Saleen Cabrera, Section Editor
Being stuck at home all day forces you to find ways to distract yourself and keep busy. With less face-to-face social interaction, many have found themselves in a state of loneliness. As a way to cope, they have turned to creators on the popular live streaming platform Twitch for comfort and a sense of connection. Streamers like Ludwig, Dream, and Pokimane are just a few that have recently seen an increase in viewers.
Many popular streamers were met with the phenomenon most commonly experienced by celebrities and famous athletes, parasocial relationships. This is when one person expresses emotional energy and time while the other is completely unaware of the other’s existence. Viewers get to know streamers through hours and hours of personal content they put out to their audience, thousands of faceless chatters.
When watching a stream, you become a part of a collective known as “chat.” Streamers and their viewers create a community where things like inside jokes develop, making fans feel closer to the streamer. Many viewers also write playful banter in the chat in a way that it makes them feel like they’re friends with the streamer. Many compete in the chat to see who can type the funniest or edgiest comment in order to attract the streamer’s attention. This attention-seeking behavior creates a reward system that can turn dangerous very quickly.
On Twitch, viewers are able to donate any amount of money. The donation appears on the stream, and more likely than not, the streamer will read it out loud and, in a sense, acknowledge you. When a viewer gives a considerable amount of money or donates often, they receive a response and hope it will lead to a friendship. What they fail to realize is that donating money doesn’t give them entitlement to a friendship. Think about it with someone on a bigger scale. Buying all of Kanye West’s products and going to all of his concerts doesn’t mean he will pay more attention to you or care about you more than any other fan.
Let’s face it, none of your favorite content creators are your friends or ever will be. They don’t owe you anything nor care about you. This sounds harsh but think about it. Ludwig, as an example, has over 1 million followers on Twitch. It’s not that he doesn’t want to, but it’s impossible for him to genuinely care for each and every one of them. At the end of the day, he’s just an entertainer, not your friend. It’s important to treat streams like a tv show. It’s exciting and captivating at first, but at one point, it will get boring. Don’t watch someone because you feel forced or too attached to them. You’re just a number to the streamer, and they will never love you. Streamers are enamored with the mob of people that let them do what they want to do, which isn’t the same as loving you.
Sometimes it still feels good to be a part of the swarming mass of a chat or even be a part of a community. Watching someone for entertainment or as a distraction from reality is great, but it is best to find other communities in which you can come together and make real friends. This type of relationship is way more authentic and true in comparison to a par-asocial one.