The word of the day is “parasocial”. I don’t know if I’ll continue to have a “word of the day”, but there’s one for today. I decree it.
YouTube comments are a cesspool.
I think the reason for this is, about 95% of the time, they fit into two molds. Needlessly critical, or annoyingly fawning. Whenever I go to a YouTube channel, and read the comments, I’ll see hundreds of comments that say nothing but “you’re great” or “you’re wonderful”, in much more flowery language. Often the creator doesn’t bother to respond at all. There are a couple of creators who do try to respond, but they can’t. One creator I subscribe to (a reactor to metal music) just passed 30,000 subscribers. I actually believe this particular creator wants to build a community and get to know each one of his subscribers. But even though he wants to – he can’t.
The truth is, the bigger a creator (or any kind of “celebrity”) gets, the more people want to interact with this person. Paradoxically, the more people want to interact with that person, the less able the person is to accommodate. This is a one-sided relationship. It’s called a “parasocial” relationship.
And I don’t like them.
The truth is, well, let’s take that reactor that I mentioned. I don’t know him, and he doesn’t know me. It’s true, I see him posting, and for what it’s worth, the posts I watch, I like. But I’m under no illusion that he knows me in any way past a nickname on Patreon or YouTube. I’m also under no illusion that he wants to. This particular reactor doesn’t like to call us “subscribers” (he prefers “fanbase”) but that’s what we are. As I said, I have no reason to believe he’s not sincere, but it’s just not going to happen. His audience is just too large for it to be otherwise.
But I could easily fall under the illusion that it was otherwise, and all that ever leads to is disappointment.
The deeper problem, though, is that parasocial relationships aren’t limited to celebrity. They’re basically any relationship that’s one-sided. Unrequited love, or “crushing”, for example Or even a marriage where one person isn’t as invested as the other. This whole world is just full of parasocial relationshps, of every kind, shape, and size.
And I hate them.
I have been doing a few projects lately. The goal of those projects has been to gain an audience and eventually make money that way. I hope, though, that I never lose track of the fact that no matter how big my audience gets, no matter how many people compliment me, at the end of the day, it’s all business. I’m hopefully providing a product they like, and they’re rewarding me with money or… other valuable consideration. Thinking otherwise just leads to unreasonable expectations and burnout.
Food for thought: The Japanese idol industry very specifically fosters parasocial relationships with mostly underage girls in order to make money. Is that a bad thing? Or is the problem that people don’t realize that?