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Why is Everyone So Angry?

Two weeks ago we discussed how toxic fandoms can become, especially in online discourse. And in writing that blog, I realized there was a much bigger issue at play that I also wanted to address: Why is everyone so angry?

I feel like I’ve gotten trapped inadvertently in a global outrage cycle. For a while, I thought, “Oh this is just the product of immature tweens with access to the internet and too much free time.”  Then in 2016, I thought, “Oh, well adults seem to be doing it too, but that’s just because of the U.S. election.” But by 2017, I’ve realized that an Outrage Virus seems to have infected most anyone who uses the internet. Because it’s not just about differing political views or recreational trolling anymore.

Sometimes it feels like the whole world has gone mad.

For example, have you ever watched a funny video about a baby or a pet doing something silly? Invariably, if you scroll down to the comments on a video like that, there’s at least one person irritated at the baby’s parenting or the ethics of filming your pet doing said silly thing. And that feeds into other people who were just there for a laugh seeing that outrage and becoming angry themselves (because why can’t people just watch the video and enjoy it?)

And the cycle begins.

I am both fascinated and horrified by this cycle. It’s like how you can’t look away from a terrible car wreck.  You’re disgusted by the sight, but you also think you can figure out how it got to this point if you look at it long enough and you also want to know what happens next.

And cue my addiction to online comments.

Donald Trump seems to be the current king of the Online Outrage Tribe, but he certainly didn’t start it. Who did? Have we always been this angry and just didn’t have an outlet to vent? Was it an exponential but unsuspected takeover as we became more disillusioned with the world because of the rapid expansion of technology?

Is there a cure!?

I don’t have answers for you, unfortunately. But I think it’s important to recognize a problem/trend so that you can be more aware of how it’s affecting your everyday life. And therefore, take actions to try to counteract it.  I do so by trying to make more videos with an optimistic take on life. A positive light on the horizon of a super dark sea. But I don’t think you have to be making videos to be an influence. Whether you’re tweeting or Facebooking or blogging or texting or discussing something in person, trying to take a step back from that viral outrage and look at the bigger picture is so important. It helps to shake others out of their anger trance too.  It’s actually a lot easier to be a literal light in the darkness of these dangerous and angry times than one might expect. You simply just have to make an effort to not get swept up in the story sea of outrage!

 

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My Life: One Year Later

This time last year I opened Gmail to find a truly mind blowing arrival. An email from the YouTube staff letting me know that I had been chosen for YouTube NextUp NY’s inaugural class. The email was sent on March 31st, and it basically had to say “This isn’t an early April Fool’s joke! You really are NextUp!” which I think is hilarious but also kind of sums up exactly how getting that email felt.

I’d applied for two YouTube-related things in early March and I’d been rather confident in hearing back from one (VidCon’s “Less Than Famous” Panel because I’d been a runner-up in 2015 so I mistakenly thought I’d be a shoo-in for 2016).  So I had my hopes dashed a bit when I saw the panel participants announced a few days prior.  As for YouTube NextUp, I thought I had such a low chance of being chosen I essentially applied and forgot about it.

But what happened was such a crazy rush of impossible coincidences that a year later, with my life so vastly different from what it was then, I can’t help but reflect on the catalyst that receiving that email was.

Things you don’t know:

The day I received the email I had taken a half day from work and spent the afternoon touring apartments in Downtown Lynchburg. I’d reached somewhat of a breaking point with living with my parents/being far away from Parker/desperately searching for new employment, and I thought that perhaps moving out of my parent’s house despite the risks of signing a year lease in a city that I didn’t want to be permanently and staying at my (honestly) dead-end career-wise job for another year would maybe bring me some kind of relief.

And there was a sense of excitement to it because I toured a beautiful 2 bedroom loft apartment with exposed brick and original hardwood floors and a cool “millennial-girl-living-her-best-life” vibe that was being offered for the price of the 1 bedroom apartments if filled quickly. And it was so beautiful and all the things I thought I should be doing with my life (according to Instagram, that is) even if it wasn’t really the best financial or career-related decision. So I’d just filled out an application and was excitedly telling two of my best friends about it via text (who had a less-than-enthused response because “But what about Richmond?” and “I thought you hated your job?”) when I opened my email and low and behold…

And things kind of came to a screaming halt. Because this was an Opportunity with a capital “O.” And moving out. Living my Instagram life. None of seemed as important until I’d allowed this Opportunity to change me.

So I put the fancy apartment on hold, and I went to New York for a week.

