'Cloutlighting' is the horrific new social media trend that everyone should be aware of
The internet has its fair share of downsides, but at least there's enough information out there that we can identify some of these behaviours and trends to see them for what they are. Unfortunately, there are some that are far more toxic than others.
There's a new term being used lately to describe certain types of viral content on the web called 'cloutlighting'. The phrase comes from combining the words 'gaslighting' and 'clout'. The former, for those that don't know, is when an abuser manipulates facts and other information so that their victim doubts their own memories, beliefs and opinions. Clout, in this instance, is a type of social media fame.
'Cloutlighting' refers to a strange new trend in which men perform extreme and often cruel pranks on their partners, then film their reactions to be shared on the likes of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. While pranks have been going around the internet for some time, these instances are far worse.
For instance, an often-cited example is one enacted by YouTuber Brad Holmes, who filmed his partner Jenny screaming in agony, shortly after he rubbed chilli pepper over a tampon she was about to use. Her pained reaction was uploaded to YouTube, where it gained millions of views. On top of this, he's filmed posts where he insults her, pretends to propose to her, and cuts of chunks of her hair while sleeping.
The pepper video went viral but was soon pulled from YouTube after complaints. The couple split a few months later, but are now back together and reportedly engaged - with Holmes’s latest video showing him farting in her face. In the past, he's claimed that the pranks were made with consent.
But Holmes isn't the only one making videos like this. Another recent video showed a woman crying after her boyfriend ate her food after she asked him not to - but it was his behaviour afterwards that was the real problem.
She becomes so upset with this after a generally bad day that she cries and calls her mother. “I’m not crying about the [prank],” she says in between sobs. “I’m crying because you aggravate me.” Her partner then mocked her reaction, says he can’t believe she’s crying over a prank, repeatedly insults her, and follows her with the camera as she tries to turn away.
Speaking to The Sun, Ammanda Major of the charity Relate, said:
“Often these videos showing shame, distress, pain and sadness will be on the internet forever – and this only happens because the person uploading it didn’t care about the repercussions it would have on their partner.
“People who film them might believe they are entertaining, however, what they are actually doing is displaying their partner’s vulnerability in a critical, ‘jokey’ way for potentially millions of people to see.
“It’s filming people when they are at their lowest, and if you’re with somebody who does that sort of thing you have to ask yourself very serious questions if you want to stay in the relationship.”
Another user pranked his girlfriend by tricking her into thinking her pet cat had died, filming her crying before revealing that the cat was alive. In the 2014 video, she repeatedly tells him he’s "so mean,” as he continued to film her. The video received over 35 million views.
Another YouTuber, Slaiman, who has over two million subscribers, made videos in which he repeatedly insulted and gaslighted his girlfriend. In one video, he calls her "ugly", films her crying and asks her why he is "the bad guy in the situation". In another video, he tells her that his parents dislike her, then pretends he hasn't done anything. In others, he fakes having an affair, ignores her, and tells her he no longer loves her.
“A joke only works if two people are in on it,” Major says. “If you’re constantly riding roughshod over people’s emotions and trying to humiliate them, the relationship isn’t respectful.”
While a lot of the YouTubers claim that the pranks are staged or are consensual in some way - the cruelty is still there and may still be a form of abuse. And when the pranks are not consensual, it gets far worse.