Big week for the Internet, huh?
thought digest, 08.25.2022
It’s been a big week for the Internet.
Gabbie Hanna. Internet personality Gabbie Hanna made the news this week for posting over a hundred increasingly worrisome TikToks in a single day. At one point during what some people are describing as a streamed manic episode, Hanna, who’s shared that she was previously diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, invited a stranger into her house. Eventually, LAPD performed a wellness check on her, and she underwent a psych eval. Her publicists have not made any further comments about her well-being as of yet, but according to PageSix, her younger sister has told people to fuck off. I can’t say that I blame her.
I think there’s something interesting to explore with personalities like Hanna, whose fanbase seems to be entirely composed of anti-fans, or in other words, whose fame seems to hinge entirely on how much people enjoy making fun of her. Hanna is just one of many people who occupy this position: it’s unclear why they’re even famous outside of generating the occasional throwaway headline about how crazy and unlikable they are. With Hanna, maybe it didn’t start out that way; in fact, it almost certainly didn’t. But it seems like this is the posture most Internet famous people slide into as they age. There’s got to be a term for this: stay Internet famous long enough, and you’re bound to become a lolcow, whether you like it or not.
Think about just how unremarkable these episodes have become. Live-streamed (or live-tweeted or live-blogged) mental health crises really are routine. I have seen dozens of psychotic episodes transpire on my Twitter timeline over the last decade. I’ve also seen other unambiguous cries for help, including longer-term expressions of self-harm, like allusions to having an eating disorder or drug addiction, and whatever the digital equivalent to “fight or flight” is, which probably helps explain the bizarre behavior sometimes exhibited by journalists with large Twitter followings.
As my own profile rises, the more I believe that we need better protections. I don’t think “better protections” means becoming more censorious of online speech, though. I think “better protections” means changing something about the infrastructure of the Internet. Or maybe it means bulking out the physical—a good starting place might be a stronger emphasis on print media. Here’s a place where I really do wish I had policy proposals.
Everyone knows there’s a problem, I think that the fault line has just been misidentified.
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More on group chats and free speech below the cut.