My Internet: Rusty Foster

The Today in Tabs writer urges you to molt the carapace of your digital traces.

Embedded is your essential guide to what’s good on the internet, from Kate Lindsay and Nick Catucci.🧩

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 Rusty Foster, who writes Today in Tabs, “Your favorite newsletter’s favorite newsletter,” a media mainstay that has been recommended a record five times in this very column. (In his list of subscriptions, Ben Smith simply wrote, “Today in Tabs, naturally.”)

Rusty has cultivated an oasis of non-toxic masculinity on YouTube, relishes deleting his viral tweets, and will stroll into the ocean if his friends Slack ever gets hacked or subpoenaed. —Nick

What type of stuff do you watch on YouTube?

My YouTube is kind of an oasis of non-toxic masculinity and I’m pretty careful not to give it any reason to start feeding me garbage. I don’t spend a lot of time on Youtube but I will kill a couple hours there on a Saturday morning sometimes. I watch a lot of hiking and hiking gear videos, like Darwin and Dan Becker. How Not 2 break-tests climbing gear and talks about rigging, and I also watch some Australian four-wheeling stuff, like 4WD 24-7, which is basically: a bunch of jolly blokes hit the trails in their 4WD trucks and have a right proper good time, do gentle pranks and/or help their mates out when they need it, and then cook up an elaborate meal out in the bush somewhere. It’s incredibly soothing. I also enjoy off-road towing videos from Matt’s Off-Road Recovery but it’s gotten harder to ignore the fact that they just kept right on through the whole pandemic without a mask in sight, like nothing was going on.

Do you use TikTok? If so, how would you describe what shows up on your For You Page?

I tried several times but I could never get it to show me anything but a random mix of stuff that made me feel bad. I suspect that I take too long to decide if I want to watch something, so the algorithm thinks I like everything, and sends me down a greased chute to the lowest common denominator. I gave up and deleted it.

Do you ever tweet? Why?

I tweet a lot, but my tweets get automatically deleted after seven days. If Twitter offered better tools, I would probably flag some tweets as “keep this one” and delete the rest but it’s probably better this way. I tweet because tweeting makes me a better writer, I generally like the people there, and it’s the natural way for me to communicate. I don’t really want to have debates or arguments, I don’t want to know about events, or see too many pictures of anyone’s life. Twitter is the perfect platform to keep your social media at a bit of an arm’s length. Give me links, shade, dunks and the very occasional thirst trap and I’m good.

Have you ever had a post go viral? What was that experience like?

I did a dumb tweet once that was a screenshot of some chumbox ad with a picture of someone dangling precariously on a high-voltage power line, and the text was like “they don’t want you to know this one trick to lower your power bill” and my tweet just said “I don’t think I want to know that trick either,” and it went so viral that months later, after I had actually deleted that whole Twitter account, my oldest kid told me they saw a tweet by me going around on Instagram, and it was a super deep-fried screenshot of that tweet. Going viral is either pointless or actively a disaster, it’s never a useful or desirable event. If I ever have a tweet get more than about 30 retweets I mute it, because after that point, there’s nothing to gain from looking at the responses. And if anything goes more significantly viral, I usually delete it by hand, because it’s so satisfying to imagine all the RTs and replies and quote dunks being orphaned at once. Try it. Delete a viral post. It feels so good.

Where do you tend to get your news?

Almost solely from links that get passed around, either on Twitter, or from friends in texts and chats, or lately from the Tabs Discord which has been an incredibly good source of news and investigation. I have Feedly for RSS but I only look at it when I really feel like I’ve got nothing to write about. On the one hand this means I miss a lot of stories I would have liked to see, but on a professional level, my newsletter is about the things people are actually talking about, so it doesn’t really help to go out searching for overlooked stuff.

What's your favorite non-social media app?

Gaia GPS—maps, navigation and route tracking for adventures. It’s the best and the only one you need. I also got a Garmin inReach recently, which is like a little satellite texting device that connects to my phone with bluetooth. The app for it is pretty clunky but the fact that it lets me check in at home when I’m completely off the grid is amazing, it’s made it so much easier to get way offline.

What are you willing to pay for online?

I pay for a bunch of newsletters and publication subscriptions. I fully intend to claim all of them as business expenses (legitimately!) and I still haven’t quite convinced myself to pay for a Bloomberg subscription. It’s so expensive! And Michael Bloomberg is so rich! I keep trying to make friends with @business online but it's been a hard nut to crack so far.

Are you a fan of any NFT art or artists? Do you have strong feelings about blockchain tech or cryptocurrencies?

I think what Kyle and Daisy’s newsletter Dirt is doing with NFT-based funding is really interesting. Otherwise I think most of the stuff in NFTs right now is crap to extract cash out of tech morons. I’ve been interested in blockchain nonsense for a long time, but I remain extremely skeptical. If you want the longer version of my opinions on all this I was on Jon Lovett’s podcast talking about it back in June.

Do you subscribe to any Substacks or other independent newsletters? What are your favorites?

