Alright, What’s Going On With The Water TikTok Thing?
I first wrote about #WaterTok videos last week. They’re a pocket of TikTok users who make fun water, filling giant tumblers with syrups and flavor packets to effectively make custom Kool-Aid mixtures that they’ve recontextualized as life hacks. When I first came across these videos my hunch was that they were going viral on TikTok because they combine sensory content with over-optimized capitalism. There is simply nothing more powerful on TikTok than someone saying, “look at this liquid change color while I talk to you about various products I’ve purchased.”
But as I’ve been bombarded by more and more of these videos, I have begun to question my own judgment and seriously start to wonder if there’s something else going on. This video, which I saw last night, was my breaking point.
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And so, I tweeted about it. I asked Twitter (big mistake, never do this) what they thought was going on. My tweet went way too viral and now people are yelling at me. Apparently, I was policing what people are drinking (I was and am not). It turns out the sugar water fandom is very defensive, what writer Ashley Reese has referred to as “hummingbird Twitter” lmao. Also, people were mad I called these drinks “virgin jungle juice,” which I stand by. Before my replies turned into digital static, though, I did get some interesting responses.
More than a few people told me they thought this might be a Mormon thing, connected to Utah soda shop culture. None of the #WaterTok videos I’ve seen on Twitter seem to be specifically coming from Mormon accounts, but I did some digging and, yes, Mormons are very big into lifehacking their water and use the hashtag.
The other theory I’ve seen going around is that this is related to weight-less or diet culture. Some gastric sleeve surgery patients report feeling nauseous after the procedure and I guess folks add flavor packets to their water and it seems to help. I’m not a doctor, please don’t take my word for it. I also heard an interesting theory that this might have roots in the Herbalife world. People get hooked on Herbalife, don’t want to pay for it anymore, and start homebrewing something that tastes similar.
More darkly, I’ve seen several people suggest that this might be a pro-anorexia trend, which I touched on briefly in a Garbage Day issue over the weekend. I am not about to try and diagnose a bunch of strangers on the internet with an eating disorder, but after watching a lot of these videos, there is definitely an insidious emphasis on filling up a big jug of white lady punch and “feeling full all day.”
It’s possible all of these things are a shade of true. Also, if you’re bored and you want a cheap thing to buy products for so you can talk about them on the internet, this seems like easy option. But still, questions remain. For instance, why are they buying commercial-grade syrup bottles? And why do they all have the same refillable tumbler? It seems to be the Quencher H2.0 FlowState™ tumbler. Is this a college sports thing? A hiking thing? An EDM concert thing? (It’s funny how those have all morphed together into largely the same subculture now.)
I suppose this is also the point where I disclose that I don’t drink soda, don’t really drink juice, and almost never drink mixed cocktails. I had a nasty Mountain Dew Code Red habit in high school (obviously), kicked it, and never looked back. Nowadays, I am simply a black coffee and plain sparkling water person. So this entire world is extremely alien to me. But there’s also the larger question of whether or not this is even a real thing.
At the moment, I am simply unable to tell if #WaterTok videos are actually an emergent trend or if this is just a weird rabbit hole of niche hobbyists that are having their videos freebooted over to Twitter and turned into ragebait to farm retweets, which has, in turn, given the illusion that they’re trending. Twitter has always had an issue with differentiating actual developments in the real world from the discourse they create when people react to them online. But in its current state, it’s essentially impossible to separate tangible real world events from viral chatter. Now that Twitter has a non-chronological For You tab that prioritizes video, it’s turned the site into the unofficial discussion board of TikTok, which means it’s more or less impossible to figure out if something is trending because it’s actually happening — as in, lots of people are going out and buying flavor packets and syrups to make expensive sugar water — or if it’s trending because people on Twitter are going over to TikTok, downloading videos, and sharing them. And, not to get too up my own butt here, but I also wonder if that distinction even matters to people anymore. On an internet of completely evergreen viral content sorted by algorithmic feeds everything is happening all the time for the first time again.
