Kyle Bryce is a divisive figure within the YouTube community who has faced criticism for his channel, Behind The Meme, but a new series of videos have YouTube’s team reportedly investigating concerns from the community that Bryce may be in trouble.
[Caution: The following contains reporting on suicidal language.]
Bryce has posted four videos over the past week with ominous titles that have left viewers concerned and frustrated. The first video finds Bryce walking through a grocery store and buying a bottle of vodka; there’s no dialogue, but the video’s description reads, “Behind the meme picks up an old friend that will help him get through his feelings ... or so he thinks.” It’s the second, third and fourth videos that tipped off the general YouTube community.
The videos feature Bryce out of focus or not on camera at all, talking about depression, anxiety and contemplating suicide. Facing a constant barrage of “hate from strangers” took a toll, Bryce said in the second video, admitting that it led to a four-month break from YouTube leaving him happier for a while.
“YouTube has the ability to make people happy and proud and it just hasn’t been doing that for me lately,” Bryce said.
Bryce’s comments about YouTube notoriety providing a faux happiness are similar to what other creators have talked about in recent videos as burnout becomes an important topic.
His new videos attracted attention from everyone aware of past controversy Bryce faced. Last year and earlier this year, YouTube commentators like Pyrocynical criticized Bryce’s channel for its overall aesthetic and content, calling his videos, which are focused on explaining memes, redundant and monotonous. Bryce later faced a nasty doxxing attack. He took a break about six months ago, and returned with a video about Stéfan Karl, an actor and popular figure within the YouTube meme community who died on Aug. 21. Bryce posted a video about Karl, leading some to accuse him of trying to profit off Karl’s death by monetizing his tribute video.
All of the negative attention is something Bryce obsesses over in the videos posted this past week, in which he discusses the toll it’s taken on his mental health.
“Life’s not easy,” Bryce said in the third video. “Life’s not easy for anyone. Just a simple kind gesture, smiling at someone, asking them how their day’s going, it might mean a lot to a person. It’s a thing that most people don’t do. People’s words, even though they don’t think it has an effect, it has an effect sometimes.”
The fourth video is the darkest, and features Bryce drinking and crying.
“I don’t have any family or friends,” Bryce said in the video. “I literally just have a bunch of people on the internet who hate me. What’s the point anymore?”
It’s a disturbing series, and one that YouTube is reportedly investigating, according to multiple commenters who said they’ve reached out. YouTube’s help page states that if people come across videos that contain suicide threats or ideation talks, the company will investigate.
“If you come across content in which someone is suicidal or engaging in self harm, please contact local authorities and flag the video to bring it to our immediate attention,” the help page reads. “We reach out to these individuals with resources and work with suicide prevention agencies to provide assistance when possible.”
Sources within the YouTube community have told Polygon that authorities have been contacted. While the immediate important and conversation is Bryce’s safety, there is some concern within the community that Bryce is scripting the series because of past content. Everyone’s focus is on ensuring Bryce is okay by reaching out to YouTube’s team, and talking within the community to make sure people are alright. Considering how much shock content spreads across YouTube, Een from Nerd City, one of the biggest commentary and investigative channels on YouTube, told Polygon over Twitter DM that it’s difficult to judge situations.
“My biggest concern is that he’s in a bad place and is considering hurting himself,” Een said. “So before getting into any criticism, I’d like to know that a wellness check was carried out. But if this is meta content or an ARG meant to promote a change of direction like I suspect it is, than it’s dangerously misguided.”
Still, the message from the majority of the fans is the same — Bryce is loved.
“Behind the meme keep doing what your doing,” one commenter wrote. “You’re an amazing person who is just doing what he cares about. People care. You have people who love you.”
Update: A YouTube representative told Polygon that in these cases, reviewer will determine that “an uploader is expressing suicidal ideation in their video,” and if the reviewer thinks that’s the case, “we will send at-risk messaging over email which points to intervention resources like National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Crisis Text Line.”