In the year following his graduation from Ball State University in 2020, Summer Clayton discovered a need for online content from a father-figure. He began posting videos giving advice and teaching his viewers how to do tasks, like a father would. Whether he is answering a question left in his comments or sitting down to share a virtual meal with his followers, the videos he creates are appreciated by many.
Based on his own personal experiences, Clayton is able to answer certain questions that he has encountered growing up and speak about some topics when he posts his “Dinner with Dad.”
Some of the positive things his dad has mentioned to him growing up were to “Keep your head on a swivel, have good situational awareness and protect [your] siblings, and try to go through life and try to have thick skin.”
Clayton is “Your Proud Dad” on social media. He is a unique influencer who interacts with his audience through daily affirmations, prayers and eating or cooking meals together.
He aims to be a father figure by providing the support a parent would normally give to his followers.
Clayton graduated with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, but his first love was a concentration in photography and videography. He spent his first year of graduate school in the dorms.
He had no work-study program, graduate assistant position or off-campus job lined up.
“It was strange for a grad student to live in the dorms with underclassmen,” Clayton said.
While he had a good experience, he said he would not do it for a second year.
Ball State was his second choice for graduate school. However, some of the content in the program has shifted since he graduated.
“One of the greatest things about going to Ball State is that, within my specific program, they had graduate students having internships embedded into their program,” Clayton said. “Even though Ball State played no role, whatsoever, in my social media influence, it did allow me to come out of grad school and secure the type of positions I worked with.”
Clayton grew up with good memories of his parents that influenced his creative process. There are those challenging experiences he can make content from, whether it was from cultivating the relationship with his parents, or peers bullying him— lowering his confidence.
Clayton aims to make his viewers feel like they belong and that somebody cares about them, and he wishes to give what he had growing up.
When filming, Clayton has conversation check-ins with his followers. Sometimes he would make jokes and use expressions or give encouragement. He films himself creating recipes from his childhood for his followers to recreate.
When he first started his account, his target audience was more exclusively for people and, more specifically, boys of color. Then it progressed to men of all ages, with girls following along with the dad content he posted.
Clayton said he believes TikTok is half-and-half males and females around the ages of 18 to 21, while his Instagram is mostly women, aged between late 20s and early 40s, for his accounts.
“I made my content for anyone who can gather some sort of comfort, or feel some sort of love or appreciate the teachings in any way shape or form,” Clayton said.
As a kid, Clayton said he felt deeply isolated from his peers from time to time and did not wish for others to feel the same way. Strangers can go to his channel to meet someone in the comment section and make new friends, share some love or even learn something new.
Faith plays a huge role in what he does, and his parents are next in line as his role models. He said he wishes he could have told himself back then God had him, his parents and his family.
Jason Skjervem has known Clayton since 2014. Skjervem has been a part of Cru, a national Christian university organization, since 2005 and is now the area director for Western, Central and Northern North Dakota campuses.
Skjervem and Clayton first met at Dickinson State University in North Dakota when he was part of the college ministry and got to know Clayton more when he transferred to Minot State University in North Dakota. They have stayed in contact since.
“I've always been a big encourager and champion for what he does,” Skjervem said.
Skjervem described Clayton as a “very kind-hearted, genuine friend who loves life.”
“Summer never set out to be [a] social media influencer, it is something that happened,” Skjervem said. He saw it from the faith side of things, ‘God has given me this opportunity, what can I do to make the best of this moment?’ He is not in it for the money.”
Winston Hinton began following Clayton’s content about a year ago with the help of the algorithm of the apps. He had a negative relationship with his father growing up, so Clayton’s videos stood out to him.
He already knew how to, but Clayton teaching his followers how to shave was Hinton’s first time seeing him. Hinton liked how someone took the time to help the younger generation learn basic acts.
“[It is] a life-changing experience to see somebody that truly cares about how he influences people in a positive way,” Hinton said.
Clayton and Hinton communicated through video and phone calls after the death of Hinton’s mother. Clayton consoled him through the rough patch and stayed in contact afterward.
Hinton is originally from Belgium, where Clayton shipped snacks and things that brought comfort to him from his home country to help the grief of losing a parent.
“He always has a positive message and encourages you to think about the tough time you have been through or what positive things you are going through right now,” Hinton said.
Contact Coleton Coffman with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.