Clout world

Read to the end for a good TikTok

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Life Inside The Attention Economy

Last week, a TikTok user that goes by @mitchelliguesss posted about how a video of him had been uploaded to OnlyFans against his permission. As he tells it, he was working at Target a few months ago when a woman asked him for help. She was acting strangely and, at one point, leaned over and revealed that her dress is cut in the back. As he phrases it, “I just see her entire fucking ass.”

Now, as @mitchelliguesss explains in his video, he’s gay and his only reaction to this entire encounter was one of deep discomfort. But a few months later, he discovered that he had been filmed and that the woman was an OnlyFans model that goes by @prettiyonna. Her “skit” filmed at Target was used to advertise her OnlyFans, asking users in the caption to see the full video behind a paywall, with the editing making it seem as if @mitchelliguesss was checking her out.

As I’ve written before, this sort of thing is a very popular marketing strategy at the moment. Sex work cannot exist on the mainstream platforms that determine, well, how our entire world functions now. So adult performers use viral content formats like man-on-the-street interviews, “pranks,” “skits,” and “podcast” interviews to catch people’s attention on apps like Instagram to then funnel those users to paywalled platforms that allow NSFW content.


@Prettiyonna has since made her Instagram private, but @mitchelliguesss posted screenshots from her page (language warning on that link). @Prettiyonna is upset that @mitchelliguesss described her video as sexual harassment (it was), writing in an Instagram story, “He got five million views. His is pissed about nothing. STFU take the free clout and get you some $$$.” Which is what I really want to focus on here.

It’s hard to overstate how dominant this mindset has become over the last few years. Everything is content now and if you’re unhappy about it, well, you just need to make your own content. And what’s stranger is that this attitude — that virality, or “clout,” is intrinsically linked to financial reward — is relatively new. Or, at the very least, the average person understands it much more acutely than they used to.

I think there are a few things that can explain this huge cultural shift. Gen Z is the first generation to really not remember a world before social media, which feels like something we don’t really acknowledge enough. But I mainly credit the pandemic, the TikTok boom, and the GameStop pump all happening somewhat simultaneously, permanently shifting the balance of power from old irl institutions to whatever makes you feel a certain way on your various feeds.

Which is not how I expected things go tbh.

I truly loathe the very millennial framing device I’m about to employ here, but I, unfortunately, couldn’t come up with another way to phrase this: Something I’ve been thinking about lately is how almost all of the assumptions we had about the future of the web in the 2010s were wrong. The current Kate Middleton hysteria may have been my final radicalizing event. I always imagined that the internet would mature and become more legitimate somehow over time. But, for the most part, the opposite has actually happened. Instead of finding new ways to power the internet besides “clout,” we’ve decided to power everything on internet attention. At the start of the social web we assumed content would get better. Platforms would get better. We, ourselves, would get better. And I simply do not think digital media literacy can reverse where we’ve found ourselves now.

I don’t want to end this on a bummer note, but I do think it’s probably time to accept that we have reached the limitations of the social web as it’s currently constructed. It’s likely that TikTok was the last “social” platform and even more likely that all the behaviors that we can do on these platforms have been mapped out already. We can rearrange them and try them out in different orders and react to slight algorithm tweaks, but this is it. This is how people will behave as long the company’s that own and operate the web continue to do so. And it’s probably time to start imagining something else — no, not AI — before we forget how to do it.

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I’m Playing A Live Show This Saturday

It’s on March 23rd at the new Knitting Factory in New York City. I’m opening for Tanlines. It’ll be a mix of music, “standup,” and random beats of internet ephemera. It’s gonna be rad. You can grab tickets for it here.


✨☘️Hapoy St. Pattys day☘️✨

AI’s Looming Reputation Crisis

There are some interesting similarities and differences between the AI industry and the crypto industry. It’s probably easier to start with the differences, the biggest one being that there is an entire world of perfectly functional and very boring AI tech that will probably slot into our lives without much societal upheaval.

But many large AI companies use the shinier, flashier side of generative-AI as a way to advertise themselves. Because people think text and image generation are neat and because they’re the easiest ways to convey to the average person that an AI model is getting better. You can look at an image from DALL-E 1 and an image from DALL-E 3 and immediately understand that it’s improved.

But this is a problem. And where crypto and AI are the most similar. At this point, I’m confident saying that 75% of what generative-AI text and image platforms can do is useless at best and, at worst, actively harmful. Which means that if AI companies want to onboard the millions of people they need as customers to fund themselves and bring about the great AI revolution, they’ll have to perpetually outrun the millions of pathetic losers hoping to use this tech to make a quick buck. Which is something crypto has never been able to do.

