YouTubers Are Reinventing The Celebrity Break Up

For all intents and purposes, YouTubers Liza Koshy and David Dobrik broke up for the same vague reasons all celebrities break up: they were busy. They grew apart. They’re still friends. But, unlike most celebrities, they would not like you to respect their privacy at this time. Instead, they took to YouTube for a full six minutes to explain in tearful, snotty, and somehow hilarious detail everything that led to their split.
That kind of raw candor and laughter is exactly in line with what fans have come to expect from the couple, who have been the darlings of YouTube these past few years after they jumped ship from Vine. Dobrik, 21, has gained a following of seven million subscribers for his goofy and stunt-filled vlogs, and 22-year-old Liza’s fourteen million acolytes love her puns and sketches and costumes (which recently earned her a gig hosting Vogue’s Met Gala red carpet). But many fans tuned in not just for Koshy and Dobrik as individuals, but for Koshy and Dobrik the couple.
The same can’t be said for the majority of traditional A-list celebrity pairs, who, even when they have public relationships, tend to keep the specifics under wraps. “Quietly dating,” in tabloid terms. They’re “spotted out.” If we want to learn about Jennifer Lopez and Adam Rodriguez, or Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber, it’s through paparazzi pictures and “sources” and the occasional interview. But Koshy and Dobrik are among this burgeoning genre of stars who make their living by giving fans an all-access, daily pass to their lives via the internet, which is exactly what makes their story so popular — and in some cases, even more popular — than those of more mainstream celebrities.
In their break-up video, which at one point had the number one spot on YouTube’s trending videos, and currently has over 21 million views, Koshy and Dobrik explain the demise of their two-year-long relationship in real time, making viewers privy to surprisingly intimate conversations.
“If one of us finds someone, I just want us to be respectful of that,” Dobrik says at one point in the video.
“Oh, well yeah,” Koshy assures him.
“That’s really nice,” I say to my screen.
“Traditional celebrity breakups don’t really affect me in the way that David and Liza’s did because David and Liza have become a huge part of my life,” 17-year-old subscriber Amy told me. She first fell in love with the creators on Vine, but became a fan of their YouTube presence in January of this year. “I really feel connected with them and the rest of the fandom in a way that I don’t experience with traditional celebrities.”
Some traditional celebrities seem to be learning from the success of YouTubers, getting more and more forthcoming with the details we did (and didn’t) ask for, with Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton at the top of the list thanks to their roles on The Voice, and newer pair Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande’s social media use shooting them to a close second. But more often than not, when celebrities do take to the internet to clarify their relationship, the reveal is brief, perfunctory and tightly controlled. No questions, please.
Former spouses Anna Faris and Chris Pratt, who posted matching messages on their social media last summer, wanted “to keep this situation as private as possible.” Another former “It” couple, Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan warned they would not “be commenting beyond this” when they released their statement in April. But Koshy and Dobrik? They’re “sorry we didn’t let you know sooner...we wanted to be comfortable talking about it :)” per the description of the now-viral video.
Despite the splitvideo’s stand-out popularity, it’s not an anomaly. The moment a creator chooses to let their subscribers know about their relationship, they mustalso be prepared to let them know when it ends. What’s resulted is a graveyard of videos with ominous titles that all bear similar hallmarks (“Now it’s a break up video,” Dobrik jokes when the camera cuts to reveal Koshy’s post-crying face), but can happen in a handful of ways. Sometimes, in the case of Koshy and Dobrik, the couple chooses to make the video together, to stand as a united front and let their viewers know what’s going on.
Sometimes, like in the case of now-deleted videos from Colleen Ballinger (the woman behind Miranda Sings) and ex Josh Evans, the former couple makes individual videos explaining to their separate subscribers that the relationship is over. In other instances, just one person makes the video, leaving the other to assume mutual followers have heard the news and they can continue on as normal.
But even the YouTubers who choose to not make videos, who announce their split via traditional social media statements, still give way more access than your average Hollywood movie star. Lifestyle guru Estée Lalonde and ex Aslan (last name unknown) posted matching statements on Twitter and Instagram stories in April, announcing that their long term relationship had come to its conclusion.
And while Lalonde has yet to directly mention the break up in her videos, she’s still sharing its aftermath. We joined her while she went to Ikea to shop for her new apartment, which revealed that she was moving out of the home she had shared with her partner of around 8 years. More recently, she gave a tour of her new single-girl digs. She promised via Instagram stories that her upcoming video would be a “life update,” because that’s what YouTubers do. Not keeping their subscribers abreast of their personal lives would defeat the very thing that makes them a novelty, the thing that’s hurtling them into stardom alongside movie and music stars, whether you understand it or not.
“It was hard to watch it end,” Amy said of Koshy and Dobrik. “However, you can see that they genuinely love and care for each other, and I’m excited to watch them grow as best friends.” And the best thing about YouTube is that we will.

More from Pop Culture

R29 Original Series