A lot of creators want to be a famous YouTube star, have millions of screaming fans, and feel like the most loved person on the planet. However, if you’re not careful, that kind of social media stardom can actually ruin your life. This is what happens and how you can maintain a healthy relationship with your viewers.

Sometimes this whole YouTube stardom thing can really start to mess with us. I did a video a few years agowhere I talked about something I think is very important for us as creators to understand, and that is the psychological influence that we as internet stars have on our viewers, on the people who are following us. And even if you’re the most positive, uplifting person ever, there still is a tremendous potential for things to go terribly wrong, and you’d have the exact opposite effect on your viewers that you want to have. So I highly recommend you go watch that video first, and then come watch this one, because this video is a follow up to that.

It’s been two years in the making, because honestly, I wasn’t sure how to talk about this with you guys in ways that would be helpful, and received well without just offending a lot of people and ticking everybody off.

The thing is a lot of creators feel like they have a very strong emotional connection to viewers they’ve never seen, never met, would never recognize on the street.

They don’t know their name, they know absolutely almost nothing about these people, and yet there is a very strong emotional connection, and I’m going to poke on that a little bit today.

There’s a thing that social scientists call “parasocial relationships“, which is when one party knows a great deal about the other party, the celebrity, but the celebrity actually knows very little about the individuals in the other party. It takes a lot of humility, a lot of maturity, and a lot of self-awareness to be able to avoid some of the negative issues that come up in this type of relationship.

I hear a lot of fans and a lot of YouTube creators both, say to each other, “I love you, you’re awesome, you’re amazing”. In one sense that’s true. You do actually love each other.

But in another sense, that’s not really true at all, because fans don’t really know you, and you don’t really know your fans.

Both parties just really like the feeling that the other provides for them, but you really don’t know each other. If you were to meet in person, you would have to start from very beginning: what’s your name, where are you from, what do you do for fun, how old are you– very, very basic relationship type of stuff. And they will love you as long as the monkey continues to dance and perform on stage, but if the monkey stops dancing and stops performing, then slowly, eventually the crowd dissipates, and goes away.

Four Things that Happen

If you don’t realize that your viewers have a consumer relationship with you, then narcissistic tendencies will creep in and be reinforced by all the positive affirmation that you’re getting from them.

1. Creators Stop Trying to Be Better

One of the first things I see happen is that these creators start ignoring the areas of personal development– the things that they need to work on. We all have issues, we all have areas that we really need to pay attention to, make sure we don’t slip into, but I often see these creators just starting to ignore them, because they’re starting to think that they really are as awesome as everyone thinks they are.

2. You Start to Believe a False Story About Yourself

You start to believe that the story you’re presenting about yourself, the story that everyone’s praising and applauding, is the only story there is, and you start to believe that that story is 100% true.

But almost all the time, it’s not.

It’s the story that you are moderating, the story about yourself that you’re presenting to people, but is not completely 100% truthfully you.

3. You Start Needing Fan Approval in Very Unhealthy Ways

All the likes, all the comments, all the Retweets, all the shares, all the attention, become things that you actually seek after, because you feel like you actually need them; they become almost like an addiction, something you crave. And then you start to organize your life, and prioritize your life, based on the things that you feel will get you the most engagement, the most praise, the most interaction from your fans.

4. You Feel Completely, and Utterly, Alone.

You can be in a crowd of raging, screaming fans at a big place like VidCon, and still feel completely and utterly alone. And it just becomes really difficult to know who you can really trust. To make matters worse, at the beginning of this whole process, it’s actually really fun– you’re getting these new viewers, people are liking your stuff and engaging.

It really starts to suck you in, in a way that eventually, all of your real-life relationships are kind of placed on a back burner, because you need to keep feeding this machine of people, these fans, this praise, all the stuff that you’re working on online, and the thing that you’re trying to create and build, and then after you’ve kind of gotten there– or even if you haven’t gotten there, you’re just focused on it for a really long time, the real life relationships are kind of gone, and they’re not as strong as you would hope they are when, at that moment, you really need them.

What it kind of comes down to, to summarize all of it, is that it is very possible for you to create an image of yourself that is very unattainable, by yourself even, and absolutely unsustainable.

So how can you address this?

If you feel yourself starting to slip into any of these how can you prevent yourself from slipping into some of these unhealthy relationships that you could potentially have with your viewers?

Three things that are really important–

1. You Absolutely Must have Legitimate Real-life Relationships

Like, actual real-life people that you’re meeting with face-to-face on a regular basis. These are people who know you, who you are opening your life to, people that you trust, people who will love you– even if all the YouTube stuff was gone, even if all fame, the popularity, the money, whatever– even if all that was gone, these are people who will still stick with you. And these are relationships that you don’t have online, these aren’t just like people that you call and talk to on the phone, these are people in your actual town, in your neighborhood, in your community that you can meet with face-to-face and have those deep personal relationships.

2. Unplug when Hanging out With Real Friends

When you’re with these real-life friends, can you just enjoy the moment for the sake of those people and that moment, without feeling like you need to record this and share it in some way? If the answer is no, I highly recommend that you start doing that.

Turn off your phone, and go hang out with people just for the sake of being with those people.

3. Relationships with People in YouTube Comments are Not Real Relationships

Whatever people say in your YouTube comments, always just kind of turn it down a few notches– both the positive stuff and the negative stuff that they’re saying– listen to it, and definitely learn from them, and interact, and engage, and support and have those relationships, but they are not on the same level as real-life relationships with people that you know, love, and trust.

Now all of that said, growing your YouTube channel, growing your audience, getting millions of views and subscribers, that is one of the most powerful things that you can do to reach people, and impact them, and really make a big difference in the world. I spent some time here focusing on some of the negative side effects that we should be aware of as creators, but I am not at all suggesting that we all close up shop and go home. Fans feel like they have a personal connection with you, which is a very powerful tool for influencing, impacting people, and changing the world for the better. Just do it in ways that are honest and healthy, both for them as the viewers, and for you as the creator.

I am really looking forward to hear your comments down there below– what vibes with you, what doesn’t– let’s learn from each other. I’ll be down there in the comments with you.