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On TikTok, everyone is starring in their own TV show

2023-03-19 06:18:42

On TikTok, everyone is starring in their own TV show

On TikTok, a young person sits on a bus(Opens in a new tab) and stares out the window. The caption reads, "What the fuck in the filler episode." Another creator(Opens in a new tab) sits on their bed and stares up at the camera. Text covers their face. "I don't think I've had a filler day in at least two years," it says. "Not even an ad break. Something is always going horribly wrong and it just keeps going. This isn't even a show this is a five part docuseries that some teenage girl is binging and won't turn off."

On TikTok, everyone is starring in their own TV show(图1)

This particular TikTok has since garnered over 1.5 million views and 300,000 likes on the app. Remarks like "my whole life is a filler" and "my filler episodes are me crying over my other episodes" flood the comments section. The "filler episode" tag has over 22 million views.

So, why are TikTokkers using television jargon to make sense of their lives? "We use these TV terms because our world is absurd around us. We are in this age of 'peak TV' where so many people are consuming it," Amanda Brennan, a meme librarian and senior director of trends at the digital marketing agency XX Artists, explained to Mashable.

A filler episode is an industry term to describe an episode of television that doesn't contribute to the main plot of a show. On TikTok, it's since become synonymous with an uneventful moment in your life.

Using the language of popular culture to talk about and understand your life isn't a novel concept, but it reached new heights in 2020 with the rise of "main character syndrome," or thinking of yourself as the main character in your life. The dialogue took off on TikTok when Ashley Ward uploaded the audio, "You have to start romanticizing your life / you have to start thinking of yourself as the main character." More pointedly, thinking of yourself as the main character was a coping mechanism that allowed people to accept the intense early days of the pandemic as plot points in the story of their lives. 

Two years later, the main character is a fixture of the internet lexicon. It's become a way of narrativizing your life on social media. As such, users have started to incorporate the language of television into their online vocabulary. Just like how eras were democratized on social media, now anyone can be the star of their very own television show that's all in their head. 

SEE ALSO: It's not a phase. It's an era.

TikTokkers aren't just conceptualizing their lives using filler episodes; they're also describing everyday situations using phrases like "crossover episode" and "spin off" — even going so far as addressing "the writers" of their show. Television language translates especially well when you're filming a video of yourself to be consumed on a digital platform, just like an episode of television might be. 

"As video has become a dominant form of communication, it feels like you're consuming your friends lives as TV shows," Brennan said. "All of this social video consumption combined with entertainment consumption can create this big beautiful soup in your brain of 'oh no, my life is also a TV show.'"

It also becomes a way for people to talk about their lives online without getting too personal. One of these TikToks reads(Opens in a new tab), "When you used to be a series regular but you moved away and got your own spin off and now you're waiting around for the holiday crossover episode." Another says(Opens in a new tab), "My Best Friend currently working on her college life storyline while I'm just waiting for the Halloween episode so I can make a cameo." Both of these videos have accumulated nearly 2 million views. These are creators who are grappling with transitional periods of their life; they're navigating how to live apart from their friends by casting everyone in a figurative television show.

"It's kind of like a level set of language where you can talk through these feelings that you're having to someone on TikTok. Someone can pick it up and be 'OK, I know what this is talking about,'" explained Brennan. "It's a boiled down taxonomy of putting yourself into an archetype." You say that you're in your filler episode or about to have a crossover episode, and it's a shared language. While someone on the internet might not understand the nuances of your friendship, they will understand what a crossover episode with a friend means. 

Other videos are less about making sense of one's life and more about putting the onus on someone else: the writers of their show. One of these videos reads, "To whoever is writing my show, I love that we've kept a consistent theme of me being a baddie with a big personality who doesn't need a man. But I was thinking for this season I'd be ok with switching things up and adding in a (realistic) love interest. We don't need every season ending up exactly the same :)" Another says(Opens in a new tab), "Can the person writing the 'college' season of the show skip to the bit where i feel as close to my college friends as i did my high school mates. there's only so many times i can ask someone's major." Brennan compared this phenomenon to the popularity of astrology. "It's this comforting to think 'I'm this way because someone else or like something else is causing it.'" 

The "writers of my show" trend is a passive way to manifest your destiny. It's being a viewer instead of the main character, content to just watch life go by. In this trend, creators leave their fate in someone else's hands. It's not unlike the "my FBI agent" meme where users imagined an FBI agent investigating their digital footprint and judging them for it.

SEE ALSO: The surprising poignancy of the 'FBI agent' meme

By viewing your life as a television show through the eyes of someone else, life's everyday trials, tribulations, and mundanities become easier to understand — for you and your audience.

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    This show is coming to our screens at a pivotal moment in history — as protests continue across America and parts of the globe against racism and police brutality, following the police killing of George Floyd, who died after an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

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    “I think the news and even some YouTube creators are incredibly biased,” Wallace said. “News stations and YouTubers can take the footage and later edit them to fit their personal agenda.”

    Similarly, Celina Juarez, a 21-year-old restaurant employee in Los Angeles, felt that news outlets weren't focusing on what mattered. Juarez lives with her grandparents and didn't want to risk spreading the coronavirus to them, since the elderly are at high risk.

    "I feel that the news is showing more of the looting and less of the police brutality against peaceful protest when, based on every livestream I've tuned into, it's really the opposite," Juarez said in a Twitter DM.

    While the protests have been associated with looting and rioting, multiple videos(Opens in a new tab) show black protestors shutting down white agitators attempting to graffiti storefronts and steal merchandise. When the protests began in Minneapolis in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a white police officer, Juarez and Wallace felt that news coverage focused on the looting rather than law enforcement escalating violence against peaceful protestors.

    In addition to presenting a clearer picture of the the protests in support of Black Lives Matter, livestreams also provide crucial information for those who attend.

    Elijah Daniel, a YouTuber with 568,000 subscribers and 446,000 Instagram followers(Opens in a new tab), attended numerous protests in Los Angeles last week. He's also been broadcasting the protests on Instagram Live, where tens of thousands of viewers watched police tear gas gatherings, shoot rubber bullets into crowds, and arrest peaceful protestors who were out after Los Angeles' controversial curfews.

    I watched Daniel's protest livestream last week because I had several friends who were also marching in Hollywood. It seemed peaceful from wherever Daniel was marching, but the chants of "No justice, no peace" were broken up by panicked comments warning viewers that police were tear gassing protestors a few blocks ahead. Madison Beer, another influencer who's been actively attending protests and was marching ahead of Daniel, tweeted that cops were beginning to block in protestors well before curfew.

