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In the age of "takedown" videos and hashing out personal drama for public consumption, aging gracefully on the internet seems to elude a lot of people in the public eye. In this episode, Chelsea explains what it feels like to have a career as a YouTuber as you get older — especially among the exceedingly-young average age of other YouTubers.

Watch more of The Financial Diet hosted by Chelsea Fagan here:

Chelsea's letter from the CEO:

Contrapoints video on canceling:

Rookie mag goodbye:

Design Sponge goodbye:

Smokey Glow:

Every Frame a Painting:

The Financial Diet site:

Hey, guys.

It's Chelsea from The Financial Diet. And me, and my crystal lite lemonade, and my dead flowers would like to welcome you to another episode of TFD.

And today, I kind of wanted to go on another rant, rant adjacent thing similar to the one that I did about self-care a while back that seemed to resonate with you guys, partially because I feel like I don't often get to talk to you guys in a really just kind of free-flowing natural way. And I wrote a letter recently on the TFD website. I try to do a pretty regular letter from the CEO series.

I'll link you guys to that letter in the description, where I talked about my kind of complicated feelings on aging on the internet, which also involves kind of like cancel culture and being an influencer, being visible, building a brand on the internet, all that kind of stuff. And I want to touch on some of the stuff that I talked about in that letter here. But I also want to talk about kind of my more general feelings, and specifically focusing a little bit more on YouTube, because obviously that's where I'm talking to you guys.

So by the time you guys are watching this, I'm going to be 31. Although, technically I'm a youthful, sprightly, dewy 30 while filming this. And 31 basically makes me an ancient, decrepit corpse by YouTube standards.

I'm much older than the average YouTube audience. A lot of times the people who are most impressed by the fact that I'm a YouTuber are, like, my husband's 10-year-old cousins. So I definitely feel my oldest on this platform compared to all the other places that I do stuff, such as the TFD website, or even on social media.

And in a lot of ways, I like that, because the audience who watches our channel tends to be a little bit older than the YouTube average. And I never feel more grateful for that than when I go to like VidCon and so many YouTubers my age are being swarmed by fans who are literal teenagers or preteens. And let me tell you that those fan interactions are not nearly as respectful or fun as they are when, like, a 28-year-old comes up to you and says, hey, I love your channel.

It helped fix my credit score. So in general, I feel grateful to be the age that I am on YouTube. And also happy that the focus of my channel is not myself as a person, but really more about learning all kinds of different ways to get good with money and to talk to all kinds of different people about it.

At the end of the day, even if my life was that interesting, I'm only one person, so I only really have that much to say about my own personal experience with money. So in general, I feel really grateful to be the age that I am on YouTube. But I'm also very aware that my relationship to creating videos is also really informed by the fact that despite being the age I am now on YouTube, I have been making content for the internet as my full-time job for literally just under a decade, which also makes me like a withered old corpse by internet standards.

I'm not going to share the name of the website that I worked for for the first several years of my life, because this is not like a call-out video. But anyone could Google it. Or some of you probably know.

But I started the first several years of my writing career writing several articles a day for one of those just like millennial feelings websites, where anyone could write an essay about anything. You know, I was writing listicle's about the hottest men that look like corpses and like what your favorite fast fashion store says about your sex life. Just like crazy stuff.

And also tons of really embarrassing essays about my feelings. Again, Google me, drag me, roast me. I don't care.

I had to pay the bills. But so from a pretty young age, I was writing articles for public consumption. And that comment section was ruthless.

So I definitely from an early time got used to the idea of really putting myself out there and not being too overly concerned with the response and being not so worried about what other people thought of me on the internet. And kind of by, you know, chance, but also mostly because of my own ignorance and stupidity, one of the first articles I wrote that kind of really blew up blew up for a terrible reason. Basically, I was like canceled, even though we didn't have the term at the time, because I wrote an article basically saying that, like, slut shaming was not entirely wrong, and that women dressing in a certain way sent the bad message.

Like, really naive, really stupid. I think I was 21 or 22 at the time that I wrote it. And I had definitely been, like many of us as teenagers through college age, surrounded by pretty bad ideas.

