Last December, I started as an official creator for the app Likee (pronounced like-ee). If you’re unfamiliar with it, I best explain it as the lovechild of Twitch and TikTok. What I mean by “official” here is that I have a signed contract that lets me get paid to be there. Yes, really. Your boy has finally arrived. Kinda.
I have for most of my adult life wanted to have a job that I liked. That it would be fulfilling enough that even if the pay were abysmal, my soul would be satisfied. The truth of every dream job lies therein ― it is but a dream. Intangible and unrealistic. Anything worth having and doing well at takes energy, hard work, and time. Like many others, I thought being a social media influencer was the dream. You’re popular, everything you do is revered, and the flood of attention never stops. There is some truth to that, as we can all clearly see from our favorite bloggers’ Instagram pages. What is often forgotten is that there is more to the pictures posted on social media.
After signing the contract, it was up to me to fulfill my creator duties for each month. The first day of streaming went well. The second…not so much. After those first few days, I gave up. I didn’t want to put in the time and hard work for it to all lead to nothing ― as it did for me on TikTok. I spent the rest of the week depressed. The social media celebrities don’t make it look that hard. That is to say, they’ve instead figured out how to make it look easy.
I needed to be kinder to myself. I reminded myself I was just starting out. With no fan base or community to back me yet, everything seemed especially daunting. By the time the next week rolled around, I had completely changed my attitude. Everyone has to start somewhere; even Markiplier, even me. I told myself that I was at least going to try. If I fail, I fail. I was already unemployed, I couldn’t see anyone because of COVID-19, and my partner still lived on the other side of the country. There wasn’t much I could lose.
My mental health and productivity are directly linked. When my anxiety and ADHD say that I haven’t accomplished enough for the day, my depression kicks in. When I’m especially depressed, trying to accomplish anything is futile. And thus the cycle continues. Which ultimately begs the question: what is the optimal situation for me to be happy, healthy, and successful?
Before I was laid off from my full-time job, I was drowning in my mental health hang-ups. The work I was doing overwhelmed me, my therapist wasn’t helping anymore, and my meds routine was just barely keeping me at homeostasis. So I had a mental breakdown. I submitted myself to an outpatient program. It gave me a place to be, a community to connect to, and people actively invested in my recovery. After five weeks, I didn’t feel like I was ready to leave. I hadn’t had this miraculous self-discovery that I was expecting. I still feared I wouldn’t be able to cope with going back to work.
Even with a job like content creation, with its almost unlimited freedoms, I was starting to panic. The struggle was real. I was insecure about how much I was struggling. I assumed everyone at the agency was tired of me talking about how hard it was to meet quotas on a daily basis. I was insecure about my content underperforming, watching others quickly gain likes and views. I wasn’t making enough content, I wasn’t making it fast enough, and I wasn’t keeping up on trends. Watching the same people make it to the Popular page can really get in your head. These issues aren’t new, and there are days that are worse than others.
Technically I am making money. If my parents ask me if I have a job, though, I wouldn’t be inclined to say yes. Capitalism standards require a suitable job to have healthcare, a regular paycheck, and regular working hours. I have a hard time following productivity quotas in traditional jobs. It makes me feel like a drone than a person; that myself and the work I do are no more than a number. Now, I can feasibly do a livestream if I randomly wake up at 3 am. That’s pretty amazing workplace flexibility. I can’t be the only one who doesn’t jive with the ‘9 to 5.’ Another positive note is that I talk to my managers now, and they listen! Being the only queer person (or one of few) in any environment is stressful. When your boss, co-workers, and customers don’t all aspire to be queer-friendly, it leads to you burning out. Acceptance, validity, and community are important, especially at work! If we are required to spend the majority of each day at a job, we should feel confident that we can be ourselves there.
Everything has been going well, but nothing lasts forever. The agency has changed its primary focus, transitioning from Likee to its sister app, Bigo (pronounced bee-go). The good news is that the pay is better. The bad news is that I have to start all over again on a brand new account. It’s not as if my efforts thus far are wasted. But in dividing your time between two time and energy-consuming apps, one will end up being prioritized. I’ll still be on Likee, just not as much as I’d like to. The next three months will be focused on being successful on Bigo. Likee will have to take a back seat for now.
I’m really happy I decided to try, even though it was probably going to be hard. It has been at times, but over the months I’ve made genuine friendships with many incredible individuals. Being able to meet and talk to all these new people has fostered the sense of community that is so devastatingly lacking in my life. Even if at times we’re all just smiling faces in front of a screen, I know there’s more substance than butterfly filters and hashtags. Their lives are complex and difficult, just like mine. The solidarity from being the man behind the curtain. It’s the thing you hear about in advertisements and company slogans. Truly connecting, finding your people, over the internet doesn’t happen. Well, it did done happen. I know, I’m surprised too.
“If you do not make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness.”
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