Christmas day, 2013. I stood on the top of my flowery patterned bed, face to face with a white signature. I lightly ran my finger across it, mesmerized, a wide grin spreading across my face. I thought of how my idol had touched this very poster, and how it now hung on my bedroom wall.
It was my freshman year of high school, and I loved drawing with Copic markers, posting art on DeviantART, and watching YouTube. There was one YouTuber that I easily loved above them all, for his charming attitude and hilarity. I watched in awe as he looked into the camera and said ?I love you? to his audience, feeling as if it was meant for me. I dreamed and even prayed for the chance to meet him. The name Toby Turner was embedded in my art, my heart, and even my passwords.
My obsession with Toby started around 6th grade, when the door to YouTube was finally opened with my parents? permission. I soon discovered Toby?s channel, named Tobuscus, and fell in love with his cartoons, movie trailer parodies, critiques of viral videos, vlogs, gaming videos, and his overall personality. Toby was the outgoing, funny person I wanted to be. He had no filter, had a love for dogs, and was generally the perfect person for a child to adore. I felt no reason to restrict myself from becoming obsessed with his YouTube channels. Though I didn?t have any friends who followed him, my siblings and I bonded over his videos. Online, I vehemently defended him from anyone who dared say something negative about him. When I joined Twitter, I replied to every tweet of his, dearly wishing for a reply. Offline, I wore my bright blue oversized Tobuscus sweatshirt proudly to school, and everywhere else.
I never once saw my obsession as unhealthy. Instead, I saw him as an inspiration and dreamed of telling him so.
Over time, my daily routine of watching his new daily vlogs vanished. I still followed his channels and Twitter, and watched as he developed a video game, but I knew I was no longer an active subscriber. However, I still had a large place in my heart for the man who gave me so much entertainment in middle school and the beginning of high school. I was excited to visit Vidcon in the summer of 2016, and meeting him was my biggest plan.
Side note: Toby never did respond or like any of my tweets, which broke my heart as a child and young teenager. He didn?t make much of an effort to connect with his fans, which is why I tried so desperately to get him to notice me. I think that in part this is why I stuck with him for so long.
Fast forward to April 8, 2016. It?s the morning of my ACT test. ?This is too early to wake up for a weekend,? I complained to my dad. As I nibbled on a strawberry Pop Tart, I scrolled lazily through Twitter. Suddenly I ran across one tweet that stood out. Toby Turner? assault allegations? Suddenly I felt my face flush and heart beat faster. My mind whirled with confusion and sadness. As fast as I could, I looked up information about the allegations. I started to tear up and my dad noticed. When I explained what I had read, he told me to stop reading until the test was over so that I would not be distracted. I was afraid but I agreed.
We drove to the ACT and all I could talk about was what I had read so far. My dad insisted that I try my best to forget about it during the test so that it would not affect my score. I arrived at the school and took the test. Luckily, I temporarily forgot while in intense concentration, and did fine on the test. However, I did fear the end of the test when I would finish reading the allegations. When it was finally over and we drove home, I opened up the blog post by April Fletcher titled ?The truth about Tobuscus.? I was terrified. I scanned through the post and then reread it slowly. I cried. I read about rape, drugs, abuse, and horrific details about Toby from his ex-girlfriend. It was one of the worst feelings in my life. I would compare it to telling a child that Santa Claus had just brutally murdered someone.
The entire week after this incident I spent reading other posts and watching videos of other YouTubers responding to the allegations. I slowly felt worse and worse. Toby?s other exes voiced support for Fletcher, saying that they were not surprised Toby would do such terrible things. Other YouTubers talked about instances where Toby behaved inappropriately at parties and get-togethers. Some simply speculated and picked sides. I wanted to know as much as I could about the allegations to decide whether or not they were true.
On the 11th, Toby responded with a video denying the rape accusation. For the first time in my life, I looked into his face with fear and disgust.
To this day, Philip DeFranco?s video is the one I find most trustworthy. He didn?t automatically assume that Fletcher was telling the truth, as YouTubers such as Laci Green did. Instead, he explored his own personal relationship with Toby and how he would act inappropriately on occasion. He considered each of Fletcher?s points and which were likely to be true, and which were possibly exaggerated. DeFranco concluded by saying while the rape accusation was unconfirmed, Toby definitely emotionally abused his girlfriends. With that in mind, I knew that I could no longer follow his content.
Over time, I healed. I tore down the signed poster on my wall. I replaced my bright blue sweatshirt screaming TOBUSCUS in block letters with a sweatshirt decorated with a Steven Universe character. I changed my passwords and learned more songs on the keyboard than Toby?s ?Dramatic Song?.
