Imagine spending hours on your computer, typing away and taking down notes while listening to lo-fi music as you scribble things on your to-do list. Now imagine if you could get paid for it.
It’s not uncommon that people watch just about anything online these days, be it live streams of people gaming, eating, sleeping, bouncing aggressively or even making a living off ASMR content—yes, even getting paid to pop some bubble wrap and tap your nails on a mic. More recently, young women have been capitalising on the popularity of live streams by jumping on the ‘study with me’ trend online in the form of study sessions for viewers to finally hit the books.
Though the ‘cam girls’ and other NSFW-based live streams have become a worrying issue—especially on platforms marked safe for children—or elsewhere in the land of YouTube, we have creators like Nikocado Avocado slowly killing themselves for views with mukbang content, this trend is more on the wholesome side of things.
Insider covered the topic following Twitch content creator @thewintergallery (real name Belén), a 21-year-old medical student, and her routine of making study sessions. Nothing out of the ordinary at first glance, with Belén simply working in silence “with nothing but the sound of rain in the background.” That is until you find out that thousands of people are following along and watching her study.
It may seem strange to watch someone for hours as they focus in complete silence with headphones while livestreaming, but there is a big market for this sort of content. In Belén’s case, a countdown at the corner of the screen will come to a stop and she’d ask her viewers: ”How are you? Thank you very much for that new sub, how’s the study going?” Almost as if it’s a real-life study session, some may say.
Broadcasting live sessions for over a year, through using Twitch, Belén has managed to bag over $280 (£207), which she invested back in an upgrade for her stream setup. Belén bought a new computer and one of her followers generously donated money to fund a new microphone to improve her streams’ quality.
Speaking to Insider, Belén admitted that she’s not in it for the money. While the income is a bonus, “the best thing is the people, the community that’s been created. I’ve made a lot of friends, even from Mexico, Argentina, and Costa Rica. We study together and take breaks together to talk about ourselves,” she told the outlet.
Over the last few months, the ‘study with me’ community on Twitch, in particular, has grown exponentially. After the severe hit of the COVID-19 pandemic, every industry—including education—struggled to find its footing.
“At first, when I was thinking about it, I did say: it’s a bit shady, isn’t it?” Belén noted. “To think that there’s someone there, unknown to you, watching you while you’re studying. But, in reality, people are more into their own thing and have you in the background,” she continued.
For young students, one of the major pandemic-induced problems became finding places to study together and connect with peers. How do you host study sessions when you have to be socially-distanced from everyone you encounter in and out of lockdown? Lo and behold, the space-age technology we call the internet With work from home culture and online learning becoming a solidified part of the education system, it’s only natural that virtual study sessions have taken off.
According to Insider, the vast majority of these niche streamers on Twitch are women who tend to use the Pomodoro Technique—studying in hour-long intervals with 15-minute breaks in between.
Another creator, Ana Blanca (@anablanchu), also a fifth year medical student who streams her study sessions, has a following of 46,000 users on Twitch and is approaching double that on other platforms such as YouTube (82,000) and TikTok (85,000). Speaking to Insider, Blanca shared that on a good streaming month, she can earn anything from $1,100 (£814) to $1,700 (£1,259). Not bad, huh?
The views of Twitch streamers themselves need a bit of an update though. For one thing, sitting down to study is not always so easy. As with all content creation, it requires a lot of motivation and comfort to record yourself (especially on livestreams). Furthermore, the creators often question the platform’s lack of moderation for the ‘study with me’ genre—as they have for different forms of gaming. Grouping all types of creators is only said to bring in hords of misconceptions about study streamers.
“For people who aren’t very used to content creators like this, they should know that not all of us are guys who sit 12 hours in front of the computer to play video games, which is also totally fine, or that we live in Andorra. There are others of us who dedicate ourselves, in a certain way, to helping others,” Blanca remarked.
While there are elements to the trend that still need some improvements, the streamers all agreed that the best part of their side hustle is building a community surrounding this type of content. Twitch became their platform of choice because it allows creators to cut out the middleman in the form of editing and recording which YouTube currently necessitates. At a time when study sessions were previously native to Discord, it’s also worth noting how these streamers are cleverly migrating to Twitch in order to capitalise on their hobbies.
“YouTube and Twitch are different things. Twitch is more like something to do at home. It saves me a lot of time and I get to study with people. It takes a lot of work away from me and the truth is that I have a great time,” Blanca shared with Insider as a final note.
Twitch streamer Tim C. Inzana has spent the first 100 days of 2021 locked in a shed, constantly livestreaming himself—I’m talking 24/7 here—and he plans to stay there for many more years as part of a stunt to promote a very unique offer. For the right price—we’ll get back to this in a minute—Inzana says he will lock himself in an empty room for five to 10 years and fill it with art he creates, all while being livestreamed non-stop to a custom frame designed by him to be hung on the wall of his buyer.
“The artwork is me creating the artwork,” Inzana told Insider. “It would be like seeing a blank space transform into this colourful space.” He views his current year-long livestream, which is running constantly on the platform Twitch, as an experiment that also shows he’s as serious as it gets about the offer.
For $5 million, Inzana states that he will remain in the room for five years. He’s offering 20 of those five-year frames at that price. For $10 million, he will remain in the room for 10 years, an option only available to a single buyer.
However, Inzana also has a third alternative: a public option. If he gets 7,000 subscribers on Twitch by the end of 2021, he’ll pull back all the above offers and will instead continue his current stream for up to five years, so long as his subscriber count does not dip below that threshold. A subscription to his channel costs $4.99 per month, and he has sold 102 so far.
Speaking to Insider, Inzana, 34, said he had always been interested in the potential of livestreaming, “I had a bug for livestreaming before Twitch ever came out, before YouTube Live, or Instagram Live,” he explained, adding that it’s “basically the opposite of what has happened, where we pick and choose these moments from our lives and create a narrative.”
At any point in the day, people can tune into the livestream on his Twitch channel, stumblrTV. If you tune in from 8 to 10 p.m. Pacific Time, you can watch Inzana as he sits at his computer and hosts a Q&A. Other times you may find him eating dinner, meditating, or having a solo dance party virtually DJed by a follower he recently connected with.
Sometimes, Inzana will have muted himself while he works on his art, which he calls “laser-cut, layered, perspective” art created by layering custom-cut pieces of materials like acrylic or aluminium to form 3D works of art. The frames he’s selling to feature his livestream will be made in this style.
While his current project might seem extreme to some, Inzana explains that he is not trying to do a “game show stunt.” In fact, he spent months talking with friends and family before deciding to do this. His fiancée supports him and brings him groceries through the window. The project is also not meant to be “dangerous” or especially “restrictive.” Instead, he said he views it as a project of “life and love.”