My Internet: Parker Molloy
The media critic makes truly cursed TikToks.
Every Friday, we quiz a “very online” person for their essential guide to what’s good on the internet.
Today we welcome Parker Molloy, a media critic, cultural commentator, and author of The Present Age newsletter. Parker makes AI art based on @dril tweets, leaves every group chat after six months, and still thinks about the lawyer who turned on a cat filter during a Zoom hearing. —Nick
EMBEDDED: What's a recent meme or other post that made you laugh?
PARKER MOLLOY: I’ve been really into extremely niche Twitter accounts lately. Here are some examples: ArtButMakeItSports, crazy ass moments in american politics, depths of wikipedia, 80s News Screens, Promoted Tweets, Hourly Pornhubbed Heathcliff, Threatening Music Notation.
Basically, pretty much anything that allows me to take a breather from the chaos of current events.
EMBEDDED: What type of videos do you watch on YouTube?
PARKER MOLLOY: YouTube is my go-to for learning new things. Lately, I’ve been getting into graphic and motion design, so I’ve been watching a bunch of After Effects tutorials. Using After Effects to recreate effects from Spider-Man or The Matrix? Boom. Trying to learn to make 3D effects in Blender? On it.
But I also love watching channels that just post absolutely ridiculous explainer videos telling you what would happen if something really crazy happened. “What If All the Passengers on a Plane Jumped at Once?” Well, I guess I hadn’t considered that! “What if Earth Were Sucked Into a Black Hole?” “What If We Didn’t Have Bones?” Yeah! Now we’re talking! “What If Spiders Were the Size of Humans?” Sure, why not!
EMBEDDED: Do you use TikTok? What shows up on your For You page?
PARKER MOLLOY: I don’t use TikTok nearly enough! My wife loves TikTok, so I usually end up watching whatever she sends me. Meanwhile, whenever I upload anything there, it’s usually something that’s just … too weird for Twitter/Facebook/Instagram. See: this clip of Papa John saying the word “pizza,” sampled and put into a MIDI file of the Simpsons theme; this weird clip of stock footage of people eating that I put in reverse for fun; or this clip of Ben Shapiro repeatedly saying the word “genitalia.” Truly cursed content that would be better for the world not to see.
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EMBEDDED: What do you use Instagram for?
PARKER MOLLOY: Just the occasional post. A selfie where I think I look okay, a photo I took at a Cubs game, a short clip from a concert. To me, it’s mostly just a photo album.
EMBEDDED: Do you tweet? Why?
PARKER MOLLOY: Yes, and … well, “why” is a question I think about a lot. I guess the answer is to promote my work, to meet cool people, and because I’m hopelessly addicted to it, I suppose.
EMBEDDED: Have you ever had a post go viral? What was that experience like?
PARKER MOLLOY: Several times, but the one that will always stick with me happened, I think … back in 2014. I was at a Sephora store, looking at lipstick colors (I don’t wear lipstick, but I’m always interested in how many different ways someone can describe the color “red” or “pink”), and saw one named “Underage Red.” I gasp/laughed at it, and tweeted something like, “OMG how does this color exist?” For a couple of days after, it was just friends responding with jokes like, “Oh, were they out of ‘Give me a smile, sweetheart orange?” Anyway, there’s always that moment in going viral where the tweet escapes your small corner of the internet.
The comments and quote tweets started filling up with people telling me to stop whining and being offended by everything (I didn’t think I was whining, nor was I offended). Then Time published a story about it, which then led Business Insider (I think) to publish one, and then some of the 2014-era feminist websites wrote about it, too. A dumb joke about a dumb lipstick color had become a whole thing. And the whole time, I’m trying to respond to people like, “No, I’m not offended. I was making a joke,” but trying to tell someone that you’re not angry and actually laughing tends to be difficult! But I was!
Then the person who owned the brand that made the lipstick (Kat Von D) weighed in with a Facebook post saying that she’d never change the name of it no matter how many people demanded it be changed (I don’t think anyone made such a demand!). And then news outlets covered her response, which put my tweet through the cycle again. That was one of those moments when it really hit me just how dumb these sorts of “The internet is outraged about…” stories are. It’s the same formula today as it was then, with stories being written about like … two people on the internet being mildly irritated about something, and then it becomes a whole ordeal.
EMBEDDED: Who’s the coolest person who follows you?
PARKER MOLLOY: Maybe Mark Hoppus from Blink-182? Or Judy Blume? Judy Blume is pretty cool, I think. They both follow me on Twitter. I’ve met Mark, and he is just a wonderful, kind, lovely human being. I’ve never actually interacted with Judy Blume, though, but for some reason, I am one of the 682 people she follows on Twitter. Real badge of honor type stuff.
EMBEDDED: Who’s someone more people should follow?
