My Internet: Joe Coscarelli
The music reporter finds it rewarding when he gets screenshotted on The Shade Room and Worldstar.
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 Joe Coscarelli, a music reporter at The New York Times who recently chronicled the saga of FN Meka, an “augmented reality” rapper dropped by Capitol Records after being called a racist caricature; has profiled Fivio Foreign, Rosalía, and Maren Morris; and noted, in a recommendation of Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, that the titular star “would have been huge on TikTok.” He’s also the author of Rap Capital: An Atlanta Story, which will be published by Simon & Schuster on October 18.
Joe watches voyeuristic crime and prison vlogging by connected ex-cons, wants to abolish Slack, and hopes Michael Mann likes his tweets about Industry and Drake. —Nick
EMBEDDED: What’s a recent meme or other post that made you laugh?
James Harden, in sunglasses at night, tossing his birthday cake off of a yacht (???)
“The Godfather” (Linkin Park Remix)
Glorilla rapping a children’s book (like Migos before her)
EMBEDDED: What types of videos do you watch on YouTube?
EMBEDDED: Do you use TikTok? What shows up on your For You page?
JOE COSCARELLI: TikTok is too loud for me to use regularly; I’m a “phone on silent” guy, basically always. So like most adults, I usually see TikToks on Twitter, where they’ve already been vetted, or via the IG Stories curation of Aminatou Sow and Tracie Egan Morrissey, two of the best to ever do it in multiple mediums.
EMBEDDED: What do you use Instagram for?
JOE COSCARELLI: Keeping up with rap gossip; diagnosing and diagramming social dynamics in my immediate periphery; discovering the next generation; pretending Stories is Tumblr.
EMBEDDED: Do you tweet? Why?
JOE COSCARELLI: First it was to get a job, then it was to keep a job and now it’s so people will know that I’m right about stuff and read my work (and/or just buy my book and not even read it, which is totally fine, too).
EMBEDDED: Have you ever had a post go viral? What was that experience like?
JOE COSCARELLI: I’ve gone light viral with nonsense and real viral with news. But seeing yourself screenshotted on The Shade Room or Worldstar is among the most rewarding parts of working online that doesn’t actually come with any material benefit.
EMBEDDED: Who’s the coolest person who follows you?
JOE COSCARELLI: Probably Michael Mann (Twitter), since Olivia Rodrigo stopped following anyone on Instagram. While I haven’t written about him, I get the sense that Mr. Mann is just a big Times reader. (And Olivia got some of her first big press from me there, so it actually has very little to do with me in either case.) I just hope he likes Industry content and Drake takes.
EMBEDDED: Who’s someone more people should follow?
JOE COSCARELLI: Jaime Brooks, a musician and lifelong poster who I’ve followed around since our teenage message board days, is one of the best cultural critics we have. Meetka Otto is the best NYC poster in the game—the genuine article that people are chasing with all of these too-media-adjacent “downtown” character and scene sketches. Lorde’s mom is the only pure person on Twitter. Sanna Marin’s IG will do until someone sends me her finsta. The real Zola’s NSFWish backup page. Sophie Brussaux.
EMBEDDED: Which big celebrity has your favorite internet presence, and why?
JOE COSCARELLI: January Jones, depending on how you define “big.” (This is not me negging January Jones, who is perfect in every way, but she only has 1.1 million followers and she’s not the movie star she should be.) On IG, she’s Martha Stewart-level free but with fewer thirst traps.
Also: Matty Healy of the 1975’s ongoing, self-aware shit-posting on IG Stories—mostly a series of unsolicited fan spam with lewd commentary—is a perfect use of his platform.
EMBEDDED: Where do you tend to get your news?
EMBEDDED: What’s one positive trend you see in media right now? What’s one negative trend?
JOE COSCARELLI: Blogging is back, although it should be back better. On the other hand, anything cravenly, cynically SEO-driven—a resurgence that makes every major website feel like The Huffington Post circa 2011—makes me want to die. It’s OK to have a sensibility.
EMBEDDED: What does “cancel culture” mean to you?
JOE COSCARELLI: My only insight here, which I’ve been refining over the last few years, is that all cancellations are actually cumulative. I will not be expanding on that thought in this format.
EMBEDDED: Do you subscribe to any Substacks or other independent newsletters? What are your favorites?
JOE COSCARELLI: The more specific, the less often, the less ambitious the better. Edith Zimmerman, whose old Blogspot of short stories remains the internet holy grail, does nice little comics sometimes. This person who made fun of something I wrote once, Miranda Reinart, has one that can feel like a vintage music LiveJournal. A.J. Daulerio’s The Small Bow, about addiction and recovery, has universal appeal. And, of course, The Lefsetz Letter is the blueprint—stream-of-consciousness, so sui generis, so unpredictable. I miss long emails written like long emails.
