24 hours online with TikTok cultural critic Rayne Fisher-Quann

Welcome to 24 Hours Online, where we ask a very cocky guy to document a day in his life looking at screens.

If you’ve been in a certain angle of left-wing media criticism of Gen Z-feminist-TikTok, you already know Ryan Fisher-Kwan, a 20-year-old writer who’s been big on the internet since she joined: As a teen in Toronto, I’ve grown a huge following Instagram because her best friend got famous on Nickelodeon, and has since built equally massive audiences on Tumblr, Twitter and most recently TikTok, where she discusses feminism, leftism, mental illness and, well, herself.

“I’ve always been very good at getting people to pay attention to me, and that’s not necessarily a positive personality trait,” she says. During 24 hours online, held in mid-February, Fisher-Kwan confronted the horror of the viral outbreak, read about the shifting atmosphere, and pondered the dissonance of the 21st century for self-commodity while criticizing the concept of self-commodification.

Here she is, as she put it:

9 am

Every day I get up at 9am, look up names on social media to make sure everything is going well, and then go back to sleep. This is my worst and most obsessive habit. I pretend it’s because of my evolutionary desire for gossip or something and not just a symptom of low-grade narcissism.

Someone said today I’m a literary Phoebe Bridgers. Another person said, “What the hell’s wrong with Ryan Fisher-Kwan? Please take vitamins. Gallery.”

I have a string of notifications and hundreds of new followers from a podcast I recorded a while ago. It’s my friend’s podcast benchtopia, which people call “the red terror of good people”. We talked about accountability and leftism. It’s a pretty big podcast so I was a bit nervous, but it was well received.

The TikTok video you posted yesterday got 100,000 views overnight. If you talk to someone who isn’t online and tell them, “It went viral,” they’d be like, “Congratulations, that’s cool!” And if I said that to someone on the Internet, they’d be like, “I’m so sorry, are you okay?” Once your video starts getting 100,000 to 300,000 views, that’s when it enters a crowd unfamiliar with you or the things you’re talking about.

11 am

My followers notice that I washed my hair and they congratulate me. I’m very transparent about my mental illnesses online, and my followers know I only wash my hair once or twice a month, it’s kind of an inside joke. I find it very comforting to be like, “I’m kind of disgusting.”

There’s definitely a lot of pressure with women in my position to act as the cool girl, hot thinker, and writer in a babydoll dress. I think some people definitely see me as one of the cool girls, but I realized a while ago that I couldn’t aim for that. I just don’t collect enough. I’m trying to carve out this space that looks a little different, looking like shit and wearing the same jacket for a week and never washing my hair and still saturating it with some kind of eroticism. I think it feels mean to be mean.

I’m browsing [the Instagram account devoted to cringe TikToks] @favtiktoks420 and atlboards, a boutique bulk candy distributor in Atlanta that arranges gummy candies on plastic plates and sells them for hundreds of dollars. Her videos have an almost surreal quality when you watch enough of them. She constantly gets into controversies, her comments are always literally nothing but violent and stinging hate and keeps posting video after video of her playing with the fat-filled loose candy. I would like to write and direct a movie about the House of Art about her someday.

I do Wordle and kill her. Don’t brag.

2 pm

I’m making TikTok for sonic caterpillars. I haven’t had a lot of energy for serious analysis videos lately – maybe depression, maybe because TikTok is kind of losing its vibe to me. When I started on TikTok, there was a group of young, really smart women talking about feminism and politics, and about people who were famous when I started, I think I’m the only one who’s still doing it. The ability to nuance is very low and attention span is very low. I think I got in at the right time, but I feel like people are craving longer content.

This is why my Substack worked really well for me. I don’t like how my look, sound, and quality of my hardware closely affect the way my message is received.

I’m trying to take a cute IG selfie while brushing my teeth and accidentally drooling 100 percent of toothpaste on my shirt.

I read the article “Sense Shift” in Cut. Everyone is very developed, but I was amused. Shifting toward “indie sleaze” or whatever is fine for me personally, because I’m so disgusting. I feel like I have a visual odor that you can’t wash off.

4 pm

She has hit 28k followers on IG. I get Instagram ads: I finally do a few things and order Skims. I’ve been wearing the same bra every day for three years.

6 pm

I watch three hours of Anna’s innovation. There’s nothing I love more than a bad TV. It’s not sarcastic fun! Like, I love BSC.

So many people have tagged me on TikTok so cute! It’s weird seeing people’s negative opinions of me, but sometimes it’s weird seeing people’s positive opinions of me.

10 pm

I post a picture of me salivating with toothpaste on Instagram, and it got 4,000 likes. I briefly wonder what people from high school think of me.

11 pm

I wish I was better about not being online, but unfortunately this is something I really crave and also that I’m really good at. I’ve always been very good at getting people’s attention to me, and that’s not necessarily a positive personality trait. I really respect completely disconnected people who don’t commodify themselves. Looking at my posts, it’s like you’re at a party in middle school and realize in hindsight that you speak louder than anyone else.

Sometimes my social media presence is like my gonzo press, which in itself is a deeply narcissistic endeavor. But it’s hard to find images of mental illness and femininity on the Internet that aren’t completely sterile and aren’t put through this profession’s lens. I suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder and severe chronic depression, and when people talk about mental illness on the Internet, it’s often this sterile and highly acceptable version of mental illness, or it’s hopeless and nihilistic. What I’m trying to do is show in intense detail what it’s like to be exceptionally mentally ill and not hate myself for it. I’ve made it very clear that I empathize with myself, and I think it’s important for people to see that they can all be wrong with you and still care about getting better.

I will sleep. I think I’ve certainly gotten over the hump of feeling completely overwhelmed by the weight of other people’s opinions of me. It comes on every now and then, but most of the time, it’s just plain fun. I am a woman who loves attention.

Total screen time:

7 hours 40 minutes