My Internet: Nick Quah
The podcast critic doesn't really subscribe to newsletters anymore.
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 Nick Quah, who founded Hot Pod and now writes podcast criticism and the newsletter 1.5x Speed for Vulture. Nick is not proud of his YouTube appetites and doesn't really like crowds, digital or corporeal, but loves the phrase “some personal news.” —Nick
What's a recent meme or other post that cracked you up?
Well, I’m not sure if it’s a hot take to say that I loved Dune, and so I’ve been really taken with the USE THE VOICE meme.
Would you say that you have an Instagram aesthetic? How would you describe it?
I don’t have an Instagram aesthetic, mostly because I don’t post on Instagram very much. But when I do, I post almost exclusively about my cat, Siobhan (a.k.a. Shooby, a.k.a. Shibby).
What type of stuff do you watch on YouTube?
Oh boy. I’m not proud of my YouTube appetites, which has deepened considerably over the years. But whatever: to begin with, for one reason or another, I’ve gotten very into lo-fi chill-hop streams, or whatever you want to call them, along with some of its thematic spillovers, like the truly peculiar subgenre of “study streams.” I’m drawn to them the way I’m drawn to airports.
I like watching video essays, mostly about films and video games, though I often leave the experience feeling that I was more stimulated by the visual activity than the actual ideas being relayed to me. I watch a lot of so-called flight reviews, which I find morally deplorable but for a number of reasons I simply cannot resist. It’s like a drug, inspired partly by my personal fear of flying. There are some travel vloggers in my subscription list. I also, predictably, waste too much time watching NBA clips.
Do you use TikTok? If so, how would you describe what shows up on your For You Page?
Yes. Unfortunately, TikTok is now a staple of my bedtime routine, in the sense that swiping through the feed is the very last thing I do right before I sleep. (Of course, because TikTok is insanely stimulating, I often have trouble sleeping.) As for content, I seem to often find myself in cute animal TikTok, food TikTok, vaguely nationalistic Chinese TikTok, zombie Vine TikTok, babies cussing out loud TikTok, home renovation TikTok, emo TikTok, loop sample TikTok, extremely random TikTok, and vaguely funny TikToks. I’m particularly fond of this guy and this guy.
Do you ever tweet? Why?
Sure. I’m not very good at it. I mostly tweet to promote my shit—or to feel like I nominally exist, which is, of course, an utterly idiotic impulse.
Have you ever had a post go viral? What was that experience like?
I don’t believe so, and I pray I never will.
Who's the coolest person who follows you?
Who's someone more people should follow?
I know he’s a MacArthur genius and rightfully recognized as an extremely wonderful talent nowadays, but I also really enjoy Hanif Abdurraqib’s Twitter feed.
Which big celebrity has your favorite internet presence, and why?
I would say Kevin Durant—a god-like figure who posts like a mortal, truly a Greek myth—but Giannis Antetokounmpo has won my heart more consistently in recent days.
Do you ever comment on or reply to posts? Which platforms? Why?
Not really. Well, I guess I get most of my commenting/reply juice off my inbox; I keep very socially busy through my email. Having a semi-real time conversation in public feels insincere to me.
Where do you tend to get your news?
Twitter, sadly. I’m also a little old-school in the sense that I have about 10 news sites I manually type into my search bar as part of my morning routine.
What's your favorite non-social media app?
Does online betting count?
What are you willing to pay for online?
Do you have strong feelings about blockchain tech or cryptocurrencies?
Strong feelings? Sure. I’m fascinated by them. I’m tinkering around with them. I do believe there’s some sort of future there, but I tend to be thoroughly put off by almost everybody who speaks (or tweets) extensively about them. They can be so slimy.
Do you subscribe to any Substacks or other independent newsletters? What are your favorites?
I used to, now I don’t, not really. Update: Well, maybe except for Dirt.
Are you into any podcasts right now? How and when do you usually listen?
Trick question, seeing as how I listen to and write about podcasts for a living. But a quick shout-out to the folks at Time to Say Goodbye. It’s become a very important show to me personally.
