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Ice Restock Tiktok.jpg

The Good Ice: How The Internet Can Make Literally Anything An Aesthetic

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Social Media | August 23, 2023 |

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Social Media | August 23, 2023 |

Ice Restock Tiktok.jpg

The good ice is medium-sized. It’s not the standard cubes you get with the moulds sold in every fridge freezer. Nor is it crushed like a slushie. It’s pebble-shaped, small enough to crunch on but substantial enough to fill your cup and not melt instantly. If you get iced drinks at a fast food place, the chances are you know the ice we’re talking about.

While delving into the hyper-vibrant and aspartame-heavy world of Watertok, I found myself thinking a lot about ice. The women who revelled in making their Willy Wonka-esque juice concoctions were highly specific about which ice they used in their Stanley Cups. Many had fancy ice machines to ensure quality control while others went to the fast food chain Sonic to buy bags of their specific ice. Sometimes, it seemed as though their ‘waters’ had more ice in them than liquid. The ASMR quality was high. Soon, the almighty algorithm had me spinning into the online madness of fancy ice, and the well of questions and curiosity got deeper from there.

It turns out that there are so many ways to make ice. If you lack the expensive machines to do it for you, why not buy dozens of moulds and trays, then fill them up with various fruits, liquids, and edible glitters? There are many different shapes of ice, from long sticks you can slide into your water bottle to butterflies for those fancy cocktails to pretty roses the size of tangerines. And why use just water? How about cold brew coffee, or freshly squeezed orange juice or matcha? Slice up some cucumber into stars and float them in the moulds. And don’t worry about fitting it all into your freezer because the real ice nerds have an entire drawer dedicated to their ice. Take that, food.

The internet and the omnipresent sphere of influencer-dominated domesticity have an uncanny ability to make any mundane activity a spectator sport, whether it’s cleaning, shopping, or packing your purse for the day. Some of the most popular accounts on social media are more focused on the normal than the thrilling, earning millions of views (and the dollars to match) by filming everyday routines and editing them into something more visually pleasing. Ice is but the latest addition to the push to aestheticize it all.

Anything can be an aesthetic online. You can dress up every aspect of your life and make it pretty enough to turn into a trend. Cash stuffing TikTok transformed old-school financial tricks into a feminized accessory and Live Laugh Love visual mantra. Writing in your diary is now a well-oiled machine of stickers, calligraphy, and artistic prowess. Buying and putting away your groceries is a choreographed routine. We all do stuff like this every day and it’s seldom any fun, or at least not a highlight of the day. Why is it more exciting to watch someone else clean their sink than do it ourselves? Well, the aestheticized cleaner has all those colourful products. They’ve got a specific order to do it all in, and they’ve edited the process down to a tight minute.

With ice, it’s a slower process. You see the pouring, the organising, and the eventual satisfaction of the frozen thing being put in its own little shelf.

It’s fancy, but it’s also not for the rest of us. Most people don’t do stuff like this because it’s time consuming, wasteful, and probably weirdly expensive. Aestheticizing is rooted in the notion that normal life is not only dull but poor. These communities don’t seek to romanticize working-class imagery. It’s not even as though ice is a posh thing. Anyone can make it, but elevating it to this sort of beastly luxury is part of the thrall of aestheticizing. Luxury means neatness, homogeny, time. I have to assume that a lot of these influencers are doing this for the bit, that making 16 trays of ice for a TikTok is just part of the job and they’re not going to use most of them, but then that makes you think about the waste of it all. Part of the allure of real luxury is that well-made products are meant to last a lifetime, far beyond the deliberately short shelf-life of, say, fast fashion. Luxury in this realm, however, is about being able to dispose of whatever you want, simply because you can.

And it’s all for sale, of course. Beauty sells, and capitalism can insidiously turn it all into a profit opportunity. Watch enough of any of these trends and you’ll soon find yourself in a cycle of homogeny, with every influencer using the same products in the same ways. The ice trays are identical, the ways they’re filled similarly. How many people actually use rose ice cubes flavoured with syrups and glitter? One person did it, the numbers were good, so now they all do it. This business model is also almost entirely dependent on Amazon (although Temu is creeping up fast as the new online shop-slash-waste creator of the moment.) Everyone has affiliate links ready to shill not just the ice moulds but the cups, the straws, the accessories, and anything else that could possibly be found on a storefront. Luxury is about having lots of time, but capitalism is about ensuring you get all that fancy shit as quickly as possible.

Why get so wound up about ice? Well, it’s seldom just about one thing, is it? I could probably swap out fancy ice for fridge reorganizations or bullet journaling or travel luggage or books or cash stuffing or our old friends on Watertok. It’s all about wanting more, getting more, and not caring about the waste it creates. Nothing is pretty enough, plentiful enough to satisfy, and we want more of it as quickly as possible, damn the labour violations or carbon footprint. Capitalism will consume us all so we might as well enjoy the view. Hell, I’m not exempt. I want some fancy ice and I don’t even own a freezer.