June 3, 2018
May 30th, 2008, we landed in Korea and started shooting videos. At first it was for our families to keep tabs on us. Then people moving to Korea started watching, and so we made videos to explain how to make sense of living in Korea. Oh, how many changes we’ve gone through since then! And not just us, as creators, but YouTube as well, as a platform. So let’s talk about it from our perspective, which is very different from that of people coming to YouTube nowadays, when it’s a central part of internet culture.
We’re not gonna hide it. Hey, we love YouTube. Huge fans of YouTube. We’re not going to shit on it the way many people do. YouTube changed our lives in ways we never expected, and never even had the buddings of an idea to aspire towards. Now, after 10 years on the platform, I can’t think of a better job in the world. There’s no job I’d rather have. When people ask us if we want to be on TV, or when TV asks us if we want to be on TV, we’re not interested. TV isn’t as good as what we have here on the internet. Let me tell you the many ways why:
We work based on what inspires us at the moment, we create small pieces of art for fun, and we can distribute it to a big group of people who are happy to see it, and who are vocal about how much they like it. What other job in the world offers that? We don’t have a boss to stress us out. We don’t have weird office politics and sexual harassment and glass ceilings and discrimination. There’s no one sitting in the cubicle next to us farting silently and pretending it’s not them. Especially with Martina’s disability, we can take the time to take care of her health when we need to. We don’t have to awkwardly call our manager and ask for a sick day and hope we still have enough left in the year. We don’t have to wake up to an alarm clock. Hell we sleep and 8 hours a day! The two of us are madly in love and we get to hang out with each other all day long. We get to travel to many places. We see lovely people on the streets who like the work we’ve done, and they talk to us, nicely! Seriously, this is the greatest fucking job in the world. I can’t even think of a theoretical job that would be better. Not a doctor, not a lawyer, not a movie star, nothing.
On top of this all, we get paid enough to live off of this. Some will say that other jobs are better because they pay more, but money ain’t the motive for us. We don’t get paid Logan Paul money. We’re not millionaires with mansions and fancy cars, but we don’t want that kind of lifestyle anyways. We’re not trying to be the wealthiest, or the most famous, or the most subscribed to YouTubers. Pride and ego don’t drive us. Personal satisfaction, health and wellbeing, and community motivate us. I start feeling uncomfortable when we haven’t posted in a while, because I miss talking to you all in the comments.
There was a time, though, that we were numbers driven, and we were thinking about how to grow and be more famous. YouTube invited us to a couple of Fanfests, and I remember how things felt different then. We went to Singapore and so many people showed up at the airport that the authorities were called. We went to a red carpet event and shmoozed with wealthy people. We’d get in our taxis and go to different locations while people followed us in taxis to see where we’re going. They slept in the lobby of the hotel and brought us gifts. We were profoundly flattered and honoured, and we’ll remember that time in our lives distinctly, but I didn’t want to foster this kind of relationship anymore. I don’t want to think of myself as a celebrity and you all as rabid avid fans. I’m a lot happier now thinking of myself just as regular folks, and you viewers as people with common interests. We’re a community. I’m not more special than any of you, and most of you have many more talents and interests than I have. I want to think that we could hang out at gatherings, play board games, talk about One Punch Man, gush over our favourites on Ru Paul’s Drag Race, discuss the kind of sushi we just had. I’m a lot more comfortable with this, and a lot more comfortable with our viewers now than I ever was before.
Everything I’m writing here sounds like hippy dippy shit and that doesn’t work for some people. Many others approach YouTube as a career, and expect it to be stable and fair and think that just working hard will pay off. I’m sorry that I don’t agree with that. I mean, it’d be great if YouTube was like that. I don’t ever want to worry about our future, but I always will, and I’ve accepted that it’s part of the entertainment world. Hollywood actors don’t have stable careers. How many times have you heard of people moving there and struggling to get by as they write their script, but they never get their big break. How many shows did you like the first couple seasons of and then stopped watching? YouTube isn’t much different, I think. Starting a YouTube channel isn’t the same as starting a salaried job. There are no guarantees, no stability.
