Changing How I Interact With the Internet

CW: Potential Needy Streamer Overload spoilers in the first paragraph. Just skip paragraph one and you won't miss out on anything.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I interact with the internet lately. I played the game Needy Steamer Overload back in early April, and without going into spoilers or contents of the actual game, a lot of the game’s messages have really stuck with me. I was 21 and actively on my road to recovery, but I can imagine the game would’ve affected me a lot more if I had the ability to play it when I was 16 (the age at which I consider my mental problems to be at their worst). Even as a 21 year old, I saw a lot of the “worst” parts of myself in Ame. As the player, it was incredibly difficult for me to watch Ame take small and meaningful steps towards her self healing while actively undermining those efforts by seeking out validation through popularity on the internet. It was the first time I was able to see my own mindset from an outside point of view. I’ve never wanted to be a popular streamer, but for a very long time I placed a lot of my inherent self worth and value on how much I was liked by others and how “popular” I was, regardless of in real life or the internet. As a result, I never really developed my own interests or identity until I more recently actively made an effort to. Arguably, the best endings for Ame are the ones where she curates how she uses the internet and actively chooses to take her life into her own hands. I want to do the same for myself. I’ve wanted to “get better” for a very long time, but I never actually took the steps necessary for myself to actually do it, and for me that also includes evaluating how I use the internet.

I have a very particular way that I enjoy expressing myself, and not many platforms lend themselves well to it. I particularly don’t really enjoy microblogging or reading other people’s microblogs. Less polished erratic thoughts are better suited in my personal diary or in group chats with my friends. I don’t really know how to explain this aspect of myself. I used to think that there was something very wrong with me for not having a life interesting enough to post or tweet about frequently. I’m not a very interesting person in terms of my day to day life. I eat two pieces of toast every morning with Philadelphia Cream Cheese (I alternate between chive and onion, garden vegetable, garlic and herb, and jalapeno cream cheese). I go to class and study different flavors of biological sciences. My outfits aren’t always cute enough to post, and I frequently rewear pieces (what is the point of purchasing something without the intent of wearing it more than once?). I’m not always engrossed in a fandom enough to consistently post about it. I’m not the type of person to enjoy having my messier incoherent thought blurts to be on the internet for anyone to see. And I’m realizing that it’s okay if I don’t use the internet in ways that it’s “popular” to be used these days. My life is not for other people’s consumption. My life is for me to live.

I could expand and theorize why I developed the mindset that I need to be easy to consume and digest by other people in the first place, but I think that’s better suited to its own blog post. That being said, ever since I moved to the United States when I was 8 years old, I’ve always felt an intense pressure to assimilate and fit in. I was unable to ever completely “fit in” as a brown immigrant on a visa in a wealthy white neighborhood, so I think I took to the internet to fill in the void of acceptance that I was never able to find in real life.

In the past, I lacked the insight that I have now about what aspects of the internet I like and dislike. I used to make quitting social media and “the internet” as a whole my eventual goal, but I don’t think that’s a tangible or necessary goal for myself anymore. I have a lot of niche identities that I’m unable to express in real life that I’m able to freely explore on the internet. My interests aren’t ones that are easy to connect with other people in person over, but I don’t exactly feel like myself when I give up these interests. I keep in contact with a lot of my friends through apps like Line and Discord, and many public figures that I’d like to keep up with post updates on their social media. I just don’t enjoy knowing what my friends are up to at every moment of the day. We as people were not made to be contactable any moment of the day on any platform. With this knowledge, I plan on reevaluating how I use the internet.

I don’t enjoy social media beyond using it to catch up on occasional news about topics I enjoy. I've had a private twitter account since about 2017 under the pretense of using it as a de facto diary to sort out my thoughts, but I realize that knowing people follow me there has made me filter my thoughts quite a bit. Although many of my followers on that account I’ve known since 2016, I don’t talk to many of them enough on a day to day basis enough for me to consider them truly friends. I can never NOT filter my thoughts there because I don’t want to be that annoying person on their tl. I feel like I need to be entertaining enough to be kept around when I don’t even like microblogging my life that much in the first place. As of writing this, I plan on sunsetting the use of that account. When I was younger, I was extremely uncomfortable with who I was as a person, and depended on other people’s validation to know that I “existed”. I don’t feel this way anymore. If I have thoughts that I need to blurt out, writing it for myself in my personal diary where only I will ever see it is enough for me to process whatever I’m feeling.

In addition, I’ve always felt a weird pressure that in order to be a real fan of something, I have to be up to date on every single thing a creator or personality says or does on any platform. I don’t want to feed into this anymore. I’ve made an alternative twitter account where I don’t plan on tweeting anything myself, but only follow artists/musicians/authors/game devs etc. I want to keep up with. No friends or fan accounts. I chose twitter despite my general distaste for the platform because of the ability to turn off retweets on individual accounts, and how much people still use the platform to post quick updates. I want to know when artists I like post new art, or musicians release new music! I still plan on having social media accounts for my art and projects, but I don’t plan on ever scrolling the feeds of those accounts. I don’t want to spend my life scrolling feed after feed. My reasoning behind crossposting my creations on various social medias is for exposure reasons. I don’t expect to ever truly grow a following on any of them, but I like the ability of people being able to keep up with me on their preferred platform of choice if they so choose.

I have found that I feel most fulfilled with my internet usage when I am either a) Directly chatting with people on Discord whether it is 1-on-1, group chats, or servers or b) reading long-form content like blogs/articles or exploring people’s websites. I want to capitalize on this aspect of myself. Until I started a personal site myself, I foolishly thought that blogs and personal sites were dead, but I now realize that I couldn’t be more wrong. I want to spend my free time doing things on the internet that I enjoy! When I think back to when I was 7-11 years old with almost no negative feelings about the internet, most of my time was spent exploring websites, forums and reading blog posts (and watching magical girl anime split up into 3 parts on youtube…). I want to go back to this feeling. I’d rather let out my messier blurts in smaller spaces where I can actively grow relationships instead of just vaguely microblogging to the void. I want to change how I use the internet to discover smaller artists and game devs and be able to support their work. As a small artist and game dev myself, I know how meaningful even a passing comment can be. I want to use some of the time I’d normally use scrolling a feed to leave comments on pieces of work that I like. I want to use some of the time I’d normally use scrolling a feed to continue developing my own projects more. I want to use some of the time I’d normally use scrolling a feed to just be more mindful of my own life.

My inability to adapt my thoughts and creations into different media formats used to make me feel bad about myself, but I’ve come around to the idea that it’s not a personal flaw. It’s just how I am. These days the most important things to me are my mental and physical health, even more important to me than being seen as “following proper internet etiquette” fitting in or being popular with people. I want to live my life to the fullest, even if it’s not a life that’d be easily understood or admired by other people.