For many, having a YouTube channel with millions of subscribers would be a dream come true. From the outside, it looks like a fun way to avoid having a real job and rake in a ton of money. But it’s certainly not as easy of a life as it looks. There’s a lot of pressure to keep cranking out content to keep your channel going, and there’s no promise of a steady income.
As Engadget reports, a number of YouTube creators have been speaking out about their mental health struggles. One YouTube creator, Elle Mills, who has over one million subscribers, posted a video called "Burnt Out at 19," where she said, “My life just changed so fast. My anxiety and depression keeps getting worse and worse. This is all I ever wanted, and why the fuck am I so unfucking happy? It doesn’t make any sense. It’s stupid. It is so stupid.”
Many YouTube creators also feel the pressure of having to constantly crank out content without a break. Jacques Slade, whose channel has close to one million subscribers, tried to take several days off and relax, but he panicked. “I don’t have content for the next four or five days,” he said to himself. “What’s that gonna do to me? What’s that gonna do to my bottom line? When I come back, are people still gonna watch my videos?”
Where people with "regular" jobs can count on a regular paycheck, people with YouTube channels make money depending on how many ads their videos have, the length of the videos, and how many people are tuning in. With Google’s ad guidelines, videos can be removed for trivial reasons, which can cut down on a creator’s income. And it isn’t just the pressure of cranking out new videos that can take its toll. There’s also the fear of not staying relevant with a very fickle audience.
As Karen North, a professor of communication at USC explains, “For YouTubers, the entire relationship [with their audience] is based on what they upload. Therefore there’s a tremendous amount of pressure to maintain not just the quality but the image that they manufacture on a daily basis... [If someone is] absent due to illness or vacation for a few days, audiences want entertainment, and they won’t just wait for next week’s episode. Instead they’re going to go search for something else to fill their time.”
One full-time YouTube creator, Sam Sheffer, still recommends taking mental health breaks from social media, “even if that means not uploading for two weeks. As long as you do things with the right intent and come back strong, things will work out.”
To try and make YouTube a healthier environment for creators, the company has now set up a $4.99 membership fee for some channels and others can sell merchandise from their pages to boost their income as well. (You have to have at least 100,000 members to charge the membership fee, and you have to have over 10,000 subscribers to sell merchandise.)
There has also been an effort to provide YouTube creators with mental health services, and there have also been support groups at events like the VidCon conference.
One YouTube creator says, “I’d like to see YouTube take a more active and actionable role in helping creators outside of the platform, which itself still needs a lot of work.”
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