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Read to the end for a very good TikTok my friend Katie just sent me about a very important internet video
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The Main Characterification Of Twitter
Last year, a Twitter user named @maplecocaine put a name to a phenomenon that has, over time, become the site’s core feature. Someone does or tweets something, either offensive or inoffensive, and suddenly become the main focus of the site. When this happens, they are typically brigaded by either leftist shitposters or ravenous packs of nazis, depending on where the inciting incident falls on the political compass.
A lot of influential people who I would think would be far too rich and irl important to care about Twitter drama get really hung up on this — “Cancel culture, yada yada, why don’t the poors just accept whatever dehumanizing musings I fart out on the internet, etc.” — and completely miss the secondary effect of the Twitter Main Character. It renders the website completely unusable!
Yesterday, there were three big discussions happening in my timeline that required an embarrassing amount of time to understand. And I’m someone who spends ALL DAY on TweetDeck. There was the bodega tweet, the semi-related fund your lifestyle tweet, and the classic lit list. When I logged on, it felt like all of (American) Twitter was fighting about the definition of a bodega, how New York taxes work, and whether or not Moby Dick was a good book. (It’s also worth pointing out that all of these tweets were written by women and at least one of these women had to make their account private due harassment.)
This ties into something I’m extremely interested in that I like to call “message board rot”. I like looking for signs that social networks are dying or atrophying. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always found it fascinating that one day Myspace was the biggest thing in my social life and then one day it wasn’t. And while working over the years as a community moderator and then as a reporter who covers online communities, I’ve tried to put together a criteria for how you know if a social network is on its last legs. I’m not sure I’ve finished building it out, but I’ll share with you what I have so far:
Power users aggressively dominate discussion on the site.
Public harassment and inter-community elitism has created a culture of indirect communication, where users no longer directly say what they’re actually trying to say.
There is no longer any internal cultural memory.
Users have become so obsessed with the minutiae of the community that the site now functions as a meta discussion of itself instead of whatever its intended purpose was.
Poor or lax moderation has created a sense that nothing on the site is genuine — fake users, fake trending topics, fake threads, fake engagement.
Users, reacting to the inauthentic behavior, public harassment, and elitism that occurs due to bad moderation, create their own self-policed communities within the larger community, which typically only exacerbates these problems and creates warring factions within the site.
This is basically how Twitter has worked since, uh, let’s say December 20, 2013. It’s a dying website. Even if it sometimes grows in users, even if it still drives culture, even if it lasts for another 10 years, without a serious intervention and changes to its core structure, it will only become increasingly difficult to understand what is happening on the site.
And I know that calling Twitter a bad website is not a particularly hot take, but unfortunately some of the most influential people in the world are completely obsessed with Twitter. It’s like Something Awful’s FYAD, but for the world’s media, business leaders, and politicians. This is a lot to hang on three dumb outrage cycles, but also, this is happening all the time every day, in, I imagine, most countries. And it will get worse.
There are a lot of what if’s people like to imagine about Myspace: What if it beat Facebook? What if Myspace figured out music? What if Myspace had pivoted to video? Well, here’s one more what if: What if Myspace, in 2008, with a completely broken communication infrastructure, inundated with spam, scammers, grifters, and violent militia members, didn’t die, but also didn’t fix any of its problem and became the most important website in the world?
Or, put another way:
An Absolute Banger For COVID Vaccine Season
I’m not sure what is says about America as a country right now that remixing completely deranged megachurch pastors telling their parishioners god will protect them from COVID-19 has become a meme, but hey, 2020 is a weird year!
This one is actually insanely good. I came across it thanks to the very good @ChristnNitemare Twitter account. The sermon is from Kenneth Copeland. The less said about him, the better. But the guitar player is Andre Antunes and he’s got a fantastic YouTube channel. Earlier this month he turned the BBQ Beer Freedom guy into a genuinely great hardcore song.
Let’s Talk About The Word “Dystopian”
There’s been, rightfully in my opinion, a growing amount of backlash about the current popularity of the word “dystopian”. I think it’s an easy word to overuse right now because it feels like it sums up this general feeling that, thanks to the ways capitalism is being automated through information technology, everything bad happening in the word is somehow connected. We’ve reached a point where our world is beginning to look the way it does in old science fiction movies. It’s unsettling and so, we slap the “dystopian” label on everything we see.
