The Toothpaste Mystery Taking Over TikTok

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S1: Colgate, you have black magic. We need answers so fucking voodoo magic book.

S2: Hi, I’m Rachel Hampton

S3: and I’m Madison Malone Kircher, you’re listening to I.C., why am I in

S2: case you missed it?

S3: Slate’s podcast about internet culture.

S2: And today we’re taking it analog.

S3: That’s right. We’re talking about holiday cards, the ones you, you know, write down on paper, put in an envelope, put a stamp on like the envelope is that envelope twice you get the point.

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S2: We’re talking about holiday cards because the Washington Post has claimed that apparently millennials are sending more holiday cards. And I got to say I thought this genre of article is over. I thought we had collectively stopped.

S3: Well, this doesn’t fall into the genre, the genre you’re talking about is millennials killing things.

S2: Oh, oh, sorry. Mm hmm. Why do you

S3: just say I read that article just before we sat down to record this episode? And there’s now a correction appended to the top that the study they were using wasn’t solid enough to actually, oh my God, the thesis that millennials are bringing back the holiday.

S2: This is what happens when you publish preprints like or non peer reviewed studies. This happened all the time with COVID. People would jump on whatever study they came out, and now apparently we’re doing with millennials and holiday cards.

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S3: I mean, yes, Rachel, those are two equivalent issues. Claimant data and millennials are mailing red and green cards.

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S2: It’s all misinformation. Madison.

S3: Are you sending Christmas cards?

S2: Oh, OK. I have to reveal something about myself that are happening in on this podcast. Oh, show your ass! Oh, so I just want to preface this by saying this is not an specific thing. My friends also think I’m an idiot. I have an aversion to the post office. Like, I don’t know why, but the concept of mailing things stresses me out to the point that I fully just don’t like. I have not returned a single item of clothing that I’ve needed to at least five years. I just keep it like, I just bite that money. I know, I know Madison. I also don’t think it makes sense. I’m going to mention Zara. I would rather go to Soho and return it in person than figure out how to go about stuff and return this package. I cannot explain to you why. Madison Wait, I have one more anecdote. Literally, we did this project where we were contacting people who are incarcerated about their political views, and the only way to get in contact is to send physical letters in. The most stressful part of that project was sending the letters. I was just like, How where’s where’s the stamp go with? This stamp go?

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S3: The woman was too stunned to see. I feel like I could turn a profit if I took a cut of the return money and just did your returns for you?

S2: Oh, Madison, I would pay you for that. Yeah, one hundred percent like you could 100 percent turn a profit if you just took my stuff to the post office. For me, like I have like this little, I have bags of money

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S3: in my office. I feel like I’m learning so much about you. None of it.

S2: Good now that I’ve fully ushered myself into, you know, a new, embarrassing realm, are you really calling it quits?

S3: In what is perhaps the most unsurprising discrepancy between the two of us? I love mail. I have friends who I communicate with almost exclusively via stamped letters.

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S2: Oh my god.

S3: I think this came from being a Girl Scout camp kid growing up in the like 90s, 2000s and like mail was the greatest thing. So I do love mail. However, I’m not sending holiday cards. What that’s it seems like extremely. Or should my dear sweet partner is a graphic designer and I’m not mad. Rebecca, you’re listening. You’re probably not. I’m not mad. But it turns out graphic designers are like morally opposed to sending out a preprinted stock card from Mint.com or whatever. Mhm. But like and you need to give them more lead time if you need a custom designed Christmas card. Wow. But I’m not mad.

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S2: Hmm. So what you’re telling me is you would have had to tell your partner in like, what, September? But you wanted this, maybe July. While the supply chain really is ringing

S3: precisely so no holiday cards from me or Rachel this year. If you’re listening to the show, this is the closest thing you’re getting to a picture of us in ugly sweaters.

S2: Happy holidays!

S3: Mm hmm. Rachel, I’m almost nervous to keep going with this episode, knowing what we now know about your poster phobia. But we are in fact, opening up the mailbag for another episode of read receipts.

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S4: I want to see the receipts, OK?

S2: To be clear, I love opening mail, I love getting things. It is sending it back, stresses me out, so this is perfect for me. Also read receipts.

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S3: When we come back from the break, we will open some mail. Do not expect a return letter. No.

S5: See you in a minute.

S2: Hey, listeners, I’m here to tell you about a new podcast from The Atlantic called the review. Each week, the Atlantic team of writers will challenge you to not just watch a movie, but to understand it, to not just hear a song, but consider what it has to say. Join the roundtable as they break down a work of pop culture each week, exploring the big questions that art can provoke, making some recommendations for you and having little fun along the way. Find their view at the Atlantic.com or on your favorite podcast app. And we’re back our very first question from our listener, Mary, and it is about Toothpaste and TikTok minty fresh, never thought I would say those two things together on this podcast. Those two things? No.

