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No one is actually boiling chicken in NyQuil
Read to the end for a good tweet about lab rat Twitter
The NyQuil Chicken Is Back
I know it’s back because my former podcast co-host Katie and I always get tweets about it when it comes back around. The FDA this week put out a consumer update titled, “A Recipe for Danger: Social Media Challenges Involving Medicines” lol. The bulk of the update is a warning about TikTok users teaching each other how to robotrip, but there’s a whole section in the post about cooking a chicken by boiling it in cough medicine. “A recent social media video challenge encourages people to cook chicken in NyQuil (acetaminophen, dextromethorphan, and doxylamine) or another similar OTC cough and cold medication, presumably to eat,” the FDA wrote. “The challenge sounds silly and unappetizing — and it is. But it could also be very unsafe.”
So not only has NyQuil chicken been on a TikTok for a while — it first started trending on the app last winter — it’s been on the internet for even longer. It was “invented” on 4chan’s cooking board back in 2017, where it was called “sleepytime chicken”. People always forget that the original version includes whiskey. It’s supposed to make you sleepy! Also, if you click through on that link to the whole Imgur album, the 4chan user then takes the sleepytime chicken, wraps it in a tortilla, covers it in cheese, more cough medicine, and finishes it off with a dollop of sour cream.
If you’ll allow me to zoom out a bit and get slightly academic, I do think the lifecycle of sleepytime chicken tells an interesting story about how we use the internet in 2022 versus how we used it even five years ago.
The original context for sleepytime chicken is kind of part of the joke. 4chan isn’t one single message board, but many. There’s a board for politics (/pol/), a board for video games (/v/), a still very active LGBT board (/lgbt/), and, you may be surprised to know, a cooking board (/ck/). The meta joke of /ck/ is basically, “what if 4chan users treated food the way they treat everything else.” Last year, I interviewed DinoTendies, one of the community’s most famous “chefs,” who described cooking on 4chan as a “ weird art project”. So basically, in the context of /ck/, sleepytime chicken makes total sense. It’s exactly the kind of thing a deeply unwell 4chan power user would make. And, as far as I know, no one else on 4chan attempted to make it because that wouldn’t be funny. It’s much funnier to have a mental breakdown over someone else making it.
One of the interesting things about the way 4chan “works” is that, opposite to mainstream platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok, if something is archived it typically doesn’t become a trend. Because 4chan posts vanish, or “404,” after a period of time, there’s a big incentive to self-document and iterate. If you see something on 4chan and think it’s funny, but no one archives it in time, you have to remake it if you want to post it. That’s the driving impulse behind 4chan’s “race to the bottom” culture that, you know, became the backbone of the American conservative movement for a while. So, to take it back to sleepytime chicken, because someone archived the whole thread, it became kind of a legendary moment on the site and no one ever needed to do it again. All of this works very differently on a site like TikTok.
The initial “NyQuil chicken” trend on TikTok back in January was kicked off by a user named @systemofaclown69 (lol), who now has a private account. But if you currently search “NyQuil chicken” on TikTok you get a lot of users dueting with a video posted by a K-Pop troll account called @letmeusejinn, who seems to have been briefly banned because of it. From what I can tell, @letmeusejinn’s video is not the same video that @systemofaclown69 posted in January.
And the users dueting or reacting to @letmeusejinn’s video are all, incorrectly, claiming this is some kind of big trend, many using the FDA warning as proof. I even came across one woman who was telling her followers that people were dying because of this. There are no reports that this is a massive trend, nor are there reports that anyone died.
Obviously, all of this is just extremely funny. Someone at the FDA had to learn about sleepytime chicken. That’s amazing. But I also think it’s sort of an instructive illustration about how different social platforms incentivize behavior. On 4chan, sleepytime chicken is a funny story about a weird thing a weird guy did once. On TikTok, it has become a moral panic two separate times in the same year, eventually prompting the FDA to step in. Obviously, part of this has to do with scale. 4chan is just a much smaller, and far less active platform, but also, it’s a site that isn’t easy to search, doesn’t have hashtags or a sharing functionality and barely works on mobile. Meanwhile, TikTok is laser-focused on turning any outrageous thing into a trending challenge or conversation topic, prompting its users to participate or react to it in semi-real-time. idk man, say what you will about 4chan — its users are, at best, unhinged, and at worst, violent lunatics — but even they haven’t attempted to make sleepytime chicken again for internet clout.
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“Is this about how to do evil shit?” Hell no!
“OK, so it’s a critique of gamification by someone who doesn’t get tech?” Also no.
“So what is it?!?” It’s a critique of gamification, sure – but by an actual game designer and games journalist. And it goes far beyond the usual suspects like Fitbit and Duolingo to look at the historical roots of gamification. Foucault, (Lewis) Mumford, Skinner, medieval indulgences, Taylorism, ARGs – this book has it all!
