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My Internet: Zoë Schiffer
The Platformer managing editor tweets Twitter scoops.
Embedded is your essential guide to what’s good on the internet, by Kate Lindsay and Nick Catucci.
Most weeks, we quiz a “very online” person for their essential guide to what’s good on the internet.
Today we welcome Zoë Schiffer, the managing editor of Platformer, where she has helped Casey Newton break a string of remarkable scoops about Elon Musk’s Twitter while tweeting out timely exclusives, like Thursday’s news that the company temporarily shut down its offices without warning.
Zoë wishes for more good fashion blogs, has watched Dua Lipa’s Tiny Desk Concert probably 50 times, and improved her Twitter feed after Casey advised her to make more of an effort. —Nick
EMBEDDED: What’s a recent meme or other post that made you laugh?
ZOË SCHIFFER: The FTX bankruptcy filings triggered some pretty good memes. This tweet from Joe Bernstein really spoke to me:
EMBEDDED: What types of videos do you watch on YouTube?
ZOË SCHIFFER: I don’t watch YouTube that much. When I do, it’s usually about fashion—a stylist I like breaking down an outfit. My husband and I also watch a lot of Tiny Desks. We’ve seen the Dua Lipa one probably 50 times.
EMBEDDED: Do you use TikTok? What shows up on your For You page?
ZOË SCHIFFER: No. I’m feeling self-conscious that maybe I am not the right person for this interview. My work involves spending a lot of time on social media, but outside of work I spend a lot of time trying to stay as far away from social media as possible. Plus, all the best TikToks seem to find their way to Instagram and Twitter.
EMBEDDED: What do you use Instagram for?
ZOË SCHIFFER: I deactivated Instagram when my daughter was born and just recently got back on. I did a complete culling of the feed—unfollowed 80 percent of the people I was following. Now I use it for three very specific reasons: book recommendations, finding out about concerts and events, and getting fashion inspiration.
EMBEDDED: Do you tweet? Why?
ZOË SCHIFFER: Tragically, yes, it’s part of my job. I was really bad at Twitter when I first started working at The Verge. Casey Newton, my boss, is the unspoken king of Twitter, in my opinion. He kind of pulled me aside my first week and told me my feed was embarrassing and I needed to make more of an effort. Now I use it to track what’s going on with sources, tweet out stories, and more recently break news that’s simply not going to hold.
EMBEDDED: What change would Elon Musk have to make for you to quit Twitter?
ZOË SCHIFFER: I’ll use Twitter until I don’t have to for work. It’s not like a joyful platform for me, really. It serves a particular professional purpose. When that’s no longer the case, I’m out.
EMBEDDED: Have you ever had a post go viral? What was that experience like?
ZOË SCHIFFER: Yes. Usually it’s kind of addicting and stressful. I’d compare it, hypothetically, to doing coke. Last night I tweeted that Elon Musk had closed all of Twitter’s offices and deactivated employee badges, out of the blue, without saying why it was happening. That kind of blew up. I was on a preschool tour trying to pay attention to this lady talking about toddlers and nature but I could feel my phone going off.
EMBEDDED: Who’s the coolest person who follows you?
ZOË SCHIFFER: I didn’t have an answer to this and then my sister just texted me and said AOC follows me on Twitter. Also, Roxane Gay recently subscribed to Platformer, does that count? It was very exciting.
EMBEDDED: Who’s someone more people should follow?
ZOË SCHIFFER: There’s a financial analyst at Twitter named Parker Lyons who’s become kind of famous during the whole Musk meltdown for tweeting pitch perfect memes. You might have to be following the saga really closely to get it—I’m not sure.
EMBEDDED: Which big celebrity has your favorite internet presence, and why?
ZOË SCHIFFER: I feel like most actual celebrities are pretty boring on social media because they’re scared of posting anything that could get them in trouble. I like Emrata and Jia Tolentino because they both seem pretty authentic.
EMBEDDED: Where do you tend to get your news?
ZOË SCHIFFER: Twitter.
EMBEDDED: What’s one positive trend you see in media right now? What’s one negative trend?
ZOË SCHIFFER: Positive trend: More writers and creators are going independent, and there are more avenues for them to monetize their content when they do. Obviously, speaking as someone who just left a standard media job to join a Substack :)
Negative: Rampant online harassment, particularly for women and people of color in the industry. I try not to talk about this *too* much but it really does take a toll. I’ll be nursing my 10-month-old and get really vile texts from anonymous people, threats and pictures of dicks and open wounds. And I know lots of other people get it worse.
EMBEDDED: What does “cancel culture” mean to you?
ZOË SCHIFFER: I don’t really know what this term means anymore. As a labor reporter, it seems like it’s supposed to mean “person in position of power has life ruined by angry mob for not-that-bad-of-a-thing”—at least according to the people who use it. In practice it seems like it’s often the worker who didn’t have power in the first place who gets screwed after they try to speak up.
EMBEDDED: Do you subscribe to any Substacks or other independent newsletters? What are your favorites?
ZOË SCHIFFER: Yes!!! Drawing Links by Edith Zimmerman, Culture Study by Anne Helen Petersen, Today in Tabs, also for work I read Who Gets the Bird, which is a Substack about unions, and Labor Law Lite.
