My Internet: Adam Bumas
The writer and internet researcher has a very good reason for why he quit scrolling Twitter.
Embedded is your essential guide to what’s good on the internet, written by Kate Lindsay and edited by Nick Catucci.
Most weeks, we quiz a “very online” person for their essential guide to what’s good on the internet., where he recently published the insightful essay The Internet Is Filling Up With Toilets. Adam spends the most unregretted user minutes on the MLB app, assumes his friends send voice notes when they’re too high to type, and sees no indication that the internet won’t be overrun with computers talking to other computers for the benefit of a third set of computers. —Nick
Subscribe to Embedded, where humans talk to humans for the benefit of a third set of humans.
EMBEDDED: What’s a recent meme or other post that made you laugh?
ADAM BUMAS: This Tumblr exchange.
EMBEDDED: What shows up on your TikTok For You page?
ADAM BUMAS: Oh, it’s a garden of all weeds. I basically never use my FYP, since I get all my TikToks via links, searches, accounts I follow and so on. Thanks to that, the algorithm doesn’t know me well enough to give me anything but mindless, instantly grabby stuff—pranks, cute pets, dances, thirst traps—that I’ve described before as the mortar between the bricks of TikTok.
EMBEDDED: Has your Twitter experience changed since Elon Musk took over? What would it take for you to quit?
ADAM BUMAS: I’ve already lost the most crucial aspect of Twitter to my work: Its search function, which has gotten steadily worse since Musk’s takeover. With the fall of Twitter from its place of prominence, we’ve one of the vanishingly few publicly searchable places where people will just say whatever’s on their minds. I genuinely live in fear that the current “X” thing will irreparably break links to tweets from the past as well as the present, which will be a five-alarm disaster for anyone who cares about cultural memory or history. In fact, I hate to give Musk the satisfaction, but it has a lot in common with the villain’s plot in his favorite book, Snow Crash.
As for leaving, I have to browse Twitter for research, but I’ve almost completely stopped casually scrolling after a couple of months ago, when I saw dick pics from a legendary author I won’t name, right on the timeline.
EMBEDDED: Have you found any good alternatives to Twitter?
ADAM BUMAS: You could argue that my job is “professional lurker,” so I’m going everywhere I see stuff reposted. Bluesky is clearly the place to go for the most online among us, but …
EMBEDDED: What do you use Instagram for?
ADAM BUMAS: It’s my app for keeping track of fun things happening around my area—all my favorite venues, vendors, artists etc. tend to post their schedules exclusively on IG.
EMBEDDED: Have you had posts go viral? What is that experience like?
ADAM BUMAS: I think I’m pretty rare in that the only viral posts I’ve made have been on my terms: In high school, I would make Reddit posts tailored specifically to get upvotes, and they generally would. It was a very important early lesson in how little it actually meant, and how little they reflected the actual effort I put in, since the stuff that took off wasn’t the stuff I spent any serious time on.
EMBEDDED: Who’s the coolest person who follows you?
ADAM BUMAS: Emily St. James. She’s time itself; past, present and future; chronos and kairos.
EMBEDDED: Who’s someone more people should follow?
ADAM BUMAS: My old friend Vyce, who brings wisdom and charm to anything he talks about, but especially on the topic of kick-ass action movies on his podcast.
EMBEDDED: Which big celebrity has your favorite internet presence, and why?
ADAM BUMAS: Martin Scorsese, no question. He makes the best posts! He makes the best posts! The secret ingredient is he’s not actually online, and so when he has something to say it’s either an official press thing or his extremely online daughter’s TikToks, which means you always know exactly how seriously to take him.
For extra contrast, look at his frequent cinematic collaborator Paul Schrader, who’s such an inveterate poster that it keeps destroying his normal social life.
EMBEDDED: Where do you tend to get your news?
ADAM BUMAS: I’m old-fashioned enough that I still check the NY Times’ website pretty regularly, but I have a lot of social media spaces where I get less general news. I’m also subscribed to Hell Gate for its takes on local NYC stuff.
EMBEDDED: What are your favorite Substack or other independent newsletters?
. There’s something so elementally funny about making intentionally bad food.
