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Meet the silent vloggers of YouTube, hypnotising their audience with deeply meditative content

It’s 10 a.m as a young woman stands in her dorm room, carefully garnishing a bowl of steel-cut oats with apples, bananas and a spoonful of yoghurt. “I finally graduated college,” the closed captions read, in both English and Korean. Successfully closing a chapter of her life, the vlogger shares her views on the importance of living in the moment while dipping a sliced apple in yoghurt. “I’m learning that things always work out in their own time,” she continuesengaging in a visual monologue with her audience but having a bigger impact than an auditory one. Welcome to the deeply meditative world of silent vlogs, a content subgenre you stumble across on YouTube for the aesthetics but stay for the life lessons.

What are silent vlogs?

Part of a broader movement towards ‘slow living’, silent vlogs are characterised by the absence of both auditory monologues and dialogues. In essence, you would be greeted with the sounds of life—drawing of curtains, boiling of water, sizzling of a pan—in stark contrast to the overused “Hey guys.” The nature of the content is predominantly domestic. The vloggers here are mostly anonymous. Think minimalism and mindfulness, effortlessly weaved into a soothing narrative to embrace viewers with the euphoria of less.

Featuring vloggers carrying out their daily chores, from making their beds in the morning to wiping down the kitchen counters at night, silent vlogs essentially reframe mundane activities into tiny, hypnotic celebrations of their own.

“I started vlogging purely for myself and as a side hobby,” said Soo Hyun, a silent vlogger well known for her ‘College student in Korea’ vlogs on YouTube. “I started during my senior year of university when most of my friends were either taking a semester off or taking online classes from home due to COVID-19—so I had a lot of free time on my hands.” Publishing her first silent vlog back in February 2020, Soo Hyun admitted to starting her YouTube channel with the aim of leaving behind a virtual record of her university days. “I wanted to reflect on myself and the kind of person I was, along with my hobbies and interests at the time.” Curating silent vlogs for herself to look back at, Soo Hyun never expected people to be actually interested in them.

With more than 144,000 views on her vlogs, the silent vlogger is currently on an influential path down silent YouTube. Amid cooking, cleaning her dorm room, attending online classes and getting a haircut, the silent vlogger channels mindfulness into her content. When asked if she practices what she preaches, Soo Hyun said, “Funnily enough, I often hear the words ‘meditative’ or ‘slow living’ used to describe my videos. It’s definitely not something I would have caught myself, so it’s interesting to hear my everyday life described that way.”

According to the vlogger, the ‘slow’ lifestyle choice is often looped into her videos because she does—or rather tries her best topractice mindfulness, prioritise productivity, and do at least one thing she enjoys every day.

A silent antidote for influencer culture

Silent vlogs have been gracing YouTube for more than five years, but it wasn’t until COVID-19 drove people to the confines of their own homes that the subgenre truly gained traction. With an increased time spent indoors came an increased motivation to elevate the space the time was spent at. The art of slow living and home maintenance boomed as viewers turned to silent vlogs to redefine the label ‘confines of their home’ to ‘comforts of their home’.

“I can’t speak for everyone, but COVID-19 was a part of the reason I started vlogging,” Soo Hyun explained when asked about her take on the pandemic-propelled boom of silent vlogging. “I think not being able to go out or see your friends often definitely makes you creative about the things you do indoors!”

Apart from reframing pandemic fatigue, however, silent vloggers are also credited with combating a concerning phenomenon: the mainstream influencer culture. In stark contrast to that vlogger channeling her inner ‘coconut girl’ in Bali and making boomerangs on a cruise ship, silent vloggers celebrate the little achievements we make every day in our lives. Their content alleviates stress instead of evoking envy to prime us for the advertisements that follow. You may have cooped up in a corner of your room watching anime all day and making dinner for yourself. But what a relief it is to watch someone else do it and assure you that it is okay to do nothing sometimes. Take a day off, celebrate the mundaneness and prepare yourself for the wave of productivity that follows.

When asked about the general responses Soo Hyun gets for her content, the silent vlogger explained how she often finds comments like “This helped me feel calm!” and “This inspired me to be productive!” in the comments section. “To even imagine that I may have that kind of impact on anyonejust through showing my daily life—is really amazing.” The vlogger also mentioned how she gets messages from young viewers asking for her advice on studying, mental health and productivity. “I’m no expert, but I try my best to be helpful,” Soo Hyun added. “It’s an honour that people even consider asking me.”

