YouTube sensation and popular digital influencer Lilly Singh, better known by her username ‘Superwoman,’ announced in a video released November 12th that she will be taking a break from the video-sharing platform to focus on her mental health, creative motivation and inspiration and her many off-platform endeavours.
With a collective 17.2 million subscribers across her main and vlog channels gathering a monthly average of 59-million views, Singh is among the platform’s highest earners. The 30-year-old personality began posting to her channel back in 2010, with most of her subject matter being about her Indian upbringing and ethnic background. However, she soon expanded her content and in 2017 earned $10.5 million, making her one of the highest paid YouTubers in the world, according to Forbes Magazine.
On the platform for eight years, Singh is no stranger to online superstardom: “I have been doing YouTube consistently for eight years. For eight years, I have been putting out videos, and for a lot of those years, I’ve been doing it twice a week, plus daily vlogs. I’ve enjoyed it, I love it, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it has been a lot.”
In her video Singh admits to not feeling mentally healthy, noting that she is unable to confront these issues while she is, “constantly pumping out content.” However, she was adamant that she would much rather fight for her happiness than for relevance.
A significant source of her struggle is the content itself, “I haven’t been super happy with a lot of the content I’ve created…The thing about YouTube is that, in all of its glory, it kind of is a machine, and it makes creators believe that we have to pump out content consistently even at the cost of our life and our mental health and our happiness, because if you don’t, then you’ll become irrelevant.”
Singh is not the first creator to talk about this sense of immense pressure. Other influencers on YouTube, including big names such as Grace Helbig and Alisha Marie, have also decided to take a temporary step back from the platform and internet limelight to re-evaluate.
Over the summer the Toronto native expressed dismay about the difficulty of satisfying YouTube audiences who only ever seem to want more and, in her video, she states that creators should not measure the quality of their material merely by how many views it garners. “That’s why I need to take a little bit of a break to truly re-evaluate what I define my success as, and what I want my legacy to be,” she said. “Because right now it’s not something that I’m proud of.”
Though she is unsure of how long her break will last, Singh does plan on focusing on her non-YouTube-related undertakings – which are abundant. “I’m not making any rules. This might be a one week break. This might be a one month break – I have no idea.”
In the past year, she has jump-started her own production studio, Unicorn Island Productions, and headed the United Nations’ Social Good Summit (where she holds the position as the first-ever Goodwill Ambassador to UNICEF to emerge from the digital space). She also acted in HBO’s Fahrenheit 451, walked a New York Fashion Week runway and was named a number one New York Times bestselling author. And these are just a few of the many outside projects in which she has participated.
In her video, Singh admitted to feeling anxious and afraid of taking a break, for the same reason many other digital influencers fear – that their audience will find someone else to watch and that their view and subscriber numbers will drop and cause YouTube’s notoriously unpredictable algorithm to work against them. However, social media indicates that Singh’s fans are very supportive of her decision to take a break.
With the profusion of “digital celebrities”, anyone with a camera and wifi connection has the potential to become the next big internet sensation, but what is often not considered is the immense pressure placed on celebrities to continually create content that will keep audiences interested, loyal and hungry for more, video after video.
Kudos to Lilly Singh for coming to her own rescue and being her own Superwoman. She is helping to create an awareness that influencers are real people with feelings, goals, and struggles, and reminding us all that it is perfectly acceptable (and healthy) to take time to recharge and re-evaluate what truly makes us happy.