My Internet: P.E. Moskowitz
The Mental Hellth writer loves getting emails.
Embedded is your essential guide to what’s good on the internet, written by Kate Lindsay and edited by Nick Catucci.
Most weeks, we quiz a “very online” person for their essential guide to what’s good on the internet.
Today we welcome P.E. Moskowitz, who writes, a newsletter about “your brain, drugs, the internet, and why we all feel so fucking crazy.” They are also writing a half-memoir, half-reported book called Rabbit Hole, “which is like if Eat, Pray, Love was about doing lots of coke and acid” (due out in 2024 from Atria Books in the U.S. and Bloomsbury in the UK).
P.E. once suffered a pile-on that was cited by Barack Obama as an example of online mobs going too far, finds that the inferior design of Reels compared to TikTok actually helps surface more unexpected videos, and believes that no radio show or podcast can match the pizazz of Car Talk. —Nick
Subscribe to Embedded, which is like if Eat, Pray, Love was about watching lots of YouTube and TikTok.
EMBEDDED: What’s a recent meme or other post that made you laugh?
EMBEDDED: What shows up on your TikTok For You page?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: After about six months of The Algorithm somehow assuming I am a born-again Christian who thinks Lil Nas X is the devil, all trans people are evil and that cloud shapes are secret messages from God (I could kinda believe that one), I’ve finally managed to get it exactly where I want it: exclusively slapstick comedy of people falling on their asses and being idiots. I now believe the internet is useful for nothing except the proliferation of these videos.
EMBEDDED: Has your Twitter experience changed since Elon Musk took over? What would it take for you to quit?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: Honestly, it hasn’t changed that much except that there’s too much discourse about Elon Musk and the idiots who support him. I don’t want to see that shit, mostly because I don’t care—I think Twitter was evil before Musk too, so even if he is evil (which I think he is), it’s just kind of a changing of the guard or whatever. I’ve kind of accepted that this is what we have, though. I’ve made friends through Twitter, I’ve made money through Twitter. So even though I don’t use it nearly as much as I once did, I feel like it is a necessary evil in my life.
EMBEDDED: Have you found any good alternatives to Twitter?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: Good alternatives in the sense of something to replace Twitter? No. Good alternatives in a general sense: getting off my goddamn phone!!!!
EMBEDDED: What do you use Instagram for?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: Mostly to keep up with friends and their events/parties/readings/etc. I use Insta for maybe 10 minutes a day (as opposed to Twitter which I use for much much longer (but am trying to severely cut back)). Sometimes I’ll get pulled into the Reels tab, which is worse than TikTok in a technological design way, but I actually like that it’s worse, because I feel like the imprecision of its algorithm keys me into stuff I would never usually see (like a mom who posts dozens of videos about her right to walk barefoot in Walmart and such).
EMBEDDED: What types of videos do you watch on YouTube?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: I was in a very big plane hyperfixation for a while. I watched like probably 100 hours or more of videos on how planes work, infamous air disasters, business news about Airbus and Boeing. I have no clue why I became interested in these things, but apparently millions of people on YouTube are! Which is cool. But as of now I kind of hate the YouTube-style way of talking and producing content. It all feels very one-note and by the book since everyone has professionalized into a “creator.” FWIW my fav video is a random guy who tries to drive with his friends from Denmark to China and documents it in a 1990s home movie-esque way. It’s just a nice story about guys being dudes and isn’t trying to argue anything or sell anything (how refreshing!).
EMBEDDED: Have you had posts go viral? What is that experience like?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: Yes, and it’s usually horrifying. I was famously canceled for being too good at parallel parking, leading to Barack Obama writing about me as an example of online mobs going too far. That was a very bizarre experience and kind of funny, but when I’ve gone viral for things that actually matter—my opinions on mental health, the world, etc.—it often is so jarring how mean people feel like they’re allowed to be to each other. I’ve gotten plenty of death threats. One time after a particularly bad incident I was like physically shaking for a day because of how intense the hatred was. It really got to me. Even if you don’t believe what people are saying, if enough people say “you’re a horrible person and deserve to die,” it fucks you up in the head. People should chill out, IMHO.
EMBEDDED: Who’s the coolest person who follows you?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: I am very fortunate to feel like many of my besties are also people I am fans of—like I want them all to be famous and recognized for their work because I think they’re all geniuses. Zerosuitcamus is a very close IRL friend named Hesse, and I also think her Twitter is one of the funniest things to ever exist. And so I feel blessed that she thinks I’m cool/funny/whatever enough to follow me too/ be my friend :).
EMBEDDED: Who’s someone more people should follow?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: Hesse!!!
EMBEDDED: Which big celebrity has your favorite internet presence, and why?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: I could write a 10,000 word essay about how celebrities have been PR-managed into a death spiral of boringness. Like no one is really being unhinged anymore. What a shame! What is the point of celebrity except to say unhinged things all the time?! So I’m gonna be brave and say I don’t really like ANY celebrities’ posts these days. And if any celebrities read this, step your game up!!!!!! That being said, I think Adam DiMarco is really hot, so I like following him.
