First, last call for shirts for a bit! I have two larges and a couple extra-larges left, reply to this email if you’re interested. Second, Sidechannel is launching next Monday. It’s a group Discord/live event co-op featuring myself, Casey Newton, Charlie Warzel, Anne Helen Peterson, Eric Newcomer, Nick Quah, Delia Cai, and Kim Zetter. Garbage Day subscribers will get access! Hit the button below if you’re interested — it’s just $5 a month or $30 a year.
Rothko Paintings And Trending Topics
On Monday, Philip Bunn, a PHD candidate in political theory tweeted three pictures of Mark Rothko paintings and wrote, “Someone explain to me why Mark Rothko paintings are good. Please help me. These things are definitionally childish, what am I missing???”
As of writing this, the tweet has 529 quote tweets, and over 800 replies. In a second tweet, Bunn wrote, “This tweet went nuts! it was an off-the-cuff response to watching Netflix's Made You Look documentary. I am genuinely seeking to understand why people love it, and I am willing to say calling Rothko's work ‘childish’ was wrong.”
The responses to Bunn’s tweet are intense. Jerry Saltz, the senior art critic for New York Magazine, tweeted, “Now use your idiot philosophy to explain a toothache. Now do you see?”
Both Bunn’s initial tweet and the emotional responses underneath it are exactly how Twitter’s incentive structure works. My fellow Sidechanneler, Charlie Warzel, yesterday, described this as “an incomprehensible number of voices lecturing past each other.” In this instance, it was hundreds of people Rothko-splaining to some random guy, but it’s happening all day every day across the site.
Last night, Bunn followed up on his thread, writing, “I simply did not realize there were this many people who were aggressive Rothko stans in the entire world.” Good news! There probably aren’t. But this is how people communicate on the site. Twitter is a video game and you don’t get points for agreeing. But this phenomenon also affects even how we talk about Twitter’s toxicity.
The same day that Bunn was learning about how to feel, not just understand art, Sam Amico, a sports writer, tweeted about how small Twitter actually is. Amico’s tweet was shared pretty heavily, including a quote tweet from Justin Taylor, a Christian blogger and book publisher, who made a graph of how small a percentage of the American population Twitter represents, writing, “I made a graph to remind you that Twitter is not real life.”
Sam Amico @AmicoHoopsVery interesting numbers here: Only 7 percent of Americans use Twitter. Of that, 52 percent with a profile never tweet. That means all tweets come from the same 3.36 percent of our population. https://t.co/Fy19yo5a3k
Taylor’s graph then kicked off an entire discourse cycle of its own. “I never know what this is supposed to mean,” Sam Adler-Bell, the cohost of the Know Your Enemy podcast wrote. “That fraction is composed of the people who make the media consumed by everyone else + nearly every politician. Twitter isn’t ‘real life’ but it profoundly impacts real life. Now what.”
And my friend Hussein echoed a similar sentiment, writing, “ok, but when twitter beef is informing policy and influencing culture via the 3.36% it is very much real life. Again, you don't have to be posting to be influenced by posts.”
It’s unfortunate that so much of the discussion about Twitter happens on Twitter, because if it were a different platform, it would be easier to say that all of these things are true. Twitter is not real life. 3% of the US population is responsible for all American content. Also, that 3% are the people who shape the stories we use to talk about our world. Which is a problem! It’s not controversial to say Facebook can turn your grandparent into a white nationalist anti-vaxer, to say Instagram will make you join a multi-level marketing scheme or give you body dysmorphia, or that YouTube will, uh, also turn you into a white nationalist anti-vaxer. But, somehow, Twitter is the one social platform that is giving its users an objective look at society? It’s not.
Twitter is used by a tiny, disproportionally influential segment of the population and it limits its users’ ability to communicate via character limits and incentivizes dogpiling and brigading by turning any random discussion into trending topics. That’s just what the site is! Want that to change? I’m not sure how you do that. Go on strike? Mass-@ Jack Dorsey in every thread? Sue them for harassment for making you a trending topic? Who knows. But it’s probably time to stop pretending it’s a fun little place you can muse about abstract art on.
Vine star Adam Perkins Died
Last night, Patrick Perkins posted on Instagram that his twin brother, Adam, best known for the truly incredible “hi welcome to Chili’s” Vine died at the age of 24.
