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It’s Just My TV, Me, and My Three Best Friends: A Micro Community Retrospective

When you tweet at a celeb, it’s amazing when they tweet back. When you post something on Instagram, it’s amazing when someone you admire likes or comments on it. When you chat in a big streamer’s Twitch chat, it’s always a pleasure when they read out your comment or respond to your question. Getting recognized is a feeling we all enjoy, and there’s something comforting about being in a community that encourages memeing and asking questions to your favorite streamer. Then there are the communities of lesser-known streamers, the ones with enough subscribers to just barely qualify for chat coins, averaging 2 to 3 viewers a stream. For people in those chats, for those micro communities, there is truly an experience to be had.

Now, while I’d like to single out specific streamers, there are two major reasons I’m not going to. 

1) There are many streamers who have these micro communities and low viewer count, and while posting their handles here might get them more viewers, it might also be somewhat embarrassing to them that they’re featured in an article about people with little to no viewership.

2) For streamers that thrive on these micro communities, such as those who are mainly Youtubers and only stream on Twitch occasionally since it’s not their main source of revenue, releasing them to the world could potentially bring in more people, which would remove those streamers’ micro communities from existence.

So why are these communities important? What’s it like to be a part of those streams? And why am I asking a bunch of rhetorical questions I will obviously answer in my own article?

I’m lucky enough to be a part of some of these communities, whether it’s my friends who just stream on Twitch for fun or some lesser-known streamers that established a brand on talking with their small chat during their games. No disrespect to those who have made it and have too many chat comments to possibly meaningfully engage with, but it’s worth noting that that’s just not everyone’s goal.

There are three main types of communities: IRL, Virtual, and Combination.

For streams of my friends, obviously I have some bias. Some of these people I talk to daily and some are those I’m not regularly in touch with, but still get to see the once-or-twice a month they stream their favorite game. It’s enjoyable, it’s fun, and it brings joy to my heart to see people I care about fully enjoying themselves, interacting with me and maybe 2 others who are there to show their support. This is one type of micro community, built by IRL friends.

Then there are the virtual micro communities which operate solely online. These feature streamers play very niche games only a handful of people enjoy or create very specific styles of fan art. Maybe they play a very particular style of music less than 100 people listen to. The people who watch these streams may be friends with the streamer, but many communities with specific interests form on the internet, with plenty of forums and chats discussing their common ground. Since these communities were founded online, the people who are part of them mostly interact through that medium. There probably are IRL meetups from time to time, but with a Twitch community spanning across the globe, those can be difficult.

The third type of micro community is a combination, which is exactly what it sounds like: a mixture of the other two communities. Sure, the virtual micro communities can also be a combination, but there are clear distinctions between this type and primarily-virtual communities. For starters, there are plenty of people within these communities that are IRL friends of the streamer who may have met way before Twitch was even around who are there solely for support. Then comes the people who like them because they’ve seen them on Youtube, or were featured in another stream, or have a friend who is a friend. There are plenty of reasons, but the end product is a mixture. 

These communities are in their own category because of how varied they can be. Many times, the streamer won’t just game, they might also do art or music. These streams feature IRL friends chatting with them and telling stories for viewers to watch while also interacting intimately with chat questions. These little hidden gems are amazing to find because you feel like you’ve both formed bonds with people you may never meet and can also see a glimpse into a streamer’s life outside of whatever niche they may be streaming.

Sure, many of these communities come and go as people stop joining in or when the streamers become mainstream and gather a larger following. Good for them! But for those micro communities still out there and for those I’m proud to be a part of, thank you for providing these spaces.

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