Why I Left YouTube for a Year

In the late summer of 2010, I started a YouTube channel called Opensourcegangster. The decision came shortly after I got my first Android smartphone, the HTC EVO 4G. It was one of the first killer Android smartphones of the decade and it sold off shelves insanely quick. Its 4.3 inch screen was monstrous for its time! It was also one of the first Android smartphones on Sprint to offer the new 4G technology (WiMax).

Holding my first Android Smartphone: The HTC EVO 4G

Holding my first Android Smartphone: The HTC EVO 4G

I remember my mom and I would stop by radio shack everyday and ask the sales associate if she had it in stock. 14 year old me was thrilled by this amazing piece of technology. Not only was it a phone, but it could also play games, browse the web and even watch videos using Adobe Flash (Good old Android 2.2, Froyo)! I absolutely had to tell the world, who was obsessed with the new iPhone, just how amazing Android was (and still is). Despite my outdated and unreliable camera, and only having a cracked version of Sony vegas, I was determined to upload some cool shit.

My First Video on YouTube

My First Video on YouTube

Three months later, I noticed more people started to subscribe. And by one year later, my channel became an accidental success. I became part of the YouTube partner program shortly after and was making a small amount of revenue from my videos. For a highschool freshman, this was awesome! I did this cool thing that none of my friends did and was able to earn extra cash to hang out on the weekends. Best of all, it didn’t even feel like work. Rooting my phone, flashing new roms and trying out new apps were things that I naturally wanted to do.

In the late Spring of 2019, I posted what I thought would be my last video on the channel. There was nothing special about the video, except for my final remarks at the end in which I said, “I’ll catch you sometime in the future.” I didn’t want to share the details in that video, but I was tired of YouTube. The fun in making video content was long gone. I would lie to myself and think that I’m doing this for fun, when in reality it became all about business and money. Even so, I was never satisfied. The views were never high enough, the subscribers were never subscribing fast enough, and my videos never got picked up by the algorithm frequently enough. I was burnt out from doing this. In the final few months before the last video I tried all sorts of new videos. Flying drones with code, teaching computer algorithms with shots, and even talking about what it’s like to work as a software engineer. But nothing seemed to stick, despite all the half cooked meatballs I threw at the YouTube wall. I was done. Done with YouTube.

A tweet I made

But in all honesty, I was partially done with life at this point. In 2018, I have gone through some major life changes which strained the relationship I had with YouTube. The first half of 2018 was the most turbulent it has ever been in my life so far. I was a senior in college studying hard for midterms and finals and worried about graduating on time. I was interning part time while interviewing for full time software positions and dealt with unprofessional drama from a company I interviewed with. Also, I was apartment searching because I wanted to move out of my parents house as soon as I graduated. Furthermore, I was in a serious relationship for the first time but was unsure about how I felt in the relationship. And lastly, I was preparing on leaving the country for the first time to go on a trip with my cousin. All of this was taking place in the span of 6 months from January to June 2018.

Then the plateau smacked me, really hard. By July of 2018, I had successfully graduated college on time, ended that first relationship, signed on to my first full time job, moved out of my parents’ house and took that trip outside of the country. Yes, I was lucky to be in the position that I was in, but I was also beginning to feel the misery of what would be the next 6 months. From July to December 2018, I experienced one of the longest streaks of depression in my life. I was unhappy. Maybe it was the environment I was in? Maybe it was my job? Maybe it was my family? I really still don’t know. What I do know is that I would wake up extra early everyday to work on some coding side project. Not because I really wanted to, but because I was desperate to get out of my job and was hoping for some quick success. I was desperately listening to startup podcasts and following sites like IndieHackers, hoping that somehow I would magically become like these “rockstar” startup founders. What I know is that I would spend some Friday nights crying to myself because I felt hopelessly single and alone while my roommate and friends enjoyed time with their S.O. What I know is that during all these monumental transitions in my life, I didn’t have the support from some of the crucial people in my life. My mom gave me hostility early on for moving out and wanting to grow in life. She also gave me shame and unnecessary stress for dating men and being gay. What I know is that I would spend everyday after work feeling trapped in my room, mostly because I didn’t have anywhere to go but also because navigating shared spaces with a roommate feels frustrating at times. What I know is that my only “escape” from all this pain was making videos on YouTube.