EMBEDDED: Are you into any podcasts right now? How and when do you usually listen?
ZOË SCHIFFER: Yes, I listen to Hard Fork, Casey’s podcast with the New York Times, because I am contractually obligated to and because it’s the only tech podcast that is both very funny and very informative. I also got into Dead Cat recently and it’s very good. POOG is my favorite podcast though, I would say about 80 percent of my humor is ripped directly from Jaqueline Novak and Kate Berlant.
EMBEDDED: Have you ever been heavily into Snapchat? Around what age?
ZOË SCHIFFER: No.
EMBEDDED: When was the last time you browsed Pinterest? What for?
ZOË SCHIFFER: Hmm I honestly have no idea. I think I’ve looked at it for reporting before, but not for personal reasons. I don’t really “get” Pinterest.
EMBEDDED: Are you nostalgic for Vine or Tumblr? Why?
ZOË SCHIFFER: No. Again this interview is triggering a bit of an existential crisis. Do I even work in media? Am I a tech reporter? Who am I?
EMBEDDED: Are you in any groups on Reddit, Slack, Discord, or Facebook? What’s the most useful or entertaining one?
ZOË SCHIFFER: Very relieved to be able to answer this in the affirmative. Platformer has a Discord with other independent journalists where we talk to our readers. It’s called Sidechannel. I’m in it everyday. Also in a lot of Facebook groups for work. I use my husband’s account though. He blends in better.
EMBEDDED: Are you playing any games right now?
ZOË SCHIFFER: On the internet? No. Nick please just throw this entire interview in the trash. I won’t be offended.
EMBEDDED: What’s something you might want to do in the metaverse? What’s something you wouldn’t want to do?
ZOË SCHIFFER: Some of my friends in Oakland went to the first virtual burn a couple years ago. I think they just danced around someone’s warehouse apartment. That sounded fun! I think having a virtual office sounds shitty though.
EMBEDDED: What purpose do you see in NFTs?
ZOË SCHIFFER: I generally don’t like to criticize something unless I’ve spent a lot of time trying to deeply understand it and why the people who like it have bought in. That said, I kind of buy this guy’s assessment that NFTs exist to get you to buy crypto.
EMBEDDED: Do you think Web3 will mean a better internet?
ZOË SCHIFFER: Potentially! I think we’re still a long way off from knowing what it could mean.
EMBEDDED: Do you text people voice notes? If not, how do you feel about getting them?
ZOË SCHIFFER: Yes. I haven’t listened to a voicemail in probably three years. But my friend Kyra sends me long rambling voice memos, which I love. It feels different for some reason.
EMBEDDED: 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?
ZOË SCHIFFER: Lol, yes. The group chat I have with my family is called “Howdie Doodie and the Little Cuties” because my dad’s name is Howard. It’s spawned a lot of family swag.
EMBEDDED: What’s your go-to emoji, and what does it mean to you?
ZOË SCHIFFER: 🥴—kind of a hybrid “yikes”/“lol”/“what the fuck.” It’s useful.
EMBEDDED: What’s a playlist, song, album, or style of music you’ve listened to a lot lately?
ZOË SCHIFFER: I’ve gone pretty hard on Taylor Swift’s Midnights lately. I go to a workout class in the morning and they mostly play top 40 and have somehow resisted playing a single song from this album since it came out. Cowards.
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?
ZOË SCHIFFER: I pay for Spotify. I used to download a lot of music and make playlists for people in college. In middle school, I burned all my friends’ CDs, but then I got in trouble for putting “Hell Is for Children” by Pat Benatar on one, which the teacher said was inappropriate.
EMBEDDED: If you could only keep Netflix, Disney, HBO Max, or one other streaming service, which would it be, and why?
ZOË SCHIFFER: Hmm, probably HBO because the options are less overwhelming and the quality is generally pretty high.
EMBEDDED: What’s your favorite non-social media app?
ZOË SCHIFFER: I like Audm, it’s an app where people read long-form articles out loud, like a podcast version of Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. Also, the Apple Watch’s native fitness app is great, it makes me feel like a Silicon Valley biohacker.
EMBEDDED: What’s the most basic internet thing that you love?
ZOË SCHIFFER: Facetime.
EMBEDDED: Is there any content you want but can’t seem to find anywhere online?
ZOË SCHIFFER: Good fashion blogs!
EMBEDDED: Do you regularly use eBay, Depop, or other shopping platforms? What’s a recent thing you’ve bought or sold?
ZOË SCHIFFER: I love Depop. I sell clothes, I buy clothes, I am addicted to that platform.
EMBEDDED: Have you recently read an article, book, or social media post about the internet that you’ve found particularly insightful?
ZOË SCHIFFER: I’m currently reading a book of essays called Your Computer Is on Fire—it’s an incredibly thorough and well thought out critique on the tech industry. It’s really, really good.
EMBEDDED: What’s the last thing that brought you joy online?
ZOË SCHIFFER: My sister sent me this yesterday and it made me laugh. We have an ongoing joke about lil guys.
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