Wisdom//

What We Can Learn From 8 YouTube Stars Who Burned Out From Constant Connectivity

Their struggles — and solutions — can help all of us.

Artur Debat / Getty Images
Artur Debat / Getty Images

YouTube stars make a living by constantly connecting with their audiences. “It’s kind of a machine,” Lilly Singh, one of YouTube’s top earners of 2017, said on her channel about the culture of YouTube. “It makes creators believe that we have to pump out content consistently even at the cost of our life and our mental health and our happiness, because if you don’t you will become irrelevant.”

There are also algorithmic demands that propel the culture. Alisha Marie, who posts on YouTube for her eight million subscribers, told Variety that pressure to create content at dizzying rates mounted when YouTube changed its algorithms to favor channels that posted more frequently and elicited higher engagement. “When your whole career is based on an algorithm, it’s this spiral effect,” she said. “The fear was: You will totally fall off the map if you take any kind of break from YouTube.”

It’s no wonder that many YouTubers have admitted to experiencing burnout, and are now figuring out how to pull back, take breaks, and manage their output in a healthier way. We may not all be YouTube stars, but this kind of stress is not dissimilar to the pressure many of us feel to stay constantly connected and available on our devices, both professionally and personally. We can learn a lot from these YouTube stars about the signs of burnout from constant connectivity, and how to make the most of a much-needed break.

1. Lilly Singh said she was “mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted” — so she decided to prioritize her happiness.

Comedian Singh has been churning out content to keep her fans happy for years. The work has paid off: She has amassed 14 million subscribers, published a best-selling book, and starred in her own YouTube Red film. But the pace of her work has taken a toll. “I am mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted,” she admits in a November 2018 video announcing her hiatus from YouTube. “I could be mentally healthier. There’s a lot that I need to address, and I’m not able to [when I am] constantly pumping out content,” she said. She encouraged her followers to ditch the mindset that an eternally online presence is necessary and instead prioritize happiness over relevancy. A break from YouTube seems like a first step in that pursuit.

2. Marzia Bisognin realized she needed to stop cutting herself off from real-life relationships.

Bisognin made YouTube videos on everything from makeup and fashion to travel for an audience of seven million subscribers. But in an October 2018 video announcing her permanent departure from the platform, she admits that online connectivity actually hurt her real-life relationships. “I had allowed myself to become completely cut off from the world,” she said. “I wasn’t seeking any friendships and I was just finding comfort in my own little bubble on YouTube. I think it’s great how people can relate to others online. I grew so much more confident because of it. But if you allow it to take over your life, I think it’s not healthy.”

3. Alisha Marie realized both her work and her well-being were suffering, so she focused on her mental health.

In May 2018, Alisha Marie bid her eight million subscribers a temporary goodbye, embarking on a two month YouTube break. “Creatively, I am just not in it like I used to be. I used to be so proud of every single video that I’d upload, and now, I’m just burnt out,” she admitted in tearful video. “I know I’m such a creative person, and I know I can do such amazing things, [but] I’m not proud of what I’m uploading on this channel,” she explains. She decided to give herself the time she needed to prioritize her own well-being. “2018 came along, and for the first time, I just started putting myself first,” she said in the video, with an important message for her followers: “Having a platform, I hope that I can help inspire people. Mental health is so much more important than anything else.”

4. Michelle Phan maxed out her bandwidth and lost her passion, but spending time in nature helped.

Phan took to her YouTube channel to announce to her nine million subscribers that she was quitting the platform permanently in June, 2017. “The early days of YouTube were magical… I was able to turn this little hobby into a thriving career… I was happy,” she explained. She joined the platform when it was still in its infancy, in 2006, and was one of the first creators to upload makeup and beauty tutorials. But as her success and her income skyrocketed, her relationship to her work shifted. She was anxious and stressed, and felt isolated and disconnected from herself, her fans, and her work, her goodbye video revealed. “It just took a toll on me,” she explained to Variety. “I didn’t have the bandwidth. I just didn’t have the passion for it anymore. And I was depressed — I was getting so many hate comments.” It was by spending time in nature, disconnecting from her phone (and ultimately her YouTube channel), and giving herself the time she needed for reflection that she was able to reroute herself onto a happier, healthier path, she said.