PARKER MOLLOY: My wife, @KaylaPekkala. I say this because she’s genuinely the best person I know. She’s funny, smart, and super talented. She runs an online shop called Tiny Werewolves where she sells her art. We often joke about how funny it is that I’m the one with the larger following, that I’m the one who will do speaking gigs and podcast appearances and all of that when she’s definitely more of a people person than I am.
EMBEDDED: Which big celebrity has your favorite internet presence, and why?
PARKER MOLLOY: I … actually don’t know. Pass.
EMBEDDED: Where do you tend to get your news?
For local news, I love Block Club Chicago. For national and international news, I tend to read/listen to/watch mainstream outlets like NPR, NYT, and WaPo. I also, and this is a bit of a holdover from my time working at Media Matters for America, still consume a lot of explicitly right-wing media. I can’t stand it, but it’s one of those things where I’m like, “Well, I guess I should at least know what they’re up to.”
EMBEDDED: What’s one positive trend you see in media right now? What’s one negative trend?
PARKER MOLLOY: The positives are few, but they exist! I think it’s good to see more people really taking ownership of their work. There’s sort of a return to the old era of blogging happening now in the form of newsletters. I think that can be a big positive. Potentially.
The biggest negative trend, to me, is one that’s been raging for a long time: media consolidation. A hedge fund will swoop in, buy up a newspaper, lay off a bunch of the staff, and poof, there goes all the local reporting in a small town. That’s bad for media, but also for society.
EMBEDDED: What does “cancel culture” mean to you?
PARKER MOLLOY: Everything and nothing. I can’t stand the “Cancel culture doesn’t exist! It’s consequence culture!” argument, but even more than that, I loathe the “Cancel culture is out of control and is the number one problem facing us at this moment!” stuff. I’ve long argued that people should just describe what they’re talking about rather than using buzzwords. “Woke!” “Cancel culture!” “Identity politics!” These are all things that may have at one time had real meanings, but are just gibberish buzzwords at this point. Just say, “Hey, I think it was wrong for _____ to happen” rather than trying to rope everything into some gigantic trend.
EMBEDDED: Do you subscribe to any Substacks or other independent newsletters? What are your favorites?
PARKER MOLLOY: Well, there’s my Substack, which people should toooootally subscribe to: The Present Age.
But I subscribe to a whole bunch of Substacks. Lately, I’ve been enjoying Ryan Broderick’s Garbage Day, Lyz Lenz’s Men Yell at Me, Talia Lavin’s The Sword and the Sandwich, and the rarely-updated-but-worth-subscribing-to-anyway Confirm My Choices by Michael Hobbes.
EMBEDDED: Are you into any podcasts right now? How and when do you usually listen?
PARKER MOLLOY: Back when I used to actually have a commute, I’d listen to a ton of podcasts. But that was a long while back. Now, I try to keep it a bit more narrowed down. My current favorite podcasts at the moment are Knowledge Fight and Some More News. I tend to listen to those when I’m getting ready in the morning or if I’m working on something somewhat monotonous.
EMBEDDED: Have you ever been heavily into Snapchat? Around what age?
PARKER MOLLOY: No, though I do like checking out what filters are available at any given time.
EMBEDDED: When was the last time you browsed Pinterest? What for?
PARKER MOLLOY: I’ve never been a big Pinterest user. I think the number of times I’ve accidentally ended up on Pinterest by clicking on an image when searching Google outweighs the number of times I’ve actually intended to go there.
EMBEDDED: Are you nostalgic for Vine or Tumblr? Why?
PARKER MOLLOY: Not really. I was never super into Vine, and while Tumblr was useful from time to time, I just never really worked it into my whole “being online” routine.
EMBEDDED: Are you in any groups on Reddit, Slack, Discord, or Facebook? What's the most useful or entertaining one?
PARKER MOLLOY: Without a doubt, the best Discord I’m a part of at the moment is Midjourney, which is a group dedicated to creating AI-based art from text. I was lucky enough to apply for the open beta when that was happening, and I’ve just been having a ton of fun with that. Earlier this week, I made a bunch of images by inputting text from @dril tweets. Enjoy:
EMBEDDED: Are you playing any games right now?
PARKER MOLLOY: I’ve got a PS5, and lately, I’ve been enjoying Horizon Forbidden West, MLB The Show, and Fortnite. I recently went back and played the remastered Spider-Man game that originally came out on PS4, and I just straight-up love it and I’m looking forward to the sequel.
EMBEDDED: What's something you might want to do in the metaverse? What's something you wouldn't want to do?
