Tuesday, October 29, 2013

True Life: I am an ASMRtist

I have been toying with writing this for about a month now, but I ultimately came to the decision to after I got a message telling me that I shouldn't care if people know my address or not.  I would like to share my experiences as a content creator in the hopes some people might better understand some of the things we go through as ASMRtists.  I am going to be as honest as possible (without forfeiting comfort).

I started my channel on a whim.  I made a makeup video and had 6 subscribers the next morning, and I thought that was just the coolest thing ever.

So I kept making videos.  I would sit on my living room floor, with my point and shoot camera on 7 cans of cat food, and make sound videos.  I also made role plays in the little alcove in my dining room.  For a long while, reception was mixed.  People on youtube were very supportive and encouraging, but on Reddit, I caught a lot of flack.  I would get comments and messages telling me my camera's white noise was too much, that my videos were too long---and therefore I must not have a life, that my video cuts were disruptive, that I should stop trying cause I'd never be as good as so and so, that because I made videos, I was an attention whore, etc.

Making distinctions between feedback that was meant to help me, and feedback that was meant to hurt me wasn't hard---though I know that it can be difficult for people sometimes.  Yes, I had a ton of cuts in my videos and loud white noise, and it frustrated me too---legitimate feedback.  The insults and assumptions concerning my person---not legitimate feedback.  I was no stranger to reddit, and I am a child of the internet, so insults truly don't get to me.  My brain sees things as "relevant or irrelevant" and if something is irrelevant, I dismiss it...though I do tend to have a little spiteful streak in me. :P  Someone wrote that they would downvote any video over an hour long...I made my next video nearly an hour and 30 mins long.

Making long videos wasn't motivated by spite though, and it wasn't entirely planned.  I would set up to film a video, and then I would enjoy myself making it.  I found that filming videos allowed my brain to pause.  It turned the volume of the world down for me, and I would just sit, talk to my camera, and play with stuff.  So that's what I did.  I would make two videos a week, and I truly loved every second of it.

Even though I was no stranger to internet shenanigans, I did have adjusting to do.  I had never been a youtube content creator before, and wasn't prepared for the messages I would get in my inbox.  Trolling has never been something that has bothered me.  I am actually part troll---it said so on one of those ancestry sites  :P.  But trolling is a hard thing for many people to get the hang of disregarding.  There are also times when you get treated like chat-roulette, and get shots all up in people's junk (but that too isn't what I needed to get used to).  The hardest thing I had to reconcile was the aggressive entitlement in many of the messages I would receive.  People made demands of me, and were very disrespectful if I didn't acquiesce.  Navigating how to handle a situation online differently than I would in real life was a hard line for me to learn to walk.  And people didn't let up even if I established a hard boundary.

 I had messages demanding I wear specific garments, sending me links for me to purchase them, asking me for some of my hair, asking about my blood type, where I worked, saying that they could see me saying things to them with my eyes, demanding I plug their channels, or give them a shout out---and lashed out publicly if I wouldn't, etc.  There are people who invent relationships with you in their minds, and when you do something counter to their imaginary ideals, or if you refuse to do something in accordance with their concocted scenarios, they feel betrayed and retaliate (many times this comes in the form of someone making impostor accounts to try and discredit your character by insulting other asmrtists and viewers using your name and picture).  There are people who invent that you have relationships with their loved ones, and attack you for their manufactured reality (seriously...this just happened today).  There are people who decide that they know you're a terrible person (even though they don't know anything about you, and have never interacted with you), and try to convince others of their sentiment---or dedicate HOURS to spamming you with messages from multiple accounts telling you why they are right about how awful you are.  There are people who will berate you for wearing a shirt or lipstick color they don't approve of.  Whenever I see people criticizing ASMRtists for not having "tough skin" I always think "you have no idea what the inbox looks like."

