Courtesy of Hannah Turner

When you hear the words, “Yale YouTuber,” who comes to mind? Josh Beasley ’21? Ris Igrec ’23? David Stanley ’23? The world of Yale YouTube is a vibrant community of creative individuals who are passionate about making videos. But what happens when people who create content based on campus life can’t be on campus anymore?

For many YouTubers, the onset of the pandemic has made producing new and exciting content particularly difficult. Four Yale YouTubers spoke with the News about the transition from the traditional on-campus experience to remote classes and creating content amid a virtual learning environment. While some felt that the pandemic was a source of creativity, others found it difficult to create content in the current environment.

Carolyn Qu ’24 is using YouTube as a source of motivation in these trying times. Qu was inspired to make videos following the success of her college reaction video released earlier this year, which garnered almost 80,000 views. After exploring Instagram and other social media platforms, she turned to creating videos on YouTube as an artistic outlet.

“Sometimes, I feel like it’s hard to motivate yourself, especially during a pandemic or quarantine,” Qu said. “It’s difficult to wear something nice, or look your best, or get up and seek something fun to do, and having YouTube does that. It gives you a reason to enjoy yourself and have fun with whatever is happening and make the most out of a situation.”

Qu primarily posts content about her daily life as a Yale student. So far, she has not faced many issues when coming up with content because, as a first year, she was permitted to live on campus this semester. Qu received a housing exemption for the spring semester as well, which means she can return to campus next semester when most first years are not invited back.

For other Yale YouTubers, not living on campus has made producing content particularly difficult.

Hannah Turner ’24 is a sophomore on a leave of absence. Like many college YouTubers, Turner was inspired to start her channel after watching other creators talk about their own experiences in higher education. As a first-generation, low-income student, she hoped that by posting videos about her life at Yale, she could provide entertaining and easily accessible content to students like her applying to college.

However, being away from campus has left Turner feeling isolated from the Yale community. That isolation has made it difficult for her to find “more ideas, without sounding redundant, about the college process.” Despite these challenges, Turner told the News that being away from campus has allowed her to think more deeply about the type of content she wants to create. 

“I do think it positively impacted me because I had more time to think about how I want to improve and to kind of let my creativity take over once I had everything else figured out,” Turner said.

Like Turner, David Stanley has faced significant challenges when trying to produce content during the pandemic. Since moving off campus last spring, Stanley has lived at home with his parents. After his father suffered from a serious health crisis early in the pandemic, he has had to help out at his family restaurant, balancing his time between classes and working 11-hour days. With little free time to create and post videos to his channel, Stanley had to forgo his love of filmmaking in favor of keeping up with school and family obligations. A need to comply with public safety guidelines regarding COVID-19 also makes content creation difficult, according to Stanley.

“As of now, with the pandemic, you know, social distancing and everything, I’m really looking out for the safety of others as well as myself and my dad of course … so that really hinders my ability to go outside and make videos with people or interact with anyone else,” Stanley told the News.

In a craft so heavily dependent on human interaction, social isolation has made it difficult for Yale YouTubers to produce content that feels equally substantive.

Although quarantine has been a challenge for Ris Igrec, she, like Qu, has taken advantage of the isolation and boredom to produce new and relatable content on a range of topics, from working on a film set to making her minivan into a cottagecore minihome.

“I really started making stuff more consistently since we got sent home in the spring. … I guess it’s kind of a silver lining, that I’m not sure that I would be where I am now with my content if it hadn’t been for the time I’ve had in quarantine,” Igrec said.

Her hard work and creativity are paying off. Since the start of the pandemic, her channel has “really blown up,” she said, as it grew from 3,000 subscribers pre-pandemic to its current 111,000 subscribers.

Numbers aside, despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, Yale YouTubers have remained resilient and creative.

YouTube was founded and launched in 2005.

Marissa Blum | marissa.blum@yale.edu