    As soon as I read the livestream comments, I called everyone I knew at the protests to warn them. One narrowly avoided the gas and rubber bullets, which law enforcement began deploying just minutes after he decided to take side streets out of Hollywood.

    This weekend, I attended the massive candlelight vigil for George Floyd and other black victims of police brutality, which took place only blocks from where police had arrested(Opens in a new tab) thousands of peaceful protestors the week before. During the drive over, I watched the livestream broadcasted by Black Lives Matter Los Angeles to keep tabs on police presence. Watching the protests live is a matter of safety.

    Watching protest livestreams is a matter of public safety. Credit: David McNew / Getty Images
    "I know it's easy to watch a video on the internet, but to watch it in real time is on a whole other level."

    Daniel's viewers are also using the livestream to open up conversations about police brutality and privilege with their families. Claire-Louise, a 21-year-old customer service agent in Belfast, Ireland, can't attend protests in Ireland because there aren't any close enough to be accessible. She's been showing Daniel's livestreams, as well as other screen recorded livestreams, to her family members who she claims are "a bit backwards in their mindset."

    "I know it's easy to watch a video on the internet, but to watch it in real time is on a whole other level," Claire-Louise said in a Twitter DM. "I get happy when I see the peacefulness but I get angry and anxious when I see the brutality and just blatant racism."

    Influencers and celebrities continue to fall out of public favor through this period of civil unrest. From posting well intentioned but ill informed black squares to their Instagram accounts to getting arrested for looting(Opens in a new tab), as Jake Paul did, celebrity culture is cracking. But those who use their platforms for activism, as Elijah Daniel and Halsey have, are inspiring a generation of viewers to join the Black Lives Matter movement.

    "Even though I can't actually be there, it at least makes me feel like I am," Wallace said. "Seeing how many people are at the protests, plus thinking about how many people are watching livestreams, makes me think that in time something may actually happen."

  • OKCupid adds Black Lives Matter badge and profile questions about racial inequality

    OKCupid adds Black Lives Matter badge and profile questions about racial inequality

    On Thursday, OKCupid announced that it's rolling out a #BlackLivesMatter(Opens in a new tab) badge in a dozen countries. Users can obtain the badge by answering yes to the question, "Do you want to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement by adding a badge to your profile?"


    Since badges won't actually do anything to solve racism, OKCupid has also donated $50,000 to the ACLU, Black Girls Code, Fair Fight Action and the NAACP. The app will also donate a million dollars in advertising space to black civil rights organizations.

    SEE ALSO: How single people have been dealing with the 'sex ban' in England

    In addition to the badge, OKCupid has added matching questions related to racial injustice and inequality. Users can answer whether they protest; whether it's okay to silently support racial equality; how they plan on addressing racial inequality (say by donating or protesting); and whether they find it important that their date supports racial equality.

    OKCupid racial inequality question Credit: okcupid
    OKCupid how will you address racial inequality question Credit: okcupid

    In the past week, over 100,000 users have responded to the new questions. The majority said it's not okay to silently support equality, according to OKCupid's blog post. Seventy percent are protesting for racial equality.

    This isn't the first time OKCupid has created badges and questions around social justice. They did so with supporting Planned Parenthood(Opens in a new tab) and marriage equality as well(Opens in a new tab). While the badge could be seen by some as virtual signaling, the questions do allow users to dig deeper into a potential match's commitment to racial equality — which is a step in the right direction.

    Related Video: Want to donate to help the Black Lives Matter movement? Here's how.

Random articles


  • Facial recognition tech put his life at risk. Congress needs to act now.

    Facial recognition tech put his life at risk. Congress needs to act now.

    Earlier this year, for the first time (that we know of), a false match by a facial recognition algorithm led to the arrest of an innocent man(Opens in a new tab).


    Now, members of Congress are finally taking action. On Thursday, Sens. Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley, and Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Ayanna Pressley, all Democrats, introduced the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act of 2020(Opens in a new tab). It's the most aggressive move yet by Congress to limit the use of facial recognition by police, in this case, by banning federal law enforcement from using it and cutting off state and local police from federal grants if they fail to do the same.

    That it was an innocent Black man who was falsely accused and arrested is not a surprise. A federal study published last year found that facial recognition technology misidentified Black and Asian faces 10 to 100 times more often than white faces.

    The only “evidence” against Robert Julian-Borchak Williams, according to the New York Times(Opens in a new tab), was an algorithm used by the Michigan State Police that matched his driver’s license photo with blurry surveillance footage. Police were sent to arrest a confused Williams on his front lawn, in front of his two young daughters and wife.

    After spending $1,000 on bail and 30 hours in jail, Williams was released by the Detroit Police Department. When the cops realized their mistake, the Times reports, a police officer said: “I guess the computer got it wrong.”

    Yeah, the computer got it wrong.

    George Floyd. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. The list(Opens in a new tab) of Black people killed by police is so long. Contrast that with the many incentives for people — tech CEOs hungry for lucrative contracts, politicians screaming "law and order," cops who want an easy fix — to push facial recognition technology. It's a terrifying and deadly combination.

    SEE ALSO: Trevor Noah discusses the discrimination Black people face at work

    Putting pressure on corporations alone won't fix the problem. Amazon's "moratorium" on selling its facial recognition tech to police departments is vague and only lasts a year. IBM said it won't sell facial recognition tech to police, while Microsoft said it would institute a similar ban until federal laws regulating it were in place.

    And there are plenty of other players in the industry. DataWorks Plus, which built the software that led to Williams' arrest and uses an algorithm cited in the federal bias study, says it "provides solutions" to "more than 1,000 agencies, both large and small." It doesn't have a public-facing consumer business to worry about. Neither does Clearview AI — yes, that Clearview AI, the creepy company that scraped billions of photos from social media networks without asking permission. Public outrage doesn't matter to them. They never promised to not be evil.

    That's why lawmakers need to take action. The Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act of 2020(Opens in a new tab) bans federal law enforcement from using facial recognition technology. It also prevents state and local law enforcement agencies from accepting federal grants if they use the technology.

    The Electric Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a privacy and human rights non-profit, didn't think past bills, including the recently proposed Justice in Policing Act(Opens in a new tab), went far enough to prohibit use of facial recognition technology. Jeramie D. Scott, senior counsel at EPIC, said they were "too limited in their reach" or had "wide-ranging exceptions." But it endorses the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act(Opens in a new tab).

