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Lil Tay: The Instagram sugar rush that will inevitably crash

The internet's latest hit isn't going to end well...


Lil Tay takes to YouTube to address her fans (and haters).

Screenshot by Claire Reilly/CNET

Keeping up with the internet is exhausting. But this pop culture sludge tube stops for no man. And now it's time to add a new tchotchke to the growing pile of dank memes, YouTube deep cuts and increasingly glitchy GIFs that you hold in that back section of your brain where high school French used to live.

It's Lil Tay. Aka the Youngest Flexer of the Century. Aka Lil Gucci Taylor. Aka the logical predecessor of the heat death of the universe.

If you've never heard of her (I'm so sorry) here's the DL.

Who is Lil Tay?

Lil Tay is a 9-year-old Instagram "star" whose M.O. is expensive cars, wads of cash and the kind of language you'd find on a bathroom stall in a sketchy-looking gas station. Her Instagram posts and YouTube videos are littered with phrases like "y'all can't afford this shit" -- with 1.9 million followers she's the 9-year-old people are watching right now. And we're really not sure 1.9 million people want to see this train wreck end well.

More importantly, *why* is Lil Tay?

Because the internet, that's why. Just as the Uruk-hai are born out of the primordial sludge of Isengard, Lil Tay was born out of a social media culture that can't get enough of fast cars, glittering excess and unlimited use of sweet, sweet emojis.

Now playing: Watch this: Lil Tay's Instagram feed will melt your brain

Should I fall down that Instagram rabbit hole?

Look, she's been posting since February and still has more followers than you. Here's an image-to-text description of her Insta feed to save you the trouble.

Lil Tay in a bathtub full of cash!

Lil Tay in her 'Rari! What's that? Lil Tay ain't got no license? Doesn't stop her riding in a car you can't afford.

Lil Tay using a stack of $100 bills as a phone! Bless.

Lil Tay and her confusingly cute dog, Swagrman! (Look, I'm here for Swagrman. Any dog in a pair of sunglasses is cool with me.)

Why is the internet obsessed?

This is outrage culture mixed with Toddlers and Tiaras and we can't look away. Some of us are clutching our pearls worrying about what the world has come to. Some are laughing at her. Some are correcting her on Instagram and massively missing the point (she graduated from Harverd? Why is her spelling so atrocious?!) 

And then there are those who are wondering if this is just one big joke.

Where did she come from?

Other than Beverly Hills, circa 2009, I have a bold theory for you. Lil Tay has actually been around forever. She's the fast-burnout sensation for the internet era. A child star in Gucci. Shirley Temple burning out on a social media account. Watching a 9-year-old Instagram star crash and burn generates the same schadenfreude we've always felt over Hollywood stars. Now it's just voyeurism on a smaller screen.

Just how badly will this end?

At 9 years old, it's really questionable just how in on the joke Tay is. She's the product of adults, some of them dopily laughing at her, some of them no doubt keen to milk this for all the cash they can get. Her mother is on the fringes -- she reportedly lost her job because the real estate agency she worked for didn't take kindly to the tone of Tay's videos. After watching so many of her videos, I'm ultimately just left feeling sad. She's a 9-year-old who looks tired.

But she's the Insta #content we seem to want right now. When our feeds are full of celebrities pushing appetite-suppressing lollipops and visiting "suicide forests" for clicks, is it any wonder our follows are getting younger and crazier? Where's the next internet sugar hit that's going to shoot straight into our bloodstream?

It's Lil Tay for now. But just like a 9-year-old shooting pixie sticks, you can expect a crash real soon.

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