With that, I don’t have any answers on how to start a career on YouTube, as our model might not work nowadays. What’d we do? We had people watch our videos, which was very surprising, and then we just worked our assess of to a profoundly unhealthy level. We used to make 7-8 videos a week. We’d work until the sun rose. We worked every day of the week. We didn’t have a vacation in years. We were very broke for a long time. But we kept trying to grow, to get better, to talk differently, film differently, edit differently. We’re very lucky it paid off. I can’t guarantee the same for everyone else.
I sure do suffer from Survivor’s Guilt. When we did our US tour a few years ago, the hour before we got on stage my heart would pound so fast I thought I’d throw up. I wasn’t scared to go on stage. I wasn’t scared to talk to all of you there. I just felt like an imposter. I felt undeserving. And I felt so profoundly blessed. I felt like I was at a Christmas party, and I bought my friend a CD that he liked, and he bought me a brand new car.
I know our comment on the algorithm is going to upset some people as well, so I’d like to unpack it a bit more, because I feel that people are going to accuse us of defending YouTube because the algorithm has treated us favourably. Hey, we’ve seen some segments not do well, some video titles not do well. Our “Importance of Community” video didn’t perform as well as others, but I’ll blame that on the content not being as interesting and inviting as a $400 Toaster video, and I won’t blame an algorithm for it.
Many of the people that I’ve seen complain about the algorithm I’ve also seen not change much on their channel. When are people going to accept some of the responsibility themselves? Is every unsuccessful video the algorithm’s fault? Isn’t it possible that people just didn’t want to watch the video? Maybe they’ve seen videos like it before. Maybe the topic is just boring to them. Maybe they’ve just seen too many of your videos and want a break. Maybe they’re vegan and don’t want to watch videos about meat. Maybe they’ve found another creator that does similar content to yours that they like better. Shit, last year we had a video on the Trending Tab on YouTube almost every freaking week. Now, we’re barely ever there. And that’s natural, because something can’t be trendy forever, or else it wouldn’t be goddamned trendy!
After all, it’s people that watch your videos, not robots, so why not think of human behaviour as a valid reason for your successes and failures? There are many natural, easy answers for underperforming videos and channels. Hell, we know that we’ve had many viewers come and go. Many have subscribed, and many (MANY!) have unsubscribed as well. I even know with this video there will be lots of people that unsubscribe, because some people just want to watch us for food videos, rather than 30 minutes of self-reflection on our careers. And those unsubscriptions aren’t YouTube’s fault. I’ll accept responsibility for my failings and not blame the mystery box of an algorithm.
What does the future hold for us? We’re not really sure, but we talk about it regularly. Five years from now, ten, twenty. We don’t only think about what we want to do with the bodies and abilities we have now, because we know that we’re not immune to the demands of aging, and we also know that our interests will change, just as they have changed, and so too might your interest in us. What I don’t think ever will change are our core value. Be true to yourself, and be good to others. Don’t let your health, mental or physical, stop you from having a fulfilling life. Don’t hate yourself for the pain you have, and keep trying to be the best version of yourself. Life will never be easy or predictable for any of us, which echoes our thoughts on YouTube. One day Martina is feeling great, and the next day she’s struggling to get out of bed; for now, YouTube is great for us, but we remember when it wasn’t, and we aren’t sure it won’t go back to what it was again. We’re not giving up on either, and we’ll keep trying to find inspiration wherever we go.
I hope you can better understand what YouTube means to us. It changed our lives. We’ve met thousands of wonderful people. We have a very fulfilling career. And we feel endless gratitude for it. With that, we won’t be angry at YouTube for any slip-ups. It’s got many smart, good-hearted people working crazy hours on making it better, and I can see the fruits of their labor, and I think it’s better than it ever was. I worry that many of the people who speak angrily of YouTube do so simply because outrage is the trendiest form of discourse at the moment, while patience, understanding, and self-reflection are viewed as weak and apologetic.
So that was a long ass video and blog post. We’d love to talk about this more in the comments here. If you don’t like or agree with some of the things we said, though, please don’t show your anger in your tone, and don’t try to subtly insult us. Ask a question! Be civil, be decent, and we’ll do the same. Though I know most of the regular readers here know these rules, sometimes these posts get shared to others with less self-control.
Here’s to our next ten years on YouTube! Let’s see where we’ll go from here…