Capture d’écran du compte Youtube de Merve

On YouTube, the success of Merve’s study sessions


On YouTube, Merve, a student at the University of Glasgow, streams her work sessions live, which are watched by thousands of people, mostly students, every day. 

A Monday afternoon, 2 p.m. in Scotland. Merve, a PhD student at the University of Glasgow, is launching a live stream on her YouTube channel. The next four hours are devoted to study. Fifty-minute work cycles, ten-minute breaks. On her large varnished wooden desk, decorated with a few plants, are meticulously lined up her computer, papers and notebooks. On the chat window adjacent to the live stream, a few hundred people already online greet each other. Viewers connected from Romania, Italy, Denmark, Norway, even from Canada and Taiwan. On this day, Merve focuses on “international petrol and gas operators and decarbonisation”. Some are planning to revise or prepare for their exams, others to write articles.

Since the start of the academic year in September, the student has got into the habit of livestreaming her revision sessions. Three, four or even eight hours are spent in front of her desk, usually in front of the window overlooking the rooftops of Scottish houses. A very soothing setting, lulled by the silence that recalls the calm of the library. Her YouTube channel is her “revision corner”, as she calls it. Every Monday, she pins her weekly schedule on it, and her videos each get between 10,000 and 30,000 views.

Here there is no lofi music, white noise or moving pictures that have long since conquered YouTube. Merve’s calm and focused videos are the strength of her content, followed by 156,000 subscribers and nearly 7.7 million views.

To no longer be alone

If the close relationships created by youtubers and influencers are the key to their business, here it Merve’s anonymity that explains its success. Don’t try to find out who she is. The student, who wishes to keep her age and country of origin secret, never shows her face (not even on her Instagram account).

All you will see of her is her hands, highlighting her notes or having a cup of tea. “She is in a way the analogy of the academic library, deciphers Elsa Godart, philosopher and psychoanalyst. “Merve and her videos produce the motor effect of mimetic desire, according to the theory of René Girard [French anthropologist and philosopher, Editor’s note].She reconstructs that person in front of us in the library, the one we look at and who fascinates us”.

“I study a lot,” agrees Merve. “I’ve always been like that. According to my classmates, working with me helps them progress. Today, many of them find it difficult to find the motivation to work alone in their bedroom, and they need companionship to study. People who watch my videos have the feeling that they are studying with other people from all over the world”.

Initially, Merve chose to use “YouTube’s storage capacity a bit like a cloud”. But at the end of October, at a time when restrictions resumed and the health situation was getting worse in many European countries, her channel ‘exploded’. “The success of her videos is above all the expression of a great tragedy,” laments Elsa Godart. She adds: “There is a total saturation for the students not to see each other, not to be together. There is a lack of group effect and the dialogue that makes work possible”.

Merve, like so many others, was distraught in the face of the health crisis and decided to help people on her own level: “Knowing that I can help people is a perfect satisfaction for me,” the student consoles herself.

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