Manhattan is a playground for TikTok
Read to the end for a good tweet about Morbius
Earlier this week, a TikTok user named @grifgreen20 posted a very bad video about how there are no supermarkets in New York City, only bodegas. The video is cringe and offensive, and was rightfully torn apart by users on both TikTok and Twitter. But @grifgreen20’s responses to the backlash, which have come in the form of more bad TikTok videos, are even more cringe. His TikTok and Instagram are now both private, but according to his videos, he’s from Michigan and living in the Bronx. In one video he said he wears an NAACP shirt to the gym he goes to in the Bronx so people will like him more. In his videos, he says he was recently hired at one of the “top 20 startups in the country”. From what I can tell, he’s quoting LinkedIn charts when he says that? At one point, he posted on Instagram his offer letter from the startup, which seems like that would be an HR violation, but what do I know (NOTE: I have previously worked in HR).
Anyways, @grifgreen20’s terrible content is not really the point. Instead, it’s the latest example of a troubling trend that only seems to be getting worse: Young people in Manhattan are posting content.
The age of mainstream internet content as we currently know it began at some point between 2009-2010 and coincided with the birth of the “hipster” subculture. Hipsters had a few defining characteristics. They were overwhelmingly white, they wore skinny pants, they had some tattoos, maybe some bad bangs, possibly a goofy mustache, drank bad beer, and, most importantly, lived in Brooklyn, Austin, or Portland. Eventually, every city would get a hipster neighborhood, as the word “hipster,” like all popular trends in America, became meaningless through overuse.
And, very quickly, a status quo when it came to creating viral content in America, at least, locked in place and basically stayed that way for the next decade. The people who made the platforms we used on the internet lived in San Fransisco. The people who made viral content that was popular on those platforms lived in the suburbs, where they had access to the America’s Funniest Home Videos-esque aesthetic needed to go viral on sites like Facebook or Instagram — backyards, cars, houses, Walmarts, etc. And the writers who wrote about internet content, the hipsters, the “cool” people, lived in Brooklyn, their editors, a nicer part of Brooklyn, and their editors’ editors, Manhattan. If someone in New York became popular enough to become some kind of influencer or professional content creator, without the need of a larger media organization to prop them up, they’d move to LA.
By the end of the last decade, the cogs of the New York media machine had such a pathological blindspot for Manhattan, in particular, as a place that could be virally interesting that in 2018, The Cut wrote an article titled “Why Are All These Influencers Standing in the Middle of the Street?” I’m not even being snarky about this! The first sentence of the article is, “Live in New York long enough, and you can become quickly desensitized to everything that makes everyone else fall in love with the city.” Basically, Instagram influencers were flying into the city to take photos in front of the Cartier store because it had a big bow on it. When photos of the influencers posing in the streets of Manhattan hit Twitter, there was panic. People were scandalized! But four years later, Manhattan is to TikTok as Instagram and YouTube was to LA: An expensive playground for young content creators to stage their never-ending kayfabe reality shows of one. And it’s kind of uncomfortable!
I lay the blame of all of this on a TikTok influencer named Audrey Peters who, in 2020, started posting videos about her glamorous life in lower Manhattan. Once again, the immediate reaction from millennial New Yorkers working in media was some combination of revulsion and horror. “Who Is Audrey Peters, TikTok's Wannabe Carrie Bradshaw, and Why On Earth Do We Care?,” Jezebel wrote. Rebecca Jennings from Vox did a profile on Peters and it turns out she’s aware of how weird her downtown Manhattan content was at first and also her users have accused her of being classist many, many times. But Peters had let the viral content genie out of the bottle and the West Elm Caleb TikTok panic, followed shortly after by the West 4th Street puncher hysteria last year is proof of it.
In fact, you can track this vibe shift through the many misadventures of Instagram grifter Caroline Calloway, who spent years trying to make Instagram content about life in Brooklyn, attempted a failed pivot towards content about Lower Manhattan, and, then, ultimately, fled the city when she couldn’t catch the wave.
Among millennial New Yorkers working in media, the majority of which were upper-middle class and transplants to the city themselves, there was the assumption that nothing about their lives in tiny apartments in Brooklyn was relatable. It may be “cool” and something to lord over people when they inevitably went home for Thanksgiving, but it was not something that was meant for mass consumption. I assume the logic was that if you did try and go take staged Instagram-friendly photos of your kind of stressful and annoying life in New York, someone else living there would tell you that you were full of shit.