Although Soo Hyun thinks she has a lesser volume of subscribers when compared to other silent vloggers, she admitted to loving and appreciating the community and support that she continually receives from her audience on the platform.

A curious peek behind the scenes

Once you watch a silent vlog, you would be hit with a wave of curiosity before tumbling down a rabbit hole with no emergency exits. How do they channel such bliss in their videos? How do they film the same scene from different angles all by themselves? How long does that take them? And why can I hear this vlogger peel tangerines as clear as day? In a bid to quench your thirst for insights, we asked Soo Hyun herself to explain.

“It really depends on the vlog,” the silent vlogger said, when asked if her content requires pre-planning. “For example, my ‘Slow Seoul’ vlog, and my very last vlog as a college student were based on certain themes, so they took a bit more planning than usual.” But majorly, Soo Hyun admitted to filming random parts of her everyday life and stitching them together in a cohesive narrative later as they deem fit.

In terms of the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response or ASMR (a fancy term for that tingly feeling that runs down to the base of your spine during auditory stimulation), silent vloggers are speculated to enhance the ‘sounds of life’ in order to curate ASMR for the soul. When asked about her views on the allegations and if she uses any special equipment to capture them, Soo Hyun mentioned how she has seen a lot of vloggers utilise ASMR in their silent vlogs, especially when cooking or eating. “I personally don’t have any special sound equipment, mostly because I’m often filming on-the-go, but I also really just like to retain the natural sounds and ambient noises of that moment,” she added.

Another aspect viewers out there are itching to ask a silent vlogger includes the prep and self-care practices that go behind the scenes. Since silent vloggers are anonymousin the sense they don’t essentially show their faces on camera—do they have any particular self-care practices for their hands and torso which are common features of such vlogs? Soo Hyun disagrees, adding how her videos are pretty raw and unpolished for the viewers to witness. “As I mentioned earlier, I started this as a hobby and as a way to just record my day-to-day life. I just take out my camera or phone and start filming whenever I want to share a part of my day.”

The tranquil way forward

Silent vlogs are undoubtedly redefining content creation in a pandemic-struck era. But while silent vloggers continue to make a tremendous impact on the lives of their viewers, it is also essential to keep track of how the content helps themselves as individuals. For Soo Hyun, currently a film and media arts graduate, silent vlogs have proven to be a good way for her to connect and review what she has learned. Filming, editing and posting her vlogs have also helped her keep in touch with one of her favorite hobbies.

In the next five years, Soo Hyun still hopes to continue vlogging. “I’m definitely getting busier now that I’ve started at a full-time job,” she said. “But I’d still like to continue using my channel as a way of keeping track of my life and being able to create videos as a hobby.”

And if you are looking to dip your toes into the calm seas of silent vlogging yourself, here’s what Soo Hyun advises: “It’s best to just be natural! I personally found my content to be at its best when I’m not really thinking about the camera or trying too hard to plan something out.” According to the vlogger, it is also important to retain your own aesthetic instead of copying others or going by a certain rule. “That’s what makes you and your content unique!”

Despite the auditory absence of a language, silent vlogs speak volumes and initiate a much-needed change of scenery within the four horizons we currently call walls. They remind you to stop and smell the roses in your three-ply masks. And for some, there is just no going back to vlogs that literally speak volumes.

Corpse Husband: how the popularity of a faceless influencer exposed a dark side of fandom culture

You’ve probably heard him narrate horror stories on YouTube. You’ve most likely jammed to his music on viral TikToks. And I’m pretty sure you may have stumbled across his Among Us gameplays on Twitch. If you’re still having a hard time guessing the mysterious influencer in question, here are a bunch of other clues: deep voice, veiny metal-ring-adorned hands, purple rabbit mask, and “choke me like you hate me, but you love me” (uwu). Oh, the last one struck a chord?

The emo rapguaranteed to leave you either scared or turned onfeatures a reclusive creator on the rise with an entire ‘simp army’ hot on his trail. Introducing Corpse Husband, a ‘faceless’ influencer rewriting the rules for content creation in a digital age.

A reclusive success story

Allegedly born on 8 August 1997, Corpse Husband—also known as Corpse—is an American YouTuber and musician based in San Diego, California. Again, allegedly. Before kicking off his YouTube career in 2015, Corpse had been praised for his deep voice and suggested he dip his toes into narration. More specifically, horror story narrations.

