Short form features on internet culture

Twitch streamers are struggling with 'trauma dumping'

Although Toph, an American, had friends and a relationship in Japan, he found living there for the past eight years to be oftentimes quite lonely. When he discovered Twitch in 2016, it seemed like the perfect way to meet others with mutual interests while he spent time gaming. So Toph, who was working as a teacher abroad, started to build a community on the platform. He prided himself on the “soft, comfy vibe” of his streams, during which he played games like Animal Crossing and Kirby and the

Meet the goonettes, women with staggering online porn habits

Marriage and motherhood kept Joanne busy over the years, but by early 2020, all of that had come to a sudden end. In 2019, she had divorced her husband after 25 years of marriage, the majority of them sexless. By the following year, all three of her children had left the nest. To help her quell the boredom of long evenings spent alone, Joanne found herself drawn to online pornography. She was pleasantly surprised by what she found. “I was expecting tacky storylines, lousy acting, and fake org

Need your aura cleansed? These TikTokers can help.

Shortly after graduating college in 2017, Haley Rene was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. The diagnosis made her feel powerless, and she yearned for something that would complement her medical care and give her a sense of control. She settled on Reiki as a solution. Reiki is a form of energy healing that originated in Japan and usually involves light touching and movements of the palm designed to improve the flow of energy through the body. Rene found it to be a powerful tool that helped her

Meet the influencer dentists trying to save TikTokers' teeth

Last May, a video from the TikTok account @elijahosen went viral. The clip has been viewed four million times and racked up more than 600,000 likes for its depiction of DIY dentistry. The video shows the journey of the account’s owner as he closed the gap between his two front teeth with rubber bands, which he claims was a viable and much faster alternative to the expensive option of braces. The update and response videos that followed received hundreds of thousands of views. It wasn’t long be

'Sims' machinima is a dying art form. Why do these creators still do it?

In 2009, Boss was disappointed with the direction that her favorite television show, Glee, was headed. The musical teen drama was in its second season, and from Boss’ point of view, the storylines were predictable and going nowhere fast. But rather than complaining on the internet, she wrote a skit about it. Boss comes from a creative family, so she didn’t pursue the endeavor alone. She dragged her brother into the room, and the pair recorded themselves acting out the Glee spoof she’d crafted.

Inside the high-drama world of prison wife TikTok

Before Deelilah Contreras’ partner Xavier went to prison in 2016, she thought that everyone who was locked up deserved to be behind bars. But when Xavier was sentenced to 15 years after an altercation with his sister’s abusive ex-boyfriend, her world was turned upside down, and she reevaluated her stance. At the time, Contreras was 16 and six months pregnant with Xavier’s son. Although their relationship remained strong over the years — they had a prison wedding in 2019 — the pandemic has made

How one group is remaking sign language for the VR age

Jenny was taught to sign as a baby, but she only learned the basic stuff — enough to get by. The Californian, who was born with auditory processing disorder and a right eardrum that doesn’t vibrate in response to sound, was raised with what community members call the auditory-oral method, meaning she learned how to speak out loud and read lips. Jenny went to school with both D/deaf and hearing children. (Jenny and others interviewed for this story asked that their full names not be used for pri

Inside the volunteer 'police department' arresting people in VR

Early last year, Jura was at the spa, chilling in a communal bath and having a casual chat with friends, when the Loli Police Department burst into the building. He and his pals froze at the sight of the group, clad in uniforms and brandishing guns. The LPD had come to the spa to arrest a wanted criminal, and the person in question wasn’t going down without a fight. Before Jura had time to react, he was witnessing a hostage situation. The criminal grabbed an innocent bystander and started maki

Is the forum leading followers down a deadly path?

When Fernando discovered the videos of YouTube influencer Leo Gura in 2015, he was just 17 years old. At the time, he was struggling with depression and anxiety, and he’d turned to the internet for solutions. When he saw one of Gura’s videos titled “How to stop caring what people think about you,” he clicked on it without hesitation. [Content Warning: This article contains discussion of suicide and self-harm.] “I thought it was very informative and insightful,” says Fernando, now a 24-year-ol

Middle East streamers are reeling after Twitch blocks their payments

For nine months, Twitch streamer Amjad gamed relentlessly in a bid to raise money before her first child was born. Amjad — who was playing Propnight and League of Legends for an audience of 11,500 followers under the name @Mamacita — streamed six hours a day for five days a week, plus 12 hours on Thursdays, to make up for her one day off, which she spent with family. The 26-year-old streamer, who lives in Saudi Arabia with her husband, had stumbled upon the career path accidentally. She was st

The British are coming! How U.K. drill music is taking over TikTok.

