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This article was published on November 7, 2016

I watched Facebook Live non-stop for an evening and lost my soul

I watched Facebook Live non-stop for an evening and lost my soul
Juan Buis
Story by

Juan Buis

Digital Culture Reporter

Juan Buis is TNW's Digital Culture Reporter, and you should click here. Juan Buis is TNW's Digital Culture Reporter, and you should click here.

My Facebook feed is slowly filling up with more and more Live broadcasts from people and pages I follow on the social network. This is all thanks to recent algorithm changes that prioritize the live content over photos, links and other shared media.

The biggest social network placing such a big bet on live streaming left me wondering if it’s a glimpse at the future of entertainment.

Facebook launched its Live Map five months ago, and it’s the best way to dive into streams from all over the world. I decided to cancel all my plans and hang out on the couch watching Facebook Live exclusively for an evening. It got weird.

It’s 7 PM on a Sunday, and I’m feeling tired from the day. Looking for a way to relax, I turn to the Live Map and jump into a random stream close to Moscow. I’m greeted by a group of Russians listening to someone on a stage. The atmosphere seems tense, and everyone is carrying the same red flag. It’s unclear what’s happening, but it seems to be a rally or protest of some sort. A guy jumps on the stage and starts screaming, while the stream’s 16 viewers talk to each other in Russian.

I’m not really feeling this vibe, so I click on a stream close to Seoul, hoping it’ll be a bit more chill.

Suddenly I’m in a Korean teen’s bedroom, seeing two girls talk to each other about… something. This is way better than the Russian stream. When they start whistling a song, one of them receives a call and cuts the stream; what happened? Was it their mom saying that they can’t stream to Facebook because there’s no protection from strangers looking at them? Someone like me? I feel like a creep.

I head on over to Norway, where a guy is silently eating something very crunchy in front of his computer. This isn’t awfully compelling. There’s no audience interaction. Some of his friends seem to have commented but he hasn’t replied, or shown any emotion for that matter.

This is what I expected most livestreams to be like — people passively sitting in front of a webcam. I mean, why even go live if you don’t have a story to tell? Nobody should be interested in something like this, but 23 viewers seem to disagree.

This guy made me hungry, so I open a bag of chips. I look inside of it, and the reflective packaging makes me stare back at myself — it makes me think why I thought this was a fun idea.

While browsing the map in search of a new stream to dive into, I notice that there’s no one live in Canada — weird. When I zoom in I end up somewhere close to the border with New York state. Let’s see what this lonely soul has to share with me.

Well, he’s ripping a fat vape. If you didn’t know yet, vaping is probably the worst way to spend an afternoon. It seems like he’s doing some kind of taste test, comparing different flavors to each other. The raspberry one he’s currently trying is “the tits,” and he’s already teasing a few that are coming up next — one of them being coconut.

I’m not a big coconut fan, so I decide to skip.

This lady from Georgia seems to have started early on her Thanksgiving turkey, and is happily sharing details on her recipe. It’s a bizarre display — she seems to be unable to stop rubbing the pale beast in front of her.

I’m wondering if I’m the only one of her 24 viewers that doesn’t like turkey. Next.

More food. We’re in Italy, where some chefs show off green cones filled with something that’s presumably edible. They’re filling up hundreds of plates with the substance, but there’s no explanation — the video’s description is left blank. It’s weirdly satisfying to watch them carefully distribute the dish, and it’s weird I can watch them do it while I’m laying on my couch.

I’m done for tonight.

Live video is both endlessly enthralling and extremely weird at the same time. It’s hard not to feel like a voyeur when clicking through the thousands of streams with people exposing them to unknown eyes. I’m sure a lot of them don’t even know their video is being indexed on a world map for everyone to see. At the same time, I’m happy I didn’t see any dicks.

I don’t know if this is ever going to be a mainstream form of entertainment — I think I had fun, but I was actually just watching random people do stuff. But reality TV shows tend to be very popular, and people will always interest other people — just look at the enormous following the big celebrities of our time have amassed. It also depends on the quality of Live videos, which has been rapidly declining.

It’s weird — I feel like I made a few friends tonight, but they don’t know me. They’re mini-celebrities in my world, but they’ll never know I just watched them cook a turkey for a few minutes.

This experiment was inspired by this article by Hanna Bervoets. Thanks, Hanna!