Depression and the content creator

Financial insecurity and scant support can get YouTube and other uploaders down

Much of the talk of online mental health is, quite rightly, focused on the nasty bullying tactics of trolls. On Tuesday there was a depressing reminder of the need to keep discussing these issues when Star Wars: The Last Jedi actress Kellie Marie Tran reacted to months of racist and sexist abuse from "fans" by deleting her Instagram.

But this week also saw the ungodly burdens placed on the shoulders of those making the content that drives the modern web.

Writing in Polygon, Julia Alexander documented the increasing pressure on YouTubers to generate views and clicks, and the results were alarming to say the least.

“I think what I need is to leave for some time” YouTuber Rubén Gundersen aka El Rubius is quoted as saying in a video posted at the end of May. “I’ve been doing this for seven years without stopping . . . It sounds like first-world problems I know, but when you get everything together and you want it to be 100 per cent, and give 100 per cent, some times you can’t.”

Alexander's point, and one backed up by similar reports from Vice, BoingBoing and Slate, is that the demands being placed on young people are simply untenable. Many YouTubers perform the tasks of an entire production company in making hours of content every week – in some cases every single day.

Anxiety and depression

While this is taxing for behemoths like Pewdiepie and Casey Neistat – both of whom have spoken about the mental strains they’ve experienced en route to amassing their tens of millions of followers – the creators below them will have neither the financial security nor the logistical support available to ameliorate these issues.

One of the most telling quotes to come out in the wake of this discussion came from vlogger Ellie Mills, who released a candid video about her own struggles. “My anxiety and depression keeps getting worse and worse” she said.

“This is all I ever wanted . . . Why the f*ck am I so f*cking unhappy?”

Many mid-to-upper-tier YouTubers write, perform, record, mix and upload a video each day, and do all their own promotion and tech support. Even with the financial rewards of a big following, this is a daunting prospect, but for the many hundreds of thousands chasing this dream without any monetary reward at all, it could literally be life-threatening.

Sadly, it doesn’t look like this will change any time soon, since recording regularly and at length is the only way to make any money at all. With one hundred million active YouTube accounts, perhaps we need to re-examine what all these views are really worth.

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