Waiting on Shrimp Guy, forever
Every day, people ask Jensen Karp if he finally figured out what was going on with the shrimp in his Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I know this because I search his name on Twitter once a month, curious to see if the remnants of that particular discourse are still rattling around in the benthic regions of cyberspace. It has become one of my recurrent brainsick rituals, and reader, I am always horrified by what I find. To recap: A man named Jensen Karp discovered what looked like a pile of fried exoskeletons in his cereal on March 22. He tweeted about it, and quickly stormed the algorithm and conquered the trending tab. Two days later, after stories from the New York Times and Washington Post elevated his breakfast debacle into international news, he made another tweet saying that he was waiting on General Mills to "DNA test" the alleged shrimp — thus bringing closure to this chaotic, deep-pandemic storyline. Karp hasn't posted since, due to one of the most psychedelic and delirious cancellations of all time. Today, he lives the ascetic existence of so many other disgraced former posters; their accounts all cheerful and breezy until a stark, jarring terminus at the top of the feed — no farewell, no apology, no notes app screenshot — just an overwhelming sense that something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.
Of course, the people in his mentions have not gotten that memo, and they remain united in their demands. Seriously Jensen, what's up with that dang shrimp?
"Why'd you make a big deal about shrimp being in a cereal box," posts some guy, on the same day I'm writing this newsletter. "I understand tho, it would be strange."
"It was a hoax wasn't it," adds someone else, who describes themselves as a "sharpie enthusiast," a few days prior.
"What happened, are you okay?" says a nice lady who keeps a hand-drawn illustration of her granddaughter hugging a dog pinned to the top of her feed.
Jensen Karp is not okay. During his brief ingratiation with the national media, when Karp was enjoying the tenuous highs of white-hot social media superiority, a number of former girlfriends and colleagues accused him of being a shitty, abusive, gaslighting partner and friend. Karp wasn't exactly famous before his Cinnamon Toast Crunch incident; instead he lived the charmed life of a negligible Comedy Guy — adjacent to people more successful than him, producing the sort of Void Television that only exists on the most ethereal and transient Roku apps, hosting a podcast with his wife who somehow also happens to be Topanga from Boy Meets World. His history of bad behavior was going to bubble up to the surface in the unlikely event that Karp breached into public consciousness; nobody, not even him, could've expected that a box of cereal would be the ghastly harbinger of such a decisive end.
Those of us seduced by Twitter are asked by the machine every day, in good faith, whether or not we want to keep posting, knowing full well that our participation slowly escalates the possibility of unleashing the overpowering audit of virality. This is not a defense of Karp, (dude seems like he's toxic, by all accounts,) but I can't help but consider the many more dignified ways someone can detonate their lives. There are cancelled Grammy winners, business magnates, and socialites, and then there's Jensen Karp, holding an iPhone over a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Anyways, I'm getting off track here. Karp has done his best to escape the discourse for good. Overall, I think his exodus has been successful. I imagine that you have likely forgotten all about this man and the deranged aftermath of his reign before reading this newsletter. I mean, there have been so many other villains overshadowing Shrimp Guy in 2021, and if we're being honest, something about the Cinnamon Toast Crunch saga reeks of a distinct, pre-vaccination rot — a creature birthed from the final pangs of sweaty logged-on insanity before we all finally got to hang out with each other again. Of course, as you could probably tell from the beginning of this piece, Jensen Karp only earned this blessing of amnesia from those who are frequently distracted by fresh blood. The true silent majority of Twitter, the good souls who log onto the app maybe three or four times a month… Well, come on Jensen, tell us about the shrimp already!
It will literally never end. Karp sparked a massive upheaval in his personal life at the exact moment he left his transmedia viral sensation on a huge cliffhanger. That marooned the thousands of rank-and-file users in his replies, all of whom are still agonizing for a conclusion that will simply never come. It's a freak accident. Karp's Twitter now haunts the timeline like a phantom, all thanks to the winsome obliviousness of normal people online. He will never be able to outrun them.
Shrimp Guy is still active on Instagram, because Instagram is a refuge for so many moribund Twitter exiles. I reached out to him through the platform, hoping to put an end to the mystery of the cursed Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Maybe we could finally give the people what they want, and lay this festering, immortal discourse to rest. (Was it really shrimp? Maybe some sort of glitch in the processing system? He must know the answer.) Karp never responded, which I expected. To him, I'm just another one of those listless, keening voices shouting through the void; reminding him for the umpteenth time that his life changed forever when he found that shrimp in his cereal.
I can kinda relate. Someday I'll be dead, banned, or otherwise incapacitated from posting. My account will lay dormant at the bottom of the sea, decomposing, finally free from the maelstrom. And yet, even in that afterlife, every couple of months someone will still be tweeting at me about a cheeky piece I wrote for Vice that briefly went nuclear in 2014. (My editor wanted something besmirching the city of Austin, Texas for some cynical troll engagement. It worked like a charm.) It's the only story I've ever written that pierced the veil between the casually and chronically online, and naturally, when I break bread with my wonderfully detached, take-less friends, it is the one article I know they've read. Hell, I got an anonymous Instagram DM about it earlier this week, seven years since the publication date. That's the unflattering reality of a logged on existence. No matter what we do, or who we become, everyone is subject to the reverberations of broadstroke virality we've unwittingly left behind in the churn. The implications of our constant performance only become apparent when it's far too late to change anything. Type Jensen Karp's name into Twitter, and witness who possesses the true power on the internet. This peaceful population of Americans lurking below the fetid digital surface, living a tranquil and mostly checked out life online. They won't forget you, whether we like it or not.