And I talked to my fellow creators. I learned about what they did for their “day job.” And how they balanced YouTube and their careers. Or rather, how they were trying to integrate YouTube into their careers for the most part.

And I came away, maybe not with a foolproof plan to YouTube stardom, but a better idea of how I wanted to live my life–real life, career life, Youtube life, all of it.  Unfortunately, that meant not moving into the trendy loft apartment. It meant putting a pretty solid end date on my time at my current employment. And it meant not taking a backseat on life anymore. I’d spent so much time saying “Well I can’t make better videos because I don’t have lights” or “I can’t make 2 videos a week because I just don’t have the ideas/energy” or “I can’t make non-dating advice content because that’s not what my subscribers are here for.”

I can’t. I can’t. I CAN’T.

But I could. Even when it seemed so darn impossible! (Like me being selected for NextUp).

So I said, I’m going to move to Richmond by September whether I found a job or not.

And I found a job. And I moved in August.

I said, I’m going to make 2 videos a week.

And I’ve made 2 videos a week (except for 2 weeks around Christmas when I just needed a break) since August, and I feel like I have more ideas than ever!

I said, I’m going to try making different content.

And I’ve made travel videos and review videos and a lookbook and collaborations with friends and a music cover of “City of Stars.”

I’m not telling you these to brag. When I write it all out like this, I actually surprise myself because to me it just feels like I’m doing life. It doesn’t feel extraordinary. It’s just what I have to do to get by. (But with obvious self-imposed challenges, of course).

What’s really awesome and amazing is that even though YouTube NextUp didn’t really do much to boost my channel in terms of subscriber growth, it did allow me to find what I think is important in life, in creativity, in my career, and in online video making.

I’m very a different person and a different channel in many ways than what I was at the beginning of April 2016. And I’m quite happy with not having to go back.

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Fandom Toxicity

Do you have a favorite TV show, book, video game, YouTube channel, or movie? Does it have a passionate fandom?

Fandoms are really interesting to me. I’ve always been a “fan” of things, and I love many of the things that super passionate fandoms create. I loved reading Harry Potter fan fiction in high school when it was at it’s height. I love watching Delena (The Vampire Diaries) and Captain Swan (Once Upon a Time) romantic moment compilations on YouTube. I love looking at fanart of Sailor Moon or Mario or Zelda or Disney characters. I love consuming much of the amazing thoughts, art, and tributes that my favorite fandoms produce, and even contributing to the fandoms myself as I sometimes write about my predictions or hopes for my favorite TV shows here on my blog and on YouTube.

But not everything that passionate fandoms create is beautiful and happy.  I’ve been noticing lately that some of my favorite fandoms have a creeping layer of toxicity under the surface that I’m rather disappointed with.

What seems to be happening is that fans have SUCH a vehement connection to a show/movie/game/character/creator that they feel a sense of ownership over it.  So that when something happens that doesn’t fit with the narrative that they cling to, there is a violent backlash.

To illustrate this a bit, take the Once Upon a Time fandom. I’ve written about the show on the blog here a bit so you know that I love this show. You should also probably know at this point that I have a bit of an addiction to reading online comments (see this vlog for the full confession). Combine these two together, you get me realizing that a show with a lot of distinct storylines and characters opens itself up for some EXTREME rivalry. Like there are people who love Regina and the Evil Queen and who ship Regina and Emma (not just as amazing friends and co-moms like they’ve become on the show but an actual romantic relationship despite there being no signs on the show of such a possibility so far). There are those who love Emma and Captain Hook together and those who think Hook is “trash.” There are those who desperately want Rumple and Belle to find a happy ending and others who think it’s an abusive relationship. Differing opinions on who should be the main focus of the show or who should end up with who is totally normal when it’s an ensemble cast. But if you hang out on Twitter or Facebook or even the Once Upon a Time Wiki long enough, you’ll find people pretty violently attacking each other for their opinions! That’s not what should be happening in a fandom! Isn’t it supposed to be a place where you can share your mutual love for a thing?

Many times it extends to the actors or writers themselves with attacks on their character or physical appearance or spreading questionable rumors about “who’s dating who” or “who hates who” among the cast. A few good examples here come from the Pretty Little Liars fandom (which as a whole I think is actually less toxic than many of the other shows I love, but I suspect it’s because fans have been kept in the dark so much about what’s actually going on). When Sasha Pieterse who plays Allison, the notorious “dead girl” on which the show was based around, ended up not being dead and became a regular on the show, fans attacked her weight viciously, wondering if she was pregnant when in fact, she’d simply grown up (she’d filmed the pilot episode when she was only 13, the youngest of the all the “Liars”), filled out, and discovered she had a hormone imbalance. Similarly, fans speculate on riffs happening between the PLL actresses, claiming that because Troian Bellisario (Spencer), Ashley Benson (Hanna), and Shay Mitchell (Emily) have posted photos together that they are somehow on the outs with Lucy Hale (Aria).

