Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sort Of 2014 Resolutions

The holidays just took way too much out of me to make a video this week, but I figured I'd come write a long-overdue blog entry.

I won't sugarcoat this. 2013 took a big ol' plop all over me. (I guess that is sugarcoating, but the word "plop" makes me laugh.) There were some ploppy moments sprinkled throughout 2010-2012, but 2013 has really taken the cake. I'm not going to start 2014 pretending things will be fresh and fabulous right away--I know I still have a ways to go to get back there (assuming I was ever "there" at all; I can't remember)--but I'm going to start it with a more realistic mix of hope and determination.

The past few years it's felt like someone has been beating me with a club. And every time I'd get back up, they'd just beat me back down. Eventually I gave up on trying to regain my footing, but then they'd just beat me as I flopped around on the ground. (I was going to put in a joke here about "beating a dead horse" because someone once said in a comment section that I resemble a horse, but I feel like that would be allowing the beating to continue.) Recently, I got tired of the beatings and finally rolled off into a cave somewhere and shut myself off from everyone altogether. That's where I've been the past few months of 2013.

I've really felt like I've lost control of my body and mind very slowly over the past few years, and I'm determined to begin taking both back in 2014. This is where things get heavy, man.

I began posting pieces of myself on the Internet back in 2007 to communicate with people. (And that's just when I started posting videos. Before then, I'd maintained other blogs and profiles with similar intentions.) Interaction was always my primary motive. And the communication used to be great. I've made some of my best friends in life via Internet interactions.

However, somewhere down the road things took a weird turn, and I noticed people were talking to me less like I was a human and more like I was a product or some other non-human thing.* I think this is partially because my audience grew larger and people thought that somehow disconnected me from them, and partially because that's just what online interaction has evolved into. I'd get wildly inappropriate comments and messages about my body. I'd be harassed into providing commentary on things I knew little or nothing about. And when I did speak my mind, people would overanlyze every little word, or else twist my thoughts into something completely different and monstrous altogether.

This finally got so bad the past couple years that it started to change me negatively. I became an expert at predicting criticism, and that's not a fun thing to be an expert at. I've avoided saying things that are very important to me, wearing some of my favorite things, even sharing ideas that I normally would have loved to talk about--all to avoid the criticisms I knew those things would bring. I stopped turning my head in certain directions because people would point out flaws in my face and jawline--flaws I was always aware of but was suddenly hypersensitive about. I've tried to keep my arms covered and not stand up in videos because I knew others would demand answers about my legs and body and speculate about my weight. I started saying and doing things I thought people wanted to hear and see, regardless of whether or not those things interested me. Eventually, I realized I was no longer in control of just about anything. The comments had taken over my life.

I've been told plenty of times to just stop reading the feedback, so here I'd just like to reiterate that interaction is the whole reason I started putting myself out there. I've tried creating things for other reasons--like recognition and money--but that doesn't rest well on my conscious, and just makes things seem sorta suck ball-y and cold. (That isn't to say those things haven't become secondary or tertiary reasons for me to keep doing some things or that I'm not thankful for such opportunities. But those things just don't fit well with being my primary reason.)

Others have told me to get over the scrutiny. That this is what I should expect when I put myself out there. That I'm just asking for it. That it's part of the "deal." What deal? I've made a lot of ploppy deals in my day, but I know I never signed below any clause stating that society got to rip me apart for merely sharing myself as a human and attempting simple contact with others. I choose to believe the problem lies with the dehumanization of others on the Internet (and in other situations, but this entry isn't about that), and not what I choose to share with the most basic of human intentions.

If the feedback had stayed on the computer screen, perhaps I would've been able to tolerate it. But it didn't. At some point, in-person interaction got a bit twisted as well.

I used to meet viewers on the street and be able to strike up really great conversations with them, because they treated me like a human. One of my best friends is actually someone who recognized me from my videos when I was out one day. She approached me non-intrusively on the subway in Philly (or as non-intrusively as you can approach someone on the subway), initiated calm and appropriate conversation, and all-around treated me like an actual person. (Whoa, revolutionary concepts flying around here.)

Now, I'm scared of most people who say hello--regardless of whether or not they seem perfectly fabulous and likable--because of some poor experiences I've had since then, which leads back to this whole dehumanization thing. People have started to act differently when they encounter me. I can see it in their eyes. They look at me like I'm a lab rat. I can hear it in their voice. They speak at me, not to me. And then when they've decided they're done with me, they toss me aside.

