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First date at their house: Red flag or the new normal?

2023-03-19 06:15:09

First date at their house: Red flag or the new normal?

You swipe, you match, and before you know it, your match wants to meet IRL. But there's a catch: they want you to come to their house. So, is this an automatic red flag, or are there some circumstances where it's OK?

First date at their house: Red flag or the new normal?(图1)

First, let's take a look at the current state of play in the dating world. Recent research revealed(Opens in a new tab) that seven in 10 single U.S. adults looking for a relationship say dating is harder after COVID. It makes sense: the list of questions for how to date, always lengthy, has become endless over the enduring pandemic. For instance: How do you seem interesting on a first date when you’ve basically been stuck in your house for two years? Are we still doing video dates? In the middle of the cost of living crisis, how do you plan an affordable and considerate date? And after two years of taking dates for a walk around a park during lockdown, what do we now consider "normal" date location? So, when a date suggests their house as a first-date location, is that OK? Is it the new normal?

SEE ALSO: 'Beige flags' are the TikTok dating trend that could ruin your love life

This has been a popular question in discussion threads in Reddit(Opens in a new tab) in recent months as people talk about their anxiety in this new stage of COVID and how it has led to them feeling more comfortable in their homes than the typical first-date location. (Many of us did stay in them for almost two years, after all.) But just because one person feels comfortable in their home doesn’t make it a suitable first-date location for both parties. Like many things that have to do with dating, it’s complicated.

Know your boundaries

A first date requires a conscious effort on both sides to discover each others likes, dislikes and boundaries, which often means there may be unintentional mistakes made along the way as you get to know each other. 

Your own safety on a date should be your number one priority. So, when your date offers their home as a first date location, dating experts advise against doing this. Jessica Alderson, relationship expert and co-founder of SO SYNCD(Opens in a new tab), a personality type dating app, tells Mashable: "More often than not, there isn’t any malicious intent behind the offer," she explains, but she advises against doing it.

"You just shouldn’t take that risk in terms of safety. It’s completely acceptable to say that you would prefer to meet at a public place such as a bar or restaurant."

"You just shouldn’t take that risk in terms of safety. It’s completely acceptable to say that you would prefer to meet at a public place such as a bar or restaurant." She adds: "When it comes to relationships, it’s much better to be clear about your boundaries from the very beginning. If you don’t, it can have negative impacts on your mental health and self-esteem."

While she advises that in most cases you say no to a date in the home of the person you’re meeting for the first time, there can be exceptions (more about that below). Either way, the question and its answer are valuable as a way to get to know your date. If they respond negatively to you setting your boundaries, that’s a clear red flag and you should end communications. But, stating what you want or need — even when it might not be what your potential date wants — is a way to set the foundation for a good relationship.

SEE ALSO: How to set boundaries in the early stages of dating

"Sharing what you are comfortable with early on when dating helps minimise the risk of resentment building up. It goes without saying that it works both ways, and when you are on the receiving end of someone setting boundaries, it can actually be comforting to have such clarity from a date or a partner," Alderson explains.

So, what do you do instead?

If you feel uncomfortable but still want to explore your connection with your date, it doesn’t hurt to think of some options for a first date that do make you feel comfortable, like dinner in a restaurant, a picnic, or meeting up in a bar. That way, you can be empowered about determining what you do want to do, and see how your date responds.

SEE ALSO: How the cost of living crisis is impacting the way we date

Crystal Cansdale, dating expert at global dating app Inner Circle(Opens in a new tab), tells Mashable that for a first date, she’d recommend meeting on neutral ground, such as meeting up for a coffee or a walk in the park to create an atmosphere of safety. She’d also question them on why having a date at their house is so important as a "first date is going to leave a lasting impression — and that shouldn’t be feeling unsafe or as though they can’t be bothered."

What if there's an exception to the rule?

Of course, there could be a genuine reason behind a "first date at home" offer, such as anxiety about being out in public or lack of money. We are in a cost of living crisis and according to dating app Bumble, the cost of living crisis has made people consider low-key dating, and for us to be more open about our financial situations early on in the relationship. So perhaps a "first date at home" doesn't always automatically come from a place of bad intentions.

"Dates at my house were a little weird and came with some level of presumption, but I had safeguards in place."

This was the case for Tilly, who requested only her first name be used, who had to have dates at her house during university because she was a broke student and having dates at home was much cheaper. "Dates at my house were a little weird and came with some level of presumption, but I had safeguards in place," she said. "Like my four housemates who were [each in couples] would be in their rooms, and if I needed them, I’d just text them and they’d suddenly join us in the living room and ruin it."

Having first dates at home is still something she does now because it’s convenient — her job as a journalist means she has a lot of her own commitments and it's sometimes hard to fit dates in — and it saves money. While some people may find it odd, it has worked for her and she’s had some nice dates this way, minus the Batman-obsessed guy who was covered in Batman tattoos and made her listen to the Batman movie soundtrack one by one to "understand the themes." Some dates have presumed that they’re going to get lucky but that’s why she emphasises the importance of safeguards. 

Like Tilly, Sharon — who wanted to remain anonymous — also had a date at her home, almost three years ago. "I invited my now partner to stay at my home overnight. We had met online and talked on Zoom but never met. So we slept in separate rooms." Because she felt a level of safety with him and felt a deep level of trust so she invited him over to her home. The fact they were both musicians and could relate to a love of music and also create music together (no pun intended) factored massively to her feeling safe with him. Sharon added, "A home-cooked meal is a lovely date, and not every man will assume an invite to your home means you’re instantly available for sex."

Trust is a must-have

There’s nothing wrong with going on a date just to hook up at the end, but if you feel uncomfortable about going to someone’s home, you should consider alternatives. Opting for a hotel gives you the option of making an easy getaway, should you need to —  know where the exits are, and you can call down to the front desk. However, again this comes with a level of trust with the person you are hooking up with as you’ll still be in a hotel room alone with them. 

But, also, a first date doesn’t necessarily mean the person is a stranger. It could be someone you’ve been friends with for years, with whom you’re now wanting to explore a relationship. That, Alderson agreed, would be an exception to her rule of not going to a date’s house on the first date.

SEE ALSO: Why affairs are on the rise in the cost of living crisis

Two women I spoke to explained that they had met their now-partners for a first date at their homes, but they had mutual connections and had talked beforehand, so they felt safe. "I had met him once through mutual friends, who knew where he lived and that I was going there," Mary said. 

Callisto Adams(Opens in a new tab), a certified dating and relationship expert, says to consider both sides of the offer, the reason why your date may be asking as well as why you may accept or why you may not accept as it "can lead to a bonding experience due to the privateness of the space which allows you to feel freer when it comes to expressing yourselves."

A date suggesting their house on a first date is not automatically a warning sign or a red flag. There can be genuine reasoning behind their decision, and there are times in which it might be the right thing to do. But it’s crucial when dating to consider your safety, to know your boundaries, and to be strict with yourself about what is stretching them too far. After all, the purpose of a first date is to see who this person is. If you feel that they don’t respect you and your boundaries, then that is a warning sign.  

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  • A guide to getting off to your own sexual fantasies and imagination

    A guide to getting off to your own sexual fantasies and imagination

    They say the mind is the biggest, most powerful sex organ in the body. But, uh, don't try visualizing that mental image too vividly or literally, unless you're into that sorta thing?


    Instead, imagine your favorite fictional crush pressing you up against a wall, or think back to the hottest sex you ever had in your life. Now stop imagining, because this magical place where all your desires are possible and acceptable exists. And literally anyone can tap into it.

    While sexual fantasies are by definition not "real," their effects on your sex life (especially when explored during masturbation) are — shall we say — palpably physical.

    "Engaging your imagination rather than relying on visual porn for example helps to build, enhance and strengthen your erotic mind," said Dr. Britney Blair, co-founder and Chief Science Officer of the sexual wellness Lover(Opens in a new tab) app. "You can bring that imagination to life when you want to prime the pump on your desire or push yourself over the edge to climax while solo or with a partner."

    "It's incredibly liberating, recognizing our own power to design the scenes and situations that turn us on."

    To be clear, there's nothing wrong with porn or other forms of erotica. But there's something especially powerful in orgasming to smut that couldn't be more personally tailored to what you like.

    "In our minds we're not confined to our studio apartments or our current sexual partners. There are no rules or judgments. Not even the laws of physics apply," said Gina Gutierrez, co-founder of the popular audio erotica app Dipsea(Opens in a new tab). "It’s incredibly liberating, recognizing our own power to design the scenes and situations that turn us on and to scrap the ones that don’t work for us."

    Don't take our word for it, though. There's science to show exactly how real the effects of a healthy erotic imagination are.

    In a landmark 2016 study(Opens in a new tab), Dr. Nan Wise — neuroscientist, sex therapist, and author of Understanding the Neuroscience of Pleasure for a Smarter, Happier, and More Purpose-Filled Life(Opens in a new tab) — mapped the brain's response when subjects merely imagined pleasurable stimulation on their genitals. Just by thinking about it, the pleasure centers in their brains "lit up like a Christmas tree," Wise said.

    "The mind is really the recipient of all the body's sensations. So there's this empirical evidence of a huge connection between the mind and pleasure," she said.

    While everyone can benefit from using their imagination as a sexual aid, it's an especially potent practice for women and others who society has conditioned to feel ashamed about their sexuality.

    "We have to do more work to lay down the connections, the neural pathways, between the genitals and the brain's sensory reward regions," said Wise. "Using your imagination to masturbate not only gives us the information about what stimulation we need, but also actually strengthens the connections between our genitals and the brain."

    SEE ALSO: Why some people masturbate about people they hate

    Beyond that, getting off to our own sexual fantasies tackles another negative effect that patriarchy can have on women's sexuality.

    "We're socialized to think of ourselves as the objects of other people's desires, like we need to borrow someone else's idea of pleasure" said Wise. That's why learning how to be the subject of our own desires, to embody the pleasure we conjure up in our own mind, can be so empowering.

    Everyone with a brain, genitals, and desire is already equipped to masturbate to their own sexual fantasies. And while the practice does come more naturally to some, it only takes little guidance and patience to unlock the endless possibilities tucked inside your erotic mind.