    So does Fight for the Future. The digital rights non-profit said in a statement the bill "effectively bans law enforcement use of facial recognition in the United States," and that Congress should pass it "soon as possible." And the ACLU says the bill "should immediately pass."

    Robert Williams survived his encounter with police. But the next facial recognition "match" might not.

  • Quordle today: Here are the answers and hints for November 20

    Quordle today: Here are the answers and hints for November 20

    Sunday Quordles are, all things considered, the most relaxing Quordles of all. For most of us, Sunday is when we're furthest from the workweek, and Sunday comes with a rich tradition of lounging around the house, reading the paper slowly and doing puzzles. An extra hard puzzle can be an added bonus, but it can also add frustration to an otherwise enjoyable day.


    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?

    Two words have letters occurring twice.

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


    What do today’s Quordle words start with?

    B, A, 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. BALER

    2. AMAZE

    3. SPICY

    4. SEGUE

  • Cold water swimming: The ritual empowering people with prenatal depression

    Cold water swimming: The ritual empowering people with prenatal depression

    While many are familiar with postpartum depression(Opens in a new tab), the depression faced by people who've become new parents, prenatal depression(Opens in a new tab), which occurs during a pregnancy, is far less spoken about. A new documentary short on streaming platform WaterBear(Opens in a new tab) is shining new light on prenatal depression and a niche, helpful ritual some pregnant people are wading into: cold water swimming.


    Cold water swimming(Opens in a new tab), the practice of swimming outdoors in colder or polar regions, has proven to provide solace for some pregnant people, as Within the Water(Opens in a new tab) examines. Directed by Katharina Koall and Eleanor Church, the short film unpacks stories of pregnant women who have turned to the practice, while examining experiences of depression during pregnancy.

    The 11-minute film feels achingly intimate, with slow-cut shots and the ever-present sound of rippling waves. Women sit with their children near the water, holding seashells and expressing the myriad of emotions they've faced while pregnant. As the documentary follows them over nine months, they share anecdotes of their fears during prenatal depression alongside the joys of pregnancy and later parenthood, and discuss the comfort cold water swimming brought them.

    When it comes to pregnant people, the International Forum for Wellbeing in Pregnancy, a British charity, has suggested that antenatal swimming(Opens in a new tab) is generally "a safe form of exercise," though this may depend on individual medical conditions. The forum writes that the practice of cold water swimming can improve blood circulation, reduce aches and blood pressure, and promote mental wellbeing, and suggests some precautions to take too(Opens in a new tab).

    While cold (or "open") water swimming swimming sits at the crux of the short, the film is really more about shining a light on the stigma of prenatal depression, driven by the women interviewed and the stories they share with the camera.

    "That feeling of being in that ice cold water is so feels like a reset," one woman says.

    Credit: Katharina Koall and Eleanor Church.

    Filmmakers Koall and Church tell Mashable their passion for making Within the Water stemmed from their own individual experiences with prenatal depression.

    "We felt strongly that [prenatal depression] isn't spoken about enough," says Koall.

    In the UK, the National Health Service estimates that around one in eight people(Opens in a new tab) undergo some form of depression during their pregnancy. Treatment can include(Opens in a new tab) various forms of therapy or antidepressants.

    SEE ALSO: How to support someone with depression virtually

    Church said that the film captures a "shared mechanism to regain control" amongst the women turning to cold-water swimming.

    "Prenatal depression, although relatively common, is kept in the dark," she says. "The more we spoke to people about the project and opened up about our own experiences, the more people shared their own. It can be extremely lonely keeping this to yourself."

    While researching the film, Koall said that a number of perinatal mental health workers outlined how "under-recognised and misunderstood" prenatal depression can be.

    "The stigmas around the idea of being 'unmaternal' and focusing pregnancy on the baby rather than on the mother are still prevalent — attitudes that can be damaging and, at times, dangerous," she says. "These forms of depression are portrayed as a weakness, an instability, and while they can feel like that, this film explores the extreme strength and resilience that is needed to live through prenatal depression, to control it and be empowered."

    Within the Water is available to watch for free on WaterBear(Opens in a new tab).

  • ‘QAnon Shaman’ is seen leading the charge as pro-Trump mob breaks into U.S. Capitol

    ‘QAnon Shaman’ is seen leading the charge as pro-Trump mob breaks into U.S. Capitol

    When supporters of Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol Hill on Wednesday afternoon, a face familiar to QAnon conspiracy theorists was seen leading the break-in.


    U.S. Capitol police officers try to stop supporters of Donald Trump, including the "QAnon Shaman." Credit: AFP via Getty Images

    Jake Angeli, who is better known as the “QAnon Shaman(Opens in a new tab),” was captured on camera multiple times from different sources making his way through the Capitol. He was even photographed inside the Senate chambers.

    The photos of this well-known QAnon figure inside the Capitol are a perfect visual representation of just how influential QAnon has been in fomenting anger around unfounded conspiracies about election fraud, eventually leading up to this moment.

    Angeli yells inside the Senate Chamber on Jan. 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Credit: Getty Images

    Previously, Angeli has been seen protesting(Opens in a new tab) outside the Maricopa County, Arizona Elections Office following the spread of falsehoods that the election was being stolen from President Trump after the November election.

    The QAnon supporter may stick out like a sore thumb in the photos released from the rioting inside the Capitol, but he’s become a fixture(Opens in a new tab) at many pro-Trump rallies over the past year as well. At these events, Angeli could often be found shouting about the latest QAnon-related conspiracies.

    Angeli screams "Freedom" inside the Senate chamber after the U.S. Capitol was breached by a mob during a joint session of Congress. Credit: Getty Images

    Angeli has become one of the more recognizable faces of the QAnon movement, which believes President Trump is secretly waging war against the Deep State to take down a global satanic pedophile ring run by his political enemies. The movement, which has no basis in fact, has become increasingly influential over the last few years.

    Related Video: How to recognize and avoid fake news

  • Cut down on dinner prep with delicious savings on meals from Gobble

    Cut down on dinner prep with delicious savings on meals from Gobble

    Hungry people rejoice, because we have some delicious news. Tired people rejoice, because dinner just got a whole lot easier: Gobble(Opens in a new tab) is a subscription meal service that delivers a week’s worth of tasty meals straight to your doorstep. And if you think this is another DIY-style meal delivery service like the ones you’ve tried and left, it’s not. At Gobble, meals are pre-prepped, which means you can enjoy a complex, homecooked meal without so much as getting out a measuring spoon or chopping a carrot yourself. While  we’re on a roll delivering good news, now is the perfect time to try Gobble – you can get $40 off your first dinner box order through March 25(Opens in a new tab).


