My Internet: Amina Akhtar
The novelist is uncomfortable with parasocial relationships.
Embedded is your essential guide to what’s good on the internet, by Kate Lindsay and Nick Catucci.
Every week, we quiz a “very online” person for their essential guide to what’s good on the internet.
Today we welcome Amina Akhtar, whose latest novel, Kismet, is a satirical thriller about the wellness industry set in Sedona, Arizona. Formerly the founding editor of The Cut, she worked at at Vogue, Elle, and The New York Times before publishing her first novel, #FashionVictim, in 2018.
Amina only recently stopped getting DVDs from Netflix, uses YouTube for workouts because she can’t stomach going to a gym full of germs, and has her dog, Beanie, to thank for her coolest followers. —Nick
EMBEDDED: What’s a recent meme or other post that made you laugh?
AMINA AKHTAR: There’s this post of an owl with its eyes wide and it says, “When everyone in your life seems pleasantly surprised you haven’t lost your shit—but you have, in fact, completely lost your shit.”
I had to save that one because yeah, all shit has been lost here. I saw it on some random witch account Insta promoted to me—the algorithm knows I’ve lost my mind.
EMBEDDED: What types of videos do you watch on YouTube?
AMINA AKHTAR: I am so boring. I watch workout videos. Welcome to middle-age! You have to work out just to not want to die all the time! I use youtube for yoga and hiit workouts because I can’t stomach going to a gym full of germs.
EMBEDDED: Do you use TikTok?
AMINA AKHTAR: No TikTok! I have two reasons:
1. I don’t enjoy making videos. I have books to write! I can’t spend my time doing other labor-intensive content.
2. I will get sucked into TikTok and not get anything done, ever. I know it. I don’t trust myself to not get obsessed.
EMBEDDED: What do you use Instagram for?
AMINA AKHTAR: Everything from promoting my book Kismet to showing my wildlife (Coyotes! Ravens! Javelinas!). And of course for my dog. She has her own instagram. I know, I’m one of those people. I also use it for shopping. The algorithm—unlike everyone in my life—has figured out my tastes. I’m not sure how I feel about that but I’ve found some great jewelry and accessories on instagram. And the constant dog videos are really what keep me going in life.
EMBEDDED: Do you tweet? Why?
AMINA AKHTAR: Because I’m compelled to constantly feed the content machine so I stay relevant enough to sell books. Too honest? I mean, I think if writers didn’t need to promote ourselves that much, I would not be on social media. The parasocial relationships that develop—even if they’re entirely one sided—are very uncomfortable.
EMBEDDED: Have you ever had a post go viral? What was that experience like?
AMINA AKHTAR: And how! So, some years back I moved from New York to the mountains of Arizona to be with my elderly father. And I brought my tiny dog. We live on a mountain, and the coyotes (and bobcats and mountain lions) are rampant. So I did what any panicking person would do: I got Bean a coyote vest. You know, that photo you’ve seen of a tiny chihuahua-looking dog in a spiked neon pink vest? That’s my dog. She even made it to the James Corden show! She hates that vest, by the way.
EMBEDDED: Who’s the coolest person who follows you?
EMBEDDED: Who’s someone more people should follow?
AMINA AKHTAR: Ahhh! I don’t know! I follow a lot of writers and they’re all funny and weird and brilliant so I’d say follow them. All of them. Just follow my follows.
EMBEDDED: Which big celebrity has your favorite internet presence, and why?
AMINA AKHTAR: Mindy Kaling for sure. She’s funny and comes off like your friend in her posts. (But remember kids, parasocial relationships are not real!)
EMBEDDED: Where do you tend to get your news?
AMINA AKHTAR: Twitter. The breaking news aspect of twitter still can’t be beat.
EMBEDDED: What’s one positive trend you see in media right now? What’s one negative trend?
AMINA AKHTAR: I don’t know if I have anything positive to say about media. Having been in media, I know how easy it can be to get into a bubble with folks who think like you. But that isn’t necessarily reality. I’d say the one good thing is that some places are calling out the lies and B.S. that we’ve had shoved down our throats for the last six years.
EMBEDDED: What does “cancel culture” mean to you?
AMINA AKHTAR: It means consequences for your actions, and generally the people who decry cancel culture are the ones who have never had consequences applied to them. There’s a lot of “rules apply only to you, not us” going on, and that’s bullshit. Is it mostly white people and those upholding white supremacy who are crying about cancel culture? Yep. Sorry you were caught being a shitty person but welcome to consequences.
EMBEDDED: Do you subscribe to any Substacks or other independent newsletters? What are your favorites?
AMINA AKHTAR: No. I had to do newsletters at almost every outlet I’ve worked for, so newsletters inspire a sort of PTSD in me. So I avoid them when possible.
