Features

Long form deep dives into niche internet communities

How TikTok heartthrob William White's thirsty fandom turned toxic

When he shot to fame last summer, TikTok influencer William White, now 22, was treated with bemusement by the media. After all, this was a handsome young guy who’d cultivated a huge fandom of mostly Gen X women by winking, smiling, dancing, and occasionally lip-syncing to a soundtrack of ’70s and ’80s tunes. “Cougar bait: TikTok male model with thirst traps to ’80s songs a hit for middle-aged moms” read one headline. White, who is from Canada, was interviewed by the New York Times (“I feel like

Inside TikTok's booming dissociative identity disorder community

When speaking with someone as upbeat and energetic as Asher, a member of the Texas-based TikTok collective The A System, it’s difficult, at first, to understand how such a positive person has attracted so much controversy. But like many high-profile influencers on the platform, Asher and his cohort have been the target of vitriol. “Being called fake once or twice can be rough, but being called fake thousands of times can eat at you,” says Asher, who is dark-haired and bespectacled. “People have

Sex dolls are the new influencers

Like many strange corners of the internet, Instagram’s sex doll community started out as a joke. In 2016, after reading a tabloid article about a woman who used plastic surgery to look like a sex doll, T, a sex toy reviewer from the U.S., started an Instagram account for his synthetic partner Celestina. T wanted to see if Celestina, a brunette doll who often sports a pixie cut and glasses, could amass more followers on Instagram than the sex doll wannabe. Within a few months, Celestina had succ

Mom for a minute: the internet’s substitute mothers are here to help

Rebecca was having a terrible day. She’d had an altercation with a stranger while out running and like many women put in that position, she was terrified. In a bid to find some comfort, she sent a message to her mother about her experience: “I’m so grateful that you’re safe,” her mother responded. At that point, Rebecca’s second mother chimed in: “You’re scared and it’s understandable, take your time.” Her third mother told her that she loved her, after suggesting that Rebecca should take a self