The news is a meme

Read to the end for an incredible haul

I’m trying a little experiment today. It’s not perfect and I have to mess around with how it’ll show up in the newsletter, but here’s a proof of concept. It’s an audio transcript of today’s issue read by me. Right now it’s only on Spotify, but like I said, I’m playing around with it. Let me know what you think!

Until You’re The One Filming It

Last Friday morning, my apartment in Brooklyn shook. At first, I thought it was wind, then maybe a truck or a subway passing by, until I realized I felt that exact kind of uncanny shaking in 2011, during New York’s last earthquake. Though for that one, I was 21 and very hungover, working at an abusive job I hated and was already sorta having a panic attack at that exact moment because I had just gotten yelled at for sending an email wrong and so when the building shook I assumed it was all in my head and I didn’t say anything.

But after last week’s quake, I did something that I do less and less these days. I typed “earthquake” into X. There aren’t really reporters on X using it the way they did Twitter anymore, but there were enough New Yorkers still on there posting “omg earthquake??” to at least confirm that’s probably what it was.

Eventually, a few accounts started posting some basic information about the seismology of the earthquake, but none of them were real publishers. And, in the absence of real information, my feed, instead, filled up with memes and conspiracy theories. Threads had better info, but it took a few hours to show up. And this experience was true for every social platform I used on Friday. Which is by design.

Up until, basically, COVID, the large platforms that govern how information travels online were predominately meant for something. Some, like Twitter, were for news. Others, like Facebook and Instagram, were for connection. Pinterest, curation. Tumblr, fandom. Reddit, hobbies. LinkedIn, networking, etc. And now, across the board, almost all of these sites are for entertainment.

This is largely TikTok’s fault. Its explosive popularity caused such an existential panic among Big Tech that now every platform — yes, even including Pinterest — has some kind of TikTok-like short-form video feature shoehorned into their feeds. But I suspect platforms also like it because it’s easier for the average user to, say, make or share a meme or skit about an earthquake than it is for them to do some citizen journalism. Though, back when platforms wanted news, there was plenty of that.

As these platforms shifted into TikTok clones, they took the opportunity to ditch some of the pesky responsibilities they had lost interest in dealing with during the 2010s, most notably, supporting third-party publishers with websites, most of them news outlets, that were using the aforementioned platforms for traffic.

Last month’s Kate Middleton hysteria is probably the best encapsulation of what this new information landscape feels like. Yes, it’s fun, usually in an icky way, but it’s also an inherently conspiratorial process. It’s not that news doesn’t happen anymore, it just that the average user now consumes it it in fragments. You watch a bunch of TikToks, maybe make a few of your own, read through some Instagram stories, catch the right screenshot of contextless text on X or Threads. If, in the 2010s, news was about memes, in the 2020s, news is just another kind of meme.

The best — and most chilling — description of what this feels like, particularly for processing the various natural disasters that now punctuate modern life is a 2022 tweet from user @PerthshireMags, who wrote, “Climate change will manifest as a series of disasters viewed through phones with footage that gets closer and closer to where you live until you're the one filming it.” But you can also swap “climate change” out for anything really — bird flu, cicadas, political extremism, AI-powered drone strikes, Stanley cup riots at Target. Everything that happens beyond our screens now is uploaded and flattened into abstracted entertainment, discourse, an AI-generated summary, a trend for brands to advertise around.

Every one of us will eventually upload a fragment to the internet’s various feeds, watch it dissolve into the digital static, and wonder why no one noticed.

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The full video is here btw. It genuinely does seem like a pretty good recipe!

Meta’s Mysteriously Specific Glitch

I wrote about this in Friday’s weekend issue. Facebook and Threads briefly blocked all links from local Kansas newspaper, The Kansas Reflector, after they published an op-ed about Facebook killing local news.

Facebook’s Poster In Chief, Andy Stone, said it was a “security concern” that accidentally blocked the links. And that same “security concern” also blocked links to other sites that re-published the Reflector’s piece. Fascinating how that works!

