My Internet: Morgan Sung
The culture reporter trained her kittens to use buttons with the help of Reddit.
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 Morgan Sung, a culture reporter at NBC News who recently published dispatches from TwitchCon (including one on the now-infamous foam pit) and also fosters kittens. Morgan watches houseplant videos on TikTok, prefers using Circles to tweeting publicly, and is deep into r/CatTraining and r/PetsWithButtons. —Nick
EMBEDDED: What types of videos do you watch on YouTube?
MORGAN SUNG: Aside from the influencer apology videos I usually end up watching for work, I pretty much only watch long video essays now. There’s a sweet spot somewhere between 48 minutes and two and a half hours for the perfect video essay to watch as background noise while doing dishes or folding laundry. My favorite ones usually end up being about topics that I know absolutely nothing about, like Izzzyzzz’s video on Killswitch.
EMBEDDED: Do you use TikTok? What shows up on your For You page?
MORGAN SUNG: Compulsively! My FYP is all over the place, because whenever I’m reporting on a story the algorithm thinks that all I want to consume is content related to that story. The ones that do break through and are definitely curated to my interests are usually crochet patterns, houseplant videos, and inane fandom discourse.
EMBEDDED: What do you use Instagram for?
MORGAN SUNG: I still post proof of life photos on Instagram every now and then but I rarely check it anymore because every other post is an ad or a suggested reel. I feel like I miss a lot of life updates from friends and family, but honestly I’d probably miss them anyway even if I did check Instagram regularly because my feed is entirely suggested or sponsored content.
EMBEDDED: Do you tweet? Why?
MORGAN SUNG: I keep meaning to stop tweeting but I don’t think I can. I was deep in stan Twitter before making my current account in college and I think the impulse to tweet every single thought I have is embedded deep in my psyche now. I do think that Twitter becomes less and less fun the more your platform grows. I’ve scaled back on a lot of public tweets and started using Circles a lot more because the platform is only really fun for me when I’m interacting with my friends.
EMBEDDED: Have you ever had a post go viral? What was that experience like?
MORGAN SUNG: I really dread it when any of my tweets go viral because I don’t want that kind of attention, and I’m not comfortable with that many people being aware of my existence. On Twitter there’s a very reasonable expectation that posting publicly is an invitation for discussion, which is fine, but engaging with strangers is rarely constructive.
EMBEDDED: Who’s the coolest person who follows you?
MORGAN SUNG: I wrote about vtuber meet ups while I was at TwitchCon, and one of the creators I interviewed, Projekt Melody, followed me on Twitter recently. I’m so fascinated by that entire genre of content creators.
EMBEDDED: Who’s someone more people should follow?
MORGAN SUNG: Everyone should follow Kahlil Greene / Gen Z Historian on TikTok.
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EMBEDDED: Which big celebrity has your favorite internet presence, and why?
MORGAN SUNG: Julia Fox’s TikTok presence is so comforting. She’s one of the few celebrities who understands the platform and engages with it the way that most users do—she’s not just posting days-old trends and leaving, she’s answering questions and directly interacting with her viewers. She’s really embodied being the cool older sister for everyone on the Gen Z/Millennial cusp.
EMBEDDED: Where do you tend to get your news?
MORGAN SUNG: Unfortunately, Twitter.
EMBEDDED: What’s one positive trend you see in media right now? What’s one negative trend?
MORGAN SUNG: There’s a real shift in finally taking internet culture seriously. It’s so encouraging to see other people reporting on it and the way it’s becoming so enmeshed with our offline lives, too. I do still see a lot of coverage that’s like, “Warning! All the teens are doing this dangerous terrible thing for clout!” when reporting on a handful of viral posts, but I’ve definitely seen less of it over the last five years.
EMBEDDED: What does “cancel culture” mean to you?
MORGAN SUNG: Cancel culture is when everyone is mad at someone, until there’s a new person to be mad at. A lot of genuine criticism is written off as “cancel culture,” which makes listening to feedback even more difficult. To be honest, most people who’ve been “canceled,” whether for a problematic tweet or for literal abuse allegations, have bounced back. “Cancel culture” is not a real form of accountability.
EMBEDDED: Do you subscribe to any Substacks or other independent newsletters? What are your favorites?
MORGAN SUNG: So many! I keep forgetting to read them.
EMBEDDED: Are you into any podcasts right now? How and when do you usually listen?
MORGAN SUNG: Lately I’ve been really into horror audio fiction, because I spend so much of my waking hours consuming news that I don’t want to use my free time consuming more useful information. I started with The Black Tapes years ago and just finished The Burned Photo.
EMBEDDED: Have you ever been heavily into Snapchat? Around what age?
MORGAN SUNG: I think I got a Snapchat my freshman year of high school and I used it constantly until a year or two after graduating college.
EMBEDDED: When was the last time you browsed Pinterest? What for?
MORGAN SUNG: I’ll trawl through Pinterest for inspiration whenever I decide to dye my hair. I used it last week!
EMBEDDED: Are you nostalgic for Vine or Tumblr? Why?
