My Internet: Nitasha Tiku
The debate in the tech reporter's moms chat: How long until I break???
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 Nitasha Tiku, an Oakland-based tech culture reporter for The Washington Post, where last week she published a must-read feature on the “crypto colonizer” scene in Puerto Rico. Nitasha recently minted her own witch NFT, knows a TikTok that can go head-to-head with any essay on crypto, and will not subject herself to Instagram’s intermittent variable rewards. —Nick
What's a recent meme or other post that cracked you up?
Would you say that you have an Instagram aesthetic? How would you describe it?
I deleted Instagram a few years ago because the app made me feel bad about myself. During the pandemic, I started a new account to keep up with my closest friends. I thought I’d feel freer to post again, at least on Stories, but nope. I just do not want to subject myself to intermittent variable rewards. Thank god for the group chats.
Do you use TikTok? If so, how would you describe what shows up on your For You Page?
The power of the “TikTok girlies” can be used for evil, but my For Your Page rarely misses. How TikTok figured me out when I don’t allow tracking and haven’t synced my phone contacts or Facebook friends is another question. If you know how the algorithm works, please DM me on Signal. Thx!
Do you ever tweet? Why?
Less often and much less freely than I used to. It’s really toxic out there!
Have you ever had a post go viral? What was that experience like?
Yes, on Twitter. It’s why I don’t really tweet.
Who's someone more people should follow?
Khaenotbae on TikTok. I don’t know if she’d call herself a creator, but she’s the person behind “I know how you girls like to tussle” and “The girls that get it, get it. And the girls that don’t, don’t.” And the Susan B. Anthony history lesson. I love her mind and would put this head-to-head with any essay on crypto.
Which big celebrity has your favorite internet presence, and why?
I will fall down a rabbit hole for anyone, but I don’t really want to see them in my timeline anymore.
Where do you tend to get your news?
From Twitter 😵
In the morning, I like to start by listening to the news, so I’ll look for interesting titles from the podcasts I follow or use the NPR app. I subscribe to a ton of newsletters and substacks, but mostly read the subject lines and tell myself I’ll catch up 😵 😵
What's your favorite non-social media app?
Audible for listening to e-books and Audm for listening to magazine and newspaper articles. I listen while I’m taking a walk around the neighborhood or cooking. It’s been life-changing. I can consume so much more non-fiction when I’m not staring at a page. Last year, I went on a business crime book binge. Did you know that Enron’s secret sauce was an online trading platform where they collected data on other companies? So Facebookian.
What are you willing to pay for online?
I wish we had a different relationship with paying for writing and reporting.
I recently subscribed to Business Insider. They’ve been relentlessly posting original reporting I don’t see on other sites. I subscribe to Sherrell Dorsey’s The Plug and Capital B because I believe in their mission. I just subscribed to Ryan Broderick’s Garbage Day, Max Read’s substack, and Bookbear Express. And Hunter Harris always.
Are you a fan of any NFT art or artists? Do you have strong feelings about blockchain tech or cryptocurrencies?
I’m interested in the way crypto is being rebranded as web3 and framed as an emancipatory technology that can facilitate new forms of governance. What does that look like for the people who believe in this vision? How will it impact the people who don’t? I recently went to Puerto Rico to write about how that effort is playing out on the island.
Are you into any podcasts right now? How and when do you usually listen?
Tech Won’t Save Us with Paris Marx. I like that he interviews more academics than journalists, finds people with first-hand research or people who can put the subject in historical context, and that he picks people who can talk about tech from different countries, like he does in the series on gig work.
Are you nostalgic for Vine or Tumblr? Why?
RIP Vine. You were too pure for this world. Tumblr is back, bb girl.
Are you regularly in any groups on Reddit, Slack, Discord, or Facebook? What are they about?
I join groups for stories that I’m working on, or want to work on. Last year, I joined a few Buy Nothing groups in the hopes of giving away house stuff I didn’t need and maybe finding some free baby gear. It’s a great gateway drug for experimenting with mutual aid societies. But people will offer half a bag of flour or a broken bird feeder that needs parts from the 1980s. What’s the logic behind what they throw away and what they “gift”??
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?
My group chats are mostly moms with full-time jobs, who pay for daycare that is inaccessible for weeks at a time because of covid. The debate is: how long until I break???
What's your go-to emoji, and what does it mean to you?
My go-to emojis are heart eyes + sobbing face together. My favorite emoji is thinkies, which looks like the thinking face emoji, but drawn by a demented child. She’s perfect, but she’s not on iOS.
What's a playlist, song, album, or style of music you’ve streamed a lot lately?
New Mitski. But mostly I just get TikTok “sounds” stuck in my head.
If you could only keep Netflix, Disney, HBO Max, or one other streaming service, which would it be, and why?
HBO Max has more of the shows I watched obsessively (White Lotus, Mare of Easttown, Succession, Insecure).
What's the most basic thing that you love online?
A discount code for Everlane.com.
What's a recent thing you've bought online?
I just bought the ENS domain nitashatiku.eth, which promises to be, “Your web3 username, a name for all your cryptocurrency addresses, and decentralised websites.” Do I need a web3 username? Unclear. But at least I talked myself down from buying tiku.eth, which cost four times as much because it’s only four letters. FOMO is powerful stuff.
Have you recently read an article, book, or social media post about the internet that you’ve found particularly insightful?
Robin Sloan’s Notes on Web3. A couple lines keep knocking around my head:
“They tie themselves into knots trying to arrive at personhood in a universe of wallets. A UNIVERSE OF WALLETS.”
“...AND you can win real money?? I mean, that’s terrific.”
What's one thing you recommend for maintaining a healthy relationship with the internet?
I loved what Michaela Cole said about “the need to be constantly visible” in her Emmy speech: “Do not be afraid to disappear, from it, from us, for a while, and see what comes to you in the silence.”
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