    Set the right environment

    Set that phone to night mode, but make it sexy. Credit: bob al-greene / mashable

    A major key in setting your mind up for erotic success is to ensure your environment allows your brain to feel fully relaxed, safe, and free from distraction.

    Pick a time and place where you'll have full privacy without needing to worry about any interruption, whether from roommates or notifications. For most people, that place will naturally be the bedroom. But put some effort into also making it a true fortress of sensual solitude, like by locking the door, setting your phone to airplane mode, putting on an eye mask, or maybe even using some essential oils and putting on your favorite sexy playlist.

    Blair even recommends purposefully scheduling these more exploratory kind of session and making them habitual. So maybe it can be something you add to your nightly ritual before bed: Brush your teeth, do the skincare routine, put on some pajamas, then let your mind wander as you touch yourself.

    Create a safe space in your mind

    Of course, priming yourself with the right mindset is vital to unlocking your brain's full fantasy potential.

    One of the biggest hurdles to exploring our erotic imaginations is actually the engrained social shame many of us have picked up (even subconsciously) through sexism, homophobia, social stigmas, religion, etc.

    "It’s important to know if that is coming up for you, you’re not alone. But there is no such thing as a wrong or right fantasy." said Blair.

    SEE ALSO: Am I the only one who's horny for podcasts?

    Treat your imagination as a judgement-free zone. To be fair, clearing or redirecting your mind away from feelings of shame is easier said than done. But certain exercises can help (which we'll get into more in the mind-body connection section below).

    Blair suggests that, while exploring sexual fantasies in your mind, try to distinguish between when you're having a reaction versus a judgment to a certain scenario. Judgments often come from values imposed on you by something or someone else, while visceral reactions can be an indication that your mind wants to explore it further — especially if it's something your never thought you'd be into.

    It's easy to get scared off by an intense response to a fantasy, and write that off as being too weird or outside the norm for your taste. But if you give yourself a second to assess where that response is coming from, you might actually find that the intensity comes from a part of you that you've never tried tapping into before.

    "Everything is okay in the world of fantasy. No fantasy is a crime."

    Or maybe not, and that's fine too. The point is, if you feel safe doing it, just try leaning into parts of your erotic mind that feel challenging and see where it goes.

    "Everything is okay in the world of fantasy. No fantasy is a crime," said Blair. "Whatever turns you on in your mind is totally healthy. Your fantasy doesn’t say anything about you except that you are lucky to have a rich imagination that you can use to have an exciting and enduring erotic life."

    That's another major benefit of sexual fantasies versus traditional porn, too. You don't have to worry about any ethical concerns, because your imagination can't hurt you or anyone else. You're in total control.

    "You imagination is a completely safe space," said Dipsea's Gutierrez. "We can play out fantasies that are risky or illicit that we would never actually want to happen in real life. In our minds we’re free to experiment without consequences."

    Familiarize yourself with (but don't feel limited by) common sexual fantasies

    While the whole point is to tap into the unique potential of your own mind, a good jumping off point is to explore whether the most common sexual fantasies(Opens in a new tab) spark your interest. Researchers have labeled them into different categories, though there's a world of possibilities within those labels as well.

    Dr. Blair described these categories as multi-partner sex like group sex or threesomes; power, control, or rough sex; novelty, adventure, and variety; taboo and forbidden sex; partner sharing and non-monogamous relationships; passion and romance; and erotic flexibility like homoeroticism or gender-bending.

    Jess O'Reilly is a sex educator, author of The New Sex Bible(Opens in a new tab), and Astroglide's resident sexologist. She explained that through each of these fantasy categories you can help identify the specific core erotic feelings that get you into a heightened state of arousal.

    "Oftentimes, they relate to fantasy, escapism or subverting otherwise 'negative' emotions. You might find that sex is really hot when you feel powerful, submissive, challenged, mindful, or playful," she said. "You may also find yourself aroused by feelings that you don’t naturally associate with pleasure, like jealousy, inadequacy, fear, and even humiliation can be exciting."

    What our brains often gravitate to most is pure novelty. What gets you off in a fantasy can actually be the total opposite of your real-life sexual orientation or even completely removed from you, as an abstract scenario happening to someone else entirely.

    Let your spank bank be a place where your freak flag flies. Credit: vicky leta / mashable

    So don't be weirded out if you learn that you're as horny for that fish-god monster from The Shape of Water as the Academy Awards were in 2018. Or maybe you're one of the many women who enjoys a rape fantasy — which, as Dr. Wise points out, in a fantasy context is the opposite of a real-life rape since, "you're choosing to have the fantasy and who's overpowering you. You're in complete control."

    One other general rule of thumb Wise found is that while men tend toward more visually-oriented fantasies centered around preferred body parts, women tend to focus on overall scenarios. However, it's impossible to distill the endless possibilities of human sexuality into neat categories. Which is why you also shouldn't get discouraged or ashamed if none of these common fantasies do it for you.

    "Our capacity for imagination is limitless," said Wise. Don't feel pressure to confine yours to a specific label.

    Related Video: I built my own vibrator at CES

    Start building your erotic imagination through fiction, porn, memories... anything!

    The truth is that, while other obstacles might make it hard initially to give yourself permission to explore sexual fantasies, using your imagination is a very natural and innate part of being human. Who doesn't fantasizing about getting up from their desk in the middle of a hard work day and quitting, or spend time daydreaming about how they'd furnish their dream apartment?

    "We make Pinterest boards and save Instagram photos, collect and catalog all these things that we like. I recommend starting to do that for your sex life," said Gutierrez. "Become more mindful observing what attracts you to someone. The moments where you feel sexiest. What you want to say out loud during sex but hesitate to. Then the next time you want to use your fantasy for pleasure, you know exactly where to draw from."

    Everything in your life can become part of your horny mood board.

    Everything in your life can become part of your horny mood board.

    We all have that one fictional character or public figure — whether from books, tv, movies, video games, or even politics and the internet — that just does it for us. Begin there, expanding into a specific sexy scene that got you going or whatever comes to mind when you think of that person. Heck, maybe you're like me and realize that a silky, authoritative voice is actually your kink, leading a bunch of non-erotic popular podcasts to become your go-to spank bank material.

    Audio erotica can be a great place to start if you don't want to take the training wheels off yet to explore sexual fantasies of your own making. Unlike visual porn, audio erotica still exercises the muscles of your erotic imagination, asking you to fill in the details and paint the full picture. While we always recommend Dipsea, there's also plenty of free ways to try audio erotica like r/gonewildaudio(Opens in a new tab) and Girl on the Net(Opens in a new tab).

    Once you're ready to bring yourself more to the forefront of the fantasy, begin with a memory of the hottest, most visceral sex you've ever had. Really ground yourself back in that moment by recalling your senses: What position were you in? What did the person's lust feel like? Were you sweating? How exactly did they touch you?

    Touch yourself while pulling from all the erotic mental material you've curated, and don't be afraid to really get your whole body involved in mimicking the sensations you're creating through your mind. Maybe that means masturbating while you're on all fours, or matching the tempo of the fantasy, or even dry-humping a pillow. Don't put any pressure on yourself to orgasm throughout any of this, though, and instead just zero in on embodying the experience of your imagination.

    "It's about giving yourself full permission to explore all our internal pleasure places, and how we experience them in both our minds and bodies at the same time," said Wise.

    It's like writing fanfiction, but in real-time Credit: vicky leta / mashable

    Try these exercises to strengthen your mind-body connection

    Through her research and other studies in the field, Wise has ultimately found that, "This distinction we make between the mind and body is really a very arbitrary one."

    One of the best ways to embrace this in a way that engages your erotic fantasy life in is through something called mindful sex.

    This increasingly popular branch of sex therapy describes a bunch of different practices and exercises that add a layer of sexuality to mindfulness, to help you stay present in your body while experiencing pleasure, train your mind to focus on whatever arouses you, and engage in a non-judgmental curious sexual mindset. Try out basic exercises like pleasure mapping (which Dipsea has a guide for), mindful masturbation (which you can read about here), and sensate focus (which you can read about here).

    Wise also suggests a very simple exercise for getting your imagination more connected with your genitals on a neurological level: Just start by tapping or pleasurably touching your genitals, then stop, then think back on the sensations you felt while touching them. Try to recall and summon them back in your body: What did it feel like in your body when the stimulation was building, then dissipating?

    At first, it might not feel like much at all and the pleasure may be pretty mild compared to what you're used to while using more immediate erotic visual aids like porn.

    “But you’ll slowly start to develop a better connection to that pleasure sensation channel in your brain,” she said.

    Use your imagination during partnered sex

    While sexual fantasies are a great way to enhance self-love, learning how to engage with them during partnered sex can also do wonders to get people over the edge and into orgasm.

    At this point though, you might be wondering: Is it even OK to fantasize about other situations — or maybe even other people — while having sex with a partner?

    “It doesn't matter where you get your appetite, as long as you'd come home to eat.”

    “Yes, it’s an unequivocal yes! Because thinking about stuff is not the same as doing it,” said Wise. As the famous saying goes, “It doesn't matter where you get your appetite, as long as you'd come home to eat.”

    It’s totally normal for your mind to desire novelty, especially if you're not in a new relationship anymore. In fact, Wise found that one of the best ways to ensure a couples’ longevity is precisely this kind of openness and understanding that people need to fuel their erotic imagination with new stuff.

    “If we can get over these kind of hang ups, get past this fear of our partners having a fantasy about somebody else while they’re with us, and instead use it as an opportunity talk about: What would you like? What haven't we tried? What are you afraid to tell me? Because that's hot. That's really hot,” said Wise.

    Or maybe instead of thinking about someone else, you'd simply rather use your imagination during partnered sex to transport you both to a setting or scenario that heightens your arousal even more.

    In the end, what you do with your erotic imagination is up to you. You can share it if you'd like — or keep it all to yourself. That’s what’s so great about sexual fantasies you cut from your own cloth: They’re all yours, and no one else's.

  • Social media is the new bodycam

    Social media is the new bodycam

    Childish Gambino warned us in 2018. This is America, right?


