Out of Sight, Out of Mind

According to the wonder that is Facebook memories, on this day 3 years ago I received my offer to University College London for my Masters degree in Museum Studies. From there I accepted, moved to London, and proceeded to spend one of the best years of my life in the United Kingdom.

I feel a little unoriginal when I talk about my time in London. Life changing may be too bold, but I will never shy away from calling London my Place. I tell people it feels like the city I’m meant to be in. While living there I had people at home say they saw a difference in my life. They saw the relationships I was building, they saw how quickly I became comfortable and made a life.

Unlike a lot of Americans I know who studied aboard I wasn’t jet-setting every weekend. I went away on trips out of the UK only three times. Twice to Ireland and once on a full two week tour of Europe. I spent my year in the UK actually living in the UK, and I think that made all the difference. The friends I made weren’t American, they were British, Irish, Scottish, and Italian. They lived and worked and studied in London with me and they gladly folded me into their lives.

To them I pretty much dropped out of no where. With maybe a handful of acquaintances in the YouTube scene and the help of a fellow American with a handful more, I hoped I’d make friends. I was purposeful in my relationships. Even though I only had a year, I would make friends and I would make the most of my move.

I was pretty lonely from September to December. I met a majority of the people I would later be closest to at a pub called The Miller and then a couple weeks later at a New Year’s Eve party I was graciously invited too. At the party I knew 1 person and I left knowing just a few more. From there it snowballed. I’ve never felt more welcomed by a group of people. And the weird thing was everyone I met was connected in some way. Because of YouTube everyone knew everyone. The more I was invited to things the more I learned. This person had dated this person, this person worked on that video shoot, those people lived together, or went to school together, it went on and on. As a natural networker I was in friendship heaven.

I’ve never been a person who had a friend group. I always had a friend here and a friend there, but you rarely caught me hanging out with the same people over and over again. In the UK that was different. I had my people. I felt welcomed and loved and accepted and inspired and happy. For at least three months after I moved back to he United States I was very deeply unhappy. I missed my people.

With time I got better. I found things to distract me and found ways to see some of the people from the UK in the US a couple times a year. However, I’m afraid that I’ll never again feel a part of something like I did in the UK. And I feel very silly, because I miss everyone so much. I miss them literally daily, but I know they don’t feel the same.

I was a tornado that came sweeping through, and then left just as suddenly. Everyone continued on after I left, they still had each other. They continue day to day doing the same things. Throwing fancy dress parties, going to the pub, becoming better friends. Meanwhile I had to find a new life, moved to a new city, tried to move on while still feeling like I should be somewhere else.

I feel very pressured not to feel this way. My head says I need to get over it. I will never be able to move back to the UK. The chances are pretty much non existent. I will never be able to live that life again. It’s been TWO YEARS (almost). I just really hate knowing that I feel one way while the people I feel that way about don’t share those feelings. And what scares me the most is that I might have over estimated my relationships with people. I may have over-corrected the relationships to more than they actually were, which of course just makes things 10 times worse.

I’ve been sitting on these thoughts for a while, and I felt like I needed to get them out. To share them in some way. It’s not like I’ll never see those people again, I just ache for the close and constant comfort of them. For knowing that I’m wanted and accepted. That I don’t have to explain away my values or interests.

These friendships aren’t over, they’re just across the ocean. I will continue to always rely on the internet to stay connected with those friends and others I’ve had the fortune to make through the years. I just wish that they could be here, or I could be there, and that maybe once and a while, even though I’m out of sight, I’m not always out of mind.

A slap in the face by YouTube, what a way to go

I started my YouTube channel in its present form in the summer of 2010. I’d been watching a couple of channels consistently for about a year and by the time I entered college I was hooked. I created videos ranging from vlogs about Valentine’s Day to sketches about roommates. YouTube’s tagline was “Broadcast Yourself”, and I was all in.

At the time one of the biggest achievements on YouTube was being a member of the Partner Program. This program allowed a creator to earn money off the advertisements shown by or in their videos. From 2007 to 2012 (when the Partner Program was opened to everyone) being a partner was coveted. You knew you were making moves when you were granted that status. That’s what being a partner meant, it meant status, it was worth in the eyes of YouTube and the larger internet community.

Nearly 30 videos and one year later, I was given that status. Suddenly I felt my place in the YouTube world take shape. I was making friends, I had attended my first conference, and now, thanks to Partnership, I was making money. Receiving Partnership was like being given a compass – it gave a creator direction; it gave a larger purpose to the content you uploaded. One of my fondest memories on YouTube is the day I became a Partner. I was overjoyed, and it drove me to make more and better content.

