Influencers and content creators are burning out

Influencers on YouTube and TikTok are burning out and taking breaks from content creation.

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Irvin Blake
August 5, 2021 9:24 pm

I recently read an insight about how athletes are associating their identities with their chosen sports by . The mood of a world class athlete can be dictated by their successes and losses. And why wouldn’t it be if you’ve dedicated your life to the sport? In a similar way I believe influencers place high importance on likes, follows, shares and retweets. As influencers and content creators, their identity is to do well at these metrics. 

We all know the feeling of getting lots of likes and shares when we post something. It’s an endorphin rush and you feel like you’ve achieved something. When you’re an influencer those likes and shares won’t be in the tens and twenties, but rather in the hundreds and thousands. It’s the digital equivalent of getting high!

The problem arises when the metrics you once achieved are no longer doing as well as before. You start questioning yourself. Is it the algorithm or is it me? In a desperate attempt to regain their former success, influencers will try various strategies from clickbait to hopping on social media trends. They’ll even create content they’re not enthusiastic about just to get the likes and views. No wonder they’re burning out.

They’re stuck in a cycle of producing content they’re not proud of and they’re also on edge every day. One day you’re trending and getting the metrics you want, the next day no one will notice you whatever you try to do. If you are a full-time content creator contracted to an agency, there are few guarantees of job security.

All of these factors contribute to an influencer identifying themselves with social media stats. It’s like someone who has put his life savings into the stock market and is watching the price fluctuate between profit and loss. I have some friends who I would label as nano and micro influencers. These are influencers who have around 10,000 to 50,000 followers on Instagram. I see how often they are glued to their phones, checking every few minutes if more people have liked or shared their posts. I try to tell them to relax and take some time off, but when you’re an influencer, there are no days off.

Last edited 1 year ago by Irvin Blake
Melissa Chan
August 8, 2021 10:46 am

The influencer and content creator path as a career is an interesting one. The work-life benefits look great on the surface. Enjoyable work, flexible work environment and opportunities for collaborations and brand deals that lead to huge earning potential. As we all know by now, there is a dark side to working as an influencer.

In my workplace, we have a call centre on the 2nd floor of our building. Before the pandemic, I often walked past the hallway on the 2nd floor on my way to a meeting or to get some much needed coffee ☕ One day as I was going through the hallway I saw a colleague who looked upset. I approached her to ask if she was ok. She turned around and had tears streaming down her eyes. She explained how she had a customer on the phone, and no matter how much she tried to reason with him, he was being rude and patronising.

We regularly tell staff not to take things customers say personally. Don’t take it to heart. They are angry at the company, not at you. But we know this is easily said, not easily done. Now let’s magnify this experience ten times over. This is what an influencer experiences on a regular basis. Trolling, hateful comments, abuse. Influencers are advised to not take the comments to heart, however it is hard to ignore. In many cases, the comments are personal. It’s only a matter of time before this will affect you no matter how hard-headed you are.

Taio Cruz, a performer from London, joined TikTok in late 2020. His experience was telling. He shared an Instagram post that read, “I’m definitely NOT going back to TikTok anytime soon. My body was shaking and I had suicidal thoughts. I pride myself on being mentally resilient so the fact that I felt that way, shocked even me.” Behind all the glamour of influencer life, this is the unfortunate reality that many content creators face every day. Cruz finished his post with, “Social media shouldn’t be like this. Sadly it is.

Tyler Mendoza
August 9, 2021 10:40 am

PewDiePie said it best when talking about the journey of a content creator on YouTube. What goes up must come down. Every large scale YouTuber has a peak. PewDiePie puts his peak at around 2015. When views and engagement start to drop, creators think the solution is to pump out even more content to keep viewers interested. The thought of taking a break is frightening because you views will drop. It is a cycle of worst case scenarios. If your views drop, subscribers notice and even those who liked your content before will move on to the next rising YouTuber whose numbers are growing.