PARKER MOLLOY: I think that Fortnite and Roblox both seem to have the right idea when it comes to creating virtual worlds. I was skeptical of the idea of watching a concert in a video game, but based on what I’ve experienced with the Fortnite events that happen every once in a while, I could see that becoming a broader metaverse-type thing. That’s what I think the best uses for virtual worlds will end up being: events where you can socialize with others while taking in a concert or a movie. As for what I wouldn’t want to do: meetings! Why, oh why, do Facebook and other metaverse-obsessed companies seem to think that people want to go over quarterly earnings reports and whatnot in the metaverse? Doing meetings via Zoom was annoying enough. Now imagine doing that while wearing a goofy VR headset.
EMBEDDED: What purpose do you see in NFTs?
PARKER MOLLOY: I’m not an NFT hater, but I think NFT proponents have failed to make great use cases for them. I’m guessing that the best uses of NFTs will have less to do with jpegs of apes and more with smart contracts, but to be totally honest I don’t have a clue.
EMBEDDED: Do you think Web3 will mean a better internet?
PARKER MOLLOY: Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out what “a better internet” even means. If you ask 100 different people, you’ll probably get 100 different answers. I just want to be able to offload portions of my life that I don’t enjoy to the internet. If web3 can help me get there, all the better. Will that happen? Who the hell knows, tbh.
EMBEDDED: Do you text people voice notes? If not, how do you feel about getting them?
PARKER MOLLOY: I don’t usually text voice notes because I tend to speak the same way that I write. Mid-sentence pauses, restarts, delays, etc. I think I would annoy the hell out of people if they got a text from me that was me taking 30 seconds to get through three sentences. But I don’t mind getting them! I’m always in favor of people using whatever type of communication works best for them.
EMBEDDED: Do any of your group chats have a name that you’re willing to share?
PARKER MOLLOY: So, a few years ago, I set out to not stay in any group chats for more than six months at a time. I’d join, chat it up, gracefully bow out, and then take a bit of a break. I always figure that if it was something that important to me, I can just ask to be re-added. At the moment, I’m not in any.
EMBEDDED: What’s your go-to emoji, and what does it mean to you?
PARKER MOLLOY: I’ve been getting a lot of use out of the melting face emoji lately. I use it in the same way that I use the upside-down face emoji, which is to say, “Hey, the world is falling apart. This is fine (this is not fine). All is well (all is not well). Lol!”
EMBEDDED: What’s a playlist, song, album, or style of music you’ve listened to a lot lately?
PARKER MOLLOY: I’ve really been into Nick Lutsko’s music for a while. It’s funny, it’s really good, and there’s a lot of really specific lore involved. He’s just great and I want to see him blow up in the best way (non-explosive).
EMBEDDED: Do you pay for a music streaming service, and if so, which one? When was the last time you bought a music download or vinyl record, CD, or tape?
PARKER MOLLOY: I currently have a subscription to Apple Music. It’s … it’s fine. I majored in Music Business in college (pro tip: don’t major in Music Business), so the whole move to streaming has been both awesome as someone who loves music but frustrating because I see how much a lot of my musician friends are struggling with the way this model is set up. The most recent physical album I bought was the vinyl for Nick Lutsko’s Songs on the Computer. Before that, I think it was the reissue of Wolf Parade’s Apologies to the Queen Mary.
EMBEDDED: If you could only keep Netflix, Disney, HBO Max, or one other streaming service, which would it be, and why?
PARKER MOLLOY: I think I’ll have to say Disney. As much as people like to dump on the MCU, I’m a gigantic comic book nerd. With all the Marvel content on there (both MCU and other), it’s definitely been the most worthwhile streaming app for me.
EMBEDDED: What’s your favorite non-social media app?
PARKER MOLLOY: Marvel Unlimited
EMBEDDED: What’s the most basic internet thing that you love?
PARKER MOLLOY: The ability to instantly get the answer to any question I might have.
EMBEDDED: Is there any content you want that you can't seem to find anywhere online?
PARKER MOLLOY: I’m sure there is, but I can’t think of anything at the moment. Every once in a while I’ll go looking for an album that was at one time on Apple Music or Spotify or whatever that suddenly disappears. That’s always a bummer of a feeling.
EMBEDDED: Do you regularly use eBay, Depop, or other shopping platforms? What's a recent thing you've bought or sold?
PARKER MOLLOY: I collect baseball cards, and I use eBay for those purchases. I recently bought a big bulk collection of Chicago Cubs cards (my favorite team).
EMBEDDED: Have you recently read an article, book, or social media post about the internet that you’ve found particularly insightful?
PARKER MOLLOY: Honestly, just about anything Taylor Lorenz writes is something I immediately consider to be a “must-read.” I think she’s one of the smartest, most insightful writers out there right now. She’s certainly not alone in this, but her work really highlights just how central things like social media are to everyday life. People can scoff at her work if they want, but I think she’s a superstar.
EMBEDDED: What’s the last thing that brought you joy online?
PARKER MOLLOY: Not a day goes by without thinking about the lawyer who accidentally turned on a cat filter during a Zoom hearing last year. It’s old, but it is good.