No, that’s not exactly true—I dislike memoirs. Maybe it’s leftover annoyance over every creative writing class I’ve taken, but the genre has never warmed the cockles of my cold, cold heart. I’m just not the type to get inspired by “this abnormal happenstance happened to me, but this really generalized lesson is still applicable to you!” since, no, those lessons are generally not applicable to anyone outside of that situation. Maybe, again, it’s a curse of normalcy. And really, I didn’t expect much better after picking up Felicia Day’s recently released memoir You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost), but something spoke to me in that Barnes & Noble, or maybe (there’s a lot of uncertainty here) I just opened up—in my own abnormal happenstance—to the one page that would guarantee the book’s purchase.
I’ll be honest: I don’t exactly know how to go about reviewing a memoir. It’s not like I can really go about judging representation in their own lives, or say “wow, that was totally unrealistic” because, obviously, it happened. For real. Not to mention that, personally, judging it as either “good” or “bad” seems like judging someone’s entire life, which no one has the right to do (unless they’re objectively bad in the “serial murderer leading a death cult” kind of way). The one conclusion I can come to, though, is that after everything’s said and done, it feels like Day is still trying to navigate through life, and while not always good, there’s something relatable and comforting about that.
You’re Never Weird on the Internet takes readers through Day’s unconventional upbringing as a homeschooler, to violin/math college genius at sixteen, to part time struggling actor and full time WoW addict in a way that makes the reader feel as though they’re somehow having a chat over coffee, or talking over Skype. (And now I’m pretty sure I’ve copied one of the comments on the back cover.) If you’re someone out of the loop with gaming culture or nerd culture in general, luckily lots of people around Day are also not-so-geeky, so terms and concepts are easily explained. She understands the plight of the less nerdy, and realizes that honestly, some of these terms are just not accessible to a wider audience. On the whole, however, the book doesn’t rely on geek terms, which is nice if you just want to read an informal memoir without getting lost.
Reading through, I kept thinking over and over again, “holy shit, is she me?” which was a strange thing to feel, especially since it was mostly over the more unfortunate things. Day speaks about how during the turbulent time in her life when she was seeking acting jobs, she became addicted to World of Warcraft, and her life began revolving around doing raids and collecting items for said raids. Additionally, her obsessive personality leads not only to this situation, but to situations where she couldn’t fathom getting a B in college because she was a 4.0 student. All this boils down to wisdom like “do things for you, instead of others” or “you should absolutely fail in life sometimes”. Not that I’m saying that the lessons resonated with me any better now presented through a “geeky” lens, but I too remember the time where I was spending hours upon hours on mobile games because I felt like it was just something I should do, and that people would be impressed if my account was a super high level, rather than thinking about if it was something I actually wanted. And not that I’m saying I’m any better off now than I was, but it’s comforting to read the accounts of someone who went through the same thing – especially as it concerns the creative process. Seeing Day’s struggle with writing the first season of The Guild brought me some peace. I, too, have a creative drive like molasses that occasionally and randomly warms up enough to bang out a big chunk of progress, but most of the time is stagnant in “wow I should be doing this” land. Day’s advice of finding a support group, making goals and limiting distractions, and literally scaring yourself into doing things (confront your own mortality, damn it!) wind up sounding more applicable than a motivational poster you look at and then promptly ignore. Somehow, I trust her more than the cat who tells me to “hang in there”.
The part I was most looking forward to, and what prompted me to buy the book in the first place, was her experiences with the Gamergaters. Having been doxxed more than once, Day speaks not only on how shitty these people are, but her own regrets about not speaking out against them earlier. It’s hard, and it never gets easier to speak out against abusers when you yourself are an easy target. While I definitely do get anxious at even bringing it up, the potential backlash that could come is nothing compared to what could happen to women who actually have a stronger voice in the geek community. I mean, we’ve already seen it with Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian. It just felt… good to see said Gamergaters being called out for being the fucking terrible people they are, in no uncertain terms with no concern for neutral language. What can I say? I’m vindictive. Yet while I wanted to feel like “hell yeah, nerdy girls should stick together!”, I felt like that didn’t… exactly mesh with the rest of what Day had written earlier. For being such a prominent figure in the geek community, the book was peppered with comments like “It’s strange to remember that I was so vaginal at a certain point”, that seemed to be separating her from “other girls”. It seems to me like there’s still some internal sexism there that she’s trying to work through (at least I hope so); it’s not an easy thing to completely get rid of, and I can’t say I’m completely surprised that it was brought up so often. Disappointed, maybe, but not surprised.
Almost counter-intuitively, You’re Never Weird on the Internet is a rallying cry for everyone to embrace their inner weirdness and find some way to succeed with it, whether professionally or personally. Day proudly states that she never would have made it to where she is today, writer of a successful web series and creator of the popular geeky network Geek & Sundry, without that weirdness fueling her in every conceivable way. What kept me interested in Day’s memoir was that she ended up reminding me of one of my favorite authors and memoir superstar (in my eyes), Augusten Burroughs. More than a direct story of his life, his books have overarching themes that are represented through different points of time in his life—and well, he’s just witty and great. Day’s book was the same. While it was written chronologically, the stories were picked to fit the theme of weirdness, and not to fulfill some Eat, Pray, Love story of bettering yourself over time. Some of it was uncomfortable—probably for both author and reader—but that’s life. We continue to suffer, we continue to grow, we continue to learn and fail, but through this we should never lose sight of what makes us special or what we love, even if other people don’t understand it. Day’s growth isn’t finished—I think she would probably be disappointed if it was—and neither is any of ours. Would I recommend her story? I mean, sure, it’s a worthwhile read and enjoyable. But more than that I would recommend watching what she’s created. (Which…. I guess also includes the book. Whoops.) You can check out The Guild here, and Geek & Sundry here!