Before Logan Paul, Shane Dawson, and even Justin Bieber, social-media stardom belonged to Ana Voog. Two decades ago, Voog launched her 24/7 anacam "livestream" (though a clunkier version, where a poor-quality image would upload via dial-up every few minutes), and millions tuned in to watch her do chores, show off her art, and chat. Voog also got naked, gave birth, and had sex on camera, and she soon became, in her words for Vice, "one of the most famous people online in 1998"—though she's glad most people don't remember her today, and says she now has a better understanding of why she did this kind of thing for 13 years. It wasn't because she was an exhibitionist, she writes: It was how she could share her art and her way of dealing with her various mental health issues, including PTSD, agoraphobia, and the repercussions of what she says were multiple sexual assaults.
"I never felt as safe as when I was documenting everything in my sight with my webcam," she notes. "I was an anarchist. I wanted to crush all the archetypes people held about me ... by slowly disintegrating them from within." Soon, however, she started being bullied, and she also noticed that those interacting with her craved their own attention, driven by "an all-consuming desire to say 'hi,'" to be "seen and heard." And social media's ability to deliver that, she says, is just an illusion. "Instead, we just over-share until everyone is completely numbed or in such a state of rage, despair, and hopelessness that social media literally makes people physically, mentally, and spiritually sick," she writes. More from Voog here. (The highest-paid YouTube star right now isn't even out of elementary school.)