The other day I was browsing YouTube and proceeded to fall down what some call a “YouTube hole.” I started to watch breakup videos.
For the unknowing reader, a breakup video is where a couple announces that they’ve broken up, explaining when the event occurred and usually why the split happened.
These are couples that have been documenting their relationships for some time and have developed an audience who cares about the status of their relationship. Some examples of broken-up couples are David Dobrik and Liza Koshy (their breakup video garnered over 45 million views), Alex Wassabi and LaurDIY (known as Laurex), and Jesse Wellens and Jeana Smith from BFvsGF.
If you look up the phrase “we broke up” on YouTube, you’ll find hundreds of videos with two teary-faced people in the thumbnail. The comments are genuinely distraught.
What is it like to be on both sides of this trend? How does it feel to document and publicize your relationship? Why do viewers invest themselves in a relationship when they don’t know either of the people involved? What causes their emotion? What fuels their need to keep finding new relationships to obsess over?
The phenomenon of people following relationships in media (like film or TV) is not new. There have been several breakups in recent memory that have incited the same amount of anguish from the general public — Brangelina’s divorce, Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan’s divorce, or Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson’s split. Page Six, TMZ, and the Daily Mail are all outlets that focus on celebrity relationships and gossip, and those businesses have been thriving for years.
People like to escape from their lives. And one way is to invest yourself in the lives of others. It’s an extension of why people like seeing romantic comedies — watching other people fall in love is simply enjoyable. You relate to their emotion. You root for their happiness. It’s tried and true.
So it stands to reason that this obsession has carried over to the internet. YouTube couples pump out even more content than actors and musicians at times, so there are more opportunities for people to start following these couples. And couples online are, for the most part, putting their relationship in the public eye willingly. It has a much different energy than paparazzi photographing a couple coming out of CVS and plastering it all over the pages of a magazine. Online, it seems as if the couples are asking for the attention and emotional investment of their viewers.
This brings me to my final area of speculation: what personality must you require in order to be willing to post your relationship online? To reveal such personal information is quite a feat. And there’s an odd aspect of your relationship becoming a part of your business. People are watching your videos because of your relationship, and you make money off of those videos. So where is the line drawn between what is shown on-camera and what is off-camera? Can a relationship really grow and change when it’s being documented every day, and when there’s a financial incentive to keep things exactly as they are? Can it be unhealthy to see your time together as time at work?
There’s obviously a middle ground to be found here. Couples can still document their relationship without falling down this rabbit hole of issues. But I think that most people don’t realize the pitfalls of being so public with something so personal. After all, reader, there are reasons that some things are traditionally kept private.