DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I have had a few friends since high school. We remained friends even after we graduated, went to different colleges, lived over an hour apart, after I moved out of state, but now I’m back, and one of my friends moved less than 10 minutes from me for the first time.
We’ve been on the same Discord server and are all online more than once a week. However, I’ve been feeling distant from them much more, because they got into live-streaming. Now in theory, this shouldn’t change anything, but in practice, everything is so much worse. They almost always are playing a game I REALLY don’t like, to the point that it makes me feel much more bored and down when I play it. So I don’t. The problem is, it’s a game that they are always communicating during it, and any time I try to say anything, I just get ignored or a “I can’t talk now, I’m busy with this.” And then they play it for hours on end.
Even when they don’t play that, stuff still isn’t the same. Like, I can’t talk about anything remotely political with them, I can’t talk about anything personal, and even though it’s not their profession and they’re not particularly famous, they do get a small amount of viewers, so I have to always watch what I say and I can’t be myself when they’re streaming. At least one of them is streaming almost every day of the week, and it’s always while I have free time. It’s just exhausting to have to constantly be watching what I say, even around my closest friends, especially after a day of work. I’ve also been going through other things emotionally, and I can’t even talk about it, because I can’t say it on a livestream, because it would be taking attention from the streamer and it’s something any audience member wouldn’t want to hear.
I don’t want to make them stop, because they seem to enjoy it and I don’t want to be a funwrecker, but I just want my social and friend life back with them, especially after a long day of work. I also don’t want to keep this bottled up, before I do or say something I regret and can never take back. But I also just want my social life with them back… What do I do about this?
Video Game Widower
DEAR VIDEO GAME WIDOWER: This is one of the times when you should be talking to your friends, not to a loudmouth with an advice column, VGW.
The core conflict here is fairly simple: your friends have a new hobby that they’re currently wrapped up in and it’s not one that you dig. It’s taking up a lot of their time and attention and the very nature of it precludes hanging out with them while they do it. The problem is that you’ve presented yourself with a false dichotomy; it’s not a case of “make them stop” vs. lose your friends, it’s telling them “hey guys, I haven’t hung out with you all in forever, and I’d like to do something other than stream games.”
(We’ll pause to appreciate the irony of my writing this after having just finished watching the Mighty Nein vs. Vox Machina stream…)
Honestly, that’s the first step: let them know you want to hang out in person, and not during a stream or making your hangout part of their stream session. You can even start with proposing doing something specific — go play mini-golf, go for beers and watch the UFC match at a bar somewhere, go bowling… something that isn’t just “hang out on cam, playing a game for the livestream”. Having a specific event at a specific date and time means that spending time with them won’t just turn into another livestream session; you’re going to be out and about and — ideally — not broadcasting it with GoPros or smartphones.
Now, this may end up requiring some compromises. If they’re streaming on the regular, they may have set times when they’re live; you may have to work around their streaming schedule. Or it may be that you have to plan to get together a few days (or even weeks) in advance as you try to find a time that it works for everyone. That may not be what you want, especially if you’re used to hanging with your friends at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, the need to plan seeing friends days or weeks ahead of time is something that happens more and more often as we all get older and have increased responsibilities with work, relationships, family and so on.
However, you may also end up dealing with the fact that your friends are prioritizing streaming over hanging out. If that’s the case, then yeah, you’re going to have to use your words. But again, that doesn’t mean that you’re left with “tell them to quit streaming or else.” Laying down an ultimatum like that isn’t going to work out well. You don’t have the leverage to make them do anything. The only leverage you have is your presence in their lives… and that’s what you’re going to have to use.
What you need to do is make it clear that this is about you wanting to see your friends, not subsume your friendship into being part of their Twitch stream. Let them know that this is the first time in years when you all have been close enough to see each other regularly, that you’re not into streaming and that you don’t feel comfortable hanging out with them and a live studio audience. You don’t feel like you can actually spend quality time with them while they’re focused on being “on”, nor do you feel that you can be your authentic and unguarded self while they’re on stream. You would rather spend time with them when the point is for you all to spend time together as friends, not as part of what’s ultimately a show for other people and you don’t like the idea of mixing friendship and monetizing their hobby.
If they decide that streaming is more important to them right now than hanging out with one of their old friends… well, then they’ve made their choice. We all grow and change as people, and our interests and priorities change with us. And that, unfortunately, means that sometimes those changes include friendships coming to an end. It’s not because you or they didn’t put enough effort into making it work, it’s just because as everyone has changed, they have changed in ways that mean you and they aren’t compatible the way you were before. As a result, it may well be that you and they have outgrown your old friendship. If that’s the case, unfortunately, there’s not really anything else you can do besides mourn the end of that friendship and move on.
However, regardless, of whether you find a compromise and hang out away from the cameras and capture rigs or your friendship with them gets downgraded, I think it would be a good idea to put some effort into making new friends. Having diverse — and separate — social circles can be a good thing; you can have friendships based around different interests or activities, rather than having a small group of people who are supposed to be all things to you and vice versa. And it would also mean that your friendships aren’t going to be contingent on somebody else’s Twitch schedule.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org