With more than nine million Facebook fans, Nuseir Yassin is one of the world’s biggest travel vloggers. Starting on April 9, 2016, he’s made one unfailingly optimistic, often minute-long video every day on the Facebook page Nas Daily. (He recently announced he’s going to stop at 1,000.) An Arab Israeli from Arraba, Yassin’s cheery videos about Palestinian–Israeli coexistence have invited criticism that he’s whitewashing serious issues – claims that have followed him beyond the Middle East to countries as far as Singapore, where his gushing incited a national backlash from local artists scoffing at his naivete.
The CJN caught Yassin while he was tackling a three-hour drive from Fogo Island to St. John’s, N.L., for his 913th episode.
How do you find your stories?
I rarely plan my itinerary – I really just land the first day, do a meet-up and people suggest interesting things to do. In Toronto, I had 200 – 300 people who came, and these are the people I spend 30 minutes talking to, asking them, “What is interesting in Canada? What is cool?” I start getting the story then snatching what I find interesting, then I chase them. At the meet-up, someone said, “You should make a video about the library.” And I said, “Why is the library interesting?” And they said, “I went to a sushi-making class at the library.” And I was like, “What? A sushi-making class?” And that’s when I was sold.
How do you organize these meet-ups?
It’s really changing as Nas Daily grows. In some countries, it used to be 10 people would show up. Now it’s sometimes 1,000 people. It depends on the country. Most of the time it’s just me talking for, I dunno, 80 per cent of the time, and me asking people questions and them answering. And if anyone has questions about Nas Daily, I try and answer them. I started after 300 days of making videos.
Was there a moment when you realized, “Woah, this is getting big”?
Yeah. I think in Singapore I started realizing that, which was only a month ago. Unfortunately, a lot of Nas Daily is numbers, so even if something gets 10 million views, for me it’s just a number – there are very few times when you start to notice the effect of your videos on countries. That happened in Singapore, that happened in Armenia and Malta. And those are the times you realize, “This is bigger than I ever thought it would be.” It’s a lot more responsibility, and a lot more stress.
What kind of things have you learned during this process?
What I’ve learned the most is that it’s really all about how you frame things. You may be presented with the most boring thing in the world – a water fountain in Armenia – and if you frame it in a way that gets people interested, that’s real power. This is what I try to focus my videos on. Today, for example, I had a really hard time trying to frame lakes. Canada has the most lakes in the world. How the hell do you make that interesting?
Why do you think you’ve been successful?
I don’t know if I’m successful. It’s only been 900 days – it’s too early to tell. Any day now, Facebook could change its algorithm and voila, I’m nothing, back to zero. So the question is, why do I think Nas Daily has reached nine million followers? I think it’s because I never try to divide. It’s easy to make a divisive video: “Oh, immigrants are terrible,” or, “Oh, Republicans are terrible.” It’s easy to divide us. It’s the natural state of mind, I think.
But the other reason is I work like a donkey. I’m obsessed with this s–t. It’s the only thing I care about. And usually hard work does lead to success. Contrary to what we think about systemic disadvantages, when it comes to social media, those systemic disadvantages disappear. I don’t have to be good looking, I don’t have to be tall. I just have to make a good video and people will see it. No one can stop the Facebook algorithms – not white privilege, not sexism, nothing.
What made you decide to end things after 1,000 episodes?
Making daily videos is something that has helped me a lot, but I don’t recom-mend to anybody to make daily videos. Daily videos can kill you. It can be very challenging emotionally, mentally and physically. You have no room for family or health. You can’t get sick. I needed to look at myself and say: “Okay, you now have a 10-million person audience. What do you do? How can this grow bigger? How can you reach 100 million people?”
So once it’s not Nas Daily, what’s it gonna be?
Nas Whenever-I-Feel-Like-It. (Laughs) No, it’ll always be Nas Daily. It’s just gonna become Nas Daily Company. I’m looking for 1,000 other people who are like Nas Daily, to bring them on the Facebook platform and help them grow. That’s my goal. I’m on the lookout for creators to see who’s good.
Why work with other people?
It’s all about reach. People like us need to dominate the Facebook newsfeed. I don’t think a super-extremist should dominate online discussions, because they’re very loud, and most of the common-sense people are very quiet. So getting 100 more Nas Dailies, spreading this message we all agree on, is important just to make the social discussion a little more elevated and with a purpose, rather than just a bunch of extremists, left-wing or right-wing, just fighting each other. That should not be what social media is about.
You want to drown out the hate from the Internet.
To some extent. When you make a video about Israel and Palestine that doesn’t call for the destruction of Israel, and doesn’t call for the abolishment of Palestine – that video gets 100,000 likes. The haters will see that video and they can comment all they want, but when you see 100,000 people have supported this video, it just shows that sane people are the majority and extremists are the vocal minority.
This interview has been edited and condensed for style and clarity