When making the retrospective page for the Minecraft page in Pandora's Box, I wanted to go through a bunch of videos which I had watched back in 2010-2011, in order to pad out the page with things that were nostalgic to me.
And while it was neat to re-experience videos from my childhood, my curiosity led me to see how the channels who posted those videos were doing nowadays, and I'd often see one thing: a ghost town.
A channel, often with hundreds of thousands (even millions!) of subscribers in their prime, now barely scraping by with only thousands views per video. Something about it makes me... inexplicably sad. It's almost as if I witnessed the death of a childhood hero, despite the fact that I wasn't that attached to them as a kid.
But seeing someone finding a niche, striking it big, and then years later losing the way and experiencing a massive downturn is heartbreaking to see. For a moment, the world watched them with great interest, and then... nothing.
Disposed of. Thrown to the wayside.
The question is: are these people to blame? Or is it something just inherent in our culture? Like a law of physics that'll hold regardless of what happens?
I think a lot of what dictates virality and present relevancy comes down to novelty. If those cannot be maintained, then it's not a matter of whether you'll become irrelevant or not, but when you'll become irrelevant.
Take hanging out with friends, as an example. If you hang out with them too often, you'd have to add some variety in the activities that you do with them, because if you don't, the experience in itself will start becoming stale. If the friends that you hang out with are more of those that engage in a lot of discussion, it's not uncommon to see after a while that you start running out of things to talk about.
I tend to see for myself that if you talk a lot with the same people, the same sort of discussion points come up, and it just keeps looping over and over again. We'd start talking and after a while I realize that we've talked about this same exact thing multiple times already, with nothing added to the discussion—it's like the NPC dialogue bank ran out of unique voice lines and it looped back to the beginning.
The same sort of things apply to media creators and people who post stuff onto the Internet: they can repeat the same sort of thing over and over, sure, but how much time is going to elapse before people realize that they've essentially watched the same video hundreds of times over the past few months, or years? Something a bit different every time, but from a broader point of view there's nothing new being brought to the table.
When I get to the point where I start seeing the pattern—the pattern that everything this person creates adheres to, I inevitably stop watching the channel for a lengthy period of time. Because why watch something which I've watched already? Why watch something that I can see from beginning to end in my head without even opening the video?
That's what it means to become bored with something, with someone.
An interesting thing to note is that after a long period of boredom comes a thought from left field: I wonder how that person is doing? It's almost like remembering an old friend, despite how far you've drifted apart.
This sort of thing seems to go in a cycle, from my experience. The boredom starts seeping in, and then when it comes in full force and I become jaded, I leave. But maybe a few years later, I remember how it was back in the day, and I check to see how the person/channel is doing.
This can really depend on the person. In rare cases, the cycle is rather short: I come back to check up on them after only a few days, weeks, or months. But there are times where the cycle is so long it's practically no longer a cycle anymore—I check them once every few years, or decades, or never.
Now when this is applied in a large scale, with hundreds of thousands of subscribers and you don't have an influx of new people coming in to replace the old ones, then by the time there's people coming back to see how you're doing, you likely would have been completely wiped off the map before their return.
And that's when people arrive to a ghost town, a shell of what used to be. When that happens, it's very rare for the returning people to watch the new things that you're doing. They'll often go back to your old things to reminisce about the past, but that's the extent of their return—to see who you were, not who you are now.
Though, the weird thing from my experience is if I do come back, and it's not a barren wasteland—and this person is actually doing well—then I'll go out and see their new stuff, just to see how much they've developed and grown. It's almost relieving to see that they're still doing what they're doing and still growing, but it's also melancholic because I know that I probably won't relate to them in the way that I did in the past. People may return, but it's often not permanent.
There are, of course, plenty of factors that cause irrelevancy to come faster than usual. Sometimes it's a result of the person not adapting themselves to what's popular; sometimes it's doing the same thing too often and not branching out to something new.
And sometimes, it's not even their fault. Something happens outside of their control, and though they did everything by the book, and followed all of the tips and tricks posited by YouTube Influencer #12457, they still fail—and they're not to blame!
Though I can't say what exactly these external factors are, what I can say for sure is that there are plenty of things that can happen in people's lives beyond the algorithms that can dictate one's relevancy in the grand scheme of things. Sure, it's easy to blame the algorithms and that's that, but who's to say that the people who follow what you're doing aren't getting preoccupied with life and its happenings?
When everyone becomes a mere statistic, it's easy to forget that they're human. If you asked a friend why they haven't been contacting you, it's possible that they'll say that they were busy, or they're struggling with something, etc. And we inherently understand that.
But in the digital world? It's not difficult to become resentful. "Why aren't they looking at my work? They have their phone on them all of the time! It must be the algorithms screwing me over." And since you don't have much in terms of two-way communication, it's easy to project insecurities onto an impersonal mob which just seems to be a swarm of numbers and not people.
It's easy to forget that other people's have their own lives to live, outside of looking at random things online.
The one thing which I've realized as I post more things online is that there's really only one person that you should try and stay relevant to: yourself. And really, who else is more relevant to you right now than yourself?
It seems rather basic, but we often can be so obsessed about what other people think of us that we forget how our actions affect ourselves and not just other people. Even if everyone leaves you, there will never be a time where you become irrelevant to yourself.
This reminds me of what they say when using a life jacket, or the emergency respirator during an airplane emergency: put the jacket/respirator on yourself first before helping others put their own. Because what's the point in trying to help someone before you've properly helped yourself? It can lead to the injury of both parties, or even death. Putting it on yourself first isn't selfish.
In terms of this topic of media creation, people can say from a business point of view that my lack of focus in any area is a detriment to my growth as a "content creator" or "influencer" or whatever else they want to call that occupation. But why should I care? I may not grow in terms of attention, but I can grow as a person regardless of that. While those two things aren't mutually exclusive necessarily, they can often be at odds with each other.
I've been taking more steps (though somewhat hesitantly) to broaden my website to fit more of my interests, and while most people may only like one or two things that I do and discard the rest, it doesn't mean that the things that I do that aren't getting much attention are entirely worthless.
An important thing to remind myself is that whatever is made on this website should be dictated by my own interests. Because in the possible (or even inevitable) event that this site shuts down? I can't say that I regret investing in the things that I did, since it's still relevant to my life outside of this digital space.
So in the end, I didn't lose much, if anything. But if you dictate what you do by its relevancy outside of yourself? Now it's possible to lose it all, and not have anything else left for yourself.
That's the worse place to be: putting faith in something that will inevitably be irrelevant to you.