Corpse Husband: how the popularity of a faceless influencer exposed a dark side of fandom culture

Growing up alongside creepypasta channels like MrCreepyPasta, Chilling Tales for Dark Nights and Cryaotic, it wasn’t until the influencer came across Mr. Nightmare, Be. Busta, and Lazy Masquerade that he launched his own quests into the category. Today, the creator is part of a community of YouTubers known as ‘Horror Narration Channels’ and prefers to read true stories that are typically sent in from his subscribers or taken off subreddits like r/LetsNotMeet and r/NoSleep.

After lending his voice to horror narrations, Corpse slowly branched out into music with his debut single ‘MISS YOU!, followed by WHITE TEE’ and ‘E-GIRLS ARE RUINING MY LIFE!’. The latter has now amassed a whopping 100 million streams on Spotify and over 50 million views on YouTube. To date, he has around nine songs under his belt, seven of which he’s credited as the lead artist. Over the years, Corpse has also collaborated with The Living Tombstone, Savage Ga$p, Chills, Crusher and fellow vampire Machine Gun Kelly for ‘DAYWALKER!’—featuring YouTube’s most-watched female streamer Valkyrae.

During the pandemic, Corpse Husband also started streaming popular video games including Among Us with other internet personalities like PewDiePie, Sykkuno and surprise, surprise: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). “I can’t get over this dude’s voice. It’s so deep,” AOC was heard gasping on a Twitch livestream—hosted alongside high-profile streamers like Pokimane and Corpse Husband to encourage viewers to vote in the 2020 elections. The congresswoman further admitted to being distracted by the creator’s voice, giving more than enough content for fans to create heaps of viral compilations showing their wholesome interaction on YouTube.

The feral tale of #onlyfandom

Now let’s talk about the creator’s presence on TikTok. With 2.1 billion views on hashtags dedicated to musings about the anonymous artist, Corpse’s impact on the platform can be traced to his 5.2 million followers with less than ten videos on his account. Did I mention that most of these posts only feature his hands? Uploading black and white filtered clips, the creator can be seen rocking his veiny hands on a chair, casually stretching his fingers with a rose and a toy dinosaur between them and even offering hoodies to a flustered Sykkuno. Adorned with chunky metal rings, chipped nail polish and heart-beaded bracelets, Corpse’s #onlyhands have broken every platform they’ve graced with their presence.

@corpse_husband

YOU GUYS ARE CRAZY LMAO #corpse_husband #corpsehusband #onlyhands

♬ E-GIRLS ARE RUINING MY LIFE! - CORPSE & Savage Ga$p

Following his viral fame, Corpse has also launched his own line of merchandise—including exclusive posters, beanies, hoodies, face masks and more. The online store, which went live as a Christmas gift to his fans in 2020, reportedly crashed for many as the website received tremendous traffic across the globe. Most of the items sold out like hotcakes in under five minutes and continue to do so whenever they’re restocked.

In other news, his cult-like following—who once called themselves ‘little freaks’—have rented and flown a plane over his favourite restaurant, Sizzler’s Steakhouse, to promote his hit single ‘Agoraphobic’ on Spotify. The fandom has additionally helped secure a coveted billboard for the creator at the New York Times Square, trending both #corpseinthesky and #corpsebillboard on Twitter. Another chaotic achievement under their belt includes changing Wikipedia’s definition of breathing to “Corpse Husband.”

For those who are well-versed with fandoms in the Kpop industry, all of these activities might sound trivial and one might even consider them part of regular influencer culture. But let’s not forget that Corpse Husband is an anonymous, ‘faceless’ creator. Nobody knows his real name and what he actually looks like. In fact, in a rare interview with American YouTuber Anthony Padilla, Corpse admitted that those around him in real life have no clue of his online fame. “I come across as sketchy to everybody,” the influencer said, adding how he has a separate room for recording videos.

Whenever there are parties or gatherings hosted in his apartment, Corpse allegedly tells his guests not to enter that specific space. You know the typical assumptions that stem from such claims. The ‘E-GIRLS ARE RUINING MY LIFE!’ musician further confessed that he can’t answer simple questions like “What do you do for a living?” and “How do you make all this money?”

A digital game of assets and liabilities

But is it actually possible to maintain complete anonymity on the internet—especially when you’ve cultivated a fanbase who willingly tattoo your hair strands and sell out your favourite perfume in a matter of seconds?

