Here's the Thing

Why I’m Leaving YouTube

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #134. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.


Here’s the Thing is where Rob dumps his random thoughts and strong opinions on all manner of nerdy subjects – from videogames and movies to board games and toys.


It was a random, seemingly inconsequential moment on Twitter a little over five years ago that resulted in me getting back into Transformers toy collecting after more than a decade away. Someone asked “What’s your favorite action figure?” and after some thought I went and got my Alternators Grimlock out of my closet to snap a few photos. Which lead to me looking up YouTube videos on how to transform the thing because, if you’re at all familiar with Alternators Grimlock, you know how tough it is to remember what to do with those fucking arms when you haven’t touched the thing in several years. Anyway the process of finding one toy video on YouTube lead to finding another. And another. And before long I was subscribed to several toy channels and watching video reviews daily – to the point where I decided to try making toy videos myself.

After almost five years I’ve uploaded hundreds of videos, developed a small but pleasant community, branched out into doing custom paint work and have even been told by more than a few people that some of my videos were a big help to them when they had figures with problematic joints or missing parts. It’s a fantastic feeling and I love being able to have a sort of sub-hobby for my hobby. But here’s the thing: pretty much every step of the way, YouTube has been actively trying to make my – and many other small channels’ – experience as miserable as possible. I’ve finally had enough.

[pullquote]I’m just so, so tired of having to go through the bi-annual ritual of trying to decide if I really want to stick around every time they try to “fix” something.[/pullquote]

YouTube being shit (especially to channels that are run by anyone other than cis white guys with extremist views and tedious opinions about Star Wars) isn’t a revelation or anything, but their most recent fuck-up, which I’ll get into shortly, has made me realize that there’s always going to be something. And I’m just so, so tired of having to go through the bi-annual ritual of trying to decide if I really want to stick around every time they try to “fix” something.

Okay, so, the recent thing. Right. Some of you may remember (but it’s okay if you don’t because it was like 30 years ago, back in 2018) that in order to teach one of their biggest and shittest channels a lesson about why it’s wrong to film and upload a dead body found in Japan’s Aokigahara forest, YouTube decided to change the requirements for a channel to be monetized and thus make it more difficult for small channels to earn any kind of money. Makes perfect sense, right? Anyway they did that ridiculous thing about two years ago and then, just this past month, updated their Terms of Service with this little gem (this is a direct quote by the way): “YouTube has the right to monetize all content on the platform and ads may appear on videos from channels not in the YouTube Partner Program.” In other words they can still monetize and profit from popular videos belonging to channels that aren’t able to do so themselves. They are actively stealing money from creators that they prevented from earning money in the first place.

[pullquote]YouTube is awful and the people who make its policies are awful. So fuck ‘em.[/pullquote]

Whether or not this atrocity affects my own channel, I’m still not sure. I’ve been able to monetize for a while now, even though my ability to do so was ripped away because of that 2018 bullshit. I ended up hitting their absurd goals anyway, but I made the conscious choice to avoid monetization because 1) ads are annoying and 2) I don’t want to earn those assholes any extra money if I can avoid it. It’s tough not to imagine YouTube deciding to slap ads on some of my videos in the future without so much as a heads-up, or with an option to say no to it. So I’m calling it quits.

Not because I’m so opposed to having my videos monetized against my will (though I am opposed to it) and not necessarily as a way of protesting this disgusting mistreatment and straight-up robbery of small channels (though that is a factor), but because I can’t trust the platform any longer. I can’t trust YouTube not to do something shitty and awful again in another few months. I can’t trust them to do anything about the extremely awful channels that continue to foster bigotry and dangerous conspiracy theories – to say nothing of the channels that depict animal cruelty for clicks (please don’t look it up). I can’t trust them to ever do right by marginalized creators, in any capacity.

I’m just so fucking tired of it all. To the point that even though it means saying goodbye to a five year long passion project and leaving a handful of nice fellow toy nerds behind, I’m walking away. It’s going to happen sooner or later, because YouTube is never going to get better, so I’d rather it be now because it’s only going to get more difficult with time.

I don’t have anything clever to add as a closing argument or statement or whatever. YouTube is awful and the people who make its policies are awful. So fuck ‘em.


Rob Rich has loved videogames since the 80s and has the good fortune to be able to write about them. Catch his rants on Twitter at @RobsteinOne.

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