on digital subversion, the tiktok chip aisle, and mass-producing uniqueness
with every new post, micro-trend, and overnight e-celebrity on my feed, it feels more and more like our online behavior has arrived at a curious paradox: everyone seems to be more obsessed with individuality and differentiation than ever before, while simultaneously participating in one of the most intoxicating lifestyle reproduction mechanisms in human history. on tiktok, everyone is an it girl, or a sad girl, or a girl’s girl, or a vanilla girl, and they’re all buying the same Laneige lip masks and tastefully oversized sweaters. everyone’s smoking cigarettes, but in an old money way, not in a white trash way (god forbid). they proclaim their love for marvel movies and romance novels to prove that they’re different from film bros and literary elitists (who clearly were just trying to seem different from them in the first place, anyway). they’re a stay-at-home-girlfriend, but in a feminist way, or maybe in a trad way, but also in a way that’s just true and honest and real, but most importantly — and we can’t stress this enough — they are NOT doing it in the same way as everyone else.
everyone is jostling for attention in a crowded room, struggling to differentiate themselves within an algorithm that exists to turn their personhood into a commodity, subverting and subverting again and re-subverting and de-subverting until they’re right back in the mainstream. half the people talking about The Culture are criticizing our generational individuality complex; the others are complaining that everything and everyone feels exactly the same. it’s strange and contradictory and i’ve been trying to sort it out in my head for months. recently, though, i’ve arrived at something like a conclusion: when i scroll on tiktok, i am reminded of the chip aisle.
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