The nostalgia onion

Read to the end for a series of tweets that have thoroughly broken me

The Mystery Of The “I Want To Live In This Era” Photo

Last week, this tweet went very viral. First, it went viral with younger users, who all seemed to be genuinely sharing it and then it went viral with older users, mystified as to why anyone would be nostalgic for what appeared to be the era of 1998-2003. I was one of the olds who shared this indignantly. I lived through this era and, as bad and dumb as the world is now, my main takeaway from the days of dial-up and CTR TVs was that everything was actually more confusing and more annoying. Misinformation might be weirder now, but back in the days where you couldn’t easily google everything, things were much more confusing. I spent weeks once trying to activate a supposed cheat code in Pokémon Red I came across on an IGN message board which would claimed I could access a new town called Cloud City where I could catch a “Pikablue”. None of this was true.

But the story behind the “I want to live in this era” photo is actually weirder than I thought. As the tweet started to trend, users quickly began to notice some details that would actually be impossible if this had been taken during the era it seemed. The biggest anachronism is that there’s a poster on the wall for an Arctic Monkeys album titled AM, which was released in 2013.

I decided I needed to know what the heck was going on here. Here’s what I discovered.

If you reverse-image search the photo, you’ll find it and a bunch of similar images all over Pinterest. Interestingly, the photo seems to be more popular with international Pinterest users than ones based in the US. Most of the Pinterest posts have linkbacks to other aesthetic photo sites, like We Heart It. But a few of these posts linked to a Tumblr called mvnicx.

The mvnicx Tumblr is what you would call a “soft grunge” blog. In the world of constantly changing TikTok aesthetics, nowadays, it’s totally normal to have an online fashion movement based around a vague, yet also hyper-specific internet identity that becomes really popular for a few months. But soft grunge was one of the first times something like this got really big. It blew up on Tumblr in the early 2010s. It has been argued that the whole soft grunge look is basically all about dressing like indie artist Sky Ferreira, which I sort of buy. The main idea was that it was a Tumblr-friendly version of how people dressed in the 90s.

There are links on a bunch of mvnicx’s posts to an Instagram page called @m0n1lu. And if you go into that account’s tagged photos, you’ll see a bunch of users asking who the girl is from the Pinterest photos. The @m0n1lu account has only been active since last year, but from what I can tell, the user was posting on an Instagram account called @mvnicx for a while, but recently changed handles.

I’m not going to dox mvnicx/m0n1lu, but from what I can tell, she’s a Spanish-language blogger and Instagram model who has an absolutely massive following on Pinterest. All of her posts are film photo uploads that are meant to look like they were taken at some point between 1995-2005. The one that went viral on Twitter appears to have been uploaded in 2020.

The always-on-point Rebecca Jennings for Vox last year actually wrote about this weird trend that mvnicx is a part of. It’s not about being nostalgic for the 90s, nor is it about being nostalgic for the early-2010s. Instead, it’s about being nostalgic for being in the early-2010s being nostalgic for the 90s. It’s a lot to wrap your head around. Which makes the reactions to mvnicx’s photo even funnier.

Old people like me immediately recoiled at the idea that anyone would miss the days of built-in VHS player TVs and painfully slow Kazaa downloads, but, it’s more likely that the young people sharing this photo weren’t reminiscing about 2002, they were reminiscing for a specific subculture from 2014! Which is, honestly, an even more confounding idea. Though, I get it, 2014 was the last time I felt any sense of optimism or joy.

What’s interesting is that as technology gets better, I think we’ll see more of this. Thanks to sites like eBay and Etsy, you can easily find people selling or making specific products from specific eras. And because of the boom of consumer photography and the consistently influential Pinterest, it’s getting easier and easier to accurately recreate specific moments in time. Which means we could end up with increasingly niche subcultures like this. Whole internet fandoms springing up for specific months in a random year. “Ugh, I wish I was alive in June 2012, I want to listen to Fun.’s ‘Some Nights’ and wear Toms shoes and drink overpriced mint juleps out of mason jars at a cookie bar.”


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The Nut Game Tweet

The official Twitter account for Nutter Butter wants everyone to know that they don’t want Squid Game, they want Nut Game. Alright, sure. Thank you. As Insider reporter Kat Tenbarge tweeted, “Something particularly unsettling about brands making memes out of Squid Game. No I do not want to associate the murder games with your household item.”


A Facebook Update

Facebook’s not having a good time lately! There was the whole hullabaloo last week with Facebook’s totally unhinged research on children and the company is still having a lot of issues in Australia. The country has ruled that publishers are now liable for defamation for anything posted by users to their pages. Which, you know, kind of kills Facebook’s whole deal. CNN has announced it will no longer use Facebook in Australia.

And then last night 60 Minutes aired an interview with the newly-unmasked Frances Haugen, a former product manager at the company, was responsible for leaking tens of thousands of internal documents to the Wall Street Journal.

According to Haugen’s 60 Minutes interview, the platform’s algorithm purposely shows users content that will make them angry to drive up engagement and that the company got rid of its civic integrity team right after the election, which contributed to the toxic content and radicalization that helped lead to the insurrection last January.

So that’s all bad, but Ben Schott, a columnist for Bloomberg, decided now was the perfect time to argue that tech platforms like Facebook should be allowed to join the United Nations as sovereign corporate-nation-states or something. The article is paywalled, but you can read all the angry tweets about it here.

