December 10, 2023

In May 2022, Jane and Emma, ​​two Canadian women in their twenties, decided to start cooking at home and upload videos of their creations to TikTok. His first recipe consisted of a puff pastry filled with cheeseburgers, onion and bacon. The second, in a hypercaloric dessert that included jelly beans, cereals, condensed milk and brownies. With the fourth, a recipe for chicken seasoned with a kilo of Greek yogurt, spiced, battered and fried, they went viral. At the moment, that video accumulates 31 million views and has more than 36,000 comments, most of them negative, in which the process of preparing the recipe or the poor culinary skills of the protagonist are criticized. Since then, the account MyJaneBrain It has only grown.

It is not the most chaotic, disastrous or crazy recipe that MyJaneBrain offers to its more than 300,000 followers. As the account grows in followers, views, and interactions, its recipes become more grotesque and over-the-top. Among the latest videos uploaded to the channel, you can see Jane putting eggs and mincemeat directly into a Doritos bag or Emma making a jelly cake with sausage and pickles, which she then puts inside the typical hot dog bun. . Special mention to this journalist’s favorite recipe: the Satanic Hamburger.

From Ontario (Canada) the protagonist of the videos, Jane Brain (as she prefers to introduce herself, she does not want to give her real last name), explains to EL PAÍS that her intention, at first, was to make videos of instructive recipes: “One of those that you save it to Favorites, pass it on to your mom, and say, ‘Mom, we should do this!’ They also wanted to try all those viral recipes that people didn’t dare to make at home: “We were curious to try them and see first-hand if they were really tasty.” But, after a short time, people began criticizing all the dishes that were uploaded to the platform and dissecting the videos one by one, laughing at their way of cooking and their choice of ingredients or telling them that what they were cooking could not be good: “We stayed in shock when they began to tell us that we were the worst cooks in the world”.

Jane Brain responds negatively about whether her account is a parody: “Everything is real,” she says, “people think that we are trollingBut we’re just two friends having a good time.” Shortly after her videos began to go viral, she left her job and is currently dedicated exclusively to maintaining the account. She assures that the TikTok channel has only brought her good things. And by good things she means popularity and profitability. She is not affected by the hate she receives through social networks: “The Internet has never been a friendly place. On social media, anger brings people together. Once they open the comments section and see that the first five are negative, the rest join in criticizing. Everyone hates the creators, but deep down, for me it’s a form of love. They are interacting with us. They are giving us visualizations. They are sharing the content. And this is good”.

Part of her account growth is closely tied to those professional haters: one of the most popular features on TikTok is the duets, a tool that allows you to react to the video of another creator of the platform. and the videos of MyJaneBrain are widely spread using this formula among other accounts that make fun of their content.

MyJaneBrain is just one of the many TikTok accounts that could be categorized within the genre rage bait or hook of gastronomic hatred. According to the Urban Dictionary —the page that brings together millions of definitions taken from the latest slang anglo-saxon—the rage bait (first cousin of clickbait) is any publication on social networks expressly designed to outrage as many people as possible to generate interaction. Other accounts of this style, very popular on TikTok, are that of Sylvia Ferreira, with one million followers, or The Shaba Kitchen, with almost three million followers.

In an attention-based economy, content that provokes anger and indignation in viewers helps capture it: “People stop and stare at this type of content like someone who stops and stares at a traffic accident; there is something that makes us cannot stop looking ”, explains Scott Lamb, current vice president of content at EL PAÍS. Medium and former director of expansion at buzzfeed, he American media center focused on monitoring and creating viral content that, in 2015, launched the channel specializing in gastronomy Tasty, the seed that helped the flowers to flourish piggy-recipes.

On Facebook, Tasty accumulates more than 96 million followers. On Instagram, more than 44 million. And, on YouTube, he has more than 21 million subscribers. Anyone who has been on the internet since 2015 has most likely come across one of his videos. Perhaps with the 100-layer lasagna or the 13-kilo hamburger. You may have seen how to make eight different desserts on one tray (includes apple pie, carrot pie, brownies, chocolate cookie, M&M’s cookie, chocolate with crackers, banana cake and cheesecake) or the fluffiest pancakes in the world. Perhaps you are a practical person and have learned how to prepare one of the 21 recipes that are cooked using only one container or a recipe with only two ingredients.

