What are the relationships Streamers and other Creators build and develop with their peers and with viewers?
The Streaming space is a weird mix of personalities, brands, marketing, and community development all colliding together to propel some creators to success and leaving others in the morass of low viewership for years. There is a lot that can be covered about this and I have often had discussions about the many faced aspects of streaming on podcasts, on social media, or just in conversations with my peers and friends. One component that comes up regularly is the nature of relationships among streamers, mods, viewers, and beyond. I’d like to focus on that for this piece.
I’ve noticed an uptick in chatter about Parasocial Relationships lately, especially on TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as Twitch as of late. Parasocial Relationships are essentially one sided relationships where someone develops a feeling of friendship, bond, or even attraction for someone else even though the object of the feeling isn’t even aware of the other person. This is very common among fans of celebrities, musicians and so on, but it’s also becoming extremely common in the streaming and content creation world. Creators can engender that feeling by way of simply being friendly, inclusive, and welcoming to people whom they will likely never meet in person.
These types of situations aren’t inherently bad, but can lead to complicated situations and in extreme cases can be dangerous. All that aside, this piece is less about the viewer/streamer relationship but more about the relationship between streamers, or between creators who share similar channels, content, or simply vibe in a creative way.
Friendships develop all the time between people online and offline, and one of my favourite axioms that I repeat often is that just because you consider someone your best friend doesn’t mean they feel the same way, or even close to the same level of friendship that you do. Working in collaboration with other creators, networking and finding common sensibilities is great for motivation or to discuss and engage with people who understand the kind of work that you’re doing or the challenges, pressures, and failures that can occur.
We as creators all want to be liked, we want to find friends in the space in which we work. But we fall into the same patterns as any other kind of human interaction. I’ve fallen into this myself several times over the last year where I felt a solid kind of friendship and companionship with fellow streamers only to have them turn around and abandon the relationship or turn out to be only playing a persona and I ended up hurt emotionally due to my inherent want for friendship and not being as vigilant as I should have been.
Like any other space there are really good people who will genuinely wish for your success and celebrate with you or help hold you up when you hit failures. Then there are bad people who are opportunistic and only wish to utilize your “friendship” for their own gain. Temporary, transactional relationships that expire the moment they meet some short term goal, or find someone else they can use to propel themselves further. Or quite simply the relationship ends when you stop giving them money, then they stop needing you
Finding healthy friendships are a challenge no matter where you are and I am in no way advocating that we approach the creator community or space in a sense of paranoia about everyone and anyone we meet, but you should as with any situation manage your expectations of other people and examine your own thoughts and feelings when it comes to others. Working in a creative space is already draining with the amount of energy we can pour into our endeavors, especially for those of us chasing content creation as a career. Add in toxic relationships, or our own developing Parasocial Relationships and we can burn out faster than anticipated.
The other side of this that I do want to touch on is that you can’t be friends with everyone! As a creator you can’t realistically be friends with every viewer, and every other creator you come in contact with so don’t even try and spread yourself too thin. You can absolutely make good, long lasting friendships, or even find love in your creative workspace, but you can’t be friends with everyone who comes along. Strive to be friendly, by all means be welcoming, and be open to the possibility of making deeper connections with some folks, but calling everyone who comes into your channel or that you interact with your family is difficult at best and disingenuous at worst. Trying to spread your energy too thin can be damaging to yourself but also damaging to people who may develop feelings for you that you may never return.
Networking is about connecting and developing relationships. That said, relationships don’t just mean friendships, love, or the deep bonds of “found family”. They are also business relationships that are friendly and cordial but don’t extend beyond the current project or series of projects. Manage your personal expectations and keep an eye on the energy you put out into the world.
Most of all, be safe out there my friends (see what I did there), and have fun being creative!