Decoding Nas Daily: From Online to Offline

Video Blogger
Text by Angela Low; Photography by Juliana Tan
January 10, 2020
Become – Trendsetters

We all know Nas Daily as the online sensation on Facebook, the one-minute man with an inclination for dramatic cinematography. But what about Nas, the boss? Or Nas, the boyfriend? We go beyond his 60-second videos, and catch up with the Israeli-Palestinian enigma over a two-hour conversation, peeling back the layers of his loud personality to unveil a more vulnerable, less politically correct character that has been largely hidden from the world’s view.

It’s hard to put a finger on who Nas Daily is. Overwhelmingly upbeat and energetic are two adjectives that come to mind when he appears on my smartphone, waxing lyrical on everything from the freegan community in Singapore to the world’s biggest nut. He doesn’t shy away from talking about his family, relationships, political opinions—yet somehow, the man still comes off as a caricature. A giant question mark, hidden behind scripted monologues and over-the-top cinematography.

Even Nas himself struggles to define who he is. “It’s really hard to describe what I do,” he sighs. “People often ask me, ‘Who are you?’ I don’t know. I’m not a travel vlogger because I make videos that aren’t about travel. I’m not a hotel reviewer because I don’t make videos about hotels. I’m not a foodie or musician… It’s really difficult to hone in on what the hell Nas is.”

You’d assume from watching his Facebook videos that Nas is an adventurous, straightforward, happy-go-lucky kinda guy. But Nuseir Yassin, the Harvard graduate who made his name creating 1,000 videos in 1,000 days (under the alias of Nas Daily), is far more complex and layered than he lets on.

It’s 10 minutes past our scheduled 9 a.m. appointment, as I wait outside his empty office at Central Exchange Green. Without any fanfare, a camera crew or even employees (work typically starts at 10 a.m.), Nuseir emerges from the corner by himself, apologises for his tardiness, unlocks the door, and gets straight to business. “Let’s try to do this as quickly as possible,” he says, directing me to the conference room, before finally taking a breather to introduce himself.

Despite the marked difference between his reel and real life—because we, after all, don’t get to see what he’s like as a businessman, a boss or a boyfriend—Nuseir is trying to close the gap. “I think having different personas is weird and dangerous. I try my best to have my online persona mirror my offline persona. I’m 80% there. The other 20% is what I need to work on,” he shares. Still, trying to control how you are perceived is a complex affair, especially when the role of a video presenter is intrinsically performative. Hence, a lot of Nuseir's private self is left out of the limelight.

Off camera, Nuseir spends much of his time wading in negative emotions. “I’m a lot more frustrated than I may seem,” he remarks. “A lot more angry, unhappy, dissatisfied, restless and anxious. I’m also very pessimistic about some things. I’m a worrier. For instance, I worry that no one’s going to show up to my meet-ups.” Nonetheless, these emotions fuel him to be better and work harder. “Being angry inspires me,” he quips.

Nuseir’s wrath may be frequently provoked, but they’re never directed at people. Rather, they’re aimed at the world’s injustices that he witnesses, and stem from his sky-high expectations of wanting to surpass his own standards. “I try my best to be a nice guy, but sometimes, you really have to be an asshole to get work done. An example is something as simple as flying a drone. In India, we almost got jailed for it. Of course, I’m not going to make a video at the expense of someone’s wellness or happiness, but when it comes to inanimate objects or laws, we tend to be a little… not nice,” he confesses.

Where does all this rage come from? Psychology suggests childhood trauma, and Nuseir agrees. “I didn’t live in a war zone, but there were wars happening between Israel and the neighbouring countries. You’re part of the war, whether you like it or not,” he shares of his darkest memories. “You literally f***ing see rockets falling towards nearby Jewish towns. It’s insane. The rockets were not directed at my village, but at the end of the day, war doesn’t discriminate. Everyone is sad because of it. Sleeping at night and hearing the rockets fall… I’m so f***ing sensitive that a bomb going off 5km away could scar me.”

Growing up, Nuseir wasn’t showered with a lot of attention as the middle child. He didn’t fit in with the local community either, where the widely accepted cultural beliefs and values went against his own. He explains, “When you feel like you’ve had no voice for 20 years, for being a minority, for not being naturally attractive and many other reasons, you’ll get angry. It made me want to reach out to as many people as possible to say whatever I wanted to say. It’s like a pressure cooker. At some point, it’s just going to explode, and I think it exploded with Nas Daily.”

The one trait that he exhibits across the board, both online and offline, is his inclination for being loud. He screams to get his point across, to capture attention, to release stress, and to express anger. He hits tables so swiftly and forcefully that you won’t even have time to process what just happened. This intensity bleeds into his work as well, driven by his insatiable desire for “more and more.”

“I became a published author as of last week,” says the man with 14 million Facebook followers who wrote Around The World in 60 Seconds. “It didn’t change anything in me. People dream of getting a thousand views. If I get two million views, I’ll be sad because the video has to get five million views. This mindset of ‘How can I get more?’ has helped me so far, but it’s dangerous.”