Partnership dreams for thousands of creators ended today with YouTube’s announcement of the end of new monetization requirements:

Starting today we’re changing the eligibility requirement for monetization to 4,000 hours of watchtime within the past 12 months and 1,000 subscribers. We’ve arrived at these new thresholds after thorough analysis and conversations with creators like you. They will allow us to significantly improve our ability to identify creators who contribute positively to the community and help drive more ad revenue to them (and away from bad actors). These higher standards will also help us prevent potentially inappropriate videos from monetizing which can hurt revenue for everyone. (https://youtube-creators.googleblog.com/2018/01/additional-changes-to-youtube-partner.html)

If you haven’t reached a 1,000 subscribers or 4,000 hours (not minutes, hours) of watchtime you cannot become a partner. And not only that, if you are currently monetized and you haven’t reached either of those metrics by February you will be demonetized.

Within the past year on YouTube I did not come close to reaching 4,000 hours of watchtime.

So just like that, after 7 YEARS OF BEING A PARTNER, I’m stripped of that title. Just like that. Granted, being a partner nowadays means pretty much nothing, but I would guess that for a lot of pre-2012 creators losing Partnership has a lot of significance. It’s hard for me to describe how upsetting this is to me. It’s like if someone took the last reminder of a dead friend and burned it right in front of my eyes. Other than my friends and the videos I made, the YouTube that made me love YouTube is gone.

Let me be quite clear and say I have NEVER made money on YouTube. I’ve gotten one check from YouTube. One. My problem with this new policy by YouTube doesn’t have to do with the money, not really. Yes, I believe creators should be paid for driving viewers to YouTube (and thus ad views), and yes creators should see rewards for their hard work. What I’m most incensed about is the disrespect, the dignity it’s stripping from creators. This is YouTube’s way of saying, “You all there at the bottom, go away, we don’t care about you.”

This policy is just another fundamental changes YouTube is choosing in order to reshape its business and push the platform into a future based on Hollywood structures and platforms like Hulu and Netflix. The future won’t be about organic creators and content – the creators and content that built YouTube.

I’ve tried to stay away from the past when it comes to talking about this platform. I’ll give my success rate a solid 60 percent. We’re humans, we love nostalgia and YouTube brings it out of people in full force. I’ll admit my bitterness towards the platform is shaped by those memories of the past. YouTube is special because of its medium, it’s a social platform gone way beyond that of Facebook or Twitter, and that specialness created an ethos shared by creators that is not easily shook. But the company has abandoned that ethos, and the creators are left with no closure and no explanations, just anger and bitterness.

So we grin and bear it. As each new policy or update comes we hoot and holler and carry on always thinking, “Well maybe next time… ” but we’re slowing approaching a new YouTube so far beyond where we started. It’s sad, but it’s been a long time coming.

Viva la musica!

A few weeks ago I created the poll on Twitter, “When you listen to music, what do you connect with more?” The options were “the lyrics” or “the music”. I had 55 people vote in it, the winner being “the lyrics”, with 51 percent of the vote. Here’s the reason this question have been bugging me for several weeks:

I was driving back home to Florida for Thanksgiving when this question popped into my mind. Obviously, over a 14 hour drive I was bound to listen to a lot of music, but I hate listening to new music in the car. In the car, I perform. Like- full fledged, if I had lights and staging you’d find me on Off Broadway kind of performing. I don’t know what it is about cars, but thank the lord for tinted windows!

So there I was, driving, listening to a lot of music, and realizing I didn’t know half the lyrics playing over the speakers. When did I decide to disregard the lyrics to music I knew so well? The lyrics were secondary to my experience. It was the notes, the harmony, the rhythms, that’s what moved me.

Thus, my twitter poll way born. I wanted to see where my friends and foes fell in this music conundrum. Was my connection with the music over the lyrics just a me thing? Or was there was a broader pattern? Surprisingly, the final results finished pretty equally, with lyrics winning out in the end. So I started analyzing more of my relationship with music. What do I listen to most often? Why do I listen to it? What music is my favorite, and does my preference for the composition win out here as well?

I have a great affinity for The Shins. If anyone asks me who my favorite band is, they’re always my answer (though I really think when it comes to music and movies there can never truly be a “favorite”). The Shins have a sound that I just really connect with, but their lyrics are complicated. It also doesn’t help that James Mercer, lead singer and only remaining original member of the band, doesn’t seem to know what enunciating is. It’s chill.