    It's been a brutal week for anyone who doesn't live with their eyes closed. The proof is right there on Twitter and other social platforms. It used to be that we relied on police bodycams to hold officers accountable for their actions. But in this difficult moment, citizen journalism is carrying that bucket instead.

    Something snapped in the United States as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against George Floyd's neck until he died on May 25. Floyd was black and Chauvin is white. It was a sadly familiar scene of what looks to rational observers like a clear case of police brutality.

    But this time, we hit a breaking point. The gruesome reality of Chauvin's actions as captured on camera is certainly part of it. He held his position on Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes, until after the restrained man died. The camera captures it all in vivid, horrifying detail. Add to that the ongoing pandemic, and historic levels of unemployment. People's nerves are frayed and the callous inhumanity of Floyd's death was a last straw.

    So cities exploded over the weekend with widespread protests and grim scenes of violence. Even as much of the country outside of major cities continues to hunker down behind stay-at-home orders, social media has brought all of us to the front lines through citizen journalism and shared news reports.

    These ongoing protests are about stopping racial violence and police brutality, and they're hundreds of years in the making. I think the images and videos, and the actions of the people portrayed therein, tell the whole story. Thank you to all of the protesters and members of the press who are out there doing your part to make sure the realities of this moment won't soon be forgotten.

    It hasn't all been as completely terrible as the above visuals suggest. Protesters are out in force and many of them are skipping the violence in favor of working to send a message, lift up the people in their community, and generally just keep the peace. Many others are just doing the best they can to peacefully work through the days, weeks, months, decades of pent-up anger they've been carrying.

    They've even been joined in a few cases by police officers and departments that have managed to maintain a level of trust with their local communities.

    SEE ALSO: How to demand justice for George Floyd and support Minneapolis protesters

    I don't know what else to say. Take care of yourselves, folks. And please, keep on documenting this moment in any way that you can.

  • Police scanner app catapults to the top of the App Store

    Police scanner app catapults to the top of the App Store

    Protesters just made a police scanner the most popular paid iOS app in the country.


    On Monday, 5-0 Radio Police Scanner(Opens in a new tab), which costs $5, was the number one paid app in the App Store. A pared-down version with ads was the number two paid app, surpassing TikTok and second only to the suddenly popular Zynn app. Vice first reported(Opens in a new tab) on the app's rise.

    Protesters clashed with police in Minneapolis, Louisville, Los Angeles, Philadelphia(Opens in a new tab), and other U.S. cities over the weekend. They are demanding an end to police brutality after George Floyd was killed by a police officer.

    A look at the top paid apps. Credit: screenshot / mashable
    Also popular as a free app. Credit: Screenshot / mashable

    Scanner apps let protesters listen to live police radio feeds. App analytics firm Apptopia found the top five police scanner apps, such as 5-0 Police Scanner(Opens in a new tab) and Police Scanner(Opens in a new tab), were downloaded 213,000 times over the weekend. That's a 125 percent increase from the weekend before — a record for police scanner apps. 5-0 Police Scanner was downloaded 40,000 times between Friday and Sunday in the United States.

    Other related apps saw download surges as well, like the encrypted messaging app Signal. It was downloaded 37,000 times this weekend, a record for the app. Same for community alert app Citizen, which was downloaded 49,000 times during the same period, according to Apptopia(Opens in a new tab).

  • Elizabeth Warren and her very good dog Bailey joined the Washington D.C. protests

    Elizabeth Warren and her very good dog Bailey joined the Washington D.C. protests

    Less than half an hour before the official curfew started in Washington D.C., thousands of protesters were still walking peacefully in the streets of the capital. Among them were Sen. Elizabeth Warren, her husband Bruce Mann, and their dog Bailey.


    Dressed in sensible beige shorts, sneakers, and a basic blue face mask, the last female candidate to suspend her campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination was quickly spotted by her fellow protesters as she joined the throng in Lafayette Square. Many were clearly thrilled to see her, cheering as she told reporters President Donald Trump had been "wrong" to deploy the National Guard in the city.

    "He is imposing violence on our people," she told one reporter(Opens in a new tab). "People are here to protest peacefully.

    Warren also called for Attorney General Bill Barr to resign after reports that he had ordered the violent removal of protesters near the White House, and tweeted her support for her colleague Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's bill to criminalise the use of chokeholds by police. Gillibrand was also in the presidential race until last August.

    Widespread protests have emerged in cities across the U.S. in a furious response to the death of George Floyd — who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes — as well as other recent police killings, including Louisville woman Breonna Taylor and Florida man Tony McDade. These names are only the latest to be added to a shamefully long list of black Americans killed by police.f

    Trump's response to the protests, in particular the order to disperse peaceful demonstrators near the White House using tear gas and rubber bullets for a Trump photo op, has drawn criticism from members of both parties(Opens in a new tab).

    Other politicians who have appeared at protests include Reps. Ayanna Pressley(Opens in a new tab), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez(Opens in a new tab), and Joyce Beatty, who was pepper sprayed by police at the Columbus, Ohio event(Opens in a new tab), as well as Sen. Kamala Harris (Opens in a new tab)

  • Every police department should have to hear our rage via Zoom call

    Every police department should have to hear our rage via Zoom call

    Yesterday, the Los Angeles Police Commission held a Zoom call with citizens — of Los Angeles and the surrounding areas, as well as some former residents — and watched with blank faces as citizens berated them mercilessly for eight hours.


    The call came not only after several nights of protests in Los Angeles, but also after LAPD chief Michael Moore blamed the death of George Floyd(Opens in a new tab) on the city's protestors and looters. (Moore walked back on the comments(Opens in a new tab) after backlash.)

    But that's just the tip of the iceberg: LAPD has a long history of violence against black people — next year will be 30 years since LA officers beat Rodney King(Opens in a new tab).

    After many people were initially left out of the call(Opens in a new tab) because it capped at 500 people — and after the boomers on the commission figured out how to work Zoom — the commission said their statements.

    Then, the real show started. The public unleashed their fury on the LAPD for hours on end. They demanded Moore's resignation or firing, as well as to defund the LAPD and support the people's budget(Opens in a new tab). Some spewed incredible insults(Opens in a new tab), while others broke down in tears. Several impassioned callers, like this one, went viral:

    After watching this call, I'm convinced that every police department needs to have a Zoom call like this one.

    While the LAPD is notorious for its racism, so are many other departments across the country — including the Minneapolis police(Opens in a new tab), who are responsible for the killing of George Floyd. He died after three police officers pinned him down, one kneeling on his neck for nearly 9 minutes.

    Police departments across the nation should be subjected to people's rage. In many cities, they're beating up peaceful protestors who they are sworn to protect, all while we — the taxpayers — pay their salaries. Police commissions are supposed to be working for us, the civilians, and we should be able to scream and cry and drag our cops just like the residents of LA did yesterday. (And then I think we should defund the police(Opens in a new tab), but that's a different story.)

    Public meetings with police departments aren't new. As some activists mentioned on the call, they've been raising the same concerns about the police for years. But now thanks to technology not afforded previous generations, these meetings can be online (and the current pandemic pretty much mandates that, anyway). Virtual meetings can not only be more accessible to people who can't make them in-person, but allows these meetings to go viral and be seen by thousands, both in the department's jurisdiction and beyond.

    The total impact of the LAPD call has yet to be seen. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti didn't make any promises about changing the budget(Opens in a new tab), and as of publication the LAPD chief has not resigned.

    But that doesn't mean this call didn't have an impact. Hundreds of people were able to express anger that has possibly been pent up for years. People around the country — like me, in New York — stayed tuned for hours and are now inspired to tell our police departments our similar demands (and probably insults). Like protesting, donating money, and calling our reps, being able to rip into our respective police departments can be just another action to elicit change, and it's a cathartic one at that.

    Police commissions and departments have a duty to their citizens to let their voices be heard. We are all owed a more modern-day public forum. Americans everywhere should be able to call out their police chief's racist eyebrows.

    Mashable has reached out to LAPD for comment and will update if received.

  • Even Piers Morgan thinks Rudy Giuliani sounds completely barking mad

    Even Piers Morgan thinks Rudy Giuliani sounds completely barking mad

    Listen, let's not give Piers Morgan — a British TV presenter who's dabbled in racist tropes(Opens in a new tab) and transphobia(Opens in a new tab) — a gold star. But even he has realized Rudy Giuliani seems a little off.


    Giuliani, the former NYC mayor and current personal lawyer for President Donald Trump, appeared on Thursday on ITV's Good Morning Britain, which Morgan co-hosts. The appearance, which took place in the middle of the night in the U.S., turned into a shouting match between two old white guys about who was more discredited.

    The fight began when Morgan criticized Trump's tweet about "when the looting starts the shooting starts" in regards to the protests surrounding the police killing of George Floyd. But the argument soon devolved into a barrage of personal attacks.

    "You sound completely barking mad, do you know that?" Morgan said.

    Giuliani fired back, "No, I don't. You sound like a big liar."

    But Morgan kept going after the former mayor, firing off wonderfully British insults.

    "You've lost the plot. And it's sad to see," the host said.

    Taking a page from his boss's playbook, Giuliani stumbled through a few insults about Morgan's failed CNN show and its poor ratings. At some point, Giuliani either tells Morgan he "sucked up" or "fucked up" — it's tough to tell because Giuliani's words are a bit slurred — but either way Morgan apologizes for the language before twisting the knife further into his guest.

    "When I used to interview you, you were an intelligent, reasonable man and you've gone completely mad," he said. "And you sound deranged. You're abusive. And it's really sad to see what's happened to you."

    A viral clip from the interview goes on in a similar fashion for a few more minutes. It does represent a shift from Morgan — a former winner on Celebrity Apprentice who had a largely friendly (if bonkers)(Opens in a new tab) interview with Trump this time last year.

    But definitely watch the entire clip from Thursday, if only to see co-host Susanna Reid deliver an absolutely perfect, "OK," to end the wild segment.

  • Fox News host says John Lennon — who was killed in New York — wouldnt be safe in the city right now

    Fox News host says John Lennon — who was killed in New York — wouldnt be safe in the city right now

    Days after an NYPD car floored it into a group of protesters(Opens in a new tab) — just one of many instances of police violence in the city(Opens in a new tab) — New York City mayor Bill de Blasio responded with...John Lennon lyrics.


