Not Cover Story – Social Anxiety

Follow: @ConradMiszuk

Hello. It’s been a little bit since I did one of these. I feel like I should say that if you’re a new listener and you’re trying to get a feel for what Kakos Industries is and you find yourself listening to this, then it’s not an episode of the show. You should find a different episode to listen to. Unless you want to hear about a stranger’s social anxiety. In that case, listen on. 

I don’t think there’s anything all that serious to warn you about before listening to this one, but, as always, please check the description. If someone tells me there’s something I missed, I’ll make a note of it there. 

I wanted to give a Covid update on my mental health, but every time I try to write about it, it keeps fragmenting. So I want to talk about this one particular issue. 

I have social anxiety. On some level, I think I’ve known this for a really long time. I’ve even admitted it from time to time. I’ve always been anxious in social situations and I’ve always had to talk myself into going out. I’ve always forced myself to go, but it has been work. I’ve always feared that people didn’t like me, or they were uncomfortable around me, or they would think I was strange, or that I was only there because I wanted something, or I was afraid I was only there because I wanted something. I am often afraid that I always have a hidden motive when socializing, whether it’s needing emotional support, or wanting to bounce ideas off of someone, or maybe just some sort of sexual interest. I’m afraid this makes me inauthentic. It’s also not completely true. Suffice it to say I feel self-conscious. 

I mask a lot of this self-consciousness by being funny. Perhaps not to everyone always, but to enough people when it matters. 

I really loved doing trivia before the pandemic because it gave me a chance to be funny in a structured environment where the social interaction had a specific purpose, and there was also a power dynamic that allowed me to compensate for my insecurity. 

A friend once commented on me bringing a board game to a hang out. The implication being that I didn’t have faith in my ability to keep the conversation going. To be fair, we didn’t play the game, but I brought it all the same. 

The pandemic, unsurprisingly, made all of this much worse. Some friends put together a zoom trivia. I was just a player in this scenario. I love these friends deeply, but I couldn’t stand the trivia. Between the auto-flagellation of the current events round to the obvious disconnect in our musical interests, to the difficulty finding a team to play with, it was getting tough to play. Add to that the cold isolation of my computer screen and the panopticon style of zoom conversation where whoever is least sensitive to interrupting others will dominate the conversation, it was tough. I stopped going.

In fact, I stopped talking to a lot of my in-person friends. 

I was also involved in a D&D game. I know a ton of you listening to this are DND fans, but Discord and all the digital bells and whistles you could get couldn’t keep my attention. It felt like everything was arguments, and after I got to a point where a second character had died, and I had a plausible way to bring them back shot down, I was done. It probably sounded like an excuse at the time, but faced with making another character, I got a headache and I had to sit out. I haven’t gone back. To be fair, I don’t think I like DND. Maybe I’ll try again some day. Not today, though. 

I have managed to maintain good relationships with my Never Rad collaborators, but that has a little more built in reward for me. 

I wasn’t reaching out to anyone either. I might send a message or two here and there, but then I might take two weeks to respond.

I started to make pretty good friends with a few of you probably listening to this now. I have the Discord for Kakos Industries and some of you started to comment a bit and join the voice chat and now I think we’re pretty good friends. I think I worry a little that I prefer this form of communication because you already think I’m pretty neat, whereas my in-person friends know I’m full of shit. It’s easier to perform and be appreciated in that environment, which is a bit like amplified social interaction. It’s quicker, easier, and more rewarding than a lot of my in-person relationships. 

There is a problem, at least for me, when it comes to digital relationships. They don’t seem quite real to me. Certainly I can grow close to people and talk about a great many things, but there are things I won’t say when I think someone at Zoom or Discord could be listening in, or that someone could be recording me. 

I’m also a little old school in that my early experiences with Internet strangers were terrible. I remember chat rooms and falling for Internet strangers after three minutes of haphazard chatting. I remember not knowing what the word “pussy” meant, but in fairness, I think the other child in the chat room also didn’t know what the word “pussy” meant. 

I built shitty anime websites in HTML and made web rings when I was twelve years old. The early Internet was a mess. There weren’t real people on there. It was all fake and all too real, and I’ve been a lurker ever since. I think it probably has more to do with the social anxiety. It doesn’t help that I’ve felt like an impostor human, burdened with strange thoughts and feelings, since as far back as I can remember. That also might be social anxiety. I think if I was a secret alien, they would have told me by now. Legally, they have to tell you if you’re an alien or a demon at eighteen. And I’m more than eighteen years old now. By a few. 

After more time passed, even those digital hangouts with friends and listeners started to dwindle. We still talk, and I encourage all of you to join the Discord, but it has been less. Again, social anxiety.

