in their VW camper van, while pretending they weren't all holding their own cameras. If vanity was flammable, that camper van would've disintegrated in a fiery deathball comprised of hipster guts and Twitter notifications.
Which they'd have probably loved; just think of the views!
The endless narcissism became nauseating. And the fakeness, of these young people living their lives for the benefit of hits, rather than just living their lives, bled into everything - even his decision to become vegan felt as calculated and on-message as his dreadlocks and his cripplingly dumb rambles about saving the world "With, like, you know... love and stuff".
And now Cole has landed in the middle of a major crapstorm - accused by major media outlets of being a propaganda tool for the North Korean dictatorship.
Louis' North Korean vlogs are relentlessly positive.
Like most Westerners who visit North Korea, Louis was part of an organised tour - only taking him to the places that the government wants the rest of the world to see.
Consequently, the vlogs focus on "Korean surfer chicks", the country's "amazing water parks" and "pranking our military guide". Oh - and laughing after congratulating a "hero" who captured a US spy ship. Rather than, y'know, human experimentation, rape, and forced abortions and stuff.
Louis defends this approach by stating that he's “trying to focus on positive things in the country and combat the purely negative image we see in the media“. Which, whatever way you look at it, sounds dangerously like pro-North Korean propaganda.
Just as a disclaimer here: like most of us, I've never been to North Korea. We're told that it's one of the most repressive regimes in the world. I suspect that it is, but - y'know - with the caveat that governments lie, and I've no first-hand experience of the place. I mean, y'know, Kim Jong Un looks friendly enough, right?
Suffice to say, Louis - upon his return - has been forced to issue an explanation, in which he sort of criticises the North Korean dictatorship. Along with some sort of half-arsed explanation for the positivity in his videos being about not wanting to upset the relationship his friend - who organised Louis' trip - has with the government there.
All well and good, but it does throw a rather stark light on the stated aims of the Solvey project.
I don't think Cole is calculated. I don't think he intended to do harm with his North Korea vlogs.
But having watched the guy doing his thing for the past 18 months or so, I don't think he's the sharpest tool.
And I'd have no issue with that, if he didn't act like he was doing something positive, that he was making a difference by jetting around the world for his own entertainment.
He strikes me as too ignorant and self-absorbed to think he was doing anything wrong by whooping as he slid down a waterslide - while just out of shot the population of North Korea was being ordered at gunpoint to choose one of 28 government-approved haircuts.
He seems to think he's spreading a message of love, when in actual fact Cole - and most of his generation of daily vloggers (most of whom are younger than him - he's virtually an old man at 33) - are promoting a message of narcissism.
You only have to watch their vlogs from Vidcon - the annual YouTuber/content provider expo in America - to realise. Louis has shared videos at post-expo parties, where every single person in shot is dancing while pouting for their own cameras.
He doesn't seem to be encouraging his young fans to get out and experience the world. He's showing them how amazing your life can be if you live it through a camera, that subscribers and hits are what you need to feel whole and complete. Because, from the face of it, Louis needs that more than he even realises.
STICK TO COFFEE
If he just stuck to the videos of coffees and sunsets that'd be fine, but it's when he crosses the line by trying to portray himself as some sort of shirtless, toned, Selfie Jesus, that it gets my back up.
And if you're going to go to somewhere like North Korea, maybe not treat it like a big whoo! funtime. Do a bit of research, mate. If Louis and YouTube had been around in 1938 he'd have probably visited Berlin, and put up videos about the "Cool Bierkeller chicks", and "Betcha didn't know Germany had such amazing sausages".
He doesn't seem deep enough to understand the significance of visiting North Korea, or becoming a vegan. It's hard not to feel he chose to adopt the vegan lifestyle because, well, that's sort of what people who drive around in VW camper vans, and Instagram every meal, and pose for selfies at every opportunity, and film themselves kissing their girlfriend, or holding a camera at arm's length while hugging a friend goodbye, should be doing.
By all means, be all the things you are, Louis Cole, but try and understand - if you're even capable of doing so - why you're doing those things. And Louis is just the tip of the iceberg; I've seen enough to know the vast majority of Generation YouTube are the same. And - despite advertising laws now requiring them to declare their sponsors - you're never quite sure who's paying them to go places, or use certain products.
There are exceptions - Casey Neistat seems to have a level of maturity and self-awareness, while Adam The Woo goes out of his way to find interesting stuff to film.
But overall... the thing I hate the most about most vloggers is how they're accountable to nobody, show no real responsibility, as they exploit their vulnerable young audience. I hate how kids - like my daughter (who, like us, has now seen Louis through very different eyes) - develop a relationship with these people, taking them at face value, and not realising how they're being manipulated every bit as much as Cole was manipulated on his trip to North Korea.
And the sad thing is, he's probably not smart enough to get the irony of that.