In fact, we may have already reached a point where AI images have become synonymous with scams and fraud.

Billy Coul, the organizer of the AI Willy Wonka disaster last month, is out doing interviews right now about how the whole thing has ruined his life. And if you just read what he’s been saying, you might start to think that maybe he was just a normal guy who got overwhelmed organizing a mid-sized children’s event. Which is a weird thing to get overwhelmed with, but, hey, people on X spent the week arguing about whether or not its ableist to suggest that you should just eat frozen meals instead of ordering DoorDash.

But, as Rolling Stone revealed, Coul actually has quite a bit of experience with AI-based fraud. He’s published over a dozen AI-generated books on Amazon in the last year. So when someone asks, “who would would use these tools?” Well, it’s a guy like Coul. Someone who doesn’t mind literally scamming children.

As for who is seeing all of these AI images, well…

Old People Are Praying To An AI Shrimp Jesus On Facebook

(Facebook/Love God &God Love You)

I was tipped off about this earlier this month, but I didn’t cover it because I felt like I had just covered this recently. But, luckily, the good folks over at 404 Media picked the story up.

What’s happening here is actually two different content hacks occurring at the same time.

As I wrote in October, the “Amen” comment is a new growth hack on Facebook. You get people to say “Amen,” underneath a post, the post gets recommended to others, who say “Amen,” as well, etc. This is especially powerful on the platform right now because as news has been deprioritized on the platform, a lot more religious content has bubbled to the surface. This is why one the largest publishers on the site for the last six months has been a website literally just called it’s getting more engagement on Facebook, according to Newswhip, than, literally, every other publisher on Earth.

The second hack happening here is just the use of AI images. I had forgotten this, but back in the same issue I wrote about the “Amen” hack, I also wrote about what was likely patient zero for the AI image growth hack. It’s a page called “Uncle Mike's Photography” and it went super viral last year after publishing a bunch of AI images of men fighting gators in swamps. There’s also just the simple fact that Meta isn’t really trying to clamp down on this sort of thing. Meta’s chief apologizer, Nick Clegg, didn’t announce that the platform would start labeling AI-generated images until last month. And even then, Clegg said they’ll only label AI images when they can be auto-detected.

Which means, the bad food magicians that torment your grandparents will most likely soon be synthetic. Another job, lost to the machines.

Chinese Internet Users Have Weighed In On The Kate Middleton Crisis

After the botched Kate Middleton photoshop, certain UK media outlets fired what was largely understood to be a warning shot at the royal family. Basically a “hey, don’t make us look like idiots” message. Which took the form of a bunch of weird articles appearing out of nowhere about the Marchioness of Cholmondeley, Sarah Rose Hanbury.

My favorite one was from The Independent, which just so happen to tweet out, “Marchioness of Cholmondeley has been widely hailed for her style over the years, drawing praise for her ensembles at events including the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales,” right after news outlets put a kill order on Kate Middleton’s Instagram photo. For those who still can’t connect the dots about what happened here, The New York Post has a decent explainer.

The attention on Hanbury has had a hilarious side effect which is that Chinese internet users happened to notice that Hanbury’s estate is full of what appear to be stolen Chinese relics. Oops!


Does #rosehanbury #luxurylife come from China? #foryou #fyp #princewilliam #katemiddleton #britishroyalfamily #marquess #cholmondeley #peacehotel

It’s All Kicking Off In The Warrior Cats Fandom

Don’t worry, I’ll do my best to explain all of the extremely baffling words in the tweet above.

Toyhouse is a site for displaying, commissioning, selling, and trading furry art. Sort of like a NFT marketplace for fungible images that people buy with real money made by real artists lol.

Warrior cats are the cats from the Warriors novel series. I have never heard of this before, but I guess it’s like a bunch of books about feral cats that fight each other. And, apparently, the Warriors fandom is very intense.

Anyways, there was a user on Toyhouse who was outed for using 9/11 as a reference image for a commissioned piece of fan art they made. Which people are, understandably, upset about.

The whole time I was researching this I felt like it sounded really familiar and then I realized I’ve written about Toyhouse drama before. Way back in 2020, there was an incident where a whole bunch of fan art on Toyhouse morphed into a bizarre secondary market, with people asking for as much as $20,000 for pictures of a fantasy race of monsters called Grems.

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P.S. here’s a good TikTok.

***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***


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