It just makes me wonder, why are some fans are so obsessed with something that they take it beyond just enjoying it and celebrating in a community of like-minded individuals to the point of critiquing every aspect of the story, the creators, or the actors.  Is it because they think they could do a better job? Is it because love turns into misguided ownership? Is it because the immediacy of social media has given the impression that fans have more control over a piece of art than they really do?

Fans and fandoms, of course, have a big voice in the content they love in this digital age, but it’s still up to the creators as to how much control they actually allow fans to have. You can’t just yell about something on social media because it doesn’t fit your “vision” and expect something to change. If you really want it to be different, make fan art or fan fiction.  Create your own version to satisfy your burning passion for a thing. You’ll probably find someone else who enjoys it!

But all the outrage isn’t helping anyone. It just makes for a toxic environment in a community that’s supposed to be about shared passion.  Respectful debate is one thing. It contributes to the awesomeness of fandoms because obviously we’ll have differing opinions, but letting it devolve into hate and trolling and rumor spreading to either hurt other fans or the very people who make the thing inspiring the fandom is just a waste of the potential that fandoms have.

Communities of people who have a shared passion are incredibly powerful. Spread the love, friends! Not hate!

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Celebrating Women | International Women’s Day 2017

A day like today has never seemed so important, but the current social and political climate has made the desire to celebrate women and the privileges I benefit from on a daily basis that were hard-fought and won by women who would not just sit down and shut up and let the men do the governing/voting/working/”insert thing women have been told not to do because it’s a man’s thing.”  Because I have so many more privileges than say, women in the 1950s or 1850s or, dare I say it, 1450s *shivers,* I can see how easy it would be to say, “Women are already equal! Stop whining and moaning for no reason!” I can see how it might look like women are 100% equal from certain point-of-views (both male and female!) I can see how rally cries against something that you don’t see as a problem or even existing can be exhausting.

But I also know how exhausting it is to be a woman in today’s society. No matter the rights that have been won for me, there is still so much work to be done. (And so much work to do to keep the rights that were previously won too!)  It comes in many different forms.  Organizing rallies and protests for the activist soul. Teaching your children how to recognize and understand sexism’s historical and current influence on our society. (This sounds lofty, but it’s really as simple as “Hey, did you know women AND men can make sandwiches? For each other even!”) Making art that portrays your experience or calls out wrongs you see in the world. Leading by example in whatever field you might be working.

I’ve thought a lot about what I want to say today on this topic, and my problem is that there’s too much! But most of it is calling out wrongs, and I’ve found that when I do that, while I might connect with a few, the louder voices always seem to be those who so viscerally disagree with me that rather than trying to understand my point-of-view, they call me names and dismiss me because of the way I look or something related to my gender. So rather than opening that proverbial can of worms, I thought I’d throw some confetti in the air and celebrate women with a few truths I like to hold close to my heart.

 

We are all our own superheroes. Don’t ever let anyone beat you down to the point of convincing you otherwise.

Women helping women is a beautiful and powerful thing. (This is something that took me a long time to realize because I didn’t understand “sisterhood” until I actually made close, REAL female friends. I think it’s completely possible for a woman to go through life without really connecting with or trusting other women. And I’m so glad that I was able to crawl out of that terrible, lonely hole).

All bodies are beautiful. All colors. All sizes. Every jiggle or scar or muscle or patch of hair. They are also not inherently sexual, no matter their level of covering. Take back your body. Love your body for what it is and how you wish to wear it.

In other words, love yourself. Love others. Make the world a better place by being the truest version of you.

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Sailor Moon and the Power of Female Friendship

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One of the things I include in “My Favorite Things” video is Sailor Moon, and as I was editing down my passion-filled ravings to fit in the allotted video time, I realized that my love for Sailor Moon deserves a bit more than a shout-out in a video. It’s still one of my favorite things to this day. (And I eagerly await the next season of Sailor Moon Crystal). But it was also an extremely influential part of my childhood.

I had a hard time making female friends growing up. Scratch that. I still have a hard time making female friends, but at least now I have a greater understanding for what’s causing it than I did when I was a kid. As an awkward 11-year-old, I felt like a fish out of water with large groups of girls. Sometimes I would make a connection with one girl for a while, but eventually my “best friend” would (from my perspective) be stolen away by another “cooler” girl or group. I was inconsolably lonely for a long time. I knew female friendship was important from an objective point-of-view, but I just couldn’t seem to find other girls who I authentically connected with.

