If you’ve been anywhere on the internet lately, you’ve probably come across Depths of Wikipedia. The gimmick social media account dives into the recesses of the community-written online encyclopedia to curate arcane and hilarious articles one might never otherwise come across.
An article sheds light on rumpology, a pseudoscience that examines people’s butts to assess their character traits. Another focuses on the odd fact that popcorn can be categorized into two forms: “mushroom” and “butterfly.” And did you know that Mozart had a scatological obsession that was documented in 39 of the famous composer’s letters? Do it now.
The project is led by Annie Rauwerda, a 22-year-old from Grand Rapids, Michigan, who has grown Depths of Wikipedia into a massive enterprise spanning Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter, and boasting millions of followers. On Tuesday, August 16, she presents a live broadcast Depths of Wikipedia at the Beyond at the Crocodile, spreading her weird Wiki glee to our corner of the Pacific Northwest.
Most Millennials and Zoomers grew up with access to Wikipedia’s fountain of knowledge, from extremely detailed entries tracking Britney Spears’ career to the site’s Fermi Paradox article accidentally poetic content list. Teachers routinely prohibit students from relying on or citing Wikipedia because it can be edited by just about anyone. But that’s also its beauty. The community aspect allows for bizarre democratized and fascinating knowledge.
Rauwerda started the project during her sophomore year at the University of Michigan in her early 40s, she says, “when everyone was making sourdough.” As an occasional Wikipedia editor, a friend asked her to contribute to a “quaran-zine” and decided to collect a bunch of quirky Wikipedia entries. After discovering that she really enjoyed exploring the depths of the online encyclopedia, she opened an Instagram account where she could share her most original discoveries.
Initially, the Instagram account only circulated within Rauwerda’s group of friends. But then the iconically infamous influencer Caroline Calloway disputed the account by posting a Wikipedia excerpt that listed her career as “nothing”. Rauwerda apologized to Calloway, who ended up increasing Wikipedia’s depths with its legion of followers, sending the account on the path to internet fame.
Nowadays, Rauwerda’s messages on works based on dreams or the wild nuclear pasta theory regularly goes viral, with hundreds of thousands of likes. More recently, an entry on the Dave Matthews Band Septic Tank Spill Incident has spread to several different corners of the internet and almost elevated the occasion to national holiday status. The trivia collector even has a podcast where she and co-host Hajin Yoo dig deeper into particular articles each week. (He’s currently on hiatus, FYI.)
The Depths of Wikipedia formula is perfectly suited to the way information is consumed on the Internet, in short, visual bursts. Most posts feature a Wikipedia article title, a photo, and the main description that demonstrates some absurdity in contrasts or topic. As for the actual content, Rauwerda said there is no set type of article that makes a good article on the depths of Wikipedia. “It must be a little irreverent,” she said. “The whole idea of humor is that it somehow subverts your expectations. I think my messages are a little more subtle about that.
Part of the appeal of Depths of Wikipedia is the sense of discovery it offers. On most social media platforms, users are forced to interact with content that an algorithm thinks we might like or might encourage us to spend money on. There’s an extractive quality to browsing my Discover page on Instagram or For You Page on TikTok. But Depths of Wikipedia reminds me of using websites like StumbleUpon in the late 2000s and early 2010s, when the internet seemed less organized and discovering quirky concepts seemed paramount. Like, do I have need know PowerPoint karaoke? No. Do I want to at? Absolutely.
For his live show, Rauwerda has planned a bit of everything. She’ll do stand-up, present a slideshow of fun Wikipedia entries, and supervise improv-type games. “My goal is definitely to entertain,” she says of the show. “His [centered] on learning and the joy of trivialities.
Depths of Wikipedia has two shows Tuesday at Crocodile’s Here-After. Buy tickets for the 9 p.m. show while they last.