Twitter has been known as the digital world’s town square - a place where global leaders can communicate, journalists can break stories and protesters can organise demonstrations against repressive regimes.
But it’s also become a haven for New Zealand’s homegrown gay porn. Watching, filming, and sharing X-rated content on Twitter is a rising trend among young gay people in Aotearoa - it’s where exhibitionism lives online, and it’s called ‘alt Twitter’.
What’s an ‘alt’ account?
‘Alt’ is short for alternative or alter ego. It refers to a (usually horny) secondary account. An ‘alt’ posts the ‘not safe for work’ sexual content that a ‘main’ never would.
The alt known as Boitoinamedtroy regularly posts explicit content on his alt Twitter account, but has rules to protect his real identity, “I’ve never posted my face and don’t wear anything instantly recognisable,” he says.
He says the anonymity of his alt is empowering.
“I can be free and post things to the platform that I would never even remotely post as myself, it’s quite liberating.”
Some people are turning their alt accounts into a side hustle to make money, but a lot of New Zealand accounts, like Boitoinamedtroy, are just posting for the fun of it with no financial gain.
Why post nudes publicly?
Validation, self love, and a social movement to de-stigmatise sex are some reasons alt Twitter has become popular, according to the people who do it.
“Everyone likes being told they look good,” explains Boitoinamedtroy, “Twitter quantifies it in likes and followers.”
Virgoliciousx, another alt, agrees posting to the internet provides a guaranteed dopamine hit.
“Whatever you want to post, someone will want to see it! Everybody has a different thing they like!”
Their alt accounts have also had another benefit as both Boitoinamedtroy and Virgoliciousx say the alts have helped them appreciate themselves.
“I definitely feel more positive about my body,” says Virgoliciousx.
Boitoinamedtroy treats his account as a “time capsule”.
“I’ll scroll back, see a post from ages ago and cringe. But I’ll keep it there because now I’ve gone to the gym, I’ve worked hard on my body - I can see my growth!”
But aside from the gratification of looking good, they both think the rise of alt Twitter is thanks to a much bigger reason - a social movement to be more sex positive.
Boitoinamedtroy says, “we’re getting past the idea that sex is this thing we’re not allowed to talk about.”
“Now people are seeing real bodies and real intimacy, without the studio lighting. It’s changing the stigma of what sex is supposed to be.”
Should I make an alt?
Despite alt Twitter’s growing popularity, there are concerns from some organisations about the risks to personal safety from posting such intimate details online.
Burnett Foundation Aotearoa chief executive Joe Rich says, “...keeping your profile private, content safe, and watermarking, are aspects to consider.”
“Netsafe has lots of information on preventing information theft, what you can do if you are getting harassed, and where to find support.”
Rich also has tips for alt accounts who collaborate with others on their content.
“People should take the same precautions when meeting up from Twitter, as they would for other apps. You may want to arrange a meeting in a public place, away from your home… We encourage people to keep themselves safe using STI and HIV prevention tools.”
Boitoinamedtroy also thinks it’s a good idea to be careful when posting on an alt.
“Think about your future and your career, and if it got found out, how would it impact you?”
He also has some advice for those who do decide to post on an alt
“Use creative angles. And no one needs to see you that close, zoom out!”
Netsafe says there has been 88% increase in reports of sextortion since 2019.
The internet has created a new autonomy and access to clients for sex workers.