Indirect Message

Episode 7: Facing The Camera

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Hello everyone and welcome back to Indirect Message! Laci Green here coming at you from beautiful San Francisco this week. I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. The holiday season is here. It's the most stressful time of the year, at least to me, so I hope you're all taking care of you as we roll into 2020. Today, I wanted to try something a little bit different. I had originally planned to explore parasocial relationships this episode; the sacred relationship shared between YouTubers and their viewers, but also any public figure and the people who watch them. So I hit up my buddy Tom known on YouTube as TomSka for a chat about it. But during our conversation we ended up touching on a bunch of interesting topics and questions: why we're so critical of do gooders, the ethics of cashing in on fan interactions, and why it's so much easier to be brutally honest with millions of strangers than your closest friends.

So instead of sharing a story and some thoughts, I'm going to let our experiences do the talking on this one. Basically just let the interview run mostly uncut. Tom and I first found friends in each other on YouTube in 2013. And Sweet Pea Dating App, the official partner of Indirect Message, hopes to help you find even more than that. Sweet Pea helps connect to you to potential lovers and life mates who share your values, your goals and interests. So if quality connections and meaningful conversations are your thing, give it a try. You can download Sweet Pea on the app store. Every download really helps me out. Thanks so much you guys.

Ahem, a little introduction. My guest today is Tom Ridgewell, AKA TomSka. He's an OG YouTuber and he rose to fame for his animated videos like asdfmovie, Edd's World, and Crash Zoom. His videos have amassed well over a billion views at this point, which is a huge accomplishment. As a person and a vlogger, Tom is better known for his dark sense of humor and his openness about his personal life online -- in case you were wondering why I thought he might be a great fit here. I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Tom:
This is going to be purely anecdotal. I mean, I'm not even a philosopher, so..

Laci

I think we're all philosophers, honestly.

 

Tom
Whoa. That's the most Californian thing you've ever said. Did you like rip a fat joint before you said that?

Laci
I don't smoke weed.

Tom
That sounds like a lie, but okay.

Laci
It's not a lie. I used to be a stoner, but not anymore. I started getting panic attacks.

Tom
Oh, that sounds ironic.

Laci
Yeah, it is a little bit, but that's actually a common thing that happens. I know you guys don't know much about ~the weed~ over there, but a lot of people get anxiety from it. nyways. Well, I'm really excited to have you on a, because you're, you know, a YouTuber, but also because I feel like we're kind of kindred spirits.

Tom
Oh yeah. Well, I mean not only do we have like parallel upbringings in our own little fucked up ways, but we've also got like similar experiences online in the worst ways.

Laci
Do you think we've had similar experiences online?

Tom
Yeah. Well, as a woman I have experienced a lot. No, I think we're both people that have been, uh, disliked. I think we both, uh, hit similar hornet's nests.

Laci
Yeah. I was also thinking about like the depression part too. Yeah, I guess that's, yeah, we're both like sad or people than a lot of people on YouTube.

Tom
Yeah. I, I, I still don't really know if YouTube makes people depressed, but it definitely exacerbates it. Like if you are predisposed to depression, YouTube will kick that off in a big way. A therapist will tell you not to compare yourself to the achievements of others, but on a platform like YouTube, that is literally your job is to look at what other people are doing, how they're doing it better than you. And it was just like, you know what, I'm just going to make videos and if that's, that's sustainable then cool.

Laci
And it is sustainable. You've sustained.

Tom
It's catching up with me now for sure. It's definitely winding down or, and has been winding down for a couple of years for me and that's okay. I accept that I'm old.

Laci
Do you actually accept that? Are you trying to tell yourself that?

Tom
Oh no, I do. I do genuinely accept it. Like, you know, I'm, I, I've been making YouTube videos 13 years or so, and if it's time, that's, that feels right.

Laci
Um, I want to talk to you about a lot of that stuff today and specifically about, well, when I texted you, I was like, you know, your relationship with the internet and you know, being internet famous or whatever. But really what I think that means, at least to me, is your relationship with millions of people who have a relationship with you in like a lot of different dynamic ways. And you may not even be aware of those relationships, but they are happening and they are blossoming with everything that you post online.