And I didn't really know anything about feminism. And I didn't really know anything about what it really means to say that about a woman or to imply that about a victim of assault. And I was rightfully dragged throughout the internet.

I still to this day, it's almost 10 years later, I still to this day will get nasty emails and comments about it. But ultimately like, a, I'm glad that it happened really early on in my career. Because I think, you know, I've had time to just take total ownership of it.

I think on the year anniversary of when I wrote it, I also wrote a follow-up letter apologizing again, but also kind of just like explaining how I've grown since that point. And of course, I think the total opposite now. But I also think it was good that it happened at that time, because I learned very early on that what you say on the internet has consequences and means something.

And you're not just typing something into the void. You have to have a real sense of ownership around the things that you're willing to put your name on. And of course, I'm not going to link to my own horrible article in the comments.

But it's still online. So have a field day, guys. You can also read like 100 takedown articles about it, which I deserved.

And I'm sure there are other things that I wrote maybe as a teenager or in my very early 20s that I would cringe looking back on or I would regret now. But knowing that one of the worst things I ever wrote has already been eviscerated by the internet at large, I now measure my words a lot more and I do feel a complicated relationship toward cancel culture, as I'm sure a lot of people do. But I also understand that in the best iteration when there are people who are willing to learn and talk, and people who are willing to listen, or people who are willing to be patient, there can be real growth.

One of the feminist writers who wrote a scathing takedown of my work is now a friend of mine. We ended up becoming friends in real life because I wanted to learn more about her point of view. So all of that to say not only am I old for YouTube standards, I've also been around the block, baby.

I'm no spring chicken. I forged in the fires of the internet. I know this shit like the back of my hand.

But that gives me what I think is a very unique relationship to the internet at large. And it also gives me a relationship to aging on the internet. And I've found over the past couple of years on YouTube in particular, but the internet in general, that it can be really hard for people to find ways to age gracefully.

I remember last year during the Tati Westbrook, James Charles debacle, I, like many of you, probably was glued to videos about it, people's reactions to it, discussions about it. I watched like four different hour long videos by this one YouTube makeup blogger, Smokey Glow-- I'll link to her in the description-- who talked about her take on the issues. I have never watched like a minute of makeup vlogging in my life.

And I was riveted. Like, I consumed a truly insane amount of content around this. Also, shout-out to Smokey Glow.

I really love her channel. I think she's great. But anyway, so suffice to say, like, I was like you guys.

I was engaged in it. I was following the story. But I remember even when I first watched Tati Westbrook's video about her going that hard on James Charles-- and ContraPoints actually recently did an excellent video that does also address this particular situation, which I will also link in the description-- I remember when I watched that initial video, one of the first thoughts I had was, like, this woman is 37 years old.

And the boy that she is going after in this video is 19-years-old. And I think after watching James Charles' last video, like many of you, I have a much more nuanced view of the situation than I was when I initially watched Tati's video and felt very like one-sided, like James Charles is canceled basically. But even at that time, even when I thought, OK, let's assume that everything she's saying is true, I had a strong feeling of even if everything she's saying is true, is this the best forum and the best approach for a 37-year-old woman to take in trying to somehow teach a lesson to or force a moment of growth on a 19-year-old, to me, boy?

I guess, you could say man. And I think that that in and of itself, and of course, Jeffrey Starr came in as well-- he's also in his 30s-- I don't even know what he was doing in that whole story. But suffice to say, it was two adults involved in this.

But I think it said a lot about getting older on this platform and how to do it and how not to do it. And I think that when I think back on that, I think one of the things that we must do when we grow older on the internet, because there is literally no template for it, this is all new. There simply aren't people who have been on these platforms for decades and who can provide a healthy example of like aging into retirement on YouTube, that just doesn't happen.

So we all are figuring it out. And we all have to set standards for ourselves. And one of the things I think now more than ever is that we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard of conduct.

We have to act as mentors and amplifiers to other voices, which is part of the reason why I started the Financial Confessions, our podcast series, because I wanted to make sure that I'm passing the mic as much as I'm using the mic. But that we also have to have a really, really clear set of standards for when we will versus when we won't weigh in on a situation or put ourselves out there about something. Obviously, on YouTube, that's a very common thing, people weighing in on situations where they may not know a lot about it.

