The Secret Lives of YouTubers

YouTube: a social media platform that runs on the appeal of being a creative outlet where uploads are quick and easy, and where anyone can become a celebrity making potentially millions of dollars just by being themselves. Sounds great, right? On a surface level, the life of a YouTuber sounds like a dream. Considering the number of channels on the platform, over 50 million people, about one third of all people that have access to internet, would probably agree. However, the level of competition on YouTube is often not put into perspective, with many making the assumption that the website is an “easy” way to become rich and famous. In addition, there are extreme misconceptions about a YouTuber’s lifestyle and a high tendency for over glamorization. Ultimately, although YouTube has always been a highly influential and creative outlet, a different look at the reality is crucial in understanding the platform.
Every year, the gap between small and large creators widens, making the likelihood of becoming a successful YouTuber lower and lower. About 300 hours of footage are uploaded to the site every minute. With the average video being four minutes and 20 seconds long, the minute someone posts a YouTube video, it is competing with around 4,152 others posted in that same minute. The Washington Post reports that in 2016 alone, the top three percent of most-viewed channels took over 90 percent of all views. Also in 2016, the median number of views per video plummeted to 89. On top of all of this, YouTube is making it increasingly harder for a small creator to even make money in the first place. A channel is currently required to have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time over a 12 month period to even start collecting advertisement revenue.
It is not only small YouTubers struggling due to the increasing levels of competition. In fact, larger creators might be facing the negative effects on a significantly larger scale. As a result of the unreasonable favorability of content that comes out quickly and consistently, such as Jake Paul-style daily vlogs, over the past year, Youtube has been seeing more creators burn out than ever before in an effort to keep up. One of the many that have made a video addressing their burnout and resulting depression has been Ethan Klein, whose channel, h3h3productions, now has just over six million subscribers.
“I was literally feeling like I could not make any more videos,” Klein said in a recently uploaded video. “I just hit a wall where it had gotten so bad that it was basically either stop making videos or disappear forever.”
YouTube is seeing other creators such as Elle Mills and Bobby Burns upload videos explaining to their viewers that despite feeling like everything they wanted has been achieved, they feel uninspired, stressed, and ultimately feel that their mental health has been compromised. Just six months ago, Bobby Burns dedicated an entire video describing a mental breakdown he had as a result of the YouTube stress.
“For about the past year and a half, I’ve been wondering when it was going to happen. When was I going to to give out? When was the amount I was pushing on YouTube and the lack of taking care of myself going to catch up to me? About three-ish weeks ago, I learned the answer to that question. I had what I can only describe as a mental breakdown,” said Burns. “If you aren’t careful, you can completely lose yourself in it.”
This is what the platform is seeing time and time again. YouTubers get caught in the cycle, pushing out seemingly uninspired content everyday in order to collect the revenue that supports them, only to eventually burnout.
Overall, YouTube as a social media platform has become far different from its early roots of being a fun and creative outlet for people to share content. Instead, its highly competitive nature has made it extremely difficult for creators to become popular when starting from the bottom, and just as difficult for large creators to stay on top. It is imperative that YouTube does something to alleviate this issue in order to make the website lively community, like it should be.