    "I don't mean to make light of this but I'm reminded of the song 'Imagine' by John Lennon," said de Blasio, according to journalist Jack Mirkinson. He went on to say that defunding the police, a rallying cry of the George Floyd protests, was "not the way forward."

    De Blasio was subsequently roasted by social media(Opens in a new tab) and traditional(Opens in a new tab) media(Opens in a new tab) outlets(Opens in a new tab), and then Fox News got ahold of the quote. On Fox & Friends Thursday morning, Brian Kilmeade thought he was delivering a brilliant zinger about the mayor:

    "John Lennon wouldn't be safe in this city right now," said Kilmeade. "He'd be hiding in his apartment."

    For those who are unaware (like Kilmeade, apparently), John Lennon was murdered in New York(Opens in a new tab) in 1980. His killer, Mark David Chapman, shot him four times outside his luxury Manhattan apartment. He's still in prison and his eleventh parole hearing is scheduled for this August(Opens in a new tab).

    Maybe Kilmeade should do some fact-checking. Imagine that?

  • Singer performs Bunker Boy, a catchy tune about Trumps time in the bunker

    Singer performs Bunker Boy, a catchy tune about Trumps time in the bunker

    There's a new song inspired by Donald Trump's recent and somewhat confusing trip to the White House bunker, and honestly? It's catchy as hell.


    On Monday, days after it was reported that Secret Service rushed the president to the White House bunker(Opens in a new tab) amidst D.C. protests, singer Courtney Jaye (@TropicalJaye(Opens in a new tab)) penned and performed the tune, titled, "Bunker Boy."

    Jaye shared a video of herself performing the song to social media, and on top of her gorgeous guitar playing and sweet-sounding vocals, the lyrics are truly something.

    "Bunker Boy, don't lie. You got scared and hid in the basement in the middle of the night," Jaye sings. "You're not so tough, no. It's a sorry sight. So take your bible, shove it up your ass, and turn on the fucking lights."

    Jaye ends the song with the lyrics, "Bunker Boy, Bunker Boy, November's coming and we hope you're terrified, Bunker boy," before taking a big exhale and letting out an exhausted eye roll. A real mood.

    SEE ALSO: Stephen Colbert slams Trump's hypocritical Bible photo op

    For those who haven't been closely following Trump's bunker saga, let's recap.

    On Friday night, hundreds of people gathered outside the White House gates to protest racism, police brutality, and the death of George Floyd, a black man who died on May 25, after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly 9 minutes.

    Reports stated that when protests escalated Friday night, Secret Service ushered Trump — along with Melania and their son Barron — to the underground presidential bunker, where they allegedly remained for nearly an hour(Opens in a new tab).

    After Trump received some backlash for retreating to the bunker amidst a national state of unrest, he said that he didn't go to the bunker to get away from the protests, rather he was merely inspecting the bunker.

    "I was there for a tiny, short little period of time," Trump told Brian Kilmeade on Fox News Radio. He then stated his bunker visit was "more for an inspection," and that he'd been been to the bunker previously. He said he's gone "two and a half times," whatever that means.

    Trump's bunker comments sounded a bit absurd to many people, including Jaye, which is why she decided to use the gift of song to hilariously call the president out on his suspicious story.

    Jaye tweeted her video and made sure to tag Trump's Twitter handle — and the song has been quite a hit since. At the time of writing this piece, Jaye's tweet had more than 60,000 likes, and celebrities like Sophia Bush have even praised the blunt and catchy tune.

    Jaye is no stranger to writing songs about President Trump. On June 1, she also shared another potential hit, called "fuck this fucking president," which has been viewed 174,000 times.

    In it, Jaye shares her true feelings about the president, and urges people to get out and vote for the November election.

    I only wish Jaye had been cranking out these political hits back in 2018, when former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was hiding in (or among) bushes. I bet "Bushes Boy" would have been a real banger.

  • Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, resigns to make room for a black board member

    Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, resigns to make room for a black board member

    The co-founder of Reddit just put the rest of the tech world on notice.


    Alexis Ohanian announced Friday(Opens in a new tab) that he was resigning his Reddit board seat, and "urged" the rest of the board to fill his spot with a new black board member. He will also be donating all future gains on his Reddit stock to "serve the black community," and is immediately giving $1 million to Colin Kaepernick's racial justice charity.

    Yes, take that in. Ohanian just set the bar for using power and privilege for racial equity by transferring not only resources, but also power to people of color.

    The tech world has been looking for ways to support racial equality amid Black Lives Matter protests across the world. The leaders in efforts to promote diversity in tech say that one of the best ways tech leaders in particular can help is by investing in black businesses and venture funds, hiring black employees, and putting black people in positions of power within the tech world.

    "Tech companies should be hiring [people of color] at all levels, from the board room to the boiler room," Rodney Sampson, a leader in tech diversity and founder of the accelerator OHUB(Opens in a new tab), said. "If you’re a venture-backed tech company, you should be looking to put someone black on your board of advisors."

    Ohanian called his move "long overdue." He explained that he had made his decision so that he could answer his black daughter (Ohanian's wife is Serena Williams) when she asked: "What did you do?"

    Williams expressed support for her husband in a tweet that may have made this reporter choke up.

    In the background of Ohanian's actions are the stark realities of Reddit, which Ohanian said he founded "to help people find community and a sense of belonging." Anyone who has spent even a passing moment on Reddit knows that it can be a quagmire of divisive vitriol. Amid the protests, some Reddit communities protested what they see as Reddit's failure to take stronger action against hate speech on the platform by making their communities private. Ellen Pao, a former VC, and one-time interim CEO of Reddit who now runs a tech diversity organization, called out Reddit's hypocrisy on Twitter:

    There is, of course, no guarantee that Reddit leadership will take Ohanian up on his request to fill his seat with a black board member. But this is an opportunity to set an example for the rest of the tech and business world. Currently, around 11 percent of Fortune 100 board members are African American, according to a recent study(Opens in a new tab) by the Alliance for Board Diversity.

    Mashable has reached out to Reddit to learn whether it intends to follow through with Ohanian's call to action, and Reddit said it would be responding "later today."

  • Trump lies about elderly protester injured by police, hits another new Twitter low

    Trump lies about elderly protester injured by police, hits another new Twitter low

    Every time you think Donald Trump has hit a new moral low, he manages to outdo himself.


    On Tuesday morning, Twitter users saw yet another exceptionally distressing and unpresidential display from Trump. The president tweeted outlandish lies about Martin Gugino, the injured protester who was shoved to the ground by Buffalo police officers last week. Even for someone prone to spreading false conspiracy theories, this was a shocking thing to say.

    After video of the Buffalo police officers pushing the 75-year-old man to the ground went viral, public outrage led to the suspension of two officers directly involved and the resignation of the 57 other officers(Opens in a new tab) from Buffalo New York's emergency response team. Those officers who resigned from the team remain on the force.

    As Gugino — whose head could be seen smacking the pavement in the video and then was bleeding from his ears — remains in serious but stable condition, Trump suggested to nearly 82 million Twitter followers that the 75-year-old man was "an ANTIFA provocateur" who was trying to tamper with police equipment and exaggerated the severity of his fall.

    "Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?" Trump tweeted.

    SEE ALSO: Protesters turned Donald Trump's #BabyGate fence into something beautiful

    The tweet not only publicly targets a citizen, but also attempts to destroy his reputation as a peaceful activist(Opens in a new tab). And though Trump continually flings insults and spreads misinformation on Twitter, many people were genuinely taken aback by the harmful nature of this conspiracy theory.

    Trump seems to have gotten this conspiracy theory in his head from One America News, the conservative, far-right news network that previously claimed Dr. Fauci had ties to the Deep State, George Soros, Bill Gates, and the Clintons(Opens in a new tab).

    Trump has proven time and again that he's not above lying to rile up his base and change the conversation. So it's imperative now more than ever that you research whatever he says before you even consider believing it.

Random articles


  • Small business spotlight: 4 spots worth checking out this month

    Small business spotlight: 4 spots worth checking out this month

    You've probably heard that shopping small is better than a weekly Amazon haul or Walmart run, but choosing to shop from small businesses is easier said than done. When convenience is key, shoppers tend to go for big-box retailers that offer fast shipping and cheap products.


    Even though inflation is top of mind right now and many shoppers are tightening their purse strings(Opens in a new tab), we'd like to make the case for shopping from small businesses (when possible). Small businesses help to create jobs, support local economies, and often give back to their communities, among tons of other benefits that big-box stores lack. Plus, having a cute candle, bag, or piece of clothing that no one has seen before is way cooler than buying whatever the algorithm bumps to the top of your search.

    SEE ALSO: Want to shop from more small businesses? Here's how to do it.

    As a little push to shop smaller, we've rounded up four of our favorite small businesses to shop from this month, and we made sure to pick a variety of BIPOC-owned, woman-owned, and immigrant-owned businesses for you to diversify your shopping cart. Read more about our faves below:

    Cuzen Matcha(Opens in a new tab)

    Cuzen Matcha is a brand for true tea connoisseurs, selling single-origin tea, carefully curated matcha blends, and a killer luxury matcha maker (which Mashable reviewed and loved). Founded by Eijiro Tsukada and Oki Hatta, the Cuzen Matcha maker serves freshly-ground matcha, pulling inspiration from the "early era" of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The resulting tea is more flavorful, more fragrant, and more sustainable(Opens in a new tab) than powdered matcha blends. Mashable reviewer RJ Andersen said that the Cuzen Matcha Maker "brings an ounce of luxury to [...] daily life," and highly recommends it to other matcha lovers.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: RJ Andersen / Mashable
    Cuzen Matcha (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)
    Shop specialty teas, matcha makers, and more
    (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Bonita Fierce Candles(Opens in a new tab)

    Inspired by Latinx culture, Bonita Fierce has candles with scents ranging from Puerto Rican coquito to cafecito con leche — all hand-poured with coconut soy wax and finished with earth-friendly packaging. Founded by Melissa Gallardo in 2020 during the pandemic, Bonita Fierce Candles aims to bring Latino heritage into the home through comforting, cultural fragrances. "We're revolutionizing the candle space for Latinx communities by bringing scents that feel familiar — times with la familia, warm feelings of home that are whole and welcoming, and feel like you belong," Gallardo told Mashable. "We're thoughtfully creating curated home fragrances for your cultura, your experiences, and the cultural crossroads of being Latinx and American, and the cafecitos that kept you going."

