Why fans love anonymous, faceless internet stars like ‘Corpse Husband’ and ‘Dream’

Corpse Husband
Corpse Husband has built a new audience with his Among Us streams. Corpse Husband / YouTube
  • There are quite a few anonymous content creators on the internet, and many are incredibly popular.
  • ‘Corpse Husband,’ for instance, has only one identifier – his uniquely deep voice.
  • Psychologists told Insider why the anonymity of these creators contributes to their success.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Anonymous influencers occupy a variety of corners of the internet, and these faceless figures have exploded in popularity over the last few years.

Some play the role of commentators, such as “tea channels,” who dissect the internet’s most talked-about topics and characters. In the 2000s and 2010s, sites like Popbitch and Crazy Days & Nights were enormously successful in stirring up controversies and getting people gossiping online. More recently, Instagram accounts like tiktokroom and deuxmoi have taken up the mantle.

For other online creators, their own anonymity is integral to the character their subscribers are signing up for. Fans adore YouTubers and streamers “Dream” and “Corpse Husband,” for example, despite having no idea what they look like.

Dream, one of the of the fastest-growing creators on YouTube, is beloved for his Minecraft skills. As Insider’s Steven Asarch reported, his simple smiley faced avatar with neon-green background is iconic, “and easily recognizable to the average ‘Minecraft’ viewer.”

Corpse Husband, who streams while playing video games, makes YouTube videos, and has a burgeoning music career, also never shows his face, but he has one key identifier – his incredibly deep, sonorous voice. Fans, whom affectionately call him Corpse, have taken part in several ambitious stunts to prove their love for him. They flooded a contest to have his song “E-GIRLS ARE RUINING MY LIFE!” promoted on a Times Square billboard, and flew the same message over California. One fan even tattooed the wavelength of his breathing on their arm.

According to psychologists who spoke to Insider, it’s no surprise anonymous creators have such loyal followings. Initially, the mystery and intrigue is alluring, and then fans stick around because the content speaks for itself.

Anonymous YouTubers can bypass criticisms of vacuousness that plague perceptions of being an “influencer,” and in doing so, build a special bond with their audience.

Humans are fascinated by anonymity

Anonymity is likely integral to fans’ interest in certain online figures, according to psychologist Perpetua Neo, who specializes in personality types and executive coaching. Unidentified figures such as George Orwell’s Big Brother character and the creator of the QAnon conspiracy theory are inherently intriguing to people, Neo said.

“There’s something compelling about having somebody mysterious behind the scenes,” she told Insider. “In ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ who was the wizard? Nobody knew, but everybody wanted to go and see him.”

There’s also something down-to-Earth about an online creator who wants to keep their identity hidden.

Neo said that audiences often compare themselves to influencers, with beautiful photos and luxurious vacations, without realizing the work that goes into that Instagram-perfect shot.

“It’s very easy to forget their highlight reel shouldn’t be compared to the day to day minutiae of your own life,” she said. “Actually there’s a lot of work that goes into that one photo. There’s an entire business behind it.”

Anonymous influencers, in contrast, provide little imagery to which fans can compare their own lives. There is no vanity competition – just their personality.

Since we live in a world where fame is considered of the utmost importance, someone who isn’t pursuing that fame may be seen as far more relatable, Neo said.

Corpse Husband
Corpse Husband was interviewed by Anthony Padilla in March 2020. Anthony Padilla / YouTube

“He’s actually got a real talent,” said Neo of Corpse. “Whereas sometimes, these days, you are just famous for being famous. Maybe people are tired of that, and they’re looking for real meaning behind the fame.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, many influencers have not been able to curtail their partying habits. Some have excused their behavior by saying that creating digital content is vital to keep their careers afloat, but the endless parties and lack of masks has come across as selfish and thoughtless.

The rise of Corpse and Dream, particularly over the past year, may signify a movement of fans wanting and expecting more from internet stars than simply controversy after controversy.

For instance, throughout the pandemic, Corpse found a huge boost in popularity by joining a group of mega-famous gaming influencers who play “Among Us” – the murder mystery game that went viral during quarantine – while streaming on Twitch. The format became so popular that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined in ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Watching streams and videos of our favorite online stars can feel intimate and personal

Video game psychologist Berni Good, the founder of Cyberpsychologist, a consulting firm focused on the psychology of gaming, said the popularity of anonymous streamers may come down to the mystery and intrigue of what they actually look like. They can conjure up an image that aligns with whomever they feel they can relate to.

“It may allow the fan to imagine the ‘perfect’ persona of the character,” Good told Insider. “They may even believe that the character looks in real life like themselves or another subjective perspective of what the fan would envisage as an ideal persona.”

Parasocial relationships – the one-sided bonds built between viewers and internet stars who show off their lives – is more intense than people used to have with traditional celebrities, who were always considered far out-of-reach. Fans nowadays have much more interaction with these stars, and can even talk to them in real time as they stream.

Dream youtube twitter
Dream’s avatar is simple but instantly iconic. Dream/YouTube

Watching a stream or video from your favorite creator can feel so intimate that it’s almost as if it’s a one-on-one environment, which can generate feelings of real relationships, Good said. This has only intensified during worldwide lockdowns, and everyone being online more than ever.

Something similar happens with fictional characters. A study from the 50s on personal identification with film characters, published in The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, found that viewers often feel what is happening to them on some level.

Research also suggests video-game players often imagine themselves acting as the protagonist, and react to other characters as if they were also real. So even if the image fans have of Corpse and Dream in their minds is nothing like the true human being, that may have no effect on their feelings, or how they relate and identify with them.

Fans of these influencers seem particularly loyal and protective

Fans of Dream have been known to rush to his aid if he is embroiled in a controversy, or being criticized by another creator – some even turn to doxxing his accusers.

Corpse also has a fiercely loyal fanbase, who follow his every move, but also seem to be respectful of him needing his space and time off.

Corpse doesn’t reveal much about his personal life, but is very open with his audience about his mental and physical health. When he was interviewed by YouTuber Anthony Padilla in March 2020, he spoke about being agoraphobic, and said his anonymity has “definitely added” to his fear of the outside world.

He has since spoken about a chronic illness that contributes to his mental health troubles. In January, he said in a tweet that he would probably be in pain for the rest of his life.

His honesty about mental-health issues helps his audience bond with him, because so many people can relate to what he’s going through, Neo said. Given that 41% of Twitch users are aged 16-25, and the majority of people who watch YouTube are 35 and under, much of Corpse’s fanbase are likely to be teenagers and young adults – a time in life where self-esteem issues are common.

“It’s very easy to think we’re the only ones with anxiety and depression,” Neo said. “So when somebody says they have anxiety or depression, that can make us feel less alone.”

Anonymous influencers may well hold a fear that once their face is out there, some of the magic is gone. Corpse himself has said he will never live up to the expectations his fans have set for him, which partly contributes to his decision not to do a face reveal.

But in all likelihood, anonymity is just one part of what makes Corpse Corpse and what makes Dream Dream. Judging by the love of their fans and their commitment to what they do, their real faces, should they ever show them, are probably far less important than they believe.