I joined an audio fiction Discord recently, which was difficult. There are so many people I don’t know and I’ve been doing this a long time. Avatars and usernames obscure identities, and it’s impossible to know who’s serious.

Discords can be nice and comfortable, though. They’re a respite from other social media where you can encounter anything at any time, ready or not. They’re also smaller and more intimate. I asked in that audio fiction discord where people saw fan interactions online, and the answer was apparently other discords. That’s good, but also tough for someone trying to tell people about a new show they’ve made. You only have to join a hundred discords.

It’s no secret that I’ve been trying to market The Never Rad Miscellany and The Hollow Below, and trying to find audiences right now is difficult. There’s so much audio drama out there. The medium has come a long way from The Audio Verse Awards being dominated by Kakos ,Sayer, Wolf 359, Eos 10, etc. I forget sometimes that I’ve been at this for almost seven years and things have changed. 

Kakos Industries went from eighty listeners to eight hundred in 2014 because a Night Vale fan artist drew some pictures of the characters. If you’re listening to this, I haven’t forgotten you Vidente Fernandez, and I am still thankful. I probably should have said that at the time, but this piece is about social anxiety. Just like I should have reached out to those other early creators and I never did. I think it was an ego thing. You’d have thought I would have wanted anyone to talk to about how weird all of this stuff was, and how exciting it was to get noticed, but I never reached out. Neither did they, to be fair. 

I don’t think the fan art route to success is viable anymore. Fan art has shifted hard from audio drama to actual play podcasts. And Tumblr is dying, probably due to dashcon and removing porn. 

I consulted with some of the people I do know in audio drama and they told me that Twitter was the new place where audiences were to be found.

Fucking Twitter.

The feeling that my social anxiety is holding me back from greater success sucks. The feeling that if I was more confident and more social that I’d be making a living right now hurts. And fucking Twitter is my obstacle. 

There are a couple of problems I have with Twitter. 

It’s toxic for your mental health, and to some extent, I worry that I don’t have much to offer there. 

People go to Twitter to pick fights. People go on Twitter to throw shade. People go on Twitter to tear down and eviscerate, and to shame. People go on Twitter to air their grievances and remind everyone how ugly the world really is, just in case it’s not playing on repeat in your head 24/7 anyway. Twitter wants to show you all of that. 

Everyone needs to read The Toxoplasma of Rage. It’s a great article that only becomes more relevant with each passing day. Except for talking about Tumblr, which is dying. I’ll link to that article in the description if you’re curious to read it.

There’s a reason I’ve tried to automate Twitter. The bots get the conversation started, and then I can jump in if anyone has something to add. It helps to get things out there when I know there’s actually interest. 

I think that saying I have little to offer is a bit in line with the social anxiety. Certainly I ostensibly have an over represented voice. There’s a lot of people seemingly like me on the Internet and a lot of them have made the world worse. But I also have no stomach for the fights, assuming that I do have something good and useful to say. I think a lot of this is largely self-consciousness. 

It really seems like I need to socialize more, with friends, and listeners, and also other creators. I need to do social media more. I’m open to having volunteers help me with social media, but  this is also something I need to get better at myself. 

Please follow me on social media. @ConradMiszuk, @KakosIndustries, @NeverRad, and @HollowBelow (though I haven’t actually posted anything there yet). I’m going to post more and reach out to more creators to collaborate. Why don’t you tweet at me if you have some ideas for me. I want to hear how all of this has been for your social skills.

And if you’re struggling, be sure to reach out to someone. Keping forcing yourself to send those texts. I’ll be doing the same. Begrudgingly. 

Even these Not Cover Stories are social in a sense. I’m not hiding behind the character of Corin Deeth. This is Conrad. These are my thoughts and feelings. They might be edited and dressed up, but they’re still me. I think that’s probably why I haven’t done more of this. I’ve definitely had the thoughts. I’ve even written one or two scripts that I haven’t recorded. It’s a hurdle feeling like this matters. It’s a hurdle feeling like these pieces help anyone. And here’s the weird thing. Even if you tell me that they help, it might not make it through my head that they actually help. Even if you tell me that it’s interesting, or that it enriches your experience of the podcast to know the creator a little better, it still might not get through to me. 

The danger in making one of these pieces is that even as I’m recording it right now, I can tell that it’s incomplete. And there’s a lot of other things that I should probably say if I wanted to make a complete account of my social anxiety. But this is I think where I’m going to leave it for today. Maybe there will be a social anxiety two. Like we need such a thing. You needed a sequel; to despacito and you needed a sequel to my personal social anxiety.

Thank you for listening. I hope that you are all well,  as well as you can be right now. And I look forward to hearing from you.

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