Culture Feature

On Shane Dawson and What It Means to Be "Authentic" Online

The fallout of "Dramageddon 2.0" has called up questions about what it means to be "real" as an Internet celebrity.

Taking Accountability

2020 has been a rough year for Shane Dawson.

After more than a decade of making over-the-top sketches and self-serious "documentaries" on Youtube—growing a fanbase of millions who view him as their wacky friend—Dawson became embroiled in on-going drama between beauty vloggers Tati Westbrook, James Charles, and Jeffree Star.

In what's become known as "Dramageddon 2.0," Dawson is accused of manipulating that drama from behind the scenes in order to boost his own videos. And that drama has brought up the regrettable history of Dawson's racist and otherwise offensive "comedy."

This included the moment that brought him to the attention of Jaden Smith and Jada Pinkett Smithwhen Dawson pretended to be pleasuring himself to an image of then-11-year-old Willow Smith, while sexualizing the lyrics of her song "Whip My Hair."

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Shane Dawson and the Plight of the White Male YouTube Star: When Cancel Culture Fails Us

YouTubers Shane Dawson, Jeffree Star, James Charles, and David Dobrik have all had major success in spite of "cancelable" offenses. How do we ensure they're held accountable?

George Floyd

Photo by Jean Beller (Unsplash)

Following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the subsequent push from progressives to overhaul America's law enforcement, celebrities, and public figures have been forced to reckon with their own history of racism at varying degrees of severity.

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Happy 30th Birthday Etika: Mental Illness as an Influencer

When someone exists as an influencer, with hordes of faceless people following them for "content," their humanity gets lost in the mix.

*Update: On June 25th, 2019, Etika's body was found in the East River by the NYPD. If you're experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

At midnight on June 20th, popular YouTuber and video game streamer, Etika, posted a video titled "I'm sorry" on his alternate channel.

The video shows the YouTuber, whose real name is Desmond Amofah, filming himself as he walks around New York, monologuing about how badly he messed up his life, doling out apologies for anything and everything. He apologizes for pushing people away, letting people down, and failing to seek help for his own mental illness. He speaks calmly and in the past tense. He mentions suicide more than once, and he laments not being able to see what happens next in Attack on Titan. Although the video was posted at midnight, it was filmed during daylight hours and likely scheduled in advance. Etika has not been seen or heard from since.

Many fans are worried that Etika is at high-risk of suicide. Others think that it might be a publicity stunt, one in a long pattern of Etika-related suicidal content. Regardless, his experiences shed light on the troubling dichotomy between Internet fame and suffering mental illness for social media influencers who experience both.

Best known for his Nintendo-related reaction videos, Etika's original YouTube channel had over 662,000 subscribers before he purposely had it banned during what seemed like a mental breakdown. In 2018, Etika uploaded a video rant against Twitter over a temporary ban for using the n-word with a soft "a." His reason for being mad makes sense, but his speech and behavior in the video seem erratic. Shortly after, Etika bombed his own channel with porn, resulting in a permanent YouTube ban. He then posted what seemed like a suicide note on his subreddit, saying, "And now, it's my turn to die. I love you all." He later apologized on Twitch livestream, chalking it up to a "meltdown."

The Know Your Meme entry on Etika documents a pattern of similarly worrying incidents that have escalated over time, suggesting possible mental health issues. These include suicidal tweets, an Instagram-streamed arrest, and his assault of a cop which led to him being briefly put in a mental health facility.

After the arrest, Etika also appeared in a very troubling interview with fellow YouTuber, Keemstar, who capitalizes on Internet-related drama on his "DramaAlert" channel.

During the interview, Etika says, "I walked into the mental place, I became God, and I walked out." The two end up arguing, resulting in Etika blocking Keemstar on Twitter afterwards. Keemstar responded by tweeting about how Etika "RAGE QUIT" the interview "cus I called him out for being WEAK!"

But mental illness doesn't make someone weak; it makes them ill. Even if all of Etika's earlier suicide-related content was some kind of "stunt," it would still point to a larger cry for help that seems all too obvious. Unfortunately, when someone exists as an influencer, with hordes of faceless people following them for "content," their humanity gets lost in the mix. The toxicity of Internet fame can be a hard pill to swallow even for perfectly mentally stable influencers. For those with mental illnesses, it can be shattering.

