I definitely did not write a clear entry last night. At least not in the way I had hoped, hell I didn't even really address what I meant to address. Sometimes I think my brain is broken. Well, most times, truthfully. But. I guess that's the glory of journaling, you don't necessarily get out what you want, you sometimes get out what you need.
At any rate. I have at least mentioned, if not gone at length about, getting off of social media and the weird effect that had on my friendships and business relationships. It is as if I just disappeared. For about a month after my final log off of all the usual social media platforms I managed to have a few people reach out. When I responded, I heard nothing back. By and large, however, no one bothered to reach out at all. And when I reached out to those I thought I had genuine connections with, I was returned nothing. I'm not talking just random people or people I know only online, I'm talking even lifelong real world friends. To be fair, too, though - a lot of the people I have known only online through music and art and such I considered to be better friends than a lot of the ones I had in the real world, and in many cases I have known some of them longer than most people I know in real life. But yeah, long story short, it's as if I have simply vanished. Now? Now. I'm pretty alone. I don't really text or call or email anyone other than family - and I really only text my kids, leaving just my mom and my brother. Pretty damn small circle. Pretty minimal socializing in any fashion.
Pandemic life, and lockdown specifically, pushed me to get involved in other areas of the internet than I was beforehand. I should clarify that - in different areas but in not so different ways than I had when the internet came around as a thing a regular persons could get, because I was everywhere there was to be online when I first jumped on the information super highway. Anyhow. I had lost my job due to the pandemic so I was unemployed for nearly all of the worst of it. Almost two years, exactly to the date. Life is funny like that. I took some online courses hoping to advance my employability but I didn't pull enough shit together to get all the credits necessary to continue. I was hoping I'd have made some connections as a result, all the same. But nope. So I began dabbling in new areas of the internet. Twitch, specifically.
I had all but avoided Twitch because I had the idea in my mind that it was, more or less, exclusively video game related and focused. I suppose, in essence, that was true and possibly still is. But there is far more diversity in content on the platform now than there ever was. I think this, too, is a result of the pandemic. I might've not ever found my way to the platform if it weren't for DJ friends of mine jumping on board. Where there used to be a busy schedule of social life at club events and such, now there was empty venues and performers lost without their release and source of revenue, big or small. Thus, the DJ side of Twitch exploded and it's a ride I've been on for two and half years now. I have watched DJs as brand new streamers go on to consistently have upwards of 100 viewers in the chat - and many of these DJs were also broadcasting the same stream on Facebook and/or YouTube, as well. 100 might not sound like a lot, but when you look at the growing subscription numbers for some of them that's when things get really cool. Some of these cats started at 0 and now have 3,000 or 4,000 subscribers - with followers far surpassing that number. On Twitch, subscriptions are a paid thing. And the streamer gets some of that money. Then there's bits, which are like penny cheers and most often people cheer in lots of 100 or more. The streamer gets that, as well. And in the 2.5 years I've been a part of this community, several of these DJ streamers have gotten affiliate satus, which means something and has some sort of benefit, as well as endorsements from producers and brands alike. Suffice to say, though it may have taken some time to get there, the DJs that are quality and consistent and who have built an enjoyable streaming experience are actually making pretty dang good money - some that I know and follow (and subscribe to and where I regularly cheer bits) have managed to parlay the streaming thing into a full time job.
So. Allllll of this said to get to the matter at hand.
Parasocial relationships. I used to view the term in a more traditional fashion, wherein someone imagines having a close - or closer than actual - relationship with their favorite musician or artist or movie character - or maybe, in todays climate and culture, people like YouTubers and other social media influencers and characters. But I am beginning to think there's an area of overlap with the world of online relationships like one can find at a place like Twitch.
In my experience over the last couple of years and following the community that has sprung up around jungle and drum'n'bass DJs on the platform, there seems to be a very real sense of community to be found on Twitch. I imagine it is similar for those tuning into regular gaming streamers and other streams of various sorts, but I am speaking strictly from my experience which is heavy on the DJ side and nearly nothing on gaming or otherwise styled streams. But. Being the kind of person I am. The kind of person who looks at what happened previously to judge what is possible in the future, I am greatly concerned that my experience with the community I've found around the music I feel unified by on a platform that is fresh for the scene in question and, at the end of the day, works on financials, money, cheddar, cold hard cash. I know from experience the time that goes into keeping up with new releases, artist information and news, evolving technology, and morphing genre styles. When you add to that the time actually invested in the live stream, as well as the time invested in learning the software and building an enjoyable streaming experience with emotes and interactivivy and commands and such. The good streamers absolutely deserve to get paid. That's not even up for debate. Anyone good at what they do that provides some sort of service or experience should be and is right to expect to be compensated for it.
In the lens of both parasocial relationships and money for goods or services, however, is the community real?
It seems like people are genuinely glad to see me when I show up in stream. But, again, when I am not on stream for an atypical amount of time, no one reaches out - even though they have the methods to do so. It might just be in my head, but when I am not involved in a financial fashion - subscribing or gifting subs or cheering bits - there seems to be less of a concern for what I say and how I interact in stream compared to when I have money behind the actions. I've done some pseudo-science and compared the number of interactions on the whole as well as the number of interactions with money involved compared to those actions without money involved. It's a little fuzzy, but there's a definite lean in favor of financial based transactions and actions getting more love. Again, I can't be mad at someone making that money. But does it diminish the connection or the value in the connection when there's no money involved? I mean, are these people just pretending to be excited to see me - or anyone - and actually excited when the money rolls in? And does it matter?
I don't fuckin' know. What a wordy way to say that I have almost zero trust in the goodness of my fellow humans based on my experiences along the way and the associated baggage I carry with me as a result.