One of the amazing things about having a growing social platform is having an instant connection to people.
But also – let’s be honest – it’s also because sometimes people invite you to things because people are following you on Twitter, and invite you to stuff.
At the start of last year very few people knew who I was. Now a handful do – I’m not famous by any means (I’m more recognised for being the “maneater from E3”, or the “girl who interviewed Doc and Shroud at that PUBG thingy”), but my social profile went from a few thousand on twitter, to five times that (my barely updated Instagram saw followers increase by 12,000 in the hour that I co-hosted the aforementioned PC Gaming Show at E3 in June).
Similarly, more people watch when I stream on Twitch – again, not massive numbers (I couldn’t maintain a regular schedule and be a full-time host), but enough to keep chat moving.
Social media is very important to what I do – it’s where I can announce which projects I’m working on next, connect with friends and followers, and keep up with news. Having a healthy number of “likes” can be the key to booking more work – and although I’m resisting being labelled an influencer so far, sometimes that’s why companies will book me.
But this near-constant communication with the wider world has some side effects, and one I realised when I took up one of those free invites.
I was asked if I’d like to try out a new escape room – AIM Escape in East London. I took one of my oldest friends, and we brought our other halves too. The room was dark and atmospheric. At first, we flew through the initial puzzles of the Psychopath’s Den room – team work on point. Then in the next stage, myself and my friend worked out exactly what we had to do – there was just one detail (I’m trying to be vague with the details to avoid spoilers) that we got wrong. For some reason we didn’t fix this detail right away, and that’s when I noticed it; the voice of the Psychopath was back-seating me. His robotic voice was telling me what I needed to do – even though I was clearly already doing it.
I want to put a disclaimer here before I go further; I don’t think the staff (who were fantastic) could hear me; the priority of the venue is entertainment and storytelling and the delay from the first time we got stuck, we must have lost time, so they were trying to help us catch up. I genuinely enjoyed the experience and would recommend it to everyone.
After it happened a few times, I lost it; I was being back-seated away from my Twitch screen, away from my mobile phone, away from everything. Escapism in the escape room was not going to be possible.
Would this have bothered me in a world without Twitch or Twitter? Maybe – but certainly not as much.
Recently, I’ve found streaming increasingly hard to do; “why didn’t you pick up that AR [in PUBG]?”, “Put your hips into it [Just Dance] more!”, “jumping is easy if you switch it to your third mouse button [in Half-Life]”. The instructions and critiques feel endless and never ending. As they mount up in mentions and Twitch Chat, they also become harder to ignore. People have invested their time and attention in me – and for that I am grateful – but some expect me to morph into something I am not and cannot become.
Then there’s the comments on my appearance (always from men); “that shade of red doesn’t suit you”, “this lip colour isn’t your best”, “if I found you sleeping… I would iron your hair”, “I prefer your hair when it was long” (the latter is odder when you take into account that my hair is around the same length as when I started streaming – but some keen commenters have scrolled back through three years of photos to find me fringeless with long, flat curls). If I reveal on Instagram that I’m getting my hair cut, I lose followers before they’ve even seen the results.
I’ve started to react more strongly – or even overreact – when I sense the comments are coming now. I sometimes try ignoring them, but occasionally I see things I can’t ignore, or a weariness about continuing the broadcast pervades.
So, as I begin my Half-Life 2 play through, I’m going to do my best to stop responding to the people who tell me to “press shift to run”; my stream, my rules, my right to ignore “feedback”