The Abusive Relationships of Productivity YouTubers

The Abusive Relationships of Productivity YouTubers


In this episode, we discuss one of Taimur's new fledgling theories about the nefarious parasocial relationships that exist between 'productivity' content creators and their audience.

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In this episode, we discuss one of Taimur's new fledgling theories about the nefarious parasocial relationships that exist between 'productivity' content creators and their audience. We try and figure out other areas in which this applies, and explore why Ali felt the need to unfollow the various Instagram models he'd been previously enamoured with.

Here are some of the highlights from our discussion:

Parasocial relationships are one-sided relationships where one person extends emotional energy, interest and time even though the other person, usually a famous personality or persona, is completely unaware of this. Parasocial cliques used to form around celebrities but it’s now gone mainstream. In terms of YouTube, it can be reconstructed as the relationship that fans perceive they have with the creators that they follow. Some people argue that this produces an unhealthy dynamic within society as these one-sided relationships produce a certain level of false kinship.

Productivity content industry reinforces the ‘I’m not ok, you’re ok’ instincts that form an underlying part of our character and motives. A noticeable number of the comments on these videos are a variant on the ‘oh my god, he’s so productive, I’m so unproductive’ which is a variant of the ‘I’m not ok, you’re ok’. Taimur argues that instead of just taking away the productivity related tips, viewers get some sort of kick out of seeing someone so far ahead of them in this particular sphere and that seemingly has their life together. We discussed the concept of ‘I’m not ok, you’re ok’ in our episodes on transactional analysis which can be found here, here and here.

In one of Eric Weinstein’s podcasts, he describes the emergence of ‘abusive relationships’ between admired figures and their respective audiences drawing upon the analogy of popular physicists. He argues that their whole schtick is to say things that are mind blowing so that other people can react in the way of ‘Whoa, that’s incredible and that guy is so smart’. This combination of the positive aspect relating to the mind blowing fact combined with the implied negative sentiment of ‘I couldn’t possibly fathom it’ keeps people stuck in a loop returning to consume more.

Taimur argues that this analogy of ‘abusive relationship’ can be transposed onto the productivity related realm of online content. Consumers of this content can get both the positive of seeing how productive they could be but equally the negative of feeling that they could never get to the level of the producer/online content creator. This is particularly pernicious and nefarious in terms of its impacts because of the societal narrative around self-worth and its relationship to economic productivity.

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What is this? Not Overthinking is a podcast about happiness, creativity, and the human condition. We talk about things to help us think, do, and be better. Things like social interaction, lifestyle design, mental models...things that are hard to examine, but important to explore. And hopefully, things that make for a fun and interesting chat every week.

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Who are we?

Ali is a junior doctor and YouTuber working in Cambridge, UK. He makes videos about medicine, technology, productivity and lifestyle design. His links: YouTube, Blog, Newsletter, Instagram

Taimur is a data scientist and writer, working on his own startup Causal. He writes on his blog and as a columnist for Medium. His links: Blog, Twitter, Medium, Instagram

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