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The rise of Pookie Nation: a case study | Stop Scrolling

The leader of the sassy men apocalypse has spoken, and TikTok has stayed listening: “I’m always going to like your story even if we stop talking. The problem was never how you look. The way you act (spoken in a sassy tone with L hand gestures and shoulder movements). It’s the way you act (spoken in a sassier tone with sassier shoulders). It’s the way you act.”

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

Just watch the TikTok.

On Sept. 24, @Prayag on TikTok uploaded this video that changed the world. Yes, I am being dramatic, but a lot of the world saw (over 35 million) and liked the video (over 5 million). 

On Oct. 8, Prayag celebrated 1 million followers, then 2 million on Oct. 13, 3 million on Oct. 20 and 4 million on Oct. 27. “Big Pookie,” which Prayag refers to himself as, garnered 4 million Pookies — Big Pookie’s moniker for his fans — in just over a month. 

It is very apparent, even in me typing “pookie” so many times, that his content is silly. Some even find it annoying. But either way, it is incredible to have such a substantial following in only a month. 

Prayag began to get more views once his content shifted to focus on his “car talks,” but it was not until his most famous TikTok captioned, “It’s the way you acttt,” that he soon became a well-known personality on the app. 

He is usually in his car for his TikToks, with Starbucks in hand, a sweet treat to share with his Pookies and his purple-tinted sunglasses to complete the look. He is aware that his content is silly and that he perpetuates the stigma of sassy men on the internet, but he enjoys it. He hypes up both himself and his fans and fosters a silly, loving space on the internet for all to enjoy. 

The way information is spread and received has boomed since TikTok became popular. Trends are quickly replaced or negatively viewed after being so adored. TikTok is very cyclical in that sense. Most, if not all, trends become overdone within a month, and this energy is often pushed onto content creators. Viewers are constantly being oversaturated with people and trends. 

The way a trend or online presence exceeds its sensationalized expiration date is a genuine connection or sustained interest from its viewers. Alix Earle and Emma Chamberlain are perfect examples of just that: People love them for who they are, and both women have grown with their respective audiences. They have a genuine quality that reaches out to viewers and meets their interests. 

As with products, it’s a matter of if you would buy it without everyone and their mother telling you you have to. Most trends are not innately attractive or enjoyable for all viewers, but the exciting publicity behind something online can be intoxicating. 

The House of Sunny dress from 2021 is the perfect example of a micro trend that was loved, then overwhelmed everyone’s “For You Page” and is now hard to look at. Once everyone loves the same person or is wearing the same dress, it becomes too mainstream and consequently hated. 

Prayag has followed a similar phenomenon on TikTok but has yet to lose relevance. As much as a viral entity is loved, it will likely be hated to the same extent if it does not evolve with the viewers or if its only appeal is the fact that it’s trendy and easily recognizable. I believe that as much of a trend “it’s the way you act” has become, there is sincerity and playfulness to Prayag’s content that is appealing.

Big Pookie is trending. Maybe he won’t be in a month, but his meteoric rise to relevancy should not sway how we view him. I enjoy his silliness, and I probably will in the future. I wear my trendy Onitsuka Tiger shoes every day because I like how they look. I bought the trendy Dior lip oil because I like it, and I like announcing to everyone that I’m going to put my Dior on. I bought my trendy gua sha because Lizzo told me to during quarantine, and I still use it every day. 

Balance is key. Trends are not a thing to detest or overconsume. The problem was never what you watch. It’s the way you act.

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