The Sad Truth About Mr Beast

By Leo Gura - March 17, 2024

I recommend reading this Polygon article about Mr Beast.

Vaush summarizes it below:

In podcasts, Donaldson tells hosts that he goes so hard, he won’t stop working until he burns out and isn’t able to do anything at all. With a laugh, he admits that he has a mental breakdown “every other week.” If he ever stops for a breather, he says, he gets depressed. MrBeast is so laser-focused on generating content on YouTube that he describes his personality as “YouTube.” He acknowledges that this brutal approach to videos, which has cratered many creators over the years, is not healthy. “People shouldn’t be like me. I don’t have a life, I don’t have a personality.”

Though he’s been under scrutiny for his part in the warping of YouTube as a content ecosystem, you will never see something outwardly controversial or offensive in a MrBeast video. For a long time, Donaldson admits in a number of podcast appearances, he was afraid of putting anything complex in his videos — what if a viewer didn’t get it and stopped watching? Donaldson might very well be an advertiser’s absolute dream, the logical endpoint of an internet that’s been flattened into a samey, straightforward sludge of optimized content.

Donaldson has nearly erased himself as a person from his episodic output. If viewers don’t really see him having fun, that’s by design. Donaldson has outright said he sees “personality” as a limitation for growth, once noting in a podcast that hinging your content on who you are as a person means risking not being liked. And if someone doesn’t like a creator as a person, they may not give the videos a chance.

He’s described spending countless hours obsessing over every detail, down to the optimal brightness of a YouTube thumbnail. He knows the first 10 seconds of a video are the most important for retention, which is why his videos start with a barrage of all the wild things that will unfold in its run time. And that signature MrBeast editing style that’s fast, frantic, and omnipresent on YouTube is a relentless gambit for your attention.

While his free time seems minuscule, the rare times he does pull away from work are for dates with his girlfriend that center around activities that could enrich his videos, because he considers a single hour of a date to be worth $100K had it been dedicated to work instead.

This is what happens when you sell out your artistic integrity for raw success.

This is one of the worst and saddest parts of social media and the deep problem of marketing. Creators are driven to produce slop to feed the capitalist machine, chasing after clicks, views, attention, and fame. Outrage, click-bait, drama, sensationalism, and “what sells” corrupts our collective noosphere and epistemic ecosystem. The zone is flooded with mindless, low-consciousness junk content that caters to the lowest common denominator. This type of media not only makes the creators depressed, it also makes the consumers depressed. No higher values are being served. This is one of the subtle costs of rampant capitalism or Stage Orange. And the social media companies encourage and reward this kind of content with their algorithms and platform design choices (like YouTube Shorts).

There’s audience capture, but there’s also success and fame capture. Many of the most successful and popular people in the world are just addicted to and captured by success and attention, because they have nothing higher to live for. These people are success and attention zombies.

As a creator, I don’t like playing the game of having to compete with such shit to get your attention. I hate that our society is this way. But this is our situation. Years ago Youtube confronted me with the decision between pursuing popularity vs pursuing the topics I find really meaningful and important for mankind. I made the choice to deliberately not do the kind of stuff Mr Beast does to get attention. And of course this cost me millions in profits. But not just profits. It cost in fame and sex too.

But success and attention alone will never satisfy you. What will satisfy you is doing deeply meaningful work that serves some higher spiritual or aesthetic values. So be careful not to let your mind and life get hijacked by the chasing of success and attention. That way lies the Dark Side.

A deep problem for human civilization is the problem of how to market high consciousness stuff. If we found a way to solve this problem it would solve many of our other problems. Imagine a world in which low consciousness stuff received the least marketing and high consciousness stuff received the most marketing. Mankind would evolve at 10x the rate and be much healthier and happier. But as it is now, it’s a race to the bottom. He who can produce the most swill for the pigs wins the race. Notice that many of the most wealthy, famous, and successful people are swill-makers. That’s what Mr Beast, FoxNews, and TikTok are. Swill-making is a seductive career because it gives you everything the ego craves: fame, attention, money, power, and sex. But do you think you will be satisfied as a swill-maker?

If you are an artist, safe-guarding your artistic integrity is crucial. The world needs you to not sell out. What the world needs more of is not Mr Beasts but people who refuse to become Mr Beasts because they have something higher to live for.

Which path will you take?

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