Many fans view their favorite social media influencers almost as friends. They may spend hours every day listening to a specific person talk and learning details about their life, so they come to feel like they really know that person. But for an influencer, the relationship with fans can never truly exist on equal footing; it is, by nature, hierarchical. The influencer creates content and the fans consume it. Even fans who genuinely want to be friends (and how does one differentiate those from the ones seeking fame, power, or influence?) don't actually want to know the real person. They want to know the influencer's persona.

The only thing lonelier than being truly alone is being surrounded by people who think they know you when they really don't. This is an experience all too common for people with mental illness, who often feel the need to hide their issues for fear of social stigmatization. For influencers, the problem is compounded. Even if they're open about their mental illness, they risk being made fun of by a large audience or, possibly worse, having their worst moments encouraged as a source of "drama." This certainly seemed to be the case for Etika.

In a moment of reflection during "I'm Sorry," Etika says: "Let my story be one that advises caution on too much of the social media s**t, man. It can f**k you up."


Why Are ProJared and JonTron Trending on Twitter? Because YouTube Culture Is Toxic

We are highlighting and dissecting the drama of a womanizing pedophile, a racist, and a sl*t-shaming cyberbully—as if these people matter.

Twitter Vs. ProJared - Bowblax


Once again, YouTubers have proved that they're the worst subset of people.

It was just revealed that YouTuber ProJared will be separating from his wife, Heidi O' Ferrall. In a statement on Twitter, Jared claimed that Ferrall's "mental wellbeing" and "discretion" will remain "the highest priority" through the divorce. But, according to Ferrall, that's not actually the case. "I recently learned that my husband ProJared has been f**king Holly Conrad behind my back for months," Ferrall tweeted out, along with a screenshot showing that her husband had blocked her. "I have no idea what announcement he just made."

For those of you still reading about these sad internet gargoyles for some reason, Ferrall's juicy twitter thread continued with a number of heavy accusations against the popular gamer, including "explicit conversations" over the years with this Holly Conrad person. She also accused ProJared of gaslighting her when she confronted him about his infidelity. He allegedly insisted that "the only thing wrong with our marriage was [her.]" She also sl*t-shamed Holly Conrad and additionally alleged that her husband had solicited nudes from his fans "for years." She said the latter was fine, though, calling it "ostensibly a body-positive space for consenting adults." Well...

The backlash against ProJared has been severe—well, not really, but it probably feels severe in his little bubble of narcissism—as he was removed as a moderator from his subreddit and replaced by fellow YouTubers Scott the Woz and JonTron, the latter of whom believes in racial profiling and ethnic cleansing. ProJared has also lost over 30,000 subscribers from his popular YouTube channel.

I could talk more about this, but frankly, I'm mostly riddled with questions. Why do people care about this toxic braggadocio? I'm truly asking. Is there something I'm missing here? In this small subsection of YouTube culture, we're highlighting and dissecting the drama of a womanizing pedophile, a racist, and a sl*t-shaming cyberbully.

In separate but related news, a woman was drugged at Jake Paul's house party a few days ago, and a few months ago Shane Dawson had to explain that he didn't "actually" have sex with his cat. The moral of this story is that YouTube culture is toxic. There are no winners here. Please cancel YouTubers. Everyone should go read a book. I'm tired.

Mackenzie Cummings-Grady is a creative writer who resides in the Brooklyn area. Mackenzie's work has previously appeared in The Boston Globe, Billboard, and Metropolis Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @mjcummingsgrady.

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Can you tell the difference between intentional copypastas and things that were written seriously?

Copypastas are text-based memes––paragraphs or stories that get copied and shared over and over again on the Internet. Usually appearing on forums and message boards, they tend to be written for humorous effect or with the intent of trolling unsuspecting readers.

Of course, there are plenty of insane stories and quotes that are written and shared genuinely too. See if you can discern between the two.

We'll give you ten examples of text-based stories. You decide whether the story is a copypasta or a real thing that someone said with the intent of being taken seriously. At the end, tally up your correct answers to find out whether or not you're capable of hanging out with the big kids online.