EMBEDDED: Are you into any podcasts right now? How and when do you usually listen?
JOE COSCARELLI: Like a lot of people, I was a commute listener when I commuted more, but I’ve recently been diving hard back into the extended Ringer universe, where I think the personalities and internal, cross-show mythology are just unmatched. I prefer chat pods based on chemistry to scripted stuff that can tend toward “magazine stories that would never get assigned” and my listening tends to pick up in the run toward major monoculture events like the Oscars and the NBA playoffs, where the Ringer is well-equipped. The Big Picture has been my go-to during a strange time for movies.
In an era of tossed-off fake prestige stuff, I also really appreciate the rigor and tightness of everything from my good friend Leon Neyfakh’s Prologue Projects, which has expanded a lot but always reflects his idiosyncratic taste and worldview in both form and content.
And I listen to every episode of Popcast that I’m not on, unless it’s about musical theater.
EMBEDDED: Have you ever been heavily into Snapchat? Around what age?
JOE COSCARELLI: I’m heavily into watching teenagers use it as a texting platform from behind their backs at concerts, sporting events and on public transportation.
EMBEDDED: Are you nostalgic for Vine or Tumblr? Why?
JOE COSCARELLI: For my money, Tumblr is the single best social network of my lifetime. Like MySpace and LiveJournal—the other two contenders—it birthed its own aesthetics and came to influence mainstream culture in too many ways to count. But it also basically never changed. I love to revisit my Dashboard every few months and still see some of the same people posting from its peak like no one ever told them it was over. And I enjoy getting anniversary emails about all the single-serving accounts my friends and I started in college and never kept up with, like Pretty Girls Eating Trashy Food, which had two posts ever and just turned 11 in August.
EMBEDDED: Are you in any groups on Reddit, Slack, Discord, or Facebook? What’s the most useful or entertaining one?
JOE COSCARELLI: I’ve always been a lurker on most platforms, especially these, but I find Reddit to be the single most useful place on the internet now that Google search is pointless for anything but a barrage of clickbait from two days ago. I use Reddit as a search engine, and for niches I won’t spoil.
Slack, on the other hand, should be abolished. It’s ruined work places and interpersonal communication among colleagues, especially in media, by tricking people into thinking that they’re supposed to be sharing their thoughts and feelings about current events, micro and macro, all day in front of their bosses, when really it’s just an effort to make you reachable and on-the-clock at all hours. Bring back Gchat and email.
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?
JOE COSCARELLI: Other people’s inside jokes are generally disgusting, but I am still partial to the ever-evolving name “Honest Chicken for Uncle Joe’s Godchildren” because I insisted that three of my friends who are new(ish) fathers not start a separate Dad Chat without me. We talk about Twitter, basketball, music and recipes. Otherwise, out of “SAM SHEPARD Book Club” and “Gilmore sluts,” only one mostly sticks to the topic (Gilmore Girls).
EMBEDDED: What’s your go-to emoji, and what does it mean to you?
JOE COSCARELLI: The rapid and unmistakable rise of the salute emoji has been unprecedented and life-affirming. When paired with 🤝, it is a way of life (affirmative, masculine, supportive, agreeable).
EMBEDDED: What’s a playlist, song, album, or style of music you’ve listened to a lot lately?
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?
JOE COSCARELLI: I’m stubbornly an Apple Music subscriber because it’s the most similar to maintaining an iTunes library back in the day, and equally frustrating. (I also appreciate how rap tends to over-index on their charts; it feels like it has slightly more of a point of view than Spotify, though I should obviously just pay for—and expense—both, given my job.) My collectors’ nostalgia is mostly for file-sharing because I hate owning any physical objects, but I try to buy merch at shows to make up for all of the free music I get. I almost paid $40 to download the new Roc Marciano album a week early, but honestly I forgot.
EMBEDDED: If you could only keep Netflix, Disney, HBO Max, or one other streaming service, which would it be, and why?
JOE COSCARELLI: HBO Max has The Sopranos, Industry and Selena + Chef (for now).
EMBEDDED: What’s your favorite non-social media app?
JOE COSCARELLI: Does FanDuel count?
EMBEDDED: What’s the most basic internet thing that you love?
JOE COSCARELLI: Every dog cuddling with another dog is perfect. So weird that we pretended for a while that cats ran the internet.
EMBEDDED: What’s the last thing that brought you joy online?
JOE COSCARELLI: Doing this.
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