Pathologically boring men (and girlbosses)
Read to the end for a real good Twitter exchange
Weird Men On Twitter Tend To Imitate Whoever The Biggest Idiot Is
If you’ve spent any time on Twitter over the last year and a half, there’s probably a good chance you’ve noticed a lot more weird men threading. If you click into the tweet embedded above, you’ll see a bunch of examples of what I’m talking about. The threads might come with a 🧵 emoji and a promise of 10 or 7 or 15 great tips for making a lot of money that any idiot could do from their house. And they’re usually shared by a guy you’ve never heard of before with 65,000-250,000 followers. It’s a curious little culture that appears to be growing bigger on Twitter by the day. These men — they’re almost always men, but there are a few girlbosses out there threading, as well — typically identify as “founders” and, lucky for you, they want to give you the tools and, most importantly of all, the mindset to crush it just like them.
So what’s the deal? Why are these creeps all over Twitter and why are they doing this? Well, I have a theory and it all has to do with how Twitter users over the last ten years have become increasingly reliant on the site’s trending algorithms.
In the late 2000s and early 2010s, Twitter in the US was a fairly small place. You had journalists, a few bored screenwriters and comedians, a couple of humorless cable news anchors, some robotic brands, anonymous weirdos, and a whole bunch of warring bloggers. Around 2010, the idea of “Weird Twitter” started to latch on as a subcultural pocket of users on the site. Most of these users were Something Awful goons who had found each other on a new website and began developing a very specific kind of American internet comedy. Classic @dril tweets would probably be the best example of what I’m talking about — surreal, metatextual, and very much based in the kind of casual roleplaying that people did with more room on message boards.
Weird Twitter, as a self-aware community, died out, but the way key members used Twitter would go on to build the basis for what is now sometimes called the Dirtbag Left. Though, even that has become less monolithic and coherent since Trump left office. If I had to pick a moment when Weird Twitter died, I’d say it started to die in December 2012 when Business Insider wrote an explainer about it and then finally died a few months later when my dear friend Katie Notopoulos doxxed piggy poop balls. Notopolous and journalist John Herrman seemed to acknowledge the moment was over a month later when they wrote Weird Twitter’s oral history.
During the era of Weird Twitter though, a lot of the platform’s biggest power users, especially ones working at digital media companies, started to sort of tweet like Weird Twitter. There was a lot of *puts a roleplay action in asterisks* putting roleplay actions in asterisks. I lot of typso, on purpose,,, A lot of Weird Capitals to emphasize The Real Shit. Basically, for like three years, a lot of people were tweeting like absolute maniacs. And that trend, of Twitter users copying the posting style of the biggest idiots on the platform, has only gotten more popular and, as far as American democracy’s concerned, more disastrous.
Too many pointless, useless, god awful words have been written about Trump’s use of Twitter between 2015 and 2021, so I’m not going to go into all of it again, but the really only important thing is that Trump is a ugly hateful little goblin who loves to post and for six years, a lot of very serious people at the tops of both industry and culture, tweeted like ugly little goblins. And now that Trump is gone, but Elon Musk is here, a bunch of pathologically boring men (and girlbosses) have broken through their LinkedIn containment unit and are using Twitter like the forgotten sidestage of a fintech conference.
But, you might interject here, if Twitter is just full of seemingly professional people who are actually totally unable to admit that they’re completely at the whim of a social platform’s network effect, shouldn’t they be tweeting like Musk? Well, many are. There’s a new CEO or financial brand have some kind of meme-fueled psychic collapse on Twitter every day. We’re easily three months away from some NFT marketplace founder or venture capitalist tweeting about a thread of biohacks he uses for simultaneously impregnating multiple women to help Musk with “the underpopulation crisis”.
If you think back to the Trump era, or even further back to the Weird Twitter era, whenever American Twitter users come across a posting style they acknowledge as cool or interesting, there is usually then a substrata of sad weirdos who simp all day for the users they think are the cool kids, so to speak. And, not only does this happen at a macro level, but it happens within smaller communities too. Go look at the replies to any random tweet posted by Red Scare host and Succession actor Dasha Nekrasova.
Another important dimension to our current Musk era is there’s the illusion of becoming rich via Twitter, whether it’s through insipid hustle threads or through NFTs or meme stocks or just simply connecting with other Twitter users in DM groups. In the same way that between 2015 and 2021, every neo-Nazi, white nationalist, washed up talk radio host, conspiracy theorist, and right-wing lawyer in the country suddenly thought they could tweet their way to an authoritarian ethnostate, so too does every capitalist and “founder” and entrepreneur now think they can post themselves into becoming a billionaire.
Over the last decade, it seems Americans have come to understand Twitter as a monarchistic machine. A main character is installed at the top, its trending algorithms realign towards him, and then thousands of users try and post just like him in order to court his favor by winning the content lottery. And the reward for the winners is a brief chance at making more content for the machine: Airport kiosk books no one will read and cable news appearances that play on muted TV screens across the concourse, all of it to be forgotten when the next unhinged internet warlord comes to power.
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A Tremendous Innovation In Dumpling Technology
According to the machine translation of this tweet, this is from Chongqing, China, and what you’re looking at are cups of xiaolongbao with a straw going down the middle into a cup of soda. I assume it’s so you can eat your dumplings and hold your drink at the same time. Incredible stuff. The original poster found an Amazon listing for a similar-style cup.
