The only time in my life I can say I had anything resembling clinical depression was in Summer 2016. My semester at university had ended, my little baby brother had graduated high school, and I was free for three months to do whatever the hell I wanted until I went off to Nagoya, Japan to study there for a year.
But due to massive compounding anxiety and heartbreak as a result of being cheated on and emotionally toyed with as I struggled poorly to handle myself, I fell into a pretty dark place.
I stopped writing. Besides one short story, in fact, I did essentially no writing between May 2016 and August 2016; I just didn’t have any energy. And, it being summer vacation in a college town, there wasn’t anyone to help me out, either. I lived alone in my apartment and had to entertain myself to keep from having mini-breakdowns three times a day. Literally, for one five-day period, I kept my cellphone off just so I wouldn’t feel the awful pangs of dread waiting for another text message.
Most of May was wasted in this way. I don’t really remember it anymore, besides the terrible sleep schedules and the crying at night. I did far too many movie marathons, and I watched far too much Cinemasins (yuck).
But there was something in particular that helped me out a lot in getting past myself. Weirdly enough, it was Jontron’s Youtube channel. If you don’t know Jontron, he was a popular Youtuber back in the day who made funny video game reviews. The playthroughs weren’t anything revolutionary and his videos were often kind of lazy about actually giving you a comprehensive view of the video games he featured. Eventually, even after he expanded to featuring old movies and TV shows as well, that strain continued. But it wasn’t about the games; it was about the jokes, and about his impressive delivery.
Jontron’s editing and humor style was so influential that practically every video game Youtube channel outright copies it for themselves, to much less successful degrees.
The videos were fast-paced and funny. They took the skit-reaction-gameplay-reaction-skit formula of classic Angry Video Game Nerd episodes but cranked them up into a style fit for the 10s. There were lots of callbacks, lots of images rocketing around the screen as intentionally bad special effects, yelling with overreactions or nodding with exaggerated underreactions… It was really funny stuff.
I binged literally his entire channel over the course of a week, going through every single video in reverse-chronological order. It was a pretty good time. Good weightless fun with no impact on my life was exactly what I needed at the moment.
Obviously, Jontron didn’t cure my depression. It took me a while to get over it, thanks to some unhealthy choices and being incredibly isolated for most of the period, and I did it with the help of friends and family willing to stick by me no matter what.
Then, months later, Jontron turned out to be a friggin’ Nazi.
Turns out Jontron was a far-right racist espousing race war rhetoric and disgusting racial hierarchy garbage. When attacked for it, instead of becoming a better person and trying to make amends to the communities he lambasted, he dug in his heels and became an icon to the Breitbarts and Daily Callers of the world, those smug self-serving devil’s advocate media figures obsessed with tearing down everyone and everything with a snide smirk on their faces. It’s not racist, it’s just “asking questions.” It’s not backlash, it’s “biased mainstream media coverage.”
He was somehow taken out of Internet Jail some months later, proving that controversy only matters if you literally go to prison for your actions. It makes me very mad to see people play nice with him, for other Youtube figures to treat him just the same even when he refused to walk back a single comment he made. I won’t say that Jontron is anywhere near the level of, say, the disgusting people exposed in the #MeToo movement, but his absolute refusal to seek forgiveness makes him dead to me.
I do not condone watching this guy anymore. I haven’t seen a single video from his channel since he outed himself as a bigot, and I never plan to. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be able to stop him, because he keeps on trucking.
And that’s the problem with internet personalities, I guess. They have fun personalities, and abandoning them is tough for a lot of people.
I did, indeed, feel betrayed by this nice internet man turning out to be a very not-nice real life man. But it’s unfair to just assume that any given internet personality is a good person just because they make funny videos. We don’t assume that about comedians, or sports stars, or politicians. Why aren’t we cynical about internet video people?
Projared turned out to be a sexual harrasser and abuser. Pewdiepie turned out to be something of a “controversial” figure. The entire Nostalgia Critic network fell apart due to too many terrible people being involved. Jontron is just one example of many in internet people who turned out to be worse than we hoped.
I say this all to say that I still watch Stop Skeletons from Fighting with every new video, but if Derek turns out to be the ringleader of a terror group I won’t be surprised.