I had female “friends.” I was invited to various sleepovers and pool parties and birthday celebrations over the years. But I always remember being a bit of an outsider no matter how hard I tried to connect or the other girls attempted to be accepting. I remember one sleepover with a group of girls I considered to be the “popular” crowd when I was 8 or 9. They watched the Spice Girls and performed their own choreography to the music and snuck into some of their mom’s makeup and gave each other makeovers and had a fashion show. I remember feeling so very out of place. I’d never heard of the Spice Girls (i.e. I was pretty sheltered). I knew I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup or short-shorts. And even though this was all just fun and games into the late-night, it felt like a violation of my core values. Even though I wanted to fit in and have friends, this wasn’t the way I felt comfortable doing it.

Instead, I spent a large portion of my childhood and teen years imagining what my “real” best friends would be like. While I couldn’t seem to find a best friend in my everyday life, I was still convinced that she was out there. There were just dark forces keeping us apart like in my favorite TV shows and movies.

Consequently, I devoured the magical girl genre–in anime, books, and movies. And Sailor Moon was always at the forefront. It was a much less distressing idea to my fantasy-obsessed child self that dark forces were separating me from my true friends rather than accepting that I didn’t have any female friends.

Instead, I drew cartoon sketches of how my imagined friends would look and wrote detailed notes about their likes and dislikes, taste in fashion and TV, and of course, their magical powers. I imagined stories for us: how we would find one another, how we would save the world, what our nemesis would be like. Essentially, I reconciled my loneliness and lack of female companionship with the tools that shows like Sailor Moon gave me. That I was a special “magical girl” and I would find my friends and place in the world once I came into my magical powers.

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Maybe it seems sad to you. Maybe you had a really amazing childhood with close friends or you didn’t feel as outcast as I did by struggling to make friends so this seems a little foreign to you.  But for me, even though my “best friends” as a child were imagined magical girls inspired by anime, Sailor Moon gave me peace. I struggled a lot with the need to be loved and accepted but also my inherent desire to be myself and invariably stand-out. And I was in the unfortunate situation of not finding the connection I desperately wanted with other girls despite how much I craved it.

So I never became a magical girl (at least not yet!), but I did find female friends as I grew older (especially once I went to college). And I found what Sailor Moon had taught me about female friendship still held true.

That it’s not about finding people that are exactly like you, but rather finding those girls who compliment you. (And no I don’t mean “Oh I love you outfit” kind of compliments). What was cool about Sailor Moon was that the Sailor Scouts each had their own unique powers and personality and they were always more powerful when combined. Two Usagi’s would probably destroy the world rather than save it (she’s just a bit too clumsy, ya know?) But throw in Ami, Rei, Makoto, and Minako, and you have a pretty powerful team.

When I started to understand female friendship this way, I felt like I really began to grow as a friend to other women. Because of the experiences I had as a kid and tween, I was fearful of trusting my friendship with other women for a long time. I always assumed I would be quickly and easily judged unworthy or weird and cast aside for someone else. But I started to learn that my weirdness (rather my uniqueness, one might even say, my “magical power”) was valuable to a friendship. Because these other girls had their own weirdness/uniqueness too. We had our similarities (in Sailor Moon it’s a love for Sailor V and the need to save the universe) like wanting to make movies or loving to sing or having the same favorite color or being introverts which initially brought us together. But it was our “magical powers” that grew our friendship as we learned more about each other and from each other.

Women and especially female friendship is many times characterized by cattiness and backstabbing. And it generally just sounds unpleasant. Like women can’t actually be friends because it’s all a competition for who’s the prettiest and can get the most guys to chase after her. I know there are women that do this. But this is not true female friendship. It’s far more powerful and meaningful than that. It’s really just as magical as the Sailor Scouts if you learn to be open and loving and celebrate other women’s “magic” rather than tear it down, cast it out, or label it as undesirable.

So this is a story about a girl who couldn’t find a connection with other girls like she so desired. But who, over time, learned about the “magic” in each of us and started to trust and respond to others who also recognized it. And in doing so, found other women who inspired and awed her. And made up her own magical girl gang. 🙂

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“We Come From Good Stock”

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Elephant Image from Freepik Hand vector designed by Freepik

If you watched yesterday’s video, you know that I’ve experienced a lot of loss in the last few weeks. Two family members. A boyfriend’s grandmother who was basically a family member. All that grief can really get a girl down.