My room when I first moved out

I spent too much time living here rather than experiencing life.

Using YouTube as an escape from reality is a pretty shitty idea. Sure, if you’re only making videos for yourself and your friends then maybe it’s a good escape. But anyone who does YouTube on any professional level knows that it’s honestly a lot of work. Furthermore, you will constantly be showered in doubt, negative comments and unhealthy comparisons. In 2018, when people asked me what I did for fun, I said, “Oh, I make YouTube videos.” And that’s what I honestly thought. I am making videos on YouTube, and it should be fun. It should be relaxing. It should be an escape from all the other pains in my life. Spoiler alert, it’s literally like having a second job. Now I always joke that, “Hey we live in America and unless you’re the top 10%, you probably need a side hustle of some sorts to get by.” And it’s true, I wanted the YouTube ad revenue to help with student loan payments. But taking on more responsibility when you’re not standing on solid ground and already feeling down in life is a recipe for disaster. I didn’t listen to myself though. I just thought that I had to hustle my way through and keep plowing along and then maybe I will start to feel good.

Moving Forward

Starting in 2019, I decided to change my life a bit. This wasn’t overnight, and it came after a very disastrous December 2018 which I don’t feel comfortable going into detail here. But I knew it was time to drop the toxic material in my life and focus on new things. I decided to nurture more relationships outside of my immediate circle of friends, to travel to more places, join new sports, and even go out more. I took my first solo flight in 2019, tried out new sports such as Muay Thai and Ultimate Frisbee, went to my first EDM festival and even took my first trip to Europe.

Me in london

Me in london

I also started dating a new guy and we’ve been together to this present day. Most importantly, I made the hard decision to drop many of my side projects because they weren’t serving me in a healthy way. When it came to YouTube though, I was still unsure how I felt. So in the spirit of change, I decided to drop it and see what happens. Sure, I was worried that the ad revenue would stop coming in. But then again, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if it did. I was worried that people would look at me and think, “So what does he have to show? Why is he even wasting space on this planet. He’s a nobody.” But after lots of therapy, I realized that this fear is another form of my anxiety that is obsessed with how other people view me and think of me. In reality, nobody is thinking any of that. And if they are, then they can go fuck themselves because that’s their own negative self-judgement. Amazingly, all of the bad things that I thought would happen if I stopped YouTube didn’t actually happen.

I just needed to give myself permission to quit. It’s hard though. We are in a society that doesn’t promote quitting. We promote sticking it out until you’re practically bleeding from the inside. Quitting is seen as bad, as being a failure; not being successful.

I also needed to realize that sometimes the most fulfilling things aren’t always the most pleasurable things. There was a certain level of fulfillment I achieved when operating my YouTube business. The entrepreneurial fulfillment of being independent and in charge of something. I missed that, a lot. But it wasn’t easy and sure wasn’t pleasurable.

I also realized YouTube shouldn’t be the only thing I do in life. During the second half of 2018, while I was feeling this hopeless sense of despair, I should’ve worked towards building actually fun hobbies and interests with new people. I shouldn’t have relied on the same old things I’ve done in the past. I should’ve recognized that I needed a break, and just to let go. Instead, I convinced myself that YouTube is fun and I should be doing this after work everyday. No wonder my weekdays were filled with 12 hours of misery.

And most importantly, it’s okay to let something go if it’s not working. I know, it’s hard to balance the desire to make money and not be poor on the street with the fantasy of “doing what you love.” I still struggle a lot with it. But when it comes to something like YouTube, I’ve got to be clear on why I’m doing it and how it’s helping me. But I also got to be clear that YouTube is like any other relationship in life. If it’s no longer working, break it off.

And look, I wish I could say that I have things all figured out right now. Truthfully, it’s always going to be an up and down situation. I was doing well until the 2020 pandemic came along and disorganized a lot of the emotional work I have been doing. Since then, I have been constantly learning, changing and growing in all aspects of my life. Just two weeks ago, I discovered something new about myself which I didn’t know before.

So while I can’t guarantee that things will work out with YouTube, or that I won’t come back here in three months and announce I’m leaving again, I know it’s the thing that I want to do right now. Most importantly, I have a plan to incorporate it within a healthy amount in my life, and to always make the top priority the pursuit of new interests and opportunities.

Oh and anxiety can go fuck itself, because that stuff can hold you back in major ways.