Goodbye, Social Media
It’s happened a few times where other streamers, influencers, or public personalities have reached out to me for help when things have been going wrong in their lives, and they are getting a lot of hate on social media, or whatever. Sometimes, quite frequently, I try to reach out first and talk to them and help out, especially if I see someone trying to hide their pain but who is very clearly suffering… maybe they are being attacked because of their gender, their appearance, their character, their abilities… maybe they made a mistake and in an emotional moment their otherwise perfectly constructed image fractured and a monster could just barely be seen through the cracks. They saw themselves to be someone they didn’t know they were, or that they didn’t know that they could be. Someone they wouldn’t have been if they had never been pushed so far by others, and wouldn’t be if they hadn’t pushed themselves harder still.
My advice to those people usually went along the lines of:
“Imagine there’s a bell curve of people who watch your content. For somewhere around 90% of everyone, they are going to either like your content, or have no strong opinions about you or what you do either way… but there’s 10% of people that for whatever reason will either hate you, or hate your content. Doesn’t matter what you do, doesn’t matter who you are, nothing matters. 10% of people will always hate your content no matter what it is.”
As you become more popular, and start gaining more attention, you realize that there’s actually a lot of people that either like what you do, who you are as a person, or what you do for them. So you get motivated to do more, share more freely, talk to everyone you can. Everyone is so lovely and cool and earnest and happy and excited… but that 10% is still there. Even from the very start, it’s still there. At the very start maybe it’s just one person, or maybe a couple, but most of them will just look at your content and just go “meh” and then move on. That’s the worst reaction you’ve had so far to exposing yourself, and you can accept that, it’s not a big deal.
So you continue.
Then there comes a point in the career of an influencer when you realize you’ve actually made it. That you realize you’re actually popular. I firmly believe that the people who actually make it to this point, never intended for it to actually happen. They were doing what they were doing because they loved their craft, and they loved interacting with people, and for no other reason… but then suddenly one day you wake up and you’re popular, and two major things happened.
You have a lot of money, and you have no friends.
Sure you had friends when you started this journey, but you don’t anymore.
You’re different now.
You’re successful, even if it was on accident.
You’re just not like them anymore.
Can’t make new friends either - your reputation precedes you.
People stop treating you like you’re a human being because you’re foreign to them now.
You drift apart from the people who you were friends with, from the people who helped get you to where you are, and then they abandon you, saying things like “I can’t believe he was really like that all this time,” and then they start to hate you too.
Suddenly that 10% has grown a little bit larger.
“Just ignore the 10%!” I would say to the other influencers, who were clearly weaker than I.
If they just had a little bit more emotional maturity, or firmer life experience, certainly they’d realize that they just need to focus on the 90% of their life that’s good and lovely and cool and happy, not that stupid 10% of their life that is filled with hate and nonesense. Just ignore it.
I wish I’d taken my own advice.
It would have been easier if I didn’t want to help people.
Whenever I streamed, I would make a point of it to read every single message in chat. Every single one. I bought a new monitor and stand just so that I could have chat full screen at every moment of every stream. I would spend a full hour at the start of my streams talking to the people who joined early, because they must have had notifications turned on if they joined so quickly, which probably meant that they cared about me and were excited about my content.
I wanted to make sure that those people had my personal care and attention.
That’s why I hated copypasta. It always felt so impersonal. Everyone trying to be like everyone else, just to feel like they are a part of something, and that everyone feels the exact same way. That’s all lies. It’s around the 4000-5000 viewer mark that I stopped being able to read chat and see people as individuals. As soon as I hit that mark, streaming died to me. It lost its flavour.
I needed to get that back. It was at the very core of my passion.
In my desperation for human connection, I made the worst mistake of my career.
I told people I read everything.
And I do read everything.
Every message in chat, every comment on youtube, every tweet, every reddit thread, absolutely fucking everything. I firmly believe that I have read every single comment that has ever been made on any of my content ever. I would sit in the bathtub at night and rewatch my streams if I knew that I hadn't been paying attention during a certain time in the broadcast. I wanted to know people. I wanted to teach people. I wanted to help people.
