From the Family Guy TikTok Pipeline to Boring Ahh memes, overstimulating yet dissociative content is taking over our screens – and keeping us forever trapped in the eternal scroll
If you’ve been on TikTok in the last few months, chances are you’ve fallen down the Family Guy TikTok Pipeline. Split-screen clips of Family Guy have taken over the platform, stitched together with muted footage from mobile games like Subway Surfers and ASMR clips that range from cutting soap to slime videos. With over 69 billion views, the videos, also referred to as Family Guy Overstimulation Videos and Family Guy ADHD Videos, are so prolific that writing about them admittedly feels boring ahh. Simulating the same multi-sensory experience as scrolling your feed while watching a film on your laptop, it’s the sort of low-substance, low-level stimulation that dissociates you entirely, while keeping you forever trapped in the eternal scroll. But more interesting is the onslaught of memes that have since emerged from this sludge, in which users take a photo of themselves doing an activity while watching Family Guy on their phone.
The first Boring Ahh video emerged in late December 2022, when a user named @familyguyepictime posted a photograph of someone watching Family Guy on their phone while at a screening of Avatar: The Way of Water, captioned, “Movie long ah hell”. Aside from hinting at the demise of our attention spans, the image clearly struck a chord online: Boring Ahh memes can now be found literally anywhere, each one more meta and absurd, and imply that the user themselves is enacting a Family Guy Overstimulation Video.
Family Guy TikTok videos originally began as a way to dodge copyright takedowns, but have inadvertently become a peak example of the way social media, or more specifically TikTok, colonises our attention with boredom-beating videos that deep-fry our brains, while simultaneously making us crave more. While there are similar clips online featuring adjacent shows like The Simpsons and Rick and Morty, Family Guy’s cutaway gag format is tailored for a quick dopamine hit, like TikTok, and provides a perfectly slurried amalgamation of information for our pattern-seeking brains. When paired with something like Subway Surfers, it creates a jumbled mess of visual stimulation, which is sensorially rich yet devoid of any meaning. Call it the iPad-ification of online content, or Gen Alpha’s growing influence on popular culture, but something weird is happening to our brains – and it’s not so much smoothing, but a full-on mind-flattening.
Boring Ahh memes are funny in that they recognise the absurdity of this low-substance, user-generated content (some Family Guy TikTok channels are reportedly run by bots, which furthers the feeling of unreality). Its rising popularity is partly down to TikTok’s knowing algorithm that, unlike Twitter or Instagram, allows for only one video at a time, with each like, comment, rewatch and share tailoring the platform’s recommendations and data inputs to cater to your mindless scrolling. Its algorithm is so addictive that other social media such as Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts have tried replicating its concept. US lawmakers have even likened TikTok to ‘digital fentanyl’ amid attempts to ban the app across America, while TikTok itself has implemented a 60-minute daily screen cap for users under 18.
In contrast, Douyin, the Chinese equivalent to TikTok, is notably devoid of sludge content, instead prioritising science experiments and educational videos (the app is only accessible to kids for 40 minutes per day, and it cannot be accessed between 10pm and 6am). This has no doubt fuelled the conspiracy theory that TikTok is a Chinese psyop designed to pacify the masses. That said, a study by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab found that the app did not exhibit “overtly malicious behaviour” in terms of data collection, and its use of advertising and user activity tracking software was “not exceptional when compared to industry norms”.
Perhaps the passive nature of online consumption is to blame for the dissolution of our mental facilities – the term TikTok Brain refers to the platform’s dumbing effect on our brains. This is particularly true as user-generated content replaces mainstream news sources, and we churn out increasingly mid, algorithm-friendly posts in the form of cheap sound bytes, memes and click-bait headlines for maximum engagement. Perhaps people will get bored of TikTok – corecore, initially labelled a genuine Gen-Z artform, has already crippled under its own weight, and is already showing signs of sliding towards the far-right – as people turn to four-hour video analyses on YouTube instead. Yet if the Family Guy pipeline, and subsequent memery, hints at anything, it’s that we’re overstimulated but disconnected from the IRL. Stuck in a dopamine-driven feedback loop, we chug on Lost Marys and pop away at our fidget toys, then dissociate with a bump of ketamine and ctrl+z reality. When even our most basic daily experiences are mediated through a screen, reality increasingly feels like a simulation, and life becomes boring ahh hell.