There were also people (and still are) that would disguise their motives in ASMR requests.  I think it's almost a rite of passage in this community to get a message that says something along the lines of "HI!  I love your videos!  I was wondering, can you do a video where you put lotion on your feet, and paint your toenails, and then talk to the camera and giggle on your belly while swinging your feet behind you?  That really triggers my ASMR.  Thanks!"  Fetish requests don't really bother me (to each their own), and for the most part, most people aren't devious when making those kinds of requests. In fact, I have found that many people with fetish requests are super polite.  However, fetish requests disguised as ASMR requests do get under my skin.  While a foot fetish request may be easy to spot for a content creator, there have been others that have been better hidden, and executed by some kind ASMRtists, thinking they were helping someone with their triggers.  The manipulation of someone's heart is something that grates at me.  I don't want to say what these requests are, because I don't want to possibly make anyone who has done one feel negatively about their video, but I will tell you my own personal philosophy with requests:  If someone is oddly specific, or shares waaaaay more information than is necessary in efforts to persuade you to do something, or is strangely persistent, or is shopping the same request to lots of other asmrtists with the exact same flattering language, I pause and look deeper into what they are asking.  Sometimes it's a legitimate ASMR request---but sometimes, it's a disguised fetish request.  While a person's sexual pursuits are their own business and may be perfectly acceptable, manipulating an ASMRtist into doing something for those exploits via deceit, is not (IMHO).

Sometimes the nature of the internet (and specifically our little corner of it) can generate some invented competition and rumors about the people that exist in it.  There is also this "lore" that pops up from time to time...I don't know how to describe it any other way, hahaha.  Many times it involves people inventing their own timeline of events (such as who pioneered what idea or trigger), and then people fight about who is "best" by bashing other artists.  I have a lot of admiration for those content creators who correct people when this happens, and dissuade hate talk against other asmrtists (either by asking people to stop, or deleting hateful posts about other asmrtists on their videos).   Many of us are all friends/friendly with each other, and bashing one of my peers does not win points with me (nor does it with many others).  I know we can't all like everything everyone does, but I still respect those who put themselves out there to try and help people---and I respect those who don't try to make other asmrtists feel bad for not being their favorites.

There are also some random "urban legends" that seem to sprout up overnight.  I know that for a few months now, there is a rumor circulating that maintains that I am WhisperCrystal.  For the record, I am not WhisperCrystal.

 I am subbed to over 250 content creators (this number grows daily), and friends with many of them on facebook.  For the most part, people are very supportive of one another.  I think most people don't know how often we all interact with each other.  One thing I never anticipated was that fellow content creators would be part of some of the negative experiences/situations I would have, but sadly this is the case.   When I announced my surgery, the response to it was so massive, so loving, and supportive...it made me cry, but for a good reason.  Not a single person even tried to troll me at that time---but it was a fellow ASMRtist who took a public dig at me for being open about what I was going through (something that was difficult for me to admit and talk about) while I was gone.

Another thing I have had to learn how to deal with, is the feeling I would get upon learning that someone was buying/botting subs and views.  When someone does this, it has no effect on anyone else.  It doesn't hurt you.  Their numbers have absolutely nothing to do with you.  However, knowing how hard people work to make their content, knowing how many hours go into each part of the process, knowing that there are AMAZING content creators out there who IMO deserve millions and millions of views and subscribers, but don't purchase them or "cheat"---sours me (and many others) to those that do.  I guess for me, I find it disrespectful to all those who put work into their channels.  Another content creator said something I agree with (when discussing the subject):  "Faking numbers by purchasing them takes away the voice of this community and skews what is real." So I want to say to the multitude of content creators that don't bot/buy views, that whether you get a bazillion subs/views, or a handful, I respect you so very much for doing it on your own.

Lastly, there are those who sometimes speak out against people trying new ways of creating videos (for example, using a green screen).  This always confuses me when I see it.  Trying to dissuade people from trying new things is nonsensical to me. We can be "movie makers" AND asmrtists (the two aren't mutually exclusive) and if anything, having different ways to enhance immersion and try new things will inspire more creativity and originality---not less. Trying to suppress or intimidate other channels from experimenting/doing whatever they want by invalidating their efforts as "not about ASMR" because you personally don't like it, has nothing to do with "the good of ASMR," and everything to do with personal bias. No one is the president or spokesperson for the amazingly diverse amount of minds that encompass this community. People who experiment with new things are not automatically going to be great at what they do, but the more they practice, the more chance for improvement there is. Personally, I am TERRIBLE at taking to learning tech stuff---but I will keep trying and experimenting, because I want to put out the best ASMR videos I possibly can.

Something I thought I would never have to do, is learn how to feel when recognized in person. This will be the first time hearing about this for all but 2 or 3 of you. When you are about to have surgery, you have to get blood work done beforehand. I went in to the place, and the lady who was drawing my blood said "I have something strange to ask you." I (who was looking away cause I didn't want to see my blood) said "WHAT'S WRONG WITH MY BLOOD?" She said "Nothing...do you make whisper videos?" I froze. I couldn't run away cause I had a needle in my arm. I said "Noooo?" She said "Yes you do...you're Heather Feather." This distressed me like you wouldn't believe. Here I was, after taking so many precautions to make sure my privacy was safe, having my blood drawn by someone who watched my videos. Furthermore, after having my blood drawn, I had to give this lady a cup of my pee. 

I was mortified, and scared I was going to lose everything I had worked so hard to protect. I gave her a hug (she was super nice) and went home and cried. When I told my family and friends (and friends who were content creators), they all thought it was the funniest story ever. Later I received a message from the woman telling me not to worry, that everything that happened would remain with her, and she wished me well with my surgery. I feel very lucky that the first encounter I had with a viewer was with someone so nice and understanding.

Despite having to learn how to map out all these new spaces in my world, the perks to making videos far surpass the less enjoyable aspects.  I am doing something that makes me happy---truly happy---and it helps other people feel happy.  Doing for others what my favorite ASMRtists had done for me---and I can't describe that feeling.  I don't have anything else in my life that feels like that---it's easy to fall in love with.  You understand what people get out of it, cause you get the same thing out of it elsewhere.  It really is a vicious circle of helping.  You help others by helping yourself, and you help yourself by helping others.  It's beautiful.

Some great content creators have been feeling down lately, and I wanted to say that the experience of making videos is for you as much as it is for everyone else.  If you don't love it, you are allowed to take breaks for yourself without feeling bad, or walk away.  But if you do love making vids, enjoy exploring different techniques and exercising your creativity.  Try not to let numbers, hateful/entitled words, or anything stand in the way of doing what makes you happy.  You should be proud of your content no matter what anyone says, because your channel is a reflection of you. It's your creation.  That's your time and effort up there for all to see, and if you re helping just one person, you can be making a world of difference.  Keep your chins up.

As I look over this blog post, I realize that I wrote this with content creators (and people contemplating creating content) in mind as my readers (but of course everyone can read it).  I guess I want to conclude with some thank you's.  Thank you to those who stick it out and create content, and support one another.  It's not always easy, but it's always worth it.  Thank you for making videos that help me, and so many other people.  Thank you for helping me through some pretty dark times either through your videos or your friendships.

Thank you so much to the viewers.  I want you to know that you have given me more than you will ever know.  I read all your comments, and try my hardest to respond to as many as I can.  Your encouragement, support, kindness, humor, feedback, advice on tech issues, and shared experiences have been things that have helped me either with my channel, or with myself.  You guys have made me smile or laugh literally thousands of times, and that's priceless.  You help me.  You really do.  And I am insanely grateful for you.

And to those who are thinking about creating content:  some days are hard, some days are full of glitches, making a video takes so much longer than you may think it does, not everyone is nice, you will encounter trolls, creeps, and people who decide they hate you "just cause" (including content creators)---but if making videos makes you happy, then you will find that all those "flaws" are irrelevant.

 You'll see that the frustrations that accompany making a video, evaporate with the victory of completing one.

You'll find that people will notice how much time you put into your videos, and that acknowledgement will make you feel so proud and humbled that you get to have such meaningful and rewarding interactions with people.

You'll realize that even though some interactions with people won't be ideal, there are FAR more wonderful peers and viewers that are more than willing to lend an ear, a kind word, or hilarious comment,  than there are people who want to taint or take away your joy.  The good interactions overwhelmingly outnumber the less awesome ones.  And if you're lucky, you will meet people that will change your life, and make you feel "newer" and better than before they came into your life.  You have the opportunity to interact with so many different kinds of people, of all different ages---and even though they may be far away, they make your world feel less vast---it's a gift.

You don't have to give out personal information to connect with people.  Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  Keep yourself safe and happy.  You deserve to be both.