Common desperation from /r/Twitch
A look at a post that portrays a common problem, with a common solution: however, it's likely not what OP wants.
I have an adversarial relationship with Reddit's Twitch subreddit1: it simultaneously frustrates me, yet gives me a lot to think about. In my piece earlier this week, I touched briefly on the idea of commodifying experiences to in turn monetize them, and /r/Twitch keeps reminding me why this is something I want to explore.
The subreddit's "new" feed2 is very reptetitive, but I feel like monitoring it very casually just in case something unique pops up. The subjects usually covered are:
"How do I get famous on Twitch?"
A tech support question for a product used to stream on Twitch
A "should I buy this?" question (to which the answer is almost always "no")
Some kind of side-eyed social jealousy question, comment, or venting — "[this person] is successful, it sucks that I'm not"
“I got banned, it must’ve been a mistake”
If you monitor any kind of feed for juicy topic ideas, you become used to sifting and moving on from reptetition quickly. However, sometimes you see a post that stings you the right way, and it becomes something more.
That sting usually has to do with being able to read past the topic and text to see the mood of the person posting, and then working backwards to think “How did they get to that point?”
The below is one of those occasions. I like to analyze these kind of posts because:
The person is posting under a throwaway and has done enough to obfuscate their identity. I’m not encouraging a pile-on.
The entire story could be fabricated or embellished for attention, and there’s equally enough to think about when it comes to why they might do that, and in this venue.
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I tend to hate that “but it could be real, so it’s just as valid, even though we can’t prove it’s actually happened” argument on social media, but I figure that being forthcoming and self-aware about the possibility of it being fake is good enough. This is a thought experiment, not something I’m going to use to beat you over the head.
Topic: "Best places to Twitch Stream outside with free WiFi and Charging ports where you can go often/everyday?"
Hi, so just some context I’m not allowed to stream although being 19 and if I tried my parents would seriously kill me (not in a literal sense but ya), so since I’m at home all day I want to start “going out” more when really I just want to stream. I have the equipments like mic laptop ringlight green screen etc (bought them all myself on different occasions when I had a job and made excuses to get away with buying them) but not the support. Plus even if did try at home my sister would rat me out for validation.
So many things ping my brain with this one. Not in the sense of "this person is doing something wrong," but more that "okay, there's something reasoning here that's not being addressed."
The OP wants to be able to stream, but cannot from their current house, because they feel it's not accepted. They then go through a list of why certain venues, like a library, fast food restaurant, or a car wouldn't work for being able to stream.
The last paragraph is where I start getting into meat. I'm going to break it up into a couple parts, and I'm going to add some bold for emphasis. I'm also going to explain some base Twitch concepts in footnotes, so if you aren't reading this on Substack, those will be at the bottom of the page.
Essentially I’m getting kicked out in half a year and I can’t keep a job without getting fired 2 weeks into a job bc of my attention issues despite taking pills so I legitimately have no options at this point.
The snarky Internet writer in me goes “Hm, you can’t keep a job, huh? 😅”, but I think in this case that might be a little cruel.
19 years old puts OP as a 2004 baby; to them, content creation is cool. As I’ve said before, it’s something that enables a dream.
This is all armchair therapisting, so please take this with a grain of salt: if the alternative is trying to work retail or fast food, the Twitch life3 is attractive because it enables someone to monetize the developing and maintenance of self-esteem.
To be able to succeed on Twitch means not only gaining money, but also social acceptance and the widening of experiences. It means being able to “find a place,” but have a tangible way of tracking progress for something that’s mysterious and opaque: growth as a social, functioning human. Within the mental math, success on Twitch means succeeding at life, because a viewer number, account balance or subscriber count represents the unlocking door to a happier life.
I am not even allowed to start a business at home so this is my last option, to hopefully hit affiliate4 in half a year. I currently content create in secret but it’s not enough to keep me financially sane despite my high quality editing/videos (not enough followers to monetize, in other worths I have followers who care but I don’t have a fanbase but that’s okay because I need to work on that).
I think the absolutism of the “this is my last option” because it’s one of those “… oh, sweetie” moments of being a teenager. To this person, their situation seems dire, and the Internet — well, the success they’ve seen other people get on the Internet — is giving them a way out of it.
Part of what spoke to me about this post was that it could just as easily be a typical teenage exaggeration, because when we zoom out a bit, their description of their parents doesn’t paint a picture of abuse. From earlier in the post:
Also I can’t really make friends and tell my family about it bc they think still have the “Strangers are bad” mindset. It’s complicated, my sister has school friends she visits but I’m not allowed to visit anyone bc it’s “a stranger.”
“Plus I have minor social anxiety/fear people will easvedrop but due to strict parents at home that’s the least of my worries at the moment .”
”Also I don’t go to high school or college so overall I can’t exactly stream at school/work as an excuse”
“I currently content create in secret” feels like embellishing their situation in order to make it seem more special, clandestine, or portray a call for support. The ability to craft a narrative of a teenage runaway makes their cause attractive.
This topic is not as much about content creation as it is to get validation that their struggles are real, and that the path they want to take (not the one they need to take) is possible, healthy, and proper. This goes further with the idea that this person has “high quality” technical skill, but just hasn’t been noticed yet.