Help Me Buy More Flavor Packets For My Water
Think about subscribing to Garbage Day! It’s $5 a month or $45 a year and you get bonus content and Discord access and plenty of new fun interesting things to talk about at parties or in your various group chats. That’s my guarantee! At least one meme every issue that you can impress (or piss off) your friends and family by knowing about before them. Hit the green button to find out more!
There’s A New Twitter Blue Deadline
Alright, here’s some pointless Twitter stuff. First, Elon Musk is totally serious about it this time, guys. Legacy verified checkmarks are going away on April 20th, which is 420, the weed number. Very cool.
Second, Twitter, as a company, is gone and the site is now owned by a company called X Corp. Musk wants to turn Twitter into an American version of WeChat, an app he calls “X, the everything app”. Based on interviews he’s given, he imagines Twitter as a sort of central feed for the world, with its own payment system. I am very confident that he cannot turn Twitter into this, but it’s nice to have goals, even if you can’t reach them.
Third, last night, Musk did a surprise interview with the BBC that was also streamed as a Twitter Space. The main quote that everyone is running with this morning is that Musk admitted that managing Twitter is “quite painful” for him. Buddy, it’s painful for us too. I think the more important takeaway is that — and, god, do I hate to admit this — Musk absolutely played the BBC and made them look extremely bad. At one point in the interview, Musk asked for concrete examples of increased extremism on the platform since he took over the site and the BBC reporter was unable to provide any. And now Musk and his followers are doing a victory lap this morning about how the media are all liars. In case this question comes up again, here is a link to bonafide neo-Nazi account that is paying to be verified on Twitter right now. Hope this helps.
And, finally, all of NPR’s institutional-level accounts are going dark on Twitter. Twitter Circles appear to no longer be private. And I’ve seen a lot of people report that the site keeps glitching out and showing the wrong languages to users.
MAGA Rappers Are Obsessed With iTunes
I made the mistake this morning of watching a video from Forgiato Blow titled, “Fock Bud Light” and I have so many thoughts about it that they’re doing a Three Stooges stuck-in-the-door bit to get out of my head at the moment. The song, which, if you’re morbidly curious, you can watch here, is a radioactive mix of nu metal, butt rock, and southern “rap”. But it’s also deeply bizarre as a media artifact.
It’s essentially a string of conservative trending topics assembled into a sort of “We Didn’t Start The Fire” of right-wing grievances. But it’s topical to the point where it will almost certainly make no sense in about a week. Also, the tone of the song is bizarre, alternating between outright transphobia and homophobia, weird middle-of-the-road aphorisms, and just random buzzwords. Also, Blow can’t even commit to use the word “fuck” in the title, clearly on the off-chance he’s asked to perform this at a conference or something.
But the real head-scratcher here for me is all of Blow’s promotion for the song is focused on its performance on iTunes. “FOCK BUD LIGHT SEND THIS B!TCH TO #1,” he tweeted. This dude is terrified of swears, apparently.
There was a similar obsession with iTunes back when Trump made that weird song with the “January 6 choir”. I assume conservative influencers care about it because it sounds relevant to old people. It’s an online leaderboard that isn’t really determined by anything other than purchases and downloads, which makes it somewhat easy to game. Especially because it’s not a big priority for other stan armies anymore. Free real estate, as it were.
Substack Notes Is Live For Everyone
And the reception has been pretty good! I’ll admit I’ve been extremely skeptical of it. But I’ve been checking it more and more and it has a chill feel to it (for now). It’s not as weird as, say, Tumblr, but it doesn’t feel as desperately corporate as LinkedIn.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by it enough to keep checking back on it. I think the real first test for it will be how its network reacts to a breaking news event. Can it keep up? Is it useful? Are the things people are posting interesting? At least, in America, those questions tend to get answers when everything’s on fire. The big test after that will be if it can produce memes or trends that spread beyond it.
Oh, also, I posted a note and gained like 200 new email signups in less 45 minutes and all of them are from the “Substack Network” so, uh, see you later Twitter!
How To Make Your Own Balenciaga Harry Potter
Yesterday, I finally had a free moment to try and make an animated AI video. I made President Joe Biden read the opening lines of Bee Movie. And I also inserted him and Trump into a scene from the anime End Of Evangelion. The process goes like this:
Go to ElevenLabs and make an account.
Use the “voice cloning” feature.
Feed it two or three samples of someone speaking. The more studio-quality the recording the better. Also, I tried to give it like five minutes of audio and it glitched out. It works better with just a few short snippets.
Use the ElevenLabs voice model to read a script you write.
Then use Midjourney or any other generative-AI tool for images and make the avatar that you’re going to animate.
Head over to D-ID and use their animated avatar tool, which combines the image you generated with the audio you generated.
Pretty simple. Also, if you want to go even deeper into how these tools work, Vox actually published a real good explainer about all of this this morning.
The big surprise for me was how fast it was to do this. Even if you count the amount of time it took me to sign up for the services I used, the whole thing took about 15 minutes. I will say, though, just from a content standpoint, I think D-ID’s animated avatar tool is all the way there yet (though it is pretty decent all things considered). But I’d probably use Photoshop and Premiere to just make funny stills synced up to the audio next time.
It’s So Unbelievably Over
Every few days, redditors discover what rotoscoping is and declare that it’s the end of all human culture. It’s not. That said, AI tools for rotoscoping have gotten a lot better real fast. The video above, which you can watch here, is using a few different tools chained together to make an almost-coherent anime-style animation.
While I don’t think making anime girls dance will destroy the world, AI agents might. If you haven’t seen any chatter about this, here’s a paper on it. And here’s a good thread simplifying it down a bit. The TL;DR is that AI agents run through a series of tasks until they determine that the tasks are completed and the overall goal is met. In the paper linked to above, 25 of these agents were put inside a virtual town and left alone to do their thing. They started exhibiting very human-like behavior and even threw a party at one point. Uh-oh!
Have You Heard The “2015 Bird”?
TikTok users have decided that a mourning dove is the “2015 bird,” and that they haven’t heard it since, well, 2015. If you search it on TikTok right now you’ll see tons of people talking about how nostalgic they feel when they hear mourning doves.
Down in the replies to a @coldhealing tweet about this, I actually stumbled across a pretty good explanation, which is that it’s a bird you hear a lot in the suburbs and less so when you move to a college campus or the city. And if you were a teenager in 2015 you’d be just out of college now more or less.
As funny as this is, it does also give me a somewhat frightening glimpse into a future where climate change becomes so noticeable that we do begin to associate no-longer existing animals with specific periods of time, but that’s such an overwhelmingly horrifying idea that I simply refuse to continue thinking about it.
Some Stray Links
Redditors are getting scammed into buying fake nudes generated by an AI (lol)
“Here’s Why You’re Seeing Gross Viral Recipes on Your Subway Commute”
P.S. here’s Jam Wick Bebop Yaggah
UPDATE: lol so the link I originally put here didn’t go in properly and now I’ve lost it and it was a Tumblr post which means I’ll never find it again. But it was funny. Sorry!
UPDATE ON THE UPDATE: Katato in the Garbage Day Discord found the link. It’s back where it belongs now.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***
Ok, my weird little anecdotal contribution to the WaterTok thing. Like a lot of people I think, during the early pandemic days, I found myself drinking a good bit more than I thought was healthy for me. Fast forward a couple years (my god it's been a couple of years...) I've had a desire to cut back on my alcohol consumption. So before I even came across this new craze(?), something that I have been doing independently is taking various Juices, teas, sparkling waters, etc, and diluting them with water or Hint Water (which is a brand of flavored water itself). So like... Could this also be a pandemic 3.0 hobby that we've all sorta naturally picked up? Just anothet thought to add into the confusing miasma of modern 2023 life!!!
Concerning the reality of the WaterTok phenomenon: I’ve chosen to approach nearly all viral phenomena (especially culture war shit on the right, but really all of it) as busy boxes.
Every subset of online humans (an actual subspecies) has to select their busy box that they play with to fill all of the hours when they aren’t sleeping. This way their consciousness has an intended object (in the phenomenological sense) to latch on to, the sole purpose of which is to distract from the abyss of meaninglessness at the actual center of our experience.
Go pick your busy box!