I can finally admit I don't know what Figma is
Read to the end for a TikTok with powerful Vine energy
Separating Hype From The Real Deal
At the end of last year, I partnered up with digital consultancy firm Part and Sum to conduct a little survey on what people were actually excited about when it comes to the world of information technology. We had over a thousand people respond and the results were really fascinating! I wanted to run through what we discovered, but you can check out the whole survey here.
We had our survey-takers rate different tech products and online behaviors according to the Gartner Hype Cycle. So you could rate something as “beginner,” or just starting out, “hype summit,” which would mean it’s super hot right now, “slumped,” which means no one is thinking about anymore, or “chilling,” which indicates that you’ve sort of made peace with it in your digital life. The number one bit of feedback we got was that people wanted the ability to rate something totally “over”. Which, fair enough. And, based on the data, I do think we have enough information to effectively declare a few things pretty much dead.
But the most interesting trend that popped out for me, looking at all the responses, is that, for the most part, people have a handful of digital services they like, use every day, and aren’t really interested in exploring alternatives for.
Our first set of questions in the survey were all about short-form video beyond the confines of TikTok. We can all agree that TikTok has dominated the space, but what about all the other places you can share short clips and ephemeral story content?
It’s pretty clear cut: Instagram Reels are a flop, but Instagram Stories are a near-permanent part of our lives. On the flip side, I was honestly surprised people were so open to YouTube Shorts maybe eventually catching on. But the biggest shocker here is almost a third of responders didn’t seem to know that Snapchat had Stories at all, which is like if a bunch of people suddenly found out Coca-Cola also makes a cola-flavored beverage.
Our next section was all about messaging apps, and, in the same way that Instagram Stories have reached a sort of comfortable post-hype stage of utility, so too have, well, most messaging apps. Even though Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was hyping up WhatsApp as the future of everything last year, it seems like most people have a messaging app or two they like and rarely think about moving away from them.
The one caveat here is Discord. Now, it’s true that Discord is having a big moment, but I do have to point out that the majority of the responses for this survey came from Garbage Day readers and considering over 1,500 of them use Discord every day to talk to each other, I’m willing to bet that may have skewed the results a bit. Also, once again, Snapchat has a shockingly bad amount of brand recognition. It’s the original ephemeral chat app!
Our next couple sections were all about “future tech” — the metaverse, personal A.I., generative A.I., the internet of things, and smart home devices. Most survey-takers were in agreement that the main three generative-A.I. tools, DALL-E 2, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion, were all very hyped, but when you look at future tech as a whole, the results were way more divided.
That’s a lot of dark blue in the slumped column. Though, I do think it’s interesting that smart home tech is chilling as hard as it is, which, to me, indicates a certain amount of acceptance in the space for what can and can’t be done by taking to your lightbulbs. Also, people are pretty open-minded still about augmented reality. The same cannot be said for virtual reality.
But the last section of survey I want to focus on (you should read the whole thing, it’s super fascinating) is about remote work apps because I think it illustrates the general theme of our results the best: People have found what they like and stick with it!
Far and away the darkest bluest square on this whole dang survey was people saying that Google Drive is “chilling,” as in, it’s not very hyped, but doing just fine. The reason this is so surprising, and, to be honest, damning, is that right above it is an overwhelming majority of survey-takers saying they aren’t familiar with Figma, which Adobe just bought for $20 billion. Which makes me feel a lot better because I can now admit that I had literally never once heard of it before in my entire life up until headlines were published about its sale to Adobe.
In other words, the biggest takeaway of our survey was that the most hyped thing in the world of tech right now is… utilities. Which is honestly very funny, considering how rabid Silicon Valley is for The Next Big Thing. It turns out that most people kind of know what they want and have found a few services that help them get it. They post some stories on Instagram, they use a couple messaging apps to socialize, they might own a smart speaker and are kind of curious about A.I., and they use Google Docs and have no idea what Figma or Notion are. The companies that run the internet have become phone companies of their own specific niches, which has got to be existentially terrifying considering all the venture capital they have to pay back, but it seems pretty chill for those of us using these apps.
I’m Doing A Live Event About A.I. Next Week
If you liked the section above and are interested in a more focused event specifically about navigating the hype in the world of A.I., Part and Sum and Garbage Day are co-hosting a little meetup on February 8th in Manhattan. It goes from 5pm-7pm and we’re capping the attendance at just a few dozen guests, so please let me know ASAP if you’re interested.
If you’re interested in attending in person click here.
This comes courtesy of the Garbage Day Discord.
Automating The Culture War
Over the weekend a Twitter user with an anime avatar (obviously) went viral (derogatory) after sharing four photorealistic pictures of A.I.-generated women in bikinis, writing, “it is SO over.” If you actually look at the photos, which, if you want, you can do so here, it’s true that, at first glance, you might not immediately clock that these women don’t exist.
But quickly you’ll notice that none of them have the right amount of teeth. One woman has a finger coming out of another finger. And, in an interesting convergence of transmedia horniness, all of their bikinis are doing a very specific thing that you basically only see in really bad manga and hentai. No I will not explain what I’m talking about beyond that, but if you know, you know.
Anyways, the caption, “It is SO over” is really what I want to focus on. The original poster expanded slightly on their thinking in a reply further down the thread, writing, “The idea is like we killed journalism with fake news flood. We kill thottery with fake porn flood.” And beneath that are a bunch of really unwell users agreeing with the sentiment.
So I suppose the idea here is to replace human sex workers with A.I.-generated content because these men want to look at sexual content, but they hate the women that make it. They want the machines to free them from the self-loathing of being a “simp”.
And the fact that A.I. porn crushing the human porn industry is compared to journalism is also telling. Because I think for a lot of men, particularly in Gen Z, all of mass media, including pornography, has been successfully coded in their minds as woke and feminine by various far-right reactionaries. And these men are now beginning to see emerging A.I. tools as a way to hurt, and maybe finally vanquish, those who make the human-created media that they seem hate so much. There are a lot of folks scoffing at the idea that these tools could never successfully do this, and, based on the teeth and fingers above, we definitely aren’t there yet, but we should maybe also start wondering what might happen if these tools get good enough to actually succeed.
How will A.I. augment, amplify, and evolve the culture wars we have right now? And who will these tools most benefit?
Tumblr Is All In On Welcome To Night Vale Again
So, as I’ve written about before, Tumblr has polls now. And the community has really embraced the feature and has quickly figured out very fun ways to use it. A Tumblr user named sexymanotd launched a bracket to determine the number one “Tumblr sexyman,” which is how the community refers to characters they all ship and obsess over. You can check it out here.
The final two rounds came down to Arataka Reigen from the anime Mob Psycho 100 up against Cecil Gershwin Palmer from Welcome To Night Vale and then Cecil versus Sans from Undertale. Cecil beat both and has now been crowned Tumblr’s sexiest sexyman and the #cecilsweep tag is going wild.
What’s interesting is this has kickstarted a bunch of renewed interest in Welcome To Night Vale, to the point where users are now making explainers about the show. Which means I am a million years old. Here’s my favorite post about the poll.
The Curious Backstory Behind A Terrible J.K. Rowling Tweet
You know, I didn’t think an absolutely idiotic tweet from J.K. Rowling would make me nostalgic, but here we are. Over the weekend, brain genius Rowling thought she was really cooking when she tweeted a piece of anti-suffragette propaganda next to a meme about TERFs, or trans-exclusionary radical feminists. Before we move on, the comparison doesn’t even make sense. Trans people, as far as I know, aren’t trying to stop Rowling from voting. Though, you could argue that Rowling is trying to impact a vote about trans rights.
But I was shocked to see the tweet because I recognize the meme on the right! It was something I wrote about in the very first issue of Garbage Day! The meme was held up by Scottish MP Joanna Cherry during an incident in 2019 when Scottish TERFs were fighting with Dominique “SonicFox” McLean, the nonbinary queer furry who is arguably one of the best professional Mortal Kombat players in the world.
It’s sort of wild to think that Rowling has been sitting on this meme since BEFORE THE PANDEMIC and is still steaming about it. Also, in case you’re wondering, the character in the meme is Lily, who is from an anime called Zombieland Saga and she is canonically trans.
MrBeast Did Another Outrageous Thing
The most interesting thing about MrBeast is that there really isn’t much to say about him at all. There were reports from a few years ago that he runs a toxic workplace but they didn’t really affect his public persona much. And his main defining trait is that he’s sort of boring to think about. He looks like an NPC from an RPG set in a Best Buy. He’s got a beard and a haircut I can only describe as “Yu-Gi-Oh tournament-core”. He dresses like a guy who works part-time at a paintball course. He looks generally uncomfortable on camera. And his videos feel like 8-minute trailers for a TV show that doesn’t exist. And yet, he has 130 million subscribers.
He made his own Squid Game. He branded a mountain on Antarctica. And now he’s helped 1,000 people see again by paying for their cataract surgeries. I struggle to find an equivalent to him in pop culture. But I suppose he’s like if The Rock was also Bob Barker for Gen Z. But that doesn’t really capture the personlessness of him. He’s more algorithm than man at this point.
Anyways, I’m pretty comfortable saying MrBeast will probably be the first billionaire YouTuber. But I’m more curious where he goes creatively from here. If you can feel comfortable talking about creativity and MrBeast in the same breath. At what point does he decide he’s done all that can be done on YouTube? And what does he do after that?
Some Stray Links
“Chasing YouTube's Biggest Copyright Troll Down the Rabbit Hole” (I wrote this one!)
P.S. here’s a TikTok with powerful Vine energy (Tumblr mirror).
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***
...Figma isn't Notion though and is not meant (in any way) to replace Google Drive.
This...seems like a pretty basic misunderstanding of the product and target user base for Figma. Like, It's not a consumer product? Analogs are Photoshop and Sketch, not GDocs. I get it if you're testing general market penetration/awareness for tech products, I just don't get the value (it'd be like seeing if my parents were aware of AutoCAD...why would they? Who cares if they didn't?).
Super weird framing that undercuts the rest of the research for me personally, tbh. Just FWIW!
It's really remarkable to me that MrBeast's total lack of remarkability beyond the stunts hasn't gotten more attention. He's arguably the face of youtube to millions of people, yet as you say, he lacks charm, style, charisma, anything to say, whatever. The Rock and Bob Barker both are/were people with immense charisma and showmanship. MrBeast is like a Tom Hanks-Big oversized dorky 13 year old. For someone who is so prominently the face of his own channel!
I'd love a deep dive into why MrBeast has succeeded in spite of (due to?) his offputting look/vibe. Beyond just, "he does the algorithm" or "he's psychotically obsessed with youtube" (though both are obviously true).
What makes his Patrick Bateman tick, and why do people seem to really connect with it?