He’s only been making music for seven months, but SK-47 is on the cusp of something big. The U.K. drill rapper has amassed almost two million streams on his self-released “Streets in South,” a track about SK-47’s South London libertine lifestyle that he released on Spotify at the end of September. As a result, SK-47 has been gaining a steady stream of American fans and was recently asked by Grand Theft Auto streamer Putther, who has over one million subscribers, to make a custom theme song for

Sugar babies on TikTok gain millions of views showing off their lavish lifestyles, but experts think the trend is promoting dangerous misconceptions

• On TikTok, videos in which sugar babies show off their luxury lifestyles have become hugely popular. • They can make the profession look easy, and ignore the labor and risks involved. • Experts told Insider these misconceptions are dangerous for women considering a sugar-baby career. Using quick-cut montages, TikTok user @nikitagonzalez_ posts snapshots of her jetsetting lifestyle. In one video, she pans the camera across stacks of money, designer shopping bags, and Louis Vuitton accessories

Can TikTok Make You Less Afraid to Die?

Casual TikTok viewers might think of the app as just a feed of Gen Zers doing viral dances and lip-synch reenactments. But the social network has also provided a space for some unlikely influencers: hospice workers, morticians, and funeral directors. These content creators hope that their comedic takes on mortality will help people who find death hard to discuss, especially during the pandemic, in which more than 900,000 Americans have died. DeathTok, as it’s called, is a corner of the platform

Warning: The hottie sliding into your DMs may be a 'loyalty tester'

Last April, when a friend asked for help figuring out if her boyfriend was cheating, Emma jumped at the chance. Emma, a Canadian nursing student, knew what it was like to be in a troubled relationship — at the time, she was in one herself — and wanted to do everything she could to help. “We weren’t super-close, so her boyfriend didn’t know me,” explains Emma, an 18-year-old whose @em_mac11 TikTok account has 46,200 followers. (Input is withholding the last names of interviewees for their priva

Meet the dancer taking on Super Bowl halftime show organizers

This Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show — featuring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, and Kendrick Lamar — promises to be an over-the-top hip-hop spectacular, costing millions of dollars and drawing tens of millions of viewers in the U.S. alone. But this year’s show is attracting attention for more than its legendary line-up, as activists are speaking up about the event’s legacy of mistreating its dancers. Last month, word began to spread that as many as 400 performers — “predominantl

Narcissism is our latest online moral panic

When Lee Hammock was diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) in 2017, it felt like the end of the world. His search for answers about the condition had led him to the internet and he, like too many unsuspecting Google users, was overwhelmed and horrified by what he discovered. In the hierarchy of hypothetical social enemies, people with personality disorders like NPD rank somewhere in the top five, around sociopath, psychopath, and micro-sexuality-haver. As a result, in the cultur

Her dog died under a Wag app worker's care. She wants accountability.

At the end of 2021, Liz Giorgi needed to travel to Africa on short notice. Her father had died unexpectedly, and she and her husband were headed to Kenya to scatter his ashes. With their usual dog boarders booked up, the pair decided to get a sitter through the dog-walking app Wag, which they’d used without issues the previous summer. The Colorado couple did a site visit with the sitter before they left and gave detailed instructions on how to care for their two dogs. They were especially conc

The controversial, strangely social world of Twitch slots streamers

Joe, a 32-year-old full-time Twitch streamer who lives in Canada, has always loved gambling. From the beginning, he was aware that the house always wins, but he saw gambling as a social activity: The casino was a place to go with your buddies where you could smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol. “What’s cooler than being with your friends at 19, getting blackjack at a table, and saying, ‘I won some bucks, let’s go get a fucking drink!’?” he asks. But Joe, who streams under the name heyitsjoe to

The American circus is in decline, but performers thrive on TikTok

Jack Lepiarz never intended to join TikTok. The 33-year-old circus artist from Massachusetts, who performs mostly at Renaissance fairs, had historically avoided social media. He preferred to live in the moment with his side hustle — a semi-improvised show that involves singing, whip-cracking, and knife-throwing — which he fit around his job as an NPR radio anchor. But in September of last year, after an audience member posted a clip of Lepiarz that went viral on TikTok, everything changed. The

Bring in the clones: Instagrammers are genetically replicating their pets

Photographer Courtney Udvar-Hazy began the Instagram account @wander_with_willow in 2017 to document the life of Willow, her striking wolf-dog hybrid. Udvar-Hazy, a 29-year-old from California, documented Willow from the moment she got her, and followers watched Willow grow from a tiny puppy to a strapping adolescent who roamed California’s wilderness on hikes with her owner. Then, in 2018, tragedy struck: Willow escaped from her pet sitter and was struck by a car. “When I got there, she was s
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