The last six or seven months, I’ve been trying to learn everything I can about YouTube. I’ve subscribed to a number of the most popular channels on YouTube and have tried to watch a couple of videos a day. I’m doing it for a number of reasons: I work in social media, and technically YouTube is a social media platform, students these days are watching more YouTube than they are real television (I want to know why), and more.
YouTube is a cultural behemoth, and it has been for a while. Until recently, I just saw YouTube as a platform to host video content—it is much, much more than that. I am late to the game, but I want to learn as much about it as I can so that I can leverage it for the people I serve.
The most popular YouTuber in the world is PewDiePie. His real name is Felix Kjellberg, and he’s originally from Sweden, but he lives in England now.
He uploaded his first video in 2010 and became the most subscribed YouTuber in the world in 2013 with five million subscribers. His YouTube success began while he was a student at a prestigious European university, so he dropped out of college to make YouTube videos—he had to work a hot dog stand on the side to pay the bills.
Now he gets at least three or four million views on each video he posts every single day.
He is the godfather (but not creator) of the “let’s play” genre of YouTube videos, which was virtually non-existent when he began and is now one of most popular genre of videos on YouTube. The basis of the genre is simple: people watch other people (like PewDiePie) play video games.
It may sound really silly, but it is incredibly popular and profitable, as PewDiePie reportedly makes approximately $15 million(!!) per year, but he’s very uncomfortable about how much people talk about his money, so we’ll stop there.
As I wrote above, PewDiePie is the most popular YouTuber in the world: he has over 52 million subscribers. The primary way he accrued these subscribers is through people watching him play video games and scream, yell, and otherwise goof around.
I started watching PewDiePie’s videos regularly in November, when he pranked a lot of people by saying he was going to delete his account when he hit 50 million subscribers. I thought the prank was brilliant, so I was intrigued to learn as much about him as I could—he shapes YouTube culture unlike anyone else on the platform.
Someday, I would love to do a mini-biography on PewDiePie similar to what I did on Justin Bieber, but that will have to wait.
I have really enjoyed watching his videos and getting to know him a bit, and I am bummed about how much flak he can catch from all kinds of people. Though, I will say that his videos tend to be quite vulgar, just to give you fair warning if you want to watch.
Recently, PewDiePie uploaded a video I found to be simultaneously sad and insightful. Here it is (language warning):
If you didn’t want to watch the video, the gist is this: PewDiePie is getting sick of playing video games and acting like he’s scared/excited/having fun. He used to enjoy playing video games, but he has trouble playing them for YouTube or for fun on his own anymore.
The key takeaway from this video for me has nothing to do with PewDiePie or video games.
The key takeaway for me was this question: how close am I to burning out?
Burnout is awful. Thankfully, I haven’t been stuck in a rut doing anything long enough yet to be burnt out (except for maybe school), so I haven’t had to experience what PewDiePie describes above.
My boss, Eric Geiger, has shared four warning signs you’re approaching burnout: 1) frustration with people, 2) difficulty focusing, 3) physical signs, 4) feeling exhausted.
He has also shared four practical ways to avoid burnout: 1) listen to your body, 2) exercise, 3) spend quality time with people who love you, 4) learn the rhythms of your work.
I find both of these posts/lists to be helpful and have referred people to them often the last couple of years.
PewDiePie seems like a nice guy who wants to use the gifts he’s been given to entertain people, even if he’s more vulgar than people like me are comfortable with.
But he’s burned out, at least when it comes to making “let’s play” videos, and watching the above video last week made me check myself and evaluate how close I am to burning out of work, studies, or otherwise.
What can we learn from PewDiePie?
I think we can learn a lot from PewDiePie—he’s really brilliant in a lot of ways—but when it comes to burning out, I think we can learn the importance of diversifying our time.
PewDiePie even says it in his video, “I think I’m addicted to video games and I’m over it now.” A lot of us get addicted not to video games, but to work, or to success, or to affirmation from our loved ones or bosses.
We burn out when we aren’t careful enough about diversifying how we spend our time.
If all you ever do is work, you’re going to come to loathe your work.
If all you ever do is play video games or basketball or the violin or whatever, you’re going to come to hate those things.
If you recognize you’re getting burnt out, find ways to recuperate and back away from whatever is burning you out.
Don’t try to push through burnout, or you’ll just end up getting burned.
Diversify your time: work, read, get coffee with people, play basketball, go for a jog, learn an instrument.
Don’t get so obsessed with something, however good or bad it might be, that you come to hate it later.