Behind Glass

I explored the concept of separation by focusing on loneliness. I wanted to tell stories of isolation side by side, highlighting how varying subjects pull away from the world. I wanted to examine their most intimate spaces and understand how loneliness can be felt there too. And most of all, I wanted to show through three narratives that we are not alone in these feelings.

To communicate this, I shot three different people and their environments, focusing on the times when they feel lonely: looking out a window, speeding down a road at sunset, or alone during a winter afternoon.

By Erin Davis

Double Lives: Or, the Anatomy of the Secret Stan Account

Illustration by Leanna for Rookie Mag

Anyone who says they can’t remember their first Twitter username is either traumatized to the point of repression or a liar. I, former Twitter user @tweetme_harry, remember it all clearly: with the earliest studio picture of Harry Styles as my icon (you know the one) and “Andrea Styles” as my display name, I spent the better part of 2012 incessantly @-ing said boyband member in an ultimately parasocial form of interpersonal communication. And reader, I was having the time of my life.

Back then the only reason to get Twitter was for the celebrities. I didn’t know anyone who had an account who wasn’t also in some sort of fandom, so most of the people I followed and interacted with were users I’ve never met offline. The people I did know IRL, if their interests were unaligned with mine, remained solely IRL. Twitter was for our niches; if I wanted to see what my friends were up to, I went to Facebook. 

In a speed almost nightmarish, parents were beginning to get the hang of the interwebs, specifically Facebook—it is the gateway social network, after all—so it was no longer a safe zone, no longer purely the kids’ party. Gradually we spent less time in this big blue app and transferred wholesale to another big blue app, and, in line with the increased value of individualism and personal branding so characteristic of this decade, Twitter became home to more personal accounts. Fearing that my friends would make fun of my determined affection toward this white boy unaware of my existence but also unwilling to miss out on any internet fun said friends might be having, I decided to make a second account. My first username—bear in mind, this was 2013—was @andreyuh_pawline. 

While my Directioner days are far behind me (though I still lovingly mention Twitter user @Harry_Styles from time to time), I remain the bearer of two Twitter accounts: one personal, thankfully with a less embarrassing username now, exclusive for people I meet IRL, e.g. in school; and the trusty stan account, my little corner of Film Twitter, followed by people with similar interests. Followers of one account are unaware of the existence of the other, even when I befriend a fellow film lover in one of my classes or meet up with a Stan Twitter mutual offline. 

This isn’t a particularly unique experience. I like to think fandom, at least to some degree, is universal, and (secret) stan accounts are more common than we realize. The day after I pitched this idea, in a twist of fate I’m too romantic to believe is pure coincidence, a freshman reached out to me with a survey for an anthropology class about the number of social media accounts I have and the reasons for each account’s existence. 

“I use my other [personal] account to keep track of my friends, peers, and news and public affairs,” says Lei, a 20-year-old student from the Philippines and the owner of two Twitter accounts, one of which is a secret stan account. “I use this [stan] account to tweet and keep track of my interests: mostly movies and television, the odd comic book or K-pop band. The people I follow on this account are those who share the same interests, most of whom I've met on this platform.” She adds that she has more social interactions on the stan account than on her personal, often just retweeting on the latter. 

A, a 19-year-old also from the Philippines, says their personal is more formal—“it’s basically my alter ego”—while their stan account is their “free” account. “No one knows me personally so I don’t really care about what my mutuals think. I tweet about my faves.”

The pattern is obvious—I need not conduct interviews but simply draw from my personal experience to know the differences between the personal and the stan accounts. But why must the latter be kept a secret? Why are stan accounts so separated from our real identities? Why is my full name nowhere to be seen there when I unhesitatingly display it on other social networking sites? Why is my Twitter icon a picture of Molly Ringwald and not of myself? 

“A lot of people from my school followed my personal, [but] I gave it up because it felt like I was trying to look good to other people, when I could just be having more fun on Stan Twitter where I felt more people understand me,” shares Mary, an 18-year-old from the U.S. who currently only uses her stan account. “I never talk about my interests to people, [and] that’s a lot of what I post here, so it’d be weird for them to suddenly know. I keep that stuff more personal; I guess I just worry about getting made fun of.” While the secrecy of the owner’s personal identity provides them freedom to speak truthfully about their lives IRL, the separation from real life is more often for defense than offense. “When I first set up [my] account, it was half personal, half fandom, and I felt like I embarrassed myself a bit by tweeting incessantly about Glee without realizing. So going forward I just decided to keep it separate,” says Liv, a Stan Twitter user from Australia.