Take a section of lyrics from the song, “Kissing the Lipless”

You told us of your new life there
You got someone comin’ around
Gluing tinsel to your crown
He’s got you talking pretty loud
You berate remember your ailing heart and your criminal eyes
You say you’re still in love
If it’s true what can be done
It’s hard to leave all those moments behind

It’s poetic. And I don’t hate poetry. In high school I was the person people asked when they had no idea what Shakespeare was getting at- but I also wouldn’t pick a poetry book at the library. I can sit here today, read the lyrics to “Kissing the Lipless”, and tell you what it means. Tell you the story it’s illustrating. I’ve listened to this song, a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. I have a major crush on this song. But up until I actually read the lyrics, I had no idea what it was about. I couldn’t connect what my brain was hearing and what my mouth was saying to what the band was trying to relay, at least lyrically. It’s sad, but illustrates my point really well. I connected with the music, not the lyrics.

I also listen to A LOT of foreign music. If you take moment to spy on my Spotify listening history 9/10 times I’m listening to music in Hindi or Spanish. I don’t know Spanish, and I really don’t know Hindi. I have no idea what I’m listening to. The lyrics could be a subconscious cult mantra and I’d be like, “Yass this my jam!” But I still don’t know why, why does my brain prefer this over that?

I’d love to write another blog about the why. A quick article about the research on composition (probably a better word than just “music”) over lyrics. What kinds of people, what kinds of learners, what are their backgrounds, or interests? Music is called the universal language, after all. They weren’t talking about the words in a song. They were talking about the resonance found in how notes fit together to form melodies and harmonies. Almost anyone can listen to that and find beauty. I guess some of us relate to it stronger than others, and I’m happy to be one of the people to find that true.

The Blog You’ve Never Wanted

It has come to my attention that I should probably have a blog. I’m going to be up front and honest and say the last thing I want in 2018 is to have a blog.

I’ve never been particularly good at writing, nor have I enjoyed it. The writing I do enjoy is that of the academic variety, if the topic interest me enough. Though, that being said, even in University I dreaded it. Most people will probably relate to me saying that the idea of writing is a drag, but once you’re actually in the act of it, it’s not that bad.*

If I’m being completely honest, I’ve probably stayed away from writing because of my fear of not being good at it. I took the advanced and AP literature and language classes in high school but always failed to get that passing score. I’ll read my papers I wrote in college and soak in the 5 minutes of horror at how bad they all are. I LET PROFESSORS READ THAT STUFF YOU GUYS. It’s truly a gift I graduated with the GPA I did. And, if any of you reading this know my twitter presence, then you know I can’t go three tweets without a typo, misspelling, or grammar mistake. I’ve made it my brand, heck, there’s probably one or two typos in the above section. And if they aren’t, I’ve probably slipped one in on purpose just to keep the brand alive.  

My outlet has always been my voice. Whether that was singing, YouTube, or now Podcasts. Spoken word without thought or consideration, was where I let my thoughts manifest. The past 7 years has been focused on that type of content. That, or short form written content, like on Twitter or my ill advised political hot takes on Facebook.

What I’ve come to realize, however, is that hiring managers for digital work don’t care about my podcast on friendship, and they don’t care that I’ve spent nearly a decade buried in digital content, its engagement, marketing, or creation. Hiring managers care about whether I’ve written a blog. Or, if I’ve written anything, for that matter. To be fair, I would probably be in a better position if I had bothered writing any of my YouTube videos (or, at least kept the drafts of the ones I did). I’d be a in better position if I’d bothered creating plans and strategies for my projects instead of doing them higgledy-piggledy.

I would probably be in a better position if I had figured out my life 4 years ago instead of trying to do it now, at a tender age of 25.

I didn’t do any of those things, so instead here I am. Unemployed, feeling like I need to stop hiding from writing. To stop hiding from things I always thought I was terrible at (so why try to get better at it? AVOIDANCE IS KEY!)

I’m going to be 100% upfront. This may die tomorrow. Lord knows I have enough projects on my plate that are seemingly going no where. So it might die, or it might be really bad, like, so bad that my goal for it to help me get a job actually makes me lose job prospects instead.

Whatever happens I hope that this becomes my new YouTube. The place I let my thoughts, ideas, or personal experience live out for eternity. I already know going into this that it won’t be popular. It probably won’t be relatable, and I will probably start to feel frustrated by it in 7 months time. Just like YouTube! At least the feelings won’t be foreign. I also know that many of you are reading this and going, “Wow Mary, way to shoot yourself in the foot before you even start your journey” and to that I say, “SCREW YOU, MY OTHER BRAND IS BITTERNESS LET ME LIVE MY LIFE”.

So here’s to bitterness and typos! May 2018 bring them in droves and may 2018 bring blogs that interest me. Blogs about politics and my feelings, about museums and about community, about the future and about life.

-Mary Akemon


*rhyme intended