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Mimics are taking over TikTok

Jordan Peele's film ‘Us’ depicts a family attacked by their doppelgängers. Credit: IMDb

August 31, 2023 - 11:30am

The three decades or so of digital folklore have offered up urban legends shared by chain mail, creepypastas, NoSleep stories from Reddit, scary mods, and now spooky TikToks. Again and again, one theme resurfaces: mimicry. Mimics in the online world are paranormal entities, like doppelgangers or skinwalkers, which disguise themselves as something or someone you trust. In Navajo legend, skinwalkers are witches who shapeshift into animals, like deer or coyotes; doppelgangers, on the other hand, are said to appear as family members. Each expression of the mimic has its own nuances, but they all tap into the same fear: looks can be deceiving.

Though the digital mimic has long existed, the practice has recently become more prominent. At the beginning of the year, there was the “doppelganger trend” on TikTok, where people made videos, usually 30-second skits, around a voice clip saying, “If you see another person that looks identical to you, run away and hide.” Though this format has come and gone, a scroll through TikTok these days will eventually see you run into a story about a dad-who-wasn’t-actually-a-dad or a husband-who-wasn’t-a-husband. Everyone has a story about how they were sure they were talking to someone — only to find out they’d been “duped” by a nefarious spirit which was only mimicking that person. 

Part of the reason mimics scare us is because we see ourselves reflected in them, and realise we are not as unique as we thought. In a world where many of us are desperately searching for ways to differentiate ourselves, this can be truly terrifying. But on another level, the Internet has always sparked (well-founded) fears about being deceived in some way. Old-school chatroom stranger danger, a too-convincing chatbot, catfishing, scams: all of these very real fears are downstream of danger being blurred by technology. 

This has arguably always been a fear with communications technology: once we were able to communicate instantaneously and without having to see one another, a whole world of possibility opened up around deception.  And such deception may not only come from lying to one another in our own world but also from spirits in other realms. There’s a reason that Spiritualists were so attracted to the telegraph, which they believed connected them to an “electronic elsewhere”, or the “etheric ocean”. All communication technology — a computer, a telegraph, a telephone — is a Ouija board for some people (at least if you squint hard enough). 

This year, the danger of artificial intelligence has received more attention than ever before, and this fear has taken on new salience online. Not only do we now fear what we cannot see on the other end, but the reassurance we once had that we are communicating with another human being has been completely obliterated. 

No longer merely a matter of if and when, AI became accessible to anyone who wanted to use it. Just this week, the New York Times published a startling article titled “Voice Deepfakes Are Coming for your Bank Balance”, something that almost felt like an urban legend itself when relayed on social media, like in this TikTok from CBC News.

With this technology, the mimic trended once more: the spirit that pretends to be someone you love, but which is something much more sinister. You don’t know what it is and you don’t know how it works, and therein lies its danger. What is the fear of a mimic if not the sublimated fear of technology?


Katherine Dee is a writer. To read more of her work, visit defaultfriend.substack.com.

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Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
10 months ago

Whatever happens, eros must continue to slay logos in order to resurrect gnosis.

Coralie Palmer
Coralie Palmer
10 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

I think you need to go back and start again old chap.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 months ago

I had a weird experience with a mimic who was/is real person (not a bot) who contacted me on an app.

Once I’d told him a little about myself, he then started talking about an obscure British nationality/subject status I used to campaign on.

He kept on saying things I would agree with . . . and for a while I thought I’d managed to find a kindred spirit.

Then I realised he was actually using my own words.

He’d found articles and speeches I’d written online, and was just parroting them back at me, as tho he too, was an expert on the issue.

It was quite unnerving until I realised he was an actual head case.
I prompted him to admit a few things about his drug use, and exacted a bit of pain and suffering (my rightful due, I thought, given the circumstances) before unceremoniously blocking him.

Last edited 10 months ago by Dumetrius
Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
10 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Reading comments like this educate me on just how terribly out of touch I am. Aside from the comments sections of sites like Unherd, I don’t believe I’ve ever interacted with a stranger on the internet. Certainly not in a ‘personal’ way where intimate details of our lives are shared, and certainly not with someone who would want to go to such extreme lengths to antagonize me, a complete stranger.
It seems like I would have to be terribly lonely to find any of that satisfying.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

This guy was certainly lonely. I realised afterwards, that I had chatted with him before (under one of his other aliases.)

Unfortunately he’s a very snaky individual – the mental health stuff – which he nurtures rather than challenges – always protects itself first and acts almost as a distinct being.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Your comment on the other thread about the misreading of Christianity as ‘an authority system for moral governance’ was quite incisive.

I think a lot of people just like to understand their enemies as fitting a very few cartoonish types.

If they can’t slot something in as one or the other, they have nothing to say (and might have to seriously think about it).

Last edited 10 months ago by Dumetrius