HUDSONVILLE, Michigan — For more than a year, Rachel McMahon lived two lives. One, as a teenager living with her parents outside Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she goes to college. Another, as a secret traffic monster for BuzzFeed, where she goes by the username @raechilling and has racked up well over a hundred million views from the almost 700 quizzes she created — for free.
“I’d just be sitting somewhere, like in class or whatever, and I’d come up with a random thought, and then turn it into a quiz,” said McMahon. “I recently was like, ‘Which Chicken Nugget Are You?'”
“That one did way better than I thought it would,” she added.
Rachel knew she was good — her quizzes regularly trend on the site. But she didn’t realize just how good she was until late last month, when BuzzFeed’s director of quizzes, Matthew Perpetua, raved about her uncanny talent in a bittersweet viral blog post, where he reflected on how much the site relied on unpaid community users for traffic.
Perpetua was let go from BuzzFeed, in part because he was supplanted by the free labor he’d recruited. And there was no more extreme example than Rachel, who was recently “the second-largest driver of traffic worldwide,” according to Perpetua.
Now Rachel is trying to wrap her head around what it all means, and whether she should have been paid in more than just BuzzFeed swag. As for her parents, they’re still getting used to the idea of living with a teenage internet savant.
“Honestly, I thought when she was upstairs, she was doing her homework,” her dad told VICE News. “I had no idea she was making all these viral quizzes.”
This segment originally aired February 4, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.