The best advice I’ve seen on Twitter is to never take advice from Twitter. Bit of a catch-22, sure, but generally I’ve made it work. And one immediate corollary to that piece of wisdom might be: Do not offer unsolicited advice on Twitter. There are lots and lots of people reading the internet — most of them don’t know you, and almost none have life experiences that match yours. If your advice tweet gains any traction, it will in time be picked apart on its merits, then shorn of context, then placed in a different context.
That, anyway, is the story of a musician who goes by “Nohidea.” Given to offering hazy enthusiasm and words of inspiration on social media (“We all have the power inside of us to do everything and anything that we can imagine,” a characteristic Facebook post announced) Nohidea this week told his followers and fans to save up money, quit their jobs and pursue a passion. Regrettably, he also framed this encouragement as a dare.
Among the many scoffing replies this garnered, quite a few took issue with Nohidea’s math, wondering how anyone could subsist on $8,000 per year in these United States.
When someone raised the question of rent, Nohidea’s girlfriend — also a musician, known as “Limbo” — chimed in to say that her parents cover two-thirds of that expense. (SoundCloud gives her location as the Bay Area, not a cheap market by any stretch.)
Evidently this financial drama precipitated a breakup, though to hear Limbo tell it, there were many additional factors in play. Confusingly, too, it seemed as if he dumped her.
I reached out to Limbo and Nohidea to get the backstory on their viral altercation, but only Limbo was willing to chat with me (via DM). I learned that she’s 24 years old, while Nohidea is 23, and they recently moved to California from Colorado together. “We met through our friend Patrick aka Atlas when writing a song called ‘Anxious’ — that was about a year or so ago,” Limbo said. Even before they knew each other, they were both “masked musicians,” keeping their artistic personae totally separate from their actual identities: “It was kinda cool to fall in love with someone who had the same idea as me.”
When I asked Limbo about her reaction to Nohidea’s original tweet, I was surprised to hear her defend it, more or less: “I first thought nothing of the tweet but then started to get annoyed that he was leaving out all the help he had been getting. He’s grateful, honest, and incredibly smart most of the time, but people do dumb things on the internet… it just got really twisted in the end. His point he was making was beautiful, he just worded it the wrong way and responded to people in a way that offended them.” She later added: “None of it was supposed to come off in a negative way at all.”
Yet by voicing her own objections on Twitter, Limbo gave us a look at the hustle behind the hustle: “I felt like people who were asking the questions should have gotten a correct answer. I used to not call people out, but when it’s something involving me or my family, I can get kinda defensive.” So much of being a creative person online, including the development of aesthetic-as-brand, involves presenting a narrative of hard work, self-reliance, risk and sacrifice that leads to success. Being a bedroom pop producer who mooches off your significant other’s parents just to keep a roof over your head is a reality emphatically at odds with what we want to see in a digital-era artist, though broke artists have survived on handouts for centuries. But to buy into the fantasy of our own future breakthrough, we want to see someone achieve theirs without any outside help.
The failure to acknowledge that support is clearly what irked Limbo, who in the wake of the heated exchange with Nohidea framed her journey as a selfless struggle. As to the state of the relationship now, she told me, “I’m leaving that answer for just him and I.”
If this works better as a thesis statement for one’s creative career, that’s probably because it accepts her circumstances as personal, not universal, and doesn’t attempt to prescribe a single solution for everyone else. It still sells a vision of her as devoted to her craft above all, which is what Nohidea has tried to do, but he suffers from the compulsion to define a process and enforce it elsewhere while hyping his rate of production. This says everything about the divergent approaches to cultivating an artistic persona online, which may tend toward a gendered split: the woman searching for answers and the man who pretends to have them all, even when this entails a very imaginative understanding of how he attained the opportunities he now enjoys. Hers is reflective, allowing for doubts; his is prosperity gospel masquerading as inspiration.
But again, when it comes to these two, we ought to stay a little skeptical. What if this fight, bafflingly conducted for an audience of thousands, is just another hustle? I can’t say I’d heard either name before these tweets exploded. Romantic conflict between artists mining similar veins is a proven point of attraction for those who would consume their work. Days ago, Limbo lent credibility to Nohidea’s claim that he helps pay his mom’s rent — so why can’t he pay his own? I’ve puzzled over this too much already.
“Yeah, that’s where it gets… weird,” Limbo said. “I didn’t really know that was happening, so it felt kinda like a stab when I first saw that tweet. My parents have been helping as much as they can with our move here and providing us with a really awesome apartment.” I pressed her somewhat on this imbalance — that her parents chip in for their place so he can help support his mom instead of paying a fair share — and asked how sure she was that he actually gives his mom any money. Limbo simply replied that Nohidea does help his family with money he earns from music, and that she’s grateful to have her own parents helping them after a car accident left her financially unstable.
“I don’t look down on him for helping people financially when they need it,” Limbo concluded. Odd, considering he doesn’t extend her that same courtesy when it comes to basic living expenses. “He has bought a lot of things for himself in the past months, but I’d say he deserves it after all he’s been through. he didn’t grow up with a lot of money so having a lot now is kinda new and exciting,” she said. The economics of their partnership became more confusing the more she sought to clarify them: “He helped a lot when we moved to California, but I took care of his rent and food mostly while living in Colorado. But I was cool with it at the time and didn’t expect that back at all.”
As best I can tell, the pattern here is that Nohidea throws his cash wherever and however he likes, happy to coast along on someone else’s dollar for the boring adult stuff — as long as they’re chill on the whole concept of “personal debt.” And he was clearly amused by the backlash to his ideas about the balance between art and fiscal responsibility, later retweeting a notorious joke about poor budgeting from @dril, the godfather of Weird Twitter. One would guess that he agrees with Limbo’s assessment of his advice as “beautiful” at its core, simply misstated and misconstrued. “You can live doing what you want to do if you save enough and are wise about spending it,” is how she summarized it. But that’s not what he said, and I’m unconvinced it’s what he meant.
I don’t begrudge Nohidea for the path he takes through life, nor Limbo for occasionally excusing his lack of self-awareness on Twitter. Being a couple involves all sorts of arcane dealmaking and half-articulated understandings, and true parity can be hard to achieve. I do resent the complacent notion that your specific luck is proof that everyone should be able to bootstrap a career in a fiercely competitive, typically unprofitable industry — and that you’re a coward if you don’t.
I suppose what I’m saying is: Distrust any internet guru dishing out guidance on how to make it in your field, especially when their professional triumphs may be exaggerated, when they keep their identity opaque and their ethics vague. If we’re anonymous and unaccountable, there is scant obligation to tell the truth, least of all about our own situation. Seriously, never take advice from Twitter. Hell, don’t take it from me. I’m sure you’ll figure that shit out for yourself.