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My Internet: Leah Carroll
The podcaster and memoirist says Ashley’s mom Carol is her coolest follower.
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 Leah Carroll, the author of Down City: A Daughter’s Story of Love, Memory, and Murder and writer and host of Hemingway’s Picasso, a podcast about a piece of art that Pablo Picasso supposedly gave to Ernest Hemingway in Cuba, and that wound up in the hands of a drug smuggler from Miami (“It’s got big MacGuffin energy, which is the thing I like most about it”). The first episode debuts Monday. Full disclosure: She is my wife, so she also has that going for her.
Leah recently unsubscribed from Emily Oster's newsletter, sends voice notes when she needs to talk shit, and frequently thinks about the Exxon Valdez episode of You're Wrong About. —Nick
What's a recent meme or other post that cracked you up?
This eerily accurate chart of Rhode Island towns as Ben Affleck.
And it’s not recent, but sometimes when I’m sad I still go to this Rickey Thompson video: Me In a Room Filled with People Who Don’t Like Me. It’s the closest thing I have to a spiritual affirmation.
Would you say that you have an Instagram aesthetic? How would you describe it?
Photos of my child or any semi-flattering photo of myself. ‘90s and aughts celebs at The Ivy.
What type of stuff do you watch on YouTube?
Old episodes of Donahue are great for research and also for watching Midwestern white women yell at “punkers.”
The other day I was trying to explain the early '80s TV show Today’s Special to someone and now my algorithm is deeply disturbing.
Do you ever tweet? Why?
I tweet a lot but it’s boring nonsense. My friend was like, “Leah, your Twitter needs to have a theme!” but the inside of my brain is like a half-empty bag of gummy worms someone left on the street. I don’t know how to do theme!
Have you ever had a post go viral? What was that experience like?
Literally the stupidest thing I ever tweeted went “viral”: A science magazine tweeted an article about how the Blood Moon, or Blue Moon or something, wasn’t actually that cool or exciting. So I quote-retweeted “Did the sun write this?” which is just an objectively lame and overdone joke, and when it started to get RTs I followed up with, like, “if you liked this tweet consider supporting SWOP or Survived and Punished” and I instantly lost like 100 followers.
Who's the coolest person who follows you?
Recently my friend Ashley’s mom, Carol, started following me on Instagram. Carol is a major figure in our group chats because she takes no shit and is constantly getting kicked off Facebook for provoking fights with conservatives and once Ashley texted her to ask her what time they should meet at the park for this family outing and she texted back something like “adhering to a schedule is a tool of oppression.” But her instagram feed is all just pictures of her with her adorable fluffy dog and her adorable granddaughter. She is an enigma and the closest thing I have to a celeb follower.
Do you ever comment on or reply to posts? Which platforms? Why?
I’m a pathological extrovert who is also wildly insecure so I respond to people all the time that I assume are my friends because I see them on Twitter. Also if somebody writes or makes something really great I always post it. Recent examples: This piece on women’s media by Gabrielle Moss, this existential take on the extended Kardashian universe by Anna Peele, this obituary by Alex Vadukul, and this piece on Peloton by Sarah Miller.
What's your favorite non-social media app?
What are you willing to pay for online?
Absolutely willing to pay for great journalism especially newspapers and especially local newspapers because they are SO important and I’m so sick of seeing private equity guys or media dinosaurs like the people who run Vice try to figure out the “new rules of journalism.”
There are no new rules! You had diligent reporters and writers who cared about their communities and people trusted them and paid for their services and they operated at a very modest but also very sustainable profit margin and you all came along and were like “snapchat goggles!” and fucked everything up. Fuck you.
Do you subscribe to any Substacks or other independent newsletters? What are your favorites?
I used to subscribe to the Emily Oster newsletter but then she said that she only lets her children watch something like 17 minutes of TV a day and just nope.
Sarah Miller’s substack.
Three or four newsletters that I follow specifically for the purpose of screenshotting and then dissecting them for gossip and insinuation in the group chat.
Are you into any podcasts right now? How and when do you usually listen?
Am I ever!!! I’m obsessed with the Murdaugh Murders, a podcast about this ongoing gothic saga of money, murder, corruption (and more!) made by the journalist Mandy Matney, who reports for the independent news outlet FITSNews and makes the podcast from her kitchen with her fiance.
Currently loving Once Upon a Time… At Bennington College and and also loved the first season, Once Upon a Time… In the Valley, which was about Traci Lords.
Going to miss having Michael Hobbes around for You’re Wrong About but it’s still the best in the game and in great hands with Sarah Marshall and I think about the Exxon Valdez episode almost daily.
Do you have an opinion on Clubhouse or its clones, like Twitter Spaces?
I don’t know her.
Are you nostalgic for Vine or Tumblr? Why?
I loved Tumblr because it was a lot like a zine and the community was really kind and enthusiastic. I also miss the absurdity of Vine, like just things that made no sense and were so funny for no reason I could explain. TikTok feels like corporate Vine to me.
Do you consider yourself part of any specific online communities?
Ummm, does Buy Nothing on Facebook count? If so, yes.
Do you text people voice notes? If not, how do you feel about getting them?
ALL. THE. TIME. Sometimes I do it because I type on my phone with only one thumb and I have something that needs to come out of my brain really fast or I need to talk shit without having it on the record. When I see a voice memo from a friend I get super excited because I know it’s going to be gossip.
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?
Here are three that, combined, I feel capture my essence: Violent Matriarchy, Is This Drama?, and Baby Talk 2.0 (which rose from the ashes of another mom group that we defected from).
What's your go-to emoji, and what does it mean to you?
Red heart because I’m lazy and it’s easy.
What's a playlist, song, album, or style of music you’ve streamed a lot lately?
I like to work to Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor’s score to the Ken Burns doc on the Vietnam war and sometimes to the Philip Glass score for Errol Morris’s Fog of War.
Also Spotify Radio inspired by “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer.
If you could only keep Netflix, Disney, HBO Max, or one other streaming service, which would it be, and why?
Where can I watch Below Deck? That one.
What's the most basic thing that you love online?
I really love checking my bank account. I have this magical belief that at any moment somebody might deposit thousands of dollars into it for no reason. It could happen!
Have you recently read an article, book, or social media post about the internet that you’ve found particularly insightful?
I thought Ryan’s Broderick’s post about the Vice layoffs and bizarre “pivot to Indonesian TikTok” was a great explainer on the economics of how this stuff works.
What's one thing you recommend for maintaining a healthy relationship with the internet?
Lol. It’s 11:39 am and all I’ve had to “eat” is an iced coffee but I’m looking at twitter in another tab right now.
What's the worst thing about the internet in 2021? How about the best thing?
The best thing is PDFs that you can fill out and sign online.
Memes are good, too.
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