Tom
Oh, absolutely. That thing has freaked me out a lot. It's actually funny. Um, we actually first met I think a big, not in real life, but I first contacted you because, uh, I was doing this sex ed video called the sex talk and I, and I, you were a sex educator. YouTube. I had been watching a videos. I respected them and they'd been very helpful for me as well. You know, I wanted you to review the script. Um, and what's funny is that the reason I even made those videos was because of realization. I had, um, about the relationship I have with my audience having met so many people and then comparing that with things like...honestly rape statistics. I randomly came across these high numbers and then I applied the numbers of my audience and I had a couple of realizations, which is, you know, like one, so many members of my audience, statistically X amount are going to be victims of abuse. Um, and then I realized, Oh shit. Well statistically then X number of them are going to be the causes of that abuse. They are the abusers. And I had this overwhelming sense of obligation to do anything about that. That was like the start of a big change in the way I approached my relationship with my audience.

Laci
Would you say that was what facilitated your foray into social justice activism?

Tom
Yeah. Yeah. Super duper big time.

Laci
You felt some sense of responsibility to your viewers.

Tom
It wasn't just that I, yeah, I felt a sense of responsibility and wanting to act on that. And in the same way, I think a lot of the same rabbit hole, a lot of people go down when it's like, I have to do more, I have to be better is you start then looking at other people and going, why aren't you doing more? Why aren't you being better? I'm being better than you. I'm the better wrist. Fuck you. And, um, that's like, that was the two pronged attack. Uh, whereas like I didn't just go in with good intentions. I had the best intentions and I was the best at it.

Laci
Why do you think it turned into that? Where it was something where you were doing it for your fans and then maybe you started doing it for you?

Tom
I think that might just be one of the pratfalls of the world of, of social justice. And I think really any form of activism. Um, no, not even activism. I think it's literally just part of the human condition. And it's the same with, even if you get into an an into a genre of music. You know, I, I acted the same way with social justice activism the way they did with getting into ska music where it was like, I like this music too. I know everything about this music too. You guys don't know enough about this music. I'm so good at knowing about this music and it's, it happens with so many things. People are like, I don't want to eat meat. And then suddenly they don't want you to eat meat either or they want to worship this God and then they don't want you to worship other gods or do things that God doesn't like. It's just a thing that we do. We get very tribal

Laci
It is human. But when you add the human to the internet, you get something that doesn't feel very human anymore.

Tom
You get bravery. You get unlimited bravery. I've said before that I think anonymity cures cowardice. You know, you want no longer accountable, no one's going to smack you in the face. Um, which is a thing that maybe we just need more of as a society. Um, is that, is that like that, that fear of consequence, uh, you know, not necessarily physical, but you know, when you are on these things, you can literally just say whatever the fuck you want to anyone about anything and you're going to get away with it and it makes you so brave. So, so brave.

Laci
Do you think there's a flip side to that coin where maybe like people have too many consequences for saying benign shit?

Tom
I think that that comes with when you start down a certain path of trying to be better, whether or not you tell other people they're not good enough, you suddenly get put in the spotlight and you receive an intense amount of scrutiny. I mean, you're one of the, the people I looked at as, as kind of an example of, of that phenomenon where it was, you know, even if you didn't call out that many people, people would angry at you and then would scrutinize you to an obscene degree. Um, and, and this happened to me as well when I was trying to, you know, be better. I was getting more criticism than when I'd just been completely unchecked. And it's because people were aware that I was trying to be better and maybe because I was trying to be better, they felt like I was turning better than them, which to an extent I definitely was. I made people want to call out every little thing I did every microaggression or misstep.

Laci
Well that's a problem isn't it?

Tom
I mean, you have more experience with this than I do for sure.

Laci
Yeah. Well this is not super related to the topic, but I am curious about it because yeah, I agree with you. I think that people who, well, whose platforms have some moral element like trying to do good in any way, they do open themselves up to a lot of criticism. And that's really bad because you know, people who are trying to do well -- sure criticize, you know, give constructive feedback. But we don't want to create incentives for people to just not care, you know, or to avoid, which is something that I have run into as well. Like I've met people who tell me like, don't apologize, don't try to do anything good online. Like don't try to advocate for causes because you'll get a lot more shit and it'll be harder for you.

