Is in a relationship with Martin Garrix
It was weird. It felt almost dirty, as if I was intruding on a stranger’s personal life. At the same time though, I’d interacted with him enough to unconsciously consider Martin Garrix someone I knew well. This is a story of the time I was in a parasocial relationship.
Like most, I’d known Dutch DJ and producer Martin Garrix since 2014 through his breakout songs Animals and Tremor. Vaguely, I remember looking at the Gold Skies EP cover art and noting that he looked especially young. That was it at the time. His over-the-top drops and high bpm didn’t suit me at the time. I’m sure my music tastes comprised of mainstream Disney exports Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato, as well as Taylor Swift at the time. My perception of house music was calming music, with a noticeable bassline made for old people relaxing on the beaches of Bali.
As a self-identified dismissive-avoidant, parasocial relationships seemed to be irrational and a waste of energy, in my opinion, if that affection, admiration, and respect is one-sided. Obviously, the object of affection may express gratitude for and reliance on their admirers on 140 character tweets, or one sentence instagram captions, but for the most part, the relationship isn’t mutual. It’s slightly off-balance and irrational. For the most part, in an environment where most all relationships are a struggle, it isn’t illogical to ponder why anyone would invest the effort in a relationship with a stranger that would be obviously unreciprocated, being that real-world relationships are difficult and time-consuming enough to manage. I prided myself on allowing logic to keep emotions and irrationally in check, so I was naturally surprised when I became fixated on Martin Garrix.
This is the story of the time I internet stalked Martin Garrix. This is also the story of the time I was in a parasocial relationship.
This is Martin Garrix. Actually, his name is Martijn Garritsen, his last name being so Dutch you’d have to pronounce it as if there was something stuck in your throat. It isn’t hard to see how he became a popular poster-child of the electro-house scene. Garrix is ripe for commercialization and entering the mainstream music scene. In the relatively “bro”-dominated scene, this relatively clean-cut Dutch DJ with striking blue eyes, boyish looks, perfectly-shaped eyebrows, pronounced cheek bones, a humble personality and a deep fondness for pizza has legions of fangirls fawning over him over the strange corners of Tumblr.
Stereotypically, my personality and demeanour wouldn’t suggest stereotypical traits of EDM listeners. And the whole genre of dance music is associated with a lot of things I’m not. Dancing is not my forté (my Grandma tried to implement biweekly dancing classes early on, bless her), my colleagues would describe me as chill, sarcastic, and quiet and not extroverted, energetic, or in tune with popular culture. Perhaps I’d be one of the last people you’d catch in a club or rave. That whole vulgarity of partying, the YOLO mindset, association with alcohol and hard drugs, superficiality of Vegas, I shudder to associate myself with. It still makes me quite uncomfortable that the music I play would make my colleagues associate me with those acts. And it’s important to note that debauchery isn’t the underlying message of EDM or House, nor should it be a label. I’ll admit to at first being shy to play tropical house, let alone the heavier electro-house sounds aloud at work because to outsiders, DJs / producers are associated with drugs and raving, and dammit, I wanted to look clean-cut.
My sheer amazement of Garrix had me dive deep and fast into the “Garrixer” world. Quite quickly, Garrix’s 2016 Ultra Miami and 2015 Sziget Festival sets replaced the long-standing tradition of listening to British-accented political science lectures on the way to and form work. At my workplace, I found the courage to switch off the ever-present brain-cell-killing Vancouver Virgin Radio 94.5 FM obnoxiously humming mainstream tunes throughout the office on the damaged three-year-old alarm clock (solely purposed for streaming radio) that had taken too many falls. Opting instead to risk my battery life, and the life of my iPhone in-house speaker to blast the build-ups, drops, and melodies of Garrix and friends.
I endured quite some comments from my colleagues, one strangely noting that Garrix’s music sounded like the music models would walk to at the runway. I disagreed, smiling to myself whilst doing so. One began singing the lyrics of Together, whilst another learned the words of ZHU’s Hometown Girl, impressing me with their acceptance of my music, but unfortunately, not with their vocals (joking). I had spoken to a few of my colleagues off and on about Garrix, and much to my glee, and not to my surprise, not one of my coworkers had heard of him.
I’m no hipster, but I do relish the curious and (more often than not) blank stares my colleagues give me when I speak of the literature and ideology of Thomas Paine, income inequality’s Gini coefficient, and American politics. I too enjoy giving blank stares and raised eyebrows when my peers “update” me with the relationship statuses of Leonardo DiCaprio, Taylor Swift, or new gossip on Brangelina and the like. Muttering, “oh”, and “I didn’t know that” had somewhat become a statement of empowerment, of smirks that say, “I don’t have the heart to care about a stranger I don’t know.” Yet, here I was, in a parasocial relationship admiring Martin Garrix, and I was so very transfixed.
