My Internet: Kyle Chayka

The New Yorker columnist contemplates the vibes of an enigmatic future.

Embedded is your essential guide to what’s good on the internet, from Kate Lindsay and Nick Catucci.🧩

Every Friday, we quiz a very cool “very online” person to get their essential guide to what’s good on the internet.

Today we welcome Kyle Chayka, an internet culture columnist at The New Yorker and author of The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism. Kyle dabbles ambivalently in wallets and social tokens and NFTs, deploys the robot muscle arm emoji because you have to be a machine to survive late capitalism, and proposes an "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants"-type dictum for content consumption: Pay for the things you want to read and then mostly read those. —Nick

PS: Tomorrow’s paid post is an interview with Minnie Bredouw, Pinterest’s creative director of core product. We talk about what Pinterest got right when it comes to supporting creators and preventing users from indulging in toxic online habits.

What's a recent meme or other post that cracked you up?

This TikTok made me truly lol 30 minutes ago

Would you say that you have an Instagram aesthetic? How would you describe it?

Inscrutablecore: close-ups, abstractions, random dinner parties, new puppy

What type of stuff do you watch on YouTube?

Mostly food videos when I'm trying to figure out how to cook something, or Eater's channel when I just want to zone out to a 15-minute video about a chef.

Do you use TikTok? If so, how would you describe what shows up on your For You Page?

I believe the For You page is the haven of our deepest secrets, the true algorithmically determined root of our identities, and thus should be kept private: a For You Only page. That said, it's a lot of travel (that Svalbard woman), cooking (TikTok has the best format for cooking because it had to be short), apartment tours, and just straight-up narrativeless vibes

When was the last time you browsed Pinterest? What for?

I tried to use it once for a book cover moodboard but then I gave up and used the much better, which everyone should switch to.

Do you ever tweet? Why?

Constantly, but I'm not sure why except maybe it's basically a version of the artist On Kawara's "I Am Still Alive" postcards. I think my Twitter has become more boring lately, just stuff I read that I thought was good and random observations from real life, which I think of as Original Content.

Who's the coolest person who follows you?

Ezra Koenig on Twitter, for many years now and I have no idea why

Who's someone more people should follow?

@pineacre on TikTok, a bunch of downbeat, vibey, wordless montages of ordinary spaces in the Ozarks. Feels like the future of something.

Which big celebrity has your favorite internet presence, and why?

I think celebrities should be illegal

Where do you tend to get your news?

Twitter, unfortunately! Instagram for the art & visual culture, if you consider "artists posting new stuff" to be news, which I do.

What's your favorite non-social media app?

Audionote, the best recording app for anyone doing reporting! Also the writing software Scrivener, which I literally couldn't live without.

What are you willing to pay for online?

Cool indie newsletters like Blackbird Spyplane and Today in Tabs (and Embedded!); subscriptions so I don't hit media paywalls like NYT; several non-fungible-token art pieces.

The social media app that wants you to log off
I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “choice” on social media, and why it feels like walking against the wind to exercise it. This week, I finally muted Covid on Twitter after—*checks watch*—18 months. If I say, “It’s okay to exercise control to make social media a happy place for you,” it comes out like a foreign language. If I’m not letting, ……
Read more

Are you a fan of any NFT art or artists? Do you have strong feelings about blockchain tech or cryptocurrencies?

Conceptually, I really like NFTs! I think they call back a buried nostalgia for '90s and 2000s video-game aesthetics and the childhood joy of collecting silly stuff, imagining weird worlds. I worked with my friend Mark Costello to make animated NFTs to fund the newsletter Dirt. I recently came across these really cool NFTs by an artist named Sandro Berroy. I think blockchain and tech and crypto have a terrible effect on the environment and have only exacerbated wealth inequality, but I have a hard time dabbling in wallets and social tokens and NFTs and not believing that they're part of the looming future.

Dirt: Our NFT crowdfund campaign
Dirt is a daily email about entertainment. In order to fund its future, keep posting and paying contributors way more $$$, Dirt is selling NFT editions! One of those NFTs, Dirty S1 Pearl Pink, which comes in an edition of 30, is below. And you can find all the…
Read more

Are you into any podcasts right now? How and when do you usually listen?

