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The post-otherkin identity play of TikTok
Read to the end for a TikTok that made my skin crawl
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The Things That Come Back On TikTok
Input Mag has a great story this week about a 29-year-old TikToker who has dissociative identity disorder and identifies as a “system” of multiple personalities. It can be a little complicated to understand, but here’s how Asher, one of the “alters,” inhabits a 29-year-old body sees themselves according to Input Mag:
Asher, however, is not part of a typical influencer collective. He is one of many members of a 29-person “system,” all of whom share a single body, brain, and life. Each person, or “alter,” in the system is a distinct form of consciousness. This group of identities live together in the body of a 31-year-old man diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID), previously known as multiple personality disorder.
Essentially all of the alters use the TikTok handle @theasystem and operate it like a hype house. But they’re all the same physical person. The @theasystem account currently has over a million followers and there is an entire community of other accounts on the platform right now with creators who similarly identify as collectives.
This all may seem a little strange and the @theasystem account receives a lot of abuse and harassment because of it. But this is actually far from the first time that people with (and without) dissociative identity disorder have used social platforms to experiment with how different distinct identities function. About a decade ago, members of the “otherkin” community started using terms like “system” and “headmate” to describe their different personas and would often run “group” Tumblr blogs where each headmate acted as a moderator. Otherkin are a very old internet subculture that are related to furries, but, whereas furries are more interested in outwardly expressing themselves as anthropomorphic animals, otherkin believe they are not human on the inside, but instead, are, spiritually and emotionally, animals, plants, or even celestial bodies. Things would get particularly confusing on otherkin system blogs when moderators, who inhabited the same physical body mind you, were using their Tumblr to argue with each other.
But the concept of “systems” isn’t the only otherkin-related concept to have a new life on TikTok. Last year, I wrote about a trend on TikTok called “shifting”. Young users would make videos attempting to manifest, or lucid dream, themselves into an alternate reality. This was particularly popular with Harry Potter fans, who made videos about trying to shift over to Hogwarts.
Shifting, in my opinion, is a direct descendent of tulpas, which were extremely popular around 2015 with otherkin, as well as bronies, the adult fans of My Little Pony Friendship is magic. The concept of a “tulpa” comes from Tibetan Buddhism, but it was taken by internet users and used to describe an imaginary friend that they willed into existence. There were countless 4chan threads about users trying to summon a tulpa of Rainbow Dash or Twilight Sparkle. Some users even claimed they had suffered psychotic episodes trying to manifest cartoon ponies with their minds.
What I think is interesting about both systems and lucid dreaming resurfacing on TikTok is that, unlike the otherkin headmate mod drama of Tumblr or the brony tulpa psychosis of 4chan, younger internet users now are adapting these ideas to fit a platform that is much more closely tied to who you are irl. Ten years ago, it was much easier to play with these kinds of ideas because the internet was still a mostly faceless place. If you wanted to run an otherkin blog with six other personalities you believe are living in your body, there was really nothing at stake. Same with talking to other anonymous people on Reddit about trying to manifest a cartoon girlfriend with your mind.
In 2021, however, we’re seeing young people experiment with the same ideas, but with a lot more at stake socially. And the fact that they’re willing to endure harassment and film themselves doing so, in my opinion, speaks to something larger about how the internet affects how we both see ourselves and the world around us. This isn’t to say this is good or bad, but I think it’s notable that these ideas are becoming less fringe. I, also, don’t think it’s an accident that a lot of these ideas are appearing on a platform like TikTok that has augmented reality filters built into it. The internet has always allowed us to imagine different identities and realities and as technology becomes better, those alternate digital identities and realities will only become more real to us. Until, perhaps, they won’t feel like alternate realities at all anymore.
Trump Says He’ll Sue Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey
I absolutely do not care about this and do not think, for a second, that Trump is doing this for any other reason than to get attention. He’s livestreaming an upcoming rally on a website no one’s ever heard of and he had to shut down his pathetic blog because it wasn’t getting any traffic. If you have any respect for the limited amount of time we’re given, as human beings, to live our lives on this tiny rock with grass and water floating through space, you should not spend even a moment wasting your mental energy on this completely hollow and ridiculous attempt at relevancy. But on the off-chance that the American legal system is as grotesque and broken and demented as Trump is and this becomes something important, you can read more about it here and also here.
A Good Tweet
Signal Boost Bots And Manipulated Trending Content
A reader named Colm flagged this tweet for me. The video in the tweet is from a TikTok user named Rachel Gross, who goes by the handle @riizzyray. She’s also the co-host of a podcast called Disabled Chick Diaries. In the video, Gross talks about how there’s a bill that’s waiting to be signed that would remove the “marriage penalty” from disability benefits. As Gross explains, the way Supplemental Security Income works in the US is, if you’re disabled and you get married or get a job, you could lose your benefits.
In the replies to the viral tweet with Gross’s video, something very strange is happening and it’s one of the first time I’ve seen it happen in English. This is what the majority of the top replies look like right now.
The account that shared the video, @jhoongism, is a K-pop stan account and appears to be real and genuinely interested in the content of Gross’s video. But their tweet has hundreds of replies and almost all of them are junk nonsense. What it appears has happened is that someone decided that they wanted to signal boost Gross’s video and pointed a botnet at it. And it seems this has worked, to a degree. The video currently has over 30,000 retweets.
