“Hey what’s up guys, my name is ____, and now I’m showing you guys…”
This, or a variation of it, is usually what we hear when we click on a suggested YouTube video. We don’t know this person, but soon we will feel like we do.
Immediately, they share a lot of intimate details of their day. We feel compelled to click through all of their uploaded videos, our attention always drawn to the video with the dramatic titles and cryptic thumbnails.
When else do we get the opportunity to get to know someone immediately? Isn’t this wholesome insight into someone else’s life so exciting?
We find out more.
Their interior design.
The food they eat.
That one thing that changed their life forever.
By now, we are basically hooked. We know so much about this person, it’s almost like knowing a friend. We want to know how their story continues, and they’re always so nice and inspirational! We subscribe, and check their new videos daily.
This is another aspect of online addiction – the social aspect.
Usually, friends tell us a lot about themselves.
They talk about their day, their goals, what they plan to do on the weekend; but they also trust us with their secrets, the things that make them cry, and their hopes and dreams. And we usually share the same in return.
The vlogs and other videos of social media influencers do the same thing.
They smile, looking as if we are familiar to them, and tell us how much they appreciate us. Always relatable, really funny, and making us feel welcome. Because of them sharing so many secrets and details with us, we regard them as trustworthy and safe.
Knowing there is a new video waiting for us at home might even make us feel like someone is waiting for us.
There’s a reason why we prop those videos up in front of us when we feel the loneliest; in bed to fall asleep, on the dinner table when we eat alone, while doing chores: they treat us like friends.
Their expressions, the things they talk about, their tone; all of it suggests closeness. And they are accessible anywhere at any time, and always in their best mood unlike real friends. Missing connection or intimacy in our life, they can provide it whenever we need it.
YouTubers and Streamers are Friendship Lite on demand.
As we all know, real life friends can be complicated.
We may have trouble making friends at all, and even if we don’t:
- they have bad days and make bad decisions,
- they have a life of their own,
- they may not always have time,
- or they may prefer peope over you
– but YouTubers and other social media personas are different.
They can be shut off any time, while real friendships need continuous effort and support to be sustained.
These people don’t even know we (specifically) exist. They don’t know a single thing about us.
It’s such a one-way street, where we can never tell them anything but we know so much about them. But this also means no actions on your part are needed to to keep this (fake) feeling of connection and flow of information going.
If you have trouble making friends, lost your friends through your worsening addiction, or have trouble maintaining friendships, you are most likely to really become attached to online personas through their daily updates and don’t want to let go because of all this. It might feel like cutting a friend off, maybe even the only ‘friendship’ you have.
But realizing that you put so much importance on this relationship while the other person doesn’t know who you are puts things in perspective.
What makes friendships so wholesome and deep is experiencing the other person’s full range of emotions, their bad days, their good days, and being so happy when you can finally see each other again. It’s putting in time, effort, and openness and a shoulder to cry on. It’s always showing up when they need you. It’s a friendship based on mutual trust and respect. This isn’t possible with internet stars.
Many online celebrities fake connection, authenticity and their trustworthiness for money, sometimes even downright preying on people who see YouTube or Twitch as their last shot at finding connection to other people or feeling less alone.
We never see their bad sides, except in a scandal or when they cry for clicks as well. Your loneliness and desperation is milked for money. This friendship isn’t real.
No matter if YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Twitch;
Streamers, Vloggers, Let’s Players, and those ordinary people you follow since years that you have never interacted with but know too much of to let go.
Just ask yourself:
- Would you consume their content them if you felt like your life had purpose, you had important and fulfilling things to do, and a friendly, accepting social circle?
- Why would you follow them, if not as a distraction from your loneliness and state of life, and getting a glimpse of a supposedly better life you’re never gonna reach if you keep wasting time like this?
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