The power of an Instagram Story

Read to the end for an important reminder about that weird pro-natalist couple

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“All Eyes On Rafah”


Chances are you’ve already seen the “All Eyes On Rafah” image. Per NBC News, it’s been shared close to 40 million times on Instagram in the last day. It’s even been posted by a handful of celebrities. It is arguably one of the most viral pieces of AI-generated content created so far. Up there now with Balenciaga Harry Potter, the fake Pope, and “BBL Drizzy”.

But the “All Eyes On Rafah” image has also been called “disingenuous,” “privileged,” and another user went even further, writing, “An AI image being the one people feel most comfortable sharing is so telling of how disconnected we have become from our humanity…” It also kicked off a 24-hour debate in my own Discord (which was a good discussion tbh).

I thought UK podcaster Hussein Kesvani, though, did the best job of actually articulating what the discomfort is that many are feeling here. “I would actually like to try and understand why an AI-generated post seems to have been more effective than any of the actual horrific imagery of bodies and debris, of which has been more than abundant,” he wrote.

And while there isn’t a single answer to Kesvani’s question, I do think we can answer it. First, let’s talk about user-generated activism.

The criticisms currently being levied against “All Eyes On Rafah” are not new, nor are they AI-specific. Every few years, someone, somewhere, comes up with a new way to politically engage other users with a new platform or a new technology and everyone who was doing things the old way acts like the sky is falling. And it doesn’t matter what those politics are. Guy Fawkes masks, Occupy Tumblrs, Twitter hashtags, sexuality-specific pride flags, Facebook profile picture changes, Pepe the Frog memes, bystander-recorded videos of police violence, “Black Lives Matter,” “defund the police,” anti-trans TikTok curation — “Real” activists or the existing political establishment shriek that it’s dangerous, or unethical, or missing context, or nuance. And, sure, it usually is. But the fact that there are people on TikTok, of all places, complaining that “All Eyes On Rafah” is a performative and shallow trend is, if anything, very funny proof at how quickly we tend to forget about all of this.

And that leads us to the platform dynamics at play here. Right now, X is the only social platform that isn’t actively suppressing uncensored content from Gaza. And, unfortunately, no one really uses X anymore. Everywhere else, there are either graphic content warnings or algorithmic limiters placed on any posts about the conflict. Instagram does have AI-generated content warnings, but the platform does not seem to be enforcing them as aggressively on Story content, which is primarily how this thing is spreading.

According to Mashable, the original “All Eyes On Rafah” image was posted by an Instagram user named shahv4012. Based on what I can tell from their account, they’re a young photographer based in Malaysia, who has been keeping a running Instagram Story full of pro-Palestine resources. Shahv4012’s story is a mix of AI-generated images, cartoons, memes, screenshots of tweets, and Malaysian-language summaries of developments in Gaza.

His story doesn’t have the AI-generated content warning, nor are there any graphic content warnings. And all of the slides are tagged with the platform’s “Add Yours” sticker, allowing users to quickly add the story’s slides to their own.

So if you’re desperate for a super concise explanation as to how this random Malaysian user ended up creating the Post Of The Moment, it’s because they basically managed to do the impossible. They generated a pro-Palestine solidarity image vague and abstract enough to bypass both censors and filters on one of the biggest remaining social networks that real people still use.

Garbage Day Is Going To San Francisco

Wahoooooooo!!!!! I am so excited to announce Garbage Day’s first-ever West Coast event. It’s at the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco on July 12th. I also need to pause here for just a sec and say that the poster from artist Gabby Kash is so great.

The show will also feature some very exciting guests 👀 You’ll be able to pick up tickets for the show here on Friday! (I’ll remind you lol.)

Think About Supporting Garbage Day!

It’s $5 a month or $45 a year and you get Discord access, the coveted weekend issue, and monthly trend reports. What a bargain! Hit the button below to find out more.

There’s also a new referral program, which is a great way to get Garbage Day for free in exchange for sharing it with your friends. Click here to check it out.

