Content warning: the following story contains sensitive material regarding mental health, self-harm, and suicide.
Two months after Yousef “FouseyTube” Erakat threw a disastrous concert in LA that ended in a bomb threat, the YouTube star says he’s giving up his channel with 10 million subscribers. “It’s not worth it,” Erakat said in a video uploaded last week. While the confession seems heartfelt and genuine, Erakat’s history of sensational dishonesty in pursuit of views has left fans wondering whether his talk of suicide is real or not.
Erakat is a controversial YouTuber who is known for making prank videos and “social experiments,” some of which he admits that he faked for views. In the last year, Erakat has become a source of ridicule online for appearing manic, if not borderline oblivious, in footage where he yells about his life, aspirations, and fame. His erratic behavior got so intense that fans, along with other big YouTubers, begged people close to him to step in and talk him into getting some help, because it seemed like the star was publicly dealing with some mental health issues.
It seems this negative attention got to the YouTuber, who last week announced an apparent departure from his channel in a video that has now been taken down. In this footage, Erakat claimed that he wanted to kill himself, even taking the time to write a suicide note. The catalyst, Erakat said, was the overwhelming negativity surrounding his channel: it got bad enough that he couldn’t deal with any critical feedback on his videos, or anywhere else, for that matter. Last month, Erakat deleted all his other social media accounts.
“I don’t have social media anymore,” Erakat says in the video. “I don’t upload videos myself anymore. You wanna know why? Because whenever ... my brain saw a negative comment, it triggered my thoughts of suicide immediately, ‘cause that’s an issue that I have. Especially now, being off of medications, and being able to feel so freely for the first time in my life — the second I saw anything negative, even if I read one hundred thousand positive things, my brain got triggered.”
Part of what brought him to the brink, the YouTuber says, was that he was always chasing the wrong things just to make his channel grow, or to get attention from viewers. Recently, he says, he realized this wasn’t the answer to his problem.
“Money was never gonna make me happy, subscribers was never gonna make me happy, views were never gonna make me happy, because I wasn’t happy within,” Erakat says. So, Erakat claims that he’s leaving YouTube behind and will instead open up his channel to become a community platform that will be maintained by someone he trusts. Instead of uploading his own videos, his viewers can submit their footage and make the channel into whatever they’d like.
”Whoever’s hands it lands in, I hope it provides them whatever it is they are searching and yearning for, because it served me and I’m happy to let them go,” Erakat says. In a follow-up video, Erakat said he was doing this partially because he gets daily emails from talented fans who ask him for opportunities, so he saw giving the channel away as a means to give back to the community that helped build him up in the first place.
It’s been a week since this announcement, and during that time, the FouseyTube channel has hosted three videos by three different low-profile creators. Each one is introduced by a friend of Erakat, who explains that from now on, the FouseyTube channel will upload a user-submitted video on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Telling people that they can start thinking about FouseyTube as more of a platform, the friend says, “We’re hacking the system to get exposure for everyone that deserves it.”
The videos so far have been a bizarre mix, with the first upload promising people that they’ll learn how to sneak into a college party. While the lifestyle vlog is not particularly inspired, it’s at least somewhat entertaining — unlike the second upload.
During FouseyTube’s failed event back in July, the YouTuber climbed on top of his Uber driver’s vehicle and jumped around, damaging and eventually destroying the car. While this unfolded, the YouTuber told a crowd that gathered around him that he would buy his Uber driver a new car that was even better than the one he was trashing. Lo and behold, that’s exactly what happens in the second community upload to the channel, which is recorded by the Uber driver’s son.
Jose, the Uber driver, does repeatedly thank Erakat for buying him a new car, but the whole thing seems forced — he doesn’t really seem excited, for one, but also, the whole thing comes across as an advertisement for FouseyTube’s immense generosity, as if to make you forget he messed up the man’s car in the first place. Given Erakat’s vision for the channel, where he encouraged people to “get crazy” and to not care about views or what people will think, uploading a video like this appears self-serving, if not boring. By this point, “I bought [insert person here] a [insert expensive thing here]” has become a cliche on YouTube.