Let's begin. And be sure to scroll slowly – the answers are right below the text.


REAL – Tweeted by YouTube star Shane Dawson after people dredged up videos of a joke he made nearly a decade ago.


COPYPASTA – A classic on bodybuilding and fitness-related threads.


COPYPASTA – Typically used as a response to perceived insults online.


REAL – This is a real quote submitted by a Redditor to r/atheism in an attempt to describe his personal experience not believing in God. Unsurprisingly, he was immediately and mercilessly ridiculed.


REAL – This post sources back to a guy on Facebook (codenamed "Shiverbert on Reddit's r/thathappened forum) who genuinely claimed this happened to him in real life. It definitely didn't, but he posted it 100% seriously.


COPYPASTA – While parodying actual Rick & Morty fans, the difference is barely discernible.


COPYPASTA – Bill Nye can be replaced with any other celebrity to crush fans' dreams.


REAL – An excerpt from a real 2008 conversation on a bodybuilding forum that devolved into many users trying to convince one guy that weeks didn't work the way he thought they did.


COPYPASTA – A mockery of the kind of people who enjoy "random Internet humor."


REAL – While it may read like a parody of Trump's mannerism, this is a real speech he delivered as the President of the United States of America.

Tally up the number of posts you correctly assessed for your final score:

1-2 Correct: You clearly have trouble discerning between truth and fiction. You should consider running for president.

3-4 Correct: Keep us all posted on your continued progress.

5-7 Correct: At this moment, you are euphoric.

8-9 Correct: You're so perceptive, you must be a writer.

10 Correct: Are you a Rick & Morty fan?

So how do you tell the difference between fake posts and real posts online? Heck if we know, everything is batshit insane.

Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at

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Shane Dawson is The Real Victim Here

The strangest celebrity apology of all time.

Phil Mccarten/UPI/Shutterstock

In perhaps the most "did anyone ask?" apology of 2019 so far, Shane Dawson has come out to firmly and decisively deny having sex with his cat.

Which immediately raised the question: did Shane Dawson have sex with his cat?

The 30-year-old YouTube star is referencing a resurfaced clip from a podcast in 2015 in which he said, "One time I laid my cat down on her back...I moved her little chicken legs spread open or whatever, I came all over the cat. It was like my first sexual experience," he said. "I was also like 19." As much as this sounds like a snippet of oddly specific erotic fiction found in some very dark, desperate corner of the world wide web, Dawson claims it was intended as a joke.

He continued to wildly over-explain for 7 more tweets:

The best part of Dawson's apology is its bizarre intensity. It's hard to think of a stronger lead sentence than, "i didn't fuck my cat." Because the thing is, no one REALLY thought Dawson fucked his cat until he denied it so vehemently. If he had tried laughing off the absurdity of the claim, we would all have been like, "oh, well, what white dude hasn't said something truly heinous he thought would make a great sketch?" But listen, Shane, when a friend jokingly accuses you of taking your sister to prom, and you retort, "I DID NOT TAKE MY SISTER TO PROM FUCK YOU," everyone is suddenly pretty clear on the fact that you took your sister to prom.

While the overall tone of self-pity and martyrdom in this thread is truly stunning, perhaps the best line of all is: "but all of my offensive jokes, over the top stories, and insensitive jokes are something that still haunt me and something I have to be faced with everyday on the internet. and it never gets easier." Truly, Shane Dawson is bearing a heavy cross few can imagine.

The trials and tribulations of a white male YouTube personality are just something the rest of us can never know. Imagine having to be accountable for the disgusting things you say on public platforms. Imagine facing the kind of oppression Dawson has faced in being accused of fucking his cat (because he once graphically described fucking his cat). Imagine having the courage and bravery to carry on making shitty Internet content anyway.

Now, to add to a poor, poor Dawson's already burdened soul, more instances of the "offensive jokes, over the top stories, and insensitive jokes" he referred to have surfaced. These include his comments on trans people, his use of the n-word, and previously doing blackface.

Thoughts and prayer to Shane Dawson, the obvious victim in all of this, in this trying time. A true role model for us all. May his heavy load grow lighter (not the one he busted on his cat's stomach, his metaphorical, emotional load).

Brooke Ivey Johnsonis a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson.

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