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Bonita Fierce
    Bonita Fierce Candles (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)
    Shop Latin-inspired candles, including coquito, azúcar, and more
    (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Andean Blue(Opens in a new tab)

    Andean Blue will convince you to ditch your plain hiking pack for one adorned with intricate, Andean fabrics. A self-proclaimed one-man business owner, founder Christian Vinces told Mashable that while "growing up in Peru, it was common to see people adding Andean textiles to their clothing and accessories." He started Andean Blue to bring the rich history of Peru's textiles to the U.S. — all while promoting a sense of adventure and supporting Andean culture by donating a portion of profits to an organization that protects the biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest and the Andes. "This operation brings my past into my present, the culture I grew up in, and the culture I’m in now, " said Vinces.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Andean Blue
    Andean Blue (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)
    Shop Andean hiking backpacks
    (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Daisy by Shelby(Opens in a new tab)

    If you consider yourself a maximalist and want your dog to be one too, Daisy by Shelby is the small business to shop from. From faux fur-lined collars to gen-z-inspired printed bandanas, Daisy will basically outfit your dog to be the next stylish dog influencer (dogfluencer?). "Our canine companions are an extension of ourselves," founder Shelby Eastman told Mashable. "Daisy was created to visually represent that connection by taking a modern, design-first approach to pet accessories inspired by current (human) fashion trends."

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Daisy by Shelby
    Daisy by Shelby (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)
    Shop chic dog gear
    (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

  • 7 TikTok hashtags to check out if you cant look away from other peoples drama

    7 TikTok hashtags to check out if you cant look away from other peoples drama

    Drama is just too entertaining to avoid watching.


    From spats on the Bachelorette, to tea videos documenting creator feuds, to getting totally engrossed in Reddit threads about strangers and their messy relationships, observing someone else's drama is a universal guilty pleasure.

    Humans are naturally inclined to gossip — a 2014 study in Psychological Science(Opens in a new tab) concluded that gossip actually promotes group cooperation and makes group members less selfish. And according to a 2019 study published in (Opens in a new tab)Social Psychological and Personality Science(Opens in a new tab), those who were more extroverted tended to gossip more than those who were introverted. Megan Robbins, assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside and the study's lead author, told NBC, "We learn a lot about the social world around us when we gossip." Gossiping, some evolutionary sociologists theorize(Opens in a new tab), came about as a survival instinct to strengthen social networks.

    There are, of course, limits to the social benefits of gossip — which is why engaging with a stranger's drama is so intoxicating. It's as low-stakes as it comes; you don't know these people personally, but you can still wrap yourself up in their interpersonal disasters.

    Here are seven tags to keep up with on TikTok to keep up with other people's drama.

    1. #messytiktok

    If you're bringing your real-life feuds online for strangers on the internet(Opens in a new tab) to see, you probably belong on messytok. The tags #messytiktok has a staggering 2.2 billion views, and the tag is laden with users exposing exes with screenshots, posting long-winded storytimes about overbearing in-laws, and feuding in the comments(Opens in a new tab). The corresponding tag #messytok is similarly, well, messy.

    2. #aita

    Like the subreddit with which the entire internet has a love-hate relationship, TikTok users posting under the tag #aita ask online strangers, "Am I the asshole?" The 60.6 million views on the tag may not determine whether it as an asshole move to invite your happily married ex to your engagement party, but it does confirm everyone's love for drama.

    3. #storytime

    Artists on TikTok keep users engaged by pairing their videos with drama stories. Credit: tiktok / kaylieleass

    TikTok's artists attract a following not only with their stunning creativity, but also with their intoxicating stories. The tag #storytime is populated with makeup artists, slime accounts, and resin crafters who use wild stories to keep viewers engaged. It has 94.1 billion views.

    Artists usually pair their application process not with a narration, but with an over-the-top story that could rival any CW show plot(Opens in a new tab). The anonymously submitted stories, curated and read by the artist as they film their process, regale tales of boyfriends cheating with the storyteller's siblings, adoring crushes who become stalkers, and tragic catfishing experiences. It's addicting.

    4. #dramatok

    If you like reality TV, you'll enjoy #dramatok. Credit: tiktok / aliyah.abader
    The videos under #dramatok are frivolous at best, but so entertaining. Credit: tiktok / aliyah.abader

    Drama is unavoidable, especially on an app that allows users to directly reply to others via duets and stitches. The tag #dramatok has 29.2 million views by other users who are similarly entertained and horrified by other users' questionable choices. The tag is a healthy mix of feuds between popular public figures and spats between regular people (Opens in a new tab)bringing their disagreements public. Many videos tagged with #dramatok are of users asking TikTok if they recognize their significant others' cars or bedrooms in hopes of exposing cheating.

    5. #confrontation

    There are three types of people in the world: those who avoid confrontation at all costs, those who aren't afraid to have one, and those who record the whole spectacle to post online. With 120.8 million views, the tag #confrontation consists of clips from reality TV shows, videos of people discussing confrontations with friends and significant others, and juiciest of all, footage of arguments. These confrontations are entirely out of context — the viewer has no idea who the two main characters are, or why they're fighting — but it's still difficult to look away.

    6. #spillthetea

    The tag #spillthetea has 338.2 million views, and the similar tag #spillingthetea has 53.8. Most videos under the two tags revolve around influencer drama, so if you're behind on who's feuding with who, or who's dating whose ex, you'll want to keep an eye on the two tags.

    7. #toxictiktok

    Get all your bad life advice from #toxictiktok. Credit: tiktok / chloeeleanorr
    The tag is filled with people recommending toxic behaviors. Credit: tiktok / chloeeleanorr

    The most polarizing tag in the world of messy TikTok is #toxictiktok, which has 103.4 million views. You'll find plenty of videos of people recounting their worst habits, but even more of people recommending(Opens in a new tab) toxic behaviors(Opens in a new tab). Is it good for humanity as a whole to list the best ways to catch your man cheating? That's debatable. Is it enthralling to watch someone else discuss their own toxicity? Absolutely.

    The next time you finish your Love Island binge, let messy TikTok fill the void.

  • Fitbits Charge 5 is a revamped fitness tracker on the inside and out

    Fitbits Charge 5 is a revamped fitness tracker on the inside and out

    Last year's Fitbit Charge 4 came with some fairly incremental upgrades, and if you've been tired of the same old design, the new Charge 5 might be worth the investment. It brings along some new features and a new look.


    For starters, the Charge 5 has a far more high-end design look this time around. The shiny, slim aluminum case looks more similar to the stylish Fitbit Luxe than any of its predecessors.

    You'll have the choice between Platinum (with a Steel Blue silicone band), Graphite (with a black silicone band), and Gold (with a Lunar White silicone band). Fitbit also offers a variety of additional bands for purchase (which range from $30 to 50 depending on the style) including, Horween leather bands, sport bands, and more

    You'll have the choice between three colors. Credit: fitbit

    On the front is a color AMOLED screen, which is a nice change from the greyscale OLED display we've seen on the Charge lineup in the past. It's also the first fitness tracker to include always-on display mode.

    As usual, the Charge 5 packs a heart-rate monitor, SPO2 sensor, and built-in GPS to track milage on your runs, walks, and biking sessions. It also comes with 20 different exercise modes, and tracks your sleep throughout the night.

    Of course, you'll also receive smartphone notifications to the tracker including calls, text messages, and other alerts.

    You'll have access to all your smartphone notifications. Credit: fitbit

    You'll also have access to Active Zone Minutes, a feature that was first introduced on the Charge 4 last year. It uses your heart-rate to track effort throughout your workouts, and pushes you toward different heart-rate zones (e.g., fat burn, cardio, and peak).

    The Charge 5 features workout intensity maps, too. Whenever you use GPS to track a workout and sync the tracker to the Fitbit app, you'll see a heat map of how intense your workout was based on your heart-rate zones.

    But the company also pulled inspiration for from its Fitbit Sense, by including both an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor and an electrocardiogram (ECG) app.

    Hello, ECG app Credit: fitbit

    Using the EDA sensor, the Charge 5 can measure minor changes in your skin to help determine your stress levels. Meanwhile, the ECG app uses electrical sensors built into the the tracker to help detect signs of Atrial Fibrillation (AFib).

    It's worth noting, however, that the ECG app won't be available at launch. Fitbit says it's coming soon, but has yet to give an exact date.

    Fitbit also announced a new feature to its Fitbit Premium subscription service, called Daily Readiness. As with the ECG app, it's a feature that's coming soon. It will be available on the Fitbit Sense, Verse 2, Versa 3, and Luxe, and Inspire 2 as well.

    You'll have up to seven days worth of battery life. Credit: fitbit

    Based on activity (fitness fatigue), heart-rate variability, and sleep quality tracked on the Charge 5, you'll receive a Daily Readiness score each morning. Depending on how high or low the score is, you'll know whether you should workout that day or allow your body to rest.

    And if you're wondering whether all these sensors compromise battery, Fitbit managed to keep the same seven day battery life as seen on the previous version. Of course, that depends on usage.

    As for price and availability, the Charge 5 will start at $179.95 and is currently available for pre-order via Fitbit's site. It'll start shipping in late September.

  • Butt dialing on Instagram is a real problem, please beware

    Butt dialing on Instagram is a real problem, please beware

    DMs can be a place of a, let's say, sensitive nature. It's where secrets are shared, gossip mongered, and, for some folks, where romantic relationships are sparked.


    Those are often the sorts of conversations where you simply do not want to unexpectedly turn the chat into a phone call. But that's what can happen, pretty easily, on Instagram. The button to dial someone is inside the DM tab for a conversation, and pretty easy to hit by accident.

    A coworker shared that they'd been butt (or pocket) dialed twice in recent days. And a quick look around shows, yep, this is a Thing. It's happening quite a bit.

