YouTube’s top trending content at the moment isn’t an advertisement, music video, or movie trailer. It is not a viral challenge video, nor is it something about Fortnite. Instead, it’s a shockingly raw breakup video featuring two of YouTube’s biggest comedy vloggers, Liza Koshy and David Dobrik.
Liza Koshy, 22, is best known for going to stores and causing improvisational mischief, often featuring random items that anyone can buy. David Dobrik, 21, has also made a name for himself through funny vlogs, many of which feature his relationship with Koshy. Combined, the two have over 21 million subscribers, making them one of the most visible power couples on the platform. Except that the two broke up six months ago, according to a video uploaded yesterday.
The split may come as a surprise to some fans, given that the two have been uploading videos with each other this entire time. Just two weeks ago, Dobrik shared footage of him surprising Koshy with a puppy, and before that, there was another video in which he brings her a monkey. But according to the pair, the two had grown apart enough that staying in a relationship just didn’t make sense anymore: they were leading separate lives.
”Liza broke up with me because she felt like we’ve been kinda distant, because we’ve just been so busy, period,” Dobrik said.
The video’s popularity is not entirely thanks to the viewers who normally follow the everyday minutia of their favorite YouTubers. It’s gone viral because of how obvious it is that the two deeply care for one another. They joke around, they crack up, they cry. They sing each other’s praises and talk about how they’re still best friends. They make jabs about future boyfriends and girlfriends. When Koshy says that she is going through something and that she needs to love herself before she can love someone else, she knows it’s cliché — so you believe her. It helps that she pokes fun at herself. “This is gonna sound so lame, but I really want to spread love but I have to have it first, you know?,” Koshy says, laughing. “It’s like saying you’re gonna spread mayonnaise when you only have mustard.”
At this point, breakups are their own genre of video on YouTube, and plenty of couples have announced a separation in front of the camera. Where before partners might consider joining things like banking accounts or bills, lovers in 2018 have to think about what it means to merge your brand with someone else’s. You don’t have to be a big YouTube star to think about when you make a relationship Instagram official, how much a partner should be mentioned on your social media feeds, or even what labels you publicly use for one another. To what degree should you own your relationship online? How will that relationship define you in the eyes of others on the internet? Even a simple tagged photo carries a much bigger meaning for some of us. You don’t want to give people the wrong idea about where things stand with certain people — or maybe you do want to send a very specific message out there.
While most of us can simply stop tagging an ex on our social media accounts, YouTubers with channels revolving around their lives don’t have that luxury. Their entire livelihoods could be at risk if they disappoint or upset the audience following them. As ridiculous as it might sound, there’s a real need for disclosure regarding where they stand with those regularly featured in their videos. If nothing else, airing everything out this publicly is a preventative measure that could minimize the chance that either person will get harassed by fans who believe one person ought to be blamed for the breakup.
Koshy and Dobrik know they’re operating within this strange space. They waited a long time to tell YouTube fans because they were both angry that they grew apart in the first place. And while we all know that what influencers show us is just a well-edited sliver of a much bigger picture, there’s a subtext of realness here. Koshy jokes that she could have wiped away her tears and fix up her appearance, but that wouldn’t be authentic. You believe her. More than that: you can’t help but watch and think, Man, I wish I had had a breakup as healthy as this one.