More Kids Want to Be YouTubers than Astronauts Because Obviously
The highest-paid astronaut last year brought home around $120,000 — or 187 times less than the highest-paid YouTuber
At some point every kid wants to be an astronaut. Living life in the cosmos, eating astronaut ice cream, seeing the blue-and-green marble of the world as it languidly orbits beneath your space capsule…
Except not any more, according to new data.
A survey, timed to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landings, shows that in the United Kingdom and United States, far more children want to be a YouTuber than they do an astronaut.
Around three in 10 children said they wanted to be a YouTuber when they grew up in those two countries, compared to one in 10 who dreamed of the stars.
In China, the positions are switched. Fifty-six percent of children there said they wanted to be an astronaut when they grew up, while 18% said they wanted to be a vlogger (YouTube is officially banned in China, though canny use of virtual private networks — VPNs — mean that the site hovers near the top 10 most popular in the country. In its place, proprietary video sharing websites exist, and are massive).
This is being treated by some as some sort of shocking indictment on society, that children brought up in the 21st century have lost their sense of adventure and dreams in a way that the boomer children of the 1960s had.
But in reality, it shows that kids aren’t stupid. And they’re no less likely to think big than those wanting to be astronauts.
The highest earning astronaut can take home around $120,000 a year, according to the United States Office of Personnel Management.
Last year, the highest earning YouTuber deposited $22.5 million into his bank account.
And unlike astronauts, where you have to go through years of rigorous training, the high-rolling YouTuber was these kids’ peer. His name was Ryan, and he is the star of the channel Ryan ToysReview.
It can be difficult, when a paradigm shifts, to adjust to the change. Around the same time that Buzz Aldrin and friends were setting foot on the Moon for the first time, weird people with long hair, a laissez-faire approach to sex and a penchant for marijuana were confusing suited-up nuclear families across the United States.
But we need to be more aware of the dreams children have, and the realities they think of when considering future careers. They consume hours of media featuring their favorite YouTubers, and see them driving fast cars and living in mansions.
“Put simply, social media stars are the celebrities for the younger generation, much like astronauts were back in 1969,” says Zoe Glatt, a PhD researcher at the London School of Economics. “Not only this, but there is an accessibility to them that previous forms of celebrity did not have, with the perception that anyone can ‘make it’ in this growing industry as long as they have a smartphone. All this considered, it is no surprise that so many young people today aspire to follow this career path.”
The news that they want a comparable lifestyle to that is not surprising.
What is surprising is that China’s children don’t dream even more strongly of being social media influencers when they grow up.
The Chinese market is far more advanced and mature than in the west, with more opportunities to make money than in the United States or Europe. E-commerce drives much of a Key Opinion Leader’s (KOL, their equivalent of “YouTuber” or “influencer”) income there, because the platforms they use are more vertically integrated to include shopping elements.
This is, in part, why FFWD was set up. Tomorrow you’ll likely see slightly shocked reaction pieces in newspapers across the United States and United Kingdom amazed at the notion that children would want to earn inordinate amounts of money.
The likelihood of them doing that by pursuing online video fame is vanishingly thin, though some, like Ryan, break through. “A minuscule proportion of content creators actually manage to make a living, whilst the rest struggle on and frequently burn out,” says Glatt.
So when you read those stories, reframe the question.
The most successful of these people get to create entertainment for the masses while earning massive amounts of money. They get to buy fast cars and travel the world. They get to have fun.
In a world where the last manned space mission to touch down on a foreign body took place when their grandparents were their age, why wouldn’t kids today want to be YouTubers?