The assumption, as it’s been articulated across hundreds of “Gen Z are better than us” trend pieces written over the last five years, is that zoomers would be a more progressive and better-adjusted and more motivated than the generations before them. But — shockingly enough — they’re just as tacky and annoying as millennials were in their early 20s. But Gen Z, also, crucially, doesn’t seem to have the same hangups about flaunting wealth and status on the internet. Maybe it’s stunted social skills from coming of age in a pandemic. Maybe it’s the fact the world is clearly ending and they just don’t care anymore. Either way, it means that Manhattan content is the hot new thing. Patrick Bateman is now a Gen Z 20-something robotically detailing his skin care routine in a series of TikTok videos, asking you to buy into his NFT startup, and bragging about the passive income he gets as an Airbnb landlord.
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A Good Tweet
Normal Human Beings Don’t Use Twitter — It’s Mostly Just Journalists
My buddy Mitch dropped this Pew study about Twitter usage in the Garbage Day Discord yesterday and it’s really fascinating. According to Pew’s research, 69% of journalists (lol nice) say Twitter is their most-used social network, while only 13% of Americans say the same thing. Though, interestingly enough, journalists who work for TV stations say they use Facebook for news more. Which makes sense when you think about it. American TV news relies on a network of local affiliate stations, which would map pretty well to small town Facebook groups and pages. Pew also found that journalists at left-leaning outlets are about 10% more likely to use Twitter than journalists at right-leaning outlets.
This kind of research is important I think for determining what the value of Twitter is, especially amid the chaos of a still-possible Elon Musk acquisition. Is the site an accurate reflection of the mood of country? It seems highly unlikely. Is it a wildly effective influence machine with tendrils stretching out into the Slack rooms of every news outlet in the country? Absolutely.
Some Excellent Wedding Content
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Everyone’s Sick Of Gaylecore
I came across this excellent Twitter discussion about “bad TikTok songs” and wanted to highlight it. A specific kind of music has started to proliferate TikTok and a lot of people are starting to blame Olivia Rodrigo, which, as the thread above mentions, isn’t really accurate. This specific TikTok sound is basically a hushed-voice impression of Taylor Swift with 808 drums, a snotty pop punk cadence, and lyrics that are easy to lip sync to. The best example of this is probably Gayle’s “abcdefu,” but “Cate’s Brother” by Maisie Peters, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Bitch” by Leah Kate, and “Mad at Disney” by Salem Ilese are good examples of this too. NBC News has a great piece about this whole musical movement. I’ve, personally, been calling it Gaylecore.
That Rodrigo is getting the blame even though her music doesn’t totally fit with the rest is weirdly similar to what happened with MySpace emo. In the late 2000s, bands like Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco, and My Chemical Romance became the emo band punchline, even though Fall Out Boy basically made two pop punk albums and then became Third Eye Blind, Panic! At The Disco’s first album had ragtime and EDM in it, and My Chemical Romance has more musically in common with Queen than they ever did Jimmy Eat World or Jawbreaker or whatever.
All of this is to say that the TikTok sound has now reached the point where we’re starting to be able to recognize it and iterate on it and classify it. Which means it’s probably over.
A Very Lovely Reddit Post
This very cute post is going real viral on Twitter this week. A teacher went to Reddit’s r/NoStupidQuestions subreddit to ask why their 8th graders kept called them “a goat”. Very helpful users explained that they were actually calling them “the G.O.A.T.” or “Greatest Of All Time”.
The teacher came back to the post and responded with a really nice update, writing, “omg I am IN TEARS!!! I can't believe they were complimenting me this whole time!!!! Thank you all for answering this question!!!!”
The Zoom Call Green Screen Guy Fought An MMA Fighter
lol so I have avoided writing about this guy for a while, but, you know what, he finally went and did something that I just can’t resist including in this newsletter. Well played, TikTok user @frankielapenna.
He first blew up last yea after he made a TikTok where it looked like he was secretly attending a Zoom meeting from his car via a green screen. I thought it was pretty funny, but didn’t write about it at the time because I suspected it was staged and writing about a video that is supposed to be real, but isn’t is honestly kind of a drag. He went on to make a bunch more videos of him green screening into Zoom meetings from crazy locations.
Then I was heartbroken to find out that he was also responsible for the “guy with a huge ass walking down the street news clip” video that went viral earlier this year. Once again, the fact the video was staged is a bummer. He also has a lot of videos of him wearing the prosthetic ass. He calls the character Jim Kardashian, which is, meh. And, looking through his whole account, I really can’t get a read on what this dude’s deal is.
Anyways, he recently upped the ante on the format and made a video of him trying to fight MMA fighter Bruno Cappelozza while wearing a green screen and a laptop. The Zoom call aspect is definitely staged, but, I gotta admit, the fight is very funny.
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Two More Good Tweets
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a good tweet about Morbius.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***