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S6: Hey, I see. Why am I? I’m not sure if I’m seeing this because I haven’t logged on to tech talk a lot recently, and it’s forgotten everything it knows about me, or if this is a real trend. But what the fuck is happening with the all these tech talks about people cutting open tubes of toothpaste and mixing the Toothpaste around in the tube and then squeezing it out and it still comes out stripey? Am I the only one who’s seeing this? So what the fuck is this about?

S2: OK? There’s actually a two part answer to this, which is a this trend that you’re noticing is not just you is in fact intensely popular, which is why it’s appearing on your flip. If you haven’t logged on for a while, TikTok does kind of forget what you want to see if you haven’t logged on in a while. So those serving the most popular content that’s currently on the app, the kind of fun thing to do if you just don’t want the algorithm to learn anything about you is to just watch everything and then it just kind of freaks out. But anyway, this trend seems to have started with a man named Ryan Bader Stella, who on November 25th uploaded a TikTok that’s now been viewed three million times.

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S1: Yeah, mix that up. Riddle me this. It’s like a swirly str. look.

S2: So in this video, two men are standing in the bathroom together and they’re holding a tube of Colgate toothpaste, and they’re just like squeezing it around, trying to mix it

S3: inside the tube. Yes.

S2: And then they figure out that when they they put a little bit on their toothbrush and they’re still stripes,

S1: how to fuck does it still hurt and shit? Why is it both of those should be mixed and blended of all jumbled up together? What the fuck is happening right now?

S2: I don’t know what prompted this video, but it it has currently about three million views and almost 2000 comments. A lot of which were kind of along the lines of you absolute dummy. The reason that this doesn’t work is because there’s like two different tubes and the Toothpaste, and it’s always going to come out stripy or the stuff that you mixed up was at the top of the tube and you only squeeze out the stuff at the bottom. So Ryan, as one does, sets out to defend his honor. Well, the video uploaded two days later, but now has ten point seven million views.

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S1: Still, stripes? Wow, that is quite a sound. Still, fuckin stripes. This is foul. It’s still fucking stripes. All that, all

S2: that he mixes it up and he basically dumps the entire tube of toothpaste into the toilet, it makes some very unpleasant sounds. But he’s basically proving it’s not just that the Toothpaste that’s at the bottom of the tube, it’s the all the way through. It all stays stripy and then at one point at the end, he cuts it open so that you can see inside the Toothpaste and see that there’s not two tubes. So basically, he’s like, What the fuck is happening here?

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S1: Where the fuck is? There are two bags where, look, it’s all mixed, all mixed up. It’s all mixed up in there, but it still comes out with the strength. Well, what the fuck?

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S3: OK, so this is one person. How does it become a trend so, so large that it is taking over Mary’s for you page?

S2: Yeah. So you’ve probably seen a genre of TikToks like the I’m a describe it as fact or cab. Basically where?

S3: Yeah, yep.

S2: Mm hmm. There’s some John Cap, the Toothpaste there is. Oh my god. So basically, it’s like these videos where someone’s demonstrating like a life hack or something that you know, whereas like, I bet you never knew that this thing was true. Sure. Sure. Yeah. So mean everyone on the internet immediately has to try it. The trim that happens is people doing this themselves, trying to prove whether or not this is true.

S7: So this is when I first bought it. And obviously, you can see the stripes and then I cut it open. And then, like, I didn’t really touch it there, so you can kind of see the lines and stuff. So this is when I first mixed it and you can kind of see lines. I guess I like makes it too much, but this is me washing it out completely. And you can see it’s like empty, so it’s completely gray.

S3: OK, so I I simply now need answers, and I think Mary Mary also deserves answers. Why the hell do the stripes never go away, Rachel?

S2: OK, so the thing is, we will go away if you mix it thoroughly enough. But the reason this happens is because of something called Realogy. And the reason I found that out is because the brand’s got it on this straight and as they must. And Colgate had their scientists explain what exactly is happening here.

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S3: Fine. This is the one time a brand is allowed to get involved in a trend because I demand answers.

S8: So it looks like you guys are really interested in how the stripes in our tube stay intact. So is it magic now? Is it different bags? No. Is it a special nozzle on the cap? No. Is it a portal now? It’s actually two things. One, the two colors of Toothpaste resist mixing due to their viscosity to the design of the tube doesn’t allow for problems. You would really have to cut open the top and mix all the way to the bottom three present. And that’s that. Thanks for your interest and call it.

S2: That’s why it’s viscosity, and Realogy and all these other scientific terms about why these two things will never mix together. Well, none of them answered the question that I had, which is why does Toothpaste have stripes? Is it just for aesthetic? Do the stripes do anything? Maya Toothpaste doesn’t have stripes. Do I need to buy a striped Toothpaste? What’s the truth, Colgate?

