A woman's long battle with meth addiction and documenting her descent into madness.
One day while browsing a certain image-board, I came across a thread asking for niche or odd Youtubers to watch. There weren’t many interesting channels posted, but I found one in the replies to be pretty compelling. When I open her channel, I start going through a few of the videos she’s posted. Which is a lot. It appears that this woman is vlogging her entire life, yet leaving the viewers knowing not much at all despite how often she posts. My initial reaction was consternation, but I kept watching regardless, and as I skimmed through each very confusing and chaotic video, I gained a sense of concern and worry, as well as disturbed at the fact that I knew I wasn’t the only one watching. Just to give you a bit of perspective, Ashley’s life appears to have been somewhat “normal” 12 years prior to today. She has been, over time, documenting her life… and I’m not even sure if she is conscious of that fact. I’m not even sure how conscious she is at all, actually. Ashley’s life seemed to have turned upside down due to a meth addiction, and as her videos continued, her state got worse, and although I am no professional, I would say she has been in a drug-induced psychotic state for a long time. I have maybe heard her speak comprehensibly for about 30 seconds in total, and then she just starts back into what others would describe as “drug-induced schizo babble.”
Without speaking to Ashley herself, or even a close family member, we can only speculate what is truth. According to viewers who have been watching Ashley since the ‘beginning’ of her spiral into addiction and homelessness, her opiate addiction really kicked off after a car crash she had been in that supposedly gave her brain damage. During my research into Ashley’s past, I had heard of a car crash being mentioned a few times, as well as I had actually got into contact with her previous lawyer of a 2008 case on child endangerment (she lost custody of her children, and her ex-husband had been in jail for a few years as a result). Supposedly she ‘self medicates’ chronic pain with opiates, or whatever she can find-- mainly meth. When I was talking to her lawyer, he seemed really sleazy, and gossipy about her past activities. He also mentioned he used to ‘party’ with her. Whatever that meant. If you comb through Ashley’s thousands of videos and pay attention to her ramblings, she will often mention names, and people of her past. His name had been mentioned a few times too. Where are her children now? They are seemingly doing alright- the oldest one is around 21, I believe, and it looked like he’d made some of the same mistakes Ashley had at a young age in having a child too early, and with the wrong person. I know she has a daughter but I do not know where she is or if she’s even alive. I also spoke to her grandmother, who seemed nice, but again, unable to properly help Ashley.
For lack of a better word, the ‘community’ in which Ashley had accumulated over her various channels and videos is quite significant. There are viewers who have been there from the beginning, still watching years later, and keeping themselves up-to-date on her wellbeing, or rather, slow descent into death. Some of the viewers know quite a lot about her life, indicating that they have done their own research perhaps, or are people that she knows in real life. There are also some viewers that I know do a live watching of her channel, as well as other people like Ashley, and it is somewhat of a ‘podcast show’ where they have their own set of viewers. This sort of falls under the category of lolcow viewing. The best way to describe what a lolcow is to those who aren’t aware is, “LOL + cow, suggesting somebody who can be "milked" for laughs. A person whose eccentric or foolish behaviour can be exploited to amuse onlookers. (x)” The whole lolcow phenomena is enough to have its own essay, but what I have noticed between well-known lolcows, and Ashley, is that Ashley doesn’t interact with her viewers, and doesn’t actually take any bait in the comments— and who knows if she even sees them. Ashley’s viewers for the most part tend to be concerned for her wellbeing, rather than watching her for laughs and entertainment purposes. Instead she inspires a bigger conversation, one that explores the possible benefits and consequences of one’s life being archived online for all to see. In the comfort of our own home, we watch people like Ashley struggle with addiction, homelessness, loss of children, family, sanity, and more. We may be able to relate to some of these struggles, we might not, but we are still seeing into the lives that everyone else merely passes by as they walk down the street to their 9-5 jobs, avoiding eye contact because they don’t want to be asked for spare change, or to be interacted with at all. Some look away because they are afraid, maybe cross the street while they’re at it, and some look away because it is too painful, and they would rather live in ignorance in order to feel better.