Creative work

Do dislikes actually hurt content creators on YouTube?

Me sitting in front of my computer, open window with my youtube channel on

By far the most irritating thing I see on YouTube is when people dislike a video without leaving a comment on why. Most of my videos have a pretty nice likes-to-dislikes ratio, around 0.95. Those numbers matter to me. Because it’s a signal e.g. for using too much clickbait and other practices I could improve.

But some of my YouTube videos got 10k views, and 5% dislikes. Now that would be 500 people who disliked the video. To me as a creator, it would now be really interesting to know what was wrong, so I can do better in the future. But I can only guess, because what 500 dislikes don’t translate to are 500 comments on what terrible thing I did.

Because… I don’t know? Cause people are cowards? Therefore, if you’re reading this now: Please, consider to act differently. Not just on my channel, but on the whole internet. Consider being a normal human, with an opinion, a voice and the ability to talk to others. Especially online! Because I think that the internet would be a better place, if we could just have a nice debating culture.

Dislikes do not hurt YouTubers, they actually help them out quite a bit

Are content creators »hurt« by dislikes though? I would say, they are not. At least not in terms of the algorithm. Personally, I can not speak for other creators. I would say that it’s the same as with any other metric: It can be a bit frustrating and maybe you feel misunderstood. But overall, I think, interaction is a good thing and if you don’t like feedback, you should not be on the internet. Because you have to expect and be open to positive as well as negative feedback as a creator.

Dislikes, as far as I can say for my channel, help my videos to be pushed by the YouTube algorithm. Every interaction is good in the end. And the YouTube algorithm also seems to like controversy quite a bit.

How you can actually »hurt« YouTubers (Hint: It has nothing to do with dislikes…)

In fact, if you really want to »hurt« a creator, the best you can do is not to click on a lot of their videos, but only watch the first few seconds. Don’t like or dislike them. Just don’t interact with the video in any way. And remember to activate your ad-blocker.

Then leave their channel as fast as you can. And if the creator gets suggested to you afterwards, click on »Don’t recommend channel«. That will kick’em out of your feed forever and flag them as irrelevant to the evaluation algorithm on YouTube.

By clicking off of a video super fast, you also signal to YouTube’s algorithms that the video is potential clickbait or not what the thumbnail promises. Because usually people click off fast when they find that a video is just not what they were looking for. But if you go out of your way to dislike a video, you are interacting. You are pushing that video and signaling to YouTube that there is something to be upset about. Aka something worth watching, because people love to be offended. (Otherwise, why do y’all watch that stuff?)

I never dislike videos on YouTube

However, I am always puzzled by this behavior. That itchy trigger finger-mentality… I mean, what are you—five years old?—I honestly can’t even remember a single video I ever disliked. As explained above, that does not even downvote the video in any way. It might even help that bad bad creator who you don’t like.

So, ironically, it’s pretty stupid to dislike videos you sincerely dislike. Ever thought about that? Please help me understand the thought process. I mean… for me, something must be over-the-top outrageous to make me go out of my way and actually hit the dislike button. It is a rather ridiculous thing to me. Especially when I look at the little data I have from people who actually told me why they disliked a video (which is probably less than 10%).

One time, on my old German YouTube channel, I made an English video just for fun. I told people to let me know whether or not they liked the idea of a bilingual channel… And, oh boy, did they let me know how much they didn’t like the idea.

Now that is something I get. But I still think it is kind of immature. I mean, I had a small channel, and I think we had the kind of culture going on, in chich you can just speak freely and say what upsets you. Why not talk to each other like normal human beings? The like/dislike clture to me is like leaving sticky notes for your neighbor, telling them what pisses you off, anonymously. I never wanted to be that neighbor. Or like storming out of a room without saying a word and just yelling at the person. How is that going to help?

I got a lot of dislikes for this clickbait video, but it dit all but hurt my YouTube channel

I mean, if a creator said or did something you really disagree with, it would make way more sense that you actually let them know what it was. Because then they at least have a chance to change.

Here is another example from my YouTube channel, where I share videos about minimalism, hiking and also some vlogs. Once, I made a video about me not having a bed. I don’t have a conventional bed. As in bed frame or box-spring bed. Here’s a whole article on how I actually sleep: I have a mattress on the floor.

Sure, I never thought of it as unusual, but still. My whole family is giving me that »You need a bed, kid« talk. So I decided to make a video about it:

This is the video on my YouTube channel that has the most overall dislikes, but it’s also one of the most clicked ones. Those dislikes didn’t hurt me at all as a creator, in fact they helped push out my video to more viewers.

I would consider the title to be mild click-bait. I mean, I know, it’s not like I sleep directly on my floor or in a hammock. But it’s debatable how bad that really is. After all, I kind of expect the viewer to think for themselves, and I find it a fair question to ask: How stupid do you actually have to be to not read the title (which includes »minimal bed setup«) and then be super disappointed over that video. Like how? Second grade reading skills, anyone?