“Chūnibyō” is a Japanese term5 “typically used to describe early teens who have grandiose delusions, who desperately want to stand out, and who have convinced themselves that they have hidden knowledge or secret powers.”
A lot of /r/Twitch users are chūni as fuck.
I have the humor/charisma and enough marketing abilities to reach affiliate if I actually tried, the parents are the issue so I can’t really talk to people on a screen at home without me getting questioned and devices taken away.
I’m not going to harp on this kid too much longer because it’s easy for me to be the older asshole, shooting fish in a barrel. However, I can notice a pattern with these kind of posts where they kind of unravel as they go along, and the setup of the premise gives way to an unfortunately conclusion:
If you know you’re good, you don’t need to make a post like this.
If you’re trying to be an artist for a living6, the road is going to be difficult, long, and the support you're seeking from the public (rather than a trusted mentor or peers also trying to do the same thing) is forced to take you at face value.
That face value is: “sorry kid, this is going to be hard to hear, but maybe this isn’t for you, or your situation.”
A harsh reality for a lot of these posters is to hear that Twitch (and being able to “try at Twitch”) is not something everyone can do. While technology and Internet availability has gotten better from the time period where Twitch first-movers entrenched themselves on the platform, that’s meant that the sheer number of competitors presents a new challenge.
It’s not really surprising that a lot of esports athletes and Twitch stars got their start when they moved away to university: they got a new laptop, had fast Internet in residence, and were self-guided enough that they could blow off classes to commit. Those circumstances allow for the attempt to be made, and less competition made the entire endeavour a lot less scientific.
Not everyone is going to have those possibilities. Not everyone is going to have supportive parents. Not everyone is going to have the room to try.
The unfortunate reality is that if the OP wants to stream, they’re going to need to create their own circumstance for that attempt to happen, and that likely means, ironically, not streaming. It means picking up a job (and keeping it). It means dealing with whatever “attention issues” they have. It means moving out.
It means growing up.
Avoiding the issue
For many of the posters on /r/Twitch — and especially the ones in OP’s age range — Twitch success means having to avoid growing up, and the harsh realities of the real world. This discomfort and desperation is a result of the metaphorical door closing to the accessibility of comfort and freedom.
But I’m left with the thought: it is unfair?
That’s probably another column entirely, but I’ll offer this:
It’s unfair that talented people cannot always use their talents in order to find their happiest potential place in life. However, if you’re able to post on Reddit about a fairly common growing pains issue, you’re likely in a position to be able to influence your reality to give yourself a shot.
The replies to the OP are pretty much all uniform (these are all separate):
“Yeahhhh streaming and such isn't exactly an easy job to really get until, and it's not a great stable source of income for most people that do it as a living.”
“I know this probably isn’t what you want to hear but you should absolutely not go in to streaming with the expectation to make money.”
“Don't become another statistic7, you need to be better than 96% of twitch streamers (in your specific niche, and even more if in variety) to be able to make anything more than a side income with it.”
“Trying to stream for a a living is not a good idea. Most people don't make much off it. Only a relative lucky few strike gold and make it rich off streaming.”
If you spend enough time on /r/Twitch, these are pretty copy-and-paste, common responses to topics like this.
I can’t help but wonder how the OP took it, though. They never responded to any comments, and likely just watched the page update. Only one of the responses acknowledged their home situation, and it wasn’t particularly encouraging: “Having restrictive parents are probably not going to help you with your goal.”
Again, I’m sitting here, wondering: I wonder how they feel? Is this going to be one of those things we look back on in our 20s or 30s, forever thankful that we didn’t tie it to our real identity? Was it just typical teenage venting that they needed to do? Was the stimulii as painful as they thought it was?
Or was this just cooked up by a brain desperate to feel like someplace made sense?
Going to just be referring to this as “/r/Twitch” for most of the piece.
Or “the generic content game”; this can apply to TikTok, Twitch, YouTube, whatever.
“Affiliate” refers to one of the first of two stages within the Twitch Partner Program. Affiliates can accept channel subscriptions, Bits (Twitch’s donation currency) and run ads. They also can create their own emotes, impacting the platform as a whole. Affiliate status is relatively easy to earn (compared to “getting your sub button” in the past, when only Partners status existed) but has worse rates for revenue than Partners. If “having a sub button vs not” was the previous status differentiator, “Affiliate vs Partner” is the new one, with the latter system giving more revenue sources for Twitch.
Relevant: “Literary critic Boshi Chino expressed that he would like to give the novel Don Quixote the subtitle "Chūnibyō Starting from 50 Years Old" from the vicious cycle observable within the work characterized by "the protagonist's viewing of the world through colored glasses" causing "the people around him to play along in order to avoid denying his delusions, but in the end only causing the protagonist to succumb more and more to those delusions".”
I would argue that the term “content creation” is itself a commentary on the nature of monetizing art; Twitch streamers are making video that is enabled by the live format, and that resulting video is still art. They’re artists. But that isn’t a cool term to use.
For some reason the wording of this made me laugh, mostly because you only hear that expression in the context of like… heinous crimes.