But let's look at Twitter, which is probably the number one social platform for firing off a crazy opinion about something when you've only read a headline about it, or when you really have no context for a situation, where things like the so and so over party can become a viral hashtag within a matter of minutes. Or even a news story can be completely misreported and misunderstood. I'd mentioned in a previous video that a really important habit to cultivate in general as you get older, but especially as you get older if you have a presence online, is to be really, really discerning about when it's right for you to weigh in on something, have an opinion on something, when you're really qualified to do it, and when it's OK to either remain silent or say, I really don't know.

If it comes down to a situation, like making a call out to someone, listen, spoiler alert, I've had people in this industry with whom I've had negative experiences. I've had people in this industry who have been duplicitous financially, duplicitous professionally, who have behaved in an extremely unprofessional way, who have exhibited conduct that I felt was either inappropriate or at the very least extremely unprofessional. And I have people that if I'm in a closed room with people that I trust, I will be like, oh, yeah, that person was a hot mess in x or y situation.

I would not work with them again. But the appropriate thing to do in that case is to not work with that person again and to make sure that you are holding yourself to those values and standards. But when you go to the extreme of putting them on blast publicly, I'm not saying that there's never a situation in which you do it, but particularly as you get older, and you are setting an example, and are being a role model in any capacity on the internet, you have to have a pretty damn high barrier to what will and won't constitute a public call out.

And if you are going to do it, you better have every single duck in a row. Because anything that's even slightly inaccurate or unfair in what you're saying is going to discredit your entire thesis. So I think, you know, I've seen even in the past year a ton of what could be described as YouTuber drama, or people fighting over whether it's a person or a situation, or what have you.

And in 99% of those cases when I see a person who is my age, or close to it, or older, engaging in these things, my automatic response is, you're too old for this. You should not be engaging in this. You should not be making, you know, call out commentary.

You should not be fighting with the person on Twitter. By the way, that's one of my cardinal rules of life is never engage in an argument on Twitter, because you both lose. You both lose because you fought on Twitter.

No one wins in a Twitter fight. But you should disengage. You should de-escalate.

You should say, let's take this to an email or a phone call, because we're not going to get anything done this way. And moreover, I think one of the things that's hard to confront, especially as a YouTuber, where it is literally your face, your voice, your body, everything to the camera that is your product and brand, I think you have to be thinking about what is your exit strategy? What is your retirement?

What is passing the baton look like? You know, I'm hopefully with TFD building an ecosystem of women and all kinds of people talking about money that could one day potentially exist without me. Although, don't worry guys I'm not going anywhere in the near future.

Because I don't want everything to have to be shut down the second I walk away from the camera. Part of the reason we wanted to bring Lindsay Ellis on for that month take over that she did, which you guys loved so much, is because we wanted to make sure that the story that we're telling and the things that we're teaching people go beyond just me and my opinions. And I don't see a lot of YouTuber's doing that.

I see some, but I also see a lot of YouTuber's who are now well into their 30s who are doing those tweets that's like the first 100 people to retweet my new video will get a special DM from me or whatever. And listen, no judgment. We all have bills to pay.

But perhaps it would be better to start creating a brand and creating a platform that is a little bit more self sustainable so that you're not having to do the same things at 35 that you were doing at 19 in order to build that channel. You know, I think when I look at the people online who have had graceful exits, you know here on YouTube there's every frame a picture who made a series of just incredible videos, incredible content, and then walked away gracefully when it was no longer what they wanted to do. On the web, you have Tavi Gevinson with Rookie Mag, who shut it down with a very, very thoughtful letter about why she felt that it wasn't sustainable to continue that online magazine in the way that she had initially created it.

You have Design Sponge, who I think just ended. That's Grace Bonney. She was the founder and editor.

And she wrote about a year before the site ended, like, this is why I'm ending the site in the year. And just wound it down that way. There are ways do it.