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Twitch Drama, Explained
I sympathize with anyone that can’t follow what’s going on on Twitch. I really do. It’s a massive community, but still sort of niche. And not only is there not much internal discovery on the platform, it’s also difficult to follow who’s saying what and when and about who. It also doesn’t help that a lot of famous streamers have names that look like CAPTCHAs. In fact, even I was sort of confused about all the drama happening on the platform at the moment.
Right now, streamer xQc, real name Félix Lengyel, is fighting with fellow streamer Hasan Piker. Lengyel got mad on a recent stream because Piker criticized him for dropping out of an event called Shitcamp, which is sort like a big streamer meetup organized by QTCinderella, real name Blaire. Piker is mad that Lengyel dropped out at the last minute. Lengyel is mad at Piker because he said he had a legitimate reason for dropping out, though he hasn’t said what it is yet. OK, so that’s one thing that’s happening.
At the same time, Twitch announced this week that it would be prohibiting gambling streams starting next month. Lengyel was one of the bigger streamers who had done a gambling stream on the site and the gambling “meta,” as it’s called, or genre of Twitch stream, as a whole, was criticized by other streamers like Piker and Pokimane, real name Imane Anys. (These stories aren’t linked best I can tell.) Piker tweeted yesterday about the move to ban gambling sites from Twitch, writing, “W,” which means “win”.
And, finally, Twitch also announced this week that starting in June of next year, they’re axing a 70/30 revenue split that was available for certain creators on the platform. Which is not being received particularly well. Alright, you should be all caught up now!
DALL-E 2 Can Do Faces Now
If you weren’t aware, DALL-E 2, one of the two biggest A.I. art tools did not render faces for the most part. The app withheld the ability to generate faces to prevent people from unethically using the tool to make deepfakes or other convincing photo manipulations. Well, now you can put your own face in there and send yourself to the moon. The platform’s terms of service still says you aren’t allowed to upload people’s photos to the tool without their consent, which I’m sure everyone on the internet will definitely follow.
The fact that DALL-E 2 can do faces now is also interesting considering D-ID, an Israeli A.I. company is launching a service called Creative Reality Studio, which uses A.I. to turn still photos into moving videos. The test videos I’ve seen are a little blocky, but I suppose decent enough for marketing or customer service purposes.
Here’s my broad top-level analysis on all three of these things: A.I. is moving insanely fast. Marketplaces, businesses, copyrights, our basic understandings of ethics are going to be bent into pretzels by this technology almost immediately and I think the overarching rule we can kind of count on during this early chaotic era of A.I. content is actually fairly simple: This stuff doesn’t have to be perfect or sophisticated to catch on.
Catholic Indulgences Are So Vibes
In Monday’s Garbage Day, I linked to this piece from The Point magazine, and said it was the pretty much the only piece you really need to read to understand the weird fashy reactionary art and fashion scene bubbling up in lower Manhattan at the moment, i.e. “Dimes Square”. If you had read the piece then you’d perfectly understand what’s happening in the tweet above. If not, here’s a quick rundown.
Users in certain pockets of Instagram and TikTok are having a moment right now where they’re treating pre-Vatican II Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity as an “aesthetic” for their digital content. I understand this is kind of a brain-melter, but I assume this extremely arch micro-trend will die out the minute its biggest proponents stop receiving Republican dark money.
Anyways, the funny thing here is that the Instagram user in the screenshots above is selling “Catholic confession readings” for $5. If you’re not in the Catholic fandom, you may have missed this drama, but back in the late 1000s, people would buy indulgences, so they could get into heaven. Mods eventually got in a big fight about it, and Pope Pius V ended the whole thing in the 1500s. So it’s interesting to see it pop back up on Instagram now! Also, a quick observation: It really does seem like, given enough time, all social media trends eventually just resemble astrology, even Catholicism, apparently.
There’s A Subreddit That Parodies How Dumb The Boys Subreddit Is
Back in June, I tweeted about how the subreddit for the Amazon show The Boys was completely in love with the violent fascist Superman character from the series, Homelander. My tweet went way too viral, the showruners eventually addressed it in interviews, and my mentions have not known peace ever since. Anyways, what I discovered recently is that there’s now a whole subreddit for talking about how dumb The Boys subreddit is. It’s called r/OkBuddyFresca and it’s hilarious.
A Guy Made Minecraft In Minecraft
I’ve watched a bunch of these videos. As someone who doesn’t have any interest in devoting time or energy to learning how to play, I do definitely appreciate watching other people do it. Back in 2017, a player built a literal Gameboy that could play Pokémon, but this is on a whole other level. Now, it’s not a perfect simulation of Minecraft inside of Minecraft, but it’s definitely close enough to be seriously impressive.
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a good tweet about lab rat Twitter.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***