Lei, who made a secret stan account a few years after creating her personal, feels the same way: “The reason I’d made the stan account in the first place was because I felt isolated, insecure, and painfully shy and afraid of judgement—and my secret account seemed [like] a great way to escape from it all.” When asked how she would respond if people she knew IRL found out about the account, she said that a few years back, she would’ve changed her username, blocked people, or even deactivated, though she doubts she’d take the same protective measures now. “What may be a huge concern for you is just an interesting few minutes’ worth of scrolling for them.” That said, however, she still doesn’t openly share the account with anyone unless some semblance of trust has been established. 

When I received the freshman’s survey about how many social media accounts I have, I shyly asked the people around me if they had second Twitters, my lame attempt to confirm my hypothesis that secret stan accounts are more prevalent than we realize. As soon as I brought up the topic I grew embarrassed (despite my classmates’ nonchalant confirmation) because it was like I was intruding. Admitting you had one was like admitting to a discomfort in your real life, some cognitive dissonance you can only solve by detaching yourself from the real world. My friends know I love movies, but informing them I have a separate Twitter where all I do is talk about it always feels weird, even though its existence makes total sense. As Lei said, “I used to hit tweet limit [on my personal account] every day just live-tweeting movies/episodes, so I probably annoyed the hell out of [my followers, who are people from school]… I was unbearable.” She didn’t want to sacrifice her friends IRL, hence the separate account. I can understand the separation: I made another account for the same reason as Lei, after all. But again, why the secrecy?

In 1967, sociologist George Herbert Mead came up with the “I” and the “me”: the former is our unorganized responses to the attitudes of others, an impulse to act that is essentially spontaneous, and, for lack of a better phrase, fully ours; the latter is the socialized aspect of ourselves, a set of organized attitudes that we assume as needed and that we learned from others. These two concepts contribute to the idea that our capital-S Self is a social process—social meaning it cannot exist on its own, and process meaning it is never fixed. 

Selves, then, thrive on the internet, with social media’s wide breadth and penchant for constant change. In the book Television, Social Media, and Fan Culture, authors Corey Jay Liberman, Michael Plugh, and Brian Geltzieler said that the internet shaped fandom by providing fans with, obviously, the feeling of social solidarity, but also emotional liberation. Sure, I created my first fan account because I wanted to be noticed by some celebrity, but also because I wanted an avenue to unabashedly vent out my teenage devotion, because I knew I couldn’t do so in my existing (offline) social circles. I wasn’t really thinking of gaining followers as much as gaining my capital-S Self. In the lens of Mead, while both the I and the Me exist in individuals at the same time, my former was constantly overpowered by my latter, and through my fan account I was able to, put simply, be myself sans the worry of public humiliation. Because I is an aspect of ourselves devoid of any social influence, the thought that it might be socially unacceptable is inevitable. 

Related to this is Erving Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, where he framed social interaction—and selfhood as a whole—as a theatrical performance, and everyone is an actor. Of course, in keeping up with the analogy, there is the front stage, or our performance with an audience present, and the backstage, where the audience is no longer there and the actors can drop the act. The public and private spheres, in other words. For many, the stan account is their backstage—or at least, their safe space, because the audience is still present, although notably more forgiving—with their real life the relatively more exhausting front stage.

When asked if she feels left out from having no personal account to connect with the people around her, Mary admitted that while she sometimes wishes she could fit in with them and have an account to “just retweet corny stuff,” she knows she’s happier with different people. “[It] sounds pretentious, but at least I don’t have to put up an act. That’s what having a personal account felt like,” she adds. Because of the anonymity made possible by stan accounts, the demands of real life fall away. Not only is the user given a place to celebrate their passions, no holds barred—they’re also given a space to relax from the constant expectations to perform a certain self. 

This doesn’t answer, however, why the people who do have multiple Twitters feel like they also have multiple selves across the accounts. By keeping her stan account hidden, Lei says, “[I’m able to] keep my social groups separate and negotiate my identities between my ‘offline’ and ‘online’ selves.” Admittedly, there are some selves that don’t necessarily thrive under certain cultures—or subcultures, since they encompass smaller social groups, e.g. people who go to the same school. While the multiplicity of selves is in no way a contemporary concept, the internet enables us to make tangible these selves—concretize them through a Twitter profile—as well as create even more selves. You get exposed to different cultures and all those require different selves, operating within distinct sets of mechanisms and mores. 

