YouTube is an essential part of many lives. It provides escapism, entertainment, and finally taught me how to change the batteries in my smoke detector finally. But YouTube isn’t always so wholesome and pleasant. With the rising prevalence of drama channels like KeemStar and DramaAlert, people are clamoring over each other to spill the latest tea. Why do we subject ourselves to this torture? Why does it feel so good? 

I’ve been obsessed with YouTube for over 10 years and watched an embarrassing amount of content. I’m qualified to write from the position of a concerned fan because I’ve become emotionally invested in Internet personalities. I’ve been equally crushed when I discovered that the persona that I see isn’t the genuine person behind the camera.  

Conflict and drama have always been mainstays in human culture, from Shakespeare to radio talk shows. However, YouTube is drama tailored to a modern era. Social media allows immediate access to other people’s lives. This can be great for keeping up with family or friends on Facebook.

Unfortunately, there’s a darker side. The immediacy of social media allows us to obsess and find drama wherever we look for it. More often than not, participating in that drama ruins the lives of others and makes us less popular ourselves.

Why Does Drama Feel Good? 

Popularity Explained reminds us that Liking is Not Wanting (Rule 4). Just because we like to watch drama unfold (and even participate in it) does not mean that we are attracted to drama or wish to be part of it ourselves. 

According to Psych Central, letting drama consume our lives puts us in a constant crisis mode. Participating in drama leads to increased anxiety, difficulty with interpersonal relationships, and alienates people who could be our friends.

Even though we like watching the drama go down, we don’t want to attract more of it. Maybe we’re bored, angry, or just want to be on the winning side. Whatever reason we choose to view and participate in Internet drama, it harms us more than we realize.

People who love drama get caught in a pessimistic cycle of looking for negative traits to complain about, seeking emotional upheaval, and getting upset when others don’t side with them. This attention-seeking cycle is stressful and exhausting. With online drama, the thrill of being right keeps the cycle going, but eventually, people burn-out when surrounded by constant negativity.

Continually looking for negativity and criticizing others is not a trait that creates popularity. We may like the attention for a while, but participating in drama never gives us what we really want.

Participating in Drama Hurts More than it Helps

Recently, there was a big scandal between James Charles and his mentor Tati. Both are beauty and lifestyle YouTubers with large followings. When Tati publicly accused James of taking advantage of their friendship and using his popularity to coerce people, the drama extended far beyond the YouTube beauty community.

People on Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook were all choosing sides and making offensive jokes about each YouTuber. People were absorbed in the drama. Even people who had never seen either YouTuber before participated!

Tati later apologized to James Charles, James proved many of the allegations were false, and he was able to mostly clear his name. Almost. The damage from the drama lost James thousands of subscribers and associated him with negativity. This online drama had a real impact on his career and friendships.

YouTubers blur the line between “untouchable celebrity” and “friend”. Part of the job is interacting with fans, showing vulnerability, and breaking the fourth wall. This allows fans to develop strong, one-sided, and arguably unhealthy relationships with Internet personalities. It also encourages fans to take up arms whenever their favorite character is caught in a public argument.

When we build up people in our minds, then watch them crash and burn, the resulting emotional turmoil is both invigorating and devastating. Many of us think, “We can’t put out the fire, so we might as well enjoy watching it burn.” We fail to remember that adding fuel to the fire burns others and ultimately burns ourselves.

Fortunately, Lessons can Be Learned

Participating in drama online sets a bad precedent for real life. If we get in the habit of attacking people online, it’s easy to let that bleed into our everyday interactions at home, school, or work.

It’s possible to be popular, liked, AND wanted without involving ourselves in drama. Popularity Explained reminds us of this in Rule 6: Liking Is About How You Treat Others. As we’ve seen, drama may be likable to us, but it doesn’t mean we will receive the Special Attention that leads to popularity. When we treat others with respect and integrity, then others will naturally be drawn to us! It’s a simple formula.

Entrepreneur lists a few personality traits that are found in well-liked and highly successful people. Let’s break down those traits and see why it’s more socially profitable to avoid drama. 

  • Authenticity
    Well-liked people are real. They don’t hide behind a mask or pretend to be someone they’re not. They don’t feel a need to manipulate others, lie, or be negative. They’re comfortable with themselves and happy to show others their true self.

    Inauthentic people are people-pleasers. They try to get what they want by pretending and lying about who they are. They’re also more susceptible to peer pressure. If someone is gossiping around you, and you know it’s wrong, an inauthentic person is more likely to participate and hurt others.

  • Confidence
    To be authentic, you have to be confident. Building self-esteem takes a while, but it’s absolutely worth it! A confident person is not rude or arrogant. Instead, a confident person knows what they like, takes pride in the work they do, and takes responsibility for mistakes.

    People who lack self-esteem have trouble meeting new people and developing relationships. They may lack self-responsibility and blame others for their mistakes. Blaming others for your mistakes is the wrong road to go down. A reputation for disloyalty and negativity never leads to popularity.

  • Respect
    Everyone knows how upsetting it is when they’re disrespected. People are attracted to someone respectful. Respectful people care about their own boundaries and respect the boundaries of others. They don’t try to make anyone uncomfortable or the punchline of a joke. Trying to be respectful to everyone invites love into our lives instead of a constant stream of negativity.

    Disrespectful people don’t respect themselves or others. It’s important to draw boundaries with what we’re comfortable with. If we don’t, then people can take advantage of us. It’s also essential to respect other people’s boundaries and never do something that would betray or harm another person.

These three traits are all interwoven. You need to respect yourself to have confidence, and you need to have confidence to be authentic. It may seem hard to work on these things when playing into drama is so much easier. I’m here to tell you: it’s not hard to be a more likable person!

Kick the Drama Habit to the Curb

Here are a few tips for building authenticity, confidence, and respect in your life.

  • Find a club or group that participates in your hobby. It doesn’t matter if you like hiking, knitting, or Dungeons and Dragons. Finding people who share your interests will help build self-confidence and allow you to take pride in your authentic self.
  • Never participate in gossip. Let me repeat that because it’s so essential: NEVER join in on gossiping. Gossiping is disrespectful and doesn’t encourage people to respect you. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, never say it behind their back.
  • Try to list three things you’re grateful for every day. You can write it down or say it out loud, but you should do this every day. Gratitude reminds us that we respect people around us and encourages a positive mindset. The list doesn’t have to be long or complicated. For example, today I’m grateful for my cat, the delicious lunch I ate, and the desk I’m sitting at.

An article from Science Alert reported on a University of Texas study that analyzes drama-prone individuals. The article points out that, “’High drama’ individuals tend to have long histories of failed relationships, search out conflict in the workplace and on social media, and not only engage in gossip about others – they complain about being the subject of gossip themselves.”

By focusing on being respectful, authentic, and confident, we can push drama out of our lives and strive to be better people. Saying goodbye to the drama will make you more confident, positive, and lead to better relationships. After all, negativity can only attract more negativity. A vital step to popularity is making sure we’re popular for the right reasons. A positive outlook is a great place to start. 

At the end of the day, drama is always going to surround us. However, by keeping our wits about us and a positive mindset, we can avoid stressful, damaging drama. If we put positivity into the world through authenticity, healthy confidence, and respect, then we will become popular with others and attract great relationships. Isn’t that better than sending a few mean tweets?