Tom
I'd argue that it is relevant to the topic because I think the critique is part of, one of the many parasocial relationships that one can have with their audience. You know, initially if someone doesn't like what you're saying or what you're doing, they just won't watch you. They won't interact with you. But once they've developed a connection, they will feel the need to try and guide you, to stay, you, to give you feedback and criticism. You know, that's something you're only doing because you have built a relationship with them, at least in your head.

Laci
Yeah, you're right. Have you ever had viewers break up with you?

Tom
Oh, I think we, yeah, we've all had those comments. Um,

Laci
but how did, how does that affect you? I mean are some people that are like, I am unsubscribing, I don't support you anymore. Now there's the Patreon element. So a lot of people threatened to pull out financial support. How have you dealt with those situations? Which yes, inevitably come up with some people more than others.

Tom
I guess it really depends on the reason they've unsubscribed. You know, if it's like, I don't find this funny anymore, that's, that's fine and dandy. I think a lot of the time when people have unsubscribed, they've given me a reason that I'm fine with. I wasn't using already where a guy, um, responded to being told someone was unsubscribing to him by showing a bathtub full of water and then he just like dipped out like a thimble of water onto the floor and the, and it was just like, I don't give a fuck. That's you. Uh, and while that is, you know, an arrogant way to look at things, it is, it does help put things into perspective sometimes of like, you know what, you've lost one person. It's okay. Unless you have four subscribers, in which case that's quite a lot of people.

Laci
Do you think people sometimes pretend like they're not hurt?

Tom
Well, the, the louder someone is like, I don't give a fuck usually means the more they give many fucks.

Laci
Do you experience that sort of situation similarly to friendships or romantic relationships where people say, Oh well time to go our separate ways or usually in my experience don't actually say it. They just go,

Tom
I don't know if I'm the best person to ask this. Because I think in my life I've been the the dumper of people.

Laci
Have you?

Tom
Yeah, I've ended every relationship I been in. Um, and I've controlled the flow of most friendships I've had. But that definitely was a period. Um, when I first got really hit with depression when I first got diagnosed that I had been such a strain on the people around me that I did. I did, I couldn't push away a lot of people. So I think a lot of people just realized I was just too much work and our relationship never really recovered. Um, but other than that, no. I, I've always been the one to push people away almost famously. So you know that there's, there's this pretty intense event in my history where I went completely bonkers and wrote like these emails to all of the toxic relationships people in my life and said we should know each other anymore. Uh, like 5:00 AM Oh yeah, that was super, super good. Healthy and well executed, you know, or the only defense I have as I, it was my first week on antidepressants. Okay. My brain went funny.

Laci
Actually SSRI is do fuck you up a lot, especially in the beginning.

Tom
I mean the, the, I mean like I could have backtracked it but like the thing, the damage was done and I realized that, like I said it for a reason, so I stuck by it.

Laci
The way you are describing it, it sounds kind of catastrophic, you know, the flip side of this is that you've been extraordinarily successful at building relationships through the screen with millions of people for a very long time. You've done the marathon.

Tom
Yeah, I would say marathon is the right word. Not extraordinarily successful. I've been able to keep it very, you know, um, steady. I never, I never like hit that kind of point when I was a famous YouTube like

Laci
Are you holding yourself to Pewdiepie standards?

Tom
Not necessarily just Felix, but you know, even the Markipliers, the Jenna marbles, the Shane Dawson's like tthe, these big household names. And even though at one point I came very close, um, I even overtook some of those channels. You know, I never got, I think I never hit that like household name thing. But what I, what I have that maybe some of the channels didn't is the, I I had this stability and stable growth, you know, like you think about Fred, like that's a channel that showed up, exploded and then just fucked off. I mean, a lot of, you know, a comment that I see a lot of this and he's like, wow, this guy's still here. And it's like, that would be a depressing comment where it not on a video that had millions of views.

Laci
Why would it be a depressing comment though? I feel like someone who continues to make videos in spite of having no views, in spite of maybe losing the spotlight, is doing it because they love it. People love the rise, you know, they'd love the rise of the channel, but then as soon as the spotlight goes somewhere else, which it does every five minutes, it's seen as like sad, you know, or, and I think that's wrong. It's not sad. That's beautiful. They're not doing it for fame or people, they're doing it because they like it.