“Being a ‘faceless’ influencer isn’t a new concept but it is still something that we don’t see often,” David Gosselin, CEO and president of the influencer management agency A-List Me, told SCREENSHOT. “We typically see influencers connecting with their followers by being relatable and showing their everyday life but ‘faceless’ influencers connect in a totally different way by being mysterious and intriguing their followers with the unknown.”

When SCREENSHOT reached out to the New York-based influencer marketing platform Upfluence, the team had similar insights to share. Solutions Architect Sean Byrne first highlighted the similarities between online avatars, an idea that has been around for decades, and being an anonymous influencer on the internet today. “The anonymity allows creators to establish a new persona and identity in whatever mould they choosehidden from the criticism and hate that can come with being an influencer in the public eye,” he said.

According to Byrne, this anonymity can also alleviate part of the fear and anxiety that typically grip influencers, especially at the start of their public journey. “It’s easy to feel insecure when thousands of people are seeing your face and are consuming what you’re producing. Posting anonymously allows creators to be true to themselves, keep their personal lives private and live a double life—if that’s what they seek,” he explained. “I’m sure it can be freeing to be walking down the street as Corpse Husband without anyone knowing who you truly are.”

But the faceless path to fame is not without cons.”From a creator perspective, being anonymous has some interesting downsides,” Byrne mentioned, adding how an influencer’s anonymity will most certainly work against them during their grind to grow and build a brand. “Typically, to get partnerships and brand deals, companies and partners want to make sure a creator fully represents their brand and values. They will be less trusting of a creator whose face they have yet to see,” the expert said. However, this isn’t an issue once an anonymous personality climbs into the “mega star” rank.

That said, this “mega star” rank in question brings a whole other set of concerns with itself. Ever since Corpse started gaining traction on YouTube, his fans have been begging the influencer for a face and name reveal. This became particularly concerning when he hit the six million followers mark on YouTube in December 2020—after which Twitter was flooded with images and even addresses of random people who users claimed to be “the real Corpse Husband.” In September 2021, pictures of an alleged 13-year-old boy went viral on the platform, with many suggesting that Corpse’s face was “not as he advertised.”

https://twitter.com/adddriiianaa/status/1441938452061179909

“They’re taking pictures of real-life people, I don’t know if they end up seeing it, and then because [they] think it’s me, they shit all over [them] even though they’re normal looking people,” Corpse Husband said in a second interview with Anthony Padilla. “[If] that’s what normal looking people get for [being] me, then I can’t imagine if it was actually me.” This is one of the reasons why the anonymous personality has brushed aside all hopes of a face reveal coming from him anytime soon.

In a Minecraft livestream, Corpse confessed the fact that people’s expectations of his appearance have peaked to unachievable standards. “When you have millions of people going like ‘I think he looks like this’ and you look dramatically different from all of them, it’s like you’re going to let down a lot of people at once and I’d rather not do that,” he admitted.

So can Corpse Husband always keep his fans guessing? Or, given how the internet works, is the creator’s face reveal bound to happen against his will someday? “There have been a few ‘leaks’ of Corpse Husband over the past few years but it seems none of them hold any weight,” Byrne said, adding how he expects a proper face reveal to come from the creator himself in the future instead of it inevitably happening against his will. “So many faceless creators have done such a great job with their anonymity and since it’s their entire brand, they’ll be intentionally careful about it.”

In this regard, A-List Me’s David Gosselin gave the example of Banksy, the England-based street artist, political activist and film director whose identity remains unconfirmed—yet has amassed a whopping 11.2 million followers on Instagram. “As the brand continues to grow, so will the mystery behind it,” Gosselin said. “The more people that follow Corpse Husband will create more suspense of who [he] is.” Although Gosselin believes Corpse can maintain the air of mystery he has created around his identity, the CEO highlighted how it’ll become harder to do so as his popularity skyrockets.

Byrne, on the other hand, directed my train of thought to Corpse’s struggle with severe anxiety, which is heightened due to his fame. The creator has also been laying low ever since the slew of memes and trolls on his identity exposed a horrifying side of the internet. “Corpse recently spoke about why he’s slowed down his content creation regarding YouTube videos and Twitch streams, crediting this change to intense social anxiety,” Byrne explained. “If Corpse was out streaming and creating YouTube videos daily, there’d be a higher chance of his face reveal to happen against his will. But since he’s taken a step back, I think he will be in full control if and when he ever decides to reveal his likeness to his fans.”

