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Selling Success: Influencers' romanticization of school life

By Nicole Mui Sept. 29, 2021

Due to the increasing pressure to succeed in academics, many students have begun turning to media influencers for guidance. StudyTube, a genre of social media featuring revision tips, vlogs and “study with me” sessions has become increasingly popular. Studying is often portrayed in an aesthetically motivational manner, with an emphasis on using new stationery, outlines and bullet journal notes to ace difficult courses and increase productivity. Although StudyTube has become a helpful platform for students to improve and expand upon their studying habits, there are also drawbacks that negatively impact its audience.

Influencers in the StudyTube community cover different angles of productivity, ranging from Eve Bennett’s videos of organization, Unjaded Jade’s vlogs on learning languages and Evie Flynn’s revision

notes. TikTok influencers also create similar content— Inseo Kim Art

for example, Sneha George provides note taking tips and Ke Shang discusses advice for college applications.

These channels have gradually attracted more people; according to The Guardian citing Tubular Labs, influencers on YouTube who publish university content have had a 20 percent increase in views in 2021. Concrete News UK adds that

Inseo Kim Art

influencers are motivational inspirations for a large number of students. These creators often publish relatable and relevant and captivating content, which engages their viewers and makes them feel comforted.

“I usually watch StudyTube videos for entertainment, so it helps me worry less about school, knowing that there are people who are in similar situations as I am. There are also a lot of helpful tips on topics such as effective writing skills, improving focus and efficient reading comprehension,” Senior Nathan Kim said.  

However, the downsides of such content have become more apparent.

When it comes to sheets of notes, hours of “study with me” sessions and trends of displaying new purchases, influencers have begun romanticizing studying. This funnels into the idea of toxic productivity, where people must work tirelessly and sacrifice self-care to reach consistent goals. Metric Life states that digital media influences encourage excessive productivity, misconstruing it as success. 

As influencers instill viewpoints of success, some of their messages are embedded with merchandise. This includes their material collections, such as the purchases of pens, digital devices and designed notebooks. While merchandise can motivate students to do schoolwork, consistent advice to buy items has led them down a cycle of high materialistic values to satisfy their frustrated emotions. The weighted importance of possessions is also detrimental to audiences on a budget, enticing them to prioritize new products instead of saving for what they need.   

“Within StudyTube, there is a lot of emphasis on what you have to use to be a successful student, but I avoid those ideals—as long as the supplies are functional, I will use them,” Sophomore Lori Yang said.

In addition, some aspects of StudyTube have become counterproductive, giving the audience strict examples of how to complete tasks. According to The Boar, StudyTubers have emphasized unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as rigorous studying, which cause students to feel pressured about how productive they seem in an academic setting.

Lengthy or time-lapsed footage from influencers have exemplified unrealistic perceptions of studying, setting high expectations of accomplishments over regular breaks and self-care.

In turn, this gives student viewers the impression that academic success is only possible through intense periods of work and studying.

By valuing appearances and physical materials over productivity, viewers begin to see success only through the lens of the creator, pressuring them to overstep their limits in order to meet such expectations. This has further fueled toxic productivity, as students continue unhealthy habits without realizing how stressful they have made their activities become. 

In response to the backlash it has received for upholding toxic productivity, StudyTube culture has fluctuated in its content in order to stop promoting unhealthy levels of work. Influencers have created the StudyTube Project, a YouTube channel that incorporates videos on mental health and self-care along with educational content. Also, methods such as taking breaks from work and creating small attainable goals can be employed to counteract toxic productivity and improve study habits.

The unrealistic habits of StudyTube have created counterproductive relationships with audiences to academia. However, by understanding their drawbacks while adapting to advice that best works for individuals, viewers can utilize these online resources to improve their studying without succumbing to the toxic “hustle culture.”


About the Contributors

Nicole Mui

Staff Writer

Nicole Mui is a sophomore at Leland High School and writer for The Charger Account. During their free time she enjoys reading, painting, and debating

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