As exam season approaches, students across the country will commence (or continue) the long process of revision. So-called study tubers — Youtubers who post revision content and study advice on platforms such as YouTube — will be doing exactly the same, except they’ll be posting videos of it online. Be prepared for an inundation of videos with titles such as ‘This revision tip will change your life’, or ‘How to study more efficiently’, and the somewhat oxymoronic, ‘Chill study with me’.
Big names such as Eve Bennett and Unjaded Jade have emerged from this growing section of YouTube, as students move away from the traditional beauty gurus, in favour of the study gods and goddesses. But whilst these study tubers (as they and their fans call them) seem only to want to help confused and panicking students, perhaps their videos that ‘could SAVE YOUR GRADES’ do more harm than good.
Revision is a minefield. I know I speak for many when I say I’m still confused by it and don’t really know what I’m doing when it comes to preparing for exams. With schools constantly reminding us tor revise, but perhaps failing to teach us methods on how to do so, it’s unsurprising that many young people turn to the internet for advice (as with many things). Here, however, they will only sink further into the abyss. There are thousands upon thousands of videos by other young people in the same situation offering advice, and comfort, but you only have to read the comments below some of these videos to see that they can cause others to feel inferior, and add to the stress and pressure students are already under.
Of course the benefits of these videos cannot be ignored. For many, guidance on revision techniques, note taking, and even just tips on how to use your time productively, are indeed, as one commenter wrote ‘a lifesaver’. Another comment reads that one particular video is ‘such a good influence — I used to use the “wing it” approach’. For many, study tubers help them navigate the murky waters of revision , and give them a much needed boost of motivation, which can only be a good thing. However, amongst the grateful comments are some that are perhaps more sinister. One person says that they are doing ‘7 hours a day but I feel like it’s not enough and my mind is blank’, whilst another said it felt like they had been ‘slapped across the face and [told to] work hard’, and, perhaps more extreme ‘I literally had 3 breakdowns’. Now, I’m not suggesting that these comments are in any way a cry for help or a sign or serious distress, but they are a sign of the intensifying nature of academia, a reflection of the growing competitiveness of revision. It’s no longer a private process, but one to boast about and parade for all to see.. We’re all used to standing outside an exam hall with at least one person trying to stir up mass hysteria, or the model pupil making it very clear to everyone that they have not studied, at all. Ever.
But this explosion of ‘study tube’ has added further pressure to a furnace already at full capacity. Whilst YouTube used to be a place for funny cat videos and mindless procrastination, now you’ll find videos on how not to procrastinate, telling you to stop wasting your time. Maybe they give some flustered students a chance to recentre, but they also create, or add to, feelings of uncertainty, and self-doubt. Someone who is struggling to find motivation to study but manages a few hours and feels quite proud (as they should) can go online and find people flexing their ‘7 hours non-stop’ revision, causing further deflation. It’s not the emphasis on marathon study sessions that is the only issue, however, it’s the constant message being sent that there is a ‘perfect’ balance, a ‘perfect’ way to revise, that perfection exists. The same Youtuber who spoke about the struggles of being a perfectionist, also made a video on ‘optimum efficiency’. As much as these study tubers mean well, and try and appear relatable, which they are in many respects — they speak openly about their failures and fears too — they still portray an image of the ‘perfect student’, who manages to balance a packed social life with a flourishing academic one too. I’ve only listed a few, but there are many comments that suggest their well-intentioned videos only add to some peoples’ feelings of inadequacy.
When students are panic-stricken and overwrought, they need to be told that they are doing just fine, not be bombarded with military-style videos of ‘intense study session[s]’ and ‘how to make the PERFECT mind map’ — it is quite literally screaming perfectionism in your face. Not only is this perfectionism unattainable, but it’s unrealistic. There is no one revision method, ‘pomodoro’ or otherwise, that guarantees success, nor is starting your day at a certain time going to ensure maximum efficiency. Real life, and real working life, will require a more adaptable approach than suggested by these ‘foolproof’ methods being pushed online.
Parents too should be aware that whilst study tube can of course be a force for good, encouraging young people to strive for academic success, the people on it should not be, as one news article put it, the only ‘you tubers you’ll actually want your child to watch’. This only makes the world outside of revision smaller, and indeed can be counterproductive, with a constant strafe of revision content beclouding the mind.
My classmates and I had a discussion about study tubers recently, and their comments ranged from simply ‘I hate them, they’re so annoying’, to, perhaps a more insightful view that:
‘my parents don’t think I’m doing enough, I don’t think I’m doing enough, the school doesn’t think I’m doing enough, and now the internet is telling me I’m not doing enough. Screw it, I don’t need to wake up at 5 am and use fancy pens to get into uni’.
And these were the words of a bright and very capable student.