    When it comes to dinner, the words ‘delicious’ and ‘easy’ are all we need to hear to be sold, but if you need more details, here are our three favorite Gobble features. 

    Go beyond the basic

    Credit: Gobble

    There’s nothing basic about the meals available through Gobble. Think global flavors and options like Butter Chicken with Basmati Rice & Naan Bread, Butternut Squash Ravioli with Spinach & Pecan Sage Brown Butter, or Pan-Seared Salmon with Colorful Vegetable Hash (Drooling now? Us, too.). They also offer soups, salads, sides, breakfast, and dessert options. 

    Eat without the hassle

    Credit: Gobble

    Not everyone wants to play chef – and Gobble understands that – so meals are delivered chopped, measured, and prepped, so nothing takes longer than 15 minutes to put together. That also means you don’t have a sink full of dishes to clean when you’re done eating.  

    Your meal, your way

    Credit: Gobble

    You know ‘one size fits all’ doesn’t work at mealtime, and so does Gobble. That means meal options from low carb and low calorie to vegetarian or gluten- or dairy-free are all available. Simply choose the meals you want each week to ensure you get your preferred dietary option. 

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Gobble
    Choose an easy and flavorful dinner with Gobble (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)
    Get $40 off your first meal box through March 25
    (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

  • Oprahs Favorite Things shows small businesses some serious love

    Oprahs Favorite Things shows small businesses some serious love

    It's that special time of year when the Black Friday savings have started and gift shopping has begun. If you want to get a jump on your holiday to-do list, but are experiencing a bit of choice paralysis, don't fear: Oprah has got you covered, with her annual Favorite Things(Opens in a new tab) gift guide officially going live on Oprah Daily(Opens in a new tab). And 2021 is a little extra special, marking 25 years of holiday recs from our favorite multi-hyphenate.


    "In honor of this milestone," Oprah shared in the Amazon Live announcement(Opens in a new tab), "We're going to go big by focusing small."

    That's why this year, her 110 picks show that she's loving the things from small businesses. Specifically, many small businesses run by women and people of color. You'll find everything from fashion to food (like this literal cheese soufflé(Opens in a new tab)), as well as art and goodies for your home.

    As always, Oprah's picks are here to give you all sorts of gift ideas, whether you're shopping for your best friend or your next-door neighbor. Overall, this list is relatively affordable with 43 items going for $50 or less (and again, supporting a bunch of small businesses), but in typical Favorite Things fashion, you'll still find some decent variety in the price offerings. The lowest-priced item, for instance, is an eyeshadow palette(Opens in a new tab) that goes for $12.50, and the highest is a $1,795 rower(Opens in a new tab). Oprah has nothing if not the range.

    We definitely recommend taking a look at the full list, but for your convenience, we've pulled some of our favorite small business picks to get the perusing started — check them out below.

    Peepers Women's Showbiz Soft Square Blue Light Blocking Reading Glasses(Opens in a new tab) — $27

    Credit: Peepers

    A bold pair of square glasses is maybe the most recognizably Oprah-inspired gift on her entire list, and this peepers pick comes in four different fun colors. Since we've all been getting plenty of screen time this past year and half, these glasses are a great way to emulate the talk show host's iconic look and give your eyes a little much-needed protection.

    Dare to Roam Prodigy Backpack(Opens in a new tab) — $98

    Credit: Dare to Roam

    With the world finally starting to reopen somewhat, we once again have a need for backpacks. These Dare to Roam ones come in eight different cute colors, come with a padded compartment to fit a 15-inch laptop, and are made with a water-resistant and antimicrobial material to fight bacteria growth. It's a great choice for any student, young professional, or person who lives a little on-the-go.

    Sonoma Lavender Microwaveable Aromatherapy Stuffed Animals(Opens in a new tab) — $35.95

    Credit: Sonoma Lavender

    Let's be honest — who couldn't use a little extra comfort these days? Whether you're a kid or a grown-up, having a stuffed animal to give a squeeze to just helps. Plus, this one smells like lavender and can be heated in the microwave or dryer to provide the coziest vibes possible. Choose between Freddy the Frog, Kalee the Koala, Lucky the Puppy, and Spunky the Monkey.

    UBAH HOT Hot Sauce(Opens in a new tab) — $59.99

    Credit: UBAH HOT

    In my opinion, hot sauce belongs on basically everything. Even if you're not a super fan of spice, this three-pack comes with a mild, medium, and truly hot sauce, so you can adjust your dishes accordingly. These African-inspired sauces make for a more unique gift that Oprah says "elevates even the simplest meal."

    10-Pack Poppy & Pout Natural Lip Balm(Opens in a new tab) — $68

    Credit: Poppy & Pout

    Cold weather means dry lips, and no one likes dry lips. These Poppy & Pout cruelty-free balms bring a little something to this winter-essential product, with 10 different flavors and adorable recyclable packaging. All the balms are hand-poured in the Poppy & Pout Idaho HQ and come with a bit more product than you'd usually find in the drugstore.

    Galison Faith Ringgold The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles Puzzle(Opens in a new tab) — $16.99

    Credit: Galison

    Puzzles are arguably one of the best ways to slow down, focus on a fun challenge, and create a beautiful image on your dining room table. This thousand-piece Galison puzzle will definitely take you at least a few afternoons, but still won't be impossible to solve. You'll also find that its image features eight powerful Black women from history, including Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman.

    4-Pack Henry Mask Reusable Three-Layer PPE Face Mask(Opens in a new tab) — $49.50

    Credit: Henry

    If you're a fan of practical gifts, these face masks are the way to go. Thanks to their unique shape, they don't rub up against your lips all day, making them ideal for any lipstick or lip balm wearers. You can adjust the straps in three different ways, and for every mask you buy, one goes to a person in need.

    Explore related content:

    • The best Black Friday deals for 2021, all in one place

    • Best gifts under $50: 70+ ideas for absolutely everyone

    • Amazon's early Black Friday sale is on — here's a monster list of the top deals

  • Black TikTok creators are striking to protest uncredited viral dance trends

    Black TikTok creators are striking to protest uncredited viral dance trends

    Black TikTok creators are "striking" in an effort to gain recognition for choreographing dance trends that have been co-opted by white creators, furthering the debate over cultural appropriation online.