    Here's a Twitter user posting a seeming butt dial from actress Mia Healey.

    And here are other people detailing their experience with butt dials.

    Be careful out there, because it's not a feature you can simply turn off. And if you do accidentally butt dial someone, they will receive it exactly like a normal phone call. In a couple of test runs with my editor, we found that even though his settings have push notifications turned off for Instagram, an audio call in the app came straight through like a normal call.

    Here's how the call log looks in our DMs and a look at where the button to make an audio call is placed. Notice the video call button is imminently butt dial-able as well.

    Where the butt dials happen. Credit: screenshot: Instagram

    However, there is a way to turn off notifications for Instagram calls, if you wish to never receive a video or audio call. You have to click the three bars in the Instagram app, then click the gear icon to go into settings. From there, you click notifications, then DM push notifications, then click the video call toggle to off. Here are those steps, in pictures.

    You can choose to turn off notifications for all calls off or just turn off notifications from people you don't follow. The steps move from left to right. Credit: screenshots: instagram

    There remains no way, however, to turn off the option of making Instagram calls. That means there remains the chance you accidentally butt dial.

    To be fair, Snapchat — you know, the ethereal social platform Instagram has copied ruthlessly — might have an even worse set up for its audio calls. The phone call button — which, similarly, is placed inside DMs — is directly next to the return arrow that takes you back to the app's homepage. It is so, so easy to hit the video or audio call button by accident. I know; I have done it.

    Here's a screenshot of a group chat in Snap that's empty of messages. In the upper righthand corner, you can see how easy it may be to hit the wrong button. Credit: screenshot: snapchat

    I wish there were some way to totally prevent you all from butt dialing, but alas all I can suggest is be careful where you tap. And of course please make sure your screen isn't open when you put your phone in your pocket.

  • TikToks latest obsession? Dabloons.

    TikToks latest obsession? Dabloons.

    TikTok's latest trend obsession is a tricky one to unpack. It's both obscure and absurd, beginning with a viral cat meme and ending with imaginary inflation. Yes, you read that right.


    Dabloons are going viral on TikTok at the moment, likely all over the FYP. The dedicated hashtag itself(Opens in a new tab) has over 254.1 million views at the time of writing.

    What are 'dabloons' and how did this all start?

    The word "doubloon" itself can be traced back to 16th-century Spain(Opens in a new tab), where they existed as gold coins and were used as currency for centuries. On TikTok today, doubloons remain a form of currency — just a fictional one.

    SEE ALSO: On TikTok, everyone is starring in their own TV show

    Dabloons originated in a meme from 2021, which began doing the rounds on Instagram after being posted by @catz.jpeg(Opens in a new tab) (which has over 128,000 followers and posts cat memes consistently). This meme, as many will recall, involved a kitten's paw held out in full stretch, with the caption "4 dabloons"(Opens in a new tab). Later, a variation of the meme(Opens in a new tab) popped up on the same account, featuring a black cat with the same caption, and a tiny paw holding up four fingers.

    According to Know Your Meme(Opens in a new tab), this post migrated to Tumblr and trekked over to TikTok, where it was met with equal popularity. The "4 dabloons cat" began being shared via TikTok's slideshow mode, in which several pictures can be posted and swiped through. Several versions of the cat were shared, mostly in photo stories that started with the words "hello traveler", offered an object or item, and then ended with a meme of the cat. Everything you want to trade costs "4 dabloons".

    Only thing to remember: dabloons are a fictional currency being used to trade and obtain fictional items. There is no official store, no external site offering dabloons. And despite comparisons(Opens in a new tab), dabloons are not cryptocurrency.

    How are people "collecting" dabloons?

    People are accounting for their dabloons, which are collected — or lost — by how many you come across on social media. Literally if you see a dabloon, you have earned a dabloon. Individual videos offer individual amounts and items; it depends on what you come across. For example, a video from influencer @seansvv(Opens in a new tab) is offering people a chance to be instantly relieved of their "dabloon debt"(Opens in a new tab). Just "like" the video and your imaginary debt is gone.

    TikTokker @britedragon explained it well(Opens in a new tab): the more people would see the ubiquitous cat meme with the four fingers held up, the more doubloons they collected. "It's like we're all playing neopets," they say. And that seems to be the point — the internet is playing one big game together.

    How far has this gone?

    People like @max.milam are keeping track of their dabloons(Opens in a new tab) on Excel spreadsheets. Others have analyzed rising "dabloon inflation"(Opens in a new tab). Users like @polyba(Opens in a new tab) explain their imaginary dabloon-based lives, which are extremely intricate. Then there are dedicated, niche like @dabloongrocerystore(Opens in a new tab) and @dabloonshq(Opens in a new tab) that have popped up, with tens of thousands of followers each.

    So it's all gone pretty far — all thanks to the power of TikTok. The word "dabloons" appears 21 times in this article (now 22), so does that mean you just earned 22 dabloons (now 23)? We're unsure, but enjoy.

    Looking to save money in the real world? Shop Black Friday Apple deals:

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  • Quordle today: Here are the answers and hints for October 28

    Quordle today: Here are the answers and hints for October 28

    Friday is here at last. But someone doesn't realize they're supposed to take it easy today, and that person's name is Qurodle (OK Quordle is not a person, but pretend).


    If Quordle is a little too challenging today, you've come to the right place for hints. There aren't just hints here, but the whole Quordle solution. Scroll to the bottom of this page, and there it is. But are you sure you need all four answers? Maybe you just need a strategy guide. Either way, scroll down, and you'll get what you need.

    What is Quordle?

    Quordle is a five-letter word guessing game similar to Wordle, except each guess applies letters to four words at the same time. You get nine guesses instead of six to correctly guess all four words. It looks like playing four Wordle games at the same time, and that is essentially what it is. But it's not nearly as intimidating as it sounds.

    Is Quordle harder than Wordle?

    Yes, though not diabolically so.

    Where did Quordle come from?

    Amid the Wordle boom of late 2021 and early 2022, when everyone was learning to love free, in-browser, once-a-day word guessing games, creator Freddie Meyer says he took inspiration from one of the first big Wordle variations, Dordle — the one where you essentially play two Wordles at once. He took things up a notch, and released Quordle on January 30(Opens in a new tab). Meyer's creation was covered in The Guardian(Opens in a new tab) six days later, and now, according to Meyer, it attracts millions of daily users. Today, Meyer earns modest revenue(Opens in a new tab) from Patreon, where dedicated Quordle fans can donate to keep their favorite puzzle game running. 

    How is Quordle pronounced?

    “Kwordle.” It should rhyme with “Wordle,” and definitely should not be pronounced exactly like "curdle.”

    Is Quordle strategy different from Wordle?

    Yes and no.

    Your starting strategy should be the same as with Wordle. In fact, if you have a favorite Wordle opening word, there’s no reason to change that here. We suggest something rich in vowels, featuring common letters like C, R, and N. But you do you.

    After your first guess, however, you’ll notice things getting out of control if you play Quordle exactly like Wordle.

    What should I do in Quordle that I don’t do in Wordle?

    Solving a Wordle puzzle can famously come down to a series of single letter-change variations. If you’ve narrowed it down to “-IGHT,” you could guess “MIGHT” “NIGHT” “LIGHT” and “SIGHT” and one of those will probably be the solution — though this is also a famous way to end up losing in Wordle, particularly if you play on “hard mode.” In Quordle, however, this sort of single-letter winnowing is a deadly trap, and it hints at the important strategic difference between Wordle and Quordle: In Quordle, you can't afford to waste guesses unless you're eliminating as many letters as possible at all times. 

    Guessing a completely random word that you already know isn't the solution, just to eliminate three or four possible letters you haven’t tried yet, is thought of as a desperate, latch-ditch move in Wordle. In Quordle, however, it's a normal part of the player's strategic toolset.

    Is there a way to get the answer faster?

    In my experience Quordle can be a slow game, sometimes dragging out longer than it would take to play Wordle four times. But a sort of blunt-force guessing approach can speed things up. The following strategy also works with Wordle if you only want the solution, and don’t care about having the fewest possible guesses:

    Try starting with a series of words that puts all the vowels (including Y) on the board, along with some other common letters. We've had good luck with the three words: “NOTES,” “ACRID,” and “LUMPY.” YouTuber DougMansLand(Opens in a new tab) suggests four words: “CANOE,” “SKIRT,” “PLUMB,” and “FUDGY.”

    Most of the alphabet is now eliminated, and you’ll only have the ability to make one or two wrong guesses if you use this strategy. But in most cases you’ll have all the information you need to guess the remaining words without any wrong guesses.

    If strategy isn't helping, and you're still stumped, here are some hints:

    Are there any double or triple letters in today’s Quordle words?

    One word has a letter that occurs twice.

    Are any rare letters being used in today’s Quordle like Q or Z?


    What do today’s Quordle words start with?

    I, C, S, and S.

    What are the answers for today’s Quordle?

    Are you sure you want to know?

    There’s still time to turn back.

    OK, you asked for it. The answers are:

    1. IDEAL 

    2. CHESS

    3. SHADY

    4. SHAWL

  • Twitter reacts to Elon Musks offer to buy Twitter for $41 billion

    Twitter reacts to Elon Musks offer to buy Twitter for $41 billion

    As we sweat it out waiting to hear if Twitter's board will accept Tesla CEO and meme lord Elon Musk's offer to buy Twitter for $41 billion (a fraction of his estimated $219 billion(Opens in a new tab) net worth), Twitter has done what it does best: react in dramatic fashion.


    Over the course of the morning of April 14, #Leave Twitter, #MySpace, and #Tumblr have trended as users muse about a Musk-owned future and recall the struggles of other platforms who were acquired and mismanaged. We combed though the hot takes, which ranged from perplexed and playful to political and provocative.

    I think I've seen this film before...

    Eat the rich.

    Speaking of! Let us debate which is the lesser of two evils.

    Digital artist Beeple's take ruffled some feathers.

    I see her point, I do.

    Marc, please, one thing at a time.

    Couldn't let today go by without bullying CNN+.

    WWTD (What Would Tom Do)?

    As this user points out, acquisitions really bring people together.

    At the end of the day, I still am what I eat: Twitter trash.

