Interview with Annika Oyung

What type of content do you make on TikTok? How did you get started? When did you begin to gain a following?

There is no overarching theme to any of the videos I make other than them all generally being random and low effort. One of my first videos that went viral was just a montage of me tripping on mushrooms with my friends at the Oregon coast for my birthday. I started making videos for fun at the beginning of quarantine around April of last year. I don’t even remember when I started to get followers because my “content” if you can even call it that has stayed the same. Most of my videos are just me talking to the camera in a “vlog” style where I just blabber about my day or what I am wearing. I talk pretty candidly about things that are going on in my life especially regarding my mental health but I also post about way less serious stuff like fashion, music, and pop culture. 

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You promote your use of psychedelics in your videos, why do you use psychedelics and what do you think are the benefits of using them?

My interest in psychedelics began when I first tried mushrooms as a high schooler. It’s such a cliche to be like “psychedelics changed my life” but for me, I did feel way more open to new experiences and put the problems I perceived that I had into perspective. Though I first started using them recreationally, I later became interested in their medicinal properties especially with the potential they have to treat mental illnesses. I have borderline personality disorder so I live with a lot of anxiety and depression and have been treated with a variety of different pharmaceutical drugs with mixed results. The book “How to Change Your Mind” by Michael Pollan which talks about the history of using psychedelics for medical purposes was very educational and fascinating to me. I have a strong interest in alternative medicine though I think far more research needs to be done in these realms and that begins with the process of legalization. With that being said, I do not think psychedelics are something that should be messed around with, and to anyone who wants to start using them, I would say definitely do your research beforehand. 

You also promote the use of weed in your videos, why do you use marijuana and what do you think are the benefits?

I don’t smoke as much weed as when I first made my account and I put 420 in my username as a joke. In Oregon, weed culture is omnipresent. In high school, so many people got weed from their parents because they grew it. My mom’s boyfriend is a weed farmer. Using it frequently probably benefits some people but I think it can also cause harm for sure especially on developing brains. I have noticed it can sometimes help with quelling anxiety which is the reason I started using it more in the first place, but certain strains can also cause anxiety so it is kind of a toss-up. I noticed that after prolonged consistent use I feel somewhat slower. Like any drug, weed has side effects and it is important to be aware of what can happen if you abuse it. 

You grew up in Southern Oregon, what was it like growing up in one of the whitest states in America?

Oregon’s lack of diversity wasn’t something I thought had a deep and lasting impact on me up until last year. I went to a psychiatrist to get an ADHD diagnosis and while on the topic of my other mental health issues like depression and anxiety, we fell on the topic of social anxiety and he asked somewhat out of the blue

“Do you think growing up with very few people who looked like you may have contributed to feeling anxious in social settings?”

I had always thought of social anxiety as an internal issue rather than something that stemmed from my environment but this changed the way I looked at some of my mental health issues. I went to a public school that had a handful of Asian students and I was used to being the only Asian person in a classroom at any given time. If I did happen to coincidentally be put in a class with one of the three other Asian girls in my grade I could expect to be accidentally called that person’s name by the teacher. Almost all of my friends growing up were white and I always felt a little bit out of place. My experience made me realize that the racism people of color face in predominantly white spaces can have a lasting impact on a person. 

You make a lot of fashion videos, when did you find your sense of style? Where do you like to shop/thrift?

I still don’t necessarily feel like I have a stable sense of style, the clothes I wear change frequently depending on what is in trend and what I see a lot of my friends and people I follow wearing. Recently I have been trying to work on establishing a more timeless personal style because I do think that the way trend cycles quickly rotate is very bad for the environment and my bank account. When I thrift I like going to Goodwill stores outside of big cities. I buy and sell a lot of my clothes on Depop as well. 

What do you think are some of the biggest issues facing the Asian community, right now?

I think the most concerning issue is the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes that have been occurring since the beginning of the pandemic. It has been something that has caused a lot of worry in my life especially given that my family lives in an area where there are not that many other Asian people but there is a significant population of rural white people who are prone to xenophobia and racism. As always,

the representation of Asian people in the media could use improvement though I have seen growth in the industry in the past few years. 

What has your experience been like growing up part Chinese?

My mom is a mixed-race Chinese-American who deviates from most stereotypes about Asian mothers. As a nature-lover and self-proclaimed hippie, she shaped the idea that I do not have to identify with any specific culture or nationality and can just live life however I want.

In a way, it is kind of cool to exist in this sort of in-between state where you can choose to identify with certain parts of the different cultures you belong to. The downside is that I feel somewhat disconnected from my Chinese heritage.

I grew up with very few other Asian people in my life and my family is fairly assimilated into American culture. I ended up taking Mandarin in high school even though my mom doesn’t speak it. When I was a kid we celebrated Chinese New Year and my mom read us some books about Chinese traditions to inform us about our heritage. 

Do you have any activities, interests, etc that you do to keep in touch with the Asian aspect of your identity?

I took Mandarin in high school and I enjoyed learning how to write characters and it feels good to be able to recognize some of them. I read modern Asian-American authors just because it feels good to hear people of a similar background share their stories. I also read a lot of Chinese philosophers and literature about Confucianism since I take a lot of philosophy classes.

Mengzi who was a Confucian philosopher is one of my favorites. A pillar of his philosophy is that humans are inherently good unless their environment otherwise dictates.

I feel like so much of the Western philosophy I read is about how human nature can be evil and perverted so I enjoy hearing other perspectives. 

What is your favorite Asian food dish?

I work at a Thai food cart so there is a lot of Asian food in my life which I am very grateful for. I am the least picky eater ever and I will genuinely eat and usually enjoy anything that is put in front of me. Picking one dish to be my favorite is an impossible decision but I love all forms of curry and Asian noodle dishes are also amazing. Pad see ew is so good. Tikka Masala too. I love all forms of sushi as well. I genuinely can’t choose just one. 

Dream vacation?

I’m not sure. I would love to visit Thailand at some point. I haven’t even been thinking about traveling since COVID has lasted so long. Once again I can’t choose, I want to go to so many places!

Annika Oyung is a social media creator and second-year student at Claremont McKenna College where she is dual majoring in media studies and philosophy. Annika has cultivated a following on TikTok where she posts about daily life, fashion, mental illness, memes, and a variety of miscellaneous subjects.

TikTok/Social Media(s):

Instagram: annika.oyung

TikTok: fadedfairy420

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