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Everything eventually becomes message board drama
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A Message From The Gabby Petito Subreddit
Gabby Petito’s death has been ruled a homicide by the FBI. Her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, was charged with bank fraud and is currently missing. And this morning it was reported that Laundrie’s family called the police on Duane "Dog The Bounty Hunter" Chapman, who was seen outside the family’s home.
Meanwhile, online, the growing rats nest of conspiracy theories, open source investigations, and shameless clout chasing is tipping over into what all online movements eventually tip over into: drama and infighting. The moderators of the r/GabbyPetito subreddit had to issue a statement over the weekend, addressing the growing tension in the community of amateur investigators.
“After heavy deliberation, we wanted to address the community following a number of recent race-related and similarly speculative posts,” the post reads. “There have been an extremely high number of posts related to race, comparisons of other cases & how they were handled, as well as speculation about why people care about this case. We recognize that there are numerous missing persons across the globe, many of whom do not choose to disappear. All of these people are loved and missed by someone. With that in mind, this sub is specifically about the disappearance & homicide of Gabby Petito, as well as the criminal case that will bring the person or person(s) who harmed her to justice.”
As Petito’s disappearance morphed from digital manhunt to bonafide social media movement, criticisms have been leveled against it that it’s an example of “Missing White Woman Syndrome” and that it was gaining a disproportionate amount of attention compared to the 710 indigenous people who have also gone missing in Wyoming in the last ten years, to say nothing of the women of color who go missing all over the country every year.
What makes the Petito story so complicated to talk about is that she was not famous before going missing last month. She had recently quit her job to become a professional influencer, but, at least in the beginning, the users who swarmed her accounts were not already familiar with her. She had about 1000 followers on Instagram and had only published one #VanLife vlog. The parasociality surrounding Petito has only emerged after her disappearance.
Obviously, in the weeks since, many mysterious details have come out, which have helped amplify Petito’s story on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, but it seems undeniable that a big part of the reason she started trending, at least initially, was because she was a pretty 22-year-old white woman. And this uncomfortable fact has led to all kinds of arguments and controversies within the online communities that have sprung up around Petito.
At the end of the post from the r/GabbyPetito moderators, they include a list to other subreddits including r/findlaurencho and r/SabinaNessa, which are both dedicated to missing women of color whose stories have gained attention in contrast to Petito’s over the last few weeks. “It is a tragic fact that people go missing every day,” the moderators conclude at the end of the post. “The way to move forward is not by dividing ourselves but rather by familiarizing ourselves with the statistics, and more importantly, the resources available to us all to better prevent something like this from happening to anyone in the future.”
The links to other subreddits are meant to be helpful and, I suppose, inclusive, but to me, at least, they, instead, read like a grim and weirdly self-aware way of saying, “yes, we acknowledge that we are only interested in this white woman’s disappearance and homicide, but you can go here if you’re looking for other cases.”
More generally, the infighting within the #GabbyPetito movement is a good example of how trending topics now function as their own min-internets. #GabbyPetito is its own entire online ecosystem, complete with Discords, public Google Docs, websites, subreddits, DM groups, TikTok challenges, user drama, and even, most upsetting of all, influencers. I really can’t overstate how weird this all is. I don’t want to call this mini-internet based around Gabby Petito a “fandom,” but I don’t really have another term for it. And like any other fandom, users who care about other related things know that they can petition for those things they care about inside of more popular spaces. Darkly, in this instance, we’re talking about other stories of missing women, femicide, or domestic violence.
As the #GabbyPetito movement continues to entrench itself in online platforms, there are increasingly only two paths it could go down. The first path is that the inertia around Gabby Petito slowly loses steam as law enforcement steps in. Though, if Laundrie is found and charged with Petito’s murder, I imagine things could only become more frenzied. The other path is, say, Laundrie isn’t found, that Petito’s story begins to link to other stories of missing women and we end up with something akin to QAnon. I’ve already seen examples of users trying to link Laundrie to other disappeared women, so there’s clearly a contingent of people that want to keep this going.
This is the weirdness of the way the internet is currently constructed. Trending topics, if they reach a big enough audience for a long enough time don’t go away like they used to. The people brought together by these viral moments connect and, due network effect, tend to find something larger to sustain themselves with and, more often than not, it’s misinformation and conspiracy theories that act as the glue to hold their communities together.
TikTok Says It Has Crossed Over 1 Billion Monthly Active Users
TikTok COO Vanessa Pappas claimed in a video posted to the platform’s official account on Monday that TikTok had crossed over 1 billion monthly active users globally. If that’s true, that means they have about a third as many MAUs as Facebook. That makes it seem like TikTok is still pretty far beyond Facebook, but the fact they’ve grown that fast in a little over three years is insanely impressive and the fact that the app is still, very much, a single-purpose video app is even more impressive. TikTok is big and it still hasn’t made significant moves to become a portal or every-site like Facebook or YouTube, which means it can still get a lot bigger.