Colm, the reader that sent me this tweet, wrote, “The site is fundamentally broken if systems like this actually work in getting stuff seen. I don't believe it does. Surely if it did the bot owners would skip straight to manipulating the feed themselves.” But, in my experience, it does seem to work, to a point.
As I said, I haven’t seen this sort of thing happen in English very much. Even with QAnon accounts, what the bots are spamming are hashtags or other memes related to their political agenda. But this is more just a flood of garbage meant to create a false sense of engagement around Gross’s video, which I assume is meant to trick Twitter’s trending algorithm into promoting the video further. I actually first saw this strategy in India in 2015, where, at the time, marketers and SEO farms would flood the site with bots and cause random tweets to become national trending topics. I’ve also seen a similar phenomenon with “content marketing firms” while reporting in Mexico in 2018. One reporter I spoke told me that majority of Mexico’s Twitter trending topics are purchased, in one way or another.
But Americans, for the most part, don’t feel comfortable admitting what the rest of world has understood for a while: All trending internet content is “coordinated inauthentic behavior” to some extent. If you’re seeing something, it’s because someone wants you to, whether it’s K-Pop stans trying to signal boost a disabled TikTok creator’s video or QAnon cultists spamming a hashtag.
How Spotify Sees Itself
Here’s a little tidbit from Jim Anderson, a former Spotify executive is often thought of as the platform’s central architect. In 2019, Anderson, at the SyncSummit New York, told a singer-songwriter named Ashley Jana that Spotify’s purpose wasn’t to pay artists:
So we should talk about entitlement. I mean, I have an issue with Taylor Swift’s comments. I have this issue with it, and we’ll call it entitlement. I mean, I consider myself an artist because I’m an inventor, okay? Now, I freely give away my patents for nothing. I never collect royalties on anything.
I think Taylor Swift doesn’t need .00001 more a stream. The problem is this: Spotify was created to solve a problem. The problem was this: piracy and music distribution. The problem was to get artists’ music out there. The problem was not to pay people money.
Anderson also seemed to imply that musicians wanting to get paid was related to a feeling of entitlement. You can read the whole transcript of Jana’s back-and-forth with Anderson here.
Anderson’s statement, that Spotify was created to solve the problem of “piracy and music distribution” and the fact he doesn’t see how that could be connected to paying artists is an extremely revealing and, honestly, explains some things about Spotify! Though over the last year, Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek has become a lot more vocal about musicians being compensated, the fact that the guy who built the app was actually trying to help bloated record labels from losing money to piracy fits a lot better with how the company actually functions.
If you’re interested in going further into Spotify’s issues, you should check out this interview I did recently for paying Garbage Day subscribers with musician and anti-Spotify activist Evan Greer.
The Michael Flynn Whiteboard
Michael Flynn shared a photo on his Instagram this week of a giant insane white board full of Q gibberish and the @PatriotTakes Twitter account was able to get a full unobscured picture of it. You can click through to see what’s on it. It’s like one of those word jumble games where the first three things your eye notices defines your personality. Mine were:
“Bob the Plumber”
“Jesus is king”
Shroomjak Mania Continues To Grip America
Very interesting theory. Shroomjak, hottest meme of 2021? Or literal demonic sigil from hell? Only time will tell, I guess!
The Internet Reacts To A Maine Accent
This video is going very viral right now and for good reason. Literally every single second of it is more unhinged than the previous. Definitely watch to the end to hear about the theory of a “trapezoidal prism”-shaped Earth. But there seems to be some confusion. This person does not sound like Charlie Kelly from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, they said they’re from Maine. This is just how everyone from Maine sounds.
The Top Links Of The Newsletter World (Sort Of)
At least once a week someone on Twitter says, “lol I wish there was a Substack that collected all the stuff on Substack that everyone’s talking about so I could just read that instead.” Well, ignoring that that fundamentally misunderstands why people seem to like newsletters so much right now (hint: it’s the personal voice of the writer), I found a website that sort of does that actually!
I came across this via the mostly dormant r/Substack subreddit.
It’s called Winning the Internet and it tracks 123 newsletters and collects the links being shared in them. The newsletters aren’t just Substack-based ones, either. As of this morning, the top two links circulating around newsletter land are:
Another Good Tweet
Caroline Calloway Is Literally Selling “Snake Oil”
Millennial grifter queen Caroline Calloway has decided to sell her own skincare products and she’s literally calling them “snake oil” lol. Look, I’m hoping I don’t have to tell this to any Garbage Day readers, but, just in case, please, please, please do not buy Caroline Calloway’s homemade face oil. And if you do buy it, please do not put it on your skin.
The Super Bowl Of Live Looping
I listened to this yesterday. If you’re into live looping, I really can’t recommend this enough. It’s Reggie Watts and Flying Lotus and Marc Rebillet. It’s weird and certain parts don’t sound super great (because they’re doing it on the fly), but it’s incredibly hypnotic and absolutely worth playing in a tab while you work.
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a TikTok that made my skin crawl.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***