Between my accounts, I speak in two different ways, partly because I use different languages and talk about different things, but mostly because each feels like a distinct self. “The primary differences [between my two accounts], I think, mostly lie in which aspects of me they represent. One is just as important as the other, and I definitely cannot discredit the significance of—or the need for—either one,” Lei says. 

In this case, then, the stan account is not a backstage but another front stage, since there is an audience and a performance. Only this time, because it’s on the internet, there is never not an audience, so you are never not performing. Front stages are tiring, regardless of how close to our true selves our performances on it are. Their essence is the antithesis of the backstage; you can’t relax. You have an audience and you know what it expects of you, and for your capital-S Self to continue successfully operating, you have to perform, or these expectations will not be met, and essentially you will cease to exist. Because your self is a product of performance, not presenting anything simply means nonexistence. It’s becoming increasingly clear that to exist means to also register yourself digitally, at least to some extent, because the internet it no longer just a reflection of life but an extension of it.

In her essay “The I in the Internet” from her book Trick Mirror, Jia Tolentino writes, “People who maintain a public internet profile are building a self that can be viewed simultaneously by their mom, their boss, their potential future bosses, their eleven-year-old nephew… On the internet, a highly functional person is one who can promise everything to an indefinitely increasing audience at all times.” Performances in real life vary: you don’t present the same self to your parents and to your friends. But because basically everyone has access to your self on the internet, and all your audiences with all their different expectations are meddling together, you become unsure of which self to present. Similar to the function of the finsta, having a stan account can be a way of compartmentalizing your audience, of trying to regain control over how you are perceived. But where the finsta grants a select few a peek at your backstage, a deeper dive into your private world, the secret stan account is a different world altogether. Less personal, but similarly intimate. 

By Andrea Panaligan

Wild Women

I wanted to create a cinematic snapshot of the South seen through the lens of female sexuality, because it’s the only thing I can think of that even comes close to mirroring the same amount of complexity—not to mention its taboo nature in the context of Southern culture. It’s about the architecture, decay, beauty, sense of Southern grandeur glazed over unspeakable ugliness, and the rising pillars of Confederate monuments. The existence of this city is in constant conflict—old and new, good and evil, tradition and
innovation, white and black.

This all ties into the concept of a “wild woman” as an object of fear, madness, beauty, wonder, rage, and magic. I thought it would be fascinating to set it against the Southern landscape and subvert the patriarchal and traditional views of what a “wild woman” (an empowered, free woman who doesn't fit societal roles) looks like, and show this gradual awakening. I wanted to capture something that feels organic and wild and reflective of what it feels like to be a woman in the South: caged and restless but also strangely, inexplicably free.

By Erin Davis

Reptiles, Rebellion, and Rules: Doja Cat’s “Hot Pink”

It’s been over a month since Doja Cat released Hot Pink, and I’m still thinking about it. 

From her laconic interview responses to an outrageous wardrobe (yes, she was dressed as a watermelon on Late Night With Seth Meyers), Doja presents herself as excessively performative. But there’s no doubt she poured herself into her second studio album. From well-crafted rhymes to a seamless blurring of genres, it’s clear that Doja is breaking from the “meme star” aesthetic that previously defined her; “MOOO!” is old news, and besides, in “Rules” she declares herself a reptilian, not a cow. 

In Hot Pink, we hear rock, the ‘80s, and styles that can’t quite be pinned down. The album is an idiosyncratic concoction in a sleek pink capsule. So get comfy, put on your headphones, and let’s dive into my track-by-track rundown.

  1. Cyber Sex 

Soft, synthetic beats are joined by smooth R&B vocals. She almost declares the post-chorus with a choir of ad-libs, asking: “Is you into that? (Into that, is you into that? Uh-uh) / Let’s break the internet.” In this one, her rhymes evoke Nicki Minaj’s often eccentric rapping style as she details her risqué relationship with a stranger on an online chatroom.

  1. Won’t Bite (feat. Smino) 

When I first heard this, “the motherland” immediately came to mind. More specifically, the rhythmic guitar and background chanting evoke Doja’s South African heritage. In her first lines, dissonant harmonies give the feeling of stepping into a time and place outside of Western pop. A place framed with piña coladas and palm trees. Then Smino, a Missouri-raised creative, joins the track with similarly witty bars. “Natural hair poppin’, don’t ever get it twisted” is a personal favorite. 