Not really, but I put on NPR's Morning Edition every morning and it kind of saved my life during quarantine, so thank you NPR.

Do you subscribe to any Substacks or other independent newsletters? What are your favorites?

As above, Blackbird Spyplane and Today in Tabs are probably the two I read most often and pay for. Ana Kinsella's London Review of Looks is a fantastic newsletter, it's always a treat when it arrives.

Today in Tabs
What Do I Do With This?
A year and a half into Pandemic! At the Disco and everyone’s gotten a little weird. One third of white-tailed deer got Covid, somehow. Caleb Ganzer, ”a celebrity sommelier with an ownership stake in a popular Lower Manhattan wine bar” started setting fire to outdoor dining sheds…
Read more

Do you have an opinion on Clubhouse or its clones, like Twitter Spaces?

Seems bad

Are you nostalgic for Vine or Tumblr? Why?

Extremely nostalgic for Tumblr. I think its relatively linear / non-algorithmic feed created a lot of really interesting, organic niches that didn't get overexposed and it was one of the first social networks to really embrace found visual culture (as opposed to posting your own photographs). It was incredible for art history, architecture, snippets of poetry, poetic video game screenshots...

Do you consider yourself part of any specific online communities?

I co-founded Study Hall with P.E. Moskowitz; I'm really proud of that work to develop an online community for freelance writers and media workers of all types. I think publications also form communities, so I feel like I'm part of the "community" of The Drift, a very good new magazine, and maybe Curbed, which I'm reading more and more as it merges with New York magazine. Other than that......... is Twitter a community

Are you regularly in any groups on Reddit, Slack, Discord, or Facebook? What are they about?

None worth discussing

Are you a gamer? What are you playing right now?

Honestly I got a Switch to play Breath of the Wild and it was worth it. Recently I played maybe half of Mario Galaxy for the first time. Also I loved the demo for Project Triangle Strategy, which is a spiritual successor to Final Fantasy Tactics, a perfect game. So I guess I just play nostalgic Nintendo stuff.

Do you text people voice notes? If not, how do you feel about getting them?

I like getting them but I find I'm much better at writing to express myself, being a writer, than talking out loud. I get confused about sentence order.

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?

I have a group text with my girlfriend and Mark (the designer mentioned above), who also lives in our neighborhood in D.C., called DC Helicopter Trackers, because we would text about the source of strange aerial noises. Now it's mostly music recommendations and TikToks.

What's your go-to emoji, and what does it mean to you?

Lately I'm a big fan of the robot muscle arm because you have to be a machine to survive late capitalism

What's the most specific or niche music playlist that you like?

Bill Evans Trio, 1961. Not going to pretend it's niche, but I do also love "Haruki Murakami's vinyl collection" on Spotify.

Who topped your Spotify Wrapped last year?

Did not check!!!

If you could only keep Netflix, Disney, HBO Max, or one other streaming service, which would it be, and why?

HBO Max because the only thing I want is Succession s3.

What's the most basic thing that you love online?

Pixel art accounts

Do you ever comment on or reply to posts?

I've left a few TikTok comments and it's honestly so satisfying when other people like them. TikTok comments are the best.

Is there any content you want that you can't seem to find anywhere online?

I wish Netflix had a way to to browse translated content by country so I could just choose a place to watch something from. That would be very cool.

What's one thing you recommend for maintaining a healthy relationship with the internet?

Pay for the things you want to read and then mostly read those.

What's the worst thing about the internet in 2021? How about the best thing?

web3.0 / web3.0

Thanks Kyle! Read his New Yorker column, buy The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism, subscribe to Dirt, join Study Hall, and follow him on Twitter. 🦾

Read the previous My Internet posts with Ryan Broderick, Patricia HernandezBen SmithRachel Charlene LewisKimberly Nicole FosterMiles KleeConnie WangCat ZhangJosh Gondelman, Andrea González-RamírezRumaan AlamHua Hsu, and Alicia Kennedy.