Netflix Is Not Looking So Hot
Per Netflix’s second quarter earnings report, its subscriber count has dropped by almost 1.3 million. Now, it’s worth pointing out that it’s not just Netflix that had a bad second quarter. Hollywood is not doing well as an industry. But you do have to wonder how much of Netflix’s current predicament is actually a pretty common one: They think their data is better than it is.
A few weeks ago, on my podcast The Content Mines, my co-host Luke and I went over something we called “the Facebookification of Netflix”. We’ve spent a lot of time digging into the weird backwaters of algorithmic video content on sites like Facebook and YouTube. What we’ve found is at a certain level of optimization for algorithms, the videos going viral start to resemble gibberish nonsense. On Facebook, this means 12-minute videos of pretty women eating out of toilets and on YouTube this means Cambodian content farms creating staged timelapses of “primitive” building techniques. Even on TikTok, there’s an entire underside to the platform where bizarre text-to-speech bots have fake FaceTime calls with sped-up footage from early 2010s action movies. While going over recent Netflix releases, we wondered if the platform was beginning to suffer from the same algorithmic feedback problems, which may be one factor leading to the recent subscriber drop off.
There’s still not a lot that’s been made public about how Netflix commissions content, but Vulture recently published two pieces that painted a picture of the company actually playing a classic viral media rug-pull on its creators: Telling them to make a show or a movie they really care about with a sunny hey-we’re-all-just-experimenting-here mentality only to kick them out the door if it doesn’t help the numbers go up. I’m sure there’s a lot of laid off content creators out there who have had similar meetings staring at equally grim analytics.
So it’s worth asking if the metrics not just Netflix, but all streaming companies seem to be optimizing toward are actually pushing the platforms into weirder and stranger directions than they fully understand.
Snyder Cut Discourse Will Never Die
Rolling Stone has a great piece out this week looking at the inauthentic activity surrounding the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement a few years ago. Rolling Stone wrote that WarnerMedia commissioned two different reports that found that about 13% of the activity on Twitter around the Snyder Cut came from bots. The piece also alleges that Cyborg actor Ray Fisher and Zach Snyder were working together, with Fisher tweeting publicly in ways that lined up with Snyder’s behind-the-scenes studio dealings.
The article has both enraged Snyder Cut guys, many of whom overlap with, but are not 1:1 with gamergaters and Star Wars MRAs, and given what is, I think, a false sense of vindication to anti-Snyder Cut people. It also kicked off a whole bunch of Twitter drama between Fisher and Rolling Stone editor-in-chief Noah Shachtman. (Fisher is wrong and Shachtman is right, by the way.)
The Snyder Cut fans were obnoxious, misogynistic edgelords who harassed everyone else on the internet for three years until they got to see their little superhero movie. And a lot of people are using the Rolling Stone piece to say, “see, everything I don’t like the internet is actually fake!” Which just isn’t true. I’d say the Snyder Cut movement was just as inauthentic as every other movement on Twitter, which have always been some imperceptible combination of obsessive trolls, automated bots, pseudonymous sock puppet accounts, and shameless grifters who understand that all trending content on the app is just another group of people to prey on. In fact, I’d say 13% of the Snyder Cut fans being bots sounds low to me! But also, it doesn’t really matter. A bot army isn’t really doing any of the heavy lifting. Bot can’t be cringy the same way a human can. I mean, I’d actually honestly feel a lot better if a bot could make something like this…
Let’s Check In On England
This was sent to me by my friend Ellie. It is very funny, but I am 99.9% sure it is fake. It was originally posted by a TikToker named @thehalalham, real name Hamad Khan. Khan posts a lot of staged content, so I think it’s safe to say this isn’t genuine. Though I do believe that there are a lot of English men who would do this exact thing.
Oh, speaking of European heatwaves, if you can handle it, I recommend taking a scroll through this objectively terrifying thread.
A Quick Update On Tumblr And GIFs
On Monday, I wrote about how Tumblr users are organizing to keep GIFs as GIFs on the platform, following an announcement on the company’s Changes blog that it was experimenting with displaying GIFs as MP4s to help with loading times. There’s a bit more on this.
Over on Tumblr’s Engineering blog, they wrote about how they’re doing it and why. They also give instructions on how to download the new MP4s as GIFs and also how to make GIFs in a specific way that won’t be converted into MP4s. It’s still a bummer in a general sense, but at least it’s not as immediate and all-encompassing as it originally seemed.
Troubling Implications For Pixar’s Cars
Courtesy of Reddit’s r/FanTheories, the existence of the antagonist Tony Trihull in Cars 2 implies that the Cars universe takes place in a world that had a 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. The character is based on “the USS Independence LCS-2, designed for patrolling Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf,” the original poster wrote. Which “shows that the Cars CIA overthrew the Cars Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed the Cars Shah resulting in a Cars Iranian Revolution and hostility between the Cars US and Islamic Republic of Iran.”
My two favorite responses to this in the comment section were:
“The thing they don’t tell you about having kids is the shit you need to do while watching kids movies over and over to keep sane: such as make new deep lore in your head about the movies”
“Because it's OUR universe, just later.”
I Wish I Was At A Small Farm In The Chinese Countryside Making Artisanal Soy Sauce But Instead I’m Online Posting
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Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a real good Twitter exchange.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***