“Being a twin is a very central part of my identity. It’s all i’ve known,” Patrick wrote. “I’m struggling to find the words to explain what it will be like for me to live in this world without him. my best friend.”
No cause of death has been reported, but there are tributes to Adam all over social media right now. Kate Lindsay, over at the Embedded newsletter, wrote about the weird kind of bittersweet nostalgia that Vine creators represent. “Vine nostalgia is real, especially given how briefly the platform lasted, but there really was something special about it, both as a precursor of the internet to come and a closing chapter for a generation that can genuinely claim to have gotten famous by accident,” Lindsay wrote.
A Good Tweet
An Internet Rat Turns 15
According to Know Your Meme, this image, of a rat named Neil “banging out the tunes” was first posted to a Tumblr account called lambhoof. Though it’s unclear when, at least before 2014. The blog has since-been deleted, but here’s a reblog you can check out. It has 360,000 notes on Tumblr. April 13 has grown into a “Neil banging out the tunes” annual celebration on Tumblr. Also, for some reason, a lot people spend the day tweeting the rat at internet creator Neil Cicierega. Yesterday’s Neil fest was pretty good. Congrats, Neil! Happy 15, buddy!
The Japanese FaceApp Motorcycle Influencer
This was sent to me by a reader named Cassidy. It made the rounds a few weeks ago, but I totally missed it. @azusagakuyuki is a Japanese Twitter account that purports to be a young woman who loves riding motorcycles. The account has 26,000 followers. Last month, @azusagakuyuki was revealed to actually be a 50-year-old man named Zonggu, who, per the BBC, told the hosts, “No one will read what a normal middle-aged man, taking care of his motorcycle and taking pictures outside, posts on his account.”
So Zonggu started using FaceApp. "First I just tried, then it happened to turn out to be fairly pretty,” he said. “I get as many as 1,000 likes now, though it was usually below 10 before.”
First, let’s clear up one thing here. This man’s hair is amazing. Second, most interestingly of all, Zonggu, even after the big reveal, is still using the FaceApp face in his Twitter posts. And, not only that, users are still talking to @azusagakuyuki as if she was real.
This is obviously a lot, but it’s actually not that different from how VTubers work, which is something that this Dexerto article points out.
But to link this to something even further back, there’s been a lot written over the years about the legacy of lonelygirl15, largely considered one of the first big internet hoaxes, but it could be that, 15 years later, the biggest thing we’ve learned is that if the hoax is good enough, most people don’t really care. We’ve reached a point in both our relationship with technology, as well as our relationship with influencers, where the simulated parasocial relationships we get from other people online are important enough to us that, in many instances, the reality underneath those relationships doesn’t matter as much. This seems to be as true for the men who watch five-hour livestreams of an anime shark girl as it is for the folks complimenting a face-tuned 50-year-old biker.
Brazilian YouTubers Make A Pilgrimage
If you didn’t know, Brazilians really love the sitcom Everybody Hates Chris, or, in Portuguese, Todo Mundo Odeia O Chris. Why? One of the best arguments I’ve read is that it was something of a revelation in Brazil because of its extremely frank conversations about class inequality and race. Also, apparently the show had excellent local voice actors.
So this video, by the YouTuber Patrick Lopes, a Brazilian creator living in New York, is really fun. He went to the house in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, that served as the main exterior for the show. They found the owner of the house and actually interviewed her!
The Bowser Dildo Patreon Battle
AkkoArcade, a Patreon user that specializes in 3D assets for machinima porn, had their Bower dildo pulled down from the site last week following a copyright claim. The user springtime for bukowski dropped this Input Mag article in the Garbage Day Discord this week. Here’s a link to an uncensored pic (NSFW) of the Bowser sex toy.
One user tweeted, “Bowser fucks and it's canon. Now we know how his penis looks like.”
The Curious Case Of VR Dreams
Ok, I have tried to get this in a Garbage Day for WEEKS now, but I kept cutting it for space. But I think this is really cool and I wanted to share it. I’ve used a VR headset twice. Once, when I was working in Tokyo, when I was writing a story about going on a “virtual date” with the vocaloid Hatsune Miku. And one other time when I rode a virtual rollercoaster on the top of the Shard in London. Both cool experiences! But I’ve also learned I’m someone who gets kind of nauseous if I use it too long.
I was trying to find something solid to explain the weird VR dreams thing and I came across this Inverse piece that pointed to a study that found that using VR could unlock your ability to lucid dream. Neat!
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***