MORGAN SUNG: I still use Tumblr! It’s not the same as when I was using it in 2012, but it’s still fun. I loved the sense of community I had on it, even though everyone was relatively anonymous. That dynamic doesn’t exist on media Twitter. Vine was fun when it existed, and TikTok doesn’t compare to it, but there are plenty of TikToks that have Vine energy now.
EMBEDDED: Are you in any groups on Reddit, Slack, Discord, or Facebook? What’s the most useful or entertaining one?
MORGAN SUNG: I’ve been trying to train my cats to use those talking buttons since they’re already so chatty. I’ve gotten deep into r/CatTraining and r/PetsWithButtons, which are both helpful and incredibly entertaining. One of my cats figured out how to spam the “treats” button, which is a huge step in communication development, and also super annoying.
EMBEDDED: Are you playing any games right now?
MORGAN SUNG: I have a bad habit of getting 80 percent through a game and then never touching it again. I bought Rune Factory because I’m a slut for cozy farming sims but I’m not letting myself start it until I finish all of the games that I’ve started since the pandemic began. But I also keep putting off finishing those games because they’re all frozen at the final battles and I don’t want to deal with that, so we’ll see if I actually ever start Rune Factory.
EMBEDDED: What’s something you might want to do in the metaverse? What’s something you wouldn’t want to do?
MORGAN SUNG: I have spent an alarming amount of time playing The Sims, so I don’t have any interest in joining the metaverse.
EMBEDDED: What purpose do you see in NFTs?
MORGAN SUNG: It’s a great grift, and I can’t wait for all of the docuseries about it that’ll come out in the next five years.
EMBEDDED: Do you think Web3 will mean a better internet?
MORGAN SUNG: Everything I have ever learned about Web3 has been against my will.
EMBEDDED: Do you text people voice notes? If not, how do you feel about getting them?
MORGAN SUNG: I love voice notes! It’s my favorite way to connect with people. It’s all the intimacy of a phone call without the pressure of responding in real time.
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?
MORGAN SUNG: I’m in a support group for recovering gleeks. We’ve followed the Funny Girl drama religiously.
EMBEDDED: What’s your go-to emoji, and what does it mean to you?
MORGAN SUNG: My most used right now are the crying one and the smiling devil. I’m not sure what that says about me. Maybe that I am a pisces.
EMBEDDED: What’s a playlist, song, album, or style of music you’ve listened to a lot lately?
MORGAN SUNG: I’ve been regressing pretty hard into my emo phase after seeing My Chemical Romance last week. Lately I’ve been listening to Gerard Way’s solo album Hesitant Alien on loop, which I didn’t connect with much when it first came out.
EMBEDDED: Do you pay for a music streaming service, and if so, which one?
MORGAN SUNG: I’ve had a Spotify account for years, and had been paying the college rate until Spotify figured out my scam two years ago. I have so many playlists that I still regularly listen to that I think I’m just chained to paying for Spotify premium forever.
EMBEDDED: If you could only keep Netflix, Disney, HBO Max, or one other streaming service, which would it be, and why?
MORGAN SUNG: I’m torn between Hulu and HBO Max. I’d choose Hulu because I’m deep in watching Lost for the first time right now, but maybe after I’m done I’d choose HBO Max because I want to be in on all the memes for House of the Dragon.
EMBEDDED: What’s your favorite non-social media app?
MORGAN SUNG: I don’t know if Duolingo’s my favorite, or if I just feel obligated to use it because I preemptively paid for a year long membership knowing that I would be motivated to get my money’s worth. I do love climbing the ranks though. It’s so satisfying.
EMBEDDED: What’s the most basic internet thing that you love?
MORGAN SUNG: When I’m curious about something, and I can just look it up at that moment—I love that! I’m so used to having information immediately accessible. I can never go off the grid.
EMBEDDED: Is there any content you want but can’t seem to find anywhere online?
MORGAN SUNG: I wish I had saved my playlists from when I used Grooveshark in 2014. RIP Grooveshark.
EMBEDDED: Do you regularly use eBay, Depop, or other shopping platforms? What’s a recent thing you’ve bought or sold?
MORGAN SUNG: I’ve used Depop and Poshmark a lot. I fell in love with a specific leather jacket a while ago, but buying it new is like half my rent so I’m keeping tabs on Depop and Poshmark to find one that’s in my budget.
EMBEDDED: Have you recently read an article, book, or social media post about the internet that you’ve found particularly insightful?
MORGAN SUNG: In the last year there have been so many of these niche categories that people are using to define their lifestyles, like “warm girls” or the “clean girl aesthetic.” One of the insightful commentaries I’ve seen about the hyperspecific aesthetic categories was a comment on a TikTok criticizing them as a marketing ploy. Arbela Capas, who’s a style editor, commented, “It encourages ppl to ‘pick their own personal style’ instead of CREATE it!” I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently, since I’m trying to get rid of most of my pre-pandemic closet.
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EMBEDDED: What’s the last thing that brought you joy online?
MORGAN SUNG: This video from someone who works for a cat rescue in Michigan:
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I will absolutely be recreating this with my foster kittens.