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Sisyphus Got That Dawg In Him
Read to the end for an extremely good game show segment
Tracking The Curious Path Of The Sisyphus Meme
The assumption has always been that TikTok is a competitor to YouTube or Instagram, but as the platform has matured, it actually now feels like it’s really a replacement for Twitter. Both platforms incentivize short bursts of content and offer little to no benefit for being popular. In fact, virality on Twitter and TikTok are more a burden than anything. Also, neither app really drives any traffic to other parts of the web. I’ve come to think of Twitter as the Facebook to TikTok’s Instagram — a portal for older users to gawk at what younger users on a different platform are doing. And this relationship has only grown since Twitter launched its very similar (but much worse) For You algorithm.
But TikTok hasn’t, and possibly can’t, fully replaced Twitter. So, at the moment, they’ve settled on a — very toxic — sort of symbiosis. Giving internet culture as a whole, a weirdly disjointed and fractured flow to it. And this week’s Sisyphus discourse is a really good example of how this currently works.
Four days ago, a TikTok user with 36,000 followers named @awakenatlas posted a video about how she thinks the myth of Sisyphus is actually a good story about a guy getting stronger pushing the boulder up the hill every day and that Sisyphus probably liked pushing the boulder. It’s a dumb idea, but whatever. The video was watched a little under 200,000 times. Which is not that much for TikTok.
Then on Tuesday, a Twitter user named @seungylee14 tweeted, “gm to the tiktok lady who said the myth of Sisyphus is about the value of having a good daily routine and that Sisyphus is happy because he is getting more swole every time he pushes the boulder up. My brain gets hot like an old laptop thinking about it.” The tweet got around 8,000 retweets and a user named @Money__Doug quote-tweeted it with a copy of @awakenatlas’s video, which was then retweeted 2,700 times and viewed 5.8 million times (if you believe Twitter’s views metric). And from there, it became a meme.
@awakenatlas made a couple videos responding to the mass ridicule she was getting on TikTok and they’re interesting. One point she makes, which she is right about, is that even though the overwhelming reaction to her video on Twitter was that she was a capitalist shill who “girlbossed” Sisyphus, she never mentions capitalism or working or anything of the sort in her original video. Her whole point, which, once again, was wrong, is that she thought Sisypus was an uplifting metaphor for achieving enlightenment through daily routine. In fact, if you watch her other videos, it’s pretty clear that she’s kind of a hippy. She does tarot readings using Magic The Gathering and Pokémon cards, which is pretty fun actually.
What’s super interesting though is how Twitter’s algorithm started aggressively promoting Sisyphus content. To the point where users were literally asking each other what was going on. Which makes me think that we’ve reached a point where you basically need to be consuming both Twitter and TikTok simultaneously to really understand what people are talking about on the internet, at least, in America. Which, I’m going to guess, less and less people will care about the further this goes on.
But at the moment, we still expect a sort of coherent rhythm to what goes viral. We expect a piece of content to be seen and talked about a lot because it’s somehow notable or interesting. But it’s getting more random and meaningless which in the short-term is pretty fun, but it makes me wonder if long-term our idea of “internet culture” starts to devolve into static. A sort of chum box effect happening to social chatter.
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Reject Modernity, Embrace Tradition
A.I. Seinfeld Is The Future Of Everything
If you haven’t watched the Seinfeld A.I. Twitch stream yet, please go do that. The channel is called watchmeforever and it was created by Mismatch Media, an experimental media lab. It’s probably the coolest use of Twitch I’ve seen since Twitch Plays Pokémon. Everything on the stream is controlled by A.I., with a lot of it coming from OpenAI's GPT-3. I watched it for a while this morning and the A.I. Jerry actually told a pretty good joke. “What do you call a fish with no eyes? FSH” lol.
The Real Winner Of The Crypto Boom
I’m of two minds about the relationship between crypto and A.I. On one hand, they really have nothing to do with each other, but, on the other, they feel inexorably linked. And not just because the same losers are obsessed with using both to make passive income.
Columnist Brian Merchant touched on this fuzzy connection between the two technologies this week, writing, “it really is remarkable, and remarkably telling, just how quickly and completely A.I. language and image generation wiped web3 out of the cultural consciousness.”
The simple reason why is that A.I. technology has a utility and is convenient and, while it has its own universe of issues and problems, it seems to actually work. Whereas the most user friendly crypto wallet I ever used, Metamask, was such a pain in the ass that I couldn’t imagine ever using it on a daily basis in any meaningful way.
But also hardcore crypto evangelists dreamed of creating a brand new internet run on a brand new financial system. And it turns out people don’t want that. In fact, the current A.I. explosion, to me, proves the opposite is true. They want more of our current internet. They want it to talk back and to do things for them.
But I think the funniest thing about the move from crypto to A.I. is that after all the billions of dollars sunk into Web3, the only real lasting legacy of that entire movement is probably just the mainstream acceptance of the messaging app Discord. It’s very possible that the use of Discord for organizing and communicating is the only thing from the Web3 boom that will really last in a meaningful way.
New Unwell Reddit Man Dropped
A Reddit user named u/Substantial_Wheel999 posted the same post to two different subreddits, looking advice after a recent fight with his wife. He deleted one of the posts, but you can read another version here. The TL;DR is that he’s a big fan of flight simulators, has never actually flown a plane, and owns a fast food restaurant, but got angry when his wife didn’t introduce him as a “pilot” at a party.
The post went viral on Twitter, where a lot of users were hoping that this was some kind of elaborate troll, but seeing as how he literally went and asked an aviation subreddit about it, it seems like it’s real.
Anyways, the top response was a user who wrote, “If devoting thousands of hours to a hobby makes you a thing, then I'm a pornstar.”
An A.I. Answers Tolkien’s Biggest Mystery
Andrew White, the vice president of A.I. at a startup called Vial, put all of the Lord Of The Rings books into an A.I. model and asked if it there’s any evidence that the inhabitants of Middle Earth poop. I was not aware that this was a debate! You should click through and read the whole thread because it’s actually pretty fascinating, but the A.I. did not find any proof that Middle Earthers poop. In case you were wondering.
Here Comes The Tumblr Sexywoman Bracket
Move over Tumblr Sexymen, here comes the sexywomen. The bracket is being organized by Tumblr user lutzlig. You can view the tag for it here. It’s down to the final four and a lot of people want Vriska to win, which is apparently some kind of Homestuck thing. I personally think Bayonetta should win.
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s an extremely good game show segment.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***