Can you ever turn it off once you’ve started?
Last week, I finished my latest videogame walkthrough on YouTube, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2;” all the duels, all the collectibles, all the spells. It was my 1181st video- not bad for what I suppose is an unusual hobby- for my YouTube channel “ZeppelinG1993”, and while that might not think of that as a particular milestone, uploading the file felt like signing off the end of an era. Through the various projects I have pursued on my channel, my videos concerning “The Boy Who Lived” have always proved the most popular. It’s come to define my channel as much as my own personality.
In fact, it’s incredible how much of an impact the series has had. I joined YouTube on a whim in the summer of 2008, bored silly on one of the days in the long summer between the academic school year (and if that doesn’t sound like the nerdiest thing ever written, I don’t know what does). Having seen another YouTuber cover one of my favourite videogames, I decided to give it a try, thrusting my webcam in front of our living room TV to record some shoddy quality of whatever I fancied playing at the time. Oh yes, I had some wild and crazy summers during my teenage years.
After experimenting with a few projects, a walkthrough of the PS1 edition of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” started to draw an audience. Looking back, it’s hardly surprising that was the case- four years after the last film, the legions of fans following the franchise is still remarkably strong, and back in 2008 I was one of the few users playing the games on YouTube. Since then, my channel has grown to over 10,000 subscribers and I’ve had 11 million views across all of my videos. Now THAT’S magic.
Now, with the explosion of the vlogging form and a league of twenty-somethings having vast influences over all manner of things, YouTube has pushed the boundaries of how personal a media channel can be. Say you watch a TV show like Friends, and you follow it for several seasons. Gradually you get to know each of the main characters to a level where you feel like YOU know them on a personal level. Imagine that, the seventh Friend? I can’t be the only one that’s had that fantasy before.
YouTube takes that notion one step further, in the sense that you’re right there following someone’s day to day activities; whatever they do, its like you’re experiencing it alongside them, like a close friend or relative. Because of how deep some users get into this, it’s hard to know if they will ever call it a day. A slump in viewing figures on television usually signifies it’s time to wrap things up. But when you have users who are so invested in the channel they follow, is that as easy an option?
I’m not saying I WANT to call it a day on YouTube for a minute, but finishing the last Harry Potter game has felt like I’ve bid farewell to a vast series of work that took up most of my late teens, and it’s hard to know where to go next. One thing my channel has taught me is that you have to maintain it with regular content- just like any kind of blog- and if you don’t, the curiosity will slowly dissipate. There are some days when I absolutely love my channel and others when I’m just not in the mood to create content- and should I really do so just for the sake of it?
Now look at the vloggers, the most popular of which are caught up in an incredible breakneck ride at the moment as they hurtle from one project to the next. Because this medium is unfolding for the first time in front of our eyes, we have no idea for how long this will go on for- whether they’ll get even bigger, whether they will slump, and what they will do after they call it a day. In a way that makes it all the more exciting, like trying to plot a map on a blank page without a compass.
But what if they do decide they’ve had enough? Sure, the actual task of closing your YouTube account is remarkably simple; I’m not so sure about the emotional upheaval, putting all your creative endeavors- and followers- to rest. At the moment, as long as I have ideas, I will continue to push my channel forward. But as with anything where you are so heavily invested- be it a relationship, a job, or staring at a TV screen and talking to yourself for half an hour- you shouldn’t be afraid of pulling the plug.