Gone are the days of wanting to become doctors or astronauts, today’s youth is glamoured with the luxurious lifestyle that is achieved by being a famous personality on the internet. While at a glance there seems to be nothing inherently wrong with profiting off of your personality on the internet, many aspiring entertainers and creators rush into the field, ignorant of the potential dangers that netizens can bring.
Prolific Twitch streamer turned YouTube streamer; Ludwig Ahgren generated $1,434,850 during his 1-month ‘subathon’, a live stream event where people paid a certain amount of subscriptions to keep the live stream going. In concept this idea seems easy, just broadcasting your day-to-day life for a month and making nearly $1,500,000.
However, many people seem to either not realize or are ignorant of the many dangers, both physically and mentally, that live streaming can cause to a person. While this is an extreme example of live streaming 24/7 for a whole month, these problems also are applied to other prolific streamers who hit the end live button. Security, mental health, and viewer wellness are a few of the many examples that content creation can bring to not only the streamers but viewers as well.
On day 27 of the live stream, subathon was momentarily ended by Ludwig’s girlfriend, another prolific streamer “QTCincerella.” Malicious comments on Reddit targeted QT, blaming her for the live stream ending. These commenters, however, were not aware of the horrifying incident that had just conspired. There had been a call made by an anonymous viewer to the police that caused their home to be swatted.
Online harassment by thousands of people alone can cause one’s mental health to deteriorate, but including the swatting incidents next to no one can be that resilient to the terrors of the internet. Such as a case for QTCinderella, being diagnosed with PTSD after the swatting during the subathon.
From her words during an interview with Anthony Padilla, “There have been times I wake up in the middle of the night shaking Ludwig saying, “We’re getting swatted.” “We’re not.” It’s just PTSD.” This effect has caused her day-to-day life to be ever-changing, never again will she hear a car or helicopter passing by again the same way, always thinking of the endless possibilities that the internet can bring her harm.
Take note that swattings are still relatively rare, many more harmful and commonplace incidents take place, whether it takes place in person or not. The most prevalent of these are parasocial relationships that can be formed over any amount of time, during any occasion, with any person. By definition, parasocial relationships are formed when one party extends time and energy to form an emotional one-sided relationship, while the other party is completely unaware of their existence.
While parasocial relationships are more common, the harm towards the streamers is relatively low. The problem arises when the parasocial side of the party starts treating their favorite streamer as a friend, as someone who they think they know all about. This can lead to an unhealthy obsession with the streamers. If the streamer shoots down their fantasy ideas of being friends with the said streamer, many are entitled due to the fact they have spent so much time, energy, and in many cases, money towards the streamer. In a fit of rage, these people usually take to online forms or live chats where they complain about the streamers they thought they were friends with. However, there are extreme cases of these delusional people, bringing real potential harm to not only these streamers but themselves.
Such as a case on a December night in 2015. Going by Ellohime, the streamer conversed with a fan who appeared at his door that night. The Indonesian teen got himself a 1-way flight from Singapore to Florida and walked 25 miles to where he assumed to be Ellohime’s home.
The teen found himself in a vulnerable state, and while in that state made the irrational decision that the only person that gave him comfort at that time had been his favorite streamer, someone whose persona he’d assume was kind and genuine through the countless hours of streams he’s watched.
However, this is only a niche part of the internet, a fragment of it that feeds off of parasocial. Many other forms of content creation can be made with very low risks to their creators, such as the case of Armando Nova, an aspiring fitness internet personality.
When asked the question whether he knew or not the dangers of content creation, Nova responded “It could also be dangerous for you putting your life out there, just like, people know where you are, they know what you’re doing, know what your day-to-day looks like, putting too much information online can be a slippery slope for people.”
Putting it into context, Nova is still relatively new to the scene, not being that large of a content creator himself. This means that the amount of people who will know of him and can cause potential harm to him is extremely low. But even then, Nova still takes many precautions when going into the content creation scene, like not posting his relationships, his home, etc. in case of the chance that anyone watches him and takes advantage of his online presence.
Concluding the interview with Nova, I asked him whether it was worth it, in the long run, to have this presence, and be a content creator, even with all these risks. “It is worth it depending on what you want to do … because I think social media is a great platform to push messages, give people a voice, but with anything in life, too much of anything isn’t good.”
Echoing this sentiment, the consumption of modern-day media has been extremely commodified, which is why it is even more important to recognize the dangers that the internet can bring to you. Putting yourself out there comes with many rewards but also puts you at great risk. Morally, the internet is extremely gray, and it is up to you to decide which shade you color yourself in. And for the people consuming the media, realize that the people that present themselves on the internet are humans too, that whatever you do or say does have an effect on the people you’re directing it towards.