Ari Kivikangas, AKA "Cyberman"
Ari Kivikangas spends his entire life in front of a webcam. But unlike most vloggers devoted to sharing their lives with people who couldn’t care less, he doesn’t often do very much; there are no Kid Cudi ukelele covers or desperate pleas for followers, and at no point has he broken into a comedy routine.
That’s his first selling point. The second is that Ari—or “Cyberman”, as he’s called his Ustream show—claims to be online 24/7, except for brief gaps when he’s picking up his epilepsy medicine or, as he told me in an email, when he’s “getting some pussy (not often) or masturbating!”
What Ari does is called “life-casting”, which should be pretty self-explanatory, but basically involves live-streaming every single thing you do, like a self-enforced Truman Show with a fraction of the viewers. There’s something kind of fascinating about that; it takes a very specific type of confidence to not a give a shit about strangers watching you sleep.
So to find out a little more about his life online, I Skyped with Ari from his home in Finland.
VICE: Hi Ari. So when did you start livestreaming your life?
Ari Kivikangas: I started about four years ago. I was stuck at home for three months and had a lot of time on my hands but nothing to do, so I started doing this. I'm epileptic and I don't work any more, so I'm always at home.
And you’ve spent all of your time online throughout those four years?
Yes, I’m online 24/7.
Have you always been quite an open person? Because letting people into your life to this extent seems like a pretty big step to take.
It’s a very big step, yeah, because I say exactly what I’m thinking at all times. I also tell everyone pretty much everything about my own personal history—not everything, but most things.
Ari, showing viewers his setup
Give me a sample.
For example, I told my audience that I gave a man a blowjob. I'm bisexual. He came to see me, so I gave him a blowjob.
**On webcam? ** No, not on webcam. I've masturbated on webcam before, though.
No, just once, a year ago. That wasn't cool; it was really stupid. People were not cool about it.
**Why do think that is? ** I had a really negative reaction to it, but I don't care about what they say any more—I have a choice as to when I masturbate.
Do you ever go offline?
Only when I'm picking up my medication or when I masturbate, but I can do that in other ways, like in my trousers.
Ari vlogging after he was woken up by some "teenies" on Skype
Okay. Do you watch other people's life-casts? Or just concentrate on your own?
I don't watch many other people. There are few life-casters who really tell the truth. Most are just making a big joke of it the whole time, nothing more.
How are you more truthful than everyone else?
I'm completely honest with everything I say. I can't lose anything because I have no life to lose. People laugh at me, so I feel shit and life-cast myself.
What are your thoughts on government surveillance? You're clearly OK with people watching you, so I can't imagine the government keeping tabs on you would be that much of an issue.
I don't really know what the hell you're talking about.
**You know, the NSA, the huge government surveillance scandal. ** Ah yes, it's everywhere. Somebody is always watching you and you might not know it – in fact, it's very, very likely you don't know it.
And that presumably doesn't bother you.
Yeah, I have nothing to lose.
Do you think life-casting has changed you at all?
Not really, no. I'm the same bloke I've always been.
Do you have any regular viewers? Any fans?
Yes, I have a few fans; I have about 125 regular viewers and 500 fans on Facebook. When I masturbated, though, I had over 1,000 viewers.
You told me that you rarely leave your house. Do you find it harder to interact with people offline now?
No, I'm really social. I like speaking to people. I'm open and I enjoy being open. So yes, I can be social.
What do you spend your days doing?
I'm always online, on chat rooms and so on. I have my own chat room. And I spend a lot of time on YouTube, watching documentaries. The best documentary I've ever seen was about Mark Zuckerburg. He's one of my heroes.
What is it about him that you admire?
He’s a programmer and he’s great at it. What he's done with his social network. It's so interactive and so good. And he's so fucking rich and I'm very poor.
**Why don't you teach yourself to code? There's a bunch of stuff online that could get you started. ** I can do HTML, but I'm a bit stupid and a bit lazy. My medication is really strong so I just can't read a fucking book, and I have these sleeping pills, so when I go to bed I fall asleep almost instantly.
Fair enough. Lastly, have you watched The Truman Show? Do you feel like Truman?
I have seen it, yes; it's a very good movie.
Cool. Thanks, Ari.
Follow Jamie Clifton on Twitter