How to Avoid Drama on YouTube

Matt Barton's picture

I had originally posted this list on another thread, but decided it was worth its own post. Please let me know what you think! My guess is that following these tips would really be helpful for anyone considering uploading videos to YouTube or trying to join the community. Although I'm fairly new to YouTube myself, I was able to compile these tips by reading articles, talking to fellow tubers, and of course watching the results of such drama in many videos on the site.

In case you don't know, "YouTube drama" is akin to trolling or flaming on message boards. Someone or a group decides to "start a war," posting nasty comments on your videos, insulting you in your channel, trying to incite others against you, creating their own videos that make fun of you, and so on. A lot of us put a great deal of effort, energy, and ourselves into our videos, and in reality it hurts (physically, mentally, and emotionally) when you are the victim of such attacks. Several people will feel anger, shame, disgust, confusion, disappointment, sadness, and even despair. Many will even quit making videos on account of them--thus it can hurt not just themselves but also the friends and fans of their shows. I'm not going to go into the psychology behind these attacks or whether they are ever justified. However, if you post enough videos, sooner or later you will encounter one of these people and need to be prepared. My point here is to give you some suggestions on how to avoid attracting these people and this kind of nonsense in the first place.

1. Don't respond, acknowledge, mention, cry, complain, get angry, or do anything that shows an emotional reaction to criticism or a personal attack. Keep up the professional facade. If it's something like "you're so gay!", "you're fat!", or "you suck!", just delete the comments and block the user if they keep coming back (though it's probably better just to delete the comments at least for awhile). Again, it's very important not to publicly mention this is happening or do anything to give the person attention (which is what they crave). Most of these types will move on quickly if they realize you're too smart to fall for their crap.

On the other hand, if it seems like well-intentioned criticism (i.e., "You need better lighting," or "I didn't like that song in your video"), don't get defensive or feel that you must respond right away (or at all). These people may be trying to help, so consider what they say and how and whether you should attempt to address their concerns in future videos. If it makes you mad or upset, just cool off for a few days and then decide whether to respond. In any case, don't fly off the handle, insult them, or dwell on it. You might ask them to clarify or give you suggestions if you think they have a valid point. Never send any messages while you're angry or you'll live to regret it.

2. Don't say anything negative about someone else's channel, especially by name. If you hate another channel or whatever, just keep it to yourself. Consider it "beneath" you to put down anyone else. Insults, mockery, or spreading rumors and gossip will likely backfire on you. Also, ignore (in public) any of your friends' "drama." If you want, you can send them a private message saying you're sorry or sympathetic, but don't ever jump in the mud with them. They should have followed rule #1.

3. If it is serious harassment (i.e., pretending to be you on another channel, slander, libel, etc.) go to this page and fill out the blanks. You are a producer or director, not an administrator. Let YouTube handle it! Don't try to be a vigilante or form a posse. From what I've heard, this route doesn't always lead to instant results, but at least you'll feel better now that you've done something.

4. Consider keeping your personal life out of your videos. This obviously doesn't apply to everyone, but you may want to keep your channel focused on the topic and not about your personal life. If you start doing that, then soon everyone knows your business and you will leave yourself vulnerable to whatever attacks or hate come your way--just like in your personal life (after all, by doing this you're blurring the two). Again, a true professional maintains a strict boundary between the public and the personal. Learn from them!

5. Be "super polite" to all visitors to your channel. Say please and thank you, and show kindness and understanding when dealing with everyone. Don't talk down to anyone or even write or say anything that could be interpreted that way. This may seem extreme, but given how easy it is to misunderstand or take something out of context (especially online!), take an extra second or two to be polite and avoid problems at the pass.


Rob Daviau
Rob Daviau's picture
Joined: 05/19/2006
Excellent MATT! Many of the

Excellent MATT! Many of the same rules I use myself, especially not acknowledging them, if you don't play with them they will take their ball and go home so to speak. I trust the majority of people can judge for themselves, one need not lower themselves to engaging trolls, as you say that is what they want. Instead I feel if you ignore/remove/block strategy not only keeps them from getting the attention they are craving but also, it will simply arouse curiosity and people will check out your channel and likely they will discover "Hey, actually this guys pretty cool, what's that loser going on about?" thus possibly bringing you another supportive subscriber while the troll gains nothing. Also, IF ONE SIMPLY cannot resist responding to a troll. bad comment etc (There are some who cannot) I at the very least advise any such video can contain info about the situation, remain calm and respond in a polite manner explaining why you feel that person's behavior is unacceptable. DO NOT use profanity as this is immature and really when I watch someone using the F-BOMB every second word they lose all credibility with me, and above all do NOT mention them by their actual name or user name and do NOT link to their channel or post any of that info in your video information section. In other words do not do anything that links back to the troublemaker's channel or videos, they do not deserve to gain anything from your response. NOW THAT SAID, again I give those tips only if you feel you MUST respond in video form but I highly suggest you do NOT go this route because unfortunately you really are becoming just another person adding to the Youtube drama. Here is a video I recently posted on this very topic, I stand by it and if you watch it on the originating site you can see it seems to have gotten over all positive response/comments:


Oldschool games, some people just don't "get it"...

