Annie Rauwerda Finds Treasure In The Depths Of Wikipedia
The 23-year-old behind @depthsofwikipedia reminds us that there is good (and silliness) in the world.
Annie Rauwerda has always been good at the internet — or at least since fifth grade, when she first obtained a personal email address. The posting wunderkind made her own chain emails, and became something of an influencer on Google Buzz (RIP), which, for reasons unclear, was the platform of choice circa 2011 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “I remember making a lot of parodies of Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday,’” Rauwerda tells Bustle. “I think that’s when I started becoming a quote-unquote creator.” It all seemed to come to a head during her time at the University of Michigan, when she Instagrammed her way into an ambassador position with Outdoor Voices.
For most social media-adept underclassmen, this would have been the beginning of a profitable side hustle, or at least a great way to get pricey-for-a-student sports bras. But not for Rauwerda. “I felt like social media was just this extension of my personality and that I had allowed a company to buy it. And I had this moment where I was like, I don't know if I can do this anymore,” she says. “I don't think it's worth a pair of free leggings every month to sell my soul.” So she cut ties with Outdoor Voices, mourning only for a moment the free leggings she’d never get to wear.
A few months later, at the height of the spring 2020 lockdown, she’d launch the Instagram account (and then the Twitter and TikTok) that would actually make her internet famous: @depthsofwikipedia. Rauwerda was working at a nursing home and confined to the COVID-19 isolation unit, where there was often plenty of downtime, depending on the current case load.
“You’re so cooped up, and, physically, you’re not exploring. But Wikipedia is this place where you can click a hyperlink and end up in a totally different world,” Rauwerda says. Often, those worlds are funny, bizarre — the outer reaches of human knowledge and experience, where all illusions of sanity and clear-headedness give way to the batshit. She shared screenshots of her discoveries: A photo of a calzone bearing the caption, “A calzone, a type of pizza, can be called a pizzussy.” An excerpt from the Ship of Theseus article that reads, “all three founding members of the girl-group Sugababes were replaced one-by-one ... raising the question: was the result still the Sugababes?” A photo of taxidermy frogs playing pool.
Rauwerda liked the account, and her friends liked the account, but it wasn’t until infamous influencer Caroline Calloway entered the chat that @depthsofwikipedia gained real traction. At first, Calloway took issue with one of the screenshots, which showed Calloway’s occupation described on Wikipedia as “nothing.” But after Rauwerda apologized, Calloway proceeded to share a bunch of @depthsofwikipedia posts on her stories, helping the account rack up thousands of new followers.
Afterwards, Rauwerda and Calloway kept in touch. “When she moved to back to New York, her assistant became my roommate because I had an empty spot in my apartment at the time,” Rauwerda says. “And then [Calloway] gave us one of her cats, and then I kept the cat.” (For those following along at home: Yes, Matisse’s long-lost sibling now resides with Rauwerda. Calloway tells Bustle that she’d sought to rehome Pearl (née Kitty) after the brother-and-sister pair “began going through cat-puberty and getting into these awful, yowling, literal cat fights.” She adds, “Annie is shrewd and gracious and curious and clever. And so was this cat. I guessed that they would love each other and boy was I goddamn exactly f*cking correct.”)
Since then, Rauwerda’s life has changed entirely. She’s graduated from college and launched a live Depths of Wikipedia show, which she puts on in cities around the country — an accidental outgrowth of the brand, which started when a comedian asked if she’d like to be a part of his show. She describes being onstage as “horrible,” “painful,” and “embarrassing,” but she keeps doing it, and her fans keep coming.
Naturally, in her free time, she enjoys editing Wikipedia for free. “I really like it when people on the internet do things for everyone for free. And I don't really expect money most of the time because it's just so rewarding,” she says. Rauwerda is aware that she’s built a platform on the back of Wikipedia, a non-profit run by unpaid volunteers — cashing in just wouldn’t be right. And anyways, she’s already achieved the ultimate sign of legitimacy: her very own Wikipedia page.
Fast Follow With @depthsofwikipedia
Who’s your favorite person you're following right now and why?
I think my favorite person that I follow is a TikToker named Dan Hentschel. I’ve watched him have this meteoric rise on TikTok, and I’m both in awe and also very proud, even though I'm not really in a position to be proud of him. He gives these life hacks that are completely — they’re preposterous life hacks. They're not really normal or reasonable, and yet they work and that's what makes them interesting. “If you want to know if somebody is gossiping about you, just go to the bathroom and do one of those voice text features on your phone while you're in the bathroom. And then come back and check your phone and then see if they talk about you.”
I like the comments because he’s doing this as a joke to him, it’s a bit, but a lot of the commenters think he’s serious in a way that keeps the whole thing light and fun. And it reminds me of Birds Aren’t Real in that way, where it’s a joke, but you have to get really deep in it to realize that it’s a joke. And I feel like that's where comedy is going, where the joke is that you can't figure out if there is a punch line or not. (Birds Aren’t Real is my roommate. I don’t know if that’s relevant.)
What’s the weirdest thing you currently have written down in your notes app?
For a while on my personal Twitter, was trying to make a lot of Venn diagrams. Don't know why. I just needed more daily rituals. And I was thinking about doing one where one of the circles was names for boobs, so I have a list of different things that you can call boobs, because I was going to see if it overlapped with anything else, but it didn’t. It’s like “chest, cleavage, hooters, knockers, melons, bazookas, chichis, coconut, jugs, grapefruits.”
What’s the best thing you’ve bought on the internet recently?
It’s like $10 to get a basic embroidery kit. And I don’t really like doing embroidery, but I used to do it with my grandma sometimes. And so I embroidered a bunch of my boyfriend’s underwear to be funny. I’ve monogrammed them, they have his initials. I don't know why it was funny to me, but I thought it was so funny.
Who’s the person that followed you that you were most excited by? Did you interact at all after they followed you?
Within the first few months of having the account, John Mayer followed me and I DMed him to be like, “Hey, John Mayer, love your songs” or whatever. And he was like, “Thank you. Love your account.” And I left it there, but that was pretty exciting. Also, this is an aside, but Grimes follows me on every platform I have.
What’s the weirdest DM slide you've ever received?
So there’s a table that compares truffle hogs to truffle dogs. And my ex-boyfriend DMed me and was like, I’ll be your truffle hog. And then we dated for two years.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.