February 5, 2023

"My channel was as raw and honest as I would have been in my diary. That’s part of the culture."

"Being known as you are — and praised for it — lures in those of us with a deep desire to be seen. But another part of the culture is to make yourself into a product and figure out how to sell that product. Success is measured in views and subscriber counts, visible to all. The numbers feel like an adrenaline shot to your self-esteem.... When done right, YouTube can quickly become a lucrative career. But maintaining it is a delicate balancing act... In 2018, I impulsively released a video about my struggle with burnout.... [I]t brought me even more attention.... I kept making videos.... I was entering adulthood and trying to live my childhood dream, but now, to be 'authentic,' I had to be the product I had long been posting online, as opposed to the person I was growing up to be.... Changing an online persona is something at which few have been successful.... Staying unchanged brings its own challenges — stagnancy, inauthenticity, burnout.... But to those who will walk the path I did, I hope you will learn... [to] use these platforms to open opportunities, but not at the cost of giving all of yourself away."

From "YouTube Gave Me Everything. Then I Grew Up" by Elle Mills (NYT).

Here's that 2018 video:   

I started blogging when I was 53 — already way beyond grown up — and I've continued for 19 years, with never anything that felt like burnout. I get up in the morning feeling good about getting to live freely in writing on my little patch of social media. Because so much of my life is in the past, what I have to say is only partially relevant to a young person starting out, but, for what it's worth, I offer this insight into how to live happily with the exposure of social media, composed 5 years ago. I was able to find it because it contained the word "blinds." I have always pictured blogging with the metaphor of Venetian blinds. I get to adjust the slats continually and control how much or how little of me is on view.

January 14, 2018

All right... time to start Year 15.

It was 14 years ago today that I opened the blinds on this little window into my head. I didn't know who would peek in, only that I had made it possible to see the things I let show, and the sheer possibility felt incredibly exciting and almost too frightening.

As I said in the second post on that first day, January 14, 2004:
I had just emailed [a blogging colleague] about my admiration for her and my own timidity: "I'll have to think about getting up the nerve to do this sort of thing. It seems if you're going to do it, you need to become somewhat chatty and revealing, which is a strange thing to do to the entire world." Then it seemed altogether too lame not to go ahead and start the blog.
Having set aside my lifelong timidity, I got on the blog ride that let me see what I thought about everything that happened — including things that happened to me — for 14 years. I got to pick what I genuinely felt like talking about and to say only what I wanted to say...

I write for the flow — the sheer intrinsic pleasure of unfiltered writing. I love having readers, but only if you like this sort of thing. Why else would you be here?....

It's fine if you're reading because I annoy you and you want to fight about it in the comments. The main thing I wanted in going into law teaching was to have more vibrant conversation than I'd experienced in law school, and what drew me into the blog was a desire to get into discussions that in real life were muffled and suppressed.

The desire still rages, so onward to Year 15.


gilbar said...

When done right, YouTube can quickly become a lucrative career.

anybody know any numbers on this?
From what i've seen.. IF you get a Million Likes, you can get about $5,000.
Assuming that's Right; and you do a Million Like video a week; that's about $260,000/yr
That, to ME, is about the edge of a 'lucrative career'.. Assuming you have NO production costs.
[AND Assuming you could made a Million Like video.. Everyweek]
Now, According to Our Masters.. $260,000/yr would make you lower middle class (62% of 400K).

Anyway, Anybody know any numbers on this?

re Pete said...

"In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand

At the mongrel dogs who teach

Fearing not that I’d become my enemy

In the instant that I preach

My pathway led by confusion boats

Mutiny from stern to bow

Ah, but I was so much older then

I’m younger than that now"

Kevin said...

This is the downside to our culture where your friends are not your physical neighbors but those in your online community who share your views.

If you want to change your views, the cost -- the potential loss and scorn of those on who you've built your life around -- becomes too great.

If you want to tweak your thinking even just a bit, you can end up alone.

tim in vermont said...

The issue with social media stardom is that you have to have a brand, and if that brand is not your authentic self, like Althouse’s, for example, I believe, or Rick Beato, it’s just another drag of a job.

Maybe Althouse has learned to fake authenticity, I can’t know.

tim in vermont said...

“ If you want to tweak your thinking even just a bit, you can end up alone.”

Ain’t that the truth.

Roger Sweeny said...

She says the video won't end happily like her usual videos, but then it does! Seems she can't get out of her template.

Acting is famous for destroying child actors. YouTubers are, of course, actors.

Lem the misspeller said...

I got on the blog ride that let me see what I thought about everything that happened.

“The notion that every single human being – regardless of their peculiarities, strangenesses, sins, crimes and all of that – has something Divine in them that needs to be regarded with respect, plays an integral role... in the creation of habitable order out of chaos.” JP quote

That "habitable order" is generated by the spoken truth. JP quote

tim in vermont said...

Burnout is burned out, film at 11.

Roger Sweeny said...

The article has her saying, "I knew that my audience wanted to feel authenticity from me. To give that to them, I revealed pieces of myself that I might have been wiser to keep private." But she also says, "YouTube soon became a game of, “What’s the craziest thing you’d do for attention?” My answer? Legally marry my sister’s boyfriend. (It was meant to be a lighthearted joke. Our union has since been annulled)."

Those two things are, um, well, in tension. There's an old joke, "What you really need in Hollywood is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you've got it made." Until the contradiction rips you apart.

Kate said...

Gilbar -- I do not know the numbers. I know that my son makes his living on youtube and has done so for about 4 years. He just bought his first house in a metropolitan suburb, which means he had to prove income in order to satisfy a bank and sign for a mortgage. (He started filing taxes at the beginning of his career, paying the IRS quarterly.)

His privacy level has always been carefully managed, sharing on some things and not on others. Judging by his success and Althouse's comments above, letting people see wide in through the window, when done scrupulously, is a good idea.

Joe Smith said...

"I started blogging when I was 53 — already way beyond grown up.."

Age has nothing to do with it...

n.n said...

It's a venue like another.

gilbar said...

Thanx Kate!

Sebastian said...

"I write for the flow — the sheer intrinsic pleasure of unfiltered writing."

I get the flow, but is it really "unfiltered"?

"a desire to get into discussions that in real life were muffled and suppressed"

An admirable goal, but only party realized, unfortunately. Of course, we deplorables enjoy being able to say things that are muffled elsewhere, but a bigger group of better progs would help.

TaeJohnDo said...

I've been following this guy for a while. He's a great story teller. The linked story does't tell you how much he makes, but it gives a nice picture of how he became successful on youtube (hint-it was not over night and it involved consistent hard work). The History Guy. https://tinyurl.com/23bbf966

KellyM said...

@gilbar & @Kate -

We subscribe and watch a southern Utah-based off-road recovery guy and the adventures of getting people out of some really bad stuff in the high desert. Sometimes it's just getting RVs unstuck from deep sand at the local reservoir, but often it's technical recovery missions. Due to the specialized expertise, this guy and his crew travel throughout Utah, plus Arizona and Nevada when necessary.

The channel has grown significantly over the last 3 - 4 years, to the point where they've put the income into some pretty expensive equipment repairs and other off-road related projects, including branded clothing and recovery equipment. When they hit one million subscribers, it was a big deal.