Programming Problem: YouTube algorithm a mental drain for internet stars

World Today

Programming Problem: YouTube algorithm a mental drain for internet stars

Stardom is easier to come by in the internet age, but maintaining that fame can take a serious toll.

As CGTN’s Phile Lavelle explains, the fight to stay relevant on YouTube is leaving many disillusioned with the computer code running the platform.

Lots of people head to Hollywood in search of stardom.

Others don’t need to anymore, largely in part because of services like YouTube. 

Anyone’s a filmmaker and broadcaster these days. All you really need is a cellphone.

But for some, that commitment’s bringing its own pressures.

‘Jacksepticeye,’ for example. A major YouTube star with more than 10 billion views and 20 billion followers to his name.

But he started to feel burned out, posting a video recently telling fans:

“I need some time off every now and then and I’m starting to realize just how badly I had been needing it. I’ve been doing this for five years and that’s five years of non-stop. I’ve been doing two videos every single day – the exact same time every day for five years. And I’ve very, very rarely missed an upload…  I realized that I was kind of pushing myself too hard to go through some of the videos so.. if I kept doing that, it would just crush me. It would ruin me. And it would ruin the channel.”

Trisha Hershberger knows that feeling too. She made a name for herself on YouTube, but tells CGTN it can get too much:

“You’re in this panic where I’m creating my own work and the product is me, but you can’t scale yourself. You’re constantly struggling to keep up with just the knowledge of how to play that algorithm and then knowing that the algorithm usually prefers content where you at least upload daily, so you’re trying to put out high-quality content on a daily basis. Slowly other people in your life will start to say “hey, I never see you anymore. Hey, you’re always working” and you’re like “Ha! It’s not work, though.” Until it gets to the point where you realize I am constantly working.” 

Part of the problem here is figuring out how to be seen. Especially because some YouTubers make their living through the service. 

YouTube users upload around 400 hours of content every minute. It has complex algorithms which decide which videos are the most prominent in feeds.

Some YouTubers said they feel a pressure to just keep on producing as much as they can.

For its part, Youtube offers some guidance and tips on how to reach the maximum number of eyeballs. But said its algorithms follow the audience, not the number of views, meaning it’s hard to know just how to stay on top.

“It’s just this never ending pressure”, explained Juan Carios Bagnell. 

He was an early YouTube sensation, but now he’s feeling disillusioned with the service and has tried to build more of a profile on sites like Patreon instead, where fans pledge money to watch content.

He tells CGTN: “It takes a lot of effort to build up a community and it could be taken away very, very quickly. It really does seem to have a kind of cynical downward spiral effect where, if you start slipping down YouTube’s’s rankings, it’s very easy for that to compound very quickly and remove you from that relevance so you can fall very very fast, especially if you’re a medium size channel and don’t have millions of subscribers already.”

In April, a woman shot three YouTube employees and killed herself. She was angered about YouTube’s practices and policies.

This was, of course, an extreme case. But ir shows that some are feeling the pressure more than others, as Psychologist, Judy Ho, explained:

“Eventually, these entrepreneurs have nowhere to turn and they develop learned helplessness. This out of control feeling where if they stop, they’re going to lose their popularity and business.

So they need to make a commitment to get outside, to interact face to face with people that they love because all of that interaction that they have is online and we know that when people are exposed to that with no real interactions, it really impacts their mental health.”

For those in search of online fame, it is an easy way to start. But keeping up – that’s the hard part.