The new Indian voyeurs and their stars- The New Indian Express

by Jacob Solomon Jul 30, 2023 News
The new Indian voyeurs and their stars- The New Indian Express

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Is that really true? Yes, that's right. Eight lakh views was the number for it. A video about a brother's birthday got over 12,000 views and 1,200 likes. A video posted by a TikTok user is about a woman going on a stupid walk for her mental health. Is viewers interested? It had over 8 million views and 9,00,000 likes.

TikTok is not allowed in India. There is a war going on in a world of challenges. Shahveer Jafry posted a video of himself trying to choke his wife with a pillow as a joke, but he was actually participating in the Blackout Challenge. 4,13,000 people watched Jafry's video.

UNIVERSE OF NONSENSE Morbidity is the most compelling cause on the internet today. In June, a family in Uttar Pradesh recorded a 26-year-old married woman hanging herself from a fan in Mathura; it got about 1.5 lakh views. Such videos are a mirror of what makes people tick and reflect the social concerns of the day. “There is a fascination with taboo. The shock value from it spirals into an adrenaline rush that creates 

a dependence on grim content.

Fuelled by intrigue and curiosity, the darker side of human behaviour is always attractive to watch,” says Gurugram-based psychotherapist and NLP coach Babita Singh. An average person has five social media accounts and spends nearly seven hours online per day, according to a July 2022 study by We Are Social and Hootsuite. On average, 7.4 platforms are accessed per month worldwide, but in India, that number is 8.7. YouTube is king: more than 500 hours of content is uploaded on it every minute. One billion hours of absurdity is consumed every day, especially by viewers aged 15-35 years, according to a 2021 survey by Sproutsocial.

According to Time magazine, the subgenre of family vloggers grew by 90 percent last year. Good enough videos with consistency is the success formula. Bite-sized content is combined with long-form videos to keep viewers interested. According to Gurugram-based social media analyst Ruchi Singhal, the common denominator is clickbait caption and sensationalised thumbnail. You can be present in the lives of the audience multiple times a day.

The rage of the day is ridiculous. The digital content creator Shivani Kapila is seen saying in a recent video that the camera should be turned off. There is a pack of cigarettes in her husband's drawer. The room is tense as she confronted him. He apologizes but gets a cold stare from her. The mother-in-law scampered into the room as terrified as her son. People don't say a word.

Within seconds, the silence is pierced by an angry rant. She ran in the direction of the camera held by the unknown person and covered the lens during the altercation. The end of the video has left a 15-year-old student in Kolkata craving for more. Jaiswal finds the emotional engagement of family vlogs, complete with suspense, drama and anticipation, exciting and he can't wait for the second part. She loves edge-of-the-seat entertainment. She says that they showcase their daily experiences and personal moments with authenticity.

Keeping it in the family.

In the multibillion-dollar industry of social media stars, family antics have seen meteoric success in the last few years. “It’s a new kind of slice-of-life storytelling that speaks to our basic emotions. To some it may be a source of entertainment, and to others, escapism. The ‘everydayness’ of such content makes it engaging,” says Delhi-based sociologist Meetu Nagpal, who believes one of the reasons why family vlogs appeal to so many is the depiction of multiple characters, each offering something unique.

The cultural values put forth by these vloggers are a testament to the enduring nature of family relationships. She says that she is comforted by watching this. One of the first subscribers of Kapila's channel is a 29-year-old illustrator from Delhi. They have roles, responsibilities and relationship complexity. The ordinariness of such content makes it easier for viewers to experience it. Greesh Bhatt and Family has 1.24 million followers and Mom Com India has 2.97 million. She says that she watches these videos for advice on baby care. No special skills, expertise or fancy equipment are required in order to create. A good internet connection and a handheld camera are all you need to shoot.

