TV & Movies

Big Brother Is Watching. So Are Live Feed Obsessed Fans.

The long-running series’ 24/7 feed sets the stage for following contestants’ lives on TikTok and Instagram.

On Aug. 24, thousands of Big Brother fans descended upon the series’ 24/7 live feeds to watch the Season 25 contestants fight in a heated competition, in which the contestants had to... hold down a button with their hands. It lasted for nearly 14 hours.

Perhaps the only thing more tedious than pressing a button all night is watching other people do it, but devoted Big Brother X accounts documented every minuscule development, from complaints about soreness to the first person to let go getting beer to drink, until a winner was finally crowned.

Fans watch all of this go down through four hidden cameras, each of which shows a different angle of the competition — including a view of the contestant who couldn’t play and had to watch from the living room, bored out of her mind.

“There’s nothing else like it on TV or really anywhere at all,” podcaster Taran Armstrong, who gives daily live feed recaps on the BB edition of Rob Has a Podcast, tells Bustle. “Being in tune with the live feeds while watching a season of Big Brother, [the regular show] feels insufficient. It feels like I’m watching through a dirty window, like I’m getting bits and pieces, but I don’t actually know what happened.”

Big Brother Season 25 contestants on the show’s live feeds on Paramount+.Paramount+ / Big Brother Live Feeds

If you’re not familiar with the phenomena that is Big Brother, it’s a little like if The Real World had higher stakes. A diverse group of “houseguests” from across the U.S. are locked in a “house” (a Los Angeles soundstage) and completely closed off from the outside world for nearly three months, with the goal of surviving eviction each week and securing the grand prize of $750,000.

The 24/7 online feeds have been a part of the series since its inception in 2000, allowing viewers to follow every move contestants make, from washing dishes and defrosting chicken wings to doing laundry and even showering (you can only see from the head up). Much of the exciting action that goes down on the TV show, like Veto comps that can save houseguests from eviction, isn’t shown on the feeds. But the thriving BB X community, some of whom call themselves live feeders, want to see it all regardless.

And as they’ll freely admit, a lot of it is boring. “People are freaking repetitive,” Armstrong says. “[But] if I had somebody watching my life 24/7, they will have heard the same story probably 50 times.” Still, he adds, “Even when things are slow or theoretically boring, it’s the knowledge that anything can happen at any time that keeps you in.”

Big Brother Season 25 contestant America Lopez.CBS

Behavioral scientist Josh Klapow, Ph.D., has a name for this behavioral principle: “intermittent reinforcement.” “Every once in a while, we get a pop, something novel, something controversial, something that makes us laugh,” he says. “If something was going to happen every five minutes, I wouldn’t be worried that I was missing anything, but you don’t know when it’s going to happen. So all it takes is one or two times of you going, ‘Wow, look at that.’ Now you’re hooked, and you’re going to watch more frequently.”

Armstrong also argues that even the most inane conversation between houseguests can shed light on a contestant’s strategy, as they work to endear themselves to others — a crucial element of the game. “You could have [Season 25 contestant] Cirie [Fields] talking to somebody for two hours, and it’s just small talk, asking about their relationships, just hanging out,” he says. “But that conversation is a masterful example of how to play a social game.”

Arguably, the interest in BB’s live feeds is similar to the rising popularity of the “day in the life” videos that proliferate on TikTok and Instagram. Clarissa Silva, a behavioral scientist and creator of Your Happiness Hypothesis Method, says that “vanity validation” — which afflicts many social media users, who receive validation through likes and comments rather than life experiences — can lead people to compare themselves to others online. Both “day in the life” videos and the BB live feeds offer ideal material for such comparisons.

Big Brother Season 25 contestants sleeping on the show’s live feeds.Paramount+ / Big Brother Live Feeds

“Vanity validation creates a need in some to understand other people and how they live,” she says. “Sometimes it can be from admiration, other times it can be jealousy, or just curiosity. All three lead to one common question: what do you do that I don’t? Watching someone’s routines can be perceived as having access to the blueprint to achieving your life dreams or as a blueprint for what not to do.”

But unlike videos on Instagram and TikTok, the live feeds are unfiltered and unedited. “The knowledge that you are able to see the actual reality of this reality show is what brings me back and what has continued to attract a loyal fan base,” Armstrong says about the feeds. “It’s just a bunch of people in a house being filmed. But we are people and we enjoy watching other people, and being able to see what’s actually happening with no kind of filter or no edit that’s trying to mislead you.”

We may not like being watched, but if Big Brother has proven anything, it’s that we don’t mind watching.