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Weird Niche 3

My search for the most obscure subculture on the internet

In a hyper-connected age when there’s a subreddit for every hobby or fetish, Amelia Tait set out to find someone truly unique

On 1 November 2016, a small YouTube channel went viral. Well, sort of. “The French Elevator Channel” jumped from just over 400 subscribers to over 1,000 in one night, and it has now accumulated over 885,000 total views. The channel – run by a teenager in Lyon – features no surprises. Every video is of an elevator, in France. According to the “Elevator Community Wiki”, the channel’s owner is just one of “three major French elevator filmers”.

Is it possible to be alone online? There’s nothing more frustrating than Googling something and finding that seemingly no one else shares your experience, memory, hobby, or problem – yet this is increasingly rare. Over the years, the internet has allowed grown men to share their love of My Little Pony, 40 people to find others like them with a fetish for lobster erotica, and a whole industry of tapping, clicking, and whispering ASMR videos to boom.

When 17,000 people can come together to share shrimp breeding tips, over 5,000 people like to watch lawns being “popped”, and 18 people share pictures of gas caps, is it possible that there’s a habit, hobby, belief, fetish, diet, or interest that’s too niche for the world wide web? Could there be a subculture that is somehow too sub?

As someone who writes a lot about subcultures, I wanted to find out. I wanted to search the web for people with zero comments, zero likes, and zero people like them. A quick search of Reddit, and I found Jayce. He’s 20 years old, American, and seemingly the world’s singular remaining Crazy Frog Fan.

Crazy Frog – originally and aptly known as “The Annoying Thing” – is a CGI amphibian that outsold Coldplay in 2005 with its record-breaking ringtone. “A ring ding ding ding d-ding baa aramba baa baa barooumba,” he – and flip phones throughout the land – cried.

“I rode the Crazy Frog wave during its five minutes of fame, and I just never got tired of it like it seemed other people did,” Jayce says.

“The main thing I loved from the start was just how ridiculous it was,” says Jayce, who still keeps his 2005 Crazy Frog Crazy Hits Crazy Christmas Edition CD in his car. “I like the music in a truly non-ironic way… I’m in college now, and at pretty much every party whoever’s controlling the playlist will stick ‘Axel F’ (Crazy Frog’s number one single) on and say ‘This one’s for you!’.” Along with his Christmas CD, Jayce has an aviator cap that he wore when he dressed up as Crazy Frog for Halloween one year, the PlayStation 2 game Crazy Frog Racer, and a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy of the creature.  

“I don’t know, I kind of love having a weird signature,” Jayce says. But I quickly found out that he is not alone.

Exactly 125 people call themselves Crazy Frog fans on This online home of the Crazy Frog fan club features polls (“Which Crazy Frog song is the best?”), forum posts (“Why won’t people answer me?”), and pictures (one person has 66 Crazy Frog soft toys, and has uploaded a photograph of their copy of the PS2 game).

While the Fanpop page is a few years old and now essentially inactive – and while Jayce still wishes he could “find someone in person to jam along with” – the Crazy Frog fandom is not too niche for the internet. I had to restart my search for someone truly unique – and who better to turn to than the fetishists?

“Sites like StumbleUpon – a discovery engine that allowed you to find random webpages in the noughties – have died out, and in its place we find ourselves visiting the same six social media sites over and over again. Are we becoming too insular?”

Rule 34 is an internet adage that posits, “if it exists, there is porn of it”. Because of the vastness of the world wide web, nearly everything has been sexualised somewhere – from Thomas the Tank Engine, to poor innocent bagels, to Nicolas Cage. The rule has existed since 2003 and been one of the firm laws of the internet ever since, so surely, surely, it’s not possible to have a fetish too unusual for the internet?

“I remember being really interested in cartoons where a character would ‘lock the door and swallow the key’, and having a weird feeling I didn’t know how to describe, even before puberty,” says Barry (not his real name), a 32-year-old from California. Barry’s fetish is a subset of vore – an erotic attraction to swallowing or being swallowed. Yet while vore is exceedingly popular online, Barry’s interest is rarer. He likes to watch women – “really thin, slender women” – swallow marbles.

