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Sunday, April 14, 2024

The TikTok That Will Be the Great Unsolved Mystery of This Era

The Monitor is a weekly column devoted to everything happening in the WIRED world of culture, from movies to memes, TV to Twitter.

It’s so stupid it’s perfect for the internet. In early December, someone posted a mirror on TikTok with the caption “imagine how good your life would be if you had a 26-year-old nursing assistant by your side, now replace S with N.” At the time, people were mildly confused: "nurning annintant"? Weeks have passed since, and while the video came and went as viral clips often do, the TikTok continues to baffle social media. 

This became clear Thursday when a friend sent a tweet to one of my group chats containing a screenshot of the TikTok and the message, “Every day, at least once I am haunted by this.” As of this writing, the tweet has been viewed more than 14 million times, and its replies are filled with every kind of theory imaginable. Some argue that replacing S with N means swapping South for North, thus totally changing your perspective; others, more believably, suggest that the answer has something to do with flipping “so good” to “no good.” My pal in the group chat just said, “It’s like the 2001: A Space Odyssey of our time, what does it mean? Move over, Kubrick—here comes @thisis_bex!”

In what is perhaps the greatest part of the mystery, @thisis_bex’s TikTok account disappeared not long after the video went up. Sleuths may discover that the Daily Dot seemingly found @thisis_bex, who claimed that “the answer is that it’s meant to be a brain stump. It doesn’t mean anything.” But frankly, that doesn’t seem right. Not that the Daily Dot didn’t properly investigate, but that the reply they got has to be a misdirect. Why create a “brain stump” with no meaning? That’s not a riddle, it’s just … dumb. 

It’s fine to take @thisis_bex at their word, but when you pontificate that the TikTok was part of some psyop or from a user who is out to run the longest con ever, then the real game is afoot. What if “replace S with N” is the greatest riddle of the 21st century? Start saying it in Indiana Jones’ hushed tones and it becomes the “but in the Latin alphabet, Jehovah begins with an I” of a new generation. Or, as the OP of that tweet called it, the Voynich manuscript.  

Perhaps this is what the internet needs: a very low-stakes unsolved mystery. The past few years have turned every online dustup into a wild forensics experiment as people try to investigate everyone from political figures to the release of the Twitter Files. Meanwhile, pop culture’s fascination with true-crime podcasts and shows has turned many online sleuths into armchair police detectives, with varying results. 

All of which to say, maybe this mysterious 26-year-old nursing assistant named Bex (if that is their real name) deserves some of the internet’s brain power. No one is going to know what was in those classified documents found in President Biden’s office for a long time. Maybe figuring out this riddle is a better use of everyone’s time.

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