On a scale of one to 10, how happy are you right now? I ask.

“Right now, 5. I woke up this morning and told my girlfriend that I think I'm the most hated person in the world... I’ll never get to 10. I’m scared that 10 means mediocrity; 10 means the end. When you’re fully happy, you don’t need to do anything,” he says.

"I’m not a crier, but when I ended my 1,000-day challenge, I was pretty sad."

Nuseir tells me that he has been feeling depressed lately because he has no clue what to do for his next video. And yet, he also describes his life as an endless holiday. As torturous as it can be to live like this, it’s becoming clear that a large part of Nuseir enjoys the self-mutilation, the push and pull of love and hate. “I’m not a crier, but when I ended my 1,000-day challenge, I was pretty sad. I thought, I’m going to miss feeling like shit every day. It’s incredible, feeling like you’re on top of the world one day, and feeling like nothing the next day,” he recalls.

Instead of joy, optimisation is the way of life for the relentlessly driven content creator. He measures almost everything, even the intangible stuff and the length of his existence, in percentages. He organises gatherings with his fans, not just to meet them, but to collect content ideas like it’s a giant brainstorming session. “30% of my videos are my ideas, 70% of them are community-driven ideas. There are three thirds to my meet-ups: one is for questions about Nas Daily, the other is for questions about the country, and the last is for us to make a video together,” Nuseir reveals matter-of-factly.

Once you put two and two together, you’ll see why he chose to move to Singapore in April 2019. While it’s one of the least happy countries in the world, it’s also among the most efficient. “I feel a little bit Singaporean inside,” he confesses. “I’m drawn to the practicality. What is Singapore? It’s basically a collection of every good thing every country did, distilled into one country. What is Nas Daily? It’s me going to every country, seeing what’s good there, and reporting about it in the hope of creating one perfect world.” That’s not to say Singapore is the perfect country, or that its approach to governance is good or bad, Nuseir adds. It’s all subjective, depending on what you value. And for him, happiness simply ranks lower on his list of priorities.

Unlike most, Nuseir isn’t a fan of animals, celebrity culture and hates massages, too. Although he can be polarising, he does not mince his words and speaks candidly about having selective empathy, “About a year ago, I cared a lot about the journalist who was killed by 15 agents of the Saudi government. But when the Saudi-led coalition killed a thousand people in Yemen during the Yemeni Civil War, I didn’t give a f***. You can’t care about everything equally. Anyone that pretends to care about everything, I think, is a liar.”

What Nuseir does care about is reaching a wide audience and creating something bigger than himself. That dream first took him to the world of software engineering, but apps weren’t expressive enough—and he “wanted to scream at people.” Creating content on the Internet, or more specifically, Facebook, then became his top choice, leading to the birth of Nas Daily. With it, he formulated a unique brand of viral, yet high-quality videos that highlight issues and conversations most would turn a blind eye to.

Aside from raising awareness, each of his videos must play a part in benefiting the world. However, because of the strategies he employs to gain attention like using dramatic background music, slow-motion sequences and movie trailer-like presentations—they’re at times misconstrued as being overly simplified. “We’re in the business of attention,” Nuseir asserts. “This is why I take things to the extreme. Good content is the base, attention is the sauce to make it tastier. Money is third in line.”

Say what you want about Nas Daily, but his formula generates significant results. Not only does he have a massive, global platform (which he has turned into a full-blown company) with 19 employees presently in Singapore, but he also has a love life. Alyne Tamir, having watched one of his videos, slid into his DM and went from being a stranger to a girlfriend.

As a partner, Nuseir admits he’s not the best at paying attention to Alyne’s emotions, and doesn’t care about his own either. It’s just how he is wired. Curious about how he expresses affection, I ask him about his love language.

He hasn’t heard of the term. After explaining it to him, he reckons he shows love through acts of service, and exclaims, “You’ve given me an idea!” Jumping up from his seat, he starts coming up with a script for a new video, “I’m going to start like this: When I was a kid, I spoke one language, Arabic. I thought people only communicated using one language, but I realised, there are five secret languages that I didn’t know about.”

At 27 years old, Nuseir is still learning about himself, and the challenges of running a company that involve maintaining a flat hierarchy, whilst still growing it beyond a small and medium-sized enterprise. “I feel weird being called a boss. I want everyone to feel like they're executive decision-makers, yet I also want to be the one who makes the last decision,” he laughs. “Nas Daily isn’t as fun as people think it is, and I know I’m not easy to work with. But I’m trying to have more teamwork and be a boss that takes into account my employees’ needs.”

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the world thinks of him. His methods may be unorthodox, but his intentions remain pure. “I think you’re born into this world not for fun, but for a mission. What’s the mission? Ideally, to make the world a better place.” If that means forgoing his personal happiness, then so be it.