I recently finished listening to the audiobook version of Felicia Day’s memoir You’re never weird on the Internet (Almost), and I would like to talk about it.
My first introduction to Felicia Day was in her role as Charlie Bradbury, the computer hacker/newbie hunter/ fantastic character on Supernatural in Season 7 of the show. When Charlie entered the scene her face was super familiar, so I IMDB-ed her and I had literally seen none of the other shows that she’s been in (except her episode of House). I’m, like, the one person in my age group who has never seen an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I hadn’t watched Doctor Horrible until Felicia Day was on Supernatural because I wanted to figure out where the heck I knew her from because it wasn’t the one episode of House.
(Funny side story: Usually, when I can’t figure out where I know an actor’s face from, it’s because they played someone on Supernatural. This is even true about some actors who have played several different characters on Supernatural.)
I got that answer from her book. Apparently, she was in a ton of commercials in the late nineties and early 2000’s and was the mastermind of the “Do you want to Date my Avatar” YouTube video, which along with most of the music from the first two years of the Vlogbrothers (including this gem) was constantly playing in the background while I worked on papers my senior year of college.
So essentially, the answer to “Why is this woman’s face so familiar!?!?!?!?” that I would mentally scream every time Charlie appeared on my favorite show, was “the internet.”
Felicia Day is not that much older than. She’s only about 8 years older than me; from a technology standpoint, we grew up with the same breakthroughs and changes. I was just in elementary school during some of the big parts of it and she being unschooled and in college at 16 (!?!?!). We grew up very differently, but we experienced the change from dial-up to broadband to WiFi and the change in the gaming world.
I recommend reading this book just for learning how Felicia Day grew up. It was so strange but interesting. Her education was extremely unconventional but shaped so much of her life and person presents publicly. She was homeschooled, but more the brand of it that is now called “unschooling” where she just sort of decided what she wanted to learn or do and then occasionally she would go on “field trips” to historical places to fill the history portion of the curriculum. Because of this, she read a ton of books including Perry Mason and Anne of Green Gables. She tells it much better than I do. She has a voice in her writing, and while reading it, that is “I understand this is completely ridiculous, but it’s the truth, and it’s my story.”
A large part of what this book is about is the generation of people who have grown up in the world of the internet, especially gaming. I am not a gamer. I’m pretty good at, like Tetris, but most games I don’t have the proper hand-eye coordination to be good them which makes them not fun for me. HOWEVER, most of my friends, especially my friend group in college, played video games and I watched quite a bit of WoW, and whatever else they were playing, I think maybe Halo, I wasn’t really playing attention. I was reading books while a group of mostly boys killed each other on the internet while in the same room.
Because she was unschooled/homeschooled, Felicia missed what I would call a fundamental part of public education. That one day a week where everyone gathered around the one desktop in the back of a classroom and watched one student play Oregon Trail and try to help them pick the best way to make it from Missouri to Oregon without dying of cholera. It was an important part of my third-grade experience. As someone who is known for her place in the gaming world, the fact that she missed that is a huge omission on her gamer-cred resume.
Felicia Day’s focus when discussing, especially her early video game life, was the friendships and culture that was built around the groups that played the games with her. How the internet and online gaming created these groups of people that all had something in common that everyone involved in that group can talk about– the early parts of internet fandom.
Personally, the internet has made such a huge difference in my life. The connections that can be made through having a common interest on the internet opens up so much of the world to each of us. I don’t have to express this to people reading a blog, but for real, sometimes I think about the people I have met because of the internet and I’m amazed. I have friends in France and Romania because of the internet.
Day’s involvement in fandom is what makes her interesting as a public figure, in my opinion. She doesn’t talk about the “behind the scenes” things of the shows she’s been on or talk about the people she’s worked with. Her book is mostly about her life with the internet and building The Guild YouTube show and pieces of growing her brand online. As much as I would love behind the scenes stories about Supernatural from someone who wasn’t members of the regular cast this was not where Felicia wanted to share it. Perhaps she’ll write another one. I hope so, she does have a voice in her writing that I would love her read more (or listen to the audiobook). I think that Felicia’s journey would be just as compelling if she wasn’t on television. What she was able to create with The Guild changed quite a bit about how media is consumed, paving the way for other independent creators to come in the years since.