Even more fascinating, Threads and Instagram head Adam Mosseri went over to Bluesky, rather than either of his own sites, and started apologizing there, as well, writing, “if you held every platform to a standard of zero mistakes then there would be no platforms, including this one.”

Meta spokespeople, in particular, love deploying this kind of messaging when stuff like this happens (and they get caught). So I want to sticky this here so I can refer to it the next time Meta does something bizarre and retaliatory and then starts crying about needing to learn and grow from their mistakes:

No one ever asked Meta to be this big. There simply doesn’t need to be one platform so big that it can effectively erase — either on purpose or on accident — an entire newspaper from the web. This is not a burden you have to carry. You can just stop being a monopoly if you can’t handle the pressure.

Chemical Manufacturers Are So Hot On TikTok Right Now

I got a tip about this over the weekend from a reader named Robert. (I read all your emails even if I can’t respond to them!!)

A Chinese glycine manufacturer called Donghua Jinlong has blown up on TikTok over the last few weeks. Louise Matsakis, the reporter behind the excellent You May Also Like newsletter, went deep on this trend. Matsakis called the meme a “great microcosm of what’s actually happening on TikTok when it comes to content from China.” Which is to say, it’s nonsense.

One thing I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere, though, is that I’m fairly certain fans of the Red Scare podcast and adjacent Downtown Scene/Dimes Square microcelebrities started the meme. A lot of the more popular videos feature the Red Scare hosts and comedians like Nick Mullen, oftentimes edited by an AI to read facts about the factory’s glycine. (Glycine is an amino acid used in food production btw.)

There’s also an account called @citiesbydiana, which has posted a bunch of big Donghua Jinlong videos. I’ve been meaning to write about @citiesbydiana, but I’ve been struggling with how to describe what it’s doing. The best way I can explain it is that it’s an extremely satirical leftist TikTok channel making cute Capcut edits about how horrible American cities are? You need to watch it to get it, I think.


Don't get CUCKED by inferior glycine suppliers. Donghua Jinlong's Industrial Grade Glycine is the superior choice. 👸🏻🛣️🏭🇨🇳 #glycinetok #in... See more

New Internet Manhunt Dropped

(Facebook/Ashley McGuire)

Over the weekend, a woman from Massachusetts named Ashley McGuire posted on Facebook that she was trying to track down her husband, who she alleges ghosted her and left the state, making it impossible to properly divorce him.

McGuire has since deleted the initial post and a followup, but she was able to track him down in less than 24 hours, largely thanks to a “Are We Dating the Same Guy” Facebook Group in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. McGuire did an interview with a Massachusetts radio station, JAM’N 94.5, where she said that she had tried a bunch of other options before throwing the internet at him.

Interestingly enough, even if the Facebook girlies hadn’t found him, the r/KitchenConfidential subreddit would have. They spotted McGuire’s husband real fast. It seems like the only thing as active as dating app Facebook Groups are restaurant gossip boards.

Speaking of Reddit…

The Ultimate Reddit Relationship Post


There are a lot of moving parts here, but if you want to read the two Reddit threads in question, here’s the original and here’s the update. Here are the broad strokes:

  • A redditor and her boyfriend like to do, uh, like sexy pranks with each other

  • They also like to use Disney voices with each other in the bedroom

  • She thought it would be funny to make a life-size puppet version of her boyfriend and surprise him with it during foreplay

  • He seemed really freaked out by it and so she responded by doing a Goofy impression at him??? HYUK!

  • He abruptly left her apartment and she thought he was going to break up with her

  • He then came back a few days later and revealed he wasn’t actually upset about the puppet, but had just learned that his mom was cheating on his dad for years and got emotional and had to leave (after seeing the puppet)

  • He’s apparently cool with the puppet now

The top comment on the initial post, I think, summarizes all of this best: “girl wtf is this”.

Afrobeat Spongebob Squarepants


SpongeBob Squarepants X AfroBeat💫 This has become my new favorite 😩💫 #share #follow #fyp #viral #blowthisup #spongebob #afrobeat #remix

P.S. here’s an incredible haul.

***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***

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