The Crazies, Part II

Photo by Anna Atkins on Unsplash

“If I cared about everyone, I’d go crazy myself.” Here’s the story of how we deal with mental illness in the Internet Age — this time, we’ll be focusing on those who create the content themselves.

In Part I, we talked a little bit about passive voices of mental disorder on the internet. To be fair, these people aren’t all that much, except to the people they interact with. And more often than not, they’re interacting with the content creators.

I’ve heard a few stories creators have had about their experiences with the crazies, and I’m surprised how common it actually is. For many mental disorders — especially developed schizophrenia — there are ‘triggers’ which cause people to attach to certain figures of interest. Often, these figures are real people — celebrities, typically. Now in a post Internet world, the fixation moves on to Youtubers and live streamers, many of whom are young and inexperienced themselves and don’t have PR assistants who filter out any of the strange unsolicited ramblings by the mentally ill.

Unsurprisingly, being targeted by the crazies generates mental unease for the creators themselves. Obviously this is at no real fault of the crazies, but speaks rather to a societal issue of abandoning these persons to act this way in the first place. In a perfect world, the crazies wouldn’t be crazy — they would be treated, living normal lives, and most of us wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference. But we don’t live in that perfect world, at least not yet.

My final topic on the crazies is the one I’ve probably been the most obsessed with, and the one I find most nuanced — when the crazies become content creators themselves. There are many, many famous examples of this — from Time Cube to Terry A. Davis, and Chris-Chan to The Final Fantasy House (as you can tell, Fredrik Knudsen does some great content on this exact topic — though he tends to focus more on the facts of the case and less on the psychological matters). The dynamic between normal viewers and a mentally ill creator are, what you might imagine, interesting. Sometimes, the crazie is vilified and treated as a joke. Other times, the audience encourages the behavior and causes the mental illness to proliferate. However, most interestingly, something else develops across all cases: the audience member begins to build a bond with the crazie, and begins to have the crazie become a target of fixation for the audience themselves. In a sort of reversal of roles, an average person can become obsessed with one of these mentally ill content creators, actively checking up on them, learning more about their lives, becoming concerned about their health — and it’s common. Very common. How else do you think there’s a market for Knudsen’s 2+ hour long videos?

In a way, this obsession harkens back to the obsession with serial killers and their psychopathy. But unlike them, we do not ask why they did it in horror, but rather with curiosity — a prodding that begins as the laughing off of something strange, something unnatural, but eventually grows into an irritation within the mind, the obsession to find out more about this person’s strange behavior. Unsurprisingly, crazies are attracted to crazies who are content creators. But there is an obsession we all have with what is unnatural. 

The internet is still in its infancy, and its relationship with the mentally ill will certainly develop more over time. I hope that it develops for the better, but only time will tell.

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