In the evolution from traditional media such as TV to new-age digital platforms, the shift in viewership preferences has been influenced by two things: the power of personal storytelling and the democratisation of content. Add to that, digital accessibility (over 50 per cent of Indians are active Internet users; this is expected to reach 900 million by 2025, according to the Internet in India Report, 2022), which allows the viewer to access diverse content. “Content is the currency in today’s digital economy, and a family unit poses immense possibilities for income generation, with each member having a monetary value,” says Guwahati-based social anthropologist Krittika Bhuiya.

One of the most popular family YouTubers in India, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, shared their story about how much they earned. We went from stars to overnight stars. "Never in a million years did we imagine the kind of love our simple family would garner," says the father, who vlogs with his wife, son and daughter, all of whom have become celebrities. Half of the family income is made up of sponsored posts, brand partnerships and modelling assignments, not to mention all the free clothes, toys and books they get as perks of their job. He says that they are financially independent and in their teens.

Fantasy fence-peaking.

The fascination with the lives of others is a hard-wired human default. Such inquisitiveness, however, has grown into a voyeuristic tendency and the advancements of technology have made it easier to access people’s private moments. Paradoxically, these glimpses are offered by the vloggers themselves. “The driving factors here are the human traits of curiosity and social comparison. With the advent of reality TV, the scope of comparison increased multifold. The pervasive growth of vloggers has heralded a culture of fence-peaking into the darkest, most vulnerable parts of human life. It reinforces the want for superiority and validation through scandal, suspense, salaciousness and secrets,” says Delhi-based Dr Rahul Chandhok, head consultant, mental health and behavioural science, Artemis Hospital, Gurugram.

This digital obsession is related to evolution. There is a psychological reason for our fixation with drama. A man needs to gather information to survive. The need for drama has evolved from this tendency. It serves a therapeutic purpose as well: watching drama paves the way for catharsis and becomes an outlet for emotional exploration and reflection. It's closer to home when you watch videos on the internet. These videos are the only source of entertainment in rural and small town India.

Ordinary is special  The appeal of family vlogs ballooned with one of the genre’s pioneers in India—the Singh Family—comprising mother and father Ramneek and Puneet, and their three children, Anaanya, Shanaya and Siaan. With a combined following of over 20 million on YouTube, they scripted a new chapter in reality entertainment with hyper-personal content. Sample the description of one of their vlogs: “Today I’m going to tie (sic) a turban on my little son Sahibjot Singh, had so many comments and messages on his turban, so here we are today, if you like it please do like it and share a comment below.” If there is  an argument between any of the members, it is paused until the camera starts rolling. Burnout 

is common, but the thrill of shooting keeps them going.

There is a lack of clean content and family Vlogs fill that gap. According to Ramneek, who is based in Delhi, the directness of vlogging creates proximity between the creator and audience. The narration is more realistic due to the editorial roughness of logs. He says that social media features allow the viewer to stay connected. Farheen Javed is based in Delhi. The Delhi-based sisters, 32-year-old Gulafshan Baji and 29-year-old Shabbo Baji, are her favourite online protagonists. They document the life of a middle-class Muslim family through their channel, the Bajis. They are known for their quick wit. I write to them often about what I like or dislike. They promise to show what I asked for. The experience is more real thanks to this personalization.

The Bajis have aced the game when real and reel integrate. They start their day with a prayer. They film, edit and do a lot of administration work. They had a hot cup of tea and took a nap. A lot of household chores await them when they wake up. They have their first meal after clearing off the load. They try to spend less time in the kitchen and more in the work place. Dinner preparation begins after six hours of shooting. When the Bajis take a day off from work, they go to their friend's salon in Daryaganj for a hair cut. The sisters are dependent on one another. The camaraderie is based on shared experiences.

