The Life of a YouTuber isn’t One I’d Want

August 28, 2017

I’d wake up in the morning, slow and groggy as many people do after not enough sleep or a night filled with too many adult beverages. However, rather than stumbling into the kitchen for a quick bite or the bathroom to relieve myself like most people would do, I would instead grab 1-2 cameras, aim them towards my bed, and start recording. Then I’d wake up – again – and start talking.

Picture this. If you can’t, just search for the most followed people online; there are thousands of examples. YouTubers fake so much of their own lives while making it look completely natural we viewers sometimes forget just how much it takes from them. When someone does a daily vlog, we’d like to think we’re watching them wake up on their own time. Even if they take the time to set up a camera the night before and have it on a remote so they can just press a button when they wake up, the lie is complete.

Not all full-time YouTubers film every aspect of their waking lives, but many successful ones do, no doubt afraid to turn the camera off in case they miss something crucial for their audience and choosing to edit the mess later. This is only a step or two behind the smartphone-carrying world at large; we all take time out of our day to post on Instagram, Facebook Live, and Snapchat rather than just appreciating what’s right in front of us. None of this is new, nor should it be a shock that I’m saying it.

What amazes me most about this form of art is that so many people enjoy it, myself included. We get insights into others’ lives without ever leaving our screens. In fact, one could argue we’ve become a society of those who film, and those who watch, with many creeping into both categories.

YouTubers don’t just film for 5-10 minutes a day to bring you your daily entertainment during your subway commute. The good ones spend hours setting up shots, putting themselves into situations they hope others will find entertaining, and editing, assuming they don’t have a full-time editor, which they’ll probably need eventually if their fame grows.

This hit home for me recently when I got a behind the scenes look at what Casey Neistat, a famous vlogger and decent runner, does when it comes time to film his daily run.

I’m not a YouTuber, but I have posted videos in the past, usually of me just standing in front of the camera talking about certain aspects of life abroad. I seldom did walking vlogs, as they would have involved me carrying a camera down the street with my hand held high as I spoke loudly with people around. My shots were mostly done at home, when I had time at the end of the day. No one else was around. No illusions were needed. Just me and some rambling thoughts.

I’m a runner, and am training for another marathon in my part of Japan. There’s nothing about that sentence that wouldn’t be interesting to at least a few people online: running enthusiasts, travelers, Japanese people, expats, and maybe just people killing time at work looking for adventures they’ll never have. Yet to achieve any kind of successful running vlog involves more than just standing in front of the camera and yammering on about training and experiences, no matter how good of a motivation speaker I may be (I’m not).

When Casey Neistat goes for a run – during every run, apparently – he has a death grip on his smart phone, just waiting for the moment he can turn on the camera and let his viewers see him sweating as he quickly moves past something scenic. It’s an effective camera angle to bring us into his world.

However, it is far from practical or comfortable. Even runners who like to carry their smartphones with them for music or tracking seldom do so holding them in one hand; it’s a great imbalance, and the distraction can lead to accidents or injuries. Many prefer to go naked and just enjoy the escape that a long run brings them… I certainly do, anyway.

Now, I’m not chastising YouTubers who do have 3-4 cameras, including a smartphone and a drone, with them at times to record whatever wackiness comes into their lives or has been arranged by a sponsor. That’s proven entertainment. However, it takes a special kind of individual to go through life ready to record everything and still remain sane at the end of the day.

I am not one of those people, nor am I ever likely to become one

I thought about this as I considered my time in Japan and wanted to take a more active role on Instagram – posting to My Story – and reactivating my long-dormant YouTube channel. While I certainly could do a little more for each, what would be the point? What would be my ultimate goals?

I harbor no illusions about getting income from Instagram and my blog. Though it brings in a little, it will never get to the point where I can survive, let alone thrive off of it. That isn’t because I’m incapable of putting in the effort to do so – I have a smartphone, I have a decent camera, and I live in Japan; if I were to start doing daily vlogs, record my progress for the marathon, and film my adventures teaching and exploring the country, I would certainly increase my number of followers and perhaps get to the point where I had sponsors in a few years. However, in my opinion, such a life would be “but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the [camera turned on].” (HT to HP)

Despite what society would have us believe, there are successful people who have no social media presence, even when their job would benefit from it. Scarlett Johannson is one. Even though her work requires her to be in front of a camera for months at a time, it’s safe to assume she doesn’t let it control the rest of her life.

As much as I would get an ego boost out of knowing a few people from random corners of the world were interested in what was going on in my little ol’ life in Japan, the benefits don’t even come close to the costs for me. Even if I were able to afford someone to film and edit my videos while I sat back and watched Game of Thrones, there are two things preventing me from choosing a life under the lens: living a lie for the sake of popularity, and not being able to enjoy any aspect of my life off camera because my mind would be preoccupied with what I could be filming.

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