There Are Many Benefits To Being A Marine Biologist
There is an absolutely massive meme taking over Tumblr at the moment. It’s basically pictures of stuff from the ocean accompanied with the text, “there are many benefits to being a marine biologist.” It comes from a dream that Tumblr user pixellecutie had.
This is not the first time a Tumblr user has dreamed a meme into existence. There was the whole “Furbies aren’t kosher” thing back in 2019. Also, this wasn’t on Tumblr, but it’s worth mentioning the King’s Hand thing from last year.
A Few Web3 Updates
This morning Facebook, a company I would absolutely trust with the biometric data required to run a VR-based metaverse platform, published a blog post from Andrew Bosworth, the vice president of Facebook Reality Labs, and Nick Clegg, former British version of Pete Buttigieg and current vice president of Global Affairs for Facebook.
The post, titled, “Building the Metaverse Responsibly” is basically a public commitment to building the metaverse and outlines a plan to “work with experts in government, industry and academia to think through issues and opportunities in the metaverse.” And then it lists a bunch of vague Silicon Valley-friendly things they’re interested in like “privacy,” “inclusion,” “safety,” and integrity”. Hell yeah, I fucking love integrity.
One thing that Facebook’s metaverse post doesn’t include is any mention to Web3, the umbrella term used by proponents of cryptocurrency and the blockchain for a decentralized social internet run by automated and largely anonymous payment systems. Which I think is extremely telling in how Facebook currently envisions a future VR-based internet: A data monopoly that can track what your body does while you look at posts.
General partner at Andreessen Horowitz Chris Dixon, though, recently tweeted out a “Why Web 3 matters” Twitter thread on Sunday. If you’re still trying to wrap your head around what people who care about Web3 are actually talking about, it’s a good place to start. As Dixon sees it, Web3 platforms, unlike ad-based social platforms, don’t require infinite scale. Though, what no one can really explain to me about Web3 platforms is why you need the blockchain to moderate them. I have a Discord server for paying Garbage Day readers. They pay me with Stripe and they get an invite. Isn’t that accomplishing the same thing?
Anyways, there are Neopets NFTs now.
New Fighting Technique Dropped
This was sent to me by a reader named Tiger. It’s a TikTok user named @jada.rounds. Her whole deal is extremely perplexing. Basically, she makes videos about self-defense and martial arts. Only, her specific brand of martial arts is a little unique. She calls it “Colon Karate” and her main move is knocking opponents to the ground and then farting on them. She has 1.6 million followers on TikTok. Her other main move is hitting people with Christmas trees. Anyways, like I said, she has 1.6 million followers and the app that she’s on now has 1 billion monthly active users. Have a great week, everyone.
The Biggest Drum & Bass On The Bike Yet
I love this guy and I love this!
Three Pretty NSFW Things You Should Be Aware Of
Alright, three pretty NSFW things have popped up over the weekend and, because this newsletter is all about informing you, my dear readers, of any and all important developments in internet culture, I feel like I should explain them to you if only so you understand random memes and tweets you might encounter that reference these things. First up, we have some drama in the adult diaper fetish community.
This was sent to me by a reader named Casey and I am excited to say this has left me utterly speechless. If you click through, it’s basically a Twitter conversation between a diaper fetishist and two people involved in a subculture called DD/LG, or “daddy dom/little girl,” which is type of sexual roleplay about infantilizing women as children. If you want to stare into the abyss, you can click through and read the whole thing. I will say, DD/LG roleplayers are notoriously problematic and toxic. They tend to get in a lot of fights online and really disrupt communities, so if I had to pick a side??? I guess I’d go with the diaper fetishist???
Next up, we’ve got The Simpsons ninja lady guy.
If you click through, this is a DM conversation about commissioning extremely specific Simpsons fetish(?) art that depicts all the women of Springfield dressed up like ninjas. There’s also a bunch more tweets in the thread. I’m going to just say this is NSFW, but it’s not really. It’s more just confusing and, honestly, impressive in its scope.
Finally, the jump humping and bathing thing.
I can’t say for certain that this is based on a real thing. And I do know for a fact there are tons of Instagram accounts out there satirizing things that young Mormons do. So I am, for my own sanity, going to assume that this is not a real thing and a big internet joke that has just spun out into its own sort of urban legend. But, if you see any references this week to “jump humping” you can click through and read the tweets they’re talking about.
New Garbage Day Video Dropped
In August, I did a live presentation at a club in New York City about this weird pattern online where people steal bones or try and sell human remains or rob graves for internet clout. I know, I know, but it’s a thing! And it keeps happening! So I spun together a video all about it.
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a video of kitchen utensils getting made.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***