On March 1 this year, I created a new Facebook page for my sporadic slice-of-life comics, Real Life Reg. Little did I know the page would explode less than 15 days later.
The Community Quarantine due to COVID-19 had just been announced in Metro Manila (March 12) and the doom and gloom on my Facebook feed was palpable (if only we knew what was yet to come, haha). The (then) 30-day lockdown wasn’t a problem for Super Duper Introverted, work-from-home, anti-social me, but it clearly was for others who suddenly don’t know what to do with themselves being in quarantine. Thinking about the things happening, I hopped in the shower before lunch and it was there that an idea for a series of funny “quarantine tips” formed in my thoughts as I was shampooing my hair.
As soon as I finished showering, I hurriedly scribbled down my “shower thoughts” before I lose them. Then I plowed through and tried to finish drawing all the visuals in one sitting before I lose my mojo. I know from enough experience that if I don’t, I will lose my motivation/energy, set aside the project, and abandon it forever. FOREVER.
I finished the drawings in 3 hours (obvs I didn’t care about putting effort on how it looked; I just wanted to get the idea out) then I waited until later that night to post them on my new FB page.
The next day, I woke up to 5,000 shares on the post on Facebook. Cool– but no big deal, I thought. But it just kept going. Then Coconuts Manila got in touch for an interview. Then Manila Bulletin put in a request to publish the drawings. My FB notifs were blowing up and starting to give me anxiety. I had to practice social distancing from my phone for a while as I was stressing out about what was happening online– more than I should be stressing out about the pandemic haha. What have I done?!
The Real Life Reg Facebook page– which I had created partly as a side project and a dumping ground for my comics while I kick around half-formed plans for it– all of a sudden went from 140 likes (people I knew in real life) to 6,000+ strangers. I had initial plans for the page but they were for far off into the future. Not NOW. But the universe had other ideas.
This isn’t my first brush with “virality.” Some of my Tiktoks have gone mildly viral (less than 3 million views– that’s considered mild on Tiktok), giving me a decent audience. My travel journals have made the rounds in some travel-related FB groups. But those were different– it was my art going viral. This, on the other hand, is REAL LIFE Reg. I had posts on the page featuring actual lines from my journal and actual things that happened to me, presented in comics form. That’s my life– the parts I chose to expose on the Internet– suddenly thrust under the spotlight. So I was legit anxious when the page blew up.
I was worrying about the direction and tone of my page, its effects on people I knew in real life, inevitable haters and bashers and angry people, potential breaches of my personal boundaries and privacy, hangers-on and those who want to take advantage, people offering their misguided advice and unsolicited opinions………….. you get the point.
One of my main concerns was the page audience. I had preferred to grow my audience organically and authentically– the slow way. The viral aspect threw all that out the window. All of a sudden I had an audience I didn’t know what to do with and my audience didn’t know me either. But I guess I’m starting to get to know them (as they do with me, I suppose) with every post I publish.
One of my challenges also with the page suddenly having an audience before I’ve been able to establish what’s it for is all of a sudden, it’s easy to be swayed to do this or that, to post this or that, to “perform.” I was tempted to make comics to ride on negative viral things (a socialite’s out-of-touch ranting, for one) and political mudslinging. I had to remind myself of the page’s ultimate purpose (those things prior were just a distraction and would contradict the goals I had for the page) and to stay TRUE to myself and what comes naturally to me (but filtered. A lot of what I think and say in real life should NOTTTT NOOOOT be broadcast all over the Internet hihi). And I think the reason why my community quarantine comic and the page itself attracted a following was because I was “shooting from the hip”– not overthinking anything– and just being genuine (candid, weird jokes and all).
I also recognized God’s hand in all this. I had intended Real Life Reg to be a stepping stone for one of my future plans/dreams– something that I had on my vision board. Something that would use my God-given talents but would make me uncomfortable and would expose my vulnerabilities (eek!). It was a dream so big that I cannot do it on my own and would need other people’s help for it to materialize (that’s how you know it’s from God– you will need other people). With the sudden audience on the page, I felt God had given me a big leg up towards that dream.
It’s also worth noting how my online stuff started going viral after He had me go on a 2-month social media fast late last year— I knew He was getting my heart right before He moved in my social media:
“I realized perhaps it was the Lord leading me to prayer and fasting– not only to break my pattern of addiction, but for spiritual reasons, too. I know He’s going to do something with my social media platforms (my Mama Mary painting video on TikTok going viral was just a start)– for His purposes– and I had to make sure my heart is right, my intentions are clean, and my plans for my social media accounts (and this blog!) are aligned with His, for me to be able to handle this responsibility well.” -from this post
Eventually I learned to relax and quit stressing about the future of the page/comic and what isn’t here yet. God has always been so good to grace me with His guidance step by step anyway– just enough of what I need for the moment. I’ll just take things as they come as I know they come with His protection, inspiration, wisdom, grace. The page/comic is ultimately for Him anyway, for His purposes (I’m just intentionally skewing a bit more secular for now). He’ll be the one to guide me along in this journey and I’m looking forward to see where it’ll take me (and you, too) 🙂
Follow my Real Life Reg page on Facebook: