Don’t make me tap the sign again…
Read to the end for an important philosophical question
Most Sexts Are Cringe
(Click in to get the full joke.)
Gather round, weary travelers, and listen carefully, for I am about to explain a very stupid meme to you. First I shall give you the context: some moons ago, Adam Levine, frontman of cringe-rock band Maroon 5, allegedly engaged in an adulterous venture with a young model. Oh dear, you might say, for is he not married to a model in the first place? To which I reply, That is besides the point. Next, Mr. Levine denied it all; and thence, the fall. The alleged mistress displayed to the world the alleged flirtatious missives through the medium of a Tik’d Tok — immediately, many found them to be worthy of mockery — and like the invasive lanternflies which blight our fair land, they spread in the form of template memes, popping up everywhere faster than could be counted, so dense and thick as to blot out the sun and stars. [gentle lute playing ceases]
Honestly, it’s a pretty refreshingly straightforward meme origin story. Since there were a bunch of messages in the original TikTok, the meme has a handful of varieties— the “I may need to see the ____” one, the “That body of yours” one, the “unreal how hot you are” one… A perfect storm of just-weird-enough phrasing to form a constellation of equally and endlessly remixable snowclones. Plus nobody actually likes Adam Levine so everyone feels morally fine about it.
To be quite honest any meme that manages to introduce new people to the James Joyce fart letters in a roundabout way is a good meme to me, but it also had the fringe benefit of people resurfacing all of the legendary sexts from meme cycles past: Jeff Bezo’s legendary “I love you, alive girl”; Elizabeth Holmes presenting a rare gender reversal of the cringe ratio.
The fact is that most sexts are cringe when viewed by an outsider in a context other than the highly intimate, horned up one they were originally sent in. Don’t make me tap the sign again…
Because of the person that I am, I’ve been getting a lot of videos on my TikTok FYP about erotica and smut and the women whose reading habits are dominated by it. It’s a large and rapidly growing segment of people and I wonder what it’s doing to general expectations about the virtuosity or lack thereof of erotic texts from dudes.
BookTok’s enduring love of “spicy” books have sent about a hundred of Colleen Hoover’s books rocketing up the NYT Bestseller list and induced addictions the world over. I’ve seen many a wistful video about how guys in real life are simply nothing like the big-dicked, sixpacked, soft-on-the-inside protagonists of the various smutty colorful-silhouette-cover books they love. Perhaps there is an available niche in sext-coaching classes run by erotica writers and/or readers. Surely seeing the public laughingstock made of Adam Levine’s (purported) puppydog-panting horny enthusiasm for his (alleged) mistress’s sweet bod would send concerned dudes running towards anyone who promises to help him avoid similar pitfalls?
In conclusion, I’d like to point out that Adam Levine writes lyrics for a living, and you know what, after staring at them in the context of about 200 memes today, I’ve come to find his alleged sexts quite lyrical. Specifically there is an odd rhythmic quality to the precise phrasing “that body of yours” which I purport is the reason it has gone supernova-viral. Surely if he had gone with the far more prosaic “your body,” it wouldn’t have taken off as hard. Also, “Fuckkkk I may need to see the booty” is practically in iambic pentameter, folks. I don’t know what case I’m really resting here but I have rested it.
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The New York Times: "That Hon is neither Luddite nor scold lends his criticisms of gamification bite and authority ... He builds a case that the deliberate layering of generic points, leader boards, missions and the like atop any kind of human behavior is at best useless and at worst insidious .. Even more convincing, and fascinating, is his examination of how employers and schools use gamification strategies to justify and facilitate near-constant surveillance of workers and students, opening them up to punishment for deviations from perfect behavior even when the boss or teacher isn’t looking.
Publishers Weekly: “Hon warns in this convincing outing that gamification—using “ideas from game design to make difficult or dull activities more fun”—has “become the twenty-first century’s most advanced form of behavioural control … This passionate survey is a wake-up call for workers and political leaders alike.”
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A Good Tweet About Adam Levine’s DMs
This one is good too (though slightly NSFWish I guess, trigger warning: King Of The Hill butt).
The Northern Boys Go Hard As Hell
Chances are you’ve seen a clip from this video on Twitter this week. If you haven’t then you’re welcome. The video is, without question, outrageous, but there’s also an interesting little content thing happening here. My podcast co-host Luke and I fell down The Northern Boys rabbit hole this week on our show and it turns out this music video is connected to a previous viral media project from the UK.
The video was published on a YouTube channel called Sindhu World, which is affiliated with a South London convenience store. It initially went viral in 2017 after people started noticing the store’s quirky Instagram. VICE did an interview with one of the people involved.
But for a reason we can’t totally explain, Sindhu World is now promoting this rap group, which appears to consist of two, or three, or possibly four men from the north of England. I assume it has something to do with the bizarre machinations of the viral content economy, but I can’t be sure.