ADAM BUMAS: I get a lot of newsletters, but the one I’ll cite here is Food is Stupid, by internet chef
EMBEDDED: What’s one positive media trend? What’s one negative trend?
ADAM BUMAS: A positive trend I’ve seen is that the complete bottoming out of the crypto and NFT space is actually being widely reported on. It’s inevitable that most of the focus is framing it as part of the larger recession instead of something more Quixotic, but I like how we’re seeing the punchline to all that hype and focus the whole thing got a couple years ago.
Negative is disgustingly easy, but disgusting in general: Content regurgitation-based news websites thinking they can get away with AI-generated pieces. I’ve seen that prank by the WoW subreddit, I’ve seen a lot of jokes about the practice...
...What I haven’t seen is any indication that it’ll stop, and that the web won’t fill up with even more computers talking to other computers for the benefit of a third set of computers.
EMBEDDED: Are you into any podcasts right now? How and when do you usually listen?
ADAM BUMAS: I listen to a lot of podcasts, usually while commuting or doing chores. No Such Thing As A Fish got me into podcasts when it started a decade ago, and I’m a devout worshipper at the altar of Blank Check.
EMBEDDED: Have you ever been heavily into Snapchat? Do you miss it?
ADAM BUMAS: There were friends who I needed to use Snapchat to keep up with, but that all but completely stopped in the pandemic.
EMBEDDED: When was the last time you browsed Pinterest? What for?
ADAM BUMAS: Pinterest was a surprisingly useful tool in my arsenal back when I was investigating the origins and spread of memes for Know Your Meme. As annoying as it is to use for its intended purpose, it worked really well as a palimpsest, to catch collections, imageboards and articles that had been taken private or offline.
EMBEDDED: Do you have any opinions about Tumblr?
ADAM BUMAS: Plenty. The one I most want people to hear is that for my money, it’s not worth keeping track of “dark academia,” “cottagecore” or the hundreds of other art/design trends that spread around Tumblr and get amplified by TikTok. It’s curation conducted entirely by vibes: Thanks to how Tumblr tags and reblogs work, there isn’t any point where there are clear boundaries to what these trends do and don’t mean, and if anyone tries to put up those boundaries, they’re ruining the fun.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, really, just that you shouldn’t try to take it too seriously. But I think there’s a ton of value in how Tumblr lets people practice the art of taking a bunch of cool pictures, saying “I enjoy all of these,” and finding an official-sounding term to make that enjoyment seem like something more objective—or, as they used to call it, art criticism.
EMBEDDED: Are you in any groups on Reddit, Discord, Slack, or Facebook? What’s the most useful or entertaining one?
ADAM BUMAS: My main online community since 2016 has been a Slack group of commenters on a website that shut down. It’s such a centering, peaceful way to deal with the rest of the internet: An utterly private space of around two dozen people who all know each other with at least a little intimacy. With a group that small, there’s usually a guarantee that everyone there can engage in good faith, give emotional support, and/or make jokes about cum, as the situation calls for.
EMBEDDED: Do you use Slack or another chat tool for work? What’s the best thing about that Slacking with your co-workers? What’s the worst thing?
ADAM BUMAS: Funny story: A couple years after that Slack group formed, I started working as a tutor for my university. The semester after I started, the order came down from above that everyone in the tutoring center needed to use Slack. As it turns out, I was literally the only one who had even heard of it before, let alone used it, and I had to spend most of my credit-hours as the Slack guru for all the students and teachers. I hope that answers the question.
EMBEDDED: Do you typically start searches on Google, Reddit, TikTok, or another source? Have you tried AI-powered search on Bing or elsewhere?
ADAM BUMAS: It all depends on what I’m looking for, since I’ll regularly need to scour a platform for a single post from a year or two ago that I vaguely remember. As for search engines in general, the power of Google’s quotation mark search is too strong for me to look anywhere else, since I pretty frequently need to search for specific strings of text.
EMBEDDED: Do you have any predictions for cryptocurrency, the metaverse, and/or Web3?
ADAM BUMAS: I think that whole space becomes much easier to understand when you think about it as a subculture, not the next phase of innovation. People with disproportionate influence on global finance have gotten into subcultures before, and they tend to try and pass it off as something inevitable and universal. Look at biohacking, or the fact that Starbucks is putting olive oil in coffee because Howard Schultz and only Howard Schultz thought they ought to.
