Thanksgiving has always been about food.

We suffer through the awkward small talk and often anti-climactic football games for the sake of the meal that awaits us at the end of the day, and even then that "meal" is representative of ethnic cleansing and genocide. But there are a few other pros that lay outside of gorging yourself on mashed potatoes. The holiday always falls on a Thursday, which means you always have a four day weekend. Black Friday is also the following day, so despite whatever infuriating experiences you may have on Thanksgiving with your family, you can at least rest easy knowing you can go out and buy enough stuff to numb the pain.

These reasons alone are enough to warrant celebration. So while you clench your jaw through what is almost guaranteed to be a painfully long afternoon, why not curate some music to help elevate your mood and remind yourself that a four day weekend of relaxation awaits?

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Culture Feature

15 Years Since Its First Video: How YouTube Has Changed (for the Worse)

The platform has shifted dramatically from its humble, open origins

On April 23rd, 2005, YouTube Co-founder Jawed Karim uploaded the very first video to the fledgling platform.

An 18-second clip of the young entrepreneur entitled "Me at the Zoo," the video is short, simple, unfocused, and innocent—like most of YouTube's content in its early days. As mundane as it is, its value as an artifact of online culture has garnered it over 90 million views to date.

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Music Features

Half Waif, Ben Gibbard, and 5 Other Live Streams to Tune Into Now

Get your best headphones, crack open a cold one, and enjoy these livestream shows, straight from one artist's living room to yours.

Now that we're all stuck at home, musicians are turning to livestreams in order to share their art with the world. Here are some incredible livestreams to check out this week and next:

Friday, 3/27: Half Waif, the dreamy electro-pop outlet of Pinegrove's Nandi Rose Plunkett, is performing her ethereal new album "The Caretaker" this Friday at 7:30 PM. Tune in here. Plunkett also recently wrote a column for NPR about how she's staying sane during quarantine—which involves spending a lot of time on her couch.

Half Waif: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert www.youtube.com


4PM Daily: Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie has been doing daily livestreams, and he just released a song called "Life in Quarantine."

Benjamin Gibbard - Life in Quarantine (Official Audio) www.youtube.com


Saturday, 3/28: Bands including indie outlet WD-HAN will be gathering for a festival called Doomed Fest on Saturday, March 28th and Sunday, March 29th, starting at noon EST daily. Tickets are $10 and all proceeds go towards supporting performers.

Doomed Fest


Sunday 3/29: Elton John is bringing Billie Eilish, Mariah Carey, and Alicia Keys (all in the safety of their own homes) together for the iHeart Living Room Concert for America, airing 9PM Sunday.

Billie Eilish - The End of the World - Radio 1 Piano Sessions www.youtube.com


Sunday 3/29: Jay-Z's streaming platform Tidal will be bringing a coterie of illustrious artists together this weekend for free livestreams, including Beyonce and Rihanna for their Sunday R&B sessions.

Rihanna - Diamonds (Acoustic Live) www.youtube.com


Wednesday 4/1 (and every Wednesday and Friday): Indie band San Fermin is doing IGTV livestreams every Wednesday and Friday at 3PM EST. They also just released the second installment of their dual album, The Cormorant, along with a new video for "Freedom (Yeah Yeah Yeah)." Tune in to the livestreams here.

San Fermin - Freedom (Yeah Yeah!) (Official Video) www.youtube.com


Thursday, 4/2: The musician Mike Broussard is doing livestreams every Thursday at 1PM EST. Experience his rollicking, expansive ballads by tuning in here.

Marc Broussard-Solo Acoustic (Round 2) www.youtube.com


April 4th: Actor and musician Michelle Creber will be performing a livestream concert on April 4th. She also just released a new music video for "Storm" and dropped a moving, cinematic new single called "False Empire."

STORM (music video) - Michelle Creber www.youtube.com


Have a livestream you want featured? Email eden@popdust.com.

CULTURE

This Content Is Dangerous: Trauma in the Age of YouTube

Digital space is both the crime scene and respite.

Remember when a great concern of the zeitgeist was whether playing violent video games would encourage violent behavior?

For over 50 years, intense research was dedicated to deciphering whether violence in the media can predispose viewers to violent behaviors. The 2019 answer (despite people like Trump falsely clinging to the outdated debate) is no; in fact, violent media is more likely to cause crippling trauma than indoctrinate you.