    Megan Thee Stallion released her new song "Thot Shit" last week, a raunchy, abrasive response to the conservative moral panic invoked by last summer's banger "W.A.P." The song has all the trappings of a viral dance soundtrack, from the intoxicating beat to Megan's brazen celebration of her own sexuality.

    One clip of the song on TikTok has been used in 137,600 videos as of Wednesday. Another version has been used 30,500 times. Despite the song's arguable success — it has nearly 13 million streams on Spotify — no specific dance trend for the song has taken off on TikTok because most Black dancers are refraining from posting their choreography.

    TikTok's dance trends largely rely on Black creators. Most viral dances are set to songs by Black artists, choreographed by Black creators, with moves pulled from dance styles that started in Black communities. Despite choreographing elaborate — but easily replicated — dances, few Black creators receive the same recognition and monetization that the white creators who imitate them do.

    Jazmine Moore, a 20-year-old TikTokker, told Mashable that the reluctance to provide free choreography is nothing new, but that the release of "Thot Shit" was a chance to take a united stand against uncredited dances.

    "Creators who aren't Black will water it down to do the bare minimum of the dance and claim it as their own."

    "We observed over the years on TikTok that most dances on the app are originated by Black creators. And creators who aren't Black will water it down to do the bare minimum of the dance and claim it as their own," Moore said via Instagram DM. "So when this song popped up everyone knew that someone was going to make a dance to it. But Black creators collectively agreed not to make one."

    SEE ALSO: TikTok's white girl dancing is pure joy

    And it has worked. Without unified choreography driving the trend, the videos that appear under the "Thot Shit" sound are bleak. TikTok and Twitter users noted that, in the absence of set choreography, the dance videos that non-Black creators are posting are uninspired at best. Moore said the lack of trending dances to "Thot Shit" showed that Black creators "are the backbone of this app."

    "For all my melanated brothers and sisters of the African diaspora, we are on strike," TikTok creator Capkenknuckles said in a video about the lack of dances(Opens in a new tab) under the sound. "We're not making a dance for 'Thot Shit.' Sorry. We're just gonna let them keep flailing."

    The "strike" against free choreography stems from years of predominantly white creators profiting off Black creators' skills and labor.

    Jalaiah Harmon, a then-14-year-old student, inadvertently created one of 2020's most lasting dances when she posted a video of herself dancing to K Camp's "Lottery." Her dance, known as "Renegade" because of the song's hook, went uncredited until a (Opens in a new tab)New York Times(Opens in a new tab) profile revealed that she was the dance's original creator(Opens in a new tab). When the dance gained popularity, other non-Black creators gained views, followers, and brand sponsorships by performing Harmon's choreography. The lack of recognition for Harmon's skill and free labor inspired a platform-wide push on TikTok to credit the original choreographer when posting dance videos.

    While the practice of including dance credit in captions is on the rise, white creators continue to benefit from dances by Black choreographers. An episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, which featured TikTok star Addison Rae Easterling doing eight viral dances, was widely criticized for not crediting Black creators(Opens in a new tab) who choreographed nearly every dance in the segment.

    TikTok and Twitter users also pointed out that Easterling was given an opportunity that few Black creators were afforded. Easterling didn't dance with the same precision and passion that the original choreographers did, and the attention she received for doing less was salt in the wound.

    An edit of Easterling dancing to Cardi B's "Up," juxtaposed with the original video by creator Mya Johnson, circulated on TikTok and Twitter, furthering the dialogue over who "owns" an internet trend(Opens in a new tab).

    Johnson, who said she didn't blame Easterling, told PopSugar(Opens in a new tab) that she was excited her dance made it on national TV, but that she wished she was the one to perform it.

    "My mom always tells me: 'When it's my time, it's my time,'" Johnson said. "I felt like that should've been my time and Chris's time, because we created the dance."

    Many of the dance videos using "Thot Shit" that were choreographed by white creators have been criticized by other TikTok users as having low energy and requiring minimal effort. One video by a white creator lip syncing to the song(Opens in a new tab) received over 640,000 likes, but she turned off comments when people began pointing out that her dancing was lacking.

    In another variation trending among predominantly white creators, TikTok users will lip sync the first few lines of the song, and then turn around and wave their arms(Opens in a new tab) when Megan raps about twerking. Black creators parodied those videos by poorly imitating the moves(Opens in a new tab) or posting their own "choreography"(Opens in a new tab) of them halfheartedly swaying to the song.

    Black creators are parodying the low-effort dances that white creators came up with. Credit: Tiktok / itskeonluv29
    Black creators are parodying the low-effort dances that white creators came up with. Credit: tiktok / theericklouis

    A few creators complained that the most widely used dance to "Thot Shit," in which TikTok users walk away from the camera waving their arms when Megan raps, "Hands on my knees, shaking ass on my thot shit," blatantly disregards the song's lyrics.

    "I don't want to hear another fucking white woman ever say that TikTok dances and TikTok trends aren't entirely stolen from Black women," creator xosugarbunny, who is white, said in an exasperated video(Opens in a new tab). "Because a Black woman has yet to give a dance to this song...Megan says 'Hands on my knees. Shaking my ass. On my thot shit.' And the white women..."

    "The instructions are right there."

    She then turned around and imitated other white creators waving their arms to the song, captioning the video: "You could not have possibly gone so far in the opposite direction."

    "The instructions are right there," xosugarbunny said.

    Moore shares that sentiment.

    "The fact she's giving y'all instructions in the songs makes no sense," Moore captioned a video posted this week(Opens in a new tab).

    Moore was amused that the dances by white creators didn't follow the "instructions in the song." Credit: Tiktok / jazmine moore
    Moore was amused that the dances by white creators didn't follow the "instructions in the song." Credit: tiktok / jazmine moore

    In the TikTok, she demonstrates putting her hands on her knees and twerking rather than waving her arms. Her comments from other Black TikTok users joked that she was giving away their secrets, or that even this was too complicated for non-Black creators to think of doing themselves.

    "We contribute to the app so much that now people are slowly realizing that not every popular creator is creating these things," Moore continued in a DM. "It really does show that even when Meghan was giving instructions, they really didn't know what to do without our help."

    When white creators do try to follow Megan's lyrics, the results are absurd. Marcus Greggory, a 21-year-old creator, joked that hip-hop isn't for everyone in response to a video of a confused white teenager(Opens in a new tab) trying to figure out what Megan meant by the lyrics "hands on my knees." The oblivious TikTokker thought Megan was referring to the move known as "Bee's Knees" or "Knocky Knees,"(Opens in a new tab) popular in Charleston routines.

    "I think we all kind of knew that Black creators were behind everything, but now it’s just so blatantly obvious that the alternatives are pretty freakin funny," Greggory said in an Instagram DM. "It really just shows what we been knew, man[.] We are the thing holding this app up."

    One clueless white creator at least tried to follow Megan's lyrics. Credit: tiktok / jestereater
    "The alternatives are pretty freakin funny." Credit: tiktok / mynameisnotgreggory

    A few Black creators are still dancing to the song, despite criticism from their fellow dancers. Lifestyle YouTuber and TikTok creator Skai Beauty posted her dance routine to "Thot Shit,"(Opens in a new tab) choreographed by herself and fellow TikTok creator sir.rez.

    One comment, directed at Charli D'Amelio, told the TikTok star to "keep swiping." Another commented, "Y'all better get the credit for this dance cause the YTs [an acronym for white] on this app will take it and rinse the seasoning off and act like it's giving." One TikTok user praised them for an excellent performance, but reasserted, "WE WERE NOT SUPPOSE TO MAKE DANCES TO THIS SOUND."

    Though the reception to the 22-year-old creator's dance was overwhelmingly positive, many commenters fretted that the choreography would go uncredited. Within a day of posting, Twitter users found videos from white creators using her routine without adding a dance credit.

    Skai Beauty told Mashable that she didn't know about the strike until she posted the video, and had started choreographing the dance just two hours after the song was released. She added that Black creators "shouldn't have to be silenced" to get their point across, and was disappointed that white TikTokkers performed her routine without tagging her for credit. After seeing predominantly white dancers recreating her work without crediting her, Skai Beauty said she understands why other Black creators called for the strike in the first place.

    "People who have talent or who [are] creators live to create. We shouldn't have to suppress our talents because our oppressors are obsessed with theft."

    "It shows their blatant disrespect and disregard for Black creators," Skai Beauty, who asked to be referred to by her username only, said in an Instagram DM. "However it's [the strike] still a loss for us in the situation because people who have talent or who [are] creators live to create. We shouldn't have to suppress our talents because our oppressors are obsessed with theft."

    The noticeable lack of dynamic choreography to "Thot Shit," a song made to go viral on TikTok, shines a light on the impact Black creators have on the platform's culture. This strike against creating a trendy dance to the song is not in protest of white creators dancing at all, but of white people continuing to profit off of Black labor.

    TikTok has a history of discriminating against people of color on the platform, particularly Black creators. In 2019, Black creators alleged that TikTok was actively suppressing their content by designing an algorithm that worked against them. Two months after Mashable reported on the creator-led campaign calling for better visibility on the For You Page, TikTok admitted that its moderators were trained to suppress content(Opens in a new tab) by users marked "vulnerable to cyberbullying," including disabled, fat, and queer creators.

    During the height of Black Lives Matter protests last year, it appeared TikTok was blocking hashtags related to George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement(Opens in a new tab). The company apologized for the "technical glitch," and promised to better support the Black community on the app. Nearly a year later, NBC reported that little had changed(Opens in a new tab). Black creators' content was still appearing below that of white creators, and some alleged that their videos were inexplicably removed. Black creators also complain that videos they've made addressing racism have been flagged as hate speech.

    Whether the strike is working is still up for debate. Greggory is doubtful that meaningful change will happen after the strike because "TikTok is famous for suppressing Black voices."

    "When we're trying to do something meaningful, they only want our trauma. I doubt the majority of white people have any idea what's going on."

    "Especially when we're trying to do something meaningful, they only want our trauma," Greggory added. "I doubt the majority of white people have any idea what's going on."

    Moore made it clear that most Black creators participating in the dance strike aren't opposed to white creators dancing entirely, but that the community wants to be recognized and appreciated for carrying TikTok's culture. Blatant racism is still rampant online, especially on TikTok, and the same content that's ridiculed by non-Black users often grow into massive trends when white creators imitate it. The app should be fun, Moore said, as long as creators are "giving credit when it's due."

    "People still need to acknowledge Black creators and not ignore us in any community that we partake in," Moore said. "To not belittle us or demonize our content for their amusement. We have each other in the long run and will succeed collectively as a family."

    Skai Beauty, in the meantime, plans to keep posting her dances even if it means giving white TikTokkers the opportunity to benefit from her creativity. For Skai, not dancing is worse than not receiving credit.

    "I'm not doing it for them," Skai Beauty said. "But they will be held accountable for their actions sooner or later."

    UPDATE: June 24, 2021, 3:27 p.m. PDT Updated with comments from Skai Beauty and Marcus Greggory.

  • Biometric dog collars claim to track your dog’s vitals. But are they fur real?

    Biometric dog collars claim to track your dog’s vitals. But are they fur real?

    What do smart home devices, activity trackers, and now biometric wearables have in common? They're gadgets for your dog.


    Following the rise of human wearables that track cardiovascular and respiratory health, several companies are suddenly promising the same in canine form. 

    Three products all slated for release this year are all making similar claims, based on similar apparent breakthroughs. Using various forms of contactless sensors, these devices monitor heart rate (two also monitor respiratory rate), meaning they can theoretically infer a dog's emotional state, or help detect heart conditions. Current smart devices for pets already come with built-in GPS and activity tracking, but the health monitoring aspect is new. Measuring a dog's vitals with accuracy and ease has been a tricky problem. That's why some experts are wary of the new claims. 

    Adapting this technology for dogs comes with unique challenges. Sensors in devices like Fitbit or Apple Watch (ECG and PPG) require skin contact to get an accurate reading. Since most people probably aren't about to shave their furry friends just to strap on a doggy Fitbit, these technologies have historically been a nonstarter.

    That leaves contactless sensors like radar and acoustic technology, but those come with their own challenges. Translating radar signals into a coherent health metric is complicated. Acoustic signals require filtering out extraneous sound.

    "We don't have an electronics problem, we have a materials problem," said Dr. Firat Guder who is principal investigator and chief engineer of his own research group in the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London. Simply put, it's not the tech, it's the application.

    But several companies using contactless sensors say they've cracked it. French company Invoxia(Opens in a new tab) has developed a smart collar embedded with mini radar motion sensors that emit radio waves to detect subtle changes. An old technology that was just recently miniaturized, it's the same technology used for movement recognition in Google's Pixel 4. But instead of recognizing hand gestures, it's tiny movements under the fur. 

