Monday, May 28, 2018

Why Creators (in General) Aren't Your Friends

Friend and collaborator and kouhai and overall smol Ginger Hoesly sent me a hell of a video the other day. It hails from ChaseFace, a YouTuber with whom I'm unfamiliar, and it's a half-hour ramble on the way indie creators tend to be observed and treated by their fan base.

For those with a half hour to spare, I'll just leave it right here:

For those with (understandably) no such available time, I'll summarize:

ChaseFace touches on something I was unaware was a wide-spanning thing and not just a Personal Issue: the in-built concern creators have that, if you come to them being extremely friendly and enthusiastic, You Want Something. And, from there, he details the shields we put up to protect ourselves from the inevitable fallout of people who Want Something, don't get it, and suddenly begin to hate us.

Now, this sounds like an absolutely awful thing to say. And believe me, it's an awful thing to think. I am not (in my perception) popular or famous. The most notice I've gotten is that frickin' pigeon meme, which was mostly me typesetting an accurate translation of someone else's words.

But occasionally I will get this. I'll see someone who's super enthusiastic, super friendly, and also in my field in some respect. And all these little warning bells start going off. Because they remind me in some way of some previous incident (and there've been plenty) where everything went wrong and I got screwed out of time or money or general respect.

Anyone who works a job of any note (or, in my case, minimal note) will have this happen to at least some degree. And you get to a point where, like ChaseFace says, the shield just goes up. Because you know. Because you sense it. When someone gives me repeated overstated love and praise and their Twitter account mentions it's their dream to work for a company I work for, the antennae tweak a little bit.

And you know what? It sucks. Because I am 1000% certain that there really are kind, decent, generous, enthusiastic people out there who don't want a damn thing. In fact, I know there are. I've met them. I've made friends with them.

Combine social anxiety with these previous experiences, and you've got a nasty cocktail -- which I freely acknowledge. Getting to know people when your first impression of them is that Very Specific One that you've come to distrust is rough. And you want to allow leeway because, hey, you could be wrong. But you weren't wrong last time. Or the time before.

ChaseFace covers all the "what ifs" of this admirably in his video. The fact that the Internet does a piss-poor job of conveying what we mean in text, the fact that some people have difficulty expressing themselves in an understandable way even in person. That's all covered, and it's why I like this video. It wasn't just a chance for me to sit there and go "Yeah! It's everyone else who's wrong!" It very much is a reality check, and a reminder that we aren't always right.

But too, it's a note to viewers and readers and listeners, or however you ingest our output. ChaseFace mentions wanting to be "a Markiplier," where there's free and friendly talk with everyone no matter what. I think we'd all like that. But let's be real -- Markiplier has got some sort of fae magic in him that allows him to do this, and I think we'd all love to bottle and sell it because there'd probably be world peace if we could all function like he does when encountering fans. It's okay to not be like that because it's rare.

Before interviews, I remind myself that the person I'm speaking to has never seen me before and will almost certainly never see me again. I am Interviewer #467 this month, and they have zero reason on God's green earth to trust me implicitly or to know I'm not a freak. I'm sure a friend could tell them I'm good, but I can't expect that. A person who has no context for who I am, and who has met all sorts of people of all types, is not obligated to assume I'm all right, any more than they're obligated to assume anyone is all right.

And it's the same for any creator, big or small, regardless of medium.

Look at it this way: do you implicitly trust every single fan of your favorite YouTuber or blogger or indie creator? Would you advise them to?

It's hard to cope with the fact that we might be automatically distrusted -- or at the very least, not automatically trusted -- by someone we admire. And that's because we've lived in our own heads, we've seen everything we've done, and as far as we're concerned we're good people. We want to believe we comport ourselves in a way that expresses that. But with the Internet in the way, and with a complete stranger at the other end... there is no way for them to know.

They can't know that your enthusiasm + the fact that you are an amateur in their field isn't a sign that you want to manhandle them into collaboration like the last five people they've just fought off.

They can't know that you working for Site A + them saying in their bio "my dream is to work for Site A" isn't step 1 in their plan to work for Site A.

If it sounds like horrible embarrassing paranoia, that's because it is. And I don't like it. I don't like having it, I don't like knowing creators have it, and I don't like knowing people are subjected to it. Sadly, the only way to kill it would be for the manipulators to cut it out. And they won't be doing that anytime soon.

Again, ChaseFace covers it well in his vid. Politeness goes a long way. Chill interaction. Not expecting anything back, but being content to speak without expecting a reply. Some fans become friends. But in essence, you're all strangers. And as with any person anywhere, we get to choose what we give of ourselves.

I'm fortunate that my interactions have been mostly of the positive type. It makes me happy, and it makes me more open and more willing to chat with people. The flags will probably never go away when I do see them, but I count myself a lot more fortunate than I could be.

Creators aren't your friends. They could be. That happens. But that's their decision. Being indie removes that wall that professionals have around them, which makes them seem more accessible -- but the fact remains, we all have the right to choose our friends and our encounters. Operate with them as you'd like to be operated with.

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