I’ve been on YouTube for over five years and have built up a channel that has over 30,000 subscribers. That’s either a lot of subscribers or none at all, depending how you look at it, but either way there’s no denying that it took time and effort for me to reach that milestone. In the time that I’ve been on the site I have had time to experience negative feedback, both personally and second hand. What I have found through those experiences is that the whole issue of ‘hate’ and ‘haters’ is not quite as clear-cut as you may think. To that end I have broken the issue down, in the hope that we can all get a nice discussion going on the topic:
1. You’re Going To Get Hate, No Matter What
This is the internet: hate is going to happen. Should it happen? No. Do I want it to happen? No. But is it the way the internet is, and is likely to be for a long time? Unfortunately yes. You have to understand the game that you’re playing and if you’re looking to become a YouTuber (or even if you are just a viewer), you have to be able to engage with that game in a realistic way. No matter what, it is likely that some racist/homophobic/just plain nasty person will eventually stumble across your videos and start spewing a load of trash. How do you deal with that? By remembering the age old saying:
Just don’t engage. It’s pointless. If someone is just being mean and horrible and inexplicably prejudiced for no damn reason then you are not going to be able to reason with that person – and arguing with them will just unsettle you. My tactic is to either simply delete their comment or, if necessary, block them. When you get enough subscribers there’s also a magical third option – but we’ll talk about that later in this article (oooh ain’t I a tease?) There’s just one thing though – what if the horrible things that person is saying aren’t totally random? What if they directly respond to your video? Well then…
2. You Might Deserve That Hate
The concept of ‘haters’ is a tricky one. On the one hand it acknowledges that yes, there are plenty of people out there who get a kick out of being horrible to strangers. On the other, it dumps anyone who is negative to you into one group – ‘haters’ – and automatically disregards everything they’re saying, without ever asking whether it might be true. Criticism can hurt, but constructive criticism is a very good thing. Criticism helps you grow – and if someone is directly questioning, say, your camera skills or the quality of your content, you should take that on board and ask whether (just maybe!) they have a point.
Let me just reiterate: if someone comments ‘gaaaay’ or ‘[insert horrible racist comment here]’ then yes, they are simply a nasty piece of work. But if someone makes a specific criticism of what you’ve made, then you have to ask yourself if they may have a point. “But!” I hear you cry. “How can it be constructive if they called me a *** **** pile of ***** with no **** and a **** that ******* a dead *****??? How is THAT constructive?” Well, my friend, I’m glad you asked, because that brings me on nicely to my next point:
3. People On The Internet Don’t Talk Like They Do in Real Life
This is a super obvious truth but we all forget it on a basically hourly basis. Outside of a few sparse exceptions, people on the internet do not communicate in a way that is aaaaanything like the way people talk in real life. In real life you would never walk up to a stranger and start swearing up them, or lecturing them about how Beyonce and Jay Z are actually totally lizard people, bro.
On the internet, it’s a whooole different game. The internet is BUILT on extremes. EVERYTHING exists purely in it’s most extreme form – especially in the way people talk. When have you ever seen a (non-sarcastic) comment on a YouTube that said ‘this is pretty good, I rate it 7/10.’ It’s literally never happened. People on the internet LOVE things, HATE things or are MEH about things. That’s it – and let’s face it, saying something is ‘meh’ is just a even-meaner way of saying you hated it.
There have been times where I’ve seen someone post something truly action-packed in terms of how emotional it is – but when I engaged with them it’s become immediately apparent that they felt literally 1% of the emotion that they just supposedly expressed. They had felt an average emotion and expressed it in a hugely emotional way.
4. Here’s Why You’re Getting (Constructive) Negative Comments In The First Place
The uncomfortable truth of YouTube (and all entertainment) is that broadly – VERY broadly – it is a meritocracy. For those of you who don’t know, a meritocracy is a system where rewards are based on your skill and ability (it’s also a great word – throw it into your essays and that’s an A+ for you right there YOU’RE WELCOME). What I’m trying to say is that if the stuff you make is good people will like it and if it’s boring crap then no-one will like it.
I can already hear you screaming in protest at this but listen – I’m not talking about taste, I’m talking about effort. YES, there are whole genres of YouTube content that people actively dislike, but that’s because of their personal tastes. Take PewDiePie, even if you don’t like his content, you can appreciate that he is very good at what he does, he works hard at what he does and that he has created a real name for himself. The actual amount you like his content is separate to that. That’s the state of being you should be aiming to achieve too – and if you do that, then you gain the right to ignore your ‘haters’.
On the other hand, if you say “oh Tyler Oakley makes a lot of money from being Tyler Oakley, I will just be Tyler Oakley as well,” then don’t be surprised when everyone hates your dumb, unoriginal videos. Originality and dedication shine through in the things you make and if you are making content you don’t care about for reasons your audience would resent, then they will be able to pick up on that, and they will hate on you for it (rightly).
5. Hate Can Be Very Useful – But That’s Up To You
Ultimately, feedback is only what you make of it. When I first started out on YouTube I was very defensive of everything i made. It was my content! My precious, precious content! How dare they do anything except love it! Slowly though, I let me ego fall aside and started to handle things practically. The purely hateful comments, (of which happily I have received very few over the years), no mattered to me and the mean (but useful) constructive feedback became the basis for how my channel developed. Because, you know what? I did need to buy a tripod – those videos were shaky AF.
Definitely don’t change your entire channel just to match your viewers’ demands – it all has to come purely from you, because you simply can’t please everyone. But if you are doing something which is actively turning viewers away and which you could change with no problem, why wouldn’t you just listen to your viewers and change it?
6. By The Way – If You Work Hard Enough, Then Something lovely happens
In (most of) life, hard work is rewarded. On YouTube, this comes in the form of your subscribers. It’s wrong to think of these people as merely numbers on a screen, because if you are nice to them and engage with them and listen to them, they can be so much more than that. I am extremely lucky to be in a position now where if someone posts something dumb and/or mean on one of my videos then subscribers will come to my defence. It has become a team experience, where I make videos, they watch them and then we all discuss it. When someone attacks me, they stick up for me and the same is true when the opposite happens. That’s what YouTubers mean when they talk about ‘community’ – they’re talking about finding a crowd that loves what you love and that has your back when you need them.
And let me tell you – that feeling, without being too cheesy, is genuinely worth all the dumb hate comments that the world can throw at you. So stick at it, buddy – and good luck!