An Online Squabble Asks: Did MrBeast and His Copycats ‘Ruin’ YouTube’s Culture?

Colin and Samir/YouTube Tom Simons/YouTube Mehaniq/Shutterstock Remix by Caterina Cox YouTube/Wikimedia Commons

Over the weekend, “Minecraft” YouTuber Tom Simons posted a fun little video of him and his YouTuber friends taking a lie detector test. When Sean “JackSepticEye” McLoughlin was hooked up to the fib finder he was asked the most important question that goes through every content creator’s mind at least once: Do you like MrBeast? Without missing a beat, the Irish YouTuber with 30 million subscribers responded with an emphatic, “No.” 

Gasps circled the room, prompting Simons to ask a follow-up: Do you think MrBeast ruined YouTube, and if so, why? 

“Because it became more about views, money, and popularity than it did about having fun,” McLoughlin responded.

The video, considering the 5.5 million subscribers Simons has on the channel, went fairly unnoticed, pulling just shy of 800,000 in a few days. But McLoughlin’s portion was clipped and posted to Twitter/X, getting 39.6 million views, where the man behind the beast Jimmy Donaldson responded with the saltiest reply I’ve ever seen him publicly make.

In the now-deleted post, Donaldson wrote that the clip is “insanely disrespectful IMO and obviously there is so much I could say about his content but I’ll just take the punches and be the bigger man.”

The tweet quickly started trending on the platform, with other creators chiming in on the discussion of the shifting culture of YouTube. Ethan Klein of h3h3 productions wrote that “this revisionist history of a utopian YouTube where no one cared about views and everyone was having fun all the time is total bs.”

After just a few hours, Donaldson came back to write that he and McLoughlin “messaged” and are all “Gucci” now. The tide of drama quickly receded. But in all of this noise, McLoughlin’s original point about a less algorithmically driven, money-focused YouTube got lost and diluted. 

There is no doubt that YouTube has fundamentally changed since Donaldson rose to power. Over the past decade expressively colorful thumbnails, constant edits, and in-your-face subtitles were once a rarity, but now they have seeped into all corners of the content creator space. MrBeast copycats that scream, spend absurd amounts of money on attention-grabbing thumbnails, or donate money to create some heartwarming charity porn litter most of our recommended tabs. The algorithm was once an unknown entity, but Donaldson broke it down in a way never before seen and gamed the system to his advantage.

McLoughlin got his start in 2007 when video content online was literally just stepping out of the primordial ooze. Back then, videos were filmed in your bedroom and low stakes since you couldn’t even make a living doing it. Brands and big companies weren’t even looking at YouTube, let alone spending millions of dollars like MrBeast to advertise NFTs to a young audience. 

Although to be fair, we can’t blame Donaldson for YouTube’s dynamic cultural shift. He’s not inside Google pressing the buttons. But his content is like a great oak tree, that when dissected reveals the scars of YouTube’s switch from clicks to watch time and the implementation of demonetization after 2016’s AdPocalypse. And since he is the face of the most subscribed YouTube channel, it makes sense that creators would want to blame him. 

But no matter what you feel about MrBeast (and trust me there’s a lot to detest) he isn’t what made the game about views, popularity, and money. He’s merely a symptom filming on top of million-dollar yachts.

What are your thoughts on the shifting culture of YouTube? Email [email protected] to share your opinions.

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