This week, The Verge's Casey Newton recounted interviews with 100 moderators of "violent extremism" on YouTube and Google. Based on testimonies of American-based employees (nevermind the small army of "cleaners" that tech companies amass overseas to exploit cheap labor), the litany of moderators' documented mental health issues range from anxiety and depression to insomnia and other intense PTSD symptoms. And it's no secret to the managers at Google and YouTube. Those who deem themselves to be "the lucky ones" are granted paid leave to address the mental health concerns that have regularly arisen among moderators who are expected to spend full work days viewing footage of child abuse (of both physical and sexual nature), beheadings, mass shootings, and other forms of extreme violence.

The banned content is divided into queues, reports The Verge. From copyright issues, hate speech, and harassment to violent extremism (VE) and adult sexual content, hundreds of moderators are contracted either in-house or through outside companies like an Austin-based outfit called Accenture. Many are immigrants who jumped at the opportunity to work for a major media company like Google. "When we migrated to the USA, our college degrees were not recognized," says a man identified as Michael. "So we just started doing anything. We needed to start working and making money."

Considering there are videos with disturbing content under the guise of Peppa Pig clips in order to slip into kid-friendly digital spaces, moderators do feel a sense of social responsibility and satisfaction for removing dangerous and inappropriate content from the Internet. But, of course, the company's bottom lines don't prioritize a safer digital space, but rather capital and ad revenue. Similar to Amazon's notorious workers' rights abuses, Google has imposed increasingly inhumane and bizarre restrictions on their moderators, from increasing their quotas to banning cell phones and then pens and paper from the floor and limiting time for bathroom breaks. "They treat us very bad," Michael adds. "There's so many ways to abuse you if you're not doing what they like." Michael works for Accenture, where the average pay is $18.50 or about $37,000 a year, but an in-house moderator for Google, a woman identified as Daisy, described her full-time position in the California headquarters as ideal on paper. She earned about $75,000 a year with good benefits, not including a grant of Google stock valuing about $15,000. Ultimately, she left the job with long-lasting PTSD symptoms, because, she said, "Your entire day is looking at bodies on the floor of a theater. Your neurons are just not working the way they usually would. It slows everything down."

Specifically, a moderator's job is to view at least 5 hours of content every day; that's five hours of watching mass shootings, hate speech and harassment, graphic crimes against children as young as three years old, and images of dead bodies as the result of domestic and foreign terrorism (such as ISIS or a man shooting his girlfriend on camera). "You never know when you're going to see the thing you can't unsee until you see it," Newton concludes from her 100 interviews. Some moderators suffered severe mental health effects after a few weeks, while others endured years before they were forced to take leave, quit, or hospitalize themselves.

social media danger "Virus" by Carolina Rodriguez Fuenmayor

Secondhand Trauma

"Every gunshot, every death, he experiences as if it might be real," Newton writes about one moderator's trauma. And that's what it is: trauma in the age of YouTube. While the human condition has been documented to bend under the weight of atrocities since ancient civilizations' records of soldiers committing suicide, the term "posttraumatic stress disorder" was only acknowledged in the 1970s amidst the domestic fallout of the Vietnam War.

Today, studies estimate that 8 million Americans aged 18 and over display symptoms of PTSD, which is about 3.6% of the U.S. adult population. Furthermore, 67% of individuals "exposed to mass violence have been shown to develop PTSD, a higher rate than those exposed to natural disasters or other types of traumatic events," according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. And the more traumatic events one is exposed to, the higher the risk of developing PTSD symptoms.

When it comes to "secondary" trauma, experiencing mental and emotional distress from exposure to another's experience is generally associated with therapists and social workers. The contagion of secondhand trauma was already known before YouTube began in 2005, and social scientists across the board have concluded that "vicarious traumatization," "secondary traumatic stress (STS)," or "indirect trauma" is a real, clinical effect from graphic media in the news cycle. One study found, in reference to press coverage of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, "Unlike direct exposure to a collective trauma, which can end when the acute phase of the event is over, media exposure keeps the acute stressor active and alive in one's mind. In so doing, repeated media exposure may contribute to the development of trauma-related disorders by prolonging or exacerbating acute trauma-related symptoms."

In the age of increasingly pervasive media coverage and exposure to all varieties of human behavior, secondary trauma is inevitable. Yet, among the general public it's often unacknowledged, or even mocked. Newton recounted, "In therapy, Daisy learned that the declining productivity that frustrated her managers was not her fault. Her therapist had worked with other former content moderators and explained that people respond differently to repeated exposure to disturbing images. Some overeat and gain weight. Some exercise compulsively. Some, like Daisy, experience exhaustion and fatigue."