    Maybe this is a good thing after all!

  • Apple reveals iPhone Easter egg: An old-school wallpaper that honors Steve Jobs

    Apple reveals iPhone Easter egg: An old-school wallpaper that honors Steve Jobs

    Some iPhone users have reported that their updated operating system — iOS 16 beta 3 — has given them the option of using an old-school wallpaper that's an Easter egg and homage to Steve Jobs. The wallpaper in question features clownfish and was used when Jobs debuted the iPhone back in 2007.


    On Twitter, Mark Gurman, a reporter who covers Apple for Bloomberg(Opens in a new tab), quote-tweeted a user named @JackLRoberts(Opens in a new tab), who appeared to have the clownfish background as an option on their iPhone.

    "This is the wallpaper Steve Jobs used when the original iPhone was announced in 2007 — but it never actually ever shipped with any iPhone. Here we are 15 years later," Gurman wrote on Twitter.

    The website 9to5Mac reported(Opens in a new tab) that not all users have been able to access the wallpaper just yet.

    Old forum posts(Opens in a new tab) show that iPhone enthusiasts have been looking for this wallpaper for years, drawing on the nostalgia from the groundbreaking launch and its ensuing promotional materials that featured the clownfish. It's not yet totally clear if and when the wallpaper might roll out to all users, but it does at least seem like folks will soon get their long-awaited background.

  • Fans give more than $3 million to GoFundMe started by Bills safety Damar Hamlin

    Fans give more than $3 million to GoFundMe started by Bills safety Damar Hamlin

    An online fundraiser set up by Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin has made more than $3 million in the wake of the player’s cardiac arrest during Monday Night Football this week.

    Hamlin collapsed on the field during the first quarter of the game between the Bills and Cincinnati Bengals. According to the Bills,(Opens in a new tab) Hamlin’s heartbeat was restored on the field, and he was taken to a nearby hospital, where he is currently in critical condition.

    In the wake of the incident, fans have flocked to the GoFundMe page(Opens in a new tab) of Hamlin’s Chasing M’s Foundation, which he established in 2020 with an effort to buy toys for kids in his hometown of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh. 

    GoFundMe verified the page was Hamlin’s on Twitter. 

    The initial goal was $2,500; as of 9 a.m. Tuesday, donations had reached $3.4 million. 


    SEE ALSO: YouTube will be the official home of NFL Sunday Ticket starting next season

    Damar Hamlin started fundraiser to give back to his community

    Hamlin started the fundraising page in 2020 following his college football career at the University of Pittsburgh, and prior to being drafted by the Bills in the sixth round in 2021.

    Hamlin opened his fundraising appeal with a heartfelt salute to his community: “As I embark on my journey to the NFL, I will never forget where I come from and I am committed to using my platform to positively impact the community that raised me.”

    According to NPR,(Opens in a new tab) prior to Monday night, Hamlin’s charity page had raised slightly more than $2,900. 

    Many of those who donated included a quick message to Hamlin and his loved ones, such as “Prayers from Carpet Man Flooring” and “Love from a Niner fan.”

    Monday’s game was suspended with 5:58 to go in the first quarter. 

  • Haunted TikTok is the next evolution of internet horror

    Haunted TikTok is the next evolution of internet horror

    After hours of scrolling through endless TikToks of teens dancing, couples pranking each other, and dogs being cute — something on your For You Page stops you dead in your tracks.


    Someone is walking around a dark, empty house, as text explains that their mom hasn't come home. As they take us through their neighborhood, they realize it's not just her — everyone has vanished overnight.

    "Hey kinda serious here like my entire town is missing I’m not really sure what to do is this happening elsewhere?" the caption reads.

    Clicking on the @where_is_everybody(Opens in a new tab) account (with over 240,000 followers), you discover someone named Alexander Nielsen has chronicled this phenomenon since October 2019. Each video shows more of this empty world, where people have been replaced by shadowy ghost figures.

    After COVID-19 led to a wave of stay-at-home orders and widespread panic-buying at grocery stores across America in March 2020, the videos grow even more dire. Now there's completely deserted highways(Opens in a new tab), too, with captions mentioning food growing more and more scarce.

    @where_is_everybody(Opens in a new tab)

    Hey kinda serious here like my entire town is missing I’m not really sure what to do is this happening elsewhere?##backtohoops(Opens in a new tab) ##teamvampire(Opens in a new tab) ##inverted(Opens in a new tab)

    ♬ original sound - where_is_everybody(Opens in a new tab)

    Whether you realize it or not, you've just stumbled onto the scary side of TikTok.

    Despite being an app best known for attractive teens going viral with trendy challenges, a sinister niche has been quietly growing since 2018. Haunted TikTok (aka #HorrorTikTok, #CursedTikTok, #GhostTikTok, #CreepyTikTok, #ScaryTikTok) now pulls in anywhere from one to 11 billion views. That doesn't even count the stuff without tags, either.

    Whether you realize it or not, you've just stumbled onto the scary side of TikTok

    "Many different things converged to create Haunted TikTok," says Jessica Maddox, an assistant professor at Alabama University who studies digital media and creative media.

    First, she points out, TikTok's short-form horror harkens back to old Penny Dreadfuls, cheap Victorian-era printed thrillers. More prominently, though, Haunted TikTok grew from a legacy of web horror that uses social media to translate ancient oral storytelling traditions into the modern age. "Haunted TikTok is just the next iteration, evolving from campfire scary stories and Penny Dreadfuls, then also digital urban legends like creepypasta," Maddox explained. Creepypasta, for the uninitiated, are horror stories written by amateur writers (often on Reddit(Opens in a new tab)) that capture the internet's collective unconscious.

    While Haunted TikTok started gaining momentum in 2019, it's now bleeding more into the mainstream(Opens in a new tab) in 2020, when people's general anxiety is at an all-time high. In a world increasingly defined by surreal horrors from an intangible threat, it seems Haunted TikTok is just hitting different when it pops up on people's For You Page.

    "The pandemic is already like the ghost that's haunting us," Maddox says. "Like all good horror, the Haunted TikTok trend provides us with a sense of control over something scary that we don't have control over in our real lives."

    How web horror found a home on TikTok

    Haunted TikTok contains a multitude of subcategories, Maddox explains: You have viral horror story recappers, ghost tour guides exploring haunted places in their area, folks accidentally capturing a paranormal incident they swear is real, others claiming to document hauntings they're experiencing(Opens in a new tab), or the more explicit cinematic fictional "true-story" teller and performance artist like where_is_everybody.

    @allexhuff(Opens in a new tab)

    i swear on my moms life this happened at 3am last night ##foryou(Opens in a new tab) ##foryou(Opens in a new tab) ##foryoupage(Opens in a new tab) ##featureme(Opens in a new tab) ##featurethis(Opens in a new tab) ##BringTheSwagBack(Opens in a new tab) ##bestcostume(Opens in a new tab)

    ♬ original sound - allexhuff(Opens in a new tab)

    While Haunted TikTok has its own distinguishing features, it all stems from the original creepypasta legend to become a worldwide phenomenon. Slenderman was birthed from a single post on a forum in 2009, which soon led to the very popular Marble Hornets YouTube series(Opens in a new tab) around him, as we;; as many popular games(Opens in a new tab), a failed Hollywood movie, and countless other iterations across every social platform.

    "The idea of the campfire story and digital urban legend stems from this tension of, 'Is it true, is it not true? I've heard this story from so-and-so,' or 'it happened here to this other person in a different town,'" says Maddock.

    Like the oldest folklore and fairytales, modern storytellers are often inspired and build on one another's work.

    Like the oldest folklore and fairytales, modern storytellers are often inspired and build on one another's work, changing elements of it with every retelling to adapt the story for a different audience or platform.

    Internet horror is also at the core of another digital storytelling trend called the ARG, or alternate-reality game. While clearly fictional, ARGs are fueled by the premise that you must piece together this real-life mystery through clues and Easter eggs scattered around the web. It harnesses all the allure of the internet rabbit hole, while playing into the culture of internet sleuths theorizing on Reddit as well.

    John Galascio, the creator behind where_is_everbody, not only identifies it as one of the first TikTok ARGs but also says he was indeed inspired by another web horror series from Twitter called TheSunVanished(Opens in a new tab).

    "TikTok's short-form video format is the perfect platform for scary stories like mine, but it's rarely recognized for it," he says. "Fifteen seconds is the perfect amount of time to show an event and keep the viewer intrigued, while also creating a cliffhanger. But on YouTube you'd need to keep going because there isn't a time limit."

    For creators like Andrew Smith (known as smitherenes(Opens in a new tab) to his one million followers), TikTok's tools and algorithm also feel more optimized for horror than the YouTube horror that originally inspired him too.

    Smitherenes on one of his most popular adventures, where they heard a scary noise in the clown tunnel. Credit: Screenshot of smitherenes on tiktok

    "The app makes it so easy for me to film, edit, and put together a great story in a quick time frame which also allows me to put out content very frequently," he says. If the first part of your video gets onto people's For You Page, and you do enough of a job to rope them in, folks will flock to that account and follow it in droves so they can see the next part.

    There's also the plethora of creepy tools readily available to everyone on TikTok, from face-distorting AR filters or the Reality Ripple effect people claim catches ghosts in motion(Opens in a new tab).

    Another aspect of what makes TikTok such a powerful place for web horror is precisely because horror is the opposite of what we expect from the platform. An app otherwise populated by e-boys and e-girls lip-syncing and dancing to pop songs, Haunted TikTok gets viewers who've been lulled into a false sense of security.

    The niche also subverts the app's music integration, twisting its usually cool and idyllic vibes into the cursed and nightmarish.

    "Since the invention of the horror film, music has become such a big part of how we convey story tension, theme, and feeling in horror storytelling," says Maddox. Whether it's through the Get Out or Hereditary soundtrack or "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" song(Opens in a new tab), all the most popular horror sounds on "TikTok use musical juxtaposition to increase the level of anxiety and unsettledness in the viewer."

    No creator embodies the grotesque subversion of mainstream TikTok like Eli Stevens (known as Elisteves(Opens in a new tab) to his 238,000 TikTok followers).

