If you spend nearly as much time on TikTok as I do, you’ve probably had the misfortune of scrolling past a brown boy tugging on his hoodie strings and bobbing his head to a SZA song.
While his videos targeting brown women have since been taken down -- as they should be -- they really did take the app by storm.
Overnight, he turned into the laughing stock of brown TikTok. His hypocritical, not to mention ridiculous, critique of white and brown women has resulted in over a million likes, and hundreds of videos parodying him.
Mockery aside, his ~unique~ brand of humour and brazen encouragement of predatory behaviour has incited much controversy. Recently, after being reported to his parents and his university, Avaneesh has revealed that his content was ‘satire’ all along. Side note: in order to execute satire, you need to actually be funny- - but I digress.
Unfortunately, irrespective of his “true” motive, his content seems to get the job done. What started as collective outrage and ridicule has led to him garnering a massive following of 29, 000 and counting on TikTok.
However, Avaneesh is not an outlier. More often than not, TikTok creators go viral for all the wrong reasons. The internet’s weakness for hate-consuming cringey, uncomfortable content, has propelled several trolls onto our timelines and into the spotlight.
Problematic content leads to countless stitches, duets and comments from WokeTok in an attempted take-down that inevitably backfires, because, at the end of the day, regardless of its nature, engagement is engagement.
So, how can we, as well-meaning consumers, deconstruct the troll industrial complex? The solution, as always, remains unclear. However, deplatforming is a good place to start.
While it is incredibly fun to dunk on the likes of Avaneesh in the group chat (trust me, I know), we have to acknowledge the counter-productivity of it all.
Is it ironic that I am dedicating 500-odd words to a troll while calling for disengagement from his content? Maybe.
Be that as it may, it is important for us to be mindful of, and dismantle this cycle.
It’s not that most viewers don't understand that his content is objectively harmful, it’s that we engage with it anyway, no matter how we engage with it.
As a community that already has minimal, sometimes two-dimensional representation, it is vital that we engage consciously with South Asian creators, and uplift those who do good work online.
While Avaneesh’s sudden rise to fame by riding on racism and misogyny needs to be taken seriously, his content needs to be dismissed altogether.
So, the next time you encounter something problematic on your TL, take a deep breath, roll your eyes, and just keep scrolling.
About the author: Anuja is an international student at the University of British Columbia, with a concentration in mental health and interpersonal development. When she isn’t having an existential crisis, you may find her dancing, taking pictures of her cat or yelling at unclejis. When she is having an existential crisis, you’ll probably find her in a window seat on the 99, listening to Mohammed Rafi and pretending she’s in a movie.