All images by Zachary Tang for RICE Media, unless otherwise stated.
It’s hard to figure out the woman who runs @milotruckdreams, and I say this in the most literal sense. There’s something uncanny about interviewing someone who’s wearing a reflective face shield.
Is it her way of saying she’s holding up a mirror to society? Deep. But it doesn’t stray far from her contemplative disposition. She likes to mull over her thoughts first before answering questions, especially the big ones.
It’s not something you’d expect from someone known for her stream-of-consciousness written monologues.
Nominally, @milotruckdreams is a blog filled with acerbic rants and sardonic listicles that speak about the nature of Singaporeans. Formally, it’s an Instagram meme page, though the definition of ‘meme’ is fluid here. Ultimately, it’s funny content optimised for viral sharing on social media channels.
Despite being only a few months old, the Instagram page amasses quite a following on social media, including the likes of Xiaxue and Benjamin Kheng among her over 27K followers.
It’s probably thanks to a uniquely resonating brand of observational comedy that taps into modern life in Singapore—often delivered in a spontaneous diatribe that only those who grew up here would appreciate. What makes her content spark is the specificity of her references, from the disappointing digital screens on MRTs to remembering how Editor’s Market used to be a mere Cineleisure blog shop.
Part of the magic lies largely in the mystery of who runs @MiloTruckDreams. It feels like she could be your friend—the hilarious, manic one with endless quips. You probably want her to be your friend.
Maybe it’s her face visor; maybe it’s the nature of wanting to stay anonymous. But it’s apparent that she puts up disguises, literally and figuratively. Behind the relatable comedy is someone with a deep-seated yearning to make genuine connections with people in real life.
@milotruckdreams wants friends.
Go with Milo
“Just call me Robyn,” she says when I ask her name. It’s 11am on a Wednesday, and we’re sitting in Apartment Coffee, her chosen venue.
It’s a Scandi-bougie spot off Lavender Street, filled with white walls, natural daylight, champion baristas and the intentional choice not to sell any food. It’s one of those places where you have to specify the coffee bean (with assorted sensory notes) when ordering.
Robyn’s not her real name, but it’s close. Ish. Why ‘Robyn’? It’s cute, she retorts.
Here, she rattles off the elaborate vague spiel about herself to interviewers who come knocking. She’s a female Chinese Singaporean between the age range of 18 to 35; she spent some years studying in the UK (her accent remains chiefly local); she’s into stand-up comedy (James Acaster is a firm fav); she likes cats (especially her own two black strays she adopted). She also fidgets a lot, judging from her worn-out fidget cube.
@milotruckdreams was set up in May 2022, largely out of boredom and wanting to start something comedy-related after returning home. Instagram had the lowest barrier to entry to post stuff online. Banging on Singaporean-ness and her love for the malty beverage, the Milo truck moniker came about.
“There’s a bit of that yearning and nostalgia,” she explains. “But honestly it just came to mind when I wanted to finish signing up for the account.”
She’s comfortable enough to divulge other things. She has mild scoliosis, for instance, though not serious enough to require treatment. She lives with her family in Tampines; her parents are divorced; she’s not close to her dad; she’s the oldest child to two younger siblings who are way quieter and reserved than she is. They look up to her.
Robyn isn’t afraid to admit that she comes from privilege, in the sense that she’s never lacking in needs or comforts. Her childhood was spent in tuition classes and playing educational computer games, which may or may not have led to her scoring 271 on her PSLE results. “I peaked at PSLE,” she sends me in a drunk text later that night.
Robyn really loves kombucha, cafe-hopping, and nice restaurants. Which explains why she’s able to reduce the art of creating basic bitch IG stories into a ridiculous science.
I ask her if she has atas tastes. She Googles the definition, ruminating out loud if it was derogatory or not.
“I just like nice things. But I guess you’d also have to ask what I define as atas, whether they fall into the realm of what most people would consider pretentious. I’d say yes, but I also like other stuff.”
On Being Anon
It could be a point of contention for some who’ve pointed out how her humour seems skewed from a very upper-middle-class Chinese lens. Valid points, Robyn says—she only writes about the things she knows and feels comfortable skewering.
Because she doesn’t have the relevant lived experiences, she doesn’t feel comfortable talking about racial matters outside of her own. Because she lacks interest and knowledge, she doesn’t mine jokes from politics. Inadvertently, her content rarely spurs divisive sentiments.
Her content doesn’t hide her ethnicity, to be fair. Still, the anonymity she insists on keeping is admirable. Robyn makes us look away when switching out her face shield for a pair of sunglasses—easier for her to sip on her iced kombucha. The shades stay on even after a few drinks and a late-night nasi lemak supper.
“I just want to put funny stuff out there. So my identity isn’t very relevant. Right?”
Preconceived notions often get in the way of humour, and appearances affect how people interpret the content. Plus, it’s just a way to keep her two personas separate.
“Let’s say I start a job and I want to talk shit about work on Instagram. It’s not good for me and not fair for the company,” she explains.
So what is the constitutional difference between the two personas? Even from the little I know of Robyn, it’s obvious.