"All the evil of humanity, just raining in on you," Daisy told Newton. "That's what it felt like — like there was no escape. And then someone [her manager] told you, 'Well, you got to get back in there. Just keep on doing it.'"

social media danger "Sorrow and Fire" by Carolina Rodriguez Fuenmayor

Broadcasting Trauma

What constitutes "traumatic" media? The World Health Organization has gone so far as to define "violence" for the international community: "the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation." With the average U.S. adult spending over 11 hours a day "listening to, watching, reading or generally interacting with media," a digital user is exposed to real-world violence, global acts of terrorism, intimate partner violence (IPT), and casualties of freak accidents on a daily basis. While streaming entertainment occupies much of that time, radio reaches up to 92% on a weekly basis, while live TV "still accounts for a majority of an adult's media usage, with four hours and 46 minutes being spent with the platform daily," according to Nielson.

The problem with media is no longer as simple as violent video games. What streams in live news reports are increasing incidents of far-right terrorism (up 320% over the past five years) and increasing numbers of casualties. Meanwhile, shootings in the U.S. have intensified in frequency and fatalities, with gun deaths reaching the highest number per capita in more than 20 years (12 gun deaths per 100,000 people).With social media, you can view police shootouts live on Twitter, watch a mass shooter's livestream of his attack, see fatal police brutality caught on tape, or witness someone commit suicide on Facebook.

Who's policing this content? Instagram and Facebook are ostensibly cracking down on their community guidelines by demoting potentially injurious content—or debating before congress the limitations of both free speech and Mark Zuckerberg's latent humanity. As of November 2019, Twitter allows some sensitive material to be placed behind a content warning, provided it serves the purpose "to show what's happening in the world," but bans posts that "have the potential to normalize violence and cause distress to those who view them," including "gratuitous gore," "hateful imagery," "graphic violence" or adult sexual content. What happens after you hit the "report" button? At Google (and its property YouTube), it falls to the underpaid, overworked, and neglected moderators who are denied lunch breaks and vacation time if their queue has a heavy backlog of footage.

But what the Hell are we supposed to do about it? If we stumble across these images—even view some of them in full—do we become culpable for their existence?

We've been fretting over the human condition's ability to withstand traumatic images since the dawn of photography, particularly after photographs of the 20th century's World Wars exposed inhumane suffering to international audiences for the first time. "Photographs of mutilated bodies certainly can be used...to vivify the condemnation of war," writes Susan Sontag in 2003's Regarding the Pain of Others, "and may bring home, for a spell, a portion of its reality to those who have no experience of war at all." She also notes, "The photographs are a means of making 'real' (or 'more real') matters that the privileged and the merely safe might prefer to ignore." In contrast, photographer Ariella Azoulay challenges Sontag when she examines the fundamental power relations between viewer and object in her book, The Civil Contract of Photography, wherein she argues that a violent photograph demands that the viewer respond to the suffering depicted. If the role of a photograph is "creating the visual space for politics," then how much more does a moving image demand of us? Clicking the "report" button on Twitter? Writing to our congresspeople? Taking to the streets and rioting?

In her longform essay, Sontag wrote: "Compassion is an unstable emotion. It needs to be translated into action, or it withers. The question of what to do with the feelings that have been aroused, the knowledge that has been communicated. If one feels that there is nothing 'we' can do–but who is that 'we'?–and nothing 'they' can do either– and who are 'they'–then one starts to get bored, cynical, apathetic."

social media danger "This Life Will Tear You Apart" by Carolina Rodriguez Fuenmayor

Ultimately, Google's failure to properly respect and support the mental health of its content moderators reflects an American problem of exceptionalism and subsequent drive to optimize at all costs. What drives the average American to filter the world through their screens for half of their day is stress over keeping up with trends and current events, being the most productive, and then escaping those anxieties in their downtime: Digital space–the realm of the image–is both the crime scene and the respite. The injustice calling us to action—whether in the form of boycotts or Twitter rants—is the fact that media is being regulated by a small cohort of billion-dollar companies with little to no regard for actual human life. Governments expect tech companies to police their own services with no outside oversight, while Google, a company that made $136.22 billion in 2018, is "just now beginning to dabble in these minor, technology-based interventions, years after employees began to report diagnoses of PTSD to their managers," according to Newton.

"It sounds to me like this is not a you problem, this is a them problem," is what Daisy's therapist told her. "They are in charge of this. They created this job. They should be able to … put resources into making this job, which is never going to be easy — but at least minimize these effects as much as possible." As of this week, they're putting (minimal) effort into that. Google researchers are experimenting with using technological tools to ease moderators' emotional and mental distress from watching the Internet's most violent and abusive acts on a daily basis: They're thinking of blurring out faces, editing videos into black and white, or changing the color of blood to green–which is fitting: blood the color of money.