Discussing her internet life, it makes the book, and by extension Felicia, easy to relate to. As bloggers, we are building our own type of brand in this huge space that is the internet. We create, not cliques really, but groups where we can discuss our mutual love of one thing that speaks to all of us, my case I want to be a book blogger, talk about the books I love. It’s the one topic that I didn’t have an outlet where I could discuss them. I would just sort of scream blindly at Jen that I really like a book. I’d end up in a book hangover where I would just want to talk about them and have no one to listen to me, now I do.
Felicia has first-hand experience in trying (and succeeding) in carving a place for herself in the fandom world. Through discovering what she loved and working hard to achieve a level of notoriety she was able to create and explore more of that realm, setting up a standard for many coming after her.
I truly don’t believe that she started out with the goal of becoming internet famous. She was just doing what she liked and producing things that she and her friends would enjoy (aren’t we all). She just had a bit of an advantage because she has a few connections from being an actress. She had a little be more knowledge than the average bear opening their webcam and recording, and having a familiar face to attach to a project is never a bad thing. She had to work just as hard as anyone else does to create her end product and get people to watch it
What Felicia Day did with The Guild Youtube channel is something that could only be done by someone who grew up in this age of changing technology. YouTube creators are some of the most creative and interesting people that I’ve had the opportunity to interact with. I have had a chance to be a tiny, tiny part of that world a couple of different times, but the people I’ve met because of it are just… they are amazing. Felicia is definitely one of these people.
Another piece of Felicia Day’s book that I connected with was her honest writing about what was essentially a complete mental breakdown from trying to make everything in her life overly perfect and hyper-extending herself to the point where she was so stressed her body started to fight against her. She talks about the ways that she has learned to recognize that she’s doing too much and cutting away the fat of life to focus on what is important. As someone who does a lot of the same things that she talks about, although to a much smaller scale, it felt like there is someone else that understands.
One thing I really love about the time we are living in is “famous people” opening up about their struggled with mental illness. Whether it’s Carrie Fisher and her bipolar disorder which I talked about a couple weeks ago, or Dwayne the Rock Johnson talking about his struggles, or Supernatural‘s Jared Padalecki and his Always Keep Fighting campaign, having someone that we look at on a kind of pedestal talk about things that connect them to the “regular people” makes it easier to talk about. Felicia’s particular struggles mirror mine to a degree. Discussing anxiety and stress related illness is difficult and sharing them for the masses must add to that anxiety and stress a thousand fold. Discussing what it did to her, was brave and I’m sure will help people. It struck me very deeply.
She also touches on Gamergate. To be perfectly honest, I had heard of it, but I wasn’t really sure what it was. Listening to the BS that people in that part of the internet went through because of it and how little to no repercussions came from it is terrible. No one should feel unsafe in their fandom. Fandom is supposed to be a safe space to share and connect. It was ridiculous to hear about, and Felicia’s experience with it is well explained.
I guess it’s because Felicia Day was an actor from Supernatural–which is a show I have a very odd connection to because of the sheer amount of conventions that the cast does, and how often the cast of the show share their lives with the audience and that she is an internet star, the Felicia Day feels less like a “famous person” and more like just one of my internet friends. I have, like I’m sure anyone reading this does, a bunch of friends that I have met through twitter or myspace (as I’m old) or through video gaming or YouTube or Tumblr or whatever that I’m friends with, been friends with for years that I’ve never met. Felicia Day feels like that kind of person. In reading her book and learning the rest of her story, that internet friendship feels stronger. I will probably never meet Felicia Day nor will she probably ever know who I am, but through her book, I feel closer to her in a unique way.
This book was a pleasure to listen to, and I’m sure it would be just a great to read. There is something that I just find so intriguing about celebrity memoirs. Felicia’s is an excellent add to that fantastic genre. I hope she writes more. I am sure that if she tried her hand at fiction, she would have a unique voice to bring to made up characters. I also request a behind the scenes look at Supernatural.
I recommend picking this up if you are interested in gaming or the world that is the internet, whether or not you know who Felicia Day is or not. It’s just a well-written and thoughtful book.
Until next time Internet,