This whole “social-media mogul” thing started with Annie Rauwerda being captivated by a Wikipedia entry about cow tipping—“the purported activity of sneaking up on any unsuspecting or sleeping upright cow and pushing it over for entertainment,” according to the internet’s massive user-curated encyclopedia.
What actually grabbed her were the entry’s photos and captions: “Cows routinely lie down to sleep,” the caption reads, under a photo of a slumbering bovine.
Another: “A healthy cow lying on her side is not immobilized; she can rise whenever she chooses,” it proclaims under a picture of a cow lying down with her head raised.
Rauwerda mines the weirdest, most absurd, and oddly fascinating Wikipedia entries for her project Depths of Wikipedia, a group of social media accounts on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. Her nearly two million followers include singers John Mayer and Troye Sivan and actors Olivia Wilde and Jesse Eisenberg.
Rauwerda, who grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich., and is a member of Cascade Fellowship Christian Reformed Church, says her curiosity and sense of wonder was cultivated at home, at church, and as a student at Grand Rapids Christian Schools.
“In Christian school, I was always interested in morality, in right and wrong, but I never felt indoctrinated,” she said. “Starting in middle school I was interested in what Greek word was used (in a certain Bible passage). The teachers were focused on getting students like me to think for themselves.”
After graduating high school, Rauwerda took a gap year in Chicago through Americorps, tutoring young students in math and science. In 2019 she started a neuroscience degree at the University of Michigan, where she contributed a page to a friend’s zine project during the pandemic’s quarantine period in April 2020. “My page was all these weird Wikipedia things,” she said.
She began to post oddities from Wikipedia on her Instagram page, which got a major boost when internet celebrity and influencer Caroline Calloway posted some of the content on her stories. “It snowballed from there,” Rauwerda said.
With more than 55 million Wikipedia entries, the 23-year-old has her work cut out for her as she tries to curate the strangest and most obscure articles. “The first thing to blow my mind was an entry about sexually active popes,” she said. Other topics she’s highlighted include exploding trousers, water pie, “chess on a really big board,” and a recipe for toast sandwiches, which calls for “two pieces of bread with toast in the middle.” Her hilarious captions make the entries even funnier.
Since graduating from Michigan in the spring of 2022, Rauwerda has laid aside neuroscience for now and is making a living from gigs related to Depths of Wikipedia. She has a full schedule of live stand-up shows booked (Eisenberg joined her on stage at a sold-out New York City show, and she has given workshops on editing Wikipedia pages.)
“It’s fun to be curious,” Rauwerda said. “I always think about the New York Times’ slogan ‘All the News That’s Fit to Print.’ There’s no way that’s all the news that's fit to print, because the world is full of all these crazy stories. There is so much wonder out there.”