Why You Want To Be Famous on YouTube - The Psychology Behind Fame and Status

Being YouTube Famous
According to evolutionary psychologist David Buss fame and status are a big deal.


Because with status you get a lot of extra perks:
  • better alliances with other members of the tribe
  • better mates
  • easier access to resources (like money)
  • a lot more power in negotiations
  • more options in general
YouTube has democratized access to audiences and thus enabled the little guy to become more or less famous. There are various grades of popularity: from internet micro-fame to the fully fledged mainstream household name. And in some way the internet fame can be a launching pad for mainstream fame.

The most fascinating thing to look into here is human nature itself. People tend to give power to high status individuals and high status individuals become high status just because people give them attention (and with their attention they also give power).

But how does this happen and how can you become famous?

1. Most people are insecure

In this harsh world where there's tons of stress, uncertainty and continuous change, people are eager to listen to anybody who seems to have figured it out.

So when you put yourself out there, through a video or through a blog, people assume you know more thus they're ready to listen and give you their attention. Now, if what you say comes from a genuine place - which basically means if you are congruent with your true self, if you are able first and foremost to accept yourself - you will have a lot more influence.

Speaking of Influence, you should dedicate a special place in your bookshelf to Robert Cialdini. Most of this article will make more sense to you if you read his book - Influence.

All this plays into the persuasion principle called Authority: if you have something to say and you say it with conviction, you seem to be an expert and you have authority.

2. They lure you with aspirational marketing

Aspirational marketing can be defined as:

Look at me, look how cool I am, look how well I live. I'm not saying it directly but you can sense it from watching my videos. And I know you want it too coz this is the good life. So... you keep watching my videos in order to become like me.

Makes sense?

Just audit yourself when you watch your favorite famous youtubers or online celebrity. You basically aspire to be like them, to enjoy the same lifestyle and to have their freedom of choice.

Some of my words are in italics because you have to understand one thing: they control the lens through which you perceive them. They do have fun and it does look nice but you are not getting the full picture. You never see them sad or depressed because they don't do videos when they're sad and depressed.

If you want people to watch your videos you have to bring some sort of value: a big smile and a good vibe is value enough to watch so it's counter productive for any youtuber to complain about their life even though they're real human beings and they have their frustrations as well. So you might think that their life is perfect because all that you see looks perfect and fun!

Another persuasion principle in the book Influence is Likeability. This states that if you like the person that you see and interact with you will likely perceive him/her as being smarter, kinder and you'll even attribute him/her all sorts of qualities that don't even exist. And again, because even you aspire to be likeable (who doesn't want to be liked?!) you give that person more power over you.

You can employ this to your advantage if you are attractive. Physical beauty is important, it's even hard wired into us - we know whether someone is pretty or not regardless of the culture we've been born in.This also means that you watch youtubers because they are pretty - which doesn't necessarily mean you'll become pretty.

This is the attraction hypnosis that youtubers exert over you - it's pretty similar to falling in love which is also a hypnosis in itself. :)

3. Social proof = self fulfilling success prophecy

If a critical mass of people watch you then you must be of value, right?

Being a person of high status is automatically equaled to a being a higher version of yourself. And that's a good version to aspire to.

But let's be critical here. A lot of youtubers play your brain to the lowest common denominator: cheap humor that doesn't require too much thought or no brain power at all... This speaks volumes about human nature. No judging here though. We're just looking at the facts.

What this means for you is you have to play it down if you want to be humorous. Also foul language might help. Coz it's harder to be funny without being somewhat vulgar. Not that I have anything against being vulgar.

What I'm saying though is that what's popular isn't necessarily good. Remember that there was this dude in Germany who convinced a whole nation that Jews must be killed because they're not a pure breed... It became pretty popular for a while - the nation was bought in. That's called groupthink.

A little bit of fame creates social proof and then you can become even more famous because it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. People wanna watch what other people wanna watch. It's virtuous or vicious cycle - depending on where you wanna loo at it from.

A Pretty Long and Nuanced Conclusion

I'm not saying that if you want to become popular on the internet by publishing videos you have to be a Machiavellian character and pull all kinds of psychological strings. I'm also not saying that the most famous youtubers are Machiavellian - they're mostly extroverted people who thrive on attention and like to entertain.

What I'm saying is if you become famous, you'll probably be using some Influence techniques without even realizing it. That's what being charismatic is all about: deploying influence tricks subconsciously - being competent without thinking about it. This can be somewhat innate (great personality) but it can also become second nature through practice (by publishing tons of videos until you find your voice).

As for the reasons why you wanna be famous - it's hard wired. We want status because it's a very good survival and mating strategy. It doesn't necessarily serve your higher self but it does serve your genes by giving them access to resources and mates - thus your genes are able to survive and reproduce. See Selfish Gene.

A lot of our behavior is still dictated by the caveman within us. We are perfect beings for an environment which no longer exists. That's why in order to understand our current behavior we have to look back at how our ancestors lived and what motivated them. Status was a big deal then and it is a big deal now.

Let's be a bit cynical here. You can get fame and status in roughly two ways:
  1. You've won the genetic and social lottery - you've been born beautiful and rich.
  2. You offer some kind if value - either by being interesting, funny or simply by helping people with your knowledge (advice, tutorials) 
Now, all else being equal, one will always get ahead if one is pretty/handsome and rich (displays material wealth in their videos).


Because we automatically place value on beauty (beauty standards are hard wired into our brain) and we also naturally aspire to people who have resources. We subconsciously believe that an alliance with people who have resources (money) will enhance our chances of survival - while being beautiful and attractive, will enhance our chances for reproduction.

This means that if you're not beautiful and rich you have to work HARDER - offer more value. I said I was to be cynical so don't shoot the messenger. Life is not necessarily fair...

Another nuance you have to internalize is the difference between being a provider and an entertainer. A provider is one who brings value but is not fun... An entertainer is someone who is fun and the fun itself provides the value.

All else being equal, an entertainer will always be loved more than a provider.


Because we, as humans don't like to expend mental and physical energy. We don't like to think hard about serious matters. And an entertainer makes it easy for us to escape the "harsh world" by entertaining us. So while he/she might not feed us nor is he/she giving sound life advice (not a provider) he/she gets our love because it brings us to transcendence - it makes us forget our human condition.

If you want to bend your mind a little further while also grasping what it is that we want, read Updated Maslow's Pyramid of Needs.

The difference is that status was once a consequence of being a good hunter, fighter, healer and now status comes from being able to navigate the social world which includes freely speaking your mind without fear of being judged (that's what you do when you post videos on YouTube or Facebook). 


Since we're on a site that has little to do with psychology, I want you to understand that in order to do what you love you must have commitment. But that's not always enough coz apart from pure determination you also want the proper tools, like a good camera and video editing software

So I want you to follow your dreams, become famous and bring your gift to the world - whatever that my be: humor, sketches, fashion and style, motivation, etc. In this internet revolution - the perfect meritocracy - it's your time to be creative.

If you enjoyed this article, click to get free email updates.

You like my stuff? Help me out and spread the word. Share this. Thanks!