In his livestreams and Twitter account, the anonymous influencer has also been vocal about his battle with chronic illnesses and health problems including fibromyalgia, sleep apnea, insomnia, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)—which is partly responsible for his deep voice—and an eye disease which causes inflammation, often requiring him to wear an eyepatch.

When asked about his views on the unrealistic expectations of Corpse that have festered within the public over time, Byrne mentioned, “The audience will imagine and create an image in their head based on the persona a creator has established, and if the reveal happens and it doesn’t meet those expectations, the backlash can be rough.” According to the expert, there’s no right or wrong answer to being anonymous or not—just differences in the pros and cons. “A creator should align themselves with what’s important to them and take that leap of faith,” he added.

To do or not to do

Now onto the elephant in the room. Even if Corpse does a face reveal on his own terms, will it ultimately do more harm than good to the creator’s fame? I mean, the very element of mystery—which Corpse has built his presence around—would be eliminated from the scene. It’d be an entire shift from his ethos as a faceless influencer, right?

Gosselin believes that it makes more sense for Corpse Husband to maintain his anonymity. “My reasoning is ‘don’t fix what isn’t broken’,” the CEO said. At the same time, however, he outlined how influencers ultimately know their followers better than others and therefore know the best content strategy for their brand. “Corpse Husband is more than just a faceless influencer and will be able to maintain a strong connection even if there is a face reveal,” Gosselin added.

Alex Curry, an influencer marketing strategist for gaming and esports at Upfluence, further divulged some historical insights on how a face reveal isn’t really a deterrent for anonymous influencers. “During the early years of digital content creation, especially within esports, a plethora of gaming content creators opted out of the traditional ‘on-screen’ appearance and instead chose to let their gameplay or creative voice-over narrations speak to their audience,” he said.

One such creator who has seamlessly aligned audience expectations and transitioned from a voice-over personality to an on-screen influencer, according to Curry, is Ali-A. “Having first created a YouTube and Twitch presence in early 2009, Ali-A became an illustrious figure among the gaming community for his interpersonal relationship with his audience by simply recording or voicing his Call of Duty gameplay to his audience,” the expert explained. “In three short years, he amassed 400,000 followers between YouTube and Twitch.TV—known at the time as Justin.TV.”

But it wasn’t until Ali-A decided to bring his audience deeper into his life that he finally revealed his face to the public. “His audience took his face reveal extremely well because they were connected to his personality over a surface-level outer appearance,” Curry continued. “Just like Corpse Husband’s audience, Ali-A’s fans had been teased with fake leaked images of his face and even questioned whether other personalities on the platform had created Ali-A as an alternate alias. Today, he sits at 17.2 million subscribers and is still very relevant in the esports space.”

The influencer marketing strategist ultimately believes that, “given the fact his fellow gaming content creators have set such a positive precedent on face reveals, should Corpse choose to do one, his fame will only continue to grow.”

The incognito norm

At a time when we’ve learned to embrace our virtual selves, the rise of Corpse Husband as a global phenomenon signals the overarching appeal of anonymous influencers—who are constantly rewriting norms for content creation in a digital age. “Everything is on the internet now and whether you are a faceless influencer or going the more typical route, you would be able to build a strong presence by just having a social media handle,” Gosselin admitted in this regard.

Curry further explained how influencer culture has shifted beyond physical or face-to-face interactions being the standard, all thanks to the pandemic. “Audiences that had followed their favourite creator from the very early stages of their career are now maturing into an influencer genre that focuses heavily on the deeper interpersonal development between [one’s] content and their fanbase,” he said. According to the expert, gone is the era where a public figure’s success is centred around their physical appearance, materialistic flexing and constant updates to keep their fans hooked.

“We are witnessing a shift where less is more and seeing higher engagement rates in this landscape too. Not being able to constantly know the whereabouts of your favourite influencer keeps audiences guessing as to the next piece of content that will be revealed.” This norm also translates into a positive impact on creators who are faced with the constant pressure to deliver content to their massive audiences. “Influencers are now able to take frequent breaks instead of generating content at such a large volume which eventually leads to burnout,” Curry concluded.

So buckle up, 2022. It might just be the peak time to embrace reclusive creators who are basing their success entirely around their wholesome content and personality online.