Inside the Social Media Cult That Convinces Young People to Give Up Everything
The DayLife Army always seemed like a troll. Then it became a nightmare.
It started with a tweet. In the fall of 2013, Matthew had recently turned 18 and was just finishing up his first semester at a college in Chicago. A freshman music business student with a happy-go-lucky laugh and a fascination with the internet, he’d been making electronic tracks since high school and wanted to learn how to market his work.
Matthew came to college dreaming of creating his own “multidimensional content brand,” combining the positivity-obsessed social media hijinks of his favorite alt-lit writers with the proudly Web 2.0 memes circulating in the net art scene. He’d had a productive first semester, putting the finishing touches on an upcoming album, setting up a website, and rolling out a few music videos centered around the idea of ushering in a better world. He’d even printed out a set of business cards. Now all he needed was fans.
On November 23, after posting the album’s first single, Matthew noticed a comment in his Twitter mentions praising the track from a woman he’d later learn was named KoA Malone. Around the same time, a man named Eben “Wiz-EL” Carlson started replying to his tweets too, offering bits of advice on how he was packaging the project. As he began tweeting back and forth with them, he learned that KoA and Wiz-EL were partners. In photos, he noticed that they only wore white.
The sudden flurry of interest was strange — Wiz-EL would sometimes reply to one of Matthew’s posts from several different Twitter accounts — but Matthew was flattered that two strangers seemed to be taking his music seriously. “No one was paying attention to me online,” says Matthew. “And suddenly he starts responding to every single one with seven or eight responses.”
Wiz-EL seemed to intuit Matthew’s obsession with branding. “Any tweet that I felt was kind of corny or stupid, he would insult me, make fun of me, or criticize me. Anything that I did that I already thought was good, he would praise me, building me up. I thought, ‘They’re paying more attention to me than I am.’”