The Medici Family of Social Media
Read to the end for a good Furby video
Exciting news! I’m finally throwing a proper Garbage Day meetup. It’s in Brooklyn at a bar called Logan’s Run. It’ll be very chill. It’s on April 21st (the day AFTER 420) and I’ll be there from 7pm on. Mark your calendars!! Come through and say hi!!! More details on this (and maybe a better flyer lol) coming soon!!!
Will Smith’s Big Project
A few years ago, I got sort of invested in Casey Neistat building his 368 YouTube creator studio/office space — it combined my love of thinking abstractly about internet content and home renovation. Neistat’s 368 would eventually fizzle, but during that era, he made a lot of interesting tour videos. And in one of them, published in June 2018, Will Smith pops up. At the time, I remember thinking it was kind of random: “Will Smith? On the internet? Weird!” In the video, Smith says something that I found profoundly fascinating and basically have had pocketed away for years. And I feel like this week is a good week to finally talk about it.
About five minutes in, Smith outlines a years-long project he’s been working on. Neistat thinks that he’s describing his 368 business model, but it’s clear that Smith is talking about something else entirely.
“It’s the Medici family of Florence. They basically made their money in banking and I’ve been studying them for about 10 years, trying to figure out how to build the creative model. Because this is a family who had Galileo and Michelangelo and some of the greatest artists of all time,” Smith says. “The 368 is very similar to that idea in the structure. And so, if you’re talking about moving to Los Angeles, I want us to figure out how to do something together because I’ve been trying to build this forever.”
Smith had actually begun publicly experimenting with this Medici of social media idea a few months before his Neistat video. His first YouTube video was in December 2017 and he crossed a million subscribers in March 2018. After crossing a million subs, Smith did a video with Sophia the Robot, and from there his reinvention as an influencer truly began. But it wasn’t just Smith. His early videos include one where Jaden Smith punches him in the face (in a fun way), another where the whole Smith goes on vacation, and even a real weird video called, “I told Jada to pee in the car…” Not gonna click on that one, thanks! That same spring in 2018, Jada Pinkett Smith’s viral behemoth Red Table Talk was premiering on Facebook Watch. The show would become a cultural force, and aside from the magicians power-drilling raw chicken, it’s the biggest thing ever produced specifically for Facebook. And Willow Smith is a regular co-host.
Red Table Talk is an interesting beast and in a way has become the true content home base for the family. It’s a current events or celebrity interview chat show, like The View, combined with sometimes excruciatingly honest confessionals that you would normally expect from drama YouTubers mid-spiral. In fact, some of Red Table Talk’s most iconic moments are actually just well-produced drama videos, like when T.I. and his wife Tiny came on to talk about the rapper’s bizarre comments about his daughter’s sex life or the Olivia Jade white privilege interview. But, obviously, Red Table Talk’s biggest episode now is probably the 11th episode of season three, which is titled, “Jada Brings Herself to the Table,” which is where Pinkett Smith opens up about her “entanglement” with R&B singer August Alsina.
The Smiths’ social media presence has continued to evolve to fit new platforms. They had a quarantine show on Snapchat, they’re all constantly collaborating with themselves on TikTok, and Willow is popping up in Travis Barker’s TikTok-optimized pop punk songs.
Now, a couple things here. Before the Oscars, Will Smith posted a TikTok captioned, “Me ‘n @jadapinkettsmith got all dressed up to choose chaos,” set to an audio with the words, “God has let me live another day and I’m about to make it everyone’s problem.” Users quickly started spinning up a conspiracy theory that the slap — or some kind of viral stunt — was planned all along. I suppose anything is possible, but I also don’t think you need a ton of premeditation to decide to slap Chris Rock. But I do think the Smiths have successfully transformed themselves into an influencer family, first and foremost, and this is kind of what happens when you do that. Blurring online and offline, reality and “reality,” and turning it all into content tends to lead to some strange behavior, regardless of how irl famous you were to begin with.
Four years ago, Smith outlined a somewhat utopian idea of a Medici family of social media. I think Smith is a smart guy and, in 2018, he was surveying the new media landscape and had a clever idea for how he and his family could build themselves up within it. It doesn’t hurt that Smith was also kind of in a lull with his movie career when he started YouTubing. But I’m not sure he took into account that social platforms crave specific inputs — raw honesty, aspirational lifestyles, and, of course, constant drama. But I do think the family, maybe consciously, maybe unconsciously, started optimizing for that kind of content. And I think the Oscars slap was connected to his journey into the reality-warping rabbit holes of online platforms and algorithmic popularity.
Smith, so far, has issued a not-quite-a-notes-app apology, but he and the rest of the Smith family are now at a really fascinating impasse that a lot of other influencer families have found themselves at over the years. Do you lean into the drama or swerve away from it? It’s a tough call to make! I mean, just think of how crazy the traffic will be when the slap is finally addressed on Red Table Talk. It’s hard to pass that up.