Also, a piece of context that may or may not be important here. This isn’t the first time a bunch of old British guys have gone viral for rapping. There was a brief trend on British social media back in 2014 called “chap hop,” which was basically like old white London gangsters and also just like posh dudes doing cringe hip hop songs in their various gardens.
What If TikTok Actually Does Replace Google?
The Verge’s David Pierce tried a little experiment this week. Pierce wrote that he spent a few days searching things on TikTok before he searched them on Google. His takeaway was both not super dramatic, but also important: “There are things for which TikTok is an absolutely useful search engine, even if TikTok’s algorithm and content aren’t quite tuned for that yet. But for what Google does best, there’s no competition,” he wrote. And he ultimately concluded that Google, as of right now, has nothing to worry about. And I suspect he’s right.
We are not months or probably even years away from a world where TikTok’s search replaces Google. But I also think that when we imagine the future of the internet, we tend to assume that the better product, better tool, better platform wins the market. Which is absolutely not true and never has been. In fact, often the reverse is true. We assume the information technology that makes the most money must, somehow, be the best. So while Google is still, without question, the better search engine, I do think it’s worth considering what happens when TikTok becomes the go-to place for information online, simply because it sorta-kinda works and it’s where everyone is. And this is especially on my mind lately because I’ve had to use TikTok’s search function a couple times this summer.
While I was in Italy in July, I spent a few days in a small city by the coast. It was mercilessly hot, but, everywhere I looked, there were women wearing a very specific kind of black cowboy boot. My girlfriend and I couldn’t figure out why. These boots weren’t being sold in any of the major fast fashion stores nearby and it was too specific to be a coincidence. Finally, I just searched “black cowboy boot” on TikTok and, voila, there it was. Now, I am aware that I am not young anymore. I’m a man in my early 30s and I’m obviously not in TikTok’s main demographic. But I consider myself a pretty tapped in guy — this newsletter is hopefully proof of that — but I’ve long been fascinated by the speed at which TikTok trends can rewrite our irl experience of the world, seemingly at random. And its impact on fashion, in particular, when working in tandem with platforms like Shein or Depop is sort of mindblowing.
Anyways, I’ve since tried to add TikTok searches into my general farting around the internet just to see what happens. And, most recently, I was kind of shocked by how bad they were for the “sleepytime chicken” thing this week. In fact, I was so irked that I made a TikTok video about sleepytime chicken myself. The more I thought about it the madder I was with how bad the information on the app was, so I figured I’d try and make a video and hope the algorithm found me. (Maybe I’ll make more! Who knows!)
From what I can gather, as of right now, TikTok search is good if you’re trying to understand what everyone is talking about, but borderline irresponsible dog shit when it comes to understanding the why. And I’m not convinced that can’t be fixed without a massive overhaul of the site’s algorithm. I’ve called the app a “witch hunt machine” before in the past, but the newly beefed up search tools are revealing that the problem is much worse than I thought. It’s an endless roulette of faces reacting, oftentimes to nothing, all hoping that the clout casino turns their shrieking video into the next big thing on the app. There’s simply no incentive to accurately or portionately respond to anything on the platform and making the search better while not fixing any of this might actually be worse than not having a search at all.
While we’re talking about TikTok…
Has Anyone Else Noticed The TikTok Straw?
I was hoping I could find a good example of what I’m talking about but I couldn’t. Which is honestly something I’m noticing more and more about the platform — a general vibe of a trend. Sorry that was a terrible phrase. What I mean is you watch a bunch of TikToks over a few months and start to notice things that link together in weird ways: similar hand movements, types of clothing, products used, etc. But you can’t totally comprehend why or how these motifs are connected (if they are at all).
In sense, describing any meme is a bit like explaining the logic of a dream, but trying to articulate a thing you’re beginning to notice on TikTok is even more surreal. Nevertheless, I am going to try. I’ve been noticing a lot of straw videos.
These videos are usually people mixing different kinds of beverages together in their kitchen. It might be cocktails or elaborate coffee drinks, but they’re always stirred with very a loud metal straw. I tried searching for something that might link these kinds of videos together but all I got were teenagers running dropshipping scams and weird TikTok doctors telling me that if I tripped and fell while drinking out of a metal straw it could be pushed into my brain and kill me. Which, I suppose is possible, sure.
Anyways, my hunch about beverage-mixing-with-a-metal-straw TikTok is that it’s a lot of users who may have unknowingly stumbled across an ASMR thing. There’s like a mildly pleasing cling-clang that happens and usually the glasses are pushed up close to the phone microphone. I’ve also noticed that TikTok videos seem to do well when there are a lot of ingredients being added to something, plus there’s the visual of the different liquids being swirled together. God, this all sounds so dumb, but I swear this is a thing. Does anyone know what I’m talking about?
Eve 6 Guy Is The Scatman
Everyone involved here really knocked this one out of the park.
Another Good Tweet
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s an important philosophical question.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***