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How YouTube affects mental health

Last week, as I was taking a short study break, I happen to have fallen upon an interesting YouTube video, also known as a “clickbait”. As I got through the seventeen-minute video, I was left with nothing more than guilt and a horrible feeling of shame. What I was watching was Gabbie Hanna’s video entitled “The Truth About What YouTube Really Does to Your Brain”.

She begins by explaining a fundamental psychological concept: operant conditioning. It is the theory behind the reward you get for doing something specific (in our case, for example, we study in order to perform well in our exams). She then goes on to apply the concept to YouTubers who choose this career path as a means to get attention. She explains most YouTubers start out because they don’t really have anyone to talk to. Gabbie Hanna then goes on to explain that YouTubers speak to a camera and millions of people on the internet because the likes, comments and followers provide them with gratifying validation. In other words, it fulfills their self-esteem. However, in the long-term, YouTube creates a blur in your life as it becomes quite difficult to distinguish what is your work from real life as well the true supporters from the fake ones.

The social media mogul then goes on to inform you about why YouTube is so dangerous. She explains that when she first started out on Vine, the attention came so fast that she had conditioned herself to constantly refresh her cellphone pages like a robot. She explains how most influencers become so addicted to their cellphones and social media that they simply cannot let go of their job. They do so much to get likes, comments, and followers that they eventually lose their humanity. In other words, while it is true that you get attention from millions of people and it may be gratifying, it also means that these millions of people determine your worth. As a YouTuber, you let likes, followers and money overpower and toxify your job.

Gabbie Hanna ends her video by comparing YouTubers to sociopaths and makes such compelling arguments, I was left questioning whether we should boycott the website. She explains how a mental health disorder cannot be diagnosed through a video because the person filming it chooses what they want to show you. Therefore, you may think your favorite YouTuber is a good person when, in reality, it may be someone who will do anything to climb higher up without considering others in the process. These people are all over YouTube.
After watching the video, I felt it was necessary to do a little research to find other influencers speaking out about their mental health. Among them, I’ve found videos made by Manny MUA, Zoella and The Dolan Twins, only to name a few.

The video shows a screenshot of an article where you can read: “The top 10 jobs kids want, per First Choice study, are as follows: YouTuber, blogger, musician/singer, actor, filmmaker, doctor/nurse, TV Presenter, athlete/teacher, writer, and lawyer”. While the younger generations are drifting away from more traditional career paths to choose to be influencers, I highly doubt they are aware of the hidden aspects of the job.
Wednesday, October 10th, 2019 was World Mental Health Day. The purpose of this article is to raise awareness about a disorder which is often very well hidden. This article may be about how YouTubers are affected, however, mental health is a real issue for everyone whether they are students or not. Therefore, if you haven’t been feeling like yourself or you know anyone who has been going through a lot, think of taking action. We often come too close to losing our friends and family to a mental health disorder.


Sandra Zaki

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