A little bit of sunshine I found in all the clouds of this loss though came from my “Aunt” Gloria as we fellowshipped together as a family Saturday afternoon after burying my “Aunt” Barbara. (I use quotes here because they are really cousins but have always functioned as and been referred to as “aunts.” Big country families are like that.) Gloria started reminiscing about our family history and how we all came to be together now and who we are today because of events set in motion 100 years ago! My great grandmother, Wrennie, married Clarence Davis in 1917. He was 12 years her senior, and as we were discussing this weekend, possibly never learned to read. But he and my MaMa Davis had 5 children–Raymond, Walter, Johnny, Mattie, and Virginia–who then in turned married and had their own children whose children had children and even some of those children now have children making them the youngest generation of cousins!

She recounted how that first generation of children had varying levels of education (e.g. my Uncle Walter with possibly a 7th grade education or my Uncle Johnny who no one could remember much formal education for), but they were some of the smartest people to talk to. They may have been farmers or factory workers, but they had profound critical thinking skills and a curiosity for understanding the world around them.

So then that 2nd generation had even more education and life and world experience. They married spouses and traveled out farther into the world than the mountain on which their parents had been born and raised. And the 3rd generation has been educated even further and explored even more–living, working, and studying in California, Florida, North Carolina, and other parts of Virginia. And the 4th generation–my sweet young cousins–have an even greater potential for exploration, education, and life experiences.

Each generation has built itself upon the previous–on the hard work, faith, and love that flows through my family’s veins. And without even one generation, none of us would have the blessings that we have now.

As my mother put it, “We come from good stock.”

This is an incredibly reassuring thought to be reminded of during times of loss, but it made me realize it’s also something I could benefit from outside of moments of sadness. I am incredibly lucky to have come from this family. And I’m so thankful for all the generations of hard work that afforded me the opportunities that I have today. (NOTE: This is also just one quarter of my family tree. I have “good stock” on my many sides and they have all contributed to my opportunities).

It’s easy at times to get caught up in the moment and wallow in the struggles of the day. (I am 100% guilty of this!) But when you put your life into perspective of what has come before and all who might come after, you realize how insignificant many of those struggles can seem in the grand scheme. This gives me hope. If generations of women in my family have lived and worked and loved and are now remembered with such fondness, I find reassurance that I can do the same.

So what “stock” do you come from? Do you think about your family history often or how it affects who and where you are today? Let me know down in the comments!

 

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From Princess to General // RIP Carrie Fisher

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I became a Star Wars fan a bit later in life. A Star Wars-obsessed college boyfriend introduced me to the series officially when I was 19, and I immensely enjoyed some of the kitschy aspect of it for a few years as part of our relationship. It was fun to be nerdy and cute together. But with the release of The Force Awakens in December 2015, the true Star Wars fan in me was awoken as Parker and I re-watched the original Star Wars trilogy at the beginning of 2016 and found ourselves researching Star Wars lore and generally getting much more interested in the series than we ever had before.

So after hearing that Carrie Fisher had passed away on Tuesday morning, I found myself reflecting on her role in the Star Wars universe, and what it meant for me and many other women and girls. What I loved about Princess Leia is that while she might have been a princess in name and title, she was not your typical fairytale or Disney princess. She fought hard in the front lines with the boys. She was sassy and smart-talking, and she could hold her own against the villains like Luke or Han.

But what I loved more than anything was that she was present in The Force Awakens, and while she would always be a princess to Star Wars fans, she was now a General.  She was also now older with the normal wrinkles and grey hairs and extra weight around the middle. She was the princess AFTER the “Happily Ever After.”  The Princess that becomes the Queen (or in this case, the General which is infinitely even more badass).  Very rarely do we see the princess after she’s survived the trials of her fairytale, which is why I loved General Leia possibly even more than I loved Princess Leia. Because I want to be as amazing and badass as General Leia is when I grow up. Someone who’s gone through her child rejecting her and murdering people, her twin brother disappearing, and her husband abandoning her out of shame and despair.  Someone who fought against the Empire and the Dark Side in youth and now in middle age finds that same Darkness threatening the piece of her home again.  That’s a female character to look up to if you ever saw one.

So I mourn the loss of Carrie Fisher too soon.  While there are so many other influences she’s had other than Star Wars (especially in the mental health realm which is especially close to my heart), I mourn the loss of the potential for the character of General Leia which I’m so glad that Carrie had agreed to the Star Wars franchise for.  She will be incredibly missed there and in all the other beautiful facets of her life and influence.