EMBEDDED: Are you into any podcasts right now? How and when do you usually listen?
AMINA AKHTAR: Not having a commute has ruined podcasts for me! But I loved The Hidden Djinn by Rabia Chaudry. I also love The Thriller Zone and other podcasts that feature writers. They’re so funny!
EMBEDDED: Have you ever been heavily into Snapchat? Around what age?
AMINA AKHTAR: Nah I was already too old when Snapchat happened.
EMBEDDED: When was the last time you browsed Pinterest? What for?
AMINA AKHTAR: Um, maybe 2010? It was for work. I find the pinterest stuff showing up in search results to be very irritating.
EMBEDDED: Are you nostalgic for Vine or Tumblr? Why?
AMINA AKHTAR: Yes! The silliness and creativity of both have not been beat.
EMBEDDED: Are you in any groups on Reddit, Slack, Discord, or Facebook? What’s the most useful or entertaining one?
AMINA AKHTAR: I’m on some writer groups on Facebook, but I try to not use FB that much. But I feel like if I use instagram, it’s the same thing as supporting FB. I have so much inner conflict about this!
EMBEDDED: Are you playing any games right now?
AMINA AKHTAR: Besides scamming everyone into thinking I’m a writer and they should buy my books? Nope!
EMBEDDED: What’s something you might want to do in the metaverse? What’s something you wouldn’t want to do?
AMINA AKHTAR: I would rather die first.
EMBEDDED: What purpose do you see in NFTs?
AMINA AKHTAR: To scam people. It’s all a grift.
EMBEDDED: Do you think Web3 will mean a better internet?
AMINA AKHTAR: No. Absolutely not.
EMBEDDED: Do you text people voice notes? If not, how do you feel about getting them?
AMINA AKHTAR: I think they’re weird. I don’t do them because I like blissful silence. That said, a reader sent me a voice note on instagram and it was so sweet! But for real, just text me ok?
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?
AMINA AKHTAR: I have a writer’s group we do a group chat with and no I shan’t share the cringey name we came up with. I can’t shame us like that. You’d think it would be a cooler name!
EMBEDDED: What’s your go-to emoji, and what does it mean to you?
AMINA AKHTAR: The crying laughing one because I am a middle aged woman. That’s our go-to. I used to get yelled at for being too bitchy in emails so it became ingrained in me to use that to show I’m just talking shit.
EMBEDDED: What’s a playlist, song, album, or style of music you’ve listened to a lot lately?
AMINA AKHTAR: I’m having a ’90s moment and listening to a lot of Oasis. People, make me playlists! I need new music!
EMBEDDED: Do you pay for a music streaming service, and if so, which one? When was the last time you bought a music download or vinyl record, CD, or tape?
AMINA AKHTAR: No, and the only reason why is I only recently got decent wifi. Listen, we all want to run off to the middle of nowhere. Well, here’s a huge problem with that plan: you get stuck with satellite wifi. I even had to get the netflix dvds up until recently. You didn’t think they still had those, did you? They do, for people like me. (I’ve thankfully been blessed by the Wifi gods and can now stream.)
EMBEDDED: If you could only keep Netflix, Disney, HBO Max, or one other streaming service, which would it be, and why?
AMINA AKHTAR: I’d say Hulu or Apple TV. Amazon Prime is up there too. I think they’re putting out great shows and movies.
EMBEDDED: What’s your favorite non-social media app?
AMINA AKHTAR: Does zillow count? Yes, I like to scroll for houses I could never afford. It’s the only joy left in life.
EMBEDDED: What’s the most basic internet thing that you love?
AMINA AKHTAR: Shopping. There’s nowhere to shop here besides Walmart. So my online shopping skills are damn good.
EMBEDDED: Is there any content you want that you can’t seem to find anywhere online?
AMINA AKHTAR: I miss the blogs of 2008-2010. They were fun. Mean. Silly. I kind of hope we have a resurgence—but maybe they’ll be a little kinder this time. (Age has done things to me, okay?)
EMBEDDED: Do you regularly use eBay, Depop, or other shopping platforms? What’s a recent thing you’ve bought or sold?
AMINA AKHTAR: I use etsy a decent amount. I like to find smaller creators and buy from them. Same with Instagram. I’ll dive into jewelry accounts until I find the perfect one for me. (And I have—this account Machinations.ny is all grown up gothy occult jewelry that I’m obsessed with.)
EMBEDDED: What’s the last thing that brought you joy online?
AMINA AKHTAR: Dog videos. ALL THE DOG VIDEOS (except the ones without happy endings because I NEED HAPPY RIGHT NOW OK?)
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