For two short weeks, I became a simple human. When I saw the words ‘Martin Garrix’ on YouTube, I’d click. From that idiotic baseline, I’d watched countless of hours of useless content that satiated me until the next video. It was Martin Garrix music videos, Martin Garrix Tomorrowland set, Martin Garrix eating spicy chicken wings, Martin Garrix house tour, and Martin Garrix funny moments. One of the nadirs was a nonsensical vlog where a famous woman I’d never heard of got backstage passes to Garrix’s ADE (Amsterdam Dance Event) set, and ate pizza, juggled in the hallways, danced in the bathroom, played with balloons, and did everything but enjoy Garrix’s hyped up ADE set. There was an awkward performance on BBC Radio 1 where Garrix performed an acoustic version of In the Name of Love with vocalist Bebe Rexha. The fan inside me was disappointed the camera panned to Rexha far more times than Garrix playing his air guitar, and the interviewer too seemed to be focused on mainstream-familiar Rexha rather than Garrix. A less-cringe-worthy two year old Beatport interview stars both Garrix and peer Dillon Francis joking around. It includes Francis jokingly berating Garrix for “ruining his date” and Garrix complaining Francis didn’t eat the steak when the two had dinner with Garrix’s parents. It is these casual interviews, interjected with friendly rebukes and giggling, that eases audiences into one-sided familiarity.
Social media, particularly YouTube and Snapchat, gives Garrix heightened exposure, and allows parasocial relationships like mine to thrive. In two short weeks I’d learned all the drops, all the melodies, all the lyrics to his officially released songs. His Snapchat stories made it seem like he was talking directly to me, the camera, making impersonal, personal. Sometimes they were exciting, some were videos of festival crowds dancing and screaming during his sets, but most was unnoteworthy content, but that content was okay too. Because it is that content, of Garrix videoing his pizza, zooming in uncomfortably close to his team’s faces, making silly faces with Snapchat filters, that made me feel that I knew him well enough for him to involve me in some mundane part of his life. It felt like we had hung out for those couple minutes. From these compiled videos on YouTube, I’d gained the ability to recognize his producer and DJ friends from the ‘gods’ Tiesto and Hardwell to upcoming producer Jay Hardway and the baby face of Justin Mylo. I’d watched hours of compilations of his Snapchat stories on YouTube. I’d been introduced to his PR manager, tour manager, and tour photographer and I catalogued their names, because somehow, that information was important to me. Looking back, it was insane how much time I vested in getting to know this stranger, who’d I’d never meet in real life.
Along this journey, I started cataloguing a list of why I was so fascinated with him so much, because it was the first time I had felt such feelings. His music was more often than not the main reason of my respect. As was him being so young, just over a year older than I, and being so successful. I want to believe in young people, I believe in young people. We are the best educated generation in history (even if Martijn didn’t finish Dutch high school, skipping instead to vocational school). We are the most technologically advance, most likely to believe in climate change, in equal work for equal pay, and more likely to live with our parents due to a tightening job market and bleak economic prospects. And I’m insanely proud to be a young person. If you take away the music, and look at the makers and the audience, EDM is essentially young people making music for young people, and I think that’s super special.
Garrix is the epitome of success as a young person. He’s a cool 20 years old, and according to an uncited 2016 The Gazette Review article, is worth a cool $25 million, and travels the globe for work, sometimes on a private jet. His work takes him from Amsterdam to Seattle to Mumbai to Cape Town, allowing him to make casual mentions of cities and photographs of monuments on Instagram. He recently secured the top stop for DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs, a controversial and opaque rank that supposedly influences booking fees, becoming the youngest person to top their chart, and perhaps worth more than $25 million now.
Despite probably having millions in the bank, Garrix seems to remain humble and appreciative of his fans. I found a tumblr page filled with dozens of testaments of people who had met Garrix in person, most complimenting his personality and mentioning he’d say “thank you”, or “I love you” to them. In a multitude of interviews, Garrix describes his experiences at festivals or countries or meeting famous people as cool, unreal, or if in Dutch, leuk, which translates roughly to nice. Although his flat in Amsterdam must be worth more than a modest amount of euros, Garrix’s overwhelming wealth doesn’t tend to show in his fashion. Most often than not, he tends to wear plain clothing, most likely a black t-shirt and jeans. He admits to wearing nice sneakers during performances, and wearing hotel slippers outside of hotels. Recently on Twitter, he scorned Delta Airlines (of course, it was Delta) for bad service, captioned a photo “Wasssssuuuup Seattle!! :)”, and individually credited Dutch artists for creating his cover art of his recent singles. In a 1987 study by Rubin & Perse, they found viewers were more likely to form parasocial relationships with personas they found similar and real, and it’s obvious Garrix does an excellent job of portraying his normalcy, a trait I’d learned to admire of his.
The thought of having a parasocial relationship is still so new and so fascinating to me. Any relationship is an unconscious thought of cost and reward, where pleasure is desirable and pain is avoided. Far from being irrational, parasocial relationships with personalities seem to have high rewards and low costs, where rewards refer to happiness derived from content with the persona, and costs referring to embarrassment, depression, or anxiety. It’s incredibly easy to now understand why our culture and society is so interested in the lives celebrities and the famous. It’s been about four weeks since I’ve started my parasocial relationship with Martin Garrix, and I’m still fascinated with him, with his music, his youth, and his success. Watching compilations of his Snapchat stories now feels more personal and less intrusive, and I no longer think about how weird it is to watch a stranger and feel like I know them quite well. I’d probably never meet Martijn Garritsen, but that’s okay, the imaginary, but very real version of Martijn I’ve seen and built up will do for now.