    The Invoxia uses miniaturized radar sensors to measure heart rate and respiratory rate. Credit: Invoxia

    "No matter the type of fur we will still be able to detect the movement of the skin and the speed of the movement," said Amelie Caudron, CEO of Invoxia. "And from that, with some post processing, we're able to extract the heart rate and the breathing rate." Caudron says they filter out extraneous movements using their patented AI technology. Currently, Invoxia is conducting a clinical validation study with a third party that Caudron declined to disclose. 

    In Taiwan at the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), Dr. Hong-Dun Lin is using doppler radar technology for their iPetWeaR(Opens in a new tab) collar. In a product test involving a small sample of 17 dogs and cats at the ​​​​Hsinchu City Animal Protection and Health Inspection Office, heart rate was measured by iPetWeaR and compared to ECG measurements. At 98 percent accuracy, the small, informal experiment showed promise. Lin, who has a PhD in electrical engineering said they are also testing iPetWeaR in collaboration with veterinarians at University of Taiwan and Chen Animal Hospital.

    Instead of radar technology, Japanese company Langless uses acoustic sensors for a harness that claims to also detect your dog's mood. The harness, called Inupathy(Opens in a new tab), has a tiny microphone that records your dog's heart rate and uses HRV analysis to supposedly measure your dog's emotional state. HRV, which is also used in smartwatches like Apple Watch, is an indicator of how your body adapts to various environments. 

    Like iPetWeaR, Joji Yamaguchi, founder and CTO of Inupathy said they compared its microphone system with an ECG monitor and achieved 90 percent accuracy. Yamaguchi, who has a background in system engineering, said they've developed Inupathy with veterinarians and dog trainers, and have tested it on hundreds of dogs. Yamaguchi also said that their data is being used for research at universities and laboratories in Japan. 

    But until Guder sees the data, he says he remains unconvinced because he hasn't seen any breakthroughs in the last two years that would indicate the existing challenges have been resolved. "The question is, what critical issues did these companies solve that could not be solved for a really long time?" He wrote in an email. "In other words, why now and not two years ago or five? Did whatever that led to their invention emerge recently?"

    iPetWeaR measures heart rate and respiratory rate using Doppler radar. Credit: iPetWeaR

    Guder, who is also an associate professor of bioengineering at Imperial College London, has been conducting research and development for sensor technology for humans and dogs for six years. It's a niche area of study and he knows the landscape well. "As far as we know, these are really difficult problems. And if somebody solves it, it will be hard to convince people without showing the data." 

    In response to the skepticism, Caudron sounds confident about Invoxia's product, and its proof of efficacy. "That's quite interesting," she said. "Because we do have results, and we do have this data on several types of furs and several types of dogs, etc. But let's wait for the clinical validation, and then we can talk to them."

    Contactless motion detection is new, but Caudron says it is already being used in devices like Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen) to measure breathing. On the same note, Lin's original idea was to use this technology for humans (fall detection, sleep evaluation, etc.) but pivoted when he realized its potential application for pets. 

    Like Guder, veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward looks forward to seeing the validation studies, but remains "scientifically skeptical" until then. "I'm still really skeptical until you actually see it, because it's one thing to say 'I can fly' and another thing to actually see me fly."

    Ward, who includes evolving pet technology as one of his areas of focus, wants to see robust validation for such claims; that the product is "repeatable, accurate and demonstrable." In a follow-up email, he wrote, "The tech is sound, but it's the application and results that matter." 

    The Inupathy harness has LED lights that show different colors depending on your dog's mood. Credit: Inupathy

    The stakes are high for any technology that promises health monitoring. What if a wearable wrongly detects a heart arrhythmia? What if it fails to detect one? Either scenario has disturbing consequences. Plus, FDA approval for animal devices is not required(Opens in a new tab), and regulation for animals is generally lower. "If you're going to invoke those types of claims, then we need some verification because the consumers just deserve it," said Ward. 

    Caudron says the health metrics gathered over time provide an objective baseline. So when it's shared with your vet, they can make a more accurate diagnosis. So it's not like pet parents will get a panic-inducing alert that their dog is about to have a heart attack. Caudron asserts that Invoxia is not meant to replace your dog's vet, but it is still meant to be important. "The goal is to become like a cornerstone of the healthcare path for a dog, and to actually help the pet parents be more informed and go to the right service at the right time." 

    Other pet tech companies are taking a cautious approach to new advances in this realm. "We are expecting technologies measuring these vitals and others to emerge over the next few years," wrote Jonathan Bensamoun, founder and CEO of Fi in an email. "And we will integrate them into the Fi Collar as soon as we consider them reliable," he continued.

    In an email statement, Wagz Founder and CEO Terry Anderton noted the obstacles in getting an accurate measurement through fur. While he declined to comment on future plans, he wrote that Wagz "has been working on other types of sensors that can reliably penetrate the fur to obtain accurate measurements, including the use of low frequency LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and infrared sensor technology."

    Reliability aside, the question of why remains. How much of this data is actually useful to the average pet owner? "We tend to be chasing heart rate, which is super valuable, but I would much rather know weight changes, because we can really do something about that," said Ward.

    If we are not trained veterinary professionals, what are we supposed to do with this information? The answer seems to be, hand the information over to those who are trained veterinary professionals. They can decide whether or not it's worth acting on, or worth anything at all.

  • How to have sober sex

    How to have sober sex

    Dry January is in full swing, and with it comes a newfound soberness to usually tipsy activities. You may find yourself dating while sober, which is one thing — but what about sober sex?

    Alcohol loosens inhibitions and mutes our emotions, including anxiety. If you're used to having sex under the influence, doing it while sober can feel…terrifying. But why is that, and how can we have sober sex? 

    Why we have sex while drunk 

    Sex brings out our deepest vulnerabilities, said Casey Tanner(Opens in a new tab), certified sex therapist and expert for sex toy brand LELO(Opens in a new tab), whether it's with a new partner or someone we've known for decades. We might worry about how we look, about our "performance," and about when we're going to orgasm, to name a few concerns. Unsurprisingly, these worries prevent us from enjoying sex or maybe even initiating it, said Tanner.

    Alcohol, meanwhile, turns the volume down on anxieties that come up before or during sex. This can feel like a relief, Tanner continued. "[People] might find that when tipsy, they tap into a more daring or relaxed sexual version of themselves that is difficult to access sober," they explained. There's a reason alcohol is called "liquid courage."

    SEE ALSO: Can drunk sex ever be ethical?

    In the long run, however, using alcohol before sex habitually can leave you feeling out of touch with yourself and your partners once you sober up, Tanner said. 