However, this is one of my most-clicked videos but also one with the most dislikes. And almost nobody let me know much about their outrage. I can only guess that it is because I had the audacity to put up this thumbnail (and then resolve the mystery like in the first 10 seconds, but okay, you go, because what…? Because you are disappointed that you didn’t have the brains to anticipate that I must sleep on something? Oh dear…).

If YouTube didn’t offer dislikes, what would you do? Just be quiet? Comment anonymously?

This makes me think: What would these people actually say or do in real-life? Would they storm out of the room and just shout something unintelligible at me? I would love to know, really! Because I would not act like this on YouTube or outside of YouTube. Whenever I disagree with something, I actually have the balls to tell that creator to their face. So should you.

If you have a problem with something as ridiculous as a thumbnail that cost you 10 seconds of your life, then be the adult you claim to be and let me know.

I think that so many people don’t actually share their opinions, because they are afraid of backlash, or simply an honest answer. For me though, it is a great practice in being non-judgemental and less defensive. And I actually value critical coments. They help me learn more about what people misunderstand and what I need to explain better.

But the commenters can also learn from it. Because you need to understand one thing: You only ever see a very small part of a person online. One video does not represent a whole person, their life, their mindset, their experiences. It is just a few minutes and you can never know a person from that. Never. Get it into your heads, please.

Ask, don’t assume.

Instead, it makes more sense to practice some nice »Ask, don’t assume!« and actually find out what was meant by what the creator said in the video. What did they mean? Did they really want to express it that way? Was it meant to be harsh or judgemental? Start a real conversation—we need more of them!

I would really like to start a discussion about the debate culture here. I don’t worry about dislikes on YouTube, but I’m genuinely interested in why people go out of their way to push that button, rather than saying what their problem is.

My experience in reallife is also that whenever I had an honest and civil discussion with someone who disagreed with me, it was usually really inspiring. Often, those people in fact became close friends later, and I would have regretted not getting into a discussion with them. And that is the place I want to have for my YouTube as well. Just a big safe space for people to speak their mind.

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  • Reply
    September 12, 2021 at 4:28 pm

    I have a YouTube/Google account, but not a YouTube channel. This means I can like/dislike, but not post comments. The closest I can get to commenting is the like/dislike. Even so, I would probably not leave a comment with a dislike because of, as you said, “backlash.” Not from the creator but from other commenters who I’m not talking to. By analogy, it’s like giving constructive feedback to someone who is surrounded by bored busybodies and unstable fans. But here I’m referring mostly to larger channels. I doubt there is much value in my comment in these cases, and as such I usually don’t bother to dislike, just move on.

    For smaller channels, maybe a comment would be better tolerated, though again I’m skeptical. Videos that would greatly benefit from a counter-argument or alternative position (e.g. philosophical and religious videos) are, in my experience, often saturated with attaboy, “how stupid do you have to be to disagree with this” comments regardless of the channel size. (The position, though not the tone, makes sense to me. Channels focused on serious topics probably have more regular, supportive viewers than dissenters or passersby.) Would my message be read by the creator? Maybe. Would a stranger’s comment make a dent in their convictions? I doubt it.

    “I think that so many people don’t actually share their precious little opinions, because they are afraid of […] an honest answer.” On the contrary, my comments are so precious that I’m afraid I’d get a *dishonest*, dismissive answer.

    “Whenever I disagree with something, I actually have the balls to tell that creator to their face.” You have the energy and the self-assurance to tell them, and you may be mistaking these things for virtues rather than gifts. Many battles aren’t worth fighting. Online, as in reality, many battles aren’t worth the cost to those who fight.

    Thanks for enabling comments here. I hope you find my feedback worth your time.

    • Reply
      Undine Almani
      September 13, 2021 at 4:15 am

      That’s odd. I have two accounts actually. One for my private videos and dumb things I google like “How to make sourdough bread”. These are queries I simply don’t want in my feed. I don’t want to watch 50 bread videos ;-D But I don’t think it’s a channel account. And even if, it is just one click and you don’t need to upload anything or use it for anything… Just saying.

      I totally get it though with the big channels. Wanted to include that first, but it was getting too long… In that case, I really agree. It’s probably useless and you just get eaten by the fans… But maybe it also depends on how one says it? IDK… probably also a question of what kind of channel it is…

      I am not sure it has only to do with energy for me. As I said, I rarely ever in my life dislike a video (especially not for something like mild click bait). I don’t care enough about such lapidary problems. Maybe I in fact don’t have the energy (rather the time though).

      It’s more puzzling to me than upsetting though. Dislikes really help. But I just find it so odd, because I don’t feel like I am the threatening kind, you know? I would assume that people don’t worry much about giving me their opinion on something like the above video hehe… But maybe it’s a bad example. Maybe people are just lazy. I think, for me, a dislike (cause I make videos myself) is more of a drastic move than for most people. Especially if I just disagree with like one statement etc. I try to see the whole rather than trying to find a creator I always agree with…

      Anyway, I found your feedback valuable and I think, I agree with it! Love to hear from you whenever you feel like sharing your thoughts 🙂

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