How StudyTube Helped Me Overcome My Quarantine Blues

Graphic by Sophie Sklar

Upon uprooting and relocating my study space from my apartment in Montreal to my family home in Toronto, I have shared struggles similar to those of my many fellow McGill students. Excessive noise, decreased productivity, and an inability to start any projects, even with deadlines looming around the corner, have plagued my work patterns while in quarantine. Other issues such as a lack of physical access to McGill libraries, being removed from my go-to study spaces (shoutout to the Starbucks on Sherbrooke), and overall feelings of anxiety, stress, and disorientation have all compounded into a lack of motivation to start and complete my final papers, take-home quizzes, and readings.

This absence of productivity led me to spend most of my time during the two-week campus break aimlessly scrolling through YouTube. Amongst my blur of mukbangs, TikTok compilations, and videos of Jenna Marbles dressing up her dogs in an array of costumes, I stumbled across “StudyTube”: a community of YouTubers that post motivational academic content geared towards fellow students. These include: “Study with Me” daily vlogs, tips for note-taking, exam revision, and live study sessions real-time videos of someone studying on camera, with the idea that viewers study along at the same time. 

[H]earing the cheerful, uplifting, and motivating advice of StudyTubers has instilled a drive to accomplish things that I have been missing ever since departing the McGill campus.

Some big names in the StudyTube community include Mariana’s Study Corner, studyquill, and UnJaded Jade. However, there are a plethora of smaller channels that cater to various study subgenres. This variety of options is important: if one StudyTuber’s methods are not compatible with your working style, you can always look for a different channel that works for you. During quarantine, hearing the cheerful, uplifting, and motivating advice of StudyTubers has instilled a drive to accomplish things that I have been missing ever since departing the McGill campus. Seeing others successfully manage their goals has inspired me to do the same.

However, I am well versed in the issues surrounding “productivity culture” at McGill, and I typically stay away from “motivational” speaking videos or books promoting self-help and productivity. I find these resources to have an absence of authenticity since they do not take into account the need for breaks and self-care as a crucial part of the studying process. Furthermore, I feel some motivational speakers are out of touch with the real issues that students face.

But on StudyTube, those giving me tips and advice are not typical “self-help” figures. They are not people twice my age preaching about the importance of hard work with the path to success, leaving no time for breaks. They are fellow students around my age sharing the same struggles I am experiencing. They are not proponents of consistently grinding until you reach your goals; as fellow young adults they recognize the importance of not over-exerting their viewers until they burn out. They use cross-disciplinary approaches in their study tips and constantly encourage their viewers to look at all available methods and select what works best for them. And perhaps most importantly, they are human. They convey to their viewers all the struggles that they are facing as well. 

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For example, Ruby Granger, an English Literature student at the University of Exeter, is a StudyTuber that I admire tremendously. She seems to be the pinnacle of organization, consistently showing viewers her beautifully arranged desk, her impeccably organized daily time tables, and she has even been hosting live study sessions on YouTube during quarantine. Though it might be easy to look at her channel and regard her level of productivity as unattainable, in her latest video she candidly reveals to her viewers, “like anyone else, I do procrastinate.” This humanizing dimension of the StudyTube community has resonated with me, and it has made my study goals seem increasingly within reach.

This humanizing dimension of the StudyTube community has resonated with me.

Additionally, failure is an inevitable part of being a student, but these failures are often concealed by typical self-help figures. We are told to move on from our failures as quickly as possible in order to pursue our next goal. StudyTubers, on the other hand, tend to share their failures with their viewers, reminding us all that they are not invincible and can experience struggles just like anyone else. Any viewer of Durham University student and StudyTuber, Jack Edwards, would know that it was his dream to attend Oxford University, and it was a goal he worked hard towards. However, he shared the somber news of his rejection in a tearful video this past March. An important element of the StudyTube community is its authenticity, and recognizing that even those who seem the most organized and put together sometimes fail just like the rest of us. The fact that StudyTubers share both the positive and negative aspects of their lives as students is one of the main reasons I have been able to find solace in their videos during these trying times.

The relatable nature of StudyTubers and their sympathy for real-world student struggles have helped me get back on my feet amidst the unprecedented experience of studying in quarantine. If you are lacking motivation as well, try sifting through StudyTube, and see if any of these videos speak to you in the way they did to me.

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