If you haven’t picked up “Binge” by Tyler Oakley yet (and it’s been all over the internet these days, so you couldn’t have missed it) you’re missing out on one of the best ways to wrap your head around YouTube and fandom culture – not to mention getting to know one of the weirdest and most likable people on the internet.
(Mild spoilers ahead…)
The title is both a reference to Tyler’s addictive personality and an invitation to his followers to binge on the things in life that bring them happiness. “I’ve binged plenty of times in my life, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse,” he says in the introduction. “Regardless, I indulged. This collection is the result.”
In 300 fast-paced pages, you’ll read about his birthday party horror stories, the nicknames he makes up for his friends’ assholes (“Chamber of Secrets” and “Google Hangout” are a couple favorites), that time he blacked out with rage because the Cheesecake Factory stopped making their SkinnyLicious Veggie Burger with beets, his “Ten Cummandments” for hooking up with guys, and a long, compelling list of reasons why you should never ride in a car that he’s driving.
He also opens up about coming out to people and standing up to homophobia (“So, yeah, I’m gay as fuck. Have been since birth, and the moral of the story is I love it”), his struggle with anorexia, and his sometimes-difficult relationships with his family. At the heart of the book is a moving story of falling madly in love for the first time and having his heart broken.
“Adam was such an important love of my life. To look back on our relationship as anything other than so many moments to learn from would be a disservice to ourselves. It would be a missed opportunity to grow and prepare for the next love of my life (if it’s you, well, hello!).”
There’s also a brief but powerful chapter about the physically abusive relationship that followed, which he hesitated to include – but he went ahead with it for his followers’ sake. “I wish I had read a book that told me what I shouldn’t be doing, as I was doing it. While I can’t tell you how to live your life, I can certainly suggest that you deserve love, and that love doesn’t abuse you.”
The story of his journey to YouTube stardom is also pretty eye-opening. He goes into detail about how he became One Direction’s most popular fan and interviewed them on his channel while wearing flower crowns – and then, overnight, became the target of a #WeWantTylerOakleyDead campaign because he dared to criticize Liam Payne on Twitter. He would go on to interview Michelle Obama and later the President, and was invited to the Grammys – at which he wore a $3,000 Armani suit from a stylist, and accidentally threw it into a dumpster the next day.
The last chapters deal with his struggle through 2014 to hold on to his identity as his fame really took off and YouTube conventions like VidCon became huge, overwhelming events full of screaming fans.
“If you ever find yourself more often hoping that the flights you’re on crash instead of landing safely, you’re probably not in a good place. For a good part of 2014, that’s where I was. It was the most professionally successful year of my life so far, but I completely lost myself personally. Think the lyrics of Britney Spears’s chart-topping song “Lucky”: And the world is spinning and she keeps on winning / but tell me, what happens when it stops?”
These days, Tyler’s feeling more in control of his life and finds a source of comfort in his fans, who are always there for him online with words of support.
“When it’s 2:00 a.m. and I’m feeling lonely or discouraged at home, with no friends or family to call due to time zones, I usually start replying to you guys on Twitter. Y’all are all over the world, and at any moment of the day, someone is always in my replies saying something nice, when I need it most.”