How Popular, Loved, and Hated Internet Stars Are

  • Insider surveyed over 1,000 people three times throughout 2021 to learn more about influencers.
  • The data revealed the most adored, reviled, and well-known internet stars and how their popularity has changed over time.
  • Insider found that the more well known a creator is, the more likely people are to dislike them.

The internet has changed the nature of fame and celebrity. Influencers have found rapid success and adoration in their niches of the web — many without ever being noticed by the general population — and the tides of popularity can go out as fast as they come in.

Insider surveyed 1,105 people to learn about their knowledge and opinions on 99 internet influencers over the first three quarters of 2021.

The changes and trends help reveal the new inner workings of online fame.

How being canceled can change your career

The data plotted in Insider’s influencer index shows that the more well-known a creator is, the more likely people are to find the influencer “unfavorable.”

This notion is consistent with a previous finding from Insider: Getting “canceled” can ultimately be incredibly beneficial for creators, often growing their overall recognition and prolonging their careers.

David Dobrik, a Slovakian YouTuber and leader of “The Vlog Squad,” gained the most recognizability throughout Insider’s three surveys. The Tesla-gifter and vlogging star grew a total of 5 percentage points from the beginning of the year to the third quarter of 2021, with nearly 1-in-5 survey respondents telling Insider they were familiar with him.

Matching the trend found in the influencer index, while Dobrik’s recognizability grew, he also became more unpalatable to many surveyed by Insider. An Insider investigation in March uncovered allegations of rape against a former member of Dobrik’s Vlog Squad, Dominykas Zeglaitis. One month later, Jeff Wittek, a member of the group, revealed he had broken his skull while performing a stunt on a crane operated by Dobrik.

The allegations against his crewmate and the filming accident seemingly precipitated a drop in Dobrik’s “favorability” score of 35 percentage points while also bumping his “unfavorability” score up 11 percentage points throughout 2021.

Both Logan and Jake Paul were also among the top five most well-known influencers from the survey. In addition to creating YouTube videos and podcasts, each of the brothers have stayed in the public spotlight by moonlighting — and by most accounts, succeeding — as professional boxers.

Both have also kept their names in the press via major scandals in their storied careers — Jake Paul was charged with criminal trespassing and unlawful assembly after a riot at a mall in Scottsdale, Arizona. Logan Paul, perhaps best known for a scandal involving his video in Japan’s “suicide forest,” has begun to rebuild his reputation, becoming a Pokemon card collector with the most expensive card in the world.

There are, however, a few outliers in the data, such as children’s TV star JoJo Siwa and podcasting giant Joe Rogan, who was the most known person named in the survey. The two creators are the only two people in Insider’s survey known by more than 15% of respondents who possess a positive “net favorability” score, which shows how well-regarded an influencer is.

Some influencers are more beloved than others

Insider also learned from its polls how favorable each influencer is to a general audience. 

Piper Rockelle, a 14-year-old YouTuber known for challenge videos involving friends, family, and her boyfriend, showcased by far the highest boost in “favorability” of any other influencer surveyed by Insider. She recently made headlines for a feud with the singer, Pink, due to the racy thumbnails on the underage star’s videos.

Rockelle’s favorability jumped by 15 percentage points in 2021 — no other influencer grew their favorability more than 5 percentage points.

Doctor Mike, a YouTuber and medical physician with nearly 7.8 million subscribers, consistently ranked as the most favorable creator on the platform, garnering about 60% favorability in all three quarters of 2021. The doctor uses his platform to post humorous medical-related videos that often draw from his full-time job practicing family medicine.

Online drama can have real-life consequences

Conversely, some influencers became less favorable to audiences throughout 2021.

Onision, a YouTuber who first became famous in the first-wave of content creators on the platform for wacky and eclectic sketches, tied with beauty guru James Charles for the highest boost in unfavorability of all influencers surveyed.

Discovery+ released a four-part documentary on Onision in early 2021 detailing his fall from grace after a former fan accused him of grooming. Unlike some creators whose unfavorability ebbed and flowed over the course of the year, Onision consistently became less favorable to American audiences. He was the most unfavorable influencer of all in Insider’s survey, with 77% of respondents saying they disliked him.

Makeup expert James Charles’ unfavorability rose from the winter to the summer at the same rate as Onision, but Charles’ is disliked by 20% fewer people. Allegations of grooming arose against Charles in early 2021 after several boys said Charles sexted with them when they were under the age of 18. The YouTuber said he was deceived about some of the boys’ ages at the time. Charles’ net unfavorability sits at 57% in 2021.

Walt Hickey contributed reporting.

SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn’t try to weight its sample based on race or income. Polling data collected 1,105 respondents between August 16-17, 2021 with a 3 percentage point margin of error.