My emotional growth was painfully slow. Suddenly, someone had sliced one of my relationships in half. Over the next year, I patched together my trust in others and trust in Internet personalities. The first few months after the allegations came out created a huge lack of trust in others for me. I was especially wary of men, and there was a horrible little voice in my brain telling me that men I knew had secrets like the ones Toby had. Whenever I encountered Toby?s material online, I wanted to throw up and clicked away. I erased his phrases and songs from my daily talk, occasionally slipping and humming a tune from years before. I hated having to tell people what happened when they asked me about how he was doing. When I came across an old DeviantART journal or art piece from middle school, I looked back with sadness instead of joy. It was hard having something that was such a big part of my life go away in an instant. I would assume that fans of Bill Cosby felt a similar type of pain.
When the Nick Robinson allegations came out recently, it opened up old wounds. I recalled how I felt betrayed by someone I thought was on my side, and sympathized with Robinson and Polygon?s other fans. I read tweets by @electrapng that read as follows:
?Healthy reminder to people that enjoyed Nick Robinson?s content: you aren?t guilty of anything. None of us knew, we aren?t complicit in any of the shit he did. We all loved Car Boys dearly and we can learn to separate that love from him. We didn?t do anything wrong.?
This tweet explains my current opinion perfectly. As I read this tweet, I realized how helpful something like this would have been last year. Instead, Twitter was full of people spewing hate at Tobuscus fans. Over and over, I read tweets saying ?I knew that Toby Turner wasn?t a good person. I just knew it.? Today, I know that those people couldn?t have known that without meeting him. He had a faade, an online personality, that was separate from the way he treated others around him. Looking back, there were a few things he did that weren?t alright. He constantly interrupted people when they spoke. He went up to women at gaming conventions and Comic Con, calling them hot in front of many others. However, I do believe that his fans had absolutely no fault in sticking with him, and I am sad that I felt such sickening guilt last year.
I also am, in a way, angry at April Fletcher herself. Instead of going to the police to file an official report, she publicly accused her ex of many things in a sudden burst of drama. She shot at people who asked for evidence. I see this happening with Robinson as well; however, asking for evidence in a gentle and nonthreatening way is not and should never be a bad thing to do. While extremely rare, false assault claims DO EXIST and a person?s life should not be ruined by false claims because of automatic assumptions regarding the victim?s message.
A year later, I have finally realized that I don?t have to look back on my obsession in a painful way. Toby did influence parts of my life in a positive way. He made me happy and taught me how to have an outgoing and funny side to my personality. When his name comes up, I feel a mix of reminiscent happiness and pain, which is okay. I no longer want to erase those happy feelings from my mind. I have found new YouTubers to follow and love, though I think from now on there is a definite limit I have set up to the amount I adore them; having this control makes me feel that I will prevent that moment in my life from happening again. I began to love Mark Fischbach?s content, for example; he is also known as Markiplier. I met him instead of Toby at Vidcon. (Toby was also banned from attending due to the allegations, which was a huge relief to me.) However, I keep it in mind that I do not know Mark personally and never will, and therefore he has things wrong with his life and personality that his audience will never know about. It?s a scary thought, but one that is essential for a healthy relationship with online creators.
Sometimes I partially blame myself for falling in love with Toby and his channel in the first place. However, I know I will not make this obsessive mistake again. I have an element of suspicion about people that I will keep for the rest of my life.
I wish that it didn?t turn out this way. I wish that now, as an adult, I could share his old videos with my 7 year old cousin and show her how much they meant to me. I wish that I could follow people on the internet without having intrusive thoughts about the possibility that they hurt other people. However, there is nothing that I can do to change the past.
In my junior year of high school, while speaking to a school therapist, she asked me what I would tell Toby if I could speak to him then. If I could speak to Toby today, I would tell him that his actions ruined what could have been a lifetime inspiration for me. I would describe the extent to which he influenced my life in both positive and negative ways. And lastly, since he has never received legal justice for anything he did, I would tell him that I hope he is actively trying to change. I hope he is today a better person than the man who denied all accusations while his mother spewed hate towards the victim on Facebook. I hope that he can accept that in some ways, he was in the wrong and he could have done things differently.
Toby, I know that you had some good in you. Long ago, I watched an interview where you cried, talking about how your mother, sick with lung cancer, bought you your first video camera. When you began to make money on YouTube, you were able to help support her. I know that you still have this side to you. Don?t be someone your mother wouldn?t be proud of when she knew the truth.
Signed, the 18 year old girl who once, years ago, proudly owned a poster with your signature.