S3: We will never know the fluoride answer.

S2: All right. What do we have next up?

S3: Next up, we have a question that’s extremely up my alley. It comes from listener Annie, and it’s about Taylor Swift and Q QAnon. Whoa. OK, it’s half up my alley, I should say.

S2: I was like, Man, is it?

S4: Hi, this is Annie in Minneapolis. I’m calling to ask our QAnon followers and Swifties two sides of the same coin differing in whether they use the urge to sluice for neutral, good or chaotic evil. Listening to your episode about Taylor Swift dropping hints and patterns, and how fans grab for them and try to predict the future based on little patterns that they find really reminded me of everything I’ve read and seen in the past year about QAnon followers and Q drops. And I was wondering, do you do you see anything in this pattern and do you think QAnon followers could get a more positive fix to the sleuthing addiction by becoming Swifties? Not a fully baked idea. Just want to hear what you think? Take care,

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S3: Annie. I love the way your brain works. Also, I’m worried about the way that your brain works.

S2: So Madison, this is this is a question for you. The swift biologists and swift autocracy.

S3: That’s me. So I’m slightly more than slightly hesitant to link my beloved Taylor Swift to. Despite being an imperfect person. I mean, who among us is certainly not trafficking in dangerous and gross conspiracy theories like, you know. Q and on the kinds of theories that ruin lives and families and countries. And I do think there’s a little bit of context we should mention here. We’re going to rewind a few years back to when the alt right. Do you know this? The right was convinced the Taylor Swift was secretly a Nazi.

S2: Yes, I do remember this theory.

S3: Taylor Swift is not secretly a Nazi. She was a very famous person who. Sort of chickened out on having any political ideologies in the interest of being a neutral party, which we can we can fault her for. But she was not a Nazi. Big difference. So that said, I haven’t not thought about the link between QAnon types and Taylor Swift before. A lot of people have thought about this, and I did have a moment when I was listening to the new ten minute all too well. You’ve listened, I assume. Oh yeah. You know, the new line where she says, you kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath.

S5: He kissed me like a secret, but I kissed.

S3: Great line. It is a great line, but I know I’ve been on the internet too long because my immediate thought was, Oh no, they’re going to think she’s talking directly to them. They being the Oath Keepers, who are a far right so-called militia who have tasked themselves with defending the Constitution. January six types. Oh no. And demand democracy.

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S2: Oh, it’s broken jinx. Oh, it’s been too much time together.

S3: So where I net out to Annie’s question is that I agree there is definitely some similarities to the secret messages that are left by Q and left by T o. But I don’t feel like these are two sides of the same coin. I’d have to say they’re completely different coins.

S2: Actually, I have a question for you. Where do you think that like the true crime of vacation of like the internet falls on this coin scale, the kind of Gabby Bertino investigations or even the Koski investigations? Would you say Taylor Swift is closer to them?

S3: I think what I’m getting at in trying not to link QAnon and Taylor Swift is that. Taylor Swift leaves breadcrumb trails and ridiculous clues, but also the albums come out when she says the albums are going to come out like she’s not ever lying. She’s actually leaving clues and puzzles that if you follow them correctly, yield answers with Q and on or with somebody spinning tales about how Gabby Potato is alive and living in Puerto Rico, that’s so much more malicious. Definitely. After the break, we’re going to be back with questions about possum memes and just reveal how much time we spend on our goddamn phones running scared.

S5: I was there. I remember it. To.

S3: All right, so we’re back with possum.

S2: Yeah, we got some possum names. Oh, possum is the silent.

S3: The No. Is can be silent.

S2: I’ll decide which one I’m going to stick with by the end of this episode. But the reason we’re talking about this is because we got a voicemail from listener Sarah about possum. Oh, possums.

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S9: Hey, Rachel and Madison, what is with all of the names of possums on Instagram that I have been seeing lately? There’s these means of like possums and raccoons with text over them that looks like word art from like a 2003 elementary school assignment in Microsoft Word. Where did these come from? And why are they suddenly all over my Instagram Explore page?

S2: Can you please enlighten me? I’m glad that Sam mentioned raccoons because that’s what I think of as like the internet’s favorite chaotic animal. But possum is definitely up there.

S3: I mean, I get it like if you look at a possum, this is a creature that contains multitudes. They can be adorable. They can be terrifying. They’re angry. Little faces kind of look like they have opinions about everything, which is fun to anthropomorphize. They’re nocturnal, much like everyone on the internet.

S2: And unlike some animals, they can’t actually be trained by humans. So you occasionally see a video of like a gussied up possum doing a trick. So that’s fun as well.

S3: Wow. I would have thought that was impossible.