“Since I was able to search the internet in private for whatever I wanted, it became clear that there were big communities around vore – and of course no end of content for fairly mainstream things like deep-throating dildos – but my particular flavour of fetish was isolated to just a few people scattered here and there,” Barry tells me over an online messaging service.

Yet although Barry was initially frustrated in his attempts to find marble swallowing porn – while he found a lot of “BBW” (big beautiful woman) videos, he preferred to watch slender women swallow objects – he eventually found seven YouTube channels that fed his fetish. Over 2,500 people have watched a YouTuber named the Gurgle Guy swallow marbles; over 13,000 have watched a video entitled “Beads in my belly” by a woman named Kate, and another channel’s video – “Marble sounds inside me” – has over 30,000 views.

“Turns out there are indeed some people who have the same fetish,” says Barry. “I know for sure I’m not the only one in the world like this.”

It is difficult to search the internet for unpopular things. Search Engine Optimisation means popular and paid-for pages surface first on Google, and while there are undoubtedly many unanswered forum posts and unwatched YouTube videos, they are increasingly hard to find.

It’s somewhat sad – while the internet used to famously be a place where everyone could find someone like them, advanced algorithms designed to keep us hooked mean it’s now the most popular posts that are promoted. Sites like StumbleUpon – a discovery engine that allowed you to find random webpages in the noughties – have died out, and in its place we find ourselves visiting the same six social media sites over and over again. Are we becoming too insular? Are we losing the haphazard randomness that made the internet so great?

“There are allegedly seven people in the world who look like you – so it makes sense there are at least one or two who share the same weird interest”

While Googling, I did find a few people who might be unique in their interests. There is a woman who likes to scratch the “itches” of inanimate objects such as tables and chairs; a person who claims to lick every blue object they see; a woman who collects perfectly round stones; and a man who is aroused by the dentist. Unfortunately, because these people post on obscure forums under anonymous usernames, it is hard to reach out to them – and those I manage to reach out to do not respond to a request for comment.

Thankfully, one person did respond: 21-year-old Austin from Canada. His hobby is simple: he likes to eat peanut butter and mustard on toast. “I’ve been eating it for about as long as I can remember, as my mum would make it as a snack for me growing up,” Austin says. “Once I started mentioning it online is when I realised how weird it was.”

Austin’s girlfriend was “floored” by the snack, which he makes by toasting flaxseed bread “to a medium brown”, layering it with peanut butter, and then drizzling it with mustard. After a shocked reaction from friends, Austin Googled “peanut butter mustard toast” to see if anyone else in the world was like him.

“I figured it must be popular somewhere… but nope,” he says. “I was surprised at first to find nothing… (but) I’m not too shocked, as overall not many people like mustard in general.”

Yet as the years go on, more and more people are logging on to share their love of PB&M. Six people have answered a Yahoo! Answers post about eating the snack, and YouTubers film themselves trying it out.

Perhaps, then, it is impossible to be truly unique online. There are allegedly seven people in the world who look like you – so it makes sense there are at least one or two who share the same weird interest. In my investigation, 21-year-old twins Josh and James are the closest I came to finding people with a hobby that – as far as I can see – no one else has posted about online.  

“It’s simply just taking a few blankets and putting them in my shirt,” James explains. “It’s purely just for comfort purposes.” For eight years, James has shoved blankets up his shirt while at home, in the grocery store, and even at school. “I realised it was unusual around starting college, because my roommate said it was,” he explains.

Josh and James continue to enjoy shoving blankets up their shirts, and so far haven’t managed to convince anyone else to try it out. “It’s kinda nice to have it just be our thing, it sorta connects us together more than we already were,” James says. Yet the twins also don’t mind if, a few years down the line, a quick Google shows that they’re not alone.

“It would be nice to know other people who do it,” James says. “So we know it’s not too weird.”