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
Great video as always! I

Great video as always!

I should perhaps clarify a few points. First, I am offering advice on how to avoid drama altogether. That may or may not be the best thing to do at all times depending on your personality and the point of the show. Many highly successful people thrive on "drama" and use it to build up their audience while maintaining a certain level of buzz and excitement about their show. I can point at pretty much any talk show for evidence. However, the key difference is that these people are usually the instigators or at least are in charge of the drama or controversy, and if you watch carefully they avoid certain types. It is rare, for instance, to hear or see one being blasted on a personal level--i.e., for being fat, having an ugly wife, personal facts about them, etc. My guess is only the dirtiest and most brazen shock jocks and hacks tolerate or support that kind of behavior. Meanwhile, the professional satires that get done about them are often funny without being downright offensive to the person him or herself. I could cite the recent example of Sarah Palin and Tina Fey. While Tina's performance may have possibly upset Ms. Palin, it could easily have been more more personal and abusive. Watch this video and tell me if it's really abuse or just good-natured humor with the occasional "zinger." This isn't mean-spirited, abusive stuff at all, and I think that's the key difference. Also, it's in an appropriate forum (SNL). Like Weird Al's songs, it's almost a mark of honor and fame for them to select you as a target!

Contrast that with someone making a "parody" video of you on YouTube where they are saying libelous and slanderous things about your personal life--suggesting you are a pedophile, showing footage of the house you live, showing pictures of your children, making fun of your family or close friends, going on their channels to repeat all this...Or even just a video where they are cussing you out in some fit of rage. This is the kind of crap I'm talking about. There's really nothing funny about it all. It's just abusive and in some cases possibly illegal or at least against YouTube's guidelines.

Some of the stuff from their Community Guidelines is worth posting here:

# We encourage free speech and defend everyone's right to express unpopular points of view. But we don't permit hate speech (speech which attacks or demeans a group based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, and sexual orientation/gender identity).
# Things like predatory behavior, stalking, threats, harassment, intimidation, invading privacy, revealing other people’s personal information, and inciting others to commit violent acts or to violate the Terms of Use are taken very seriously. Anyone caught doing these things may be permanently banned from YouTube.

Here's the clarifications on harassment and impersonation:

# We encourage free speech and defend everyone's right to express unpopular points of view. But we don't permit hate speech (speech which attacks or demeans a group based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, and sexual orientation/gender identity).
# Things like predatory behavior, stalking, threats, harassment, intimidation, invading privacy, revealing other people’s personal information, and inciting others to commit violent acts or to violate the Terms of Use are taken very seriously. Anyone caught doing these things may be permanently banned from YouTube.
# Impersonating another user by copying someone's exact channel layout, using a similar username, or posing as that person in comments, emails or videos is considered harassment. If you want to keep your account, stay away from participating in any form of impersonation or harassing activity on the site.
# Users shouldn't feel threatened when they're on YouTube. Period. Don't leave threatening comments on other people's videos.

A few things are made clear here. One is that it is okay to parody someone as long as you make it clear that it is a parody and don't try to pass yourself off as the person by using a similar username or copying their layout. If you made a different looking channel with a different username, it should be okay as long as you don't make threats, reveal personal info, or indulge in hate speech. I think it should be sufficient to put a message like "This is a parody!" or something in front of the video.

Also, it seems they are very specific about what "hate speech," much more specific than most people. Here it seems to only apply to racist and sexist comments. Apparently, it's worse to make fun of someone for being old than for being stupid. I am wondering if someone saying "You're a fag!" or "this is so gay!" would count as hate speech if you aren't gay. I would assume it would be hate speech regardless, since it is hateful towards a group, which seems to be the issue here.

It does appear, though, that comments like "I hate your videos," "You're an idiot!", "Your video sucks!," "You should quit making videos," and so on are all tolerated, along with all the variations thereof. So, the choice is whether to delete these, ignore them, or respond to them. To avoid drama, go with the first one. To encourage some drama (assuming your fans/friends will respond), go with the second one. For maximum drama, go with the last option. The choice depends largely on your own stomach and personality and what kind of community you want to foster.

Again, I hope I was clear before that I'm not talking about constructive criticism here; only the sort of comments in the above paragraph. I would assume any healthy person would be able to handle constructive criticism; if not, they probably should turn off comments altogether.


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