The Dark Side of Live Streaming: Chasing Fame at Any Cost

Alex Lew, CFA
3 min readMay 31, 2024


The rise of live streaming and becoming an online celebrity, or “wanghong,” has taken China by storm. Over the past month, Guo Youcai’s rollercoaster journey from obscurity to stardom and back again has highlighted the intense allure and peril of this phenomenon. His sudden fame wasn’t just luck; it’s part of a larger trend drawing countless people into the world of live streaming, often with unsettling consequences.

Why are so many people jumping on the live-streaming bandwagon? The answer is simple: the promise of instant fame and fortune. The idea that anyone can transform their life overnight with just a smartphone and an internet connection is incredibly tempting. This dream drives many to pour significant time and resources into their streams, hoping to capture that elusive spark that will make them famous.

But this rush to become a star has its dark side. The fierce competition for viewers and attention pushes some streamers to extreme lengths, engaging in behavior that breaches social norms or even laws. The need to stand out in a crowded field leads to outrageous or inappropriate content, raising serious concerns about the ethical boundaries being pushed and the messages being sent to viewers, especially young ones.

A disturbing example comes from a recent media report about a mother in Heze, whose middle school-aged child no longer wants to attend school, instead dreaming of becoming a live-streaming star. This scenario underscores the growing influence of online fame on young people’s aspirations and the potential for misguided priorities. Kids are being lured away from education by the glitzy illusion of quick success.

For many, live streaming is seen as a legitimate way to earn a living. It’s self-sufficient work, and in a world where traditional job opportunities are dwindling, it can be a viable career path. The ability to change one’s destiny through live streaming is incredibly appealing, especially for those from less privileged backgrounds. It’s a modern-day rags-to-riches story that many want to believe in.

However, this dream has a darker flip side. What happens when everyone is chasing after the same dream? If no one is doing the real work that keeps society running, how will we develop? The broader implications of an economy skewed towards entertainment and online fame at the expense of productive labor are worrisome.

Moreover, the industry’s competitive nature means that not everyone will succeed. The vast majority of aspiring streamers will not achieve the fame or fortune they seek. Instead, they face potential disappointment and wasted effort. The reality is harsh: becoming an online celebrity is not as easy as it looks.

There is also a pressing need for regulation. Without proper oversight, the negative aspects of live streaming, including its impact on youth, could become more pronounced. The industry needs guidelines to ensure responsible content and protect young viewers from harmful influences.

In conclusion, while live streaming and the pursuit of becoming an online celebrity offer exciting opportunities, they come with significant challenges and risks. The allure of quick fame can lead to ethical lapses and misguided priorities, particularly among the young. Balancing the benefits of this new digital frontier with the need for responsible content and realistic expectations is crucial for the sustainable development of this phenomenon. The glittering world of live streaming hides shadows that we must be wary of, lest we lose sight of what truly matters.