Hello, yes, I’m almost 30 and I’m writing about the Dolan Twins. I can’t help it. I’m a fan, first of all, and after watching their interview last night with Shane Dawson, I can’t stop thinking about them. Not in a creepy way. More in a “holy shit, I can’t believe they’ve held it together this long” sort of way. It also – to the point of this post – proves, to me, what is wrong with the “social media star” mindset. The fear of losing relevancy, and the need to stay consistent. The fear of your fans (stans? I don’t know, I’m old) lashing out against you for showing any sort of change or cracks, and the stifling of growth to fit into an ideal. Social media is a scary place – and it seems the bigger of a creator you are, the scarier it gets.
For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about right now – The Dolan Twins (Ethan and Grayson) are 19 year old guys from New Jersey with 10M YouTube subscribers and have been on the platform for something like 5 years. They released an interview/announcement video last night, with Shane Dawson (King of YouTube) “Dr. Phil-ing” them as they discussed burnout, feeling tied to their weekly schedule, and how all of that has affected their relationships with their family – including their dad who passed away earlier this year.
Burnout of course is natural – especially after doing something for five years with really no break. I can confidently say that I have no idea what goes into making a YouTube video, but coming up with a new video a week has got to be draining. Not to mention the teen heartthrob level of stardom that these kids have. Shit, I get stressed out when I see someone I know at the grocery store and I have to pretend I’m not a gremlin. Imagine being recognized constantly, and always having to be “on”. That’s got to be exhausting.
The scary part of the interview for me, wasn’t the fact they were burnt out and needed a break – it was the fact that they haven’t taken time off for anything in fear of upsetting their fans (stans. Again, I don’t know), or losing them entirely. Even when their father passed away, they took a month of not posting videos. A MONTH. Are you kidding me? I know of creators who have taken a longer time off than that because of a scandal. A month – where two weeks of that were used to film videos – is not enough time to address the hurt that they would feel, and to properly deal and process all the emotions. But, they came back. Not because they wanted to – but because they felt like they had to. And I don’t know that they were wrong.
YouTube is a volatile environment. It’s not what it used to be. Today’s YouTube is focused so much on the extravagant, the flashy, and the new. People like Jake Paul who are getting married for “clout”, or David Dobrik who’s channel is pretty much an advertisement for SeatGeak at this point will always be the channels who pull the most views. YouTube’s general demographic seems to be younger these days – and the younger viewers don’t want to wait for planned out, and meticulously produced content.
To continue the point of the younger audience – the Dolan Twins also touched on the fact that, although they’ve changed as people, they don’t feel as though they can show that to their audience in fear of being rejected by them. They feel their audience wants the character that they’ve played since they were 14. Which again, I don’t think they’re wrong about that either.
The move was to stop making videos every week, and instead focus on projects that really mean something to them. Obviously I think they will lose some of their audience because of this change, but I think the loss was inevitable to begin with. Look at the comments on their videos from this year – “we miss the old you”, “we want the goofy little meatballs back”. They weren’t winning anyway. If they kept pushing through the burnout, it would just become more and more apparent that they were faking it for the channel. It’s got to be a terrifying concept to take a risk like this – changing their whole format. But, the minor loss of audience is nothing in comparison to the damage they’d be doing to themselves if they kept going the way they were. Besides, where there is loss, there will be gains. Putting effort into bigger projects will attract a different type of audience – just look at how it worked for Shane.
I’m starting to sound like I’m Mama Jess giving the twins a pep talk directly. That wasn’t necessarily the plan.
You know what the craziest part of all of this is? The amount of backlash that the video has gotten. People all over social media have been chiming in on it – some who are bashing the fact that “one video a week with a team of editors” is not that much work, or some that are complaining about the video being an hour long. Not to mention everyone who was expecting this to be an Ethma reveal or a James Charles exposé.
They are kids who need to properly grieve a parent, and who have known nothing but this YouTube career for most of their life. If they want to make an hour long video about that – let them.
The internet is a dark place sometimes. It seems easier than ever to become an “influencer”, or a YouTube star. On the contrary, what is easily brought is easily taken away. Say what you want about the Twins – I for one am just glad that in a space where most creators are focused on producing fast content to allow them to keep peddling merch and clinging to brand deals, there are channels taking a step back to concentrate on the art, or at least figure out what brings them happiness.
Signing Off, Mama Jess