That label, though, is obscuring some more complicated and important conversations we should be having about politics, race, technology, and access to capital. I also think millennials, in particular, like the dystopian label because it lets us feel somehow separate from this particularly bleak era of late-stage capitalism even though the oldest millennials are turning 40 soon and, as The Cut astutely pointed out last year, the most impactful millennials in the world right now are Jared Kushner, Kim Jong-un, Mark Zuckerberg, Stephen Miller, and Mohammed bin Salman — five men directly contributing to our “dystopia”.
Are Trump supporters wearing Pepe the Frog shirts marching around with assault rifles “dystopian” or is it just another manifestation of a centuries-old form of American political violence? Is Amazon tracking its warehouse workers’ bathroom breaks dystopian or is it just a modern form of the same bull shit hugely unregulated companies have been doing to increase their bottom lines forever? Is this video of a Chinese influencer marketing school “dystopian”…
…or is calling it that, as this Twitter user succinctly put it, just sort of a racist knee-jerk reaction to a random video?
It’s something to think about! Next time you want to call something “dystopian,” see if you can be more specific about why it’s so upsetting. HINT: Usually it’s because insanely wealthy people are using technology to rob you of your personal agency.
Also, back in August, I masked up and went to a Staples near my house. The front aisle was a “back to school” section and all it had in it was ring lights, smartphone tripods, and webcams. So I’m not totally sure whatever’s going on in the video above is a uniquely Chinese “dystopia”.
Tumblr Users Have Come Up With Their Own Name For Baby Yoda
Back in September, a Tumblr user named gomjabbar made a real good post about Star Wars:
The post started picking up steam over the weekend when it was revealed that Baby Yoda’s real name was Grogu. Well, now there’s posts all over Tumblr about how Baby Yoda’s name is actually Glup Shitto.
So, there you go! Now you know why a bunch of teenagers on Twitter have changed their usernames to “Glup Shitto”.
COVID-19 Disney TikTok Is A Thing
Hoo boy. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about this, but TikTok users are documenting their pandemic trips to Disney theme parks. And they aren’t happy that COVID has made their trips very unfun! The original video has been deleted, but it was posted by TikTok user @boy_mama6. Three days ago, she made a response video talking about internet haters. So clearly, her video wasn’t well-received.
Her videos led me to Tiktok’s #DisneyParks hashtag, which is a real trip. I’ve never been to a Disney theme park before, so I really can’t imagine braving a pandemic to go to one, but it seems like some people really like going to these places!
The Invisible Hand Of The Market Has Decided Biden Won The Election
I came across a post about this on the r/schadenfreude subreddit. If you look up Trump merch on Amazon right now, a ton of it is hugely discounted. I’ll confess this hadn’t occurred to me.
It’s been interesting to see how different online platforms have handled Trump’s ongoing refusal to accept the results of the election. On Monday, I wrote about the futures trading marketplace PredictIt has kept betting open for the election, which has caused a significant amount of chaos for the site’s users.
Amazon, and the entire economy it supports of eStores meme-ufacturing whatever’s going viral at the moment, seems to have made its own decision. It’s a MAGA world liquidation sale and the algorithms are very excited to show you the best deals on 20%-off Trump flags.
Good Crab Tweet
Good Astrology Tweet
And Finally, Children’s Letters To Santa
I saw screenshots of these going around Twitter this week.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I had hopes that maybe COVID-19 might actually help Americans realize exactly how bad things have gotten in our country. I naively assumed we would exit this crisis with a new sympathy for each other. A year of shared hardships might change the darkening character of the country. We could begin seriously talking about things like student debt forgiveness, universal healthcare, and a livable minimum wage.
I don’t think that’s going to happen now. I actually fear that the US will actually come out the other side of this meaner and more selfish. And reading about our new reality through the words of children is especially crushing. You can check out the full gallery here. I’ll be honest, it’s not an easy read. But I think it’s important.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***