December 1, 2023

When a new generation of young stars began building audiences on TikTok in late 2019 and early 2020, many hoped it would be different this time around. They grew up watching YouTubers speak openly about these topics. “When it comes to Generation Z creators, we talk so much about mental health and self-care,” said Courtney Nwokedi, 23, a YouTube star in Los Angeles. “We’ve seen a number of YouTubers talk about burnout in the past.”

Even so, they weren’t prepared for the grueling job of building, entertaining, and monetizing audiences during a pandemic. “It’s exhausting,” said Jose Damas, 22, a TikTok inventor in Los Angeles. “It feels like the day doesn’t have enough hours.”

“TikTok is as sophisticated as YouTube,” said Gohar Khan, 22, a TikTok creator in Seymour, Conn.

Thanks to the app’s algorithmically generated “For You” page, TikTok delivers fame faster than any other platform; It is possible to garner millions of followers within a few weeks. But as fast as creators rise, they can fall.

“It almost feels like I’m getting a taste of fame, but it’s never consistent and once you get it it’s gone and you keep trying to get it back,” said Lauren Stasyna, 22, a TikTok inventor in Toronto. “It feels like I’m trying to beat that prize, but I don’t even know what the prize is.”

The volatility can rattle. “If your views are bad, it will affect your financial stability and put your career at risk,” said Luis Capecchi, a 23-year-old TikTok inventor in Los Angeles. “It’s like being demoted to a job without warning.”

YouTubers face all sorts of problems, including bullying, harassment, and discrimination. “Some creators also get their content stolen so that someone else can viral their content and then get all of the press,” said Harris. Not to mention, fan bases and internet commentators can be malicious. “You can’t just film what you want to film,” said Harris. “They’ll make fun of you when your minds go down.”