I’m a ball of stress. when I commute to work, I stomp downtown with my fists clenched (I’m ready for whatever). Being around that many strangers keeps me on edge but even when I’m alone, I’m tense. I sit forward instead resting my back against the chair because I can’t relax. last year, I bought airpods and they’ve been like a fidget spinner for me. Podcasts or music keep the parts of my brain responsible for stress distracted. a couple years ago, I had a hard time sleeping. its not that i couldn’t sleep, I just didn’t want to. I began watching youtube heavy. i watched reaction videos, challenge videos, and pranks until i fell asleep. The content wasn’t produced by a production company, but by a Youtuber and his or her camera. Some youtubers have transitioned their channels to have reality tv style content. Instead capturing real moments, content creators are orchestrating drama in order to drive numbers. When creators are able to capture their true and present it to the public, it usually connects. You get that warm feeling like you’ve just met someone new and they’ve let you see their true selves. we’re over a decade into this social media culture. We’ve become professional perception manipulators and maybe not by choice. anyone can have an opinion about you and are able to express that opinion to you in an instant. these days, there’s an art to being yourself.

One night, I stumbled across a video with entitled “Smoking a Carolina Reaper”. During the Carolina Reaper craze, people filmed themselves forcing down the hot pepper or as much of it as they could. Most videos resulted in tears, violent vomiting, or both. It was torture. I had to click on the video. A black guy wearing glasses and a coyote ugly style cowboy hat rotated a cigarillo filled with bits of crushed Carolina Reaper Pepper. He lights the cigarillo and takes a puff. my eyes widen. He’s insane. I watched his videos for the next two hours. His channel’s name was lonerfez. That video was watched over 100,000 times. late one night, i was searching for the video but i couldn’t find it. the video and the channel was deleted. All those views gone. I recently discovered that he started he started another page. It was another late night.

I was happy to find that the essence of the channel remained the same. His videos are different. he has a a video in which he watches a Logan Paul video for 10 straight hours. Cringe videos are his specialty. There’s a video of him making and drinking toilet wine that i just couldn’t stomach. “My best ideas come to either right before I fall asleep, while I’m in the shower or on the toilet so i keep that thang(cellphone) on me,” says Fez. my favorite videos are the ones where his life leaks into the content. My favorite video is when his grandmother interrupts his video recording. with his headphones blasting, the audience can hear his grandmother call his government name. “Jevon. Jevon!” In the video he says he always waits for her to leave the house to record videos. 

Maintaining normalcy while in front of a camera is something that has to be learned but it still isn’t for everyone. There are professional talking heads that look uncomfortable at times. Their insecurity can be heard in their voice or seen in their mannerisms. Cameras are unforgiving. Fez found YouTube in 2008, around the same time I was uploading dance videos. He watched channels like Shane Dawson, DeeFizzy, and EpicMealTime. “They were just normal people with cameras and that just inspired me to start filming my own ideas.” Fez has inspired me to do the same. For me, it has become more than mindless entertainment. 

After Youtube deleted his channel of videos that seemed so personal, I wondered why he decided to return. He had so many videos that felt like confessionals. I would have been inconsolable if it were my channel. I had to ask him about it. “My plan was always to build an audience and make my own movies. Youtube is in a class of its own when it comes to audience. So they can delete me 10 times and I’ll be back.” I didn’t know I’d have so much in common with someone that I’m so different one. When you’re chasing your dreams, sacrifices are made and risks are taken, like smoking a Carolina Reaper.

I watched CashNasty cry as LeBron won that championship in 2016. he was sobbing as if had swatted Iguadola’s shot off the backboard himself. it was a real moment. when i feel alone, its reassuring to see someone going through the same things as me even if they’re complete strangers.  Through filters, angles, and strategic posting, we can create a perception of our lives that may or may not be true. Facades fall a part and the person in the mirror will be the only thing left so be happy with him or her. Perfection is a pursuit and not a destination. 

Kelvin Hicks