The notion of “Twitch streamer-influencer” as a legitimate profession is still hard for me to get my head around. That people are paid thousands of pounds for live-streaming themselves playing video games is crazy and, frankly, frustrating to a hardworking mum like me.
And yet, while I continue to bemoan the power these content creators wield, I’m also starting to see its potential as a force for good.
Take a crisis like the Turkey-Syria earthquakes, for example. The urgency with which funds and aid need to be channeled into the region can’t be overstated, but average folk may not instantly think of donating to charity appeals. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s that it doesn’t necessarily occur to us, and maybe the whole thing feels a little bit too distant – it’s all headlines on a news feed and snatched soundbites from the radio.
But if your favourite streamer not only tells you: “Listen, this is really important” but also talks you through exactly what’s happening on the ground, the issue starts to become much more tangible.
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Hasan Piker, who frequently uses his social media plaforms for political commentary rather than gaming, instantly used the tools and networks at his disposal to launch a fundraiser for victims of Monday’s devastating tremors, which he shared with his 2.4 million Twitch, 1.4 million Twitter and 1.17 million YouTube followers – that’s a pretty broad reach.
What’s more, the Turkish-American streamer, who was born in New Jersey but raised in Istanbul, didn’t just instruct his minions to blindly donate to the cause, he spent hours going through footage and local news reports with them – using his bilingualism to translate from Turkish to English in real-time.
7.8 Earthquake Hits Turkey and Syriayoutu.be
Within 14 hours of setting up his crowdfunder, Piker had raised more than $640,000 to be shared between four charities: CARE Turkey, CARE Syria, and local NGOs AKUT and Ahbap. That’s hundreds of thousands of dollars in aid that might otherwise have stayed firmly put in people’s pockets.
Of course, others, have attempted to jump on the bandwagon and create a story for themselves by telling other high-profile streamers that the fundraiser is a scam. This isn't true and Piker has rightfully called out the false claims, saying on his own stream: “There are literally f**king people under rubble right now… they might not make it over the course of the next 24 hours," but rather than let him get on with trying to help innocent disaster victims, these "haters" have chosen to undermine his efforts.
This is a perfect example of why Twitch is far from a perfect platform and has been dogged with more than its fair share of controversies as of late. However, when clearer minds rise to the top, Twitch's vast and loyal fanbase can prove to be an invaluable tool, especially in a time of crisis.
So yes, I still struggle to grapple with the fame and personal wealth that “influencers” can earn by posting videos of themselves. But if they choose to show leadership and ensure that the influence they have is positive, more power to them, I say.
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