Tom
Wellllll

Laci
Am I wrong?

Tom
Depends on the creator. No, I think, I think your opinion is super valid. And I, I, I really liked that attitude. But you know, even I sometimes do see creatives. The, you know, I saw have one point ha, let's still have maybe 2 million subscribers and they bring in maybe 5,000 views and they're still doing their thing exactly the way they used to do it. And it does sometimes come off like an aging opera singer singing to an empty auditorium. Um, and it, it is kind of sad, like when it's, when it's someone who's close, he's made a pivot and they just, they're just now back to being a normal human being, loving their life and sharing with people. That's, that's fine. But sometimes it does feel like someone's just stuck and they don't know what else to do. And I, that's something I do fear.

Um, you know, I think that that in itself is me being guilty of my own form of a parasocial relationship with creators I watch. Where I am holding them, I'm projecting, I'm holding them to the same standards I would, I would hold myself. I'm thinking, man, I would feel really pathetic if I were doing that. So I assume they must feel pathetic. They must hate themselves in the way that I would. And not only are we all recipients of these parasocial relationships, we have them, every single one of us with the creators we watch. You've been to events, I'm sure you've seen creators that you have this deep connection to and they have no fucking idea who you are.

Laci
I honestly don't think I have that relationship with many youtubers.

Tom
Have you had it with any?

Laci
I feel like maybe there was one time my fan girl, but I can't remember who it was. Oh, you know who it was was um, Sam Tsui, the singer. I was so excited to meet him, but that's pretty much it. I've never had the relationship with YouTubers that some people have with me and I'll think...(Cell phone sounds) What the hell? Silence your cell phones. Nothing is more important than this conversation right now!

Tom
Sorry it's an alarm for my SSRIs

Laci
That's admissible then.

Tom
actually it's pretty problematic if you shame me for that.

Laci
We both know I'm very problematic

Tom

Big time.
 

Laci
It's part of who I am. Um, do you, I guess, uh, running with that a little bit, do you think of your fans as friends?

Tom
I mean, I have made friends with fans before. There's, there's this jokingly interim stage I have called when they're "frans".

Laci
Frans! That's cute.

Tom
It's not uncommon for me in my incredibly chaotic and unprepared life to tweet out, I need a sound guy or I need someone to do this job real quick. And then, you know, if we vibe then we end up getting a drink or hanging out. That is something I would apply only to getting to making friends. I would never date someone using that method though.

Laci
You would never date a fan?

Tom
Oh, absolutely not. That is, for me, that would be super duper fucked up. Um, I could not put aside the knowledge that like they have that parasocial relationship, that there is a power dynamic and also I can never really trust their motives. Um, that, that's a very scary part. Like I don't know if I'm suddenly going to get doxed or, uh, I'm going to get some like sleeping nudes leaked. I don't know.

Laci
I also don't really make a dating pool out of people that watch my videos obviously, but, um, you know, people who are friends of mine because so many people have turned around and like been assholes to me who I thought were friends of mine online. It's hard for me to really dive into those relationships.

Tom
Yeah. That, that makes a lot of sense. When, when you're a popular creator, um, and I'm sure this goes for a lot of other fields, I've definitely found that people project onto me, especially at a period in my life when I was really hot shit on YouTube, a lot of the friends I had that were also really trying, were building this picture of me in their head that they were making themselves, that I was convinced I was better than them. The insecurities they would have, they would massively projected onto me. And you go and you go in, you go into friendships and relationships. Like often when I meet people, I try, you know, the genuine don't know who I am. I try to avoid what I do. And even if I'm like I'm a YouTuber, they'll say, how many subscribers do you have? And I'll go, you know, I've got a few, because if I say six million, suddenly the whole tone changes. And they're like, Oh, so you're like a big fucking deal and suddenly you're on the back foot and you're having like prove yourself to them. And they're like, Oh, well if you're so, you know, it's like if you tell someone you're a comedian, they're like, Oh, well tell me a joke then. Uh, and, and so like, I've had a lot of friendships get poisoned. I had friendships fall apart as early as 2010 because I was now making money on YouTube

Laci
They were jealous of your $100?

