Basilia Weir explores an unhealthy relationship with studytube, a YouTube community surrounding studying and productivity.
Maybe you’ve found yourself in the library right around midterms. You’re on the fifth or sixth floor, a lukewarm caramel latte in front of you, and a lofi playlist beating through your headphones. And yet, you can still hear the incessant clicking of keys, turning of pages, work being done. It took you twenty minutes to find a computer, and you’ve spent the forty-five minutes staring at your phone. Is that feeling in your stomach from the milky coffee, or is it imposter syndrome, bubbling up again? Yeah, no, it’s definitely the second one – this student is sus.
What if I said you could activate that same, profound feeling of fraud, all from the comfort of your own room? Introducing: studytube.
Perhaps your self-confidence doesn’t live and die by internet fads, so I’ll explain. Studytube is a community on YouTube, centred around, well, studying. It is mainly populated by students who post content ranging from practical advice videos, to vlog-style “study-with-me”s. Some of the most popular student creators include Unjaded Jade, Ruby Granger and StudyQuill. And it can be quite helpful – at first.
My friend recommended I check out Eve Bennett’s channel, a studytube staple, when I was in S6. I was writing essays in the cafeteria before class, finishing project chapters at 2am and was not feeling motivated, at all. Two of Bennett’s Study With Mes later and I felt like writing out a study schedule and working my socks off. Luckily, she had videos on how to do both of these things. Quickly, I fell down the studytube rabbit-hole. Unjaded Jade taught me how to work smarter, not harder. Ruby Granger showed me how studying can be as aesthetic as it is productive. I was hooked, and my grades were better than ever.
Cut to: the end of my first semester of uni. I was drowning in my own productivity, filled with existential dread about having to do it all over again next semester. I barely did anything that first year except sit at my desk and read PDFs. All I could think about was getting a first, and I started choosing my grades over everything else: friends, sleep, myself. I’d come home from uni, eat dinner and study until I went to sleep.
Whenever I’d take a break, the chorus line in my head would begin. I got three A*s. I got into Oxford. I got a first! Here’s how to get into good universities. Have a productive week! I felt like I needed to keep working, to catch up, to be a good student, to be successful. But I simultaneously had the sinking feeling that I’d squandered my first semester at university. I’d pushed away new friends, and the only memories I had were of waking up on University Avenue, wiping drool off my chin and stumbling down the stairs of the bus and onto a campus that felt so alien.
Eventually, I had to stop consuming any content related to productivity. My self-worth was entirely conflated with my output, and I realised I couldn’t untangle the two if I was surrounding myself with other people’s ideas on the matter. When you constantly watch people discuss how they need straight As or need to attend the best university, it can be hard not to internalise that and lose your own sense of achievement. Even if you already want these things, it’s easy to find yourself in a competition with people you’ll never meet; you get a B and start feeling worthless, because they would never get such a low grade (Bs are excellent, just to be clear).
I also, whilst debriefing from the community, started recognising how futile it was to compare my university experience to theirs. The influencers I watched all lived on campus and had no other part-time job outside of YouTube, which is just a tiny bit more flexible and lucrative than the average paper round. I began to understand that I didn’t have the same number of hours in a week and therefore needed to find my own study schedule and my own goals, grade-wise.
Let’s go back to the library. How do you know that person smashing the keyboard beside you doesn’t have an essay due in six hours that they’ve just started? How do you know that the four-hour study with me that your favourite creator posted wasn’t the only bit of work they got done that weekend? You never can tell. Chances are, you’re not an imposter. Everyone else is probably just really good at looking busy.
The lesson here is not that studytubers are terrible influences who intentionally push toxic productivity. More so that projection and comparison are inevitable, and that it’s so easy to end up in an echo chamber of straight-As and Harvard admissions. My advice to anyone consuming this type of content is to do so with care. Try not to follow people who equate self-worth and output. If possible, stick to channels that talk less about grades and focus more on practical advice for studying. StudyQuill is a great example of this, if you need a recommendation, and assess how your life and circumstances are different from the influencer’s, the impact this has on your studies and bear this in mind before you start comparing apples and oranges. Finally, I’d be remiss to write an article on studytube and not mention Glasgow University’s resident studytuber, Merve. If you’re in the mood, and right headspace, for a study-with-me that features your uni library and the spire in the background, look no further.