    Stevens started his TikTok to exclusively poke fun at the Chad-types flexing with their shirts off to popular music. His first post had all these elements(Opens in a new tab), with him pointing to a $10 for 10 beef patty deal as the popular Midsummer Madness by 88RISING plays. It got over a million views.

    But people weren't picking up on enough of the absurdist messaging.

    "So I was like, 'Alright, I need to make this a lot darker real fast.' So in the next video I crashed my car and spit blood out everywhere," he says. Midsummer Madness was still the soundtrack, though, and continued to be the soundtrack for the series that grew increasingly hellish from there, dissolving into cannibalism, prosthetic fangs, and blood-soaked California Raisin figurines.

    Stevens' brilliant conclusion to the Midsummer Madness series. Credit: elisteves on tiktok

    After the Midsummer Madness series concluded, he moved on to a travel vlog series that subverted even more of influencer culture, and similarly concluded with implied cannibalism. Now, he's in the process of creating a Midsummer Madness sequel.

    "I ask myself everyday why I get onto people's For You Page or why they like it," he says. "I have no idea. But I think it's surprising. They think they're getting one type of video, then it's something totally different."

    While he wasn't conscious of it at the time, Stevens' cursed performance art bore many similarities to a figure who is arguably the Slenderman of Haunted TikTok: Bonskinny.

    Though the whole series was recently deleted(Opens in a new tab), it lives on through YouTube analysts(Opens in a new tab) dissecting the deeper meaning of her work(Opens in a new tab) and its impact on Cursed TikTok (and inspired other creators of her ilk, like Sitting and Smiling(Opens in a new tab)). At first, folks didn't know what to make of the girl always wearing a decrepit clown mask crying about wanting to feel pretty, threatening self-harm, and apparently being kept in a cage by a mysterious figure called Mister Man.

    While many commenters worried this was a girl broadcasting a real cry for help while in a dangerous situation, others pretty quickly identified it as digital performance art. The overwhelming consensus now is that Bonskinny was a commentary on women's beauty standards, particularly the ones perpetrated by social media like TikTok.

    "Since the rise of Instagram, and even before, there's always been a dominant aesthetic of presenting the very perfect, polished, neat, cleaned up version of yourself on social media, whether you're an influencer or just kind of the average person. Bonskinny was the opposite of influencer perfection," says Maddox.

    The question of what's real and what isn't — which is at the heart of Haunted TikTok — is in itself a commentary on those pretty lies we tell through online personas. Because even though we know that perfect influencer aesthetic isn't actually authentic, we want to believe it is anyway.

    "Bonskinny was the opposite of influencer perfection."

    "Bonskinny implodes that because we're asking 'is it fiction, or is it authentic?' about the grotesque and the scary," Maddox says.

    The twisted realism that's so characteristic of most Haunted and Horror TikTok does have a darker implication, though. Because Haunted TikTok can be a one-way avenue to Conspiracy TikTok, where conspiracy theories like #FreeBritney(Opens in a new tab) and Wayfair child trafficking thrive.

    "The way TikTok horror threads the question of 'is this real, is it not' reflects and speaks to a lot of larger digital culture issues about disinformation, misinformation, and what can we take to be true," says Maddox. "Bonskinny is problematic in the sense that we're missing the social cues that would clue us in on whether this is really a girl who needs help, versus a girl expressing herself through art. Yet at the same time, that lack of social cues is exactly what makes the digital urban legend so unsettling and powerful."

    Another one of Haunted TikTok's most viral accounts blurs the line between fact, fiction, and conspiracy in a whole other way too.

    Jonathan Ballen (or Mrballen(Opens in a new tab) to his 6 million followers) falls under the scary story recap category, by explaining famous oddities in under a minute like the Dyatlov Pass(Opens in a new tab) incident, in which a group of students went on a hiking expedition in 1959 only for their bodies to be found frozen and oddly injured. Yet it's hard to distinguish between his coverage of a well-vetted, real mystery like that one, versus other stories he covers that certainly aren't passing any Snopes tests. Another video(Opens in a new tab) with 11 million views has a thumbnail declaring it "the scariest true story on the internet," but if you Google it (as he suggests you do) it's clearly a creepypasta.

    @mrballen(Opens in a new tab)

    What the police discover in his room is the scariest part ##scary(Opens in a new tab) ##nightmare(Opens in a new tab) ##nosleep(Opens in a new tab) ##scared(Opens in a new tab) ##psycho(Opens in a new tab) ##horror(Opens in a new tab) ##mrballen(Opens in a new tab)

    ♬ original sound - mrballen(Opens in a new tab)

    "I distinguish truth versus fiction by saying explicitly whether it's true or not in the caption," Ballen says, and indeed this one's tagged #NoSleep which means it's fiction. Meanwhile captions with "true story" mean it's true "as far as I can tell," but "based on a true story" means he's "spinning a true story to fit TikTok with "a little embellishment." He also provides sources for each story, fiction or otherwise.

    "My page is about experiencing the scary content. Telling people it's fake upfront is a turn-off," says Ballen, which is why he leaves it in the caption for people to investigate further themselves. "But I think most people like the idea that it could be true, and they don’t really want to know if it actually is or not."

    Clearly, TikTok is a powerful tool for people to believe what they want to believe.

    "There's definitely a lot of overlap between conspiracy theories and urban legends, but there's a slight difference. The urban legends are, 'I heard this thing happened.' Whereas conspiracy theories are, 'I heard or think this thing happened, and here's why,'" says Maddox. "But it's a slippery slope, especially when the TikTok algorithm starts recommending conspiracies if you spend enough time on Haunted TikTok."

    When you consider how belief in the Slenderman caused two real-life teen girls to stab their own friend to near death in 2014(Opens in a new tab), too, that slippery slope can look like a path straight to hell.

    Related Video: From makeup to true crime: A look inside the weird world of YouTube mashups

    Out with the old, in with the new media horror

    While there's a lot of innovation in web horror and its latest evolution through Haunted TikTok, the things that scare us never really change much.

    A lot of the tropes we know and love from traditional horror movies are alive and well on TikTok too. That's why cemeteries and empty houses are their usual setting, and they often use jump scares and quick edits.

    "TikTok is especially conducive to quick edits in particular because of the limited amount of real estate in its short-form format," says Maddox. "So much of Haunted TikTok also feels like found footage. And because so many are shot on phones, the found-footage style translates better to TikTok than film."

    @shmae57(Opens in a new tab)

    I didn’t see anything but my friend swears she did

    ♬ original sound - shmae57(Opens in a new tab)

    With TikTok and the Gen Zers who fuel it, there's no need for the story to justify a camera being on during a paranormal experience. Whether it's a ghostly figure peeking out in the background of a dance TikTok(Opens in a new tab), a closet slamming behind a makeup tutorial, or a multi-part exploration of a haunted space — it's totally at home in the digital age.

    The ties to found-footage horror and Haunted TikTok go even deeper than just style, though. Blair Witch, the first found-footage film ever, had a marketing campaign that sold the story as being entirely true too. Its success invented the viral marketing movie campaign(Opens in a new tab) and is also largely credited for inspiring ARGs(Opens in a new tab).

    In other ways, though, Maddox theorizes how Haunted TikTok is also a fascinating reversal of one of the most foundational tropes in horror movies: teensploitation (meaning teen exploitation), especially from the '70s and '80s.

    Haunted TikTok seems to be rooted in the larger movement of teens using the app to challenge the status quo.

    "Teensploitation horror films were all about trying to get young people to grow up. But as an app of mostly teen content creators, teensploitation on Haunted TikTok seems to be rooted in the larger movement of teens using the app to challenge the status quo and remain true to themselves," she says.

    I mean, what else would you expect from a generation using the app to tackle real-world horrors by collectively crashing Donald Trump rallies.

    Another point of departure, Maddox says, lies in the endings of TikTok horror series. Like Bonskinny, these series often end abruptly. The "protagonist" usually just reaches a point of danger where they realize it would be too risky to continue — and that's where it all stops.

    "But that lack of ending reflects the short-form video platform, and just larger uncertainty of our lives right now too."

    In other ways, the latest trends of Haunted TikTok and horror films do reflect one another, though. Since Get Out, the comedy-horror film has risen to prominence and its influence is all over cursed TikTok, most prominently in Elisteves and Bonskinny's work.

    SEE ALSO: TikTokers ruined Trump's rally and now his campaign is fighting back

    "Internet content, in general, is characterized by an absurdity that the horror-comedy mirrors," says Maddox. "And that absurdity mirrors our anxieties about everything going on in the world right now. Because it feels like everything's failed us, doomed us: Whether it's politics, climate change, police brutality. When those failures are so immense, so crushing, everywhere, all the time — you kind of just have to laugh."

    Maybe people believe Bonskinny is real because we live in a world where Britney Spears actually legally does not have any control over her own life(Opens in a new tab). The surreality of Haunted TikTok, unfortunately, doesn't feel that farfetched in 2020.

    Stevens even named this new era of horror, from Get Out to It Follows and Heridatry, as direct influences on him because, "They're not too gory or in your face. They focus on the more realistic issues we all deal with while just having a horror element lingering in the background."

    @reubix_cube(Opens in a new tab)

    big update 😬

    ♬ original sound - reubix_cube(Opens in a new tab)

    In other ways, though, web horror and Haunted TikTok is on a wavelength that's more personal than traditional media. With horror movies, you know the fear is contained to a theater. But Haunted TikTok exists on our phones, ready to corrupt our digital escapism with no warning.

    Traditional media can't begin to address the anxieties that digital urban legends can because it gets us where we live most of our lives in the modern age. More than ever before, our phones are where we live, work, find love, create friendship, shop. Some recent horror movies like Unfriended, Unfriended 2, Blair Witch 2016, Slenderman, and Cam try to tap into the power of digital horror, without understanding what makes it so scary.

    "When it comes to Haunted TikTok, the horror is always there, waiting in your pocket," says Maddox. "Once you watch one, the algorithm knows it affects you, too, so it will continue pushing more and more horror onto your For You Page."

    In the same way that you can't escape the evils of the digital world, we can't escape Haunted TikTok. So welcome to hell, friends. Get comfortable, because we'll be here for a while.