I came across this BBC news item about Lele Tao, a 24-year old Chinese woman who reportedly earns about $450,0000 per year live streaming. What does she do? This is not a porn site nor is there any nudity or sex. Instead she talks, she sings, she eats, and chats to her fans, and in return her fans, mostly male, send her gifts. Apparently this is a huge business in China.
But don’t get the idea that it is an easy gig. The video describes a grueling schedule where she is streaming about 10 hours a days and spends a lot of the other time grooming herself, practicing songs and dance moves, and thinking up ways to keep her fans interested and loyal. She is always anxious, worrying about up-and-coming even younger women who are perhaps cuter than her and will steal away her audience. She also has to fight with her manager about finances. You can watch a clip of her life at the above link.
I have discussed before my puzzlement at the appeal of people like Alex Jones and Rush Limbaugh who manage to get huge audiences and money just by ranting for hours on end. Tao and her fellow live-streamers are tapping into the same kind of need. I can understand watching any of them briefly to get an idea of what is going on. But repeatedly, for hours on end? Surely the novelty soon wears off? Are the people willing to be part of this audience lonely people who think that they have some kind of relationship, friendship even, with these performers? The third part of the BBC series talks with a huge fan of hers and there is something a little creepy, even stalker-like, about his devotion to her.
Social contact and a sense of connection with other people are fundamental human needs. In our modern, atomised world they are also very hard to access for some people. I think this sort of thing taps into that need. Perhaps it is because it is so everyday, so unremarkable, so domestic in character that it has the appeal it does. When you have few or no friends, and hardly ever see those you do have, you start reaching out for whatever you can find that might substitute for the human contact you lack.
I don’t find it hard to imagine at all. But, then again, I’ve experienced a lot of that kind of loneliness myself.
Mano Singham says
I understand what you say but her biggest fan says that he has a girl friend and that she accepts his need to follow Tao. SO unless he is lying about that, loneliness is not the reason, at least in his case.
I think that some people may feel a desire to be a part of something important and bigger than themselves, and the feeling that they are not part of something big and important might feel something like loneliness. Maybe “alienation” is a better term. Or maybe “anomie”, or “weltschmerz”. Something that might not be fulfilled by a significant other, in and of themselves.
Some religious people claim that there is a yearning for God, but that might be a reimagining of the sense of wanting to be part of something big and important.
It sounds like it taps into the same things reality tv does but adds a layer of potential interaction to it. And maybe some of the Japanese idol singer thing.
Don’t know that you can write off loneliness as the reason the guy they showed likes her though. When you grow up without forming good social interactions you have to figure out how to meet people as an adult, which is much harder. Not everyone manages to pull it off that well (can’t really say I ever did to be honest). Even if he’s got the most amazing relationship with his girlfriend people need more than one relationship to be healthy. His idol streamer may be filling in for friends he doesn’t have rather than being a fantasy girlfriend. Not to say she’s not that to some degree as well… people are complicated and often we don’t even understand ourselves to any great degree. If we did there would be no need for psychologists.
deepak shetty says
I would guess that it serves the same purpose as people who follow up the reality TV shows (which aren’t necessarily celebrities like the Kardashians -- Jon and Kate plus 8 or things like that) -- I don’t think its necessarily loneliness.