What did people do after they realized that I read everything? Well, they tested it of course. Comments on recent videos, comments on old videos, etc. They were surprised to see that I wasn’t lying when I either responded or liked their comment anytime I was tested. Suddenly, people began to realize that they had a direct line to me despite how busy I was these days.
I wanted to make that line available in case anyone needed help.
But that’s not what that line ended up being used for.
I distinctly remember the first time I got a death threat.
It was last year, during the lead up to the 2017 World Cup. Everything was going very well, both publicly and professionally. I was deciding on the roster for the World Cup with KarQ and Andrew, and I got a message that was pretty much just...
“If you put xQc on the team, I’m going to kill you.”
I was shocked. To my absolute core. There was nothing to indicate that it was a joke. At all. It was simple, and to the point, devoid of any emotion or rage that would indicate an emotional outburst, and the person’s profile indicated a very healthy and stable individual. They had stated that as it was an indisputable fact. If I do that, this person will attempt to end my life. I absolutely could not fathom the kind of person who could write something like that.
It put a serious crack in my world view.
I had always thought that when influencers say that the were getting death threats, I had always thought it was a either a ploy to get sympathy, or some sort of false flag orchestrated by them in order to sway a large audience’s opinion else they be associated with someone who literally advocates and desires murder. But here it was, in my inbox. Someone wanting to kill me. ME!
The next one didn’t arrive for quite a while, but they became more common over time.
At this point the impatient readers of this long and drawn out diatribe are probably morbidly curious about what would drive someone like me to write all of this out, and you’re probably wondering what eventual climax to this story pushed me to actually make all of this public.
If that’s you, then you’re everything I hate in this world. You don’t even view me as a person.
As for the straw that broke the Camel’s back, all I have to say on that is: “thank you, Mike.”
I’m a bleeding heart.
I want to understand people, and I want to be understood. When people started hating on the Dallas Fuel during the hellish schedule that was stage 3, the sheer amount of unbelievable and asinine assumptions, ridiculous and baseless assertions, and just pure vitriol that invaded and infected every vestige of my life where I used to find pleasure, I couldn’t take it.
The team is fine. The Dallas Fuel is fine. We’re a good team, with good players, good staff, and an unbelievably good org. I don’t understand how an org as good as Envy can exist, honestly. I can’t talk about what happened in stage 3 for obvious reasons, but we’re fine, really. We’re better than fine - we’re good, and we can be great. We can be contenders. There is no doubt.
And I just wanted people to understand that.
I tried to give people a sign. I wanted them to understand.
If the things that people were saying on Reddit had been true, then yeah, I’d be angry as well!
Do you think that if those things had been the case, that a professional and competent team of staff members from 6 different countries wouldn’t have been able to very easily identify and correct those issues? What a fucking joke. How dumb do people think professionals are?
So yeah, I tried to correct the narrative. I tried to help people understand why Dallas was having a rough stage 3, but the best thing that I could do was tell people that they were wrong in their assumptions, I couldn’t actually tell people what the real issue was, and still can’t. Still won’t. I’m a fan of the Overwatch League, and of the Dallas Fuel, do you think I’m okay with losing?
Do you think I’m okay with being anything other than the absolute best there is? Of course not.
My first attempt to redirect people’s anger in a more positive direction was during an interview with Harry Baker from Blink and Recall. This, I thought, would be an opportunity to skirt the line about what I could and could not talk about for professional reasons. Give people just enough information that they might be able to empathize with the Dallas Fuel and our stage 3 struggles.
I gave a more detailed and in depth interview than I had ever given before. Gave someone who I thought was a friend, Harry Baker - someone I’d worked with in the past - more than enough breadcrumbs to make something special from his piece. He’d jump at the opportunity, I thought, since there was enough there for a great article, with some completely brand new information.
Then he published it, and the title was:
Jayne on coaching Fuel: “It’s more of a time commitment than I thought it would be.”