If FouseyTube’s new function is to take Erakat out of the picture and allow his fans to shine, uploading a video about how great it is that he’s buying a car for someone he wronged seems to defeat the supposed higher purpose of the channel. And if Erakat can’t keep to that part of his promise, it also makes it hard to trust that he’s being truthful about other parts of his goodbye note.
The last upload of the bunch is hardly worth mentioning — it’s a music video where rappers drive around, partying and talking about how people didn’t believe in their dreams. It’s not very good. And yet, as Erakat’s friend highlights at the start of the footage, these are content creators with a whopping zero subscribers to their name. While the picks so far have been questionable, Erakat does seem committed to highlighting smaller creators.
All the same, questions of who benefits from being hosted on the FouseyTube channel have abounded since Erakat’s announcement, with fans and commentators alike wondering who gets to keep the profits from the community uploads. In the official submission form, fans are warned that Erakat can “use, edit, publish and otherwise exploit your User Content and your name in connection with your User Content without any obligation or liability to you or any other party whatsoever,” but it does not clarify if there are any royalties involved.
Erakat did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but there is a growing concern that he might be presenting this as a benevolent gesture when he’s actually just letting other people make money for him. It’s hard to say at this point.
While the potential “for exposure” structure of FouseyTube seems questionable, creators who are submitting content feel differently than onlookers. YouTube is a hard market to break into: everyone wants to make videos, but it’s increasingly difficult to get noticed. The first content creator to get featured on the FouseyTube channel has been publicly ecstatic to have gotten the opportunity to bring his content to a wider audience. The FouseyTube channel itself has a clip where the YouTuber is losing it as he realizes that new people are discovering his creations and subscribing to his channel. Erakat’s friend makes a point to tell people that the creator went from 500 to 2,500 subscribers since going on the channel, meaning that he tangibly benefited from being on FouseyTube. It’s a small number compared to the millions subscribed to FouseyTube, but still, it’s an increase.
For some onlookers, the initial suicide framing of it all nevertheless reeks of yet another ploy by Erakat to get views on YouTube. The YouTuber has admitted in the past to lying and being unscrupulous just to get people to pay attention. His recent concert is a great example of his duplicitous nature: Erakat promised his fans that he had big acts performing, including Drake, only to produce none of them at the event.
“I did some shit that literally sold my dignity for views and money ... you’re doing things that you morally don’t believe in, but because the views and AdSense dollars are there, you continue to do them,” Erakat said on a podcast this year. These are the sorts of admissions that have made it hard for some people to take Erakat’s latest proclamations seriously, especially when he functions in a high-pressure environment that has pushed people to do things like fake pregnancies and murders just for views.
“FouseyTube needs to stop threatening everyone that he’s going to kill him self!” tweeted the leading YouTube news and gossip reporter Keemstar. “So fucking disgusting of him to do this shit.” If this seems like a harsh response to suicide, it’s mostly born from the knowledge that Erakat has done and said so many things in the past, that it’s hard to take what he says at face value. Unsurprising, then, that viewers seem split on the meaning of his absence from social media: some see it as a ploy, while others think it is a genuine cry for help.
His YouTube channel, which has been curated to only have positive comments, has its share of believers.
“Let’s see any of those other YouTubers calling him all kinds of crap give up their YouTube channels to help others build their career ... BET none would give up their life’s work for their fans,” one commenter wrote.
YouTube has made a lot of headlines for its “burnout crisis,” which is really another way of saying that creators on the platform suffer from the mental health problems that come from perpetual content creation. It’s hard to say whether Erakat fits into that category, but the footage coming out of things like his concert has been hard to watch — the man seemed unhinged, and continued to spiral on YouTube for months before announcing his departure. YouTube, meanwhile, has been publicly silent as viewers continue to eat popcorn.