  1. Rules 

Think rebellious cowgirl. It starts with a modal guitar riff before a synthetic drum kit joins in. Soon Doja, evoking American Southern culture, says, “Break some bread up... that butter my biscuit.” Despite the country sound, she raps over the beat, driving it into the terrain of trap music. Oh, and Doja Cat is finally taking her name to heart and embracing her feline side. In the music video, she laps up a glass of milk and gazes at a box full of mice. Directly quoting a witty YouTube comment, “Doja is the whole package: singer, dancer, director, a cat, a cow, and a reptilian.”

  1. Bottom Bitch 

All I can say is that Spotify named this my #1 song of 2019 for a reason. There’s another guitar riff here, but it feels different. This one is dauntless and spirited. It’s also noticeably more blended in genre—it’s trap meets pop meets punk (she samples Blink 182's "What's My Age Again?"). I could turn up and fall asleep to this song at the same time.

I’m not a skater, but to me, this sounds like a skater song. The music video (which features Rico Nasty, BTW), seconds this: Doja and her gang of color-clad friends dance around in a skate park. 

  1. Say So 

There’s a distinct shift here. This is dance music with a bouncy hook. It’s a bop. Backed by groovy beats and an electric guitar, Doja demands urgency from a love interest, stating “You got to keep me focused, you want it, say so.” We get vocals in Doja’s head voice, and in the second half, the rap style from her previous songs resurfaces as she demands, “Why you beating 'round the bush? Knowing you want all this woman?” Good question.

  1. Like That (feat. Gucci Mane) 

Gucci Mane is one of my favorite rappers, but Doja’s the star of this one. With lines like “Do it like that and I'll repay it (Huh?)” and “Just like that, come my way,” she’s clearly feeling herself. There’s heavy bass typical of pop rap, and we even hear a cowbell a few times. Gucci and Doja’s collab works because they share a dauntless confidence, as manifested in Gucci’s clever and comical lines, “I'm not cheap, baby, and I'm sure not selfish (No) / Shakin' like Elvis, damn near broke my pelvis (sheesh).” And when he finishes, I’m pleasantly greeted by Doja’s catchy chorus. 

  1. Talk Dirty 

Pure romantic R&B. This one sounds like steam and glitter. In terms of genre, this is more familiar territory for Doja, though she’s been comfortable the whole time. As she instructs a beau on how to talk to her, the chorus reveals her duality. She’s a delicate kingpin. She raps the lines “Now when you talk like that, I be in my bag” with attitude while her ethereal background vocals whisper “when you talk to me,” unveiling her sensitive side.

  1. Addiction 

This is dulcet dance music—the type that plays under dimmed multicolored lights. I couldn’t name the genre of this one if I tried, though I do get underground R&B vibes. Doja wrote her entire first album while high, and Hot Pink was a clean slate. Yet in this song, she references being “under the influence a little” and being addicted to something or someone. Not the most remarkable track on the album, TBH. Doja’s kind of playing it safe here. 

  1. Streets 

In the first few seconds, the swung rhythm and muffled audio sound like the intro of an old-school track my mom might blast in the car. In the best way. A few more seconds, though and I’ve changed my mind. A pulsating bass is introduced, as is a drum kit. Here Doja is trying to reconcile with a love interest, lamenting, “I can't be without you / Why can't I find no one like you?” The song is predictable, and again, nothing stands out here.

  1. Shine

It immediately sounds familiar, and we get a memorable hook. The first verse starts tentatively, but with a crescendo arises heavy autotune which persists through both verses. I’m going to take a wild guess and say she’s rapping about a girl—potentially herself—shining. This glare might be from her rings, since she recounts that her haters “slipped on some [of her] ice.” 

  1. Better Than Me

This one’s slooooower. She drops the tempo and takes her time, serving pure R&B. While brazen, her lyrics are a little pitiful. She’s comparing herself to an ex’s new girl, telling herself one day he “gon' figure out [he] lost one and that's me.”  Either way, this mellow track seems cathartic, which is always useful.

  1. Juicy (feat. Tyga) 

The colorful beat instantly whisks you into another dimension, and can only be described as “fruity” (which the music video can corroborate). This is a body positivity anthem, as Doja praises cellulite, natural beauty, and bodies of all sizes, regardless of whether they can fit into True Religion denim. I’ve never been the biggest fan of the song, but “Juicy” is undoubtedly the standout track of the album, with the original and remix racking up 86 million streams and counting on Spotify. Tyga’s feature doesn’t feel quite necessary, but it gets the job done, I guess.