 The perfect escape  “In an age of oversharing, creator platforms have extended a voyeuristic edge with personal narratives. It is laced with intimate details, offering the viewer an emotional adventure from a constructed fantasy that serves as the perfect escape, slowly becoming a substitute for real connections,” says Chandhok. Think of it as a psychological process of renewal and repair. When the viewer follows the journey of 

a creator through their life challenges, they integrate their feelings with those they’re watching. “If you watch content that shows self-compassion, resilience and mindfulness, you’ll imbibe that. If you see a personal crisis being overcome, you’ll internalise the victories,” he adds. According to Pew Research Center, videos aimed at children are highly popular, including the ones featuring those under the age of 13, regardless of their intended audience.

What books are to a nerd, digital creators are to a social media enthusiast like 21-year-old Mumbai-based B Tech student. I discovered a lot of new interests just by watching vloggers, such as biking, travelling and keeping fit from my wife and husband, as well as from the Sangwan family. He says that you can access all of it.

Comfort of content  Just like comfort food, the new breed of online celebrities serves comfort content to create a sense of belonging. According to 20-year-old Mumbai-based businessman Shaikh Mohammed Jahangir Nasir, it has a therapeutic value; he turned to his favourite vloggers to fight isolation during the pandemic. “They were a virtual support system keeping me company when I was away from my family. Their videos provided a break from the somberness of disease, death and despair,” says Nasir, a fan of Suraj Pal Singh and Yashi Tank’s vlog titled, Suyash Vlogs (4.64M subscribers). Saurav Ghosh, a 31-year-old Indian Railways officer from Kolkata, who has been following Singh and Tank, calls them 

‘a relationship encyclopedia’. “You’re able to see interpersonal dynamics practically as opposed to just talking about it. They normalise relationship conflicts,” says Ghosh. For 34-year-old business analyst, Mehul Bhatt, who shuttles between Delhi and Toronto, family channels inspire trust. “I gravitate towards vlogs with elders as they have a lot to share in terms of life experiences,” he says. 

It's always a good moment.

 In a world where everything is content, there is always a healthy supply of entertainment that keeps you on tenterhooks. Jamshedpur-based student, 18-year-old Sarvagaya Prasad, is hooked to vlogs by Mumbiker Nikhil. “Unlike daily soaps where the plot drags for years, digital creators do the same job with more entertainment value in a few minutes,” he says.

Dopamine is theneurotransmitter responsible for pleasure. It's irresistible to experience emotions such as sadness, loneliness, anger, guilt, shame or conflict when you watch drama on screen. The more you indulge in pleasure-seeking activities, the more dopamine is produced, and the more addictive the habit becomes.

Shreshta is a drama junkie. She is currently watching the stem-winder on the internet, with a massive following on the internet. As he prepares for the baby showers of his two wives in a video that has over five million views, he watches the scenes unfold in awe. In one episode, two heavily pregnant wives are taken to the hospital in a video that has 1.6 million views. The third one with 6.8M views takes the cake, as it shows a man introducing a third woman as his bride.

The wives become breathless with rage after the high-stakes drama. The wife of a man raises her hand at him. He told them that it was a joke. There is no excuse for the intrigue and sensationalism. Seeing flaws in a person's character makes them feel better. It is the truth and sounds twisted. The watcher who feels less alone because of the schadenfreude behavior is provided relief.

There is no child playing.

Child exploitation has taken a whole new meaning in the digital world of likes and shares. The loss of their autonomy is just the tip of the iceberg; the loss of innocence, though, is irreversible. “Growing up under the spotlight with millions of fans expecting you to show up every day can put immense pressure on kids. The fandom that develops creates a false sense of superiority and an unhealthy dependency on attention and validation. Failure becomes hard to contend with,” says Rizvi.

Despite the risks, the space of kid vloggers has catalysed the Rs 900-crore influencer marketing industry. YouTube Kids was the most downloaded app in the world in 2020. It is difficult to refuse a good offer when there is a monetary benefit. The mother of a 15-year-old student and vlogger says that they want their kids to make the most of it because they want companies to have a better Return on Investment.

