As I write this, I am nearing the one year anniversary of making this online persona, after years of consuming political content both online and physically around me through my time working in campaigns or studying political science. It came at a point in my life where I had quite a bit of time on my hands, (thrice a week trips to dialysis, working from home,) so why not give it a shot? After all, in my real life conversations on politics always had me in almost contrarian position from my liberal and left wing peers asking for a heterodox, daresay a reactionary opinion. Thankfully though those times are long past, as I no longer associate with anyone who calls me “one of the good ones” when it comes to political opinions and differences. Looking back on the first year of this online persona, I wanted to give some observations on what it’s like from the perspective of that persona’s beholder. In an effort to play the “game” so to speak on offering your analysis and refining your style, I’ve noticed at least with myself, some of the more annoying aspects of human behavior to come out in doing so. I don’t know if I can say that this is applicable to really anyone else so I thought I would post it here and see if anyone can provide some commentary or feedback either in the comments below or in some lengthy thread on twitter that I’ll dread reading.
I want to assure you that this isn’t going to be a long winded (typed?) reflexive interrogatory of myself. There is some sort of lesson that can be gleamed from all this, I swear! But just as Victor Hugo must describe in great detail the streets of Paris in Les Misérables, I feel that I must call myself out here in some sort of rubber-duck debugging as I offer some things I’ve noticed. So, without further ado, let me try and be relatable, rather than just the autistic merchant of geopolitics and amphibians.
Since I have started this online persona, to which I have witnessed a considerable amount of growth in its first year of existence, I have noticed that there has been something negging at me that I have not seen since my in cross country in high school- that of an inferiority complex, and the desire to push myself to be socially desired and well liked by all those I interact with that I perceive to be of a higher standing than me. A desire to be seen as a worthy teammate, a worthy adversary, et cetera, et cetera. In my adult life, as short as that may be for a man of twenty-five (and if you don’t think that’s a short adult life, don’t worry I’ll address that,) I haven’t had this problem as I have seemingly done well to excel in virtually anything I put my hands on. I learned from my time doing high school as well as collegiate forensics the importance of being humble. Yet, now, as the channel and online persona continues to grow, and I am interacting with individuals who have been at the content creation game now for the same period of time that I have been consuming online political content. What has came from this is the desire once again to be seen as worthy and worthwhile, not necessarily the center of attention, but to be seen as this worthwhile addition to one’s follow list. It happens quite often with every major follower or mention by someone of a larger audience, I am immediately hit with this desire to somehow as if to skip the necessary work, and create something better than what I can make or postulate in my writings or videos. Inauthentic? Maybe. Pathetic? Most certainly, but I think there is something to note about this sudden neuroticism that I’m detailing.
While I can healthily acknowledge the pathetic aspect of this attitude, I am once again dealing with the simultaneous acknowledgement of the fact that it is pathetic, with the same desire to be seen as worthy of the growth and audience because I certainly feel as if I don’t particularly belong anywhere. Whether that’s a much larger channel’s stream, a group chat with high profile twitter accounts with major followings, all of it feels like I am once again the new kid on the block, bringing me back to the days as a military child moving every couple of years or so. Clearly by this paragraph, as if the last one previously didn’t give it away, someone doesn’t have his shit together. At this point as an adult you should be capable of recognizing this petty BS and get over it, or at least work it out on your own, rather than at the very least airing your own dirty laundry before your audience. A demonstrable sign of the dangers of the parasocial, and the infantilization that modern man experiences, a stunted sense of growth and maturity where people online will constantly reassure themselves that people my age at 25 and 26 isn’t adult aged yet, but still in some sense a kid. Although I think in the fact I am trying to spin this into its own lesson as well as observation about what I’ve experienced can serve as some sort of guide could potentially be my own way of acknowledging this, and working my way out. Perhaps this is in poor taste, and by all means leave a comment below.
What triggered all of this, this realization and the need to get it out, was something that happened earlier this week. I will not reference any names or personalities, but I will happily detail my misdeeds. This is not meant to be some vain way for me to prostrate myself for judgement or affirmation, just the truth. In the midst of a group chat conversation, I had made an off color joke towards someone whom I have a deep respect for, as in the past such things had occurred in a usual lighthearted manner. It didn’t go over well, to a point where the reaction to it was clear enough that I had crossed some line. It didn’t sit well with me, along with an immediate apology I had kept myself quiet. The sudden realization coming across that in this virtual room, that I had been the most immature fellow in there. Then came the questions, what is it that I’m actually doing here? Who is the audience? What is your endgame?
All of this comes, at least in my incredibly limited perspective, as a step that comes with the commodification of one’s self and putting yourself out there with your ideas. There is an excellent question posed by Katherine Dee, about the purpose of what you’re doing, especially if you provide any sort of political/cultural commentary online. In addition to this, others when I first started to get a small following suggested that I start treating persona, the channel, all of it, as a business and start documenting time and how pay close attention to trends as well as analytics.
So I took that advice, and I monitor it (in passing more than anything) as I try to make the most of myself here. Do I have any intent on being “successful?” I don’t know what that would look like for me. I don’t expect myself to write the next great American novel, or to start a podcast. I do a weekly show, covering international relations and theory but I don’t think that hardly counts. I am at the time of writing this working on a document about what I want to accomplish, and what the goal of this entire thing is. I do want to offer an alternative worldview than the current hellscape of modernity. I think it’s important for anyone who wishes to change discourse of the direction of politics to understand how the world works in terms of international relations. Although I’m still figuring things out at the moment, I sit content on my little molehill, with a following of equal size on both Twitter and Youtube. Engaging in a way not optimized for engagement, and something more akin to this:
Although I do have my moments of success. Ironically the actual frog posting probably nets me more engagement on average than threads about diners and culture or security agreements between nations.
But I think you’ve probably had enough of this verbose look into the mirror. The point that I think is important to take away from this, for anyone wanting to either get started or is wondering if they themselves are worth the attention they’ve received, is to ground yourself. I had this conversation earlier today with someone on Twitter, about his kind suggestion that I should make an appearance on a much larger platform. I had simply said “I haven’t earned it yet.” To which the reply was, “A good goal to strive for.”
So what are these lessons, you might ask as I write in a somewhat better mood than I began this introspection (rubber duck debugging works not just for programmers!) Here are the following things I’ve learned in the avoidance of pitfalls that anyone would make in the world “content creation,” a phrase I find detestable but at least serves as an effective catch-all.
Grounding yourself doesn’t mean public or private self-deprecation, although if done humorously it could work in a pinch. It is taking a step back from the work you’ve done, disassociating (especially if you’re anon) for a moment to see what you’ve done and where you are from where you started. I can’t say the same however if you do things under your actual name or do more on the ground, irl politics. I do both and I try extremely hard to keep the two separate. The work one does online, can make it seem like time is moving incredibly fast. It’s as if one day putting out a video, an interview, podcast, Substack, what have you – can feel like a week in an instant. Be aware of the actual passage of time. I’m coming up on a year I still cannot believe that there are few THOUSAND people that follow me or are subscribed to the channel on YouTube. Well over Dunbar’s number, something that seems unfathomable to comprehend, especially with so many all over the world. Rather than the neurotic, “why” question one might ask about why someone of prominence might follow you,
Treat this like you would irl networking
One of the earliest pieces of advice given to me, one that I don’t follow enough is to interact with others and to engage openly with those you wish to work with or collaborate. It goes a long way to ask questions, posit your own thoughts, or simply DM asking for advice. Odds are if you get picked up on someone’s radar, that DM will come to you. Algorithms and memes can only carry you so far, earning the endorsement of someone with a higher profile than you is always a welcomed endorsement; one that can only be achieved via interaction and networking.
Emulate, but embrace stick to strengths and guns.
From this a brand of your own will eventually flourish, and in a way that either takes off due to the emulation of what gets engagement, or in its own likeable way. It can be hit or miss, as I seem to get more engagement with a frog than I do anything else I tweet out these days. Then again, it’s nice to have a friendlier side, especially on the niche side of internet politics, Twitter included.
But what about pitfalls? What can send you down the spiral towards burnout? I probably haven’t discovered them all, if I’m being quite honest. Though I think I’ve been doing it long enough to avoid the ones that are quite easy to fall for. Narcissism being the most prominent, especially if you think you’re on some sort of hotstreak or growth. The desire to be well liked or the charming one can often have you look like an asshole, the very inspiration for this introspection to begin with. The same courtesies and genuine non-dick moves you’d do in real life apply here as well. Don’t egg on those who have no problem destroying you in front of their larger crowd. Don’t try to be the “well this story happened to me but it’s way better than your original anecdote,” type either. All of this is merely reinforcing the importance of being grounded. A year from now one could have double, triple the number the numbers they’re working with now, but shouldn’t let it go to their heads. Along with narcissism however, is the concern of envy.
I’ve talked about envy once or twice, there’s a gentleman whose success is often discussed that I try not to compare myself to, but the idea of keeping up with your twitter Jones’ is a pitfall one can’t fall into. Emulation is important, but to be a clone or carbon copy isn’t worth it either. To extent though, don’t we all want to be heard? That we, in that primal sense of validation in a soulless void, only now a sea of voices all screaming into that void of 120 decibels or more, just hoping that someone might hear your voice and call back to you? That is the nature I think of any online persona, even if you have a set goal in mind. You can be a reactionary, a diehard marxist, someone who just wants to go back to the 1990s when there was a sense of optimism, we are all looking for a sense of validation and purpose that many have not found anymore in our modern world, save for the few of us with religion. You will not find meaning or purpose here, a simple distraction from a much larger problem. Do not make this your life, have a life well outside of this. Even if this is your source of income do not make it everything about you.
At this point though, how does one conclude such a lengthy rant on his first year, a transition from consumer to producer of sorts? I would suggest to follow up on me in a year from now.