Never News: Skibidi Brainrot

books in brown bookshelf
Photo by Clint McKoy / Unsplash

[We find our narrator standing by the book shelf, reading intently from a large, thick book titled “Rich Husbands: How To Find Them, Woo Them, and Get Rid Of Them Discreetly.” Noticing you enter, she glances up and hurriedly slams the book shut, though not before making sure that her bookmark is rightfully in place.]

GOOD DAY TO YOU ALL! Welcome back to Never News, the glamorous and dare I say essential newsletter for Never Post written by me, Producer Georgia. Last week was my birthday, and let me just say thank you for sending me such a luxurious gift. Really, it’s almost too much — what am I supposed to do with another Faberge egg? But what can I say, it suits my lifestyle and you really know me so well. Regardless, let’s begin. 


I can’t promise this will be the last time I talk about Charli XCX but I assure you today’s mention is worth it, because the release of the “girl, so confusing” remix with Lorde brought about a shockingly emotional reaction in many fans (myself included) and sparked a larger conversation about the nuances of friendship between women. In other corners of the digital landscape, the US Surgeon General thinks social media should come with a warning, literally. If you’ve ever wanted to dive deep into the archives of MTV News, I have bad news for you. We now have a reason to use the word “slop” in daily conversation (that is, if we’re talking about AI). And speaking of our future overlor—I mean AI, the Federal Trade Commission warns us against talking about artificial intelligence as if it has real emotions.  


DAZED: Let’s talk about “brainrot”

Yes, it was only a matter of time before I used this newsletter to force you all to read about skibidi toilet. But don’t be scared! We only start there. The online obsession with nonsensical, nearly-Dadaist gibberish isn’t new, but “brainrot” content, as it’s more recently been named, has become a creature all its own, courting the use of generative AI and producing output that feels less fun and more, well, rotten. This piece looks at what happens when the weird corners of the internet go mainstream, and whether something can stay freaky, esoteric, or bizarre when everyone knows about it (even if not everyone understands it). 


As I teased last time, we now have two, count ‘em, TWO, extended segments for paid subscribers! We have a longer cut of my interview with Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist Hilke Shellman about AI and hiring, and we’ve got an extended cut of Mike talking with Jamie Loftus about the main characters of the internet. So choose to live deliciously and get IN HERE and listen to your heart’s content. Don’t say we never spoil you! 

404 MEDIA: AI in Google Images opens a portal to hell

This piece is an excellent pairing with the New York Times article from a few months ago about underage “influencers” and the way that online algorithms can be an oddly permissive place for predatory groups who seek out this kind of content. This piece looks at the way that on Google Images, AI, without prompting, will toss in fabricated images of celebrities aged down to look like children. Emanuel Maiberg tested this by looking up celebrity names with the word “bikini,” and found that this phenomenon would happen constantly — among real photos, there were these AI-generated images of the said celebrity in a bikini…but as a child. It’s an intense read, so proceed with caution, but to me it’s essential if we’re going to be talking about AI as an ever-present specter in the digital world. 

THE CUT: Maybe the obsession with “aesthetics” isn’t ALL bad

This article comes as a refreshing take on the use of “aesthetics” online to describe hyper-specific trends or the categorization of stuff one might have if they are, for example, giving “Lana Del Rey 2014 tumblr girlie aesthetic.” It’s extremely easy to look at this sort of thing and scoff, or find it annoying. I do believe there is space for the way that consumerism encourages the “branding” of individual looks in order to encourage more buying. But I often find it grating when people aggressively dunk on the obsession with “aesthetics” because it seems to trend a bit too close to the kind of writing-off that happens when young women and girls decide to publicly enjoy something online. What I’m saying is this phenomenon, as with most things, is more nuanced than it might seem. This piece takes the trend of “everything is an aesthetic” and looks a bit closer to see what about this might be worth protecting and, perhaps, celebrating. 

And now, I free you from the hypnotic pull of this week’s newsletter. Back, I say! Back into the world! But before you go, one final treat: what I consider a modern classic of TikTok, to mark this being the last newsletter I’ll be writing during Pride Month. That’s it for me — Detective Fierce signing OFF!


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