This image is from the official Wikipedia page for Depths of Wikipedia.

Editor’s note: Annie Rauwerda is a former contributor for Statement Magazine, but currently has no affiliation with The Michigan Daily.

Maybe you’ve scrolled through your timeline on your favorite social media app and come across a post about odd Canadian traditions, animal-shaped breads or ancient Sumerian jokes — but did you know that the creator of these posts could’ve been in your discussion section?

In April 2020, then-LSA sophomore Annie Rauwerda was in the same place as many Wolverines: stuck at home, bored and chronically online. From the corner of Ann Street and Glen Avenue, Rauwerda started her “quarantine project” and posted for the first time on her new Instagram account @depthsofwikipedia. Flash forward to now, and that same account has upwards of 800,000 followers split across Instagram, TikTok and Twitter. Since that first post, the essentials of the account have remained the same: Rauwerda curates snippets from the crowdsourced Wikipedia — whether they’re silly, weird, outrageous or all of the above — and shares them with the world.

Rauwerda’s post about recursive islands and lakes includes the phrases “islands in lakes on islands in lakes” and “lakes on islands in lakes on islands.” There’s also Diego the tortoise, whose Wikipedia page boasts that “Diego has been said to have ‘had so much sex he saved his species.’” My personal favorite is her spotlight on Hanlon’s razor, the old adage stating “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” I think about that one a lot. 

Her success has been think-pieced into the next dimension: The New York Times calls it an “entry point to internet culture,” Mashable praises Depths of Wikipedia for its bizarre trivia lessons and Vice describes its significance among Gen Z with fancy words like “post-irony” and “meta-irony.” Rauwerda sells merchandise too (with the proceeds going to Wikipedia), hosts a Depths of Wikipedia Discord channel and regularly interacts with her ever-growing community of Wiki-lovers.

But none of that is what we’re here for. It’s finally time to address one glaring truth: Rauwerda is a U-M Neuroscience major, one whose celebrity seems largely unknown among the student body. The Michigan Daily is adding to Rauwerda’s long roster of interviews to glean a sense of what it’s like to get your degree in Ann Arbor while navigating much bigger things. The interview has been edited for clarity and context.

The Michigan Daily: How do you explain Depths of Wikipedia to someone who hasn’t heard of it?

Annie Rauwerda: If I just need to say something quick, I would probably just call it a meme page. I don’t think it’s really memes, though — I’m not adding text to images. So if people ask for an actual explanation, I say it’s Wikipedia screenshots I find funny or interesting. Sometimes I feel like people that are older don’t get it — they don’t seem to understand the whole gimmick account concept.

TMD: You must get a lot of direct messages and suggestions for what to post. How do you sort through them all? 

AR: I get a lot of DMs lately. It used to be very manageable; I used to either post every Wikipedia page that someone submitted, or give a very thoughtful response on why I wasn’t going to. But now I don’t. I make an effort to read at least every message, but sometimes I can’t even do that. When I post a lot of stories and I start getting story responses, then it gets to be a lot. It’s so nice because all these people are usually sending really sweet and thoughtful things. I definitely try to acknowledge them, maybe like the message, but unfortunately, I just don’t have enough time and diligence to send something heartfelt back to everyone. The majority of DMs are probably people saying, “Oh, you should definitely post about this,” and you would not believe how many repeats there are. At this point, I’ve posted something like 700 different things, and so many of the things people submit are things that I’ve already posted. But then other times people will send things that are really interesting, and sometimes I’ll be like “Oh, I gotta save that for later.”

TMD: You’re very accessible and approachable despite having almost a million followers. I see a lot of accounts that are similar in popularity, but they don’t have regular communication with their followers like you do. How do you keep up with that? 

AR: The 800,000 of them have so much to tell me that would improve the account, and also give me ideas for writing. I’ll kind of subtly try to get inspiration and ask questions like, “what’s a fun website you’ve seen lately” or something. I’m a part-time student right now taking nine credits, so that helps too. I think of Depths of Wikipedia as my social life in some ways. When I go on Instagram live, that’s just me being like, “Oh, haha! I’ll go talk to this piece of glass that feels like my friends.” I think it’s very fun. Also, people are so nice to me; I know some people on the internet have really toxic experiences, but I think probably only one in 10,000 interactions I have aren’t positive. 

TMD: In a lot of your interviews, you mention editing for Wikipedia. Can you explain how that works? If I wanted to edit for Wikipedia, how would I do it?