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One More Oscars Thing
Axies Aren’t So Infinite After All
In case you missed it, hackers found an exploit in the Ronin network, which is the crypto wallet service exclusively used by the NFT-based video game Axie Infinity, and made off with over $600 million worth of Ethereum. It’s the largest DeFi hack ever.
I have some experience with the game. It’s essentially a very low-res version of Pokémon, except the Pokémon and the items needed to breed them are all NFTs. The basic startup cost for Axie Infinity can be as high as $1,000, which has led to a “robust” in-game economy where people join guilds and even rent Axies, the game’s collectible monsters. Basically, imagine if Pokémon allowed you to engage in debt slavery.
The hack, according to the Ronin Network’s Substack post, exploited a feature that was initially used to temporarily give users free transactions last November. The access for this feature wasn’t revoked and a bunch of withdrawals were sent to this wallet.
Here’s the real kicker of all of this though. The hack happened on March 23rd, but wasn’t discovered until yesterday. Imagine not noticing you’re missing over half a billion dollars for six whole days!
Nebraska’s State Legislature Vs. Furries
Pretty wild that, compared the general cultural insanity of America right now, this story is only a weird footnote, but let’s dive in, shall we?
Nebraska State Senator Bruce Bostelman (Republican, obviously) delivered a wildly unhinged speech on the Senate floor about furries, which he defined as: “when kids dress up as cats or dogs, during the school day.” Bostelman then claimed that schools want to put litter boxes in bathrooms for furries to use. You can watch this real masterpiece of a speech in a video below.
Now, this feels sort of random, right? Why furries? Why now?
About a minute into that video, he says that he heard from one person that a student identified as a cat and that they wanted a litter box. Well, that’s funny, because that “person” that Bostelman “heard” that from is almost verbatim describing two absolutely definitely not true things that have been published about furries recently. First, in January, a rumor went around a school in Michigan claiming students had installed a litter box in the gender-neutral bathroom for students who identify as cats. And the other half of Bostelman’s weird furry diatribe sounds an awful lot like this Daily Mail story from last week, titled, “Australian private schoolgirls are identifying as ANIMALS - walking on all fours and cutting holes in their uniform for a 'tail' - sparking major concerns from parents”. (I’ve had that story in my notes for a few days after my friend Katie sent it to me.)
The Daily Mail story claimed that students at the Brisbane Girls Grammar School are “‘preening’ themselves, licking the backs of their hands and walking around with their arms hanging towards the ground ‘as if they're on all fours’” and concluded “the bizarre trend has sparked concern among parents who have been left speechless by the 'woke' behaviors.” Both of these stories are part of a wider anti-trans panic happening especially in Australia and the UK, but also the US now, as well.
Look, based on increases in internet consumption, I have to assume that there are more teens in 2022 publicly identifying as furries than ever before. But furries don’t use litter boxes! That’s an otherkin thing. At least get the taxonomy right when you’re going to try and publish this kind of nonsense.
Anyways, one last thing about this. Bostelman apologized and another Nebraska senator, Megan Hunt, tweeted about it. A user asked Hunt if the furry community accepted Bostelman’s apology, which led to what is maybe my favorite tweet of 2022 so far:
Todd Lancaster @anarchistpd@NebraskaMegan Did the furries accept the apology?
Redditor Has A Living Room Urinal
OK, so, the original post has been deleted, but you can read the comments here and a version of the post here. Basically, the OP is a 35-year-old man who lives in a house that formerly owned by an old man who had trouble going up stairs, so a urinal was installed in the living room. OP and his friends use the living room urinal when they’re hanging out. Then OP’s girlfriend found out about it.
We are now two months into our relationship and to skip forward I am fully using the urinal 24/7, it is my preferred loo, I don’t like having to walk upstairs. This has become a real problem with my girlfriend, she does not want to come over to my house anymore and will only meet up at hers, I am totally into her and do want it to work but am not into having someone else run my life and dictate that I can only come over to her house.
Dang, this is might be the most Reddit problem I’ve ever seen on Reddit. There was also an update shared by OP today, who now describes himself as the “Guy with Urinal in his living room” (GWUIHLR?). Her parents found out and they don’t want him seeing her anymore. Fs in the chat for the urinal Redditor.
A Search Engine For The Text-Based Internet
I found this on Tumblr this week. It’s really cool. It’s called Marginalia and it’s a search engine that specifically surfaces results from non-commercial, text-heavy websites, articles, and journals. I searched Furby in it to see what it would surface and found this cool, but ominously article about hacking Furbys, titled, “Furby Autopsy”.
A Good Tweet
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a good Furby video.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***