Do you have an opinion on Clubhouse or its clones, like Twitter Spaces?
Similar deal as my response to your blockchain/crypto question.
Have you ever been heavily into Snapchat? Around what age?
I’ve never gotten into Snapchat. I think I skipped that one.
When was the last time you browsed Pinterest? What for?
Oh God, I can’t remember. I have one of those relationship with Pinterest where, every once in a blue moon, I pull it up to try and use it as a mood board, run straight into a wall of not quite knowing how to make a mood board, and then give up in a blaze of frustration and melancholia, vowing never to return to that boxy hell ever again.
Are you nostalgic for Vine or Tumblr? Why?
Again, I think I missed Vine, only really engaging with its remnants (mostly on YouTube, and nowadays on TikTok) after they closed it down.
Do you consider yourself part of any specific online communities?
Not really. I tend to be a lurker in all the online communities that interest me. I really don’t like crowds, digital or corporeal.
Are you regularly in any groups on Reddit, Slack, Discord, or Facebook? What are they about?
I’m in a lot of Slacks and Discords—again, as a lurker. Lots of Discords attached to podcasts I’m a fan of and communities I’m interested in. (An example of the latter would be the Blaseball one, probably the only Discord I check in regularly with.) Slacks, mostly for various work stuff and professional projects. (Slacks in the streets, Discord in the sheets?)
Are you playing any games right now? Do you watch any gamers live stream on Twitch or another platform?
Well, as it happens, after years of not gaming, I got back into the habit at the start of the pandemic, and now I’m in deep. I just finished the Guardians of the Galaxy game adaptation, which was surprisingly affecting, and now I’m weaseling my way through a fascinating indie piece called Inscryption, which has been pleasantly destabilizing.
I don’t really watch Twitch streams, but every once in a while, I bounce around to see what’s interesting or, at least, what’s visually striking. Streamers work very hard; I’m in awe of them.
How excited—or apprehensive—are you about the metaverse?
My feelings are similar to the Clubhouse and blockchain stuff, which is to say, I’m generally interested in the notion, but boy do I hate it when some executive or thought leader out there waxes poetic about it. Just please shut the fuck up, you know?
Do you text people voice notes? If not, how do you feel about getting them?
I don’t. If I wanted someone to hear my voice, I’d call them. In terms of how I feel about getting them: a little weird. I think I get a little annoyed because, within the framework of a text message, I assume both parties to be engaged in the activity in more or less the same way, and if the other party breaks the format … I dunno, it feels laborious to me.
What's something that recently inspired debate in the chat?
I don’t want to bore you with more NBA-related answers. This is a media newsletter, for chrissakes.
What's your go-to emoji, and what does it mean to you?
The fire emoji. It’s a noncommittal expression of general excitement, deployed when I wish the other person to feel supported even though I wouldn’t personally be able to muster the emotion to affirm that response in-person.
What's a playlist, song, album, or style of music you’ve streamed a lot lately?
Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion, from now until the end of time.
If you could only keep Netflix, Disney, HBO Max, or one other streaming service, which would it be, and why?
Assuming this question suggests a hypothetical future in which I will be compelled by force to have only one of these streaming services, I would say Disney Plus, because I might have children someday.
What's the most basic thing that you love online?
The phrase “Some personal news….”
Is there any content you want that you can't seem to find anywhere online?
Why does this sound like a trap?
Do you regularly use eBay, Depop, or other shopping platforms? What's a recent thing you've bought or sold?
Have you recently read an article, book, or social media post about the internet that you’ve found particularly insightful?
I believe Taylor Lorenz flagged this one when she answered this survey, but as with many things, she’s absolutely correct: Chris Hayes’ essay “On the Internet, We’re Always Famous” got it spot on, and it captures the empty feeling I feel whenever I publish something online.
What's one thing you recommend for maintaining a healthy relationship with the internet?
Learn to walk away when you can, if you can spare it.
What's the worst thing about the internet in 2021? How about the best thing?
People, and people.
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