I don’t think I can say that anyone “owes” fans anything, unless you’ve explicitly made a deal. But speaking to the larger issue of semi-public, mini-celebrities, I can say it’s equally weird for the viewers as it is for the figures, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about more and more in terms of whether it’s healthy to be on Twitter from the passive “fan” end. I follow dozens of personalities in media, gaming, politics, sports, and other places - most of them who would have been clearly non-public figures before the age of social media - and understanding what to think of that fact remains an oddity. Based on the nature of twitter, pervasive streaming, podcasts, and output, I know far more about a lot of them in terms of personality, opinions, likes, dislikes, or style than I do lots of people I would consider friends but only see or speak to rarely.
It creates both an intimacy and an alienation that is difficult to keep perspective on. You’re part of the community, but you’re not really friends. You can (occasionally) reach out and discuss or get a response, but have to understand a public presence is not necessarily an invitation for public interaction. It’s a whole new class of not-friends, the semi-public mini-celebrity, a new variation of previous Internet friends-but-not-friends like people on forums or IRC.
And that takes a whole different leap when you go onto platforms like Twitch, where a dedicated streamer will be online for 4-8 hours a day. I follow 10+ streamers that I’ll check on occasionally, maybe an hour or two a day in the background while doing other things. Some that average in the thousands, some that average in the hundreds. It creates set of communities and interaction that I lost when I moved to professional and family life and out of the time where I hung out with friends and played games on the regular. Much more than old-school media personalities who have been pressed into being a public figure, most successful streamers have entered the role with gusto. Streams are peppered with personal questions and small discussions. Friends, food, and family make an appearance. It’s again intimate and personal, with lots of interaction, but it’s still a one-way relationship. It’s refreshing in some ways, as it’s nice to see that my time is going to a guy with a kid who takes time off for his family and genuinely works to push a positive community. But also a little gross, because why should I have personal expectations or commentary on a guy who I’m at best giving my time or rarely a couple bucks a month.
Lot of words here, but really a long way of saying that the new social landscape is equally weird for all. Twitter is the biggest culprit, Twitch not far behind. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like knowing and occasionally interacting with the many mini-celebrities in my various fields of interest. I genuinely like most of them and am interested in what they say or what is going on in their lives, in a way that is different from an actual celebrity. But part of me still longs for the day when the only interaction was carefully edited written work or a curated media production, not a drip-feed of twitter posts or a torrent of streams designed to represent the person. Just like it’s not necessarily healthy for media members to be constantly reading and responding to the Twitter news of the day, I’m not sure if it’s healthy for us to be receiving constant updates and faux intimacy from people we know-but-don’t-know.