There are ways to choose what the next step looks like that don't necessarily have to be bad. That can just be about evolution and growth. And I don't see a lot of YouTuber's preparing for that, because often it can get really difficult to zoom out and look at what you're doing beyond just the next video and how many clicks, and shares, and likes it's going to get.

So the questions that I often ask myself are, what do I want my life to look like in 10 years? And is the internet even a part of it in a professional way? And even if so, is it in my life to the same extent that it is today?

And the answer is, probably not. But that's not going to happen all by itself. That's an active series of choices.

And that is informed not just by the way you build your brand, it's also informed by the way you behave. And I think looking back on that first ever experience with "cancellation" when I was canceled quote, unquote. And I don't even like that word.

But again, it taught me from a very early age relatively speaking, that if you do not weigh your words correctly and if you are not careful about the way you put yourself out there, you can very, very easily end up in a situation where your words become a complete runaway train that you're having to follow after and you're having to make up for. And I always want to feel like I'm ahead of my words. And part of that means never engaging in the foolishness online.

And I know that it can be really tempting. And trust me, I wouldn't say there are a lot to be clear, but there's like two creators-- honestly, I think there's really like one creator that I'm like, I wish that someone would call your ass out, because you're unprofessional as hell, you burned a lot of bridges, you behaved badly to a lot of people, a lot of people have been really upset by the way you've behaved. But thus far no one's calling that person out.

And I'm not going to be the person to do it, because there's no way for me to do that in a way that's just about the professional. The professional choice is to just not engage and to not work with that person. But as soon as you are making call out videos, as soon as you're fighting on social media, as soon as you're, you know, making like a 5,000 Instagram stories series, like you know, passive aggressively talking about someone, or talking about the industry where everyone knows what you're talking about, you're in the mud, baby.

You're already in the mud. And even if you have the upper hand, you are not acting in a way that's becoming of you. So all of that to say there is no template for aging gracefully online.

And let's be honest, I post cringe sometimes. I look back at some of the stuff I posted even like a month ago, and I'm like oh, I could have done that better, or I could have chosen my words better, or that's not a cute selfie, or whatever I'm thinking. I'm not perfect.

I do things on the internet that I regret to this day. And sometimes I can say things in the heat of the moment that I wish I hadn't. Or I can weigh in on an issue that I don't understand perfectly.

It happens. I'm human. Shocking, I know.

But at the end of the day, the vast majority of what I post and the vast majority of the presence that I have online, and what I'm creating, and what I'm shaping, I feel good about, and I feel proud about. And I never am in a situation where the internet is controlling my life. I am always in a situation where I'm using it as a tool to build a life that I love.

And hopefully, do a little good in the world. So if you're someone who is like entering elder statesmanship on the internet, which for us, honestly, means like 30 and above, let's be honest, I would recommend really taking a step back from all that you're doing on the internet and saying, like, if someone were to put all of this on a billboard in Times Square and make me and everyone I ever knew look at it, would I be humiliated by it? Would I regret it?

And if the answer is, yes, you're kind of already messing up. Because even though you're mind doesn't work this way, when you post a video that a ton of people watch, you are effectively putting it in a billboard in Times Square. When I have a video that has 500,000 views, 500,000 people watch that.

That is an insane number of people. If I was to think about that logically, imagine talking in a room to 500,000 people. It's insane.

It's like a Super Bowl amount of people. So just think about it that way. And the kids are going to be kids.

The zoomers are going to zoom. They're going to fight with each other. They're going to live in mansions with 25 of them and make viral TikToks, and fight with each other, and get married, and then divorced in like three months.

Let them have it. Let them act a fool on the internet, because that's called being young. But hold yourself to a higher standard.

See if you can age a little bit more gracefully. And don't get in a situation where you're fighting with someone via Instagram story, because it demeans us all. It really does.

All right, guys, thank you for sitting with this meta commentary of what it means to be on YouTube. I'll be back next week with hot money tips. Don't you worry your pretty little heads about it.

Bye, guys. Oh, that was a very real moment. I got so in my feelings that I forgot to do my usual.

Now, get ready to get undignified again. Don't forget to like, subscribe, comment, TikTok, Instagram. No, but we do make episodes of this show every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.

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