“If you look back at the first videos of Tasty, you realize that they are a disaster on many levels: ingredients were often spilled on the table, spilled out of their containers, dropped on the floor. The videos weren’t shot with a professional camera or had the right lighting,” recalls Lamb, “but that made them more realistic and more accessible. People would see them and think, ‘I can cook that.’ Something similar happens in the videos that we now find on TikTok, which remind Lamb of “funny culinary disasters that a child could carry out.” One of the most surprising details of the growth of Tasty is that it happened on a global scale and was consumed in different parts of the planet, with completely different gastronomic cultures. “The content was not perceived in the same way, a macaroni and cheese burger recipe in the United States received comments like ‘I need to try this’, while in Spain people said: ‘Who is going to eat that filth?’, he explains. However, there is a common thread: for whatever reason, people like to watch other people cook. “The reason is as simple as that, in the end, we all eat. And even if you don’t understand the context or the language, you can see the ingredients and fully understand the process,” adds Lamb.

“If you are operating on a platform governed by the algorithm, such as Facebook or TikTok, where the videos appear in the news feed by an external selection and not by a personal selection, those videos have to attract attention, and if they do you are looking to go viral, they must offer an overdose of visual stimulation, because what you are looking for is to capture attention in less than 15 seconds”, explains the journalist Ryan Broderick from New York, specialist in digital culture and author of the newsletter Garbage Day. “What has happened that we see a woman washing a chicken breast with Fairy and then coating it inside a Doritos bag? That from the first video she uploaded and went viral until now, she has been receiving positive reinforcement for behaving in a certain way in the form of views, comments, and interactions,” she comments. According to Broderick, what goes viral for the 20th time is an exaggerated, expanded and distorted version of what went viral the first time: “And, this, with food, translates to literally disgusting food.”

On TikTok, the gap between new and old content is getting smaller. A video that caused a sensation on a Monday will have been replicated everywhere by Friday, and will probably already be out of style by Sunday. A clear example was the viral recipe for baked feta and cherry, which could already be considered food old lady. TikTok content creators are constantly replicating themselves, copying recipes and formulas, and learning from the successes and failures of other content creators. This translates into an ever faster competition for attention with ever more compelling content.

Broderick finds another common element in accounts such as those of My Jane Brain or Sylvia Ferreira: “All the videos, or the vast majority, are led by white women under 35 years of age, as if they conformed to the stereotype of millennial something silly who doesn’t know how to cook”. They are canonically attractive women, with basic, almost childlike humor and girlish voices. There is no trace of irony or sarcasm in them. Comedy, if it appears, is not intentional. They are also somewhat clumsy when cooking, it could even be said that they are careless and disastrous. The digital culture expert does not doubt that there is a clear gender component to generate more hate and visits: “It is the archetype that the internet loves to hate and insult.” Another infallible component to enhance the rage-bait.

What does the rise of these accounts say about viewers? The success story of Tasty could give some clue, since it became the Facebook page with the highest daily growth. “People responded well to craziness, so we soon had to ramp up our own craziness level: cheese, bacon, giant recipes… you name it. Then, negative comments began to appear on many of the recipes, where users criticized that those were very unhealthy, even, in some cases, downright horrible”, explains Scott Lamb. From buzzfeed listened to the audience and decided to open the little brother of Tastyfocused on healthy food: “It was not even half as successful as the Tasty original,” he says. People wanted to see dirty.

“All content shaped by algorithms ends up being ridiculous. You enter a clone loop, a degradation of the previous content and, in the end, it seems even parodic, an absurd copy of the original. It even happens with what Netflix suggests we see after having seen a specific type of content for a long time, ”Ryan Broderick explains to EL PAÍS. “The problem is that we have been conditioned by the algorithm for too long,” he warns. Are we lost, destined for a future sailing in a sea of ​​digital garbage? “There is a spectrum where videos of women washing chicken with Fairy coexist with Chef’s Table. We have beautiful and elaborate productions together with the worst content that we can imagine”, recalls Broderick. You will have to choose what type of content to see. And not give in to the dark desires of the algorithm.

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