EMBEDDED: Where do you tend to get your news?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: This is gonna sound fucked up but I don’t really read the news these days. I’ll see random headlines on Twitter, but I often find the news too depressing to really engage with, especially with all the anti-trans stuff happening. That doesn’t mean I don’t stay informed, but reading the news and being informed are not the same thing, IMHO. So I try to preserve my reading energy for long-form deep dives and books and Substacks I like.
EMBEDDED: What are your favorite Substack or other independent newsletters?
does some great deep dives into trans “controversy” and puts the current trans panic into historical context—which is something the news never does.
I think one of the best features of Substack is that you can find writers you weren’t familiar with before, who might just be blogging about their days or doing cultural commentary for their own small audiences and not so that they can be part of the Discourse Wars®. The last one I found that I liked was. IDEK the person’s name or who they are but they’ve written some cool stuff.
EMBEDDED: Do you have any favorite media company newsletters?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: I like Hell Gate cuz they are trying to be the voicey, indie, local media that we’ve been missing in the internet age.
EMBEDDED: What’s one positive media trend? What’s one negative trend?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: I think the positive and negative trends are the same: companies are dying, investors don’t want to pay for journalism and criticism and such anymore. That sucks, but it’s also made it so that people are more willing to strike out on their own and do cool shit. I really like Substack and Patreon and similar companies for that reason. Not that I think they’re necessarily great companies, but I like that people are writing/producing/etc on their own, without waiting for the permission of Prestigious Publications.
EMBEDDED: Are you into any podcasts right now? How and when do you usually listen?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: I loooooooove listening to reruns of Car Talk (which NPR still puts out every week). I don’t think I’ve ever heard a radio show or podcast that reaches their level of humor and effortless personality and pizazz. I often fall asleep at night listening to it. It comforts me.
I’m not above listening to true crime, but I find that the journalism has become really sloppy as everyone has tried to get in on the gold rush. Also I find a lot of the less journalism-y ones to be really gross—like laughing and “yasss, girl”-ing themselves through stories of people being MURDERED. So I usually just listen to Dateline. Which of course is copaganda and also exploitative, but they are at least real journalists.
Beyond that, my two fav podcasts are Eating for Free which is a funny but also really deep show about celebrity culture, and Batting Around, which is a funny but also politically relevant baseball podcast run by two trans women and a gay guy (us queers are allowed to like sports, apparently!).
EMBEDDED: How has using LinkedIn benefitted you, if at all?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: I think I technically still have a LinkedIn from 10 years ago. I have never been on there for more than three minutes though. I do not understand the point of it at all. Perhaps if I went into a job like banking or something it would be useful, but thankfully that is not my life (no offense to the great bankers out there).
EMBEDDED: Have you ever been heavily into Snapchat? Do you miss it?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: No. I always found the interface confusing. I like the idea of a more temporary/ephemeral sharing service but honestly there’s just too many social media platforms and I don’t have the time/attention span for all of them.
EMBEDDED: When was the last time you browsed Pinterest? What for?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: My friend tried to get me into it cuz I’m renovating a cabin and thought it might be useful for design inspiration. But it’s just yet another thing to use and learn. I’m trying to use the internet less, so the idea of another platform is just too much for me right now.
EMBEDDED: Do you have an opinion about Tumblr?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: Not really … no offense to Tumblr.
EMBEDDED: Are you in any groups on Reddit, Discord, Slack, or Facebook? What’s the most useful or entertaining one?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: Reddit is my Google now, now that Google has become kind of useless because of how many things are just ads. Like if you Google something about a drug, the first five pages are all SEO-optimized articles from for-profit rehab centers. So now when I Google things, I Google “____, reddit.” Other than that, again, I feel like there are just Too Many Things, and I want Fewer Things, not more, so I try not to get involved in anything else.
EMBEDDED: Do you use Slack or another chat tool for work? What’s the best thing about that Slacking with your co-workers? What’s the worst thing?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: I used to use Slack when I helped run Study Hall. I honestly hated it (though it’s fine enough for conveying basic work information). I know I’m repeating myself but there’s just too much fuckin stuff out there. I want to party with friends and read books and go on long walks. I already feel like I don’t have enough time for those things so I don’t need another form of communication in my life. I of course still use the internet. But I am at capacity with it. Find me on Twitter, or text me, or email me. Otherwise don’t talk to me.
EMBEDDED: Do you typically start searches on Google, Reddit, TikTok, or another source? Have you tried AI-powered search on Bing or elsewhere?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: As I said I use Reddit a lot for information that Google makes hard to find. And Google if I need to find a restaurant or whatever. But that’s about it.
EMBEDDED: What most excites you about AI text and art generators? What most concerns you?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: Nothing excites me about it. I mean, I think that in the same way that people figured out how to use previously-made music and turn it into samples for rap and techno, there’s a little potential to use these technologies as tools to create unique things. But rap and techno were invented by independent, very creative people (and usually Black, underpaid, and under-respected by the industries they work in), and AI has been invented mostly by corporations (with overpaid and over-respected tech bros). So as of now I see them as over-hyped corporate-backed technologies to get away with paying people less or not at all for their art and work. And that sucks. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever seen something truly useful or beautiful produced by AI. The art it produces looks like something you’d buy in the Decorate Your Dorm Room section of Target.
EMBEDDED: Do you have any