Wednesday, 19 August 2015

YouTubers and Depression

Now, we all know I love to analyse celebrity culture/behaviour, especially when they’re behaving in a peculiar way, or dealing with things that are relatable. This interest extends to my favourite YouTube personalities.

Public figures make for interesting psychological studies. So let me take this moment to admit that yes, I’m probably farrrr to invested in the lives of people I have never met.

I assure you, I'm not as far-gone as Rupert Grint’s obsessive fan character in Ed Sheerhan’s "Lego House".

Musical Ink
Judging by the loyal following celebrities (online or otherwise) have on social media, or by the article/YouTube comments that are generated (which are often read and addressed by famous people themselves), it seems I’m not the only one who finds the lives of these personalities interesting and entertaining.

This shift in celebrity culture to include those who have found fame via new media (namely, YouTube) showcases the popularity of these mediums, as more and more people find their entertainment online.

For example, as well as watching a lot of US shows online that aren’t available on UK TV (or are a million years behind), I also follow various popular YouTube channels, mainly those with comedy or introspective videos.

A lot of these YouTubers directly appeal to people because the situations they explore or deal with are relatable. They turn their observations into creative (often funny) entertaining content. YouTube has given them a platform to showcase their talents, be it comedy, motivational speaking or social commentary, in a contemporary way.

They have managed to find success in the entertainment industry, through an unconventional medium in an industry where they would have perhaps otherwise been overlooked. Many of these YouTubers draw in an audience larger than your highest-rated TV show, so the success feels deserved. There are some truly talented people online.
Image credit: Markgraf-Ave

You can also get to know these major YouTube personalities a little better with their vlogs and various social media channels that are updated regularly and reveal a lot about their personal lives. Interest is invited by the YouTubers as they attempt to build a larger fanbase and interact directly with their fans.

It’s interesting how, when I’m having a bad day I can be thoroughly entertained or cheered-up by online content which, if anything, offers some escapism. Yet some of these personalities have their own challenges and struggles that they’re dealing with, especially as they are thrust further into the spotlight.

It’s also interesting to note that a lot of these YouTube channels began when the creators themselves were going through bouts of depression, or were at a crossroads in their lives: several popular YouTubers have mentioned how they started their channels as a positive distraction at a time when they were depressed and at a low point. Many have also covered depression-related topics on their channel.

Since a lot of their creative content comes from exploring real-life issues or relatable situations, it makes you wonder if there is a price for being too observant by nature: it seems to be both a blessing and a curse.

Being acutely aware of certain situations and people’s motives may have given these YouTubers material to work with, or allowed them to offer a different perspective on things which resonated with people, but it’s not surprising that they are struggling to find happiness, just as much as anyone.

The mass appeal of YouTubers means inevitably, they are going to find themselves at the receiving end of negative and downright nasty, non-constructive hate comments. YouTube video comments are so difficult to moderate as well, they often reach a whole new level of hate.

So hats off to them for learning to shrug these comments off and not let it affect them too much, especially since they have been vocal about their struggles with depression, anxiety or bipolarity and are likely to be sensitive to personal attacks.

However (and I can certainly vouch for this), vlogging, blogging or anything similar is often therapeutic…and when you have an audience of millions (which these YouTubers have), it probably helps to be able to make your point and have people actually listen.

Even hate comments are still traffic at the end of the day: more views = more exposure = more opportunities in the entertainment industry. Whatever downsides there are to fame, it’s an industry most people would kill to work in. So it’s good to see talented people who have turned their depression into something positive, and are now reaping the benefits.

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