OPINION: TikTok Live: The Strangest Place on the Internet

If you’ve ever been on TikTok LIVE, you know that it’s filled with oddities, like a virtual market — its very own virtual culture. Some content you might expect is people whispering into fluffy microphones, shucking oysters with multicolored pearls, doing tarot card readings, and advertising products like wigs and jewelry for their websites. 

Capitalizing on the interactive elements of the live streams for money is nothing new. Livestreamers are always finding creative new ways to make money. Social media is a job and has been one for a while now. 

These types of live streams are innocent enough, but recently TikTok LIVEs have gotten darker and, frankly, more dehumanizing. One example is Interactive Sleep Streaming, where viewers pay to wake up the streamers in different ways, such as loud noises, mechanisms that shake the bed and bright lights. It’s futuristic.

The newest trending interactive TikTok LIVE concept is the Non-Playable Character (NPC) live streamers. NPCs in video games such as Grand Theft Auto have limited actions and catchphrases and, as the name implies, you can’t play them in the games. In the live streamer sphere, they interact with their viewers in a way that’s consistent with NPCs and with the kind of gift being sent. For example, they might bob like an idle NPC and repeatedly say, “Oo smell the roses,” every time a viewer sends a rose gift. 

It’s Uncanny Valley: human people acting in inhuman ways with stiff and repetitive movements, their voices monotonous. It’s as if they are programmed, without brains or the ability to think, having no control over their actions. 

The most popular NPC livestreamers are women. They are sexualized in the comments and on platforms like Twitter. This may be their intent, as some of the more popular creators have suggestive catchphrases and sounds, as well as promoting their OnlyFans accounts.

Pinky Doll, real name Fedha Sinon, is blowing up as the biggest name in TikTok LIVE content right now. She’s tapped into a niche that everyone is trying to get on. Recently, Pinky Doll has been the topic of articles by top publications like The New York Times, Rolling Stone Magazine and the Washington Post.

Some of Pinky Doll’s viral catchphrases are “Ice cream so good” when sent an Ice Cream gift (1 coin), “Gang gang” for the GG gift (1 coin), and “You got me feeling like a cowgirl — let me ride it” for the Hat and Mustache gift (99 coins). 

Gifts equate to real currency through TikTok LIVE. To purchase these virtual gifts, you need to buy TikTok coins with real money. For example, a Rose or Chili gift is one TikTok coin. Currently, the TikTok coins cost $0.29 for 34 of them, which makes each TikTok coin worth $0.008. 

The rapper Timbaland recently gifted Pinky Doll a Premium Shuttle TikTok gift worth 20,000 coins, or $249.99. This is the maximum amount of coins a person can buy at one time. 

One of the disturbing parts of Pinky Doll’s online presence is that she advertises herself as a 19-year-old in her TikTok bio, but her actual age is 27 years. This suggests that she is advertising fetish content on TikTok, pretending to be “barely legal.” 

This kind of fetish content is not new: it’s only taken a new form. It never goes away, from the popularity of women like Belle Delphine to the child-like depictions of anime girls. If you’re on the internet, and specifically social media sites like TikTok, you’re bound to see these things. While not always overtly sexual, this type of content has the potential to send messages about the dehumanization of women to young kids.

Problems arise when there is fetish content on TikTok, an app that 13-year-olds can download. At that age, they are susceptible to absorbing internet content without understanding the implications and cultural context of it. Oversexualization of teenagers is a growing problem with the rise of the internet. This kind of content should stay on OnlyFans, a site for viewers aged 18 or older.

“We are living in a real-life Black Mirror episode,” one TikToker commented on the NPC trend. I agree. There is debate about whether or not creators like Pinky Doll are considered fetish content, but one thing is clear: there are no bounds to the things that people on the internet will do for fame and monetary success.