Final Thoughts

The second half of Hot Pink definitely pales in comparison to the first, as the songs take on a more generic feel. For me, the first six tracks were impressive. Each was unconventional and well-crafted—and may have set my expectations unrealistically high for the rest of the project. 

By and large, Doja Cat is proving herself to be a formidable force as she steps into the new decade. In an interview with Paper Magazine, she asserted that her music isn’t meant to stand for anything, saying “I never think about what I write. I just write whatever the first thing that comes to my mind is." Still, I can’t help but hope that as Doja takes off, rather than aimlessly navigate the industry, she’s able to channel her passion into a worthwhile cause, wherever it may lie.

By Simisola Fagbemi

Trump's Immigration Policies Are Harmful to Everyone—Especially Children

Photo by Mike Blake, Reuters

“You even get tired of crying.” 

This is the first sentence uttered by Eddy, 17, in a brief video recorded by the Guardian. The video documents the experiences of him and his younger sister, Lilian, when they were held in child detention centres. Eddy describes the quenching thirst, the feeling of dehumanisation, the verbal abuse and physical exhaustion that the two underwent earlier this year. He says that “to be removed from your mum or dad is like getting an arm or leg removed;” an experience so emotionally painful that it has the power to leave an everlasting scar. 

His and Lilian’s experience is, if anything, a privileged one. They only had to spend five weeks in a detention camp, and their family is now reunited. They are just two out of the more than 5,460 children who have been separated from their families since July 2017. 
This is a result of the zero-tolerance immigration policy that has been implemented in the United States by the Trump administration. When undocumented parents who cross the border are criminally persecuted, they are separated from their children, who are then kept in youth detention centres for an indeterminate period of time. Everything about this experience is fundamentally cruel for both the children and the parents—from the separation itself to the repercussions it has on the kids’ mental and physical health, even when families are ultimately reunited. 

The many images of children crying and clinging onto their parents during separations should be enough to show what a traumatic process a young child undergoes. It is a journey that begins with crying, protest and agitation. The high levels of stress hormones damage impulse transmitters in the brain, and they can disrupt the immune and metabolic system, causing permanent trauma. 
This then brings what we know as toxic stress, especially in younger children. Elizabeth Barnert, assistant professor of pediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine, claims that this “occurs when children lack a loving, trusted caregiver to calm and soothe them in the face of stressful events.” In the case of older children, the reactions are varied and depend on their past and upbringing, but in most cases, they tend to be less life-threatening and more more behaviour-related. 

And that is just the beginning. 

After the separation, the terrible living conditions imprint the trauma in the children’s lives. Eddy reports how some guards would pour chlorine in the water they drank, making them more thirsty, and how he once had to stand for seven hours because there was no room to sit. Reporter Jacob Sobroff, who visited these spaces, describes the children as being in an incarcerated state; he shared on his Twitter how they eat in shifts and are only given two hours a day outside. Settling into the institutionalised setting is threatening for the child’s wellbeing, since the state of neglect becomes normal when they have restricted access to food, sleep, hygiene and responsive interactions with adults. Harvard pediatrics professor Jack P. Shonkoff claims that this results in the kids “crawling into themselves.” 

This suffering is often a long tunnel. Some children are separated from their families for several months, giving more time for trauma to build up and settle in. The general policy is to reunite the families as soon as possible, but when this is not possible, the children are placed in foster care or with the closest family member or friend. 
The hardships, however, continue; this prolonged stress has effects that, in most cases, will last all throughout their lives. These children show symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD from an abnormally young age; they may become withdrawn, angry or even act aggressively following their experiences. We have already seen this pattern: children who have lived in Romanian orphanages and experienced childhood neglect had less white matter as teenagers compared to children raised in local families. This caused their lack of attention, general cognition, and emotion processing. Dr. Lisa Fortuna, medical director for child and adolescent psychiatry at Boston Medical Center, told Business Insider that separation causes “irreversible harm” for the children and families that experience it. 

Although the Trump administration has claimed to have stopped the procedure of separation more than a year ago, recent reports have shown that more than five migrant children a day are still being separated from their families. 

This is the product of a government that discriminates, that neglects human rights. This is the product of a faulty justice system. This time, it is the most innocent people of all—kids who are, much of the time, clueless of what is going on—who pay the harshest price. 

And the world simply watches.

By Sofia De Ceglie