When celebrities and journalists get death threats and abusive messages, they have security staff or employers to protect them. But when you’re ‘YouTube famous’ the trolls can seem only the width of a computer screen away.
Tony ‘Bomboni’ is one of the most popular males on YouTube’s ASMR community – a fast-growing collection of independent relaxation videos.
If you’ve ever been for a consultation or medical examination and found it surprisingly pleasurable or relaxing, or heard a particular voice that just lulls you into a trance, then you’ll know the feeling that ASMR videos work to trigger.
It’s a community that garners passionate support and gratitude from many thousands, and vehement hatred from a few.
‘I have received death threats on older channels so I know what it’s like to taste the scary life for a little bit,’ Bomboni tells us. ‘I can’t really tell anyone where I live either.
‘There are a lot of trolls to deal with – the daily stupidity ranges from “you’re gay” to “kill yourself you flaming faggot” and the list goes on. I just block the trolls and remove the comments most of the time.’
The contrast between Bomboni and his online abusers could not be more polarized. His channel is flamboyant, compassionate and honest. He does make-up tutorials, various role-play monologues and a host of other ‘trigger videos’.
He really puts his heart and soul out onto public view and has huge support from over 14,000 subscribers.
Conversely, it seems the trolls prefer the anonymity and solitude of the internet, and will even retreat back to it when the real world and online world coincide.
‘I find that people who just troll “for da lolz” on the net have no life and honestly are too afraid to say anything in person,’ Bomboni says.
‘I’ve had fans and haters see me in person before.
‘But the hater just contacted me later online, saying that he saw me, and left a rude comment. Why didn’t he approach me the day he saw me in the grocery store and say something?
‘They are too scared! Their keyboard and fingers do all the work, not their mouths.’
The anonymity the trolls cling to leaves a number of questions unanswered; it’s impossible to know whether they are old or young, male or female, gay or straight. It’s also intriguing to wonder how on earth they stumble upon male ASMR videos – a nascent online niche that generally won’t find you unless you’re looking for it.
Bomboni points us towards a video posted by ‘DudeThatWhispers’, a newcomer to the community, in which he was recently mentioned. In a creative and amusing ‘troll interrogation’ monologue, DudeThatWhispers poses a very relevant question to those posting homophobic comments against one of Bomboni’s more theatrical videos: ‘If you’re such a homophobe, then why in the world would you click on a video that says “fairy role-play”?’
It’s certainly an intriguing thought. Bomboni thinks the answer may be even simpler though.
‘There’s always going to be trolls on the internet, no matter what you post. Even if you post to your own sub-category of a sub-category – something even more specific than ASMR. When something starts getting attention, that attention will bring in the trolls.
‘They [trolls] are very diverse, there’s no limit. They’re all similar because they feel the need to judge other people without looking at themselves first.
‘I think some people are not confident within themselves, are unsure about their body, their features, their look. They find ease in criticizing others for how they look, so it makes them feel better about themselves.
‘I feel bad for them, because I am so confident in my body. I am no narcissist but I feel so happy in my own flesh, I won’t lie about that. So that’s why I feel bad for some people who feel the need to judge others.
‘Some say I have the face of a model god and some say I look like I shoved ten cocks in my mouth. It all depends on the person who is typing.’
Many ASMR videos can certainly appear strange to anyone unfamiliar with them. The community is growing rapidly though.
A decade ago, few acoustic relaxation aids existed beyond the traditional mediation and self-help tapes, most of which were impossible to hear before buying them. Now though, YouTube has a hugely diverse community of free videos that can, according to the many thousands of fans, even help with sleep issues, anxiety and depression.
The down side is that, with the element of compassion and femininity involved, the male channels are inevitable targets for trolls.
‘ASMR is a baby, it is just starting,’ says Bomboni. ‘The community itself is a baby, but not the feeling – the feeling, I’m sure, dates back thousands of years but people have not realized or been open to it.
‘But the internet is the internet and people don’t realize the consequences of putting words out there and it ending up with a devastating result. So many people have committed suicide from online bullying alone.
‘People need to realize that everyone gets trolled. I’m pretty numb to it. The best thing to do is to ignore them. It’s that simple really!’
Watch Bomboni in action here: