Welcome to Tweaker Nation.
Tumblr is perhaps best known for fandom, social justice, and porn. Nestled among those huge scenes, though, are countless more intertwined enclaves that represent every marginalized or obscure subculture imaginable—including one for proud users of methamphetamines, who remix the hipster aesthetics of tattoos and filtered selfies with hardcore drug use.
On one recent day, Tumblr's self-proclaimed "Prezident of Tweaker Nation"—a digital landscape that sprawls across a constellation of interrelated Tumblr tags and an official account—was having a full-on freakout.
Someone had told her, via anonymous message, that it was "fucked up" for her to post graphic sexual and drug content, since she has children. The Prezident, who has a broad face, shoulder-length blond hair and meticulous makeup, fired back with a rambling video message.
"I have two kids, actually," she says, taking swigs directly from a liquor bottle and smoking a cigarette, daylight shining through a closed curtain in the background. "They know they're loved, they love me, they're well taken care of, and they're about as normal as kids get. They've never been exposed either to my making porn or my drug use."
The children themselves are slowly forgotten as the clip evolves into an epic shit-talking session.
"Fuck you, fuck your mother, fuck your grandmother," the Prezident says, in a strangely prim tone. "Fuck your father, your best friend and your dog. Basically, you can eat a hundred dicks."
It's just another day on Tweaker Nation, where the Prezident's citizenry post photos of glass pipes, stashes of glittering crystals, nude selfies, and rambling, mid-binge missives that phase between euphoria and bleary world-weariness. And then there are pages upon untold pages of short videos of users lighting up, eyes like black holes, sucking in and subsequently exhaling great hazy clouds of meth vapor—punctuated, from time to time, by troubling clips of hypodermic needles penetrating skin.
The netizens of Tweaker Nation mainly seem to take hits, solicit cybersex, and listen to EDM
"It was like my kind of people, blowing meth clouds and pictures of giant rocks," user y0crank told me of the scene. "I just loved it. Tweaker [N]ation is a place for tweakers where we can share what we love and support and help each other."
For others, though, the fun is long over.
"I have hives because of this meth binge and I'm so fucking itchy," one user complained.
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant linked with brain damage and tooth decay. In 2012, 440,000 Americans reported having used it in the past month. In the popular imagination, users might employ the drug to fuel orgiastic sexual encounters, coast through marathon parties, or just power through a difficult shift at work. Journalist David Holthouse's grueling account of a group of young professionals who set off on a three-day binge in Denver during the early-2000s suggests that meth, even if it's physically and cognitively punishing, is a drug for people who are dead serious about having fun.
The netizens of Tweaker Nation, though, mainly seem to take hits, solicit cybersex, and listen to EDM from the comfort of their bedrooms. Like many people with heavy social media lives, they seem more interested in sharing the fact that they're having fun than in leaving the house to seek it out. It's difficult to imagine any of them spontaneously jumping on a jet to Las Vegas, like Holthouse's subjects.
I wonder if Tweaker Nation might attract people for whom meth is a lonely pursuit. Breaking Bad did little to pierce the thick cloud of shame associated with the drug by public health campaigns and medical reality, and that stigma seems to be reflected on Tumblr, where many seem to bounce in and out of sobriety, or complain about friends who do the same ("tweakin alone cuz all my friends are quitting hahahah who else?" one user wrote.) Meth is also often a rural pursuit, and one associated with poverty, so I wonder if some on Tweaker Nation have access to drugs but not reliable transportation.
If those assumptions are true, tweakers certainly aren't the first group to build a web community when they don't have access to one offline. Tumblr alone is an online home for everyone from people with uncommon gender identities to furries—but unlike those harmless or affirming circles, Tweaker Nation seems likely to encourage dangerous behavior, like the fringe communities that glamorize self-harm or eating disorders.
I don't know if the Prezident's kids are really insulated from drugs and erotica, or how many of her citizens manage to walk the line between fun and addiction. For the uninitiated, though, scrolling through page after page of meth clouds, jagged shards and confessions of sleepless regret seems more unsettling, and sad, than cool.
"I can't sit still," wrote user ana-phetamine. "I can't hear anything but the motor of my laptop. I hate life right now. No come down in sight."
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