The frenzy of @milotruckdreams surfaces from time to time, depending on what we’re talking about. As a person, she can come off as stand-offish, impersonal even. The lack of eye contact doesn’t help.
“It’s fair to say that MTD is a subset of me. I would probably say the MTD is a lot more scathing, judgemental and sassy than me in real life. But in real life I’m a more holistic person, a lot more moody,” she ponders.
Fundamentally, Robyn is an observer. She pays close attention to the ordinary and builds something larger from that material, amplifying mundane annoyances into sprawling sagas.
Often, the words aren’t spelt out properly. Sentences hold little semblance of punctuation. Yet, they make perfect sense somehow.
One of my favourite posts reflects the childhood experience of being in a “less aircon-liberal household”, going deep into the awkwardness of asking a friend’s or relative’s parents to turn on the air conditioner. Random! But relatable.
I’m not surprised to learn that Robyn is a fellow fan of humorist David Sedaris. Similarly, the stuff on @milotruckdreams is grounded in reality, a more wry slice-of-life take on comedy than Gen Z absurdism.
Part of it stems from the observational skills she inherited from her mother. “My mum is super observant, she likes people watching,” Robyn chimes in.
The method to her madness is simple: Google Keep. The content creation process: (1) jot down a random thought or prompt on the note-taking app; (2) go home and flesh out the idea on her larger monitor screen and a Keychron mechanical keyboard.
The typos and random capitalisations in her rants are intentional, she clarifies. It breaks her flow when autocorrect fixes her compositions on her phone.
“I damn sian to go back and type it, like, wrongly.”
Longing to Belong
Robyn is, at heart, trying to find genuine connections. As @milotruckdreams, she makes it a point to reply to nearly every single one of her comments, direct messages and shares on Instagram. Her deep engagement with fans is afforded by the luxury of free time, thanks to being (currently) unemployed.
Being seen and validated seems to be pretty important to her, I point out.
This side of Robyn has been pretty surprising. As @milotruckdreams, she appears sure of herself—a vibe of casual nonchalance that amplifies her verbal vomit over things like picnicking in Singapore and our primary school obsession with stationery.
Behind the bluster, however, is someone who’s painfully self-aware about her yearning for connection and approval.
“Are you lacking in love?” I ask.
“Right now? Yeah,” Robyn says, entering her stream-of-consciousness mode.
“In the last year, I’ve gone through a period of very big losses. So I’m still in the process of grieving. And I think I’m going through a lonely time right now. Also, I think my life has changed a lot. During this adjustment period, I think it’s quite natural to feel unanachored. In this environment I find myself, like, desiring for connection.”
“But when I think about it—and when my therapist and I talk about it—the yearning has been present throughout my life rather than now.”
I don’t probe, but Robyn openly shares. The void she’s trying to fill: a sense of belonging. It’s a feeling that she has been chasing since her primary school days.
“I had a very close gang, like a really close group of friends in primary school. When you’re in a group and when you love your friends so much, it’s like you have a chosen family.”
“You just feel like as long as you’re with these people, you feel invincible. You feel like you’re on top of the world, or you feel like you and your friends rule the world. Like you could do anything.”
Here lies the paradox between @milotruckdreams and who she is as a person. She wants to be someone who doesn’t care. “But I care very deeply.”
Despite the elaborate disguise, Robyn is quite open to talk to. She sends random messages on Telegram; she asks for pictures of my cats; she often asks me to come hang out.
She says out loud that she wants more friends. But she also hasn’t offered me her real name.
It’s easy for her to open up to new people, she affirms, but it’s difficult for her to find a two-way connection. Robyn admits that she’s constantly seeking romance but gets ghosted after dates. She has a few theories why.
“I can maybe come across too strong if I like somebody in the beginning. Maybe my general aura is, like, unapproachable. I also feel like sometimes I’m too casual, maybe a bit bro-ey in a sense.”
“My friends and my mum would also say they’re intimidated by me,” she laughs.
Id & Ego
People talk about the dissonance between our real selves and our curated online personas. It’s rooted in our own insecurity—who we are online is the vibe that we want others to know. We are seen on screen, yes, but are we truly seen?
Part of what makes this contradiction interesting for @milotruckdreams is that the content does reflect who Robyn is, but it’s not the entire picture. Despite her vulnerability, she is cocksure of her own abilities to make people laugh.
“I wonder if it’s a bit of like, my ego coming to the fore. A bit of like arrogance, which is like, MTD is doing stuff that no one has done before. I’m validated and I’m damn funny. I know I’m good and all my stuff is good.”
The ‘fuck you’ vibes manifest in her plans for the Instagram page. If the interest dies down, she’ll just stop running it. If she can sustain enough interest to follow through, her brand will evolve past its current form.
But like the ridiculously reflective face shield she bought from Shopee, @milotruckdreams is a mask, and will remain so. How she portrays herself on it isn’t inauthentic; it’s just incomplete.
Robyn recalls coming across something online about the paradoxical feeling of simultaneously being very confident and very insecure.
“I think that’s quite applicable to me”.