It seems like each week, there is a new story about some streamer that has committed some sort of disrespectful, vile, and maybe even illegal act. We have people like Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg, who engaged in racist outbursts. Trainwrecks was suspended from Twitch for misogynistic rants. Logan Paul was incredibly disrespectful in Japan, filming the dead body of a suicide victim, filming in places where he should not have been and harassing citizens. Guy “Dr. DisRespect” Beahm engaged in racist behavior when he mocked Chinese people. And people like James “Phantomlord” Varga would stream videos of himself on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive skin lottery sites, not noting he partially owned them. While all of these people are 100% accountable for their own actions and wrong, do their fans also play a part?
Many of these popular streamers got to be where they are because of their strong personalities. They could be considered the shock jocks of the digital age, performers who are deliberately provocative and offensive for the sake of getting more attention. Visit any chat or comment section for these sorts of people and you will see many fans engaging in equally bad behavior. Some of their followers egg on and encourage these sorts of undesirable acts. They feed into it and beg for more, which causes the personalities in question to behave even more reprehensibly to continue to provide more of what gets people talking and watching. Negative attention is just as good as positive attention, so long as those hits keep coming.
There are also some fans who just don’t care. These are the people who are willing to rug sweep offensive actions. It is easier to continue mindlessly watching and supporting, rather than step up and say, “Hey, this isn’t cool.” Especially if you have been a follower for months or years. Maybe it is just a one-time thing. Do you really want to go searching for weeks to find someone else? Or maybe this is a parent who does not really screen what these streamers are like and figure it must be okay, so long as the original game they are playing does not carry a “Mature” rating. But laziness is no excuse. If we see people doing something that does not mesh with what we consider to be morally right in our minds, we have to speak up. We need to show how we feel by stopping watching.
We also have instances where streamers who try to improve themselves and do something different, maybe even the right thing, are punished for it by their own fanbase. Tyler “Ninja” Blevins is a streamer who has seen his share of controversy. He is known for his expletives, and even back in March 2018 used a racial epithet. He apologized for the outburst and, in the time since, has attempted to have some streams that were geared toward different age groups and could be more inclusive to younger viewers. Some of his fans reacted extremely poorly, accusing him of selling out and criticizing him. Blevins continued to do the right thing, which in this case was offering more options so younger fans could watch, but the fact that he received such blowback for a positive change that would allow more people access to a community shows that maybe we are in a situation with shared blame.
So, how can we be better? The best thing we can do is temper ourselves. When things go too far, we recognize that they have and stop. We do not keep feeding into toxicity. We do not encourage it. We stand up when we see racist, misogynistic, and illegal behavior. Even if we previously liked someone and supported them, we have to be willing to step back and away if people make a horrible mistake, then do not own up to it and continue feeding back into an offensive mindset.
What these streamers do is their own choice. The viewers watching them are not forcing anyone to act any way. But, fans should never discount the influence they can have over a medium. If they see a streamer they watch doing wrong, don’t egg them on for the sake of drama. Say that it isn’t cool and step back. You’ll be making the community a better place.