(‘You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost)’ by Felicia Day, 2015, Sphere)
I know Felicia Day through The Guild which she wrote, created and starred in, and I’ve followed her youtube channel Geek & Sundry almost from the beginning. I admire her strength, vivacity, vision and the way she seems to be unapologetically herself. And I’m a nerd, and she’s a nerd, so of course I’d wanna read this.
You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost) is a memoir, it describes the journey of how she got to where she is today; it’s a journey from her slightly odd childhood (she was homeschooled), to university (where she double majored in violin and math, and finished with a GPA of 4.0), to an acting career that never quite took off, through her World of Warcraft addiction, to the creation of The Guild and Geek & Sundry.
It’s a fascinating story, specially because she, and others she worked with, were knee-deep, and at times instrumental (I think it’s safe to say), in bringing about some of the things we take for granted today. I wasn’t fond of the first half of the book (there were some pretty unfortunate phrasings in the beginning as well), and I had a hard time keeping interested when she told of her childhood and time at uni. Part of this was the way it was written: too much internet slang, too many out of place jokes, too many badly photoshopped pictures. Part of me knows this is who Felicia is, and this is her way of very concretely showing a part of herself, but as a reader I didn’t feel like she took the story very seriously, and so I had a hard time taking it seriously. This is most likely also because up until she moves to Hollywood her life is somewhat peachy (the way she describes it anyway). And people who are happy just don’t make for as interesting a story.
But then she graduates college and moves to Hollywood. It isn’t easy for her at all, in fact is hell at times, but the book gets a lot better. The way Felicia talks about her fierce determination to make it (partly because she thinks she’s destined to – which is a great thing to admit), but also her crippling self-doubt is really well done, and it finally feels like she takes her narrative seriously, like this is the story she’s really here to tell.
Her acting career never takes off, and instead she plays videogames all day, because it gives her what “real” life can’t: friends, and a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. It’s easier to hide in a video game where all you have to do to be successful is kill more bad stuff. The way to success is so concrete and easy compared to reality. I’ve hidden in video games often enough, for this very reason, to recognize it, although I never got as bad as her.
However, it isn’t all bad. Her experiences help her create The Guild, a webshow about a ragtag group of gamers, and it becomes massively popular (if you haven’t watched it, you should, it’s really good. I put in a link at the beginning for you!). Eventually she and some of the same people go on to create Geek & Sundry, a hugely popular internet channel. In a way Felicia’s story is a double narrative; it’s interesting because Felicia’s life is interesting, but also because it’s the story of the early youtube and internet community, back from the initial days when people were just starting to really utilize youtube and change the landscape and possibilities of tv and movies. Suddenly anyone could make videos from out of their garage (the way they did the first season of The Guild) and upload it for everyone to see. Felicia and those who worked with her were some of the first people to take the leap and do a tv-show outside of tv. She’s got stories of early crowdfunding and the struggle to keep The Guild their own thing and not sell-out to some major company. Today starting something on youtube is simple, back then? not so much.
Of course success never comes without a price, and Felicia is incredible candid in talking about her anxiety, illness and depression. Some of which almost destroyed her. More than anything that was inspirational, her fight to get back to herself, to stay alive. She hands out tips on doing something you’ve never done before, on taking the leap, and on getting through the rough (sometimes really rough) spots, because they will appear.
And she talks, near the end, of #GamerGate, which is brave and important. That chapter broke my heart, but she ends the book on a positive note – that this too is something we’ll get through. That a few trolls and assholes on the internet can’t and shouldn’t keep us from doing what we love.
Despite my early doubts about the book, I read the whole thing in an evening, and when I was done I’d never felt more ready to take on the world. To do whatever it’ll take to bring my dreams to life. This memoir may not be perfect, and it’s not written the way I would have written it, but it’s honest, it’s fascinating, it’s great for nerds, and more than anything; it’s inspirational.
If you have any interest in Felicia Day, the internet or simply want to be inspired, this is not a bad place to look.