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Opinion | Love Factory: The Price of Being a Social Media Star

Op-Docs

Livestreaming your life to a devoted audience is big business. A new short film explores what happens when the cameras are off.

Mr. Borenstein is a filmmaker.

Over the past year, as Covid-19 has severely limited our ability to interact with the world beyond our front door, livestreams have helped transport us to places we couldn’t visit, people we couldn’t see and events we couldn’t attend. In China, livestreaming services command an audience of nearly 560 million, with streamers broadcasting to devoted followers who tune in every night. Successful livestreamers can earn thousands of dollars each month in direct donations from fans, and those at the very top earn millions from brand sponsorships and major contracts.

In the short documentary above, we enter two agencies that scout promising newcomers and mold them into high-earning stars. But what’s it like working for a company that engineers every aspect of your life — and then requires you to livestream it all day?

David Borenstein is a documentary filmmaker. His previous work includes the Op-Doc “Rent-a-Foreigner in China.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.


Op-Docs is a forum for short, opinionated documentaries by independent filmmakers. Learn more about Op-Docs and how to submit to the series. Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

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