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‘StudyTube’ Productivity Obsession Threatens To Create ‘Jaded’ Students

Lucinda Dodd

‘StudyTube’ is the rapidly growing corner of YouTube where many of your peers are turning for advice from fellow fresh-faced teenagers and twentysomethings. On the outside, these creators appear to be benevolent, academically-inclined older siblings, guiding their audience members through their education.

However, beneath their perfectly crafted role model exterior, ‘StudyTubers’ are perpetuating pernicious ideas of obsessive productivity, including alarming content such as the ’15 Hour Study Day’ video – which could be devastating to students’ wellbeing.

StudyTube’s golden girl, ‘UnJaded Jade’, has amassed over half-a-million subscribers. Yet, in October, Jade Bowler uploaded a video titled, “*hustle culture is quaking*”, where she reveals her epiphany that there’s more to life than eternal studying.

The 15-minute video sees Jade confessing her regrets about overworking in the past. She explains how she wants to start leaving more time for seeing friends and cooking.

Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a 20-year-old questioning how much she wants to be a slave for capitalism, but there is when you’ve been promoting these destabilising notions of constant work to your impressionable audience. 

The self-proclaimed “biggest child of hustle culture” has fostered the approach which she’s now questioning

After years of immersing herself in ‘productivity’ culture, promoting and profiting from it too – with videos including “My 5am School Morning Routine” and “My Productive After School Routine” – Jade’s failure to see the flaws of ‘hustle culture’ and its dangers to personal wellbeing earlier mean she’s not only caused herself excess pain, but her subscribers too.

The self-proclaimed “biggest child of hustle culture” has fostered the approach which she’s now questioning. Hundreds of thousands of teenagers have become the collateral damage of Jade’s previously misguided content.

The least Jade could do at this point is renounce some of her former content, accepting that this lifestyle has taken its toll on both her and her subscribers’ wellbeing. But she doesn’t.

Instead, she paints herself as the victim of it.  Jade’s self-revelations highlight a bigger issue in her community and our society: productivity at all costs. Jade’s earlier content is still up, ready to send a new wave of 16-year-olds into overdrive. They too could become as ‘jaded’ as she now seems.

UnJaded Jade’s fellow StudyTuber, Ruby Granger, ends her videos with “Have a productive week”. Although this could seem like a cute, innocent and inspiring slogan, it’s the complete opposite.

Where YouTube used to be a place young people would go to unwind, they’re now instead met with content which subliminally guilts them into questioning whether they should be taking a break (hint: you should). A few hours of watching Ruby could leave you wondering if you have any value when not working.

The effects of this could be devastating: putting people off pursuing education and frightening current A Level students

On top of her ’15 Hour Study Day’ videos, Ruby’s “Christmas Day Study with Me” series also presents a seriously damaging idea that we should abhor having time off.

The yearly tradition – which she started whilst taking her A Levels – presents a scary suggestion to young people embarking on their A Levels as to the amount of work they’ll need to do. The effects of this could be devastating: putting people off pursuing education and frightening current A Level students.

An even more disturbing side of StudyTube is Jack Edwards’ channel. Amongst the revision videos are vlogs such as, “I Burned Myself Out and This Is What I am Doing About It” where he details how he’s essentially been too productive (can you believe it?) and decides that to combat his long-term burnout, he’ll take a day off – after a three-hour stint at the library, of course! (Note: please never measure ‘productivity’ in hours.)

Earlier this year, Jack uploaded a video titled, “I Wrote My Final Year Dissertation in the Week Before the Deadline” where he frantically finished his dissertation only minutes before his deadline.

Devout viewers of Jack will recognise a consistent pattern he appears to go through: overworking himself, meltdown, repeat. My question to Jack is: How can you continue to promote a lifestyle which is failing you?

Ironically, Jack sells his own study planners, described as: “designed to help boost productivity [and] keep track of deadlines”. Additionally, he’s written his own book of advice for university students.

Yes, for £9.99 you too could finish your dissertation 5 minutes before the deadline! Ruby also has her own brand, “Pumpkin Productivity”, which sells a competing planner. These planners allow you to feel as productive as your favourite StudyTubers, with to-do lists which you can fill out and ways to track your water intake. 

The rejections by Oxford of these paragons of studying virtues serve as further proof that this incessant grind is counterproductive

Jade, too, found a way to physically sell the idea of productivity, making merchandise such as the “AM/PM” collection – jumpers which you can use to study in at all hours of the day. It’s evident there’s a more sinister, money-driven side to these YouTubers who market themselves as your friend. 

Jade, Ruby and Jack are all signed by the talent agency ‘Sixteenth’ whose website insists they “manage creators who are a good influence”. Considering the similarities between the three StudyTubers, it makes you wonder if they’re being forced to keep up this ‘productive’, ‘perfect’ exterior. 

It’s unsettling to see young people, who are victims of ‘hustle culture’, champion it. Jade, Ruby and Jack are all Oxford rejects and it’s evident this has caused them all long-term trauma.

For Ruby, it prompted her to change university course for a year. Jade decided to exit UK education, now attending experimental university Minerva. And for Jack, it means next year he’ll be applying to Oxford for the third time. 

The rejections by Oxford of these paragons of studying virtues serve as further proof that this incessant grind is counterproductive. 

There’s no denying that StudyTubers themselves are victims of the UK schooling system, which prides results and tangible success above everything.

StudyTubers are living proof that this non-stop productivity culture is neither healthy nor sustainable

It is sad that despite only being in their early 20s, StudyTubers have already bought into the ideology that success only comes from commercial gains. However, any sympathy for them diminishes when they profit from the very ideologies which have caused them trauma. 

StudyTube’s values beg a bigger question: what truly counts as productivity and why do they regard it so highly? Much StudyTube ‘productivity’ entails ticking tasks off of a self-created to do list.

It appears to be more about feeling productive as opposed to truly being productive. StudyTubers are living proof that this non-stop productivity culture is neither healthy nor sustainable.

StudyTubers can be an asset to students, but their harmful ideas on productivity and failure to address their contradictions, undermine any value they offer.

Lucinda Dodd

Featured image courtesy of  JESHOOTS.COM via Unsplash. Image license found hereNo changes were made to this image. 

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One Comment
  • Anonymous
    11 November 2020 at 22:01
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    Would appreciate this article if it weren’t so one-sided.

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