By Sammy Jaye
Renowned content creator Tyler Oakley has been posting videos on the internet since 2007. He started in his college dorm room at 18 years old talking about the weather and over the years, he has built a captivating community with millions of followers.
Tyler posted videos on YouTube every Tuesday for over 13 years, but at the end of 2020 he announced to his almost 7 million followers that he would take a break from posting on YouTube. Though it has been a year and a half and Tyler still hasn’t come back to the platform, he has found a new community on Twitch.
The 247: Through the years, what has the process been like for you finding your own voice and figuring out who you are, while having an audience of millions of people?
Tyler: “It can be kind of intimidating…I very much am influenced by what I watch or the conversation that happens live on social media with the audience. So much of the process of finding my voice has been interwoven with finding who I am as a content creator and consciously or not impacted by…what kind of topics people gravitate toward that really pop off in like the comments or get people engaged. That can impact what you create and what you create can impact how you view who you are.”
Back in the day on YouTube, in your first published video, “Raindrops,” you had a brief but really honest conversation with your followers about a day that it rained on campus. When you see this video now, what comes up for you? How do you recall those early days?
Tyler: “Baby, a baby. I was 18. I'm 33 now. I had no clue what my life was gonna become, what life was, what college was gonna be, what YouTube might have become. There was no full-time content creator, there was no such thing as an influencer economy…I had no clue what any of that was about to become. At the time, I had just started making some videos to keep in touch with friends from high school. One thing led to another and I just started talking to the camera about my everyday experiences… thinking, okay, well maybe I have something to share or say, and then I didn't even realize that it could be used as a form of connection, but yeah, I had no clue what was coming.”
In December of 2020, you took a break from your weekly YouTube uploads. What has this time away from YouTube been like?
Tyler: “It has been so wonderful. I'm not gonna lie to you. It has been a moment to take a step back. I had never taken any significant time off that I can think of and that's a long time to not take time off. Even if you love what you do, you can burn out. I found that so much of what fueled my best stuff on the internet was when I went out and lived my best life in real life. If every content creator could learn this, it would help so much because the algorithm tells you to make, make, make, make, make, make, and if you don't make, somebody else is gonna fill your spot,...but that's not how humans work…It's not realistic. It's setting yourself up for disappointment and failure and it's not, it's not healthy.”
What would you say the biggest thing you've learned about yourself on this break has been so far?
Tyler: “I think my biggest lesson was and continues to be that content creation for me is not about the content and that it is about the community and creating a safe space to create.”
While you haven’t come back to YouTube yet, you seem to have found a new home on Twitch. What do you like most about that platform?
Tyler: “What I've found in my new journey with Twitch is a vibrant, incredible, inclusive, kind, hilarious space, focused on chaos for good, that is our goal…I feel like I’m at the perfect intersection of doing what I want to do, doing something that I think does good in the world and doing something that can be a distraction from all the bad in the world…I think I was so stuck in continuing to output that I never allowed myself a break to evolve.”
Something that is interesting to me is that so many of the original OGs of YouTube have left the platform. What do you think the reason is for that?
Tyler: “Oh God, I don't know. I have no clue. I will always have a connection to YouTube. I don't know if I will always be a YouTuber...I think a lot of creators start to realize that they are not the platform they are on. They are the essence of who they are and they can bring that anywhere in the world or anywhere on the internet. And so it's not necessarily a mass exodus from one platform to another, it's an opening of people's minds that maybe there is a place that is more aligned with how they create.”
And my last question for you, is there any chance you're gonna be posting YouTube videos anytime soon?
Tyler: “Um, honestly, yes…the last time I made a YouTube video, I didn't have my dogs or I didn't have Twitch. My life is different now. And I think it's something that I would be excited to make a video and share with the people who may have grown up with me or watched me grow up. It's like, why wouldn't I want to check in with the people who made so many of my dreams come true who might care to know what I'm up to?”
You've always stayed authentic to yourself and who you are and your beliefs. And it is really inspiring cuz a lot of people don't do that. So thank you for just staying your true self.
Tyler: “You are too. You are too sweet. Thank you for everything. Thank you for the interview. Thank you for caring".
“It is like whatever energy and vibe you want to create as a creator on Twitch. It's like, if you can imagine it, your channel can be that. And it's allowed my creativity to think outside of my own box.”