I was angry. I felt betrayed. How could he have done something like that? How could he have reduced my struggles and effort, the sheer scale of my sacrifice and dedication, down to improper time management skills? Honestly, Harry Baker, fuck you. I still can’t believe you.
I contacted him asking only that he change his title.
The article was fine, factual. He reported on what I said, technically, I guess… but he declined to change the title of the article even after request. This was the first time that I noticed that professionals were starting to turn against me. Starting to discard me due to the weight of public opinion, and some lesser people actually started using it as a tool in order to gain some internet points and popularity - all they had to do was join the chorus of voices that were growing louder and louder. It was popular, why not join in? Just like the death threats - what originally shocked me the very first time it happened, just started to become more and more commonplace.
So what if I couldn’t trust reporters? “Should have known that already!” I told myself.
I’ll just talk to the people directly. “I can change their minds!” I thought.
I can show them their misunderstanding.
So I tweeted out a plea for empathy.
And it became a meme.
People couldn’t refute it, so they just made fun of it.
My last and final attempt to sway public opinion came in the form of a video on my second youtube channel. I assigned two of the individuals I work with the task of creating an opinion piece on the Dallas Fuel’s stage 3 struggles. I thought that if I can’t convince people that things are fine, then at least I can redirect their anger in a more reasonable and rational way.
Paulsible and Lafon are fantastic individuals - extremely talented, hardworking, and have a voracious appetite for improvement. I know they’ll be extremely successful in the near future. I lament the fact that I let them take on something that had so much meaning to me without actually giving them guidance on what I wanted or what I was trying to achieve. At this point, I just assumed everyone hated the Fuel. I assumed everyone hated me. I assumed Lafon hated me and was just being polite during our interactions. Honestly at some point I started assuming that about everyone around me, and paranoia was starting to seep into my psyche. I was ill.
For whatever reason, whether it was intimidation because I was Lafon’s boss or for whatever other completely valid motivational reason he had including the potential that it was a genuine belief, Lafon took the video in the direction of supporting the Dallas Fuel instead of criticizing them. That was the absolute worst thing he could have done. It was public support, yes, finally… a sensible take. As sensible a take as you could have without actually knowing what was going on inside of the Dallas Fuel… but the source was affiliated with me. It wasn’t unbiased.
If the video had attacked, or at the very least criticized the Dallas Fuel, that would have given people the impression that Elo Hell is a separate entity from myself, which it is, and that it’s also a separate entity from the Dallas Fuel. There is no conflict of interest in anyway other than my association with these multiple groups. I’ve made sure of it. That is staunchly against my ethics.
But It reminded me of a phrase that I learned when I was very young.
“Impact, not intent.”
It doesn’t matter what I intended.
It doesn't matter what was actually true.
The only thing that mattered was the impact it had.
The beliefs that people held.
And the impact it had was destroying my credibility and the community’s trust in me.
I had lost control.
I tapped out. I had lost. I was mentally ill, and damaged, and in a lot of pain. So much pain.
I often mention that I used to be a flight instructor… that I studied the ever so difficult and exceeding impressive field of Aeronautical Engineering at the prestigious and illustrious Royal Military College of Canada. It always made me wonder how people never noticed, or asked.
How I could go from doing that, to teaching people to play video games.
Oh sure, a couple people asked, but I’d just say that I got hit by a car and lost my medical and couldn’t fly anymore. Which was true, I did get hit by a car and was badly injured, but I recovered back to perfect health. Well, I’m a bit on the chubby side still but I’m working on it.
No, the reason I stopped doing that, and left the field of Aviation was because of depression.
It beat me before, and GOD DAMNIT I wasn’t going to let it take this passion from me as well.
I went on mental health break. Dropped everything, even my professional contacts with Blizzard.
It took me three weeks before I could even find the courage to try again.
I tried to interact with the community again on Avast’s stream a few days ago.
It was too soon.
I couldn’t take it.
I snapped and lashed out within minutes.