And I've read what they say about me online later, after the encounters (because many shamelessly tag me in their posts). They say I look different than in my videos ("different" being a euphemism for "uglier"), that I'm boring, or that I'm mean. They never take into account that maybe I'm a human and have human things going on. That maybe they don't have the whole story regarding what they've seen or heard. That maybe I'm not actually allowed to tell them everything that's going on, or perhaps I just want to keep it private. That maybe I'm embarrassed or self-conscious or shy. That maybe it's not appropriate to scream someone's name and make a scene in a hospital--a place where many people don't feel good and wish to remain anonymous. (This happened recently. I was mortified.) No, they expect me to always be on. To not have bad days or introverted qualities. To fulfill some hopelessly high expectation they've conjured in their mind based on the heavily edited, well-lit and scripted four minutes of me they see every week.

What I'm trying to say is: I see all that smack you've been writing about me online and you better cut it out, or else...*twirls knife through fingers* No, no, totally kidding. That's not what I'm saying at all. But I really do see all the horrible things written (and so do other YouTubers and people online, whether we seek them out or just come across them mixed in while reading the good stuff), and I guess you are technically entitled to think those things and say them (unless they're threatening, in which case I'll totally turn you over to the police in a heartbeat), but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt me (because I'm a human. Wow, who knew?) or that you aren't a big ol' bitch-a-roni for saying them. (Btw, I've used "you" in this paragraph in a generalized way. I'm probably not talking to you, specifically.)

All of this isn't to say I'm not partially to blame as well, because the more people started treating me like a non-human product, the more I began feeling and treating myself like one, too. I didn't think I deserved to be treated well. Even my name felt more like a tool than something I owned. And so I allowed bigger people and companies to take advantage of me, when I should have taken back my name and power long ago (or else never allowed them to be taken in the first place). But I suppose we all live and learn, and I've got to do what I can now.

And then there's all that other stuff I've written about dozens of times before that I'm only barely going to touch on now. Online communities have been pillaged for money, lies regularly win over truths, wool has been shoddily pulled over unresisting eyes, and at some point this whole Internet thing has turned into a big, counterproductive witch hunt reminiscent of 17th-century Salem. It's a race to burn as many people as we can to build ourselves up while trying to avoid the flames. I'm bored of writing about these things, so hopefully the metaphor resonates.

I guess all that has been building up for a while. Then 2013 rolled around and several particularly bad things happened in my private world that caused me to reanalyze just about everything in my life (and I'd like to keep those things private right now) and I finally rolled away to shut myself off in a cave. I stopped talking to some of my best friends. I stopped trying to share the personal things I normally would've loved to. I stopped writing. I stopped creating things I enjoy in an effort to maintain control over them. I figured if I never put myself out there, at least people couldn't twist me into something different. But in stopping all these things, I put an end to all hope of interacting with the cool people who have treated me well and understood me, which is what I started doing all this for in the first place.

That's where I've currently been wallowing, trying to figure out what went wrong, if any of this is worth the trouble, and just trying to get back to being happy, or at least finding a balance. I imagine it's a long road back, and it probably begins with me realizing I can't control everything, including what people will say to me, how they'll treat what I create, or how they'll interpret the things I say. But I do have control over whether or not I let these things stop me from creating altogether, and control over what I allow myself to see, and control over what sorts of things and people I surround myself with. So I'm going to attempt to reclaim some of these things this year, as best as I can.

It's just like that quote in Mean Girls (because it wouldn't be a blog entry by a gay guy unless it had at least one Mean Girls reference). "When you get bit by a snake, you're supposed to suck the poison out. That's what I had to do--suck all the poison out of my life." Regardless of the actual medical procedures that should be taken after being bitten by a snake, I still think this makes for a good metaphor. I plan on sucking out a lot of poison in 2014.

So in the spirit of reclaiming control, I'm turning off comments for this entry because, unlike other entries I've posted and vids I've uploaded, I'm not really inviting discussion here. These are my thoughts and this is my site where I've chosen to put them. If you really feel the need to contact me about this particular entry, my email address is listed somewhere around here. Hopefully, in the time it takes you to find it, you'll have pondered a bit more about what you want to say and prepared yourself to present it in a thoughtful and pleasant way. Or else you'll have just gotten lazy, given up, and decided to go find some Cheetos. Which is exactly what I'm about to do.

*I should put a disclaimer down here that says not everyone who has participated in the things I've created or who has met me has treated me as a non-human. Many people have been totally rad, kind, understanding, and all-around funky fresh. In fact, if you cared enough to come to my site and read this, you can be pretty sure you aren't guilty of dehumanization. So thank you for treating me like a person. Let's be friends in 2014 (if we aren't already). Oh, and I should also clarify I'm talking about the obviously negative interactions--not the joke-y type things, which I thoroughly enjoy and don't take to heart.