I think once the fad passes from the top of the food chain, which it will, the subculture will remain.
EMBEDDED: Are you currently playing any games on your computer or phone?
ADAM BUMAS: I tend to focus on one phone game for months until I can no longer stand the sight of it. I’m currently a few months into that process with Doug dug. As for PC gaming, I fell pretty deep into a Binding of Isaac hole earlier this year, so I haven’t done much since getting out.
EMBEDDED: What’s your most-used messaging app?
ADAM BUMAS: Discord. I’m definitely one of the younger people interviewed for this feature, and I need people to know that Discord DMs as primary communication is de rigeur for a huge swath of people, most of whom are too young to remember the Clinton administration.
EMBEDDED: Do any of your group chats have a name that you’re willing to share? What’s something that recently inspired debate in the chat?
ADAM BUMAS: My most-used groupchat (to wit, on Discord) is me and three friends—one who lives in the west, one in Canada, one in Australia. We call ourselves “The Commonwealth” and one of us made a little flag, which gives you an idea of how nerdy we all are.
It hasn’t ripped us apart, but the latest incarnation of Reddit’s r/place has caused a lot of excitement, since one of us is heavily involved with the One Piece subreddit leadership, and we’ve been kept up with all her trials and troubles maintaining territory on the pixel board.
EMBEDDED: What’s your go-to emoji, and what does it mean to you?
ADAM BUMAS: I use 👍 the most by far, and it’s exclusively saying “I acknowledge this and agree to it.” It’s mostly in a planning context, and you could do a whole shelf of books on how emotionally complex making social plans has gotten in the digital age. I’ve put a lot of thought into what kind of language gets everything across best, and reducing the actual agreement to emoji gets rid of some of the gravity around it.
EMBEDDED: Do you text people voice notes? If not, how do you feel about getting them?
ADAM BUMAS: I’m young enough to have friends who send me voice notes, and I still respond with texts. When I get them, my assumption is more often than not “this person is too high to type,” but that may just be a function of the specific friends who do this.
I’ll send voice messages from time to time, but I only do it when I have something to say that’s easiest in audio form—usually me quoting a specific song lyric or movie line stuck in my head. Could you tell by now my degree was in linguistics?
EMBEDDED: What’s a playlist, song, album, or style of music you’ve listened to a lot lately?
ADAM BUMAS: Three and a half years in, I’m still getting happy surprises regarding people I stopped paying attention to because of the pandemic. I recently learned the Swedish electro/jazz group Jaga Jazzist put out a new album in 2021, and it’s become my writing background for the past couple weeks.
EMBEDDED: What’s your favorite non-social media app?
ADAM BUMAS: If you go purely by “unregretted user minutes,” definitely the MLB app. The Mets bring me joy and anguish as only something I love can, but they never bring regret.
EMBEDDED: What’s the most basic internet thing that you love?
ADAM BUMAS: Having conversations with friends that have records stretching back years.
EMBEDDED: Is there any content you want but can’t seem to find anywhere online?
ADAM BUMAS: Answering this question was my job for almost a year at Know Your Meme. I was plugging holes in their database, wading through a decade plus of reposts and variations to track down the starting points for memes. Many of them are lost to history—if you look at a lot of KYM entries, you can see how we use a lot of very carefully chosen language to say “this is the earliest version of the meme we can find, not the actual earliest one.”
Not being able to track this down feels like one of many broken promises of the digital age, and it’s the reason I’m happy we have such a complete history of things like “yeet.”
EMBEDDED: Have you recently read an article, book, or social media post about the internet that you’ve found particularly insightful?
ADAM BUMAS: What does excite me anthropologically about the post-Twitter Great Scattering is that each new community means a new standard of online behavior. We’re seeing so many practices for posting, replying, calling out and so on form out of the chaos in real time. That’s why I’d like to give a tip of the hat to this Tweet.
EMBEDDED: What’s the last thing that brought you joy online?
ADAM BUMAS: Being able to whip out a Dune metaphor in that last question.