Some Fiery Juggler Discourse


Replying to @jim it's not on a string. #its #not #on #a #string #mister

More Publishers Are Pivoting To AI

Both The Atlantic and Vox announced this week that they’ve signed licensing deals with OpenAI. An official statement from Vox described the deal as an agreement that “recognizes the value of our work and intellectual property, while opening it up to new audiences and better informing the public.”

Meanwhile, The Washington Post has launched some weird AI summary widget at the top of their articles. Ah, yes, instead of reading a story that was, at least, in theory, written to be read and enjoyed by human beings, wouldn’t it be much easier to click on a link that takes you to paywalled story, pay the money to access it, and then click on a button called “summarize” to read three bullet points a machine generated for you?

Look, we all know this is a dead end. It’s so obvious that this is going to be disastrous mess that we don’t even need to waste the space arguing it. Plus, according to a study released by The Reuters Institute this week, most people are only use generative-AI services about once or twice a month. Only about 7% of American responders said that they’re using ChatGPT on a daily basis. So publishers can’t even make the argument that they’re “meeting readers where they are,” like they did with Facebook 15 years ago.

But even funnier, as Big Technology’s Alex Kantrowitz noticed, according to Vox’s press release about the partnership, ChatGPT’s growth has possibly been completely flat for almost a year and a half. Speaking of flat…

Streaming Platforms Are Still Very Small

Nielsen put out some really fascinating data on the streaming landscape this month. Some of it just reinforces what we already knew, like how YouTube is far and away the most popular streaming platform Americans use on their televisions. But there are a few deeper insights here that I found really surprising.

First, the amount of time Americans spend watching streaming platforms has remained relatively flat for almost a year. And it’s only just barely more popular than cable. As of last month, viewers spent around 38% of their time watching streaming platforms, 29% watching cable, and 22% watching broadcast. If you were to group cable and broadcast into one “linear TV” category, it is still much bigger than streaming. Which is wild.

The second surprise for me is how unpopular streaming services are once you actually dig into their individual usage. YouTube is the most popular, accounting for just under 10% of a viewer’s watch time. Behind that is Netflix at around 7%. And then there’s… everything else. And even these numbers have been largely flat for a year.

I think I’m inclined to agree with the aptly-named TV Grim Reaper, who wrote on X, “What a cash incinerating failure.”

Social Media Reruns

Every few weeks, there’s a post that completely dominates my X feed asking other users what their favorite old post was. The most recent example of this is embedded above from user @wangleberry. But there was another post like this posted literally the day before it. And another one a few days before that.

They happen all the time and I’ve started to think of them as “social media reruns”. And what’s interesting is that this sort of user behavior really only happens on X and Tumblr — and, in fact, screenshots of Tumblr posts tend to show up on X when people post this sort of thing.

I think this happens for two reasons. The first, and most obvious, is that there is a sense that the peak moment of the social network has passed. And the second reason is that there is simply more old content on the platform than there is new content.

That said, X might still have just a little bit of juice left in it seeing as how it just launched a brand new main character this week.

The Mount Fuji Lawson Has Become A Content Battleground

If you haven’t been following this, there is a Japanese convenience store chain called Lawson that has a location with a really good view of Mount Fuji. (I think 7-Eleven and FamilyMart are superior to Lawson, don’t @ me.)

The yen is really weak right now, so tourists are flocking to Japan and causing all kinds of issues. Cities like Kyoto are full of awful Americans chasing down citizens in traditional Japanese dress for photos. Subways in Tokyo are full of noisy, drunk gaijin. And the Mount Fuji Lawson has had to both hire security guards and put up a blackout curtain to stop tourists from acting deranged. Except, tourists are starting to cut holes in the curtain to get their coveted Instagram photos of the convenience store.

A Good Post

Did you know Garbage Day has a merch store?

I’ll be adding new items to the store soon and if you’re paying subscriber, you should have a discount code somewhere in your inbox. You can check out the store here!

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

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