Vlogging in 2023

Over the past two months, I’ve regularly recorded and posted short 3-4 minute videos on my YouTube channel. This format is very different from the more highly-edited longer videos I’ve traditionally made on YouTube over the course of the last 10 years. As such, I’ve been watching similar YouTube channels in search of inspiration which eventually led me down the rabbit hole of checking out some of the early vlogger content of the late 2000s.

There’s something very nostalgic for me about old-school YouTube. When I started making YouTube videos back in 2012, the platform had become a hub of creators making higher and higher productions all the time—but back in 2007, no one even considered that creating these types of videos could even become a job. Early vloggers posted shaky footage of them going about their days, narrating the habits of normal lives, or sharing their opinions about current affairs. People watched these creators to feel connected, but few considered the pastime to be anything more than a fun hobby.

Then when YouTube started introducing ad revenue for creators, there was a sudden shift in the market. YouTubers getting hundreds of thousands of views started making thousands and even in some rare cases millions overnight. Poeple who’d just been making videos on the internet for fun found themselves making more money than they knew what to do with. This allowed these creators to fund better equipment, more ellaborate productions, and even entire companies dedicated to creating the kinds of content they’d been doing on a bigger scale.

However, this also came with the side effect of turning YouTube into its own industry. Suddenly you no longer had people vlogging for their own enjoyment—instead, they were looking to get a piece of that sweet ad revenue. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it still meant that by the time younger creators started on the platform, there was much more competition from creators who were better funded and could create more enjoyable content.

When I started my own YouTube journey in 2012, I was fully aware of the platform’s potential to become an income source. Although I legitimately enjoyed the process of creating videos, a large part of me hoped it could be my ticket to an easy life free from having to find a job or pursue higher education. And while I worked hard at creating my channel over the subsequent 8 years of doing my channel Homeschooled Nerd, I very quickly became disinterested in bettering myself in other ways—especially when it came to things that could increase my value to employers or help me pursue a career. After all, why worry about that stuff? I was a YouTuber dammit…

As the years went by and I eventually had to get a job, I found that I had a new relationship with the content I was creating on the internet. I felt increasingly disinterested in the corner I’d painted myself into producing comedic video game reviews—especially since so many people were doing a far better job than I ever could. Eventually, after struggling to keep coming up with content for the channel during my first year being married to my wife, I decided it was time to throw in the towel and stop YouTube for good…

Or so I thought...

Within a month I’d launched a daily video series on my personal YouTube channel. I’d decided I was going to experiment with doing whatever videos I happened to be interested in doing and ignore the algorithm or view count. This time, I would do everything right, and maybe something good would come of that! However, I quickly discovered that making daily videos takes a lot of time so a few months later I dropped the project and only used the channel to upload occasional podcast episodes or rant videos about anything which bothered me enough to talk about.

However, during this time I quickly found the free time I’d gained from quitting YouTube taken up by other interests. I started listening to audiobooks about science and taking online college history classes, and I gained a deeper understanding of my beliefs and ideals. Additionally, not having YouTube made me realize I wanted more out of life than the job I had—I wanted to contribute something to the world. I didn’t know for sure what, but I knew it was bigger than making silly videos about games.

The strange thing is, now whenever I make a video now, I feel like there’s actually something to share. I spent so much time creating my personality and identity around the persona I was selling that I never considered whether or not that person I was being, was actually me.

I’ve seen a lot of younger people get destroyed by YouTube fame. Becoming successful in your teens for being famous has become the norm in our modern day, but I worry that it creates unhealthy expectations in children and turns those who’ve yet to form their own identity into caricatures of whatever YouTube persona they’ve become famous for being. Very often I’d look back at my failed YouTube career as an unfortunate event in my life, but now I’m grateful that I didn’t become stuck being someone I’m not. I may still be shackled to the burdens of work, but at least this way I’m free to be the person I want to become—whatever that form may take.

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