AR: Overall, the process is very easy. First, you would make an account, and then press the little pencil icon on an article. There are some pages for more controversial issues, like the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine or abortion, that are often vandalized. For those pages, you would have to have an account for a certain amount of time and have made a certain number of good edits before you’re allowed to edit them. I think that a lot of new editors will go in feeling unsure of what to edit, because that’s what I felt at first; I fixed one typo at a time and felt like there was nothing else to do. 

In reality, though, there’s so many pages that are just kind of “meh.” Right now, a lot of obscure pages are just really poorly written or have outdated sources, and there’s a lot of maintenance that is required to have an encyclopedia so big. There are topics within so many subfields that I feel like people with so many diverse interests could find a really nice niche if they wanted to. There’s a lot of rules, though. I try so hard to follow the rules, but even now sometimes I’ll blatantly violate something by accident. If you’re not sure about an edit you can go to the “Talk” page of the article, which is the “behind the scenes” where editors talk about what the page should be like, and then ask.

TMD: Have you ever had any professors or classmates approach you about Depths of Wikipedia?

AR: No, I wish! That would be cool. I’ve definitely walked around Ann Arbor and had people go up to me and say, “Hey, do you have a TikTok?” or “Are you Depths of Wikipedia?” But it doesn’t happen that often. Sometimes I have professors that have a big Twitter presence, and I will follow them from Depths of Wikipedia, and I know if they really looked, they would be able to see, “Oh, this is my student,” but so far none of them have.

TMD: A lot of people follow you. Any celebrities?

AR: I do have quite a few. Kiernan Shipka follows me, and sometimes we’ll chat. John Mayer follows me. That’s a big one. Olivia Wilde used to share me on her (Instagram) story a lot. Troye Sivan is a big fan; he’s followed for a really long time, like before I even had 10,000 followers. Julia Fox follows me and Grimes follows me on TikTok. I really want to unfollow everyone except for (Grimes) and then start making a ton of “friends only” videos, because if it gets one view, then I know it’s her.

TMD: What is the most crazy experience you’ve had in terms of celebrity encounters?

AR: The “TL;DR” is that I adopted a cat from Caroline Calloway. I was in line to get boba in Brooklyn (where I lived) and I got a call on my phone from Calloway. (Calloway) is famously an influencer who had a big scandal in 2018 for being a scammer — she didn’t publish books that she promised to publish and had big creativity workshops that supposedly didn’t provide any value. Also, she started selling a mixture of oils called “snake oil,” and it’s apparently her secret skincare routine. That’s my very bad crash course. I had her contact on my phone because her assistant was going to live in the extra room in my apartment, and I got a call from Caroline, and she was like, “Hey, my cats aren’t getting along.” In the exact same intonation that she would use on an Instagram story, she’s like, “Do you want a cat?” and it seemed like a permanent offer. I agreed to do it for a couple of months but then eventually I told Caroline that I love her (cat) and I want her as a permanent pet.

TMD: Any weird U-M-related Wikipedia finds?

AR: I saw some wording that is hilarious. I might be overselling this; it’s mildly interesting. If you go to the page for George Sugihara — he’s some professor — there’s a part in his Biography section where it says he “studied natural resources at the University of Michigan, where he received a BS in 1973. He did something after graduation.” Just like “doing something” after graduation and not specifying what he did after graduation. I thought that was really funny.

TMD: What’s your favorite U-M local meme page?

AR: Definitely (@incellectuals_umich), are you kidding me? That’s an easy one. I think that they are so funny. I feel very seen as a Kerrytown resident, when a lot of the UMich lore is about sports.

TMD: How have you expanded Depths of Wikipedia into other projects, and what is that like?

AR: For a while I had a podcast and I had a newsletter — neither of them I’m doing right now, not for any good reason, just because it’s a lot of work, and I didn’t make any money on them. So. I also sell mugs of funny (Depths of Wikipedia) posts, but I don’t really promote them. With the mugs, I always have to specify that I’m not doing this page just to profit; I give a decent portion of the mug sales to Wikipedia, and the rest is just going to my tuition. I think people sometimes have a little bit of resistance, because (they think) it’s the work of volunteers that I’m printing and profiting off of, which is understandable. My goal is just to spread the (Wikipedia) love, and I’m not making off with billions or anything. I honestly feel like it’s just beer money. Maybe I shouldn’t be apologetic, (but) whenever I get criticism for that I always feel like it’s valid, and I feel bad.

Digital Culture Beat Editor Laine Brotherton can be reached at