Young People are more Likely to be YouTubers than Astronauts, a Survey Shows 2022
Global Influencer Market Worth $13.8 Billion in 2021
A 2019 survey found that kids would rather be YouTubers than astronauts. It made headlines and sparked a lot of complaints about “kids now”. But unsurprisingly, young people (as many as 1.3 million in the UK) are looking to earn money by creating content on social networks.
The global influencer market is estimated to be worth $13.8 billion by 2021. Individual influencers such as Zoella and Delicious Ella are worth around £4.7 million and £2.5 million respectively. About 300,000 18- to 26-year-olds rely on content creation as their sole source of income.
“The lifestyles we see on social media are appealing, but affect viable career paths? Unstable income, wage inequality based on gender, race, and disability, and mental health issues hide beneath the glossy veneer. Content creators, I’m noticing these effects, and young people who want to be influencers YouTubers should be aware of it,” researcher Nina Wilmont said in the talk.
A successful influencer will be the first to claim that anyone can be successful in this industry. Love Island contestant-turned-influencer Molly Mae Hague has been criticized for saying that everyone “has the same 24 hours in a day” when, in reality, very few people are financially “successful” to be an influencer By.
Social media economist Brooke Erin Duffy finds jobs for fashion bloggers, bloggers, YouTubers, and designers. In her book (Not) Getting Paid to Do What You Love, she reveals the huge gap between those who find influential money-making jobs and everyone else. For most people trying to become influencers, their passionate content creation projects often become free jobs for corporate branding.
Young People are more likely to be YouTubers than Astronauts
In a report published in April 2022, the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee (DCMS) identified the pay gap as a major issue in the influencer industry. There are wage gaps based on gender, race, and disability. The DCMS report cites a 2020 study by global PR firm MSL Group that found a 35% racial pay gap between white and black influencers.
Adesuwa Ajayi, the senior talent and partner at AGM Talent, opened an Instagram account called Influencer Pay Gap to highlight these differences. The account provides a platform where YouTubers and influencers can anonymously share their experiences working with brands. In addition to racial disparities, the account also sheds light on the pay gap experienced by people with disabilities and LGBTQ influencers.
The DCMS report also noted a “general lack of employment support and protection”. Most influencers are self-employed, and they often experience income instability and a lack of protections that come with long-term work — such as the right to sick pay and time off.
In influential industries, the risks of self-employment are exacerbated by a lack of industry standards and a lack of transparency in compensation. Influencers are often forced to assess their worth and set fees for their work. As a result, content creators often underestimate the value of their creative work, and many end up working for free.
Influencers are also often at the mercy of algorithms — computer programs behind the scenes that decide which posts to show and where users rank. These platforms share few details about their algorithms, but they ultimately determine who and what gets visibility (and influence) on social media.
In her work with Instagram influencers, algorithm expert Kelly Cotter highlights how the pursuit of influence can become a “visual game.” The way influencers interact with the platform (and its algorithms) is that they hope to be rewarded for their presence. “In my research, I’ve found that influencers share increasingly intimate and personal moments in their lives, relentlessly posting messages to stay relevant,” adds Wilmont.
“The threat of disappearing has been a source of insecurity for influencers who have been under constant pressure to provide content to platforms. If they don’t, algorithms may ‘penalize’ them – posts are hidden or Shown at the bottom of the search results.”
Mental Health Crisis
A constant online presence can eventually lead to one of the most prevalent problems in the influencer industry: mental health issues. Influencers can connect to the platform’s workspace and audience at any time of the day or night — and for many, there’s no longer a clear line between work and life. Combined with the fear of losing sight, this can lead influencers to overwork and face mental health issues like fatigue.
Online visibility also puts content creators at risk of serious online abuse — both in terms of how they look and what they do (or don’t post), but also in negative perceptions of professional YouTubers’ influence. The potential for online abuse can lead to mental and physical health problems, including depression, anxiety, physical disfigurement, and eating disorders.
While being an influencer seems attractive to YouTubers to a growing number of people, the dark side of the industry needs to be exposed and improved through increased recruitment regulation and industry-led cultural change.
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