5. Elle Mills burned out at 19, but in-person support from friends helped her heal.

Mills, who quickly amassed 1.5 million subscribers after posting a viral video in November, 2017, in which she came out as bisexual, was a star on the YouTube conference circuit, but the pressure to create and her extensive travel soon took its toll, resulting in her decision to take a break from social media (and YouTube) for a few weeks. “Hi kiddos. i’ve been going through a tough time so i’ll be taking a little break off social media to focus on my health. promise i’ll be back soon. thank you for understanding & not speculating,” she tweeted in May 2018. After her time offline, she returned to her channel with a video titled “Burnt Out At 19,” detailing the punishing work schedule that led to her burnout and the in-person support from friends that helped her move forward from it. The video, while marking her return to YouTube, also promises a change in her attitude to her work moving forward. “I will be putting my mental health first for a bit,” she said.

6. Jacksepticeye admitted he hadn’t left the house in two weeks, prompting his second YouTube break to “get his head in order.”

Jacksepticeye, an Irish gamer and comedian with 20.8 million followers on YouTube, posted a video in October, 2017, announcing he was taking his first break in five years of YouTubing. The step back was about mental health and bandwidth. “I don’t want to get burnt out on this. I’m worried if I keep going the way I am, I’ll get bored of it or I’ll get sick of it or I’ll associate some sort of bad mentality with it,” he explained. “If you do anything too often, even the stuff that you love, eventually it will get to you.” His concern about burnout was warranted: A year and half after that first break, in July, 2018, he posted a video announcing he hasn’t been feeling inspired by or proud of his work, a sign of burnout, according to the Mayo Clinic. “My mental health hasn’t been in the best place recently… There’s times when I don’t leave my house. For the last two weeks, I don’t think I’ve left my house at all to go do anything. I don’t really like doing that, and it gets to you after a while. Doing the same videos over and over again kind of weighs you down,” he said. Time away from YouTube was necessary to “get his head in order” and get his motivation back, he explained.

7. El Rubius’s anxiety and insomnia made him realize he needed rest.   

El Rubius, a Spanish YouTube gamer with 32.3 million subscribers, released a video in May, 2018, explaining that he has “hit the wall” and needs to “disconnect” from the relentless stress of YouTube production. “I had to go to the doctor, because the last few days I felt that I couldn’t breathe and I slept worse,” he said. “The anxiety of trying to be the best version of me 100 percent of the time that I am in front of the camera,” gets to him, he explained. “The pressure has been increasing more and more, and finally my head went ‘Boom. Stop, Rubius. You have to rest.’” Listening to his body and his brain, he decided to step away from YouTube’s world of endless connectivity to take care of himself.

8. The Dolan Twins took a break and came back recharged and reinspired.

The Dolan twins, Ethan and Grayson, who share a YouTube channel with 7.7 million followers, took a break from YouTube when they weren’t having fun anymore. “When Ethan and I started YouTube, it was all for fun. We made no money, we had no job, and we were just doing YouTube and making videos for our self-enjoyment,” Grayson explained in a March 2018 video. Ethan added, “Since then, we’ve been running away from the fact that YouTube is kind of becoming a job and losing its spark for us. Creating videos and everything, it just doesn’t have its magic like it used to.” After a few weeks away from the platform, they were back online creating again, with a new video that announced, “We’re f***ing happy now! I’m not just saying that. I’m meaning it.” In their case, the break seems to have worked some magic, providing the right amount of distance to recharge.

As more and more YouTubers fall prey to the burnout and stress of relentless content production, connectivity, and the grinding machine of social media, we would all be wise to use their stories as inspiration, and put our well-being first before burnout sets in.

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