S2: Sarah isn’t the first ask about the internet’s collective obsession with possum. There is, in fact, a whole nother year meme about this. If you can’t tell, we love your meme on this podcast and way back in the happier time of 2018, the daily copy, then we were happier than we are now.

S3: Fair.

S2: The Daily Dot wrote a piece about how possums became a lovable internet meme. Pretty much the reason that matters and outlined, which is that they’re kind of angry and also a little bit mischievous and also cute. And I don’t know, man, that kind of feels like something we all wish that we could be. But the specific memes that Sarah points to are like photos on Instagram of possums photoshopped with like the word are used to fuck around with when you were like seven and had free time in your computer class.

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S3: I was making art, Rachel.

S2: Uh huh.. And the words over these photos of possums read shit like arson. Oh, you mean crime bully? Or I got 99 problems. I caused 87 of them or life update. It got worse. Or my favorite flash, the one that confuses me the most. Wake up, brother. We must avenge Waterloo. Where did you find these look? Look the possum meme on Instagram and look through the results. This is what comes up because there’s so many of them in. All of them have, like more than twenty thousand like twenty thousand likes, their entire meme pages just dedicated to making these word art, things that Sarah’s pointing to. And I don’t know, to me, it feels like the kind of natural progression of the internet’s obsession with cats. It feels like the kind of chaotic inverse of the like. Previous. I am a small being moment. We were in in like twenty thirteen. You know,

S3: I can see it, I can see it.

S2: We’re all just a little bit more world weary now, a little angrier. And so the avatar of the internet’s collective is no longer a cat hanging from a tree, saying, hang in there, but a trash eating marsupial, talking about arson,

S3: who looks like it might eat your face off

S2: or let you give it a cookie?

S3: I’ll let you go first.

S2: I must go to the possum. In the post office, I got to say that’s a lie. I once ran away from possum on the street.

S3: Yeah. What do you think happens to people at the Post Office?

S1: I don’t know

S2: if you like a liminal space. It’s not that I haven’t been there before. I have. I just prefer not to go.

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S3: I don’t even know how to go on with this knowledge. All right. Our last question comes from at Cressy K on Twitter, who wanted to know our weekly screen times the little report that your iPhone will give you about how much time you spent having blue light pouring into your eyeballs on any given day.

S2: I feel like I’ll go first because I can’t. I can’t answer this question for you because I literally turned mine off because it made me feel bad. If that’s any indication of how much time I’ve been on my phone and that’s not even like I don’t even my phone and my laptop aren’t fully sync, so I don’t that doesn’t even count how many hours I spend on my laptop. It’s a lot.

S3: I’m looking at this and it’s not great. My daily average is six hours.

S2: That’s a lot because that doesn’t include that doesn’t include being on your laptop.

S1: Shh.

S2: Well, I mean, OK, I will say that we got this question a day before we began recording this episode, so I did temporarily turn on my little screen time recordings to see if I could get some data in 24 hours.

S1: Oh no. I hate this

S2: so much so my daily average is like four hours and 16 minutes, which like, fine, whatever. But I think the most embarrassing part of that is that apparently I spent two hours and 41 minutes this week playing darts, my phone.

S3: I mean, I’m more embarrassed by the apparent hour and 28 minutes I spent in the clock app. Well, what are you doing? I have no idea. I feel like I should reclaim some of this time. Chrissy, thank you. It was the wakeup call I needed. I will be throwing my phone on the East River posthaste.

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S2: I’m turning this feature back off. Thank you for dramatizing me. I’ll never live without this knowledge ever again.

S3: But all right, that’s the show we will be back on your feet on Wednesday, so definitely subscribe. The show is free and it’s the best way to make sure you never miss an episode. Plus, you’ll be able to keep that screen time up because you’re probably listening in on a phone. Leave us a rating and review an Apple podcast and maybe tell a friend about us. You can also follow us on Twitter. Where at I.S.? Why am I underscore Pod? We love DMs with questions. Also, if you had over there this week and you listen to our episode on Wednesday, you remember we talked about those cringy hinge voice memos that people are using in an attempt to secure dates exotic. Well, Rachel and I’m in our own, and as always, our email is icy. Why am I at Slate.com?

S2: I see why am I produced by Daniel Schroeder, a supervising producer there, John. We’re edited by Horace Lichtman and we’re Frank and Alicia Montgomery is executive producer of Slate Podcast and a special shout out to Amber Smith C Online

S3: or at the Post Office, unless you’re Rachel. Hey, Rachel. Yeah. What do you call a dentist who doesn’t like tea?

S2: We’ve entered a new era of jokes. What what do you call a dentist that doesn’t like to?

S1: Dennis, yep, yep, yep.

S2: So anyway, now that I’ve been tortured.