Dirt, Deez Links, Garbage Day, Drawing Links, Blackbird Spyplane, Platformer, Ask Molly, Ask Polly, The Browser, The Chatner, Links I Would Gchat You If We Were Friends, My New Band Is, Something Good. I’ve also been enjoying Gabriel Snyder’s new thing, Off the Record, and Lorem Ipsum. I’m also trying to figure out how to get Morning Brew to mention Tabs for less than $40,000 but no luck so far. Maybe this will do it.

Drawing Links
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Are you into any podcasts right now? How and when do you usually listen?

I used to listen to more podcasts but at this point it’s almost all Dungeons & Dragons, McElroys, or both. I keep up with Rude Tales of Magic, Fun City, and The Adventure Zone. Those are generally for either mowing the lawn or walking the dog. And when I have a long drive I cue up a bunch of MBMBaM, the best long-drive entertainment of all time, in my opinion. A couple years ago I drove from Idaho to Maine by way of Texas and Florida, and ended up listening to MBMBaM almost the whole way. It was deeply unhealthy but I was alone and those three boys and their fun goofs, gags, and japes got me through some scary conditions and long days.

Do you have an opinion on Clubhouse or its clones, like Twitter Spaces?


Have you ever been heavily into Snapchat? Around what age?

Briefly, when it was new? Like 2012, 2013, so I was 36-ish. I deleted it years ago.

When was the last time you browsed Pinterest? What for?

Whenever I last did a Google image search for something. Those results are befouled with Pinterest. I truly have no idea what Pinterest… is? I just absolutely don’t get it. It seems like collections of pictures of web pages that you can’t actually go to? Mystifying.

Do you consider yourself part of any specific online communities?

Media Twitter I guess, although more as an observer than a legit member. They mostly tolerate me, anyway, for which I’m grateful. I’m also still part of the scattered remnants of the original bloggers and web community oldbies, like the people who saw web 1.0 turn to web 2.0 after the original dot com crash.

Are you regularly in any groups on Reddit, Slack, Discord, or Facebook? What are they about?

I have a friends Slack that’s been running for like… almost a decade now. When it gets hacked or subpoenaed I will just casually stroll into the ocean and you’ll never see me again. We got paid Slack for free for a long time, because of reasons, but Salesforce canceled it so we're back to history limits, which seems incredibly cheap and petty. Ohana, bitches! I’m also in the Tabs Discord a lot, which is an outstanding crew of people, and occasionally I pop into the Discords for Deez Link and Platformer in Sidechannel, or the Garbage Day and Dirt Discords.

How excited—or apprehensive—are you about the metaverse?

“The metaverse” can’t happen unless it’s like “the internet.” A set of interconnection protocols that no one owns. The current technology world can’t create anything like the metaverse, it’s too corporate and centralized. Even if the idea isn’t completely stupid to begin with (and the jury’s out on that) it can’t happen right now.

Do you text people voice notes? If not, how do you feel about getting them?

Hahahahaha you’re joking right? That isn’t actually a thing people do? I swear the look I would have on my face if anyone ever texted me a voice note?????? Get a podcast lmao.

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?

They said I’m not allowed to tell you the name, lol. And the Bad Art Friend didn’t exactly inspire debate, we all pretty much agreed, but it spurred a lot of discussion.

What's your go-to emoji, and what does it mean to you?

For a long time it’s been 😬 which is how I feel about the majority of things day to day. Lately I’ve been cultivating more of a 🤌 vibe though, which to me means “Mama mia!” You should imagine that in a deeply racist-to-Italians accent.

What's a playlist, song, album, or style of music you’ve streamed a lot lately?

I’m deep in my Sleigh Bells period, I struggle not to use them for the Song of the Day every day. I tend to gravitate toward either melodic music with discordant vocals or vice versa.

If you could only keep Netflix, Disney, HBO Max, or one other streaming service, which would it be, and why? Iykyk.

What's the most basic thing that you love online?

Everything online is basic! I don’t think I even understand this question. I love people’s enthusiasms. Like that “before and after you discover the subreddit for a hobby” video but I un-ironically love the “after.”

What's one thing you recommend for maintaining a healthy relationship with the internet?

Don’t live your whole life on the internet. Don’t make it your job and also your only social space and also what you do to relax. I go online to work and talk to people and learn, but I go out into the woods and climb mountains and stuff too. I volunteer with a search and rescue team here in Maine. It’s important not to only be around other people that are terminally online. Also: delete your accounts sometimes. Every few years, just wipe it all and start over. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, wherever you have one. It’s so easy to start thinking that the digital traces you leave of yourself ARE yourself, and before you know it all that stuff online grows into a carapace and one day you wake up to find yourself transformed in your bed into a monstrous vermin. Once in a while you’ve got to molt. Start fresh. The more terrifying this sounds to you, the more urgent it is. You are not the stuff you've posted. If you erase it, you’ll still exist. Give yourself the freedom to grow into someone new again.

Thanks Rusty! Subscribe to Today in Tabs and follow him on Twitter. 🤌

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