FAMOUS TO ME celebrates the notable residents of the internet: charming characters, dedicated professionals, the headstrong, the bold, our true gems. Some of our readers may be unfamiliar with these local personalities, but those of us with the good fortune of knowing them from around town know they deserve recognition for their work, warmth and integrity. If you’d like to nominate someone for this honor, please mail it in. This week’s star: Shogo Garcia, in clips.
Every technology contains infinite possibilities for use: utilitarian, accidental, frivolous, compassionate, cruel, subversive. I often think about this in the context of social media, our beloved and frightening technologies of communication. Sometimes it feels like a sick game; sometimes little pockets and discoveries feel like oases. In reality, social media contain both; the difference is in what I’m actually searching for.
My primary site is YouTube, and not only because I share my video work there. It has become my respite from other social media, my wellspring of soothing content. I come to YouTube with my anxieties and insecurities and sleeplessness, and its algorithms say here’s something that might make you feel better: ASMR, sleep hypnosis, guided meditations, compilations of “oddly satisfying” clips — like these of kinetic sand — tutorials, affirmations, self-help and wisdom from thousands of teachers and spiritual guides.
Who are these kind strangers, and how did we end up together? I call them “kind” because I think it takes compassion to do the (usually) uncompensated work of affirming, teaching, soothing.
Garcia’s content is soothing because it makes me feel I’m not alone in my desire for social interaction to feel more humanizing for everybody
But a couple months ago, YouTube’s algorithms perplexed me by recommending what appeared to be the channel of a seduction coach. His name is Shogo Garcia, and on the surface, his videos employ branding techniques used by many pick-up artists (PUAs): a handsome guy at the center of the frame, confidently dishing out wisdom and advice, each video with a title like “How to Be SUCCESSFUL With Women,” “Becoming the Man That Women Desire,” “Never Get REJECTED Again: Understand the Rules of the Game.” These titles could easily have been lifted from posts on the neomasculinity blog Return of Kings, or from any manosphere forum that promotes using “game” to ensnare women. I feel mostly rage and sadness toward the misogyny of that world, and I was disturbed that YouTube thought I would enjoy this. But then I watched one of his videos. And then another. And another.
In “How to Be SUCCESSFUL With Women,” Garcia’s hair is pulled back in his signature bun. He’s dressed in a casual button-down, hanging out in a kitchen, holding a beer bottle in one hand and gesticulating with the other. He asks, “What does it mean to be successful with women? What does it mean to be ‘good’ with women?” According to Garcia the word “success” is usually just a euphemism for valuing quantity over quality. “That entire phrase is an objectification of a person, a class of people. All you’re doing is objectifying women. Treating them as a commodity. Something to be had. Something to be gained.” Instead, he encourages thinking about the quality of dating experiences, in terms of mutual honesty and enjoyment.
Typical PUA advice is about control and is rooted in the dehumanization of everyone involved: Women are reduced to trophies, and men are told to hide their emotions behind a wall of false machismo. Garcia’s lectures, it turns out, subvert not only PUA ideology but also mainstream norms of masculinity more generally and their investment in domination. Where high school boys and neomasculinity forums alike obsess about how to scientifically rank women’s attractiveness, Garcia brings up numeric ranking systems in “How to Attract a Perfect 10” only to assert that a genuine connection means rejecting such scales entirely. This allows you to see women — and yourself — as fully human. “When you stop thinking about that scale,” he says, “when you start treating all women equally, and all men equally, and you see people for who they really are, then you’re not afraid of letting yourself out anymore.”
“Letting yourself out” is a big theme in Garcia’s coaching. In his bio, he writes, “if we are not free to express ourselves openly and honestly, it’s because somewhere along the path we’ve learned to be that way.” While the manosphere blames this problem on the “scourge of feminism,” Garcia seems instead to take his cues from it. Although he never cites any of his influences, I can’t help but hear echoes of bell hooks’s texts in his monologues. In The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love, hooks says, “learning to wear a mask (that word already embedded in the term ‘masculinity’) is the first lesson in patriarchal masculinity that a boy learns. He learns that his core feelings cannot be expressed if they do not conform to the acceptable behaviors.” Garcia points out how men build these facades to mask their feelings and insecurities in his video “Does Pickup Really Work?” and he encourages his male viewers to “identify the bricks” in their walls and “gently start taking them down.”
Although I’m not the intended audience for Garcia’s coaching, I’ve kept his videos in my web of soothing content. To me, there is something “oddly satisfying” about the way he draws in men searching for pick-up advice and then offers them an alternative to patriarchal selfhood. A testimonial on his site reads, “I’ve read A LOT of pickup and dating advice in my time, and the things we’ve been talking about are on a whole ‘nother level … Thank you my friend, for showing me the way.” It feels good to believe that he is staging an effective anti-sexist intervention in the online realm of masculinist self-help.
I do wonder about Shogo Garcia’s true intentions. After all, it’s shockingly easy to create an entire narrative about somebody based on what little information you can gather from their social media. Am I just projecting my fantasies of allyship onto this stranger’s YouTube channel? Maybe this is like an ultimate pick-up scam: speak broadly enough that your target can project whatever values she wants onto you.
All in all I think Garcia’s content is soothing to me because it makes me feel like I’m not alone in my desire for social interaction to feel more humanizing for everybody. When men have space to reflect on their own “masks” and to be in touch with their vulnerability, everybody benefits from that. And regardless of his ultimate intentions, I’m content to imagine Shogo Garcia as a kind stranger providing a form of care to those of us seeking a bit of YouTube enlightenment.