Selling your filter bubble back to you

Read to the end for a dying Hit Clip

Even The Platforms Want To Be Creators Now

One of the biggest trends online since the start of the pandemic has been the rise of freemium internet platforms. Instagram and Facebook both launched paid verification, YouTube has YouTube Premium, TikTok is testing an ad-free paid version, and we all know about X’s subscription quagmire. Most of this has been blamed on enshittification, an assumedly natural gouging conducted by huge tech monopolies that have simply gotten lazier and want more money. But that explanation has always felt a little simplistic to me. I mean, digital ad spend for platforms like Meta is still very good.

Also, according to every metric I’ve seen, there are more users spending more time online than ever before. So why does it feel like big platforms are both dying and desperate to get people to subscribe as a way to stay afloat?

Well, one explanation I liked quite a bit was recently written by Wall Street Journal columnist Christopher Mims, who argued that social media isn’t dying, but changing into broadcast media. The majority of the content we see on a daily basis is now made or shared by a small professional class of users, known as the creator economy. Which is making everything feel smaller. Meanwhile, the social platforms we’ve been using for almost two decades still haven’t figured out how to evolve to meet this new reality of a user-broadcasted internet versus a user-generated one. And the feed-based sites are suffering most of all. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and the site once-known as Twitter, feel broken and boring because the majority of the content traveling around people’s feeds is coming from the same handful of accounts. This would also explain why Threads or Bluesky can’t seem to recapture the magic of Twitter — there simply aren’t enough users to make it buzz the same way and it’s likely they’re never coming back.

There are apps that are doing well right now, sites like TikTok, OnlyFans, Patreon, YouTube, and Discord, to name a few. But if the overall trend is towards users subscribing to a select few creators directly, rather than millions of users sharing random content with each other, interspersed with ads, then, yeah, every platform is trouble right now.

This is also, I suspect, why OpenAI’s ChatGPT is causing the freakout that is inside of Silicon Valley. Yes, the AI is exciting, but the fact the platform has over 100 million monthly users, over a billion visitors a month, and an estimated two million that are paying to use it, seems like the bigger deal. This is the same desperation that was behind the 2021 crypto craze and why every big tech company is now trying to figure out how to jam AI into their services. And, unlike with crypto, the experiments with implementing AI aren’t vague attempts to get people to buy JPGs of Nikes inside of a VR shopping mall, but, instead, drastic overhauls of existing services. Google and Bing have little AI-generated info cards at the top of most searches. Google’s Bard is getting integrated into Google Docs and Google Home. Apple is promising a big Siri upgrade soon. And, uh, Meta put their AI in a pair of Ray-Bans recently. Sure why not.

So where is this all headed? Well, my big prediction for 2024 is we’re going to see a wave of platforms trying to sell your own filter bubble back to you, automated with an AI.

Last week, I published a story over at Fast Company about OpenAI’s new Custom GPT feature, which basically does exactly that. If you haven’t played around with it yet, it’s fascinating — more fascinating, if you ask me, than all the pointless palace intrigue and blog drama happening inside of the company lately.

Custom GPTs are currently being marketed as OpenAI’s first real foray into apps, but really, they’re just a way to build a repeatable framework for how the ChatGPT chatbot works in a specific way, which you can then share with others. You can go really crazy with the instructions, uploading datasets and connecting third-party API “actions,” but you can also just tell it, in normal old text, what you want it to do and it’ll do it.

And so I was surprised to see a screenshot circulating late last week of a similar-ish feature being tested inside of TikTok. You write a couple sentences in a chat window, telling TikTok what you want to see more of on your For You Page, and it’ll supposedly deliver it. I don’t have this yet, so I can’t test it out, but my assumption is that it involves AI if it’s taking semantic text and translating it into instructions for the app’s algorithm.

Meanwhile, over on, Elon Musk is promising a “Grok analysis” button is coming, which will show, idk, automated slurs underneath posts or something? It’s not really clear, and almost certainly won’t happen the way it’s currently being advertised, and not really important, aside from illustrating that there is a clearly a new trend happening here. Subscription-based AI-hybrid platforms are coming.

What’s ironic about all of this, of course, is that it was the platforms a decade ago that unbundled traffic from publications and created the creators, in the first place, which is an industry now worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Back in 2013, Facebook, in particular, began its slow crush of digital media, forcing newsrooms and studios to pay for traffic, while boosting accounts making native content on their platform. A million layoffs later, everyone has a favorite YouTuber, but no one works for a media company anymore. Except, now the platforms are panicking because the big creators figured out how to do something the platforms never could: get people to pay for content.

Think About Subscribing To Garbage Day!

It’s $5 a month or $45 a year for Discord access and paid issue, or $150 a year for all that, plus some extra stuff. You can hit the green button below to learn more. And, like I wrote above, if you subscribe to me, you might make a sales manager at Meta really uncomfortable.

The Garbage Gadget Guide

Happy Cyber Monday! I’ve always wanted to do a little end-of-year gadget guide, so Garbage Day Researcher Adam Bumas and I put our heads together and came up with 10 things we used this year that made our lives better that involve cords, code, or contraptions. Enjoy!