It went everywhere immediately, and people were confused.
I wanted to defend myself. I wasn’t in the wrong! I never had been!
I was ready to stand and fight. Let any man stand up and take a swing at me, I was ready.
My three weeks of meditation and focus, the attempts to calm the raging waters of my mind… had been successful, certainly. I’d calmed those waters. Distanced and distracted myself, found happiness once more. Deepened my relationship with my girlfriend, learned new things, started sleeping more, and eating healthier… but I hadn’t resolved anything. I was just ignoring it.
It was still lurking.
Three weeks of what I thought was progress turned out to just be me bottling up all of my rage and anger and pain, but in reality the break had just turned me into a bomb, and I was ready to go absolutely nuclear on someone, absolutely anyone, with the slightest provocation.
I was looking for an excuse, and Halo stood up to take that fight.
Poor dumb bastard.
I caught myself after the moment of weakness and tried to defuse the situation but to no avail.
Social media and Halo wouldn’t let it be.
I knew what I was about to do.
I needed to warn people.
So I went to Mike and asked him for permission. I was seeking his blessing to do harm.
And he just told me to stop.
Honestly, in retrospect, that’s all I needed.
I needed someone who I trusted and respected to tell me “No.”
I started this journey because I wanted to help people. I have earned A LOT of money while on this journey, certainly, but that was never the goal. If anything, the money made things even more confusing for me. It was never in the slightest bit a source of motivation to me. I remember looking at my bank account one day and being confused, because I had never seen numbers this large before in my entire life, and yet here they were, and they carried no more meaning to me than the numbers in a math problem on an exam. Why did Lex Luthor steal forty cakes?
Forty is a big number when you’re talking about cakes. It’s four tens. And that’s terrible.
That’s the feeling I got when I thought about money. Not only was it meaningless - I didn’t even understand it. I’d been broke and in debt for a long time before - depression tends to do that to a person. While you may think that if the lack of something makes you unhappy, then the abundance of that same thing must make you happy, then I am here to assure you that it is absolutely positively not the case. At all. Sure, having enough money to buy food so you don’t starve is nice, but having enough air to not asphyxiate and die is also a pleasant experience.
That doesn’t mean that you should go about your day constantly hyperventilating and shoving food in your mouth, desperately attempting to be happy the only way you know how. It’s absurd.
So I tried to find meaning in the money that I had. I tried giving back, but that failed horrifically.
Among the pro community, designer clothing and other shit like that is pretty popular. I thought that maybe I was missing something in my life, or that they knew something that I didn’t. How could paying ten thousand dollars for a sapphire ring make you happy? What was I missing?
Long story short, I bought a watch. It’s a beautiful watch. Amazing craftsmanship. Stunning.
I don’t wear it.
It didn’t make me happy.
I still keep it on my bedside table as a reminder that you can’t buy happiness.
A lesson often taught, but rarely understood so poignantly.
I wonder how many of you at some point in this thought you were reading a suicide letter.
That this was to be my last and greatest manifesto to the world before I leave it.
It’s not, but I’ve seen letters like that.
I’ve had friends kill themselves.
I’m not religious but I pray to god every night that no one from the League goes that far.
I feel it’s inevitable.
How can people say the things they say about Zach while still treating him as a human being?
What if he starts believing the things that people say about him?
It haunts me.
I can’t take it.
I’m sitting here alone, crying like I have never cried before in my entire life, because as much as this hurts I know that my situation is not unique. There are other people out there feeling this same kind of pain, probably even more, and doing an even better job at hiding it. At pretending.
I’ve uninstalled reddit, and after I post this message, I’ll also be uninstalling all other platforms.
I’m going to think long and hard about how I’m going to interact with the public again.
If I ever do.
I’m going to go back to doing what I want to do, and doing what I’m good at doing, because it makes me happy, and for no other reason, don’t make the mistake of thinking that I’m writing this for my benefit. I’m writing this for the benefit of the people out there who needed to read it.
Leaving one last trail of breadcrumbs for other people to find their way.