Shane Dawson has exhaustively documented his life on social media for the past eight years—but even he managed to hang onto a few secrets. By contemporary standards, the 26-year-old comedian is a megastar. Millions of fans watch his every move on YouTube, where his channel veers from full-on comedy sketches to the occasional more personal vlog.
And while you think you may know him, even Dawson finds himself tired out by the specter of keeping up his online persona. Just check the name of his new memoir, I Hate My Selfie. Told in his signature no-holds-barred, no-feelings-spared style, he traces both the early, ugly memories that motivated him, as well as the social media fatigue that plagues him today.
“You look at your Instagram and all the pictures you took that day of you trying to look attractive and ugh, it just makes you wanna die,” he told Fusion’s Alicia Menendez. “Trying too hard, trying really hard to not look like you’re trying hard, like being on the toilet and trying to look cute at the same time while you’ve just released your bowels.”
I Hate My Selfie peels back that veneer a bit, holding up an especially close lens to Dawson’s painful high school years. Overweight and tormented by bullies, he locked away all kinds of unpleasant memories that he’s only just now revealed in the book.
“I would tell high school Shane to just start writing down everything that was happening,” he says. “It was so hard to think back to all those terrible moments. They all started clustering together into one big terrible moment.”
Those revelations of vulnerability might surprise some who have criticized Dawson for some of his fictional characters and jokes. While old Dawson might have previously laughed that all off, these days, he takes it more seriously—to a point.
“First of all, being a comedian, it’s hard. People hear ‘YouTuber’ and they automatically think, ‘a social warrior’ and you have to stand up for all these things,” he says. “I’ve made a lot of crazy comedy videos and said a lot of crazy things. If it’s too offensive I apologize and move on, but I do comedy.”
“I’m 26 now, and when I started, there weren’t that many people watching,” he continues. “Now I put up something and I have to think, “Oh, there are millions of people watching and some of them could be affected by the jokes I make.”
Don’t expect him to treat anyone with kid gloves in I Hate My Selfie, though. “I didn’t want to censor myself in the book so it’s all in there,” he says. “Prepare to be offended!”