The pressure to keep your audience engaged encourages content creators to do more spectacular and extraordinary things – desperate attempts to maintain an audience, as PewDiePie says. It is the only way to stand out. Is Logan Paul really a bad individual? He has got so much hate for some of the stunts he has pulled, particularly one in Japan in 2017. Those who know about that video, know. What could have gone through his head? It could be that he was so fixated on his YouTube numbers and engagement that he stopped thinking rationally.

There is a limit to how crazy your videos become before you start entering dangerous territory. Sadly there are multiple stories of content creators who have lost their lives performing crazy stunts to get views and likes. On Instagram these photos are called ‘money shots’. Climbing tall buildings, hanging from a cliff edge, balancing on a sky-high structure. It’s just not worth it. But content creators are doing anything for engagement.

One reason creators are burning out is because engagement is like an addiction. People will go to extraordinary lengths to satisfy their addiction. I am a regular viewer of YouTube fitness. What a rabbit hole this part of the internet is! One story I found fascinating was about a doctor who who received a message from a popular YouTuber. The YouTuber was on steroids and was terrified of stopping his usage because he would lose his size. He also told his audience that he was steroid-free. The problem was that he was experiencing bad side effects. Common sense would tell him to get off the steroids and look after his health. But for him, the impact on his views and engagement was a bigger priority.

This dilemma is one example of hundreds of thousands that are happening across social media. The way things go for so many creators, it’s fair to say that burnout is not a question of if, but a question of when.

Kaitlyn Mora
August 8, 2021 6:41 pm

Aspiring actors and actresses from around the world would come to Los Angeles in the hope of being discovered and breaking into Hollywood. Now a new trend is emerging. People aspiring for fame are still coming to LA, but instead they are hoping to become the next big influencer. They join “content houses” or “creator collectives”, a term to describe a household of influencers whose main objective is to collaborate and create content for social media.

Content houses are also sprouting up in different cities and countries. Being accepted into a house could feel like you have won the lottery. A feeling of almost guaranteed success. A good comparison is an aspiring actor who has finally landed a big role. Or an aspiring singer who finally gets a record contract. There is, of course, a price for fame and many aspiring influencers are finding this out in the form of exploitative contracts, leading to burnout.

Along with the growth of influencers, influencer management agencies have popped up. They are supposed to help influencers navigate the unchartered territory of social media stardom and to help manage brand deals. Think of these agencies as the social media equivalent of modelling agencies. Modelling agencies help their models find work and influencer management agencies help influencers in the same way. With so many young hopefuls wanting to become an influencer, the conditions are ripe for exploitation.

86% of Gen Z and Millennials are willing to post sponsored content for money. The saturation of the influencer market means that brands have almost unlimited choice in getting an influencer to do a sponsored post. If an influencer agency believes the brand isn’t paying enough for a sponsored post, it could reject the offer. But the brand will just go elsewhere and try its luck. The consequence is that influencer agencies are having to accept less money for brand deals and many times they put the onus on the influencers they manage.

There are stories of influencer management companies pressuring influencers to post multiple times per day, withholding payment and encouraging influencers to do free sponsored content for brands in the hope that the brands will recognize them and sign them up for a deal. In some extraordinary cases, influencer management companies haven’t even paid for the utility bills of the content house in which influencers are staying. A New York Times article about influencer hopefuls describes how some influencers in a content house in Los Angeles had to use water from their swimming pool to flush their toilets because the water bills hadn’t been paid!

This adversarial relationship between management agency and influencer can crush the dreams of young hopefuls and leave a sour taste in their mouth about social media as a career. Some have been burnt out by the stress of of the relationship and sever the contracts they were originally so happy to have signed. Hollywood is well-known for being a cutthroat industry and the influencer industry looks to be no different. Especially for those going into the industry as a teenager and young adult, it would be advisable to not get overwhelmed by the joy of thinking you’ve made it and to carefully review the contracts being offered by the agency. It could make or break your experience.