Ryan’s List

Steam Deck: The only game console I’ve owned since 2017 was a Nintendo Switch and, about a year ago, I started to really feel like I was missing out on Culture by not having anything that can play AAA games on. But I travel a lot and hate playing games on a TV. So the Steam Deck has been perfect for me, though, I wish the PC side of the device was better. Also, I highly recommend buying the Baseus 6-in-1 Docking Station rather than Steam’s official dock, it’s cheaper and works perfectly.

iROBOT Roomba 694: I tried a vacuum robot a few years ago and it wasn’t very good, but they’ve come a long way since then and iRobot’s 694 is fairly inexpensive and, best of all, does exactly what I want it to without a bunch of extra junk.

Black + Decker 6-Cup Rice Cooker: Guys, I’m not sure any gadget has changed my life more drastically than this $20 rice cooker. I love it so much and basically talk about it all the time. Why yes, I am over 30. Why do you ask?

iPad Mini 6: I think my iPad Mini is my favorite device I own? I upgraded it this year to get more storage, but its physical size is perfect. And I genuinely can’t understand why Apple hasn’t made a new Mini since 2021 (rumors are a new one is coming next year).

Davinci Resolve: I’ve written about this before, but I have to plug it again. It’s free. It makes sense. It’s easy to use. It doesn’t take up a huge chunk of your hard drive. I don’t think I can ever go back to Premiere.

Adam’s List

Anker 315 Wireless Charging Pad: I’ve lost multiple phones to the charging port becoming unusable. The last time it happened, I couldn’t budget for a new phone, so I got a wireless charger instead, and now I’m never looking back.

SodaStream Terra: I find literally everything about the process of using the SodaStream enjoyable, except maybe needing to get more gas canisters. The bubbles just don’t get old for me.

Wekity Toothbrush Holder: You just shove the brush into the little alcove and it squeezes toothpaste right on for you. I live with roommates, and so this has completely transformed the entire tooth-brushing experience for all of us.

NY Times Games app: I have the full New York Times subscription, so I get cooking and Wirecutter and so on, but I unequivocally recommend the games app on its own. The Times has published many things this year that I disagree were “fit to print,” but it’s hard to argue with Wordle and Connections.

Belkin USB-C to HDMI cable: I’m one of those people who carries around a bag with stuff for every possible scenario in it, and that’s why it has this, along with a mobile charger and granola bars and so on. Everyone has a TV and a computer, but vanishingly few people can connect the two.

Two Terrible AI Things

This is Anna Indiana, yet another AI pop star experiment. “She” looks and sounds terrible. And her “songs” are like three notes away from triggering a lawsuit from Taylor Swift. Also, isn’t it fascinating how all of these AI influencer projects are always meant to look like young women? Speaking of which…

This “digital creator” named Aitana was created by a Spanish “AI modeling agency” (lol) called The Clueless (also lol). They recently did an interview with Euro News, where they said that Aitana makes around 1,000 euros per branded post. She also has a page where she posts lingerie photos on an OnlyFans competitor. Extremely grim stuff.

Though, the punchline here is that the team behind Aitana created her after they realized that they were losing business because of how flaky and annoying human influencers are to work with. Which, honestly, fair enough.

Oh Wait, Here’s One More Bad AI Thing

Maybe the only good thing about is that now, at least once a week, a Verified guy makes a big long thread excitedly describing something impossibly bleak, seemingly unaware of how awful the thing is that they just described.

And so, over the weekend, a “founder” named Jake Ward wrote a big thread detailing how he downloaded a competitor’s site map, took the titles of their URLs, AI-generated 1,800 articles with those titles, and “stole 3.6 million total traffic” from them.

Unfortunately for Ward, he didn’t blur his site’s name well enough and people figured out what the URL was and are now talking about doing the same thing to him. Whoops!

Alright, Let’s Talk About The Billie Eilish Nikes Girl

The new “random girl on TikTok that proves western civilization is over” is this video which is currently making the rounds on X. Two versions of the video I’ve seen have around 10 million views.

The video was posted to a small account on TikTok back in October that I’m not going to link to. From what I can tell, it was shared by a mom who thought it was kind of a funny thing and her comments are full of deeply unwell people saying she’s a horrible parent???

Anyways, it’s fascinating how after conservative internet users took over Twitter and all the normal people left, they basically now just spend all day scaring each other with random videos of teenage girls. At least 4chan users bust out Photoshop every once in a while and make a new meme or something.

Seth Everman Left The Internet

I was half-convinced this was a bit, but it seems like it’s real. Mega-viral musician Seth Everman, after months of saying he would, has really quit the internet. This weekend, he livestreamed for six hours, saying goodbye to fans and revisiting some of his biggest videos.

Everman, at the end of the stream, explained that he had finally reached a point where he couldn’t take being a fully-time creator anymore. Hey man, I get it!

A Redditor Has A Curious Problem With His Boyfriend

This is exactly what the title describes. A redditor’s boyfriend wants to watch the Avatar sequel every time they hook up and it’s beginning to cause issues. The reason given for watching the movie every time is because the boyfriend says he’s using it as a, uh, timer.

The comments are fairly divided between people suggesting other long movies they could watch together, other people who think this is just bait, and a very vocal contingent who say that OP should check his boyfriend’s internet history because maybe he’s a lot more into Avatar than he’s letting on.

A Good Tumblr Post

Some Stray Links

P.S. here’s a dying Hit Clip.

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

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