If you had a certain kind of upbringing in the South, you likely know the strict hierarchy that dictates who brings the potato salad and cornbread to a covered-dish supper and who is responsible for the paper plates.
There is a good chance you know the difference between moseying and meandering. Just as you understand that a prayer request can be a genuine call for divine assistance on someone’s behalf — and a loophole for relaying gossip without, technically speaking, engaging in it.
But not everyone can have that sort of home training, bless their hearts. That’s where Landon Bryant comes in.
He has covered all of this and plenty more in his daily videos posted on social media on the customs and mannerisms he learned growing up in small-town Mississippi.
“The Lord laid it on my heart and we all need to lift her up because — insert information here,” Mr. Bryant explained in the video detailing how one might go about gossiping by way of a prayer request.
“The prayer list,” he added, “is sort of a news feed.”
Landon Bryant often records his videos at home in his bedroom.Credit…Bryan Tarnowski for The New York Times
With his sweep of silky shoulder-length hair and soft drawl that cloaks a devilishly sly sense of humor, Mr. Bryant, 35, has become a fixture on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube with his explanation and exploration of what it means to be Southern.
A lot of it is food: Grits, fried green tomatoes, sweet potato pie, divinity, corn nuggets, hot tamales and crawfish are just some of the delicacies he has discussed. He has done soliloquies on social protocol (a phone call should never end with a quick goodbye), language (defining “might could” and “fixing to”) and Mississippi’s climate (the humidity can feel like wearing “a sweater full of Vaseline”).
Since February, his “Landon Talks” posts have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers, many from around the world — a testament to the odd fascination that has always surrounded the quirks, characters and complicated history of the South.
But many of Mr. Bryant’s regular viewers are about as Southern as he is, confirming another enduring truth about the region: There are few things Southerners love more than reveling in their own Southernness.
The comments on his posts can be as engaging as the videos themselves: bountiful and passionate, but never all that heated. Take, for example, the thread on the region’s superstitions. A bird flying in the house is a sign a loved one is about to die; a cardinal in the yard is a dead relative checking in.
“In this time of turmoil and global unrest, it’s kind of fun to think about deviled eggs,” said one regular commenter, Patricia Altschul, the socialite and grande dame on the Bravo reality show “Southern Charm.” “People do wrangle over a lot of these things that nobody else cares about besides Southerners.”
As lighthearted as it all may seem, Mr. Bryant believes the conversation actually represents something more substantial: a sprawling family, rife with bitter disagreements and painful histories, unified by an abiding affection for home.
His audience includes a certified “Daughter of the Confederacy” and one of the more liberal members of the Louisiana State Legislature. There are people from a mix of racial and economic backgrounds, as well as people who are gay and gender nonconforming. Their diversity might surprise some outsiders, but it reflects the geographic, racial, economic, ideological, gastronomical vastness of the South.
“By breaking down our phrases, expressions and traditions, Landon reinforces that idea that there is a rich history and culture that exists in this area,” said Claire Thriffiley, an Instagram follower of his and the director of an art gallery in New Orleans.
Mr. Bryant acknowledged that many of his videos are snapshots of a fading way of life. The matriarchs who set the standard for potato salad are aging or are already gone. “Might could” is heard less and less.
The videos are also something of an informal historical record. “It’s just turned into this love letter,” Mr. Bryant said in an interview in Laurel, Miss., his city of 17,000, where he lives on the same road where he grew up.
But over time, he realized the videos and the conversations they spur were not just about remembering an idealized version of the past. This was a chance to figure out which Southern traditions were worth preserving, and which were best left behind.
“Our generation is going to have to decide,” he said.
Mr. Bryant — an elementary school art teacher until he became a full-time influencer — makes no claim of being the definitive voice of the South, as if one could exist.
Still, regular viewers say that he is an ideal guide. “Landon is funny and has a soft, calming voice,” said Mandie Landry, a Democratic state lawmaker from New Orleans.
“Very Mr. Rogers,” she added. “He could start a cult full of niceness and potato salad and I would join it.”
He never needed a camera or an Instagram account to launch into meandering monologues. His wife, Katelyn, encouraged him to start recording and posting them online — if only to spare herself from being his only audience.
Over the past year, his life has been transformed. He has a contract to write a book expanding on his videos. Lingua Franca, a New York-based purveyor of cashmere sweaters with hand-stitched messages, recently sold out a line featuring phrases from his videos, including “Bless your heart” and “Might could.”
Some of his posts include paid promotions where he mentions certain products, like White Lily flour and cornmeal mixes. Mr. Bryant also produces made-to-order videos ($50 a pop) for Cameo, the service offering individualized messages from personalities of varying renown. So far, he has been hired to share a message from one twin sister to another to stop spending money at Starbucks and to settle a dispute over whether to eat grits with salt and pepper or with sugar. (“There’s no right way to eat grits,” he said, “as long as you’re eating grits.”)
One query about his favorite beverage (a French 75) turned into a meditation on drinking in the South. “Southern people either do have a very favorite drink,” he said, “or you pretend you don’t drink at all and you don’t make eye contact in the liquor store.”
Strangers recognize him in public now, including on a recent family vacation to Disney World. The attention has been surreal, he said, and even a little uncomfortable. Still, he noticed that entry-level celebrity did not feel all that different from living under the watchful eye of a small town.
As he ran errands in Laurel on a recent afternoon, a man hollered at him from a passing pickup: “Can I have your autograph, Landon?” It turned out to be his wife’s cousin’s husband.
His wife, who was one of his best friends growing up, has been astonished at how his emergence as a social media influencer has drawn Mr. Bryant out of his shyness but not so surprised at the connection he has made with viewers. “It feels like he’s talking with you,” she said.
He has the observational skills often developed by those who feel like an outsider in the place that is supposed to be home. As a boy, he was small and a bit awkward — he needed to “grow into his ears,” as he put it — and he preferred eavesdropping on the ladies at the beauty shop to hunting, sports or the other rugged pursuits of the men who surrounded him. For a while, he would even try to lower his voice to better fit that mold of masculinity.
Yet the whirlwind of the past year has taught him that perhaps he is not as much of an outsider as he once thought. “I didn’t realize how much of this place I am,” he said. “I am also a Southern man — whatever that means for me.”
He keeps a list of possible video topics on his phone, and he continually finds new inspiration, including just the other day, when his grandmother stopped by and he asked how she was feeling.
“She literally said to me, ‘I’d have to feel better to die,’” he said. He made a mental note to put that on the list.
He wants to make it a year before he revisits any topics. But after that, he would like to correct the record on a few items — namely, deviled eggs. In his first video about them, he mentioned topping them with cracker crumbs. The backlash was swift.
He is eager to explain himself. But he also wants to remind his followers that he knows his place when it comes to a potluck.
He’s the one bringing the paper plates.