Like a booger that refuses to flick free from a fingertip, I continue to involve myself in residual social media activity. I think I know why: it is to remind myself that leaving livestreaming and the constant, regular personal promotion of that sphere was a wise decision. I open a private web browsing session and look up two former associate’s Twitch channels and Twitter pages to see how they are progressing. Both are doing poorly despite pouring tons of energy into their digital endeavors. They both follow the same arc too: aggressive rebranding and the establishment of Patreons despite not having the audience to justify either. I was on that path, too, when I gave up last May—so close to a year ago now; a blissful year of positive self-development without the interference of random, potentially and all-too-often mentally unwell Internet strangers—so there is validation in seeing those gambits play out how I expected them to. This obsessive observation is a toxic practice, though, and as depressing as watching a loved one deteriorate. When I first started looking in on them I admit to deriving a sick measure of schadenfreude from seeing them decline, but now I just feel sorry for them. I wish their failures were not so transparent and easily accessible! The Internet makes it far too easy to see the actual data: numbers of views, replies, shares, and even Patreon subscriber counts are all there in full public view. There are few things sadder than a Patreon with one or two subscribers after months of aggressive promotion.
Not everyone is out to become notable enough to earn a living through content creation. It took me almost a decade to realize I was not “that guy”.
I wish these two the best of luck, though I know exactly how their stories will end. I hope that by writing this, I will be able to at last flick this greasy chunk of tarry snot free and start using that finger for purely positive things again, especially as I approach the vast plain of freedom known as summer break.
In the same vein, and on a related tangent, I am still giving too many weekly hours to the YouTube algorithm. Yesterday it presented a video from a creator that I am sure I had never seen before. I assume he made video game content, because he was much too unhealthy-looking to be a wellness YouTuber—that other half of the random noise that makes up my feed. The title of the video should have given me a clue; in fact I think that’s why I tapped on it. This young man was not doing well at all. He proceeded to disclaim the upcoming outpouring of emotion by asking viewers who did not wish to see him breaking down to click away, avert their eyes, “find one of the other innumerable channels that serve video game content”. Two minutes later he was actually crying fat crocodile tears while bemoaning his state: a moderately successful content creator who was failing to come to terms with the supermassive hole in his soul.
I had seen this before. I had felt it before: that tear-streaked, red-eyed face had been my own less than a year ago. But what this young man was refusing to acknowledge—or even entertain—was the possibility that his chosen profession was to blame for the gnawing unanswerable angst and loneliness that he felt.
I left a comment stating as much—in fewer words—disliked the video, and asked the algorithm to kindly serve me less of that.
The moral of the story is this: you are solely responsible for the curation of your own reality. Garbage in, garbage out. You are what you feed upon, be those meals for the mouth or ones for the mind. If you’re not careful, you may find yourself recording an embarrassingly tearful confession on the Internet because you’ve forgotten how to talk to real people.
Now, go read a book.