I wrote about online relationships on Valentine’s Day of this year, a topic that was met with a lot of interest and about an equal amount of disagreement with my conclusions. That’s fine, but it’s probably something that I will always struggle with, especially since I’ve chosen to compartmentalize my gaming persona from my actual real-life “secret identity”. Who is Braxwolf, really? Is he a carefully crafted brand, simply another skin for my real-life personality, or a bit of both? Luckily, I’ve learned that I’m not the only one who grapples with some of the interesting new aspects of online social interaction.
Some of you may have noted that on Friday, I attempted to do a “Follow Friday” (#FF) that included several people who I appreciate within my Twitter feed. To my shock, I learned that one of the folks who I was attempting to #FF, DJPimpdaddy, was no longer on Twitter. This led to me digging into the other online presences of his that I was aware of, all of which had disappeared. Now, DJ and I are not best friends. In fact, we’ve only spoken to each other audibly twice, both times while recording podcasts. But I always thought that we clicked pretty well, being that we shared similar life and family situations, careers, and senses of humor. So, the fact that he had erased every avenue through which I could contact him seemingly without warning did concern me. Some of his fellow Late Night Steamer hosts from the old days stepped up and contacted him via more personal means and let him know that people on Twitter were worried about him, and subsequently relayed back the message that he was ok.
Today, I received the following note from DJ, or Andrew as he goes by in real life. With his permission, I am going to post it in full. It not only explains the reasons behind his sudden disappearance, but it also touches on several struggles that many of us share. Social media is still pretty new, and I think we as a people are still trying to figure out exactly how it fits around us, and how we fit into it.
In his own words:
Hi, I’m Andrew,
Having nearly spent the last decade masking myself as the former “DJPimpDaddy”, it still seems odd to start a conversation online with that. It is very common for gamers to refer to each other as their gaming avatar, which is perfectly fine. I realized however that in the past few months I started to question whether my online presence was a reflection of myself, or was I role playing some oddly dreamt-up persona. Was DJPimpDaddy real? Or even a stranger question, was Andrew real? Was I allowing my daily real life decisions to be made by fake persona?
The avatar DJPimpDaddy was a live breathing entity constantly jacked into the matrix known as Twitter. On Twitter, he was a funny guy, very much like in my real life. But on Twitter I practically had no censor or inner monologue telling me not to say or do things. There were many occurrences where someone would get offended enough to unfollow me which only made me giggle and move on with life. I remember having a conversation at some point about personal gamer “branding” with someone. I look back and laugh now at the idea of judging your statements on Twitter so you don’t negatively mess up your “brand”.
I have always had a fascination with the sociology behind online worlds and real life. I have digested countless mediums of material about online addiction, either web surfing or gaming. There are endless discussions out there not only about addiction, but other equally interesting subjects like death and online activities. A great example of this is that awkwardness when Facebook keeps suggesting I friend someone I know who has passed away in real life. Thanks Facebook for reminding me how much your algorithm utter fails a basic Turing test.
No, I am not dying. Let’s get that out of the way and squash that rumor. But I did sit and think: “Man, if I left the earth right now, …is this (the online stuff) how I want people to remember me?” Do you want future kids to search Google and see endless mountains of daily thoughts that just fell out of my head on a whim and recorded indefinitely? Think anyone, besides data mining companies that want to sell my data to marketers, care about what I ate for dinner? Would my kids go back and watch me play Farming Simulator decades from now?
So back to my sudden decision:
I was having a particularly frustrating work week. I had lost a RRAS server(google it) and deployed a new VPN solution globally in an emergency. My week was spent working with our NOC to overcome a flood of phone calls and emails. It was annoying at worst but manageable. One thing it did do was take away the little pockets of time that I would normally use to read blog posts, respond to second by second stuff on Twitter, and maybe even catch an amusing video on YouTube. I remember getting home and wanting to play a game to take my mind off of things. My wife was off work for the week because she had some vacation she had to burn up. For the entire week, I didn’t have one second to myself to just relax and play a game. So in my infrequent moments of silence (rare occurrence with 2 young boys) I would check Twitter or watch a YouTube video. But even that didn’t seem like enough in my mind to entertain me away from real life. I began seeing signs of burnout, pointless stress, and the endless hamster wheel of social media activity chewing into the few moments I could have actually played game. Instead I sat there reading about people playing games. I saw why twitch was so popular when you put in the context of people who want to game but can’t right then. So I made a decision to stop thinking about games, or watching games, and just…play games instead.
After quitting Twitter, it took about 2 hours before I had this annoying nagging feeling to check my iPhone for any updates. I find that I am not as funny in real life, or at least I find less humor in things. Perhaps it is because I am not trying to find entertaining things to post? I have gotten past the urge to post every amusing idea that floats through my head. I deleted all the social apps, and signed out of everything I could imagine would send me notifications. I even pruned my Steam friends list back to a healthy 20 or so people I actually want to play multiplayer games with into the future.
My days are alarmingly more productive now. The fog lifted and I can see how much endless time I spent reposting funny images, laughing at pie-related topics, trying to wrap my head around the mathematics of people making cones in Landmark, or watching Sig follow someone named Mav around like a puppy. I would read opinion articles about people angrily arguing about ethics in gaming journalism and I just sort of want to mute all that and just go play Nintendo instead. I am forcing myself to treat gaming as “playing games” plain and simple. I even started calling friends on the phone and talking instead of posting digital-tea-bagging-esque stuff on their Facebook walls. That was my way of saying I cared, and they enjoyed it.
As for the future, I do have a few previously scheduled guest appearances on some podcasts which I am looking forward to. I plan on still listening to podcasts, gaming and non-gaming, on my commutes. That is a fantastic alternative to the blathered-mess of commercialism that the local Cincinnati radio stations are. Having recently picked up GW2 more I also appreciate the little nuggets and tips that podcasts fill in.
I had an alternate twitter and blog for a project called “ITGuyDown”. It was supposed to be my alternate persona for health and happiness. I now see the irony that I never did anything with that project since I spent so much time thinking about how to do it, vs just doing it. As always Brax was right ha ha. What I needed was action. Instead of talking about reclaiming my life and time, I shall just reclaim my time life and time. Almost everything associated with DJPimpDaddy and ITGuyDown have been imploded. It was wonderful and liberating. I highly recommend to everyone to just utterly wreck something (safely!) like that in their life at least once. I went beyond sledgehammer and chose the dynamite option.
Should I have said goodbye vs just disappearing? Maybe. I didn’t realize that the sudden void of my account would cause panic for my well being. I was actually touched that a friend in NY started texting me if everything was ok. It is good to know that you can have good friendships from social media roots. That is why I didn’t completely sever everything, but chose to keep a list of people to play games with on Steam. An official statement ahead of time would have just as rambling as this post is afterwards. But you can’t stop me from doing it now so ha! I think this is where I am supposed to insert a “lol umadbro #wrekt” or something “internety” and witty.
One thing I did laugh about was the idea of going out like Bilbo Baggins, a speech then poof! But honestly I didn’t aim to make a huge stink of it since my end goal was the complete opposite of fanfare and ceremony on a social media platform. I am only making this blog post to quell the concerns over my health and sanity. It is true though: I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve. Honestly, if there was a way we can just undo the internet, and you all could come over and we can cram around an old floor tv set and play Contra I would do it in the heartbeat. Online play will never allow us to relive those days sadly, but my home is always open if you are passing through Cincinnati and want to throw down some Mario Kart 64.
Thanks for the laughs, DJ