    Physically, you may not be tuned-in to what your body needs, like lube. Mentally, you may remember having hot, consensual sex, but not the details. You may even internalize the belief that you're only "good at sex" after drinking, which could lead to less intimacy and initiation in the long run. 

    Benefits of sober sex

    Alcohol acts as "social lubricant" by quieting down nerves one may feel in a public setting. The problem is, "when we numb the bad, we also numb the good," said Heather Lowe, certified recovery coach from the International Center for Addiction and Recovery Education(Opens in a new tab) (ICARE) and founder of wellness company Ditched the Drink(Opens in a new tab). This means that alcohol dilutes the senses, so while you may be less nervous, you'll also feel less sensation. 

    When you're sober, however, you feel it all — literally. 

    Sober sex allows us to be more in-tuned with our bodies and our partner's, Tanner said. When we have sex sober, "we stop compartmentalizing sex to a particular mind-state, and build confidence in our ability to access sensuality more authentically."

    Intimacy will be greater while sober than if you're drunk and going through the motions, Lowe said. 

    How to have sober sex

    Transitioning from tipsy/drunk sex to sober sex may not be immediately gratifying, said Tanner. That's okay.

    Feel the feelings, Lowe advised. Accept and allow emotions that come up instead of fighting them. This practice ideally starts outside of the bedroom. "The most important thing anyone can do in any journey — but especially an alcohol-free journey — is to spend just a few minutes a day with yourself, in your own breath, and paying attention to you," Lowe said. 

    This is called mindfulness, which can look like a guided meditation or just closing your eyes and paying attention to your breath. Thoughts are going to pop up, and that's completely normal; bring your focus back to the sensations in your body.

    You can do this when you're alone, but it's also possible while surrounded by people. If you're at a bar, for instance, you can take a few minutes to notice what's going on in your body, rather than what's happening around you. 

    You can experiment with mindful sex either partnered or solo first. Pay attention to your senses, and focus on your breath and how you feel. Just like regular mindfulness, your brain will produce thoughts; that's normal. Guide yourself back to your breath and body.

    "It may take some time to 'get out of your head' and fully let go during sex...if it does, this is okay," said Helen Burkitt, senior sexual health and contraception nurse at SH:24, and Emily Jackson, social media executive at SH:24(Opens in a new tab), a digital sexual health service in partnership with the UK's National Health Service (NHS).

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    Being more aware can be both helpful and anxiety provoking, said Tanner. "You may not be used to hearing your breath, sensing a partner’s mood, or noticing the smells and tastes the way you do sober," they said. "Rather than judging these new experiences as positive or negative, you can use your sobered-up five senses to actually stay more present."

    The reality is, sex is awkward, at least some of the time. It doesn't look like how it's portrayed in movies or porn.

    The reality is, sex is awkward, at least some of the time. It doesn't look like how it's portrayed in movies or porn. Emotions will come up when you're sober and about to have sex (or during it). 

    In the moment, you can tell your partner how you're feeling, Lowe suggested. No matter what, though, approach yourself with compassion and curiosity.

    "Good sex is paying attention to yourself," Lowe said. When you're able to pay attention, you can discover more about yourself and your partner.

    Communication is also key during any sexual encounter, said Burkitt and Jackson. Telling your partner your likes and dislikes (or writing them down for yourself beforehand) can be a fun way to alleviate nerves. The more open you are with your partner, the more comfortable you may feel. 

    Should you have sex sober while your partner is drunk?

    If you're participating in Dry January, or exploring sobriety in general, but your partner isn't, you run the risk of having sex while one party is under the influence. If they're unable to express themselves intelligibly, they can't consent, said Burkitt and Jackson.

    If they're unable to express themselves intelligibly, they can't consent.

    "They may seem fairly lucid — but if they are unable to communicate their needs clearly, they cannot consent and [fall] into the category of an incapacitated person," they said. 

    And anyway, you may not want to have sex with someone who is sloshed while you're not. The experience won't be the same for the two of you. 

    "It's most powerful when two people are communicating the same and speaking the same language," Lowe said. "If somebody has had too many drinks, you're no longer on the same wavelength, so it's going to be hard to feel connected."

    When in doubt, wait until the morning when they're sober.


    Sober sex, like sobriety in general, puts us in touch with our bodies and our feelings — and those of our partner. That may be a scary prospect, but feeling the fear comes with the territory.

    "It's okay to feel awkward. It's okay for it to be messy," Lowe said. "Letting yourself feel what you actually feel instead of pouring alcohol on it will ultimately make for a better and more powerful experience."

  • Internet enamored by a 14-year-old’s captivating I Voted sticker in county contest

    Internet enamored by a 14-year-old’s captivating I Voted sticker in county contest

    Ulster County’s second annual 'Ulster Votes I Voted Sticker Contest' (Opens in a new tab)is another reminder of the internet's power in online voting, and a 14-year-old’s sticker submission is inspiring new hope for Gen Z.


    During the month of July, folks have the opportunity to vote for their favorite sticker design. The winning sticker will be distributed to all Ulster County voters who participate in the November 8, 2022, General Election. This year, the contest had eight finalists from the county between the ages of 13 and 18. Hudson's sticker has gathered about 51,300 votes, a whopping 94 percent of the total votes.  It's pretty clear why folks are enjoying it.

    SEE ALSO: 19 best 'Hot Ones' episodes to binge-watch
    The finalists of Ulster County's 2nd Annual "I Voted" Sticker competition. Credit: Courtesy of Ulster County Board of Elections

    "I did not think I was going to get as much attention as I did," Hudson told the Times Herald-Record(Opens in a new tab).

    "I was the first person from our office to ever see his design and I remember that moment vividly," said Ashley Dittus, Democratic commissioner for the Board of Elections. "I even printed it out and brought it around to everyone in the office because I thought it was so cool. Everyone agreed."

    Hudson’s sticker has also gone viral on TikTok(Opens in a new tab), with user toucannabanana captioning her video “Gen Z is more powerful than we ever could have imagined.”

    Credit: TikTok / toucannabanana

    Twitter is also quite taken with Hudson’s design, with some even speculating that it might incentivize voters to participate in the general election:

    "I think that no matter who our voters are coming out to vote for this fall, they will be leaving with something unique and different and I hope it will put a smile on their face," says Dittus. "We want people, especially young people, to know that their votes count and that their voice matters."

    Hudson’s design might have the most votes right now, but the sticker competition is open to voters until the end of July, so get your votes in(Opens in a new tab).