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The viewer as an accomplice: why shock content and violent videos are popular on the Internet


Source: Deutsche Welle

Dry ice in the pool, death on the air, bullying for donations - shocking content on Internet platforms is multiplying day by day. He talks about the reasons for the surge in popularity of trash streams Deutsche Welle.

Photo: Shutterstock

In early December, the streamer Reeflay (in the world Stanislav Reshetnyak) went live on social networks. The young man broadcast for several hours next to the body of his dead girlfriend Valentina Grigorieva, whom he drove out into the cold in only underwear shortly before his death. Later, an examination will reveal that she has a head injury, Reshetnyak will be sent under arrest for two months.

The same broadcast of the streamer Reeflay, during which the girl Valentina died (left). Screenshot: Gloomy Stone / YouTube

Blogger Reeflay made a living with the help of trash streams, during which he mocked Grigorieva and other people for money. His approach is not unique - shocking content multiplies on the network with terrible force: the streamer MellStroy hits the girl with his head on the table, Ekaterina Didenko goes live after the death of her husband and friends, suffocated by dry ice in the pool.

What is the reason for this alarming trend and how to explain the hundreds of thousands of views under the video with trash content, DW asked the researcher of network culture Ekaterina Kolpinets and sociologist Konstantin Gabov.

The key role of trash stream viewers

Streams in which viewers give participants tasks or comment on their actions on the air have been a consequence of video games broadcasts. From this genre, says cultural expert Yekaterina Kolpinets, the creators of trash content have borrowed an important feature that distinguishes them from other bloggers: in trash streams, the author's personality fades into the background, while his contact with the audience comes first.

“This is no longer just a process of commenting on what is happening, you are not just sent a donation, but you are completing a task - you need to understand the role of the audience much broader. And she, this role is huge, ”says Kolpinets.

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One way or another, any blogger depends on its viewers - financially or reputationally, but it is in streams, according to the researcher, that 70% of what happens is determined by the audience and its desires.

“In principle, questions about ethics, about the boundaries of what is permitted here should be asked not to the streamer himself, but to the audience,” explains Kolpinets. "Because for her sake everything happens."

Sociologist Konstantin Gabov, a member of the Club of Internet and Society Fans, assigns bloggers a more active role: “Most of the tragic situations are associated with the fact that bloggers or streamers go to the end and share the belief in what sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called“ illusion ”. They believe that playing by certain rules and achieving a meaningful goal in this particular cultural setting is worth the candle. That is, achieving popularity using the most provocative methods can sometimes lead to unforeseen consequences. "

How to explain the cruelty of the audience

In trash streams, viewers pay for bullying and beatings on the air. However, Gabov warns, you shouldn't attribute the most inhuman tasks and the popularity of such streams to the inadequacy or mental deviations of the majority of viewers.

“When it comes to the inadequacy of people who watch and support such content, it is understood that the Internet is a place where there are no rules, people are anonymous, and some kind of“ dark forces ”of their nature emerge. But that's not the case, ”he emphasizes.

According to him, Internet platforms are public places, and there, as in ordinary life, there are certain rules of behavior. Trash streams, in his opinion, are inherently close to mass cultural or sporting events - for example, to boxing matches or concerts of pop stars.

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“On the stage or in the arena, something that is not customary in ordinary life can also happen: punches by boxers, pushing by hockey players, frank dances of pop singers, profanity in rapper texts. All this has its own rules and boundaries, ”emphasizes Gabov. “And visitors to the events understand these boundaries and understand that they are spectators of some kind of performance.”

At the same time, according to the sociologist, most of the tragedies that can occur during such broadcasts are accidental.

Why do people watch trash streams

Ekaterina Kolpinets believes that cases of death on the air and bullying for donations will continue to occur. The reason, she said, is in the changes that Internet platforms have been experiencing in recent years: “YouTube is rapidly becoming professional and becoming more and more like a TV, and Instagram is turning into a glossy magazine.” At the same time, an establishment has already formed on both platforms, separating itself from the rest of the bloggers.

“People who unpack Hermes and Dior handbags on camera can no longer be in such contact with their audience,” notes Kolpinets. - And the audience wants to bring back this horizontal communication and reproduce it, even if it is impossible. It is very important for viewers to feel that they have some weight, that they write to the chat - and they are seen there, they are answered with something. Because of this, everything happens. "

Any attempt to push the audience into the background, ignore it and isolate itself from it with “golden buttons” is fraught, according to the researcher, with a surge of interest in such channels where the public's voice matters.

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“It seems to me that it is important not just to criticize such things, to say how wild it is and to wonder about the immorality of bloggers. You need to think about how Internet communication works and how you can rethink it, ”she sums up.

How to prevent new deaths on the air

Until there is a law prohibiting bullying for money on the air and providing for administrative or criminal punishment, deaths will occur, Kolpinets is convinced. At the same time, she admits that it can be very difficult to regulate what is happening on social platforms.

But Konstantin Gabov doubts that banning or blocking streams or certain bloggers will give the result - the direct influence of the audience on bloggers will remain and will pave its way in new forms on other platforms.

“When it comes to trash streams with the toughest targets, the measures can be more preventive, similar to reducing the proportion of smokers or drunk driving,” he said. “One way or another, it paid off, and the elite smoking parlors turned into humble smoking rooms.”

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