Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time on TikTok. I started using the app regularly while researching my Washington Post article since all of the cosplayers I spoke to said they had started or increased their usage on TikTok during the pandemic. But there’s no work excuse for why I continue to spend an hour a day scrolling through funny cosplay videos.
It’s uncanny how quickly the TikTok algorithm figured out what I wanted on my feed. My corner of TikTok is like an anime con masquerade that continues for 24 hours a day. I love this in-character Sk8 the Infinity barbeque, which turns a hangout into performance art. I’m in awe of this cosplayer who adjusts their look and body language to recreate a dozen Danganronpa characters in one video. I’m hooked on cosplay transformation videos that distill the sheer amount of time it takes to get into costume to a second or two, timed effortlessly to music.
But every time I use TikTok, I’m also barraged with reminders of my age. “Minor, DNI [Do Not Interact]” is a common user profile descriptor. There’s a meme where young teenagers search a relative’s home for “vintage” manga, and based on my own manga collection, I might as well be that relative. More overtly, here’s a woman born the same year as me pretending to die of old age, though her presence on the app conversely shows that there are still older users! Goth Dad is one of my favorites. But I’m not seeing things: according to Statista, 50% of TikTok users worldwide are 34 or younger, and over 25% are 19 or younger. (Still, I wouldn’t put too much stock in these statistics dividing male and female users, since so many of the videos recommended to me are produced by nonbinary creators.)
This is what categorizes my enjoyment of TikTok into a decidedly guilty pleasure. It’s time to admit that I am old and out of touch. This is a huge reason I have not been blogging anymore: my current life is so removed from my presumed audience that nothing that I feel like writing about feels like something my current readers would care about.
When I launched Otaku Journalist, I was 22. My graduate school professor said we each needed to reserve a domain name in order to launch our careers as journalists. I initially started this blog under my real name and kept it general in order to appeal to more potential employers. After a few months, I leaned into my niche, limiting the number of jobs I could get, but also choosing to specialize in my preferred subject. You know the rest: this choice has led to bigger and bigger opportunities to cover fandom, including TV interviews and a book deal.
All the while, I’ve written this blog with my 22-year-old self in mind. Some parts of my early career are still relatable, like my job at the Daily Dot churning out 16-20 articles a week. Other parts, like my relatively harassment-free internship for video game site Kotaku, are less so. Believe it or not, my reporting jobs in the ‘10s required me to interact in the comments section or on social media. In today’s environment of organized online abuse against journalists, that’s wildly unrealistic! There are distinct modern challenges that I never faced back then.
But to add another barrier between me and this expected audience, I am not even working right now! I lost many of my freelance positions during the early days of the pandemic, as well as any interest I had in putting my daughter in daycare. That was a valid excuse for a while, but now that daycares are back open and my county is 70% vaccinated, I have to face the truth: I don’t want to go back to work yet. Of course, I do work: I don’t want to erase my around-the-clock labor to care for a toddler and manage a household, but it’s definitely a divergence from the career path I used to blog about. Writing and blogging used to be what I did during work hours, and now I do them in my free time, when Eva is asleep. In a way I’ve come full circle back to when I was 23, working in an office 9 to 5 and writing Otaku Journalist posts at night.
When I was 23, jobs in fandom barely existed. Now, opportunities to turn fandom into your job are abundant, but the environment in which they exist is increasingly hostile. The internet is bigger, more public, and less forgiving than it used to be. I understand what it’s like to exist online now as an adult, but not what it would have been like to grow up this way. Rather than try to talk to young people about what I think they’re going through, I’m trying to listen to them.
At the bottom of this epiphany is probably that I need to make a much-needed update to this website. I haven’t really made updates since 2017, and it’s incredible how much the web has changed in 4 years. If you’re doing one of my free courses or reading one of my ebooks in 2021, remember that this advice is coming from a different time. I’m not planning on deleting stuff (yet); I don’t think realizing that I’m old and out of touch means I have to fade into obscurity. But it certainly means I could stand to acquaint myself with fresh perspectives before I create something again.