My Internet: Taylor Lorenz
The New York Times tech reporter is in over 2,000 Facebook groups.
Every Friday, we quiz a very cool “very online” person to get their essential guide to what’s good on the internet.
Today we finally welcome Taylor Lorenz, a technology reporter at The New York Times who is currently writing a book for Simon & Schuster about the rise of the online creator industry. Taylor has been on Snapchat since it was Picaboo, practices promotional chaos on Instagram, and made a TikTok about conservative Twitter losing its mind after she ordered avocado toast on Seamless. —Nick
What's a recent meme or other post that cracked you up?
I love every meme on the account . Their account is kind of niche, but I feel like they're very good at chronicling a particular genre of people who moved to downtown Manhattan recently and make certain clothing brands and restaurants their entire personality. I think this is generally something young people who are trying to figure themselves out do (myself included in 2007), so absolutely no hate to them! But the account skewers the absurdity of some of that scene and this Zack Bia one made me die.
Would you say that you have an Instagram aesthetic? How would you describe it?
I'd call my aesthetic promotional chaos since my main feed is mostly my TV appearances and stuff I've done but then on Stories the wheels are off.
What type of stuff do you watch on YouTube?
Primarily Robbie and Gary, a gardening channel with lots of info on how to attract hummingbirds to your yard.
Do you use TikTok? If so, how would you describe what shows up on your For You Page?
I'm on TikTok several hours a day and my For You Page is pretty all over the place. It's usually trying to serve me more videos in the same theme as some rabbit hole I went down the night before.
Do you ever tweet? Why?
I stopped tweeting a few months ago because I've been on book leave and Twitter is too much of a time suck. I'll be tweeting again when I'm back at work. It's still one of the most useful social platforms for media people, sadly.
Have you ever had a post go viral? What was that experience like?
The worst viral post I ever had was when I ordered myself an avocado toast brunch meal on Seamless for $22 and it went viral on Conservative Twitter. I made a TikTok about it. These people were acting all faux outraged for days, as if $22 (which included tip and delivery fee) was some insane amount to pay for a Seamless brunch order and that somehow proved I was an elite or something. Then all these media companies wrote it up like it was an actual story!
Who's the coolest person who follows you?
I'm a huge Nathan Fielder fan and it's my dream to work with him one day, so I consider him my top follow.
Who's someone more people should follow?
Which big celebrity has your favorite internet presence, and why?
I honestly can't think of a big celebrity that's good at social media or whose content I consume regularly. I'm sort of not on celebrity internet.
Do you ever comment on or reply to posts? Which platforms? Why?
I comment on a zillion posts a day on every platform (never mean stuff, though!). I feel like you're not really participating on platforms if you're not in the comments.
Where do you tend to get your news?
A mix of newsletters, people on Twitter, Instagram accounts, and Apple News.
What's your favorite non-social media app?
Zillow because I love fantasizing about houses I'll never be able to afford, like everyone else.
What are you willing to pay for online?
I pay for a ton of stuff online and support online creators I like.
Are you a fan of any NFT art or artists? Do you have strong feelings about blockchain tech or cryptocurrencies?
I think probably 90 percent of men who talk about crypto and blockchain on Twitter are absolutely full of shit grifters who just want to exploit a new system to get rich. They do not care about building a better internet or more equitable system. BUT then there are some really cool and creative women and men who I've met through crypto meetups who are extremely bright and very knowledgeable about the flaws of Silicon Valley. Those people really do want to build a fairer internet. So we'll see where it goes and how successful they are. My main concern with this move to crypto and decentralization is that we'll exacerbate many of the same inequities that exist in our current system.
Do you subscribe to any Substacks or other independent newsletters? What are your favorites?
I read every Garbage Day.
Are you into any podcasts right now? How and when do you usually listen?
I am and forever will be the biggest Planet Money fan. So I've been binging on old episodes of that recently.
Do you have an opinion on Clubhouse or its clones, like Twitter Spaces?
I think it's notable how badly Clubhouse has handled issues of moderation, online harassment, harmful disinformation, and abuse. It's kind of crazy to watch a company basically speedrun every mistake Facebook has made over the past decade when it comes to abuse and misinformation and not seem to care. I think if the company had focused more on user protections from the get-go it would be less overrun with scammers, MLMs, and bad actors who have been banned on other social media platforms.
Have you ever been heavily into Snapchat? Around what age?
I have been on Snapchat since it was Picaboo. I mostly use it for messaging now, I feel like people my age abandoned it back in 2017/2018-ish.
When was the last time you browsed Pinterest? What for?
I was recently planning a big event and Pinterest was my go-to planning tool!
Are you nostalgic for Vine or Tumblr? Why?
Those were the best platforms on the internet. Tumblr gave me everything, I wouldn't have a career without it. I miss when the internet was smaller, that's the main thing I miss from that era. Now everything is so big and interconnected.
Do you consider yourself part of any specific online communities?
I'm in a ton of online communities but I'm not really part of any specific subculture.
Are you regularly in any groups on Reddit, Slack, Discord, or Facebook?
All the above! I'm in over 2,000 Facebook groups, about 50 Discord servers, several Slacks and several hundred subreddits. I sort of just join anything I see to see what's up. The ones I'm most active in are usually the more personal ones.
Are you playing any games right now? Do you watch any gamers live stream on Twitch or another platform?
I watch lots of Twitch but always Just Chatting. I did play a lot of Fortnite during lockdown in 2020 but less so now.
How excited—or apprehensive—are you about the metaverse?
I think the actual metaverse is still really far away so I don't think about it much. My main worry is that we have the same spoiled Silicon Valley men in power who are going to recreate the same systems of inequality in the metaverse that we have in the IRL world.
Do you text people voice notes? If not, how do you feel about getting them?
I love them and I use them all the time when I'm too lazy to type something long. Love getting them, too. Sometimes listening is easier than reading.
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?
All of my group chats have names that are usually updated often depending on what we're chatting about. A lot of my closest friends IRL are parents, so the stuff that inspires the most debate is usually something to do with a decision related to kids.
What's your go-to emoji, and what does it mean to you?
The Wi-fi heart emoji. I wrote a whole piece for The Atlantic about why it's the best.
What's a playlist, song, album, or style of music you’ve streamed a lot lately?
Everyone should watch Dorian Electra's new music video for “My Agenda,” it's a masterpiece!
If you could only keep Netflix, Disney, HBO Max, or one other streaming service, which would it be, and why?
I would do Shudder, which is basically Netflix for horror.
What's the most basic thing that you love online?
I love home renovation accounts on Instagram. I have no ability to buy a home anytime soon and still live in a rental, but the idea of redoing a kitchen is very exciting to me.
Is there any content you want that you can't seem to find anywhere online?
It's not content, but I want more privacy.
Do you regularly use eBay, Depop, or other shopping platforms? What's a recent thing you've bought or sold?
I order stuff on Depop all the time. I recently bought some black flare jeans for $40, so we'll see how they look when they arrive.
Have you recently read an article, book, or social media post about the internet that you’ve found particularly insightful?
This piece in the New Yorker is the best thing written about the current online experience imo.
What's one thing you recommend for maintaining a healthy relationship with the internet?
Never post about anything personal. Remember that any small, tiny, seemingly insignificant piece of information you reveal will be used by the worst bad faith actors on the planet to try to destroy your life.
What's the worst thing about the internet in 2021? How about the best thing?
The worst is how these platforms are all built to incentivize and reward the most harmful and dangerous people online. The best thing is baby bird TikTok.
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