A satirical twist on the Russian Sleep Experiment creepypasta, covering my grievances with an unnamed video sharing community I’ll be referring to as “Video Site” throughout this piece.
Researchers in the late 2010s enlisted 5 internet personalities to abandon their YouTube channels for 15 days, moving instead to a smaller alternative startup. Their engagements with the surrounding community were to be kept to a minimum, since it was presumed to be increasingly toxic with each visit.
The volunteers had lost their source of revenue through YouTube Partnership Programme following the introduction of COPPA in the United States. The volunteers submitted under pretense that their monetization privileges would be reinstated, so long as they could maintain a peaceful presence on the site for 30 days.
The participants selected were diverse. Many lost their Partnership status by falling short on the updated watch hour requirements; others had their catalogues mistakenly marked as for-children. For many there was simply no reason at all! From internet celebrities to lesser-known personalities, everyone shared a common objective: reclaim their source of income.
Everything was fine for the first five days; moral among the subjects remained high having been promised their Partner status be returned to them at the experiment’s conclusion. Nostalgia surrounding this seemingly buried time capsule of early Web 2.0 further attributed to their cooperation.
Their activities were closely monitored and it was noted that they continued to talk about increasingly traumatic incidents of their past, and the general tone of their conversations took on a far darker aspect after the 4 day mark.
After five days they started to complain about the circumstances and events that lead them to where they were and started to demonstrate severe paranoia. They abruptly stopped submitting video responses to each other and began whispering to their microphones in unlabelled videos. The pressure was already beginning to take its toll.
On the ninth day the first of them started screaming indiscernibly. He submitted a 3 hour long rant as a 6-part video repeatedly yelling at the top of his lungs. He continued attempting to scream, but was only able to produce occasional squeaks by the end of the sixth video. The researchers postulated that he had physically torn his own vocal cords. Unable to scream further, the subject joined a community art contest. It was there that he sketched a cat with a purple crayon striking a peculiar hate pose with a derogatory word for people of colour scribbled below. The most surprising thing about this behaviour is how the other subjects reacted to this uncanny submission… or rather, responded favourably to it.
After 3 more days had passed, the researchers observed odd postings on the site’s Community page. The subjects began creating groups themed around death the occult. They would chant demandingly that those they deemed normies be subjected to crude forms of torture in ominous red rooms.
Finally, on the morning of the fifteenth day, the researchers did something they said they wouldn’t dare do to garner a reaction from the subjects: they emailed each of them via YouTube corporate email, hoping to provoke any response from the subjects they feared were either dead or vegetables as a result of their own insanity in conjunction with the community’s already toxic culture.
“We have reviewed your cases and have attached instructions to your emails associated with YouTube to reactivate each of your accounts. Follow the instructions to the letter or your submission for reinstatement may be dropped.”
To their surprise, however, they observed a calming response from a short video just seconds in length posted shortly thereafter: “We no longer wish to return to YouTube.”, one said in a raspy tone of voice. After which the subject responsible for the video stared into the camera with a most dreadful gleam in his eyes, which greatly discomforted those viewing.
Debate ensued among the researchers and site’s own founder whether to proceed with the experiment. The experiment had spiraled out of control, with the subjects having slipped into a trance-like fight-or-flight state of mind. Coupled with an already inhospitable userbase toward newcomers, the owner feared this ill-fated project may chase away existing users, jeopardizing his own source of revenue.
Emails were sent once more the following morning, with enveloped letters following shortly thereafter.
The letters read:
“Thank you for your participating in this study. Upon further review from our team, we have decided to end this study as of current date. You have 48 hours at the time of writing to transfer any data you wish to keep from your channel, after which your account and all data associated will be permanently deleted. Your YouTube’s Partnership will be reinstated pending further instructions as per agreement for your cooperation in this study. We would like to thank you for your participation.”
This did not bode well among the victims of the experiment, now deluded and disgruntled. Many of whom responded angrily to these letters, most often accompanied by derogatory slurs and other indiscernible insults. Such reactions prompted the researchers to enlist outside help in attempt to diffuse the commotion.
Being no stranger to alternative content sharing communities, Aline felt confident in her ability to negotiate with the disgruntled former subjects. Little did she know of her impeding blitzkrieg and its lasting ramifications that would impact all those involved.
Having assumed her post, Aline decided it best to attempt a subtle approach of regaining order. She would permit the former subjects to remain in the community, on the condition they submit to stricter vetting of their content. This would entail hardened moderation from the likes of which this community has never seen before.
“Why stop here?”, Aline pondered in thought to herself. “Let’s take this further and make Video Site Great Again™! Come to think of it, though… Was it ever great to begin with? Am I embarking on a fool’s errand?”.
The following day, Aline embarked on making Video Site Great Again™. This would later be referred to as The Purge. She took to removing all content she deemed wasteful and offensive, pruning inactive accounts in the process. She took it as far as to indiscriminately ban those opposed to this purging. Despite her best intentions, salvaging this community would prove to be a futile effort. By this point, these undesirables had already established their dominance in the community. This strong hold could not be broken, not without waging war.
“So be it then”.
That night while seated at her computer, Aline was greeted by an apparition of Chester Bennington. She alleged that his ghost came to her to do his bidding on behalf of Satan himself. This “ghost”, according to Aline’s account, promised her grandeur and great commercial success with her own video sharing community in the making: Blue Site. This, she attests, is why she opted to dismantle the ill-fated Video Site, instilling terror in its now maddened volunteers whilst driving away existing members. Curiously, she began to demonstrate some favouritism to one of the volunteers and pleaded with Chester’s apparition to spare him during the second visitation.
“They hold the key to my success, these test subjects. By collecting their souls for Chester, my success is guaranteed! Presently, I must save my beloved, though.”
Aline’s persistence proved effective, because after just 10 days she had successfully derailed Video Site. Three of the five volunteers were institutionalized, while the remaining two remain unaccounted for to this day. In the months following, the site’s own source of income had come under fire with its owner’s Adsense having been suspended. His fear had finally been realized, forcing him to either seek an interested party to purchase the site from him, or face the possibility of converting it into a read-only archive. Ultimately, the site was sold to a group of pro-regime Belarusian nationalists for an undisclosed amount. This new proprietorship would not last long, as Video Site would be shutdown indefinitely just 6 months after the transfer of ownership.
Little is known about Aline’s whereabouts after the events that transpired. Some speculate that she too was institutionalized. Others have postulated that her Blue Site was rebranded and had indeed become a successful venture. The volunteer Aline had favoured, whose whereabouts is also unknown, is rumoured to have run off with Aline where they jointly formed Blue Site together.
Video Site’s poor moderation and abysmal communication among its leadership baked the ingredients for this Zeppelin-esque disaster to ensue. Coupled with the colossal failure that was the “V Experiment” and eventual handover to pro-regime nationalists: its eventual collapse was guaranteed.
But what of this rumoured Blue Site?