Short form features on internet culture

Can This Viral TikTok Device Let You ‘Talk’ to Your Dog?

It’s hard to flip through animal videos on social media without coming across the hexagonal buttons made by FluentPet, a start-up determined to help animals talk to humans. The company’s patented product allows animals to “talk” by pressing individual buttons, each of which produces the sound of a single word or phrase, like “play” or “outside.”

The result, at least in the context of TikTok and Instagram, has been an endless stream of videos in which animals string together several words in a s

A Geography Game Has Its First Superstar. Can It Survive Its First Player Revolt?

The final round of GeoGuessr’s World Cup qualifiers was a tense watch for fans of the game, which challenges players to precisely locate a completely random location on Earth, as seen on Google Street View.

It had all boiled down to two players and one picture: a narrow tarmac road flanked by two sloping banks of snow, with only a hint of shrubbery poking through. It could have been anywhere. To make matters harder, the round was designated NMPZ—no movement, panning or zooming—which require

Can TikTok Revive the Dead?

Rosie Grant is one of many TikTok influencers on the hashtag #gravetok who are hoping to inspire a new generation of cemetery enthusiasts, or taphophiles, who can help conserve the country’s past.

When Rosie Grant made ice cream to share with Marian Montfort last month, her biggest challenge was getting it to her. She had flown from Shreveport, La., to Portland, Maine, where Ms. Montfort was waiting. There she sprinted to her Airbnb, purchased an ice cream maker, gathered and combined the ingre

Why These Men Are Risking It All to Grow Bigger Dicks

Miguel didn’t have any desire to try and grow his penis until he broke it. The fateful moment happened in January 2020, during a particularly vigorous session of anal sex with his then-wife. Although he experienced ongoing pain after the incident, and difficulty maintaining an erection, Miguel’s doctor wrote off his attempts to get help as a mental health issue. That was, of course, until his penis started to bend.

A visit to a urologist confirmed Miguel’s worst fears: He had developed a condit

People Are Thirsty For TikTok’s Hottest Ceramicists

Adam Blythe, a 27-year-old ceramicist from Illinois with just over 5 million followers on his TikTok account, , is tired of all the references to in the 1990 film Ghost. You know, the one in which Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore use their entwined hands to massage a lump of clay as the Righteous Brothers’ haunting “Unchained Melody” plays on the jukebox. It’s widely considered one of the sexiest film scenes of all time .

“The amount of times I’ve read, ‘Why isn’t ‘Unchained Melody’ playing in t

The Voice That Launched a Thousand Deepfakes: How One Viral Song Led to a Music Industry Reckoning

When Marc set out to clone the voice of Ariana Grande in January, he didn’t know it would infuriate hordes of his fellow Grande fans.

Marc, who asked to remain anonymous to shield him from further online attacks, wasn’t looking to incite a stan riot. He just wanted to experiment with DiffSVC, an open-source software developed by researchers at The Chinese University of Hong Kong that can replicate real human voices. By training the model with source material from Grande’s song list, Marc was ab

Sensual ASMR has boomed on YouTube — but creators are facing a crackdown

She wasn’t alone. According to ASMR University, there are roughly 500,000 ASMR (an abbreviation of autonomous sensory meridian response) channels and 25 million ASMR videos on YouTube alone, and the hashtag #asmr has attracted more than 460 billion views on TikTok. Creators in the space create sound-based content designed to elicit the sensation of ASMR in viewers, often attracting millions of views in the process. The niche involves the recording of specific sounds — often things like tapping o

Why the worst recipes imaginable are blowing up on TikTok

“I was perfectly willing to eat random things for the entertainment of my friends. I would take a ketchup packet from the diner and suck it up or eat an entire block of Parmesan cheese,” remembers Betchik, now 23, who makes and sells jewelry from their basement in Ohio. “The more I did that, the more I started realizing I could do this on the internet. I thought that I would be able to entertain people.”

Betchik is one of TikTok’s premiere rage-bait chefs: influencers who make videos of gruesom

War of the Art Worlds: Generative AI Sparks a New Culture Clash Among Creatives

“When I was a small kid,” said Curio, a nonbinary artist and web developer from Pennsylvania, “I literally had the most expansive, vivid daydreams of a device that I could put on my head, and it would just pull the images out and put them on paper.”

Curio, who is in their 20s and asked to remain anonymous, has a form of autoimmune arthritis that makes even the smallest physical acts, like gripping a pencil, extremely painful. But when a friend introduced them to artificial intelligence text-to-

Getting Blackmailed Was Their Kink. Then It Went Too Far

On the rare occasions that Tris engages consensual blackmail, they usually assume that they’re safe. The act – which requires dominatrixes to “blackmail” their subordinates in exchange for cash, using sensitive or humiliating information provided to them by the client, or “sub” – is supposed to be fun.

Of course, it doesn’t always end that way. Tris learned that the hard way several years ago, after they sent nude pictures of themself to a domme. “Without my consent, [the domme] tweeted these

Schizophrenic influencers feel abandoned by TikTok

Kody Green first started experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia in 2013, during his sophomore year of college.

He was plagued by hallucinations of faceless figures he referred to as “shadow people” and paranoid delusions that nefarious medics were coming to take him to a mental facility. He believed that he could read others’ minds and hear their thoughts.

Although he was no stranger to schizophrenia — his mother also has the disorder, and he cared for her during his adolescence — he couldn’t

Tickle fetishists say their kink is no laughing matter

The first time Dave felt turned on by tickling — or at least, the first time he can remember — he was just 12 years old, attending the local Renaissance fair with his family.

