We’ve already talked at length about YouTube and its growing influence on children. We’ve mentioned how studies reveal a significant percentage of kids desiring to be YouTubers when they grow up. According to a Pew survey, the video-sharing site is used by 93% of teens—with about a sixth of teens say that they use the site at an “almost constant” level. Those are pretty important statistics to think through, especially when you consider other studies which found that “frequent, habitual YouTube users exhibit higher levels of loneliness, anxiety, and depression,” most likely due to its fostering of parasocial relationships.
But you don’t see many studies about how YouTube affects YouTube content creators. For that information, it’s best to turn to the YouTubers themselves, many of whom have, throughout 2023 and early 2024, been publishing what the Internet has described as “retirement” videos.
Of course, it’s important to clarify what “retirement” in the YouTube world means: Most of these YouTubers aren’t retiring as we might understand the word. They’re not shutting down their channels and checking into a retirement home, nor are they even completely done with YouTube. But all of them, in some form or another and for various reasons, have made the decision to take a step back from their typical content or schedule after recognizing that they can no longer keep up with the YouTube rat race.
In the cases of PewDiePie and DanTDM, for instance—who boast 140 million subscribers between them—they cut back on video uploads in order to devote more time to being husbands and fathers. Likewise, Tom Scott and “MatPat” of The Game Theorists decided to ease up on the YouTube throttle in order to improve their work-life balances and devote more time to people they hold dear. CaptainSparklez and animator MeatCanyon, meanwhile, made the decision to pull back on their content due to no longer enjoying their craft as much as they once did.
“This is my dream job, and I have a lot of fun doing it,” Tom Scott said in his video on the topic. “I know I’m incredibly lucky, but a dream job is still a job, and it’s a job that keeps getting bigger and more complicated—and I am so tired. There’s nothing in my life right now except work.”
Scott’s comment is representative of many of the challenges that many content creators on YouTube have encountered during their time on the platform. In most of these retirement videos, creators noted how the website’s evolution over the years has forced them to play a fast-paced game wherein they had to constantly adapt to the “YouTube status quo” in order to stay relevant, both to their audience as well as the ever-changing YouTube algorithm (which determines what videos get recommended to users). CaptainSparklez’ Jordan Maron, for instance, described success on the platform as “fleeting.”
“Being successful in content creation requires you to dedicate your entire life to it,” Maron said in a video explaining why some YouTubers are retiring.
This sentiment was echoed by other creators. They often talk about feeling “burnt out” and believing they were “losing the passion” they had for content creation. Almost all of them referenced, in some way, the idea that creating videos for YouTube had gotten more stressful over the years.
Even those who aren’t “retiring” or easing up expressed sentiments that would agree with those statements. For instance, Sean McLoughlin, the creator of jacksepticeye, described feeling like YouTube has become “more about views, money and popularity than it did about having fun.” Likewise, gaming YouTuber Teo recently discussed how changes to the YouTube algorithm made him, in part, become a “perfectionist” when editing videos to help them perform better (and how he was attempting to return to his more traditional video style).
So, how do so many YouTubers end up here? That question forces us to return to where we started—by recognizing that, as Tom Scott mentioned above, a dream job is still a job, and creating stuff for YouTube is no exception. Though your channel often begins when the YouTuber uploads videos of a hobby you enjoy, YouTube’s competitive scene can quickly turn that hobby into hard work just in order to stay relevant on the site—forcing you to sacrifice time with friends and family in order to make your content that much more attractive to the YouTube algorithm.
And if you are able to keep up and are willing to make that sacrifice indefinitely, you “just keep uploading videos from now until the heat death of the universe, and you watch as your relevance slowly dies or your passion slowly dies,” as MatPat explains it.
Will that happen to every YouTuber? Well, no. The other option, as many of the YouTubers above have realized, is to make a change—whether that means leaving completely or simply making content creation both more enjoyable and manageable. And in making that change, these YouTubers have not only identified problems with the fast-paced life of a professional content creator, but they’ve also taken active steps to fix those problems in their own lives.
With so many YouTubers expressing why they’re pursuing some form of retirement, I hope that these videos would stand as signposts for kids who dream of YouTube glory to truly consider the cost that comes with the gig, too—even if they can achieve the fame. And maybe this wave of “retirements” would cause other overburdened content creators to consider cutting back for their own health, too.
After all, as the “You” in the name signifies, YouTube wasn’t originally made for creators to cater to the whims of audience and algorithm.
And, even if it means losing potential revenue by taking a break to focus on their own health, families and well-being, maybe it’s time that creators remember that.