The child has a different tale to tell, as they juggle school, home tuitions and extracurricular activities. After letting her guard down for a second, she said she hasn't been sleeping well and doesn't feel like meeting friends. She says there are days when she doesn't want to be in front of the camera. She is reminded by her parents that on the internet, out of sight is not important. The additional task can add a lot of pressure to those who think it is a part of their role as a child in the family. When a child shows up in front of the camera, it becomes a norm.

There is a loose regulatory framework around the protection of a child's right to consent. There is no law in India to regulate how children are treated on the internet. Their earnings have been mishandled by their guardians. Vernika Gupta is a Delhi-based lawyer. Sharing and parenting have become hot issues. The practice of parents sharing sensitive or vulnerable information about their children online makes them the biggest violators of their privacy. Gupta says that an injudicious uploading of content with kids exposes them to cyber aggression.

What about viewer discretion while consuming such content? Content creation is a function of demand and supply. There will be an audience if there is enough content. The prescription of the day seems to be the gratification drug.

Influence has power.

More than 70 per cent of Gen Z and the rest of the generation follow people on the internet.

The platforms have a combined market share of more than 50 per cent.


Video is preferred by half of social media users.

The short-form video is the most engaging type of content according to 66 per cent of consumers.

There was a 90 per cent increase in the popularity of family vloggers in savesay savesay savesay savesay.

(Time magazine)

Micro-influencers get more engagement than macro-influencers.

According to, the industry of influencer marketing is expected to be worth $84.89 billion by the year 2028.

India has the largest audience on the video sharing website.

The viewer is speaking.

Sarvagaya Prasad, Student “Unlike daily soaps where the plot drags on for years, digital creators do the same job with more 

entertainment value in a few minutes.”

Ruchi is an illustrator.

“Vloggers are just like us; they have duties, roles, responsibilities and relationship complexities. The ordinariness of such content validates the experiences of the viewer.” 

Farheen Javed, Lawyer “I write to them (the Bajis) regularly telling them what I liked or disliked. Sometimes, they reply, promising to show what I’ve requested. 

This personalisation makes the experience more real.”

Mehul is a business analyst.

“I gravitate towards family vlogs with elders as they have a lot to share in terms of life experiences.” 

Saurav is a railway officer.

“(Vloggers) Singh and Tank are a relationship encyclopedia. You’re able to see interpersonal dynamics practically (in their videos) as opposed to just talking about it.”

The creator economy.

India has an annualised growth rate of over 115 per cent.

One million creators in India will have at least 100K subscribers, growing at 37 per cent annually, which will allow them to have a steady income at par with a full-time job.

The creator industry is expected to grow by 25 percent in the next five years. The market value of GroupM India is currently over $1 billion.

at a global level proliferated from $1.7 billion to $16.4 billion (Ogilvy)

Mumbiker Nikhil: Nikhil Sharma and his wife Shanice Shrestha Follower count: 4.04 million 

Known for: Moto-vlogging, family, travel

Shanice Shrestha Vlogs: Shanice with Nikhil  Follower count: 853K

Known for: Travel and lifestyle

Little Glove: Shivani Kapila, husband Tushar Tyagi and daughter Aadya  Follower count: 12.1 million Known for: Comedy, family relationships, 

daily routine

Armaan Malik: Armaan Malik, wives Payal and Kritika and  their kids—twins Ayan and Tuba, and Zaid

Follower count: 3.46 million 

Family entertainment is well known.

Suyash Vlogs: Suraj Pal Singh and his best friend Yashi Tank Follower count: 4.87 million 

Known for: Lip-sync comedy, dance videos, pranks, fitness and travel

The Bajis: Sisters Gulafshan Baji (Shazma) and Shabbo Baji (Soha) Follower count: 949K

Known for: Documenting the life of a middle-class Muslim family

Ramneek Singh 1313: Ramneek Singh, wife Puneet, children Anaanya, Shanaya and Siaan  Follower count: 6.07 million (the combined count of their six YouTube channels is over 20 million)

Known for: Hyper-personal, autobiographical content

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