How Youtube's Study Community Helped Me Get Through Academic Burnout

Student Life

We have all been there at some point in our academic journeys- feeling the symptoms of burnout as the arrival of the exam season draws nearer. The symptoms of burnout are feeling helpless, increasingly negative outlooks on life, and a lack of motivation. Those are also the common factors that trips me into procrastinating on revision. However, aside from regular self-care, I have found other ways to ensure that I am able to recover fast.

Study vlogs

My first introduction to YouTube’s study community was when my friend suggested I watch ’love, Nika's channel. Curious, I searched the channel and began watching. Her editing style for her videos instantly got me hooked. She used a distinctive color palette that was at once visually aesthetic but calming at the same time. The background music, the scenes, and the slow pace of her vlogs also added to the atmosphere of calmness. I am aware that her videos are not an accurate portrayal of her in real life, but they are well edited and created. Her vlogs also provide an opportunity for me to view studying in a more positive light. Of course, when I started watching her videos, YouTube also recommended similar videos. Aside from vlogs, some YouTubers who create study vlogs (also called studytubers) also create videos on organization strategies or how to study better. Examples of studytubers who create this content include ‘studyquill’ and ‘spudstudy’. Their tips on how to revise better help me greatly in planning my revision for end-of-year exams. Organizing my study materials was also a useful aid. By watching vlogs and other study videos during my breaks, I was able to keep up my motivation.

The appeal of 'study with me' videos

Other than study vlogs, I also find ‘study with me’ videos intriguing. I rarely use ‘study with me’ videos, but I can see where the appeal comes from. I dislike the strong glare of my computer and I sometimes video call my friends to study together. For peers who prefer to study alone, ‘study with me’ vlogs can create that same sense of accountability as studying with friends does. It can also create a sense of companionship to make studying feel more fun. Many studytubers who make ‘study with me’ vlogs add background music and have beautiful desk setups. They may edit their videos to create a soothing ambience. The viewer may thus feel less agitated while studying. All these make studying a much more enjoyable experience, which also provides me with a good reason to reduce my procrastination. Some great studytubers who create ‘study with me’ videos are café.studyy and Merve.

YouTube's lo-fi radio streams

I often study with music, but I use softer music that stays in the background. Many people use lo-fi for work or for leisure listening, but many students also use it. Even the illustrations of some of the lo-fi streams on YouTube even portray people studying. I find YouTube’s many lo-fi radios a great provider of these type of music. Some radios are Lofi Girl’s (originally Chilled Cow before the rebranding) and Chillhop Music’s which features a racoon. Lofi music generally has a nostalgic and gentle tone. However, it also serves as background music. The music does not interfere with my focus unlike other genres of music like pop music. Although lo-fi is relaxing, it does not cause me to feel sleepy. In addition, its fuzzy effects can feel like a cocooning wrap, sustaining my focus but also keeping my stress levels down. I mostly listen to it on Spotify but I occasionally use the YouTube streams as well. The streams have well illustrated graphics which add to the ambience that I want to create while studying. Some lo-fi YouTube streams also come with live chats. I enjoy watching the conversations on the live chat during my study breaks. Occasionally, I may join in the chat. Sometimes, students may share which subjects they are studying or the problems they are facing. It is interesting to meet people from all over the world. Nevertheless, there are spammers and cyberbullies who also use live chat for malicious purposes. As much as I find the live chat interesting, I am mindful of safety as well.

Study Vlogs can cause procrastination too

On the flip side, there are also harmful side effects of study videos on YouTube that I watch out to avoid. For example, despite the fact that the purpose of study vlogs is to help improve productivity, study vlogs can also decrease productivity. I sometimes get on my phone to watch them, but am tempted to keep watching though break time is already up. I may find myself going down a whole rabbit hole of study videos on occasion, using the excuse of having to find more videos to avoid beginning studying. Study vlogs lose their benefits when they become an addictive habit. To counteract this, I make sure I follow the timer for study breaks strictly. When the timer is up, I put my phone out of sight to avoid scrolling. I also have set times to start studying instead of simply starting whenever I feel like it.

Toxic productivity in the online study community

Toxic productivity is also a major issue of the online study community. Some studytubers may claim to study seven hours or more per day. Viewers may feel that they are not working hard enough and push themselves to their limits. Too much studying can turn into toxic productivity. According to Real Simple, toxic productivity occurs ' when an individual has an unhealthy obsession with being productive and constantly on the go’. It can lead to serious problems like burnout and imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is perceived fraudulence. Sufferers may be unable to feel satisfied despite having a long list of accomplishments as they attribute their success to external factors, or simply feel that they are not good enough. Furthermore, imposter syndrome may lead to the unhealthy practice of measuring self-worth in terms of achievements. This may cause low self-esteem, which eventually also gives rise to more problems, and sometimes even mental disorders like anxiety or depression. Besides problems like burnout or imposter syndrome, toxic productivity can also cause a person to be overworked. When people prioritize work over their lives, they may become more distant from their families and friends. They may stop carrying out essential activities like taking meals or resting. All these factors are ideal breeding grounds for mental disorders. Overworking can be a sign of high-functioning depression as well when sufferers cover up their negative emotions by channeling all their energy into work. One good way to solve this issue is to set clear boundaries for work: determine a maximum number of tasks each day, and plan work around self-care. By using these measures, I can be certain that I am working at optimal productivity and not past the point of exhaustion.

Conclusion

I think that the online study community can have a generally positive impact on me and other students. Many of my friends also use study videos as motivation to keep going. Regardless, I am also aware of the potential pitfalls that the online study community can bring. Most good things also have a bad side to them, and toxic productivity is one of the adverse effects of the online study community. When using study videos, I try as much as I can to balance out their negative impacts, so that they can bring me the most benefits.

Kang Liew Bei

Liew Bei is a poet and writer from Singapore. She is 15 and studying in a secondary school. She enjoys reading, writing and painting in her free time. In school, she is keen on studying math at higher levels.