Tom
Yeah. Well I had people who were like, you know, like, Oh, well we're in your video, so why aren't we getting a cut of it? And it's like, guys, I made 50 pounds off this video. Uh, and I spent like 300 making it.

Laci
Yeah. And people have super skewed ideas about how much people make too.

Tom
They look at creators like Felix and, and, and their mansions and stuff, and they go like, Oh, well you do the same thing. You must also be a millionaire.

Laci
Um, it's kind of funny. There's like a, there, there's every, there's the entire wealth spectrum on YouTube, right?

Tom
Oh, for sure. Like, I think, I think the highest done is, are actually like eight year olds that open toys.

Laci
Love that. It's interesting. We're all thrown into the same bucket. Right. No matter where you're at in terms of your socioeconomic status on YouTube. Do you ever feel kinda weird about the money involved? Like weird about monetizing your relationship with people?

Tom
No, I guess I've always tried to be upfront about it, or at least if I haven't before, I definitely am now. What a lot of YouTubers trade on is relatability. And if you make money, uh, especially if you make a lot of money, someone's not going to feel like they have anything in common with you. So they, you focus on the things that you do like, you know, so if I make a vlog, I often am focusing on how I like to play video games and go to the cinema and, and not on how stressful taxes are because that will put people off if you do that.

Laci
Yeah, it definitely does. I mean, even in the early days of YouTube, people were, I remember people being so mad when you tubers would sell t-shirts. Oh, it's so funny.

Tom
So it was like weird. Like, I think I kind of just missed that because I, I, my channel rule isn't really monetized, but I would see creators be like, you know, as you guys know, I, I, you know, I've, I would never so much I respect you too much to sell merch. And I'm like, what the fuck are you talking about? Sell a t shirt man. Like Jesus make that bread. I have a weird relationship with money with my audience in that I hate Patreon. I don't hate the actual service. I think it's wonderful, but I hate my own personal relationship with it. Like I hated what it felt like taking pennies from a very small, dedicated chunk of my audience, so I ended up having to delete it. Um, so I actually say, you know, if you want to support me, share my videos or bought or buy a tee shirt, like that's, that's plenty, that's more than enough.

Laci
I guess that's one of the ways that these relationships between viewers and creators is a little bit different in that there is this sort of implied monetary relationship there. Um, which also makes me uncomfortable. I tried Patreon for a while after my whole channel got demonetized and I just felt like bad.

Tom
What's funny is I think maybe we both feel that way because we were so used to it one way for so long that we can't make that pivot. I don't know, does it comes so naturally to some creatives and that's, you know, good for them.

Laci
Okay. If there's a YouTube or I do actually watch with fair regularity, it's Shane and Jeffree. Cause I, I just like them. I don't know. And I, I've hung out with Shane and he's really sweet and I just get like a genuine vibe from them, which I don't always get. I don't know about Jeffree so much, but I don't always get that from youtubers, but like their relationship with money and their fans is so like....it's on the table, man.

Tom
Like I don't think people watch Jeffree Star especially, thinking now there's a relatable person.

Laci
True, he's loved because he's not relatable.


Tom
Yeah. Because he's a spectacle and his life and you watching him and you buying his stuff is, is investing in that spectacle. And I don't really know much about Shane, but um, yeah, I, I don't really know much about Shane. That's the end of that sentence.

Laci
You know, you kind of, I guess challenged my, my characterization of you as extraordinarily successful. It seems like you've had an easier time with, with screen relationships.

Tom
Oh, big time. Like I couldn't even break it to my friends that I had been diagnosed with depression. So I made a fucking video about it cause it was easier to talk to a lens. Um, even knowing that they would, you know, a couple of hundred thousand people, the other side of it, that old Cyclops, uh, of a, of a Canon 60D or whatever, that that was more familiar and less painful than, than speaking to a human being who you have to watch, feel things. Um, you know, I drink. Um, no, I think that, um, I watched and learned from a lot of other creators before I actually started sharing my life. I don't think I really cutting off chunks of myself putting it out there until 2011 2012 and in that time I had seen the damage caused by parasocial relationships to so many other creators..obsessing, harassment.

