If you’re on Twitter even half as much as I am, then you probably heard about Vibecamp.
Part Burning Man, part Hereticon, Vibecamp was an attempt to bring a tiny Twitter subculture, best known to its participants as “TPOT,” out of cyberspace and into the real world. I spoke with Brooke Bowman – the woman behind it – to learn about who she is, what TPOT really is, and how she managed to pull Vibecamp off.
Special thanks to my friend Pam Crouch for helping make this interview happen.
Katherine: I know a lot about your projects but I don’t know much about you. Who’s the woman behind @gptbrooke?
Brooke: My name is Brooke Bowman. I have spent time working as a commercial fisherman in Alaska, as a model, as an escort, and as a manager at various restaurants and bakeries. I was a heroin addict for close to a decade and at the end of my twenties, I graduated to crystal meth when I found myself living on the street in Los Angeles. Over the course of the next two years, I hit rock bottom and accidentally bounced back up into a state of thriving I hadn’t previously thought possible in life.
Katherine: Online, you’re most closely associated with a community called “TPOT”? What is TPOT?
Brooke: TPOT is short for “This Part of Twitter.”
When I first started hanging out in this corner of the interwebs, I didn’t like the two labels I’d heard thrown around the most: ingroup and postrat, so I tweeted asking for alternative names.
My friend @empathy2000 suggested TCOT, short for “This Corner of Twitter,” a slang term people often wrote out in full in their tweets when referring to the communities writ large. That caught on for a while, but it occasionally caused confusion as Top Conservatives of Twitter was already a hashtag, so we became TPOT.
Katherine: How’d you find yourself in TPOT?
Brooke: I joined Twitter in July of 2020 at the behest of famed internet goblin and autist extraordinaire @goblinodds. Prior to making an account, I thought of Twitter as a place to get news, follow celebrities, and argue with strangers. Then I discovered this bubble of shitpoasters–who were largely kind, authentic, and curious.
Katherine: Does TPOT have a philosophy? What defines it?
Brooke: Various groups that rub shoulders in the Twitter bubble that is TPOT have overlapping elements of shared values, but I haven’t been able to think of any guiding philosophy that every person would agree on.
Perhaps something like that will develop over time, but for now, I think the diversity of thought and ways of living is part of what gives it strength.
Katherine: Tell me about Vibecamp. That was a huge accomplishment! My Internet background is Tumblr and successfully bringing a bunch of people off the Internet into a physical space is… not easy.
Brooke: Here’s how it started.
My friend @groundedSAGE tweeted last summer asking when the first ingroup meetup with attendance in the thousands would be.
I quote-tweeted that, saying I would make a large-scale gathering happen if there was enough interest in it, and pulled the initial core team from responses to that thread.
We started meeting weekly, with some changes to the team as time went on. We found a location to book in the fall of 2021, and spent the next four months selling tickets and sorting out logistics. The event itself took place outside of Austin in early March of 2022 and it was surprisingly successful.
Katherine: What was the most surprising part of organizing Vibecamp?
Brooke: THE POWER OF MEMES, HOLY SMOKES.
There was a time I thought it was going to be thirty of our close friends out in the woods somewhere. It was shocking to us how momentum built overtime–part of that was people knowing their friends were going and wanting to meet them for the first time, or hang out with them again if they had already met in real life.
But a huge part of it was just that it became a meme. The people making fun of it, the people who thought it was an inside joke and not a real event, all of this fueled what became a surprisingly large fire.
Katherine: I’ve also seen talks about a Vibe Village… is that just a continuation of Vibecamp?
Brooke: I have this save-the-world impulse. I believe that more efficient societal progress is downstream of individual well-being than is commonly credited and that given my particular skills and interests, the most meaningful work I can do to that end is to help build and strengthen connections between people and nodes of people.
Vibecamp was intended in part to be a glimpse at what it could be like to live with people we’ve chosen to be around instead of those we were put around by chance. Casual conversations with brilliant people are where the real magic of innovation often happens, and this current cultural push towards intentional living will facilitate more of that happening more often in the world.
It’s a very long-term goal.
Katherine: More than anyone I’ve spoken to, Twitter seems to have had a very positive impact in your life. How would you describe your relationship with it?
Brooke: I’ve met all of my closest friends through Twitter. This is the first community I’ve been part of where the things that normally make it difficult for me to connect with people are celebrated instead of shunned, and I’m so grateful I found my way there.
I have long since stopped perceiving digital life as materially different from “real life.”
The things we say to people have an impact on them, whether it’s in text or spoken. Different mediums carry with them a different range of expression, and therefore impact- but the potential for that impact is still there. Twitter (and to a lesser degree, Discord) feel like public commons to me, places where we can build rapport slowly over time and make new connections.
Ultimately, Twitter is a great tool for fostering community, but without the will of people actively and intentionally trying to make that happen, that potential goes to waste. I think of social media as a way to find our tribes; it’s up to us to translate those connections into meaningful IRL relationships.