The internet is an interesting place. A lot of the time, it feels like the Wild West out there. Online scepticism can be particularly rough. Every video we make is controversial. However compassionately you approach the subject, you’re challenging people’s sincerely held beliefs, and that invites backlash. Recently I’ve been wondering how much people might restrain themselves to limit that backlash. That’s led me to ponder the dreaded middle-ground. A lot of online sceptics have a very centrist attitude to current issues, which if I’m being perfectly honest, I can’t stand.
Since having to consider all this internet malarky from a (shudder) business perspective, I have occasionally wondered if it wouldn’t be more financially viable to avoid controversial political topics. I’d never manage it, I’m too much a wild socialist to keep quiet on injustice for more than five minutes. But it’s an interesting thought experiment.
Some time back, the sceptic community faced a divide. Some content creators drifted down the redpill road of biological determinism and a general disdain for women, some fell prey to the politicisation of trans people, and seeing any fight for equal rights and respect as ‘woke gone too far’. I wonder how many new or potential creators see this, and think it might be best to keep their views on social issues to themselves.
Here’s the thing: when many sceptics turned to mocking ‘wokeness’ in the face of unequal rights, they left people behind.
There is a new sceptic community forming, one that isn’t shying away from political discussion. One that will stand up for the fair treatment of women, that says trans rights are human rights, that says black lives matter.
Of course there is backlash, as discussed it’s inescapable if you’re going to talk about anything important on the internet. But for every scoffing jibe, there’s a person you’ve made feel seen and supported.
I always expect the phobic backlash on content like this (call it my cynical sceptic nature), especially if I’m discussing something like trans rights. And I am always surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response. For every one inevitable a-hole, there are ten people extending love and positivity.
For every one person who lets me know that they’ve had to unsubscribe because I’m a terrible lefty liberal on twitter (how fragile they are), there are ten people who let me know how grateful they are to see their views represented, their issues fought for, and to know that we’re carving out a safe space together.
Better still, people- with goodness and compassion- let me know what I’ve missed. Where my bias might have blinded me, where I need to learn more. You just don’t get that with “haha woke dumb”.
Having a core community of passionate, kind people who share your drive for equality is not only rewarding and educational, it is perfectly financially viable.
Maybe you will have fewer subscribers than if you never touched on social issues (I can’t say, and I don’t know if that’s something studyable), but a core community is everything in the ever-changing online space. People who support you and your general vision will return to your content when you try something different, or take a break to play with puppets, whatever it might be. As someone who livestreams games I can tell you for darn sure that those returning faces are very valuable. I know the regulars on my streams, and my patrons, I see them commenting on my videos, showing up to premiers. The long term support from those people is far more valuable than some anonymous views on carefully non-political videos. Trust me.
I’m incredibly grateful for the community we’ve managed to carve here. Those familiar names always make me smile, I get to chat to the loveliest, funniest people when I’m livestreaming, people even give me direct advice on how to improve my audio quality etc.
I’m just a humble idiot with a lot of passion and too many puppets. And yet, I have a Patreon full of wonderful people. I get donations on lives and subs on Twitch, and people buy my silly merch. I believe it is just as financially viable to wear your heart on your sleeve and fight for what you believe in, as it is to shy away from difficult topics. And it is far more rewarding.