Onstage, two knights in armor sentenced a woman to the stocks for some sort of salacious activity (Dave doesn’t recall what it was) and locked her up.

“They tickled her lightly, maybe for 30 seconds. For me, I just felt something. I couldn’t explain it — I just knew it was weird,” recalls Dave, now 28, who splits his time

'I thought my life was over': Male sextortion victims speak out

When Sean, a 17-year-old high school student who lives on the East Coast, began summer break a few months ago, he was in a bad place.

His life, he felt, was on a constant, depressing loop. Each day, he would wake up and do the same things over and over again. Eat breakfast, play video games, waste time. He felt as though he had nothing going on and was too embarrassed to take up his friends’ offers to hang out.

“I was severely depressed and lonely,” says Sean, who, like all interviewees in thi

YouTube coin-pusher videos are huge. But what's real and what's fake?

John and Cheri, an Idaho couple who have been married for 22 years, had always been enthusiastic about arcade games and owned several of their own. So, when John was laid off in 2020, Cheri thought of the perfect way to cheer him up.

“I thought, What can I do to make him see that I’m very confident in him?” says Cheri, 56, a ukulele enthusiast and former stay-at-home-mom. (John and Cheri asked Input to withhold their last names for their privacy.) “I decided to do something ridiculous that cost

Permashifters want out of this reality for good

Naj didn’t mean to fall in love with Monica. It just kind of happened.

The pair had spent a few months bonding by discussing their days, and even more challenging topics, like self-harm and depression.

Naj, who is nonbinary and had recently separated from a toxic friend group, wasn’t getting along with their family. Monica offered Naj, who was battling several mental health conditions, a sense of stability when everything around them was changing. Mostly, Naj was grateful to interact on a dail

Heartbroken? TikTok breakup influencers are here to help.

When Victoria Clark first met Jeff, she was smitten.

They started dating in February 2020, after meeting on Tinder. Their first date entailed brunch, followed by rock climbing, and eventually dinner, and lasted 10 hours total. For the first month of their relationship, the pair inhabited their own little magical world. They were infatuated with each other.

When lockdown began, things changed dramatically. The couple had to transition to a long-distance relationship when Jeff moved away to take

Meet the volunteers fighting the most vile misogyny on Reddit

Almost five years ago, when the #metoo movement first exploded into the public consciousness, Ian knew he had to stand up to misogyny.

It wasn’t something he’d ever really considered before, but as the topic of abuse and harassment of women became more widely discussed, he started to give the issue more thought. At the time, he was 20, and he’d just begun to have more adult relationships with women, as friends and girlfriends. A lot of them had told them about abuse they’d faced themselves. He

How social media is misleading beginner strippers

“The women’s locker room in a strip club,” is how the mods of r/Stripper describe their 75,000-member subreddit, where female exotic dancers gather to trade stories and vent. Recently, its members have noticed a pattern emerging.

It always starts out the same way. Baby strippers — an industry term for women who have just started out — turn to the Reddit community to discuss their problems at work, looking to veteran dancers for guidance. Often, they seem distressed.

“When giving lap dances I’v

Toxic TikTok wants you to be your worst self

When Peyton Knight started her TikTok in 2021, she was going through a difficult time.

Knight, a social media manager and former competitive dancer, was in a long-distance relationship, and things weren’t going well. She suspected her partner wasn’t being honest with her. In fact, it felt like he was playing games and messing with her mind. It made her head spin.

While she was in the relationship, Knight had all kinds of wild theories about what was going on. At times, she found herself schemi

Culling the ‘Chicken of the Tree’: YouTube Hunters Are Taking Down Invasive Species in the Name of the Environment

Darcie Arahill started fishing at the age of 3 in her home state of Florida and never really stopped. Under the tutelage of her father, she learned to respect nature and the delicate balance of the ecosystems around her. Today, Arahill, 33, has gained notoriety as a bikini-clad “blonde babe” who posts clips on YouTube of herself reeling in everything from blacktip sharks to Florida Keys dog snappers. Her channel, Darcizzle Offshore, has amassed 383,000 subscribers since she launched it in 2014.

TikTok's dom 'daddies' are bringing BDSM to Gen X women

When confronted with Maxwell, known on BDSM TikTok as Mr. Olympia, it’s hard not to think of the infamous character Christian Grey from the 2011 novel Fifty Shades of Grey.

He’s 31 years old — more experienced and mature than the average TikToker — tall, well-groomed, and muscular. He wears suits and suspenders and unbuttons his shirts to reveal his smooth chest. He is well-spoken and has a British accent.

His backstory is also worthy of a romance trilogy. Maxwell, who asked that Input withhol

Women are seeking out porn addicts on Reddit for relationship advice

Back in the fall of 2019, Kristina met a new guy on Tinder, and despite a substantial age gap — she was 37 at the time, and her partner-to-be was 21 — they hit it off immediately.

He seemed mature, intelligent, and caring. He was even cool with the fact that she had three teenage kids. Things were great when they were together. The problems only started when they were apart.

“We’d spend a weekend together, and I would leave, and he’d just suddenly change and say really rude things to me” on th

Dangerous herbal abortion misinformation is thriving on WitchTok

Katy Willis grew up in a witchcraft-friendly home. Her mother is an ancestral medicine practitioner and Reiki master, and Willis inherited her mom’s talents for spiritual practices like energy healing, tarot reading, and spell work.

The 24-year-old Willis, who lives in small-town Ohio, deepened her practice by traveling to Mexico in 2021, where she learned about herbalism from an expert, drinking different teas designed to help her with ailments like period cramps. Needless to say, she’s no str
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