MUSIC

Who Is Nine-Year-Old Drumming Sensation Nandi Bushell?

The little prodigy is blowing our minds with her covers.

If you're at all in tune with the music side of Twitter, you've likely come across a video of this girl's cover of Nirvana's "In Bloom."

This is Nandi Bushell, a tiny 9-year-old rock extraordinaire. According to her social media run by her parents, she lives in Ipswich, England, a riverside town about 65 miles northeast of London. "I can jam to Nirvana In Bloom all day," Bushell wrote along with the clip. "Nirvana are in my top 5 bands so far. I just found out Dave [Grohl] also played with Jack Black in Tenacious D, Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age!!!! The film school of rock is the best film in the world." (My favorite part of the caption is that she specifies "top 5 bands so far"—she's plenty aware of how young she is and how much she's yet to discover.) Her chops give Grohl a run for his money as she thrashes along perfectly on beat. She gives the track her own twist with ferocious screams and facial expressions, proving that she's not only adorable, but already way more badass than we'll ever be. Even with her immense talent, the highlight of the video might be her beaming smile at the end: the face of a kid who's simply having a blast.

And people are having a blast watching. Bushell posted the video on Monday, November 11; by Friday afternoon, it amassed almost eight million views, almost 50 thousand favorites, and over 10 thousand retweets, not to mention countless responses cheering her on. "In Bloom" might've gained Bushell wider attention on Twitter, but this isn't her first rodeo. She's also very active on Instagram, where she's covered anything from "Chop Suey" by System of a Down to Prince's "Kiss" and Billie Eilish's recent No. 1 hit "bad guy." She's been posting these covers since she was six, and her videos have caught the attention of Zildjian and Vic Firth—cymbal and drumstick brands, respectively—who have each sent her shiny new gear so she can keep rocking out. The pros are catching on to her gift, too: within the last year, she's performed with Lenny Kravitz, hung out with Roots drummer Questlove, and her videos have been shared by Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea, just to name a few. Most recently, she was featured in a Christmas commercial for British retailer Argos and is taking up guitar, too.

Basically, there's no reason not to be obsessed with Bushell. We're so inspired by how much she's accomplished in her short nine years, and we can't wait to see where her drumming takes her next.

Michelle Phan and Illustration by Sharmelan Murugiah

Michelle Phan has lived the influencer dream to its fullest extent, from YouTube sensation to makeup mogul—to burnt out Millennial who either had to disappear from the web or collapse in on herself like a neutron star.

In 2007, a 19-year-old Phan tapped into YouTube's burgeoning online community with a simple beauty channel and effectively founded the online beauty guru community. Over the next 10 years she reached one billion views, launched her own make-up line, Em Cosmetics, created a beauty subscription service called Ipsy, and even opened her own studio for influencers to follow in her footsteps.

Basic Foundation Tutorial (Phan's first video, 2007) youtu.be

But in becoming "the world's first influencer," according to The Cut's recent profile of the now 32-year-old, she was also one of the first to experience social media burnout. In 2016, she collapsed under the social pressures that come from turning one's name into a brand, like running an "empire" before she was 30 and maintaining her perfect image online. "I was going almost borderline crazy," she told Teen Vogue. "So I packed a suitcase—my whole life—in one piece of luggage, and I just left. I didn't even tell anyone. My business partners, board members, everyone was freaking out, like, 'Did Michelle just quit? We need her!' I thought, 'Dude, if you want me to make this brand great, I need myself to think great. I need to feel great, and I don't feel great right now.' So that's why I left."

"Why I Left" was also the name of the first YouTube video Phan posted when she seemingly returned from her social media detox in 2017. The 11-minute video is an animated walk-through of her young life and career, from her childhood spent idolizing her mother who immigrated to the U.S. after the Vietnam War to creating her own beauty brand. The video's art reflects Phan's original plans to attend art school for illustration; in fact, her first beauty tutorial was just an iMovie experiment on the free laptop she received as a freshman at Florida's Ringling College of Art & Design. Phan's waitressing job and help from her struggling single mother paid for her first semester, but then she had to drop out due to tuition costs.

Later, Phan would often credit her mother for her drive and motivation. She told ABC News, "She was an immigrant when she came here to America, she had a great education when she was in Vietnam, but after the war, the entire country was devastated. So she came out here and didn't know how to speak English, had less than $20 in her pocket. For the rest of her life she had to become a beautician and do nails." Phan grew up interested in the larger beauty industry that propped up her mother's profession while simultaneously watching her mother develop breathing problems from all chemicals she inhaled at work. She vowed to earn enough money to let her mother retire by the time Phan was 25. She did. But she couldn't stop working.