The New York Times’ Kevin Roose, meanwhile, is arguing that Facebook is actually much weaker than we think. I like Roose’s take, that Facebook is undergoing “a kind of slow, steady decline that anyone who has ever seen a dying company up close can recognize.” The Washington Post’s also very-good Will Oremus doesn’t agree, though, tweeting, “The idea that Facebook is weakening, that it's vulnerable, that it has lost the teens, has cropped up almost every year throughout its history. It has turned out to be wrong every time so far.” Which is also true!

What do I think? Boringly, it’s probably somewhere in the middle, between crumbling empire and intractable global corporation like Coca-Cola. Facebook proper is falling out of fashion hard with younger, cooler users, but Instagram is a global powerhouse and, obviously not as buzzy as TikTok, but it’s big and I suspect our conversations about the company will change very quickly from being about Facebook to being about Instagram.


A Final Word On Ozy

Thanks everyone who read the big Ozy piece I sent around last week! Even the commenter who wrote that I should “stop using ‘though’ as a weakening adverb at the beginning of sentences.” And thanks to the New York Times for the shoutout last night.

Though, here’s the thing. Ozy’s chief executive Carlos Watson popped up on the Today show today claiming that the company was going back on what it had announced on Friday, and that it would not be shutting down amid allegations of fraud.

It could be that Watson is lying — the company was basically built on bad metrics, purchased traffic, and possibly fraudulent ad deals — but also the entire digital media and advertising business is so broken that I could absolutely see advertisers or investors getting excited about all the buzz the website had over the weekend. Which is what it sounds like Watson was hinting at on a subsequent interview today on CNBC’s Squawk Box. Media! What an industry.


Lindsay Lohan Furry NFT

All the Ozy drama distracted me from what is absolutely the biggest story on the internet right now: Lindsay Lohan’s furry NFT. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Last week, Lohan announced that she had minted an NFT with Canine Cartel, a Mexican cartel and dog-themed NFT community. Yeah idk. Lohan’s tweet kicked off a ton of controversy with the furry community, including a heated discussion in the furry room of the Garbage Day Discord server.

In the furry world — the people who wear suits to dress up like anthropomorphic animals — drawing yourself as an animal is called a “fursona”. I was recently asked by the increasingly active furry community on my Discord what my fursona I would be if I were a furry and I think I’d probably be a raccoon that wears a lab coat. Anyways, by all traditional definitions of a fursona, this NFT of Lohan as a dog counts. Which has made furries very angry. They’re angry about crypto bros appropriating their culture, but they’re also angry that it’s so expensive — it sold for about $4000 USD — and also that it just isn’t a very good fursona. There’s an increasingly vocal contingent of the furry community that think animal-themed NFT avatars are super cringe.

Now Canine Cartel is posting defensive tweets that they aren’t furries while furries are tweeting them screenshots of them right-clicking and saving their NFTs as images and claiming they own them now.


Someone Made Squid Game In Roblox

There is something both dark and fitting about Roblox, a hypercapitalist digital sandbox/casino for children being used to simulate Squid Game, a Korean show about being in so much debt that you’re ok with the idea of entering a playground-themed death game.


A Batman Webtoon Now Has More Readers Than The Actual Comics

This is so interesting and, honestly, something I’ve been really curious about. Webtoon is a Korean-owned platform web comics, which are called webtoons. Most popular webtoons are “manhwa” (think the Korean version of Japan’s manga industry). Stylistically though, a lot of webtoons have all evolved to be read easily on phones. Webtoon, the platform, is owned by Korean everything company Naver. I recently read a webtoon called Sweet Home which was incredibly addicting because of how easy it was to scroll through on my phone.

Batman: Wayne Family Adventures started publishing on Webtoon in September and it’s a slice-of-life comic about Batman’s various sidekicks. It’s super cute and perfect for the very online DC fans desperate for anything other than the grimdark stories the publisher assumes people still want. And it may have a fanfic-y vibe to it, but it’s an official release by DC.

About two weeks ago, the webtoon surpassed the readership of Batman’s main line titles. It has over half a million subscribers, and, as CBR.com noted, “the most recent monthly reports for Batman, Detective Comics and Batman: Urban Legends show those books selling roughly 125k, 53k and 44k, respectively. The last time a Batman title sold over 500k units was in 2019, when Detective Comics #1000 sold 574,705 copies.”

Now, obviously, this isn’t totally a 1:1 comparison. Batman: Wayne Family Adventures is free and subscribing is a button click. But, as I said, I’ve been curious about whether or not the US would embrace webtoons, both as an art style (Wayne Family Adventures is drawn for vertical scrolling) and as a publishing system and it seems like this is the first big sign that it could happen.


The Most Boring Video On The Internet

This is “THE MOST BORING VIDEO EVER MADE”. It’s a 1989 Microsoft Word tutorial and it’s almost two hours long. I had it playing this morning and, I got to say, it really does have a fascinating ASMR quality to it. The faint hum of the computer, the click-clack of the keys, the nice baritone of this very boring man’s voice. I felt incredibly peaceful inside the soundscape of this video.

“He is 100% unaware of how boring this is. Also, he’s really talented and gets everything right. There are no cuts or edits. It’s just one perfect take. Boring but perfect,” one commenter wrote.

Oh, also, there’s a tremendously insane moment that happens about an hour in that you really need to watch.


Some Stray Links


P.S. here’s a series of tweets that have thoroughly broken me.

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