One of these things is not like the others
AIM away messages, beauty scams, birds and fandoms of all types and toxicity levels
Hi friends. Today is June 3, 2022.
And unless you’re recently returned from a trip to Tonga, you’re well aware of the verdict in Depp vs. Heard.
We won’t belabor that much today, because all the most pertinent angles have already been covered. (See, for instance, the trial as #MeToo backlash, an “orgy of misogyny,” and a frightening deterrent for DV survivors.) I am, however, really interested in the “one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other” that mobilized against Amber Heard. MRAs? Sure. Far-right shit-stirrers? Of course. But what is up with all these Gen Z/younger millennial women who memed and livestreamed and stood outside a Virginia courthouse for hours…?
The answer is multifaceted — and that’s a comfort, honestly, because it signifies the youth haven’t gone full tradwife (yet). You have, on one hand, TikTok’s fervid, destructive true crime mania, which regularly recasts normal people as entertainment. Taking a survivor at her word — no great mystery, no conspiracy, no con — undoubtedly makes for less viral content, and thus fewer $$.
There’s also this whole issue of parasociality: intense, one-sided relationships between fans and the object of their fandom. It’s all fun and games until fans lose sight of the distinction between, say, Johnny Depp and Captain Jack Sparrow (as Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee have apparently done) or buy-in fully to the fantasy that they know and trust this person.
This trial tapped into some particularly toxic fandoms, too — spaces where, for instance, the intensity of adoration for Depp was such that fans seemed to feel a need to perform that commitment to each other in increasingly cruel and desperate ways. The tech journalist Ryan Broderick also wrote a fascinating rundown of the more tangential (but equally toxic!) online communities that felt they had some critical stake in the case.
If there’s a unifying factor here, I guess it’s a blind willingness by all factions involved to project personal hopes, grievances and biases on an undeserving public figure — even to the point of ignoring (or subverting) the available, empirical evidence. And at this point, we might consider that a bit of an American tradition.
P.S. Thank you to the many people who emailed me after last week’s newsletter; your messages were lovely and I’m trying to get back to everyone. Until then, I am personally okay!, thank you for asking — it’s more our society/democracy/humanity/information ecosystem I worry about. But yeah my personal horror is definitely the more addressable problem.
If you read anything this weekend
“They Did Their Own ‘Research.’ Now What?,” by John Herrman in The New York Times. “DYOR” is becoming — in an ever-wider array of subjects and arenas — less a catchy slogan than an entire political orientation. Doing your own research means you don’t trust the traditional authorities or institutions to research on your behalf, which is how we end up with (among MANY other things) this incessant TikTok true crime nonsense.
“On Discord, Music Fans Become Artists’ Besties, Collaborators, and Even Unpaid Interns,” by Cat Zhang in Pitchfork. I have lately lived in the dank, dark rabbit hole of white supremacist Discord, so I really enjoyed this reminder that some communities also do cool, novel, creative shit on the platform. See also: “Discord Is the World’s Most Important Financial Messenger, and a Hotbed for Scammers,” which — okay, less cheery/cool/creative — but still a fascinating exploration of the communities and ecosystems ballooning on Discord, and the problems it faces.
“A Once-in-a-Lifetime Bird,” by Kevin Nguyen in The Verge. This is about the Cornell University app eBird, which kinda functions like Pokemon Go if the Pokemon were birds. Also, if Pokemon were owned not by Niantic, but an academic lab. And the community around it was uniformly charming and uplifting and earnest.
“Anti-Abortion Activists Are Collecting the Data They’ll Need for Prosecutions Post-Roe,” by Abby Ohlheiser in MIT Technology Review. Anti-abortion activists already film people entering health clinics and record their license plate numbers — further proof that the risks of post-Roe surveillance are far from theoretical.
“It's Time to Bring Back the AIM Away Message,” by Lauren Goode in Wired. “Even the names of these [current “do not disturb”] features—Focus, Schedule Send—are phrases born of a work-obsessed culture. Bring back the ennui, the poetry, the pink fonts, the tildes and asterisks.”
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My Home Office Hacks is a virtual water cooler/newsletter for work-from-home professionals and home-based business owners
… published by Joe D’Eramo, a copywriter-marketing & PR consultant from Plymouth, Massachusetts. Yes, working from home has many benefits —commute, wardrobe, optional bathing, etc. You do tend to feel like you’re missing out on things. Best coffee? Latest productivity app? Where to shop for a new (fill in the blank). My Home Office Hacks looks to provide the info you used to get in the lunchroom when you had a traditional J-O-B.
Student surveillance apps aren’t stopping school shootings. No-makeup makeup is a classist scam. “But each generation is still smarter than the past one. The future is still wider than the past.” What happens when a song goes viral on TikTok. How the Kremlin took over “Russia’s Facebook.” “I wish it was the end of crypto, but it’s not,” says one top crypto creator.
A tool to find books set in your zip code. An algorithm that knows you’re depressed. Inside the lives of crypto-critic Molly White and Silicon Valley’s private chefs. New York’s “last payphone” was … actually not. But ubiquitous bots actually are. Robin Hood ransomware, white noise podcasters and the GIF’s (really cool) successor. “If you took girlboss as earnest, that’s on you” — this take is correct. Last, and maybe least: the coastal grandmother aesthetic as post-menopausal liberation fantasy for women of all ages (!).
That’s it for this week! Until the next one. Warmest virtual regards.