"I thought, financially, I'm okay. My family is okay. Why do I feel like I need more?" She mused, "Sometimes I feel like our society tells us, 'No, you need more! You need more money. You need to be a multi-billionaire.' But why?"

The answer: classic "Millennial burnout," the often maligned experience of 20- and 30-something year olds who were raised with the promise that hard, continuous work leads to stability, but instead they faced the 2008 financial crisis, unprecedented student debt, and the decline of the middle class. In a contentious Buzzfeed News article from earlier this year, "How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation," Anne Helen Peterson writes, "In a marked shift from the generations before, Millennials needed to optimize ourselves to be the very best workers possible." She recounts how sociological approaches to parenting shifted for Millennials to believe two contradictory truths: You need to optimize your time and your habits to be successful in the workplace; and you (theoretically) have more freedom than any prior generation, so be grateful and pursue something you love. Essentially: Optimize yourself (isn't that the point of every "self-care" trend?).

Between the contradictions—be yourself but be the best, work is play, but play is work—the center cannot hold. Psychoanalyst Josh Cohen says, "The message that we can work harder and be better at everything—even rest and relaxation!—results in a strange composite of exhaustion and anxiety, a permanent state of dissatisfaction with who we are and what we have."

Why I Left youtu.be

Thank god there's social media—for venting, for wish-fulfillment, for escape from an adulthood in which "everything leaves us feeling that we are servants rather than masters of our work," in Cohen's words. But of course, our online personas only intensify burnout, as social media is a cesspool of its own contradictions. Technology makes it truly possible to never stop working, to blur all boundaries between the personal and the professional, leisure and labor, reality and Instagram. Hence, we burn out because we never stop reaching for the ideal, optimized self, hoping to blur the lines enough to erase all our flaws, in both our digital and real selves. As a result, Cohen says, Millennials are left "forever feeling as though they're falling short, that they could do more, attain more, be more. And of course, this isn't a message [they] will have received exclusively from [their] parents; on the contrary, it's the maxim of our entire culture, amplified at every moment by the ideals of beauty, accomplishment, talent and taste—perfect homes, bodies, families, jobs—beamed at us from magazine pages, TV screens and social media feeds."

That's what had Phan packing her life (worth about $50 million) in a suitcase and leaving without telling a soul. After posting "Why I Left," Phan spent much of 2017 giving interviews about what drove her to take a year-long social media detox. The pressure to become successful enough to allow her mother to retire had driven her to work relentlessly—even if it meant sleeping five hours a night and becoming "imprisoned by my own vanity," she says in her video. "[I] was never satisfied with how I looked." She confesses, "Once, I was a girl with dreams, who eventually became a product, selling, smiling, and selling...Somewhere along the journey I lost myself."

Ironically, the year Phan returned was also the year Instagram was named the "Worst Social Media for Mental Health." As a result of pursuing the perfectly balanced, optimized self, rates of depression, anxiety, and loneliness among Millennials has long been noted to be the highest of any prior generation. As Cohen writes, "The social media feed—and Instagram in particular—is thus evidence of the fruits of hard, rewarding labor and the labor itself. The photos and videos that induce the most jealousy are those that suggest a perfect equilibrium (work hard, play hard!) has been reached. But of course, for most of us, it hasn't."

As it turned out, Phan didn't actually return to YouTube in 2017. While "Why I Left" has received her most views to date (over 13 million), she didn't post another video until Sept. 2019. A three-minute video titled "Hello" captures the beginning of Phan's day, from playing with her cat to filming at Ipsy studios. "I missed you," she captions. Just this week, she followed up with a playful video of herself reviewing her old videos. "Reliving 2007-2009," she captions. "If you were one of my 60,000 subscribers, I love you." She now has nearly 9 million subscribers; within two hours of posting, "Watching My Old Videos" was viewed over 150,000 times.

There's something darkly analogous about Phan's early experiences as the child of immigrants—admiring her mother's self-sacrifice to fulfill the American Dream while falling in love with the very industry that demanded her sacrifice—and the full arc of the influencer. In endless pursuit of their best selves, influencers turn their names and faces into online avatars onto which they project their fantasy lifestyles, while admiring others who do the same. The empty promises of their upbringing push them to escape to an unreal place where they channel their anxieties into empty promises to their viewers: This is how great your life can be—if you're willing to work for it.