Annie Rauwerda is a 21-year-old student from the University of Michigan who loves to discover interesting screenshots from weird, dusty corners of the Internet. When Covid-19 started, she had plenty of time to realize this interest to the point of creating an Instagram account called @depthsofwikipedia, dedicated to finding the strangest entries deep in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.
“If the pandemic had never happened, I would probably have spent the summer of 2020 researching biology in Boston, but since my internship was canceled, I have been swimming in my spare time. I opened an account because I was surprised that it didn’t already exist, ”says Rauwerda.
Jackson Weimer: What do you like on Wikipedia that made you want to create an Instagram account of his’ coolest / weirdest / weirdest entries?
Annie Rauwerda: Wikipedia is that crazy internet utopia that has somehow escaped the clutches of capitalism and I never want to take it for granted. The Internet is what the Internet was supposed to be – collaborative, constructive, democratic and intact with ads. It is so inspiring that there are legions of volunteers documenting all the human knowledge that both you and I will be able to use for free, and I am also constantly excited by the availability of the site. Anyone can edit…. There is this altruistic hacker ethos that is hard to find elsewhere.
Weimer: Have you edited the Wikipedia page yet? Is that something you would think about now?
Rauwerda: I started editing only after I opened an account, and now I am a big proponent. It’s a super rewarding and impressive hobby and you can find a great community to edit online (mostly Discord) and in person (there are groups in New York and DC). I teamed up with Wikimedia NYC to host edit-a-thon in January for beginners. The changes that have been made have been viewed almost 3 million times!
Weimer: What are some of the best things you’ve learned since you created the account? Have you discovered any new interests or hobbies? Are there significant celebrity interactions in your comments?
Rauwerda: The bill gave me an excuse to surf with information overload, and along the way I picked up around basil for fun facts. I also got to audition for College Jeopardy live this year and I don’t think I would have passed the first rounds of auditions if it weren’t for this habit on Wikipedia. Celebrity interactions are one of the most exciting parts of account management. John Mayer is a “big fan,” and author Neil Gaiman once called the bill “ingenious”. My ego has been riding on it for weeks!
Weimer: Did any particular entry surprise you how well it went?
Rauwerda: Early on, I didn’t understand the content well, which goes well on Instagram. The trick, which I know now, are posts that are short enough to be shared, and meaningful enough to stay in the memory. And people love tense, emotional posts where animals are – like an article by Alex (a parrot).
Weimer: Which post brought you to the first thousand followers on your account?
Rauwerda: During the first few months of my account, I concluded that my target audience was young smart people, so I followed everyone who was active on my 2024 Stanford class Instagram account. What made me grow steadily exponentially was the short-lived beef with the influencer Caroline Calloway. She was posting about the bill after I posted article on Wikipedia saying her occupation is “nothing”. I woke up in the morning and the number of my followers quadrupled! We are now on friendly terms – so friendly that she gave me a cat !!!
Weimer: Wait, what? Caroline Calloway gave you a cat because of your Wikipedia Instagram page? Elaborate.
Rauwerda: Yes, she posted on Instagram that her then-assistant needed a place to stay, and I commented that I had a room available. Then Caroline DM asked me one day, while I was in line at the boba shop, if I could take one of her cats since she had two and they didn’t get along. So, just one day she put her beautiful Siamese cat with me and now I have it.
Weimer: What do you think Wikipedia can change to stay afloat? Do you think they should hire you for their social team because you have more followers than them?
Rauwerda: Wikipedia is a great place to give money, but no one should feel a suggestive obligation to donate. The whole point of Wikipedia is that it will always be free to anyone who wants it and they are not desperate for funds as their pleading banners might suggest. Nevertheless, I give them half the earnings from the goods and encourage everyone who is able. This is the best site on the internet! I am friendly to most of their PR / social workers and whenever they release a new filter or have a big announcement, they ask me to share it. My real dream would be to get paid to create a Wikipedia TikTox with high production value in the style of Planet Money, but I would probably do anything for Wikipedia.
Weimer: As a current student, what has this experience taught you about what kind of careers you might want to pursue?
Rauwerda: As a person I am overly curious and almost incapable of thinking for more than, roughly, two months in the future. The result is that I tend to have a lot of fun. After high school I took a break to attend Americorps and that’s when I decided I actually wanted to go to college. I walked in hesitantly and chose to study neuroscience thinking it would be an interesting challenge. It’s definitely so, but I’ve realized since then that I don’t want to be a neuroscience researcher, so it would be nice to study something like computer science or communication that’s more affordable to sell. But oh well! At least I know the names of many enzymes. Since achieving account success, full-time work in creative spaces – writing, content creation – seems far more affordable. I would love to work in the media, especially in scientific communications. I am also a trained, certified Pilates instructor. I don’t know if this is relevant, but most people are surprised when I tell them, so I figured I’d throw them away.
Weimer: What do you think Wikipedia will look like in 10 years?
Rauwerda: As for the look of the website: exactly the same. In terms of editors: hopefully more diverse, thanks to ongoing editorial recruitment projects like WikiProject Women in Red and AfroCrowd. In terms of impact: just as (if not more) crucial.
Weimer: What is the future @depthofwikipedia?
Rauwerda: I recruited my best friend to help me run @dubinasofamazone and we reached almost 40,000 in a few weeks. We are thinking of other depths that we should explore! In addition, a podcast is on the horizon. After that, who knows. I think it would be great to put together a table book with interesting articles on Wikipedia one day, and I would also like to create super cool products (apart from the simple mugs in which I sell depthsofwikipedia.com). I’m trying to be more active on Tiktok – they’ve just set me up an ‘accelerator program’ that should encourage me to post more about it.
The conversation is edited and concise for clarity.