Does the Internet Make Us Performative?

This is one of those posts where I’m going to try to explain what’s going through my head before I’ve completely grasped it all myself. I’ve had several conversations, and multiple trains of thought, that were seemingly about different topics. In the end, they all seem to be thematically related.


I’ve been watching a lot of YouTubers have meltdowns lately. Years ago they started making videos for fun. That turned into a revenue stream and eventually became their full-time job. Now things have changed, for several reasons I don’t want to get into, and they can’t do what they’ve always done and get the same results. In many cases they’ve been pushed into being more dramatic, over-the-top, and sensational. Not all creators are comfortable with that, but they’ve been hooked by money and fame.


A Finnish patron has requested we do an episode of the podcast explaining what “fake news” means. In making notes, I had to include the fact that American media is a for-profit business. The more viewers a news program gets, the more they can charge for advertising. This drives them to do more sensational things, put the most lurid spin possible on stories, and tell people what they want to hear. It’s less about journalism than it is about entertainment.


In trying to figure out what I want to do with my internet presence, including social media accounts and this blog, I remembered when and why I have rage-quit platforms in the past. When I stopped being an RPG blogger around 2009, it was because I felt I was trapped within a persona. Admittedly, I had developed that persona to build an audience, but I didn’t feel that I was allowed to be more than that. Not knowing how to navigate through that, I dropped the persona and in turn lost the audience.


We see people in the news doing hideous things because they feel empowered to do them. Other people say things, act in specific ways, engage in certain behaviors, and get away with it. They feel that this is permission. In some ways, however, they feel that they’re now able to get the attention they feel they deserve. It’s not that they don’t feel the things they do, or believe the crackpot things they do. They just exaggerate them and go over the top because it’s a way to feel powerful.


Minimalism is clearing away the things you don’t want or need to make more space for the things you do. I need to live that, not prove it to anyone else. The same way that I just need to be a writer, a publisher, a husband, a friend, and so on. I don’t need to post things on social media to validate the labels, whether they’ve been placed on me or I’ve applied them to myself. I just need to do that things. Talking about doing X, allowing for variable definitions of X, is not doing X. It is clutter.


The value-add of this post is more about me getting my head around it than trying to explain it to you. No offense, nothing personal. I could have written this in a journal, but for some reason I do feel the need to explain why I keep pulling back. It’s a battle between the expectations the modern world has set — an author will be available to their readers — and the realities of my personal and professional needs.


I have at least temporarily burned down my Twitter account. I need it to stay in touch with a handful of people. I unfollowed almost everyone, then made my account private. Then I went through my followers, blocked and unblocked them. This is the only way to make them not following you. With the private account, they can’t just add me again. Nothing personal. I may reopen it again in the future. I need the tool, and I need it to be concise and serve a couple of very specific purposes.


Writing this blog and posting on Twitter have both felt very performative lately, and that bothers me. It’s make those things feel like a chore, not at all satisfying, not at all fun. Rage-quitting isn’t the answer. Figuring out what I want, and applying minimalism to declutter and turn it into what I need, is the process I’m stumbling through right now.


I really do get more satisfaction from talking one-on-one to friends than I do playing for the back row.