And so when I went into it, I, I even maybe even subconsciously, I applied a lot of, um, tactics to, to cut down on that. And, and one is that I've always tried to like not keep secrets. One thing I found is that a lot of creators would develop these really intense relationships with their audiences by hiding things, by being mysterious and sexy and elusive. And that made people crazy. And they really wanted to dig and find out these things they didn't know. So I was just pretty out there. I was like, Hey, this is me. What's up? It's like, you could probably figure out my address like pretty easily, but no one's gonna show up that, because anyone that watches my videos would know that it would just be fucking awkward. Like I'd be like, hi. Um, please don't. And they'd be like, yeah, I'm sorry. This was weird. Where there are so many creators, whether, whether the way their audience just will climb their fucking fence and I don't know what they're expecting. They're in this state of mania and, and I think I've, I've managed to be so unsexy with my audience. There's nothing they need to figure out. I will tell them everything and then they will, they don't want more. That was a theory and it paid off. I could've, I could've easily ruined my life. And it's definitely something that I as an older male could have done. It's not entirely a level playing field like I can do and get away with things that other people can't. A lot of people are like, Oh, I want to do videos where I overshare like you do. I'm like, Oh, don't, you'll get fired. You know, I don't want to bring up, um, race and gender and all that stuff. But you, it's something you would do, become aware of when, when you go down some rabbit holes. And I think it is true that like as a straight white man, um, I kind of forward to be a lot more loose with the things I share in the way I handle myself online.

Laci
I, I don't disagree with you entirely. I'm, I am thinking of a lot of like straight white guys though, who do deal with this shit. Like the teenage girls climbing over the fence. Shit.

Tom
I mean, maybe they're just prettier than me.

Laci
You're beautiful. Tom. Please stop disparaging yourself. What's your thought process been like negotiating boundaries with viewers?

Tom
Um, well I had to learn a lot of things, the hard ways, you know, like what is too much. Um, you know, I, I experienced depression obviously, and I have unhealthy coping mechanisms. Um, I eat and I drink and I try to be open about that. But not in the way that in any way glamorizes it, you know, if I do do something terrible like overeat or overdrink, I will often either not go into it or just show how bad of an effect that's had so that no one would then go, Oh yeah, I'll do that. You know, I am an influencer. I know I'm an influencer. Um, if I want, no one would buy my shots, no one would share my videos. That's not true. People would probably still share the videos, but they wouldn't buy them much. And, and people wouldn't hire me to do brand deals and I can not just convince people to do good things like go see a therapist or be kind to others. Um, but I can inadvertently convince people to be a raging asshole, to be cruel or to adopt bad habits.

Laci
I'm not saying this to be an asshole, but do you think maybe you're overstating your impact?

Tom
Like, I don't think that I have the power to create an army of little bastards, but for me, you know, it's, it's even one

Laci
One of the things that I think is interesting about you and like being so open online is that you're doing something that I feel like I just literally...don't know how to do. And I'm sure there are other people out there who feel that way. I, I don't even know how to open up to a camera like that. Was that something that, that you learned from watching other people do? It does, does it come naturally to you? To share all that about your life?

Tom
Okay. I do have an answer to this and it will verge into some, like probably weird. There's, there is a therapist or a psychologist out there that would have a fucking field day with me. I think. I think maybe it came as a byproduct of some sort of a imposter syndrome. I became, I became aware that people liked me and they liked what I did. And I had obviously the very normal, uh, imposter syndrome responsive, like, Oh well they just don't really know me. Um, they, they know the image. I painted myself and in my head I thought, well, I know how to fight this. If I literally put everything out there, all the good, all the bad and people still like me, then that means they really like me. That's real. That is that then, then they like me for who I am, warts and all.

And this is something you first see in a video I made I think, I don't know, eight years ago called the seven floors of TomSka. This was the first time I dip my toes in that water and you see that I'm really like, like, Oh, I know you're going to hate me off. I say this and it's like such a fucking performance. Um, but what I'm doing there is I'm trying to battle this raging imposter syndrome I'm developing. And yeah, like to, to uh, to a degree that it didn't make it easy for me to accept praise. Um, and I mean this something I will do in my real life. Uh, you know, when I meet someone I will spill the beans, I will out myself, I will cancel myself right then and there in front of them. I, I've, I've done this to you, um, because I would rather them not be disappointed that rather than not like a perception of me but like the real thing or the closest I can get to the real thing. But then there's another level of fucked up, which is, I know that that in itself is manipulative that is coming across as that that is painting a picture of yourself as apologetic and woke and self-aware when it's just another tactic. You can, you can, it's literally a never ending cycle.

Laci
That's, that is the answer I was looking for.

Tom
Oh good! Validation. 

Laci
Wait that's not what I meant. That was, that was an answer to a question that I, it feels like a satisfactory, satisfactory answer to the question. I get the satisfaction of being like look, just letting it all hang out. Like, here it is and here's what's up and there's a power in that.

Tom
Yeah.

Laci
Um, something that stood out to me in your complete history of me series that was watching is that you've been getting to know yourself through your own videos. Can you speak to that a little bit?

Tom
Yeah. I talk very openly about my life and my experiences and then it can often come off as like obsessive self-flagellation and I know it does and I don't want it to, but somethings you just got to go through some things again and again and, and, and I, and I've also learned that everything you admit to people will dredge up. So, um, I have to repeat myself a lot. Yeah. I think my relationship with, with YouTube did affect the way I grew up and the way I processed memories and grew as a person. So I've been trying to take a step back for the past couple of years, like make sense of myself, observe who I am, how I've grown, and actually process that in a more healthy way. Um, you know, like one of the most defining things happened to me was that I, I, you know, I experienced grief and loss and that was all so public and it was as if I never left the first stage of grief, you know, denial. I was just stuck there forever trying to piece things back together. You know, stay in, it's still good. It's, it's fine, everything's fine. And so I never really processed grief properly and that's been a big part of like why I've been trying to make sense of, of who I am.

Laci
You mean like, uh, the camera maybe kept you from fully being in those feelings and going through that process?

Tom
Definitely. Yeah.

Laci
It's been a long time.

Tom
It has, it really has. But it's also, it's also been a coping mechanism. It's been yet another unhealthy coping mechanism. Delaying the inevitable, delaying, not only having to open myself up to the real people in my life instead of opening up to the faceless masses, but also avoid dealing with myself, having to face myself even in the earliest stages of me admitting my own faults. Maybe I was admitting it to an audience to avoid having to actually confront myself in any meaningful introspective way.

Laci
Can you do that while continuing to make videos, do you think?

Tom
No idea. I really don't. Um, I, I went through a couple of years of actually vlogging every day and that had a really weird effect on my life and my mental health and I still don't understand what that was yet. Um, I still don't know if I was depressed while I was vlogging or if I was depressed because I was vlogging.

Laci
Is it because you're saying you're, you're kind of like reframing your life through the videos that you're making?

Tom
Yeah, I'm sure there are plenty of studies on the, that fame has on TV, stars, movie stars, all that stuff. But YouTube is, that's got to be a largely untapped field and it's a very different relationship. You know, it's not one that's protected by large gates and limos and bodyguards. It is, you are one-on-one with these people. That's what makes it work. That's what makes you popular is that there is no PR team.

Laci
Do you think that this has been a positive relationship for you overall?

Tom
I don't have a parallel universe version of me to check with, so I really don't know. I D what I do know for sure is that there are more people out there that have gained something there would have been had I not done some of the stuff I've done that I had had I not made some of the videos I've made where I've, I've talked openly about mental health, um, or about my struggles with weight or all these things. Like there have been people out there who maybe wouldn't have gone to a therapist or maybe wouldn't have reevaluated themselves. So that's been worth it.

 

And I have to tell myself that because otherwise it was all for fucking nothing

 

[End of interview]

Laci
As you can see, there's much to be said about bearing it all online. On the next episode of indirect message, we'll talk about bearing it all online again, but this time sexually cam girls and fan sites like only fans have forever changed the face of sex on social media. And sex is kinda my thing. So let's talk about it. I hope you have a great week, you guys. I'll be back December 18th.