See Ya Later, Internet
There have been so many different versions of this blog post. Some angsty, some super sugary with the thank yous, and some just unable to come to a coherent point. The central problem is that I don’t know how you put something to rest that you’ve done for four years. I originally started writing this all the way back in October and would constantly try and chip away at it but it never felt right. So instead of decided to chunk everything and start fresh. Shortly after announcing that I was ending things I had a streaming friend reach out to me and ask, ‘How did you make peace with it?’ The only answer I could give them was that ‘I’d let them know when I did.’ I think there’s a part of me that was hoping that in the time between announcing it and now I would have it figured out. That I’d be able to walk away at peace with it, but I’d be lying if I said it’s not something I’m still struggling with. It feels weird to come to the decision that you need to move on even though you’re good at something. I’ll go even deeper and say there are intrusive thoughts echoing sentiments of failure. Feeling like I gave up.
Now before that raises any alarms or swift feelings of needing to reassure, know that I’m okay. There’s a valley of difference between what we know and what we feel and bridging that gap of insecurity has been what has continuously been the answer all along. It’s you all. How could I look back on anything we’ve done in the last four years and call it a failure? That central nugget is what’s helping me come to peace. Before, I was going about it from the wrong perspective. I was acting like a toddler that was being told it’s time for bed. I was too focused on myself when the obvious answer was that this was never about me. It was about us. Flipping that switched helped me realize that the way you put this to rest is by honoring the people who made this place special. The people who gave a damn, not just about the stream, but about each other. It starts down to the central question, ‘What’s been the highlight of your day?’ Time and time again I asked that simple question and you all answered. You all searched for the brightest spot of your days and chose to share them. Some days were good, some days were harder than others, but regardless of the day, we shared them together. You made that happen. When I look back on all of this, the biggest sense of pride I’ll have is to be able to trace back the friendships and connections made through this corner of the Internet. That’s what it’s about. What it’s always been about.
What’s been the highlight of your day? I need to know. That last part is something we’ve made jokes about throughout the years, but I think there’s something more subconscious to it than even I realized until recently. Before all this streaming stuff happened, I was an incredibly cynical person. I had fallen deep into the ‘people are the worst. I’d rather be alone,’ mantra. I was slowly cutting myself off from social connections and at the risk of sounding melodramatic, I stopped caring in general. I could spend a million years looking back on it and never find the answer, but for some reason streaming called out to me. It didn’t make sense. I was incredibly shy, I never put myself anywhere near the spotlight, and I couldn’t hold a conversation but I still went live. I barely streamed for five minutes and the nerves were still there, but something compelled me to do it again. So I went live again the next week. Then the next, and so on. You know the story from there. It’s so funny to me to hear other people describe me as a positive and caring person, because when this started that certainly wasn’t the case. You all changed me over time. So every time I asked, ‘What’s been the highlight of your day? I need to know,’ I needed to know because it reminded me not to slip back into cynicism. I needed to know because it held me accountable to the truth I discovered along the way. That even in the hardest days there’s always something good to look back on, no matter how small.
After making the decision to end things, I had a local friend ask me what I’d say to someone who was just getting into the streaming space. ‘Disregard the doubts but trust your limits,’ was my answer. I think there will be those that wonder if this was the result of burn out or believing I wasn’t good enough, but that couldn’t be further from the case. Sadly, it was the result of losing faith in the idea of doing this full time and that’s a fire that isn’t easy to reignite, but I would be ashamed if people took the wrong lesson from this. One of the earliest lessons I learned in regards to the actual practice of streaming is that you are your only constant. There are an unquantifiable amount of variables that go into streaming, but if you know who you are, what you want, and why you do it, then embracing the unknown is a lot easier. The greatest advice I’ve ever been given came from Freddie Wong in a keynote at RTX. ‘With the Internet, the question isn’t is there an audience, but where is the audience?’ There’s power in realizing that when you’re true to yourself and what makes you happy it’ll draw people in. Streaming has always been a slippery slope because for the first time in a lot of our lives we have quantifiable data about how people feel about us. It’s so easy to let numbers dictate that narrative but the truth is that the numbers aren’t a representation of who we are but a representation of our strategy. Strategies can and should always be reevaluated, but letting the numbers question your worth is a constant battle. One I urge you to fight through the doubts with. You are more than your numbers, but should the day come that you’ve hit your limit, that’s okay too. We’re fed this idea that you have to constantly, ‘keep grinding,’ or ‘be patient,’ but that’s just the song of Pied Pipers who’ve made it. The reality is ‘making it,’ is subjective and we all have different paths. Only you know what works for you.
There have been countless times I’ve spoken with streaming peers and issued out, ‘I think to stay sane in the streaming space you have to make peace with realizing that if things ended tomorrow and you’ve reached the height of what you could do, that it would be enough.’ As I’m writing this things do end tomorrow, and I’m having to put into practice my own words. I’ve looked up to the Internet and online creators for as long as I can remember. It was a dream to be able to get up there and do what they do. I watched in awe as people like Phillip Defranco, Rooster Teeth, and Harmontown created these environments where people felt like they belonged. It was my dream. We’re never promised that the dream will last, but I see now that for four years I lived my dream. I will never be able to convey just how much this meant to me. To have the chance to make things that people were genuinely excited for. On my hard days, I turned to the Internet to help get me through and to have been able to turn around and give a percentage of that back has brought me fulfillment. I’m heading into this new year moving on from streaming and there’s a part of me that is scared, but I’m comforted by the notion that as improbable as whatever it is I do next is, streaming was just as improbable and it still happened. I have a poster that hangs to the right of me filled with incredibly kind words from you all that helps remind me that this crazy experiment happened. (Thank you, Bubbz) I have clips that highlight all our incredibly chaotic and hilarious moments together. I have music and art that represent this community in ways that I’ll never forget. Time may erode the structures of what we built, but this community turned into a family, and I’ll have that forever.
One final advice. If you’re looking to build a community one of the easiest things you can do is to give the community a simple rule. One that is easy to follow but not the end of the world if it’s broken. It gives people a chance to teach others if the rule is broken. It gives people a sense of purpose that the place they’re hanging out in is more than just another forum. It gives people a chance to care. If I had to boil it down that’s what these last four years have taught me most of all. When given the chance, people do care. That’s why we kept #thetaplounge free of links and images.
Thank you for everything. You mean more to me than you’ll ever know. I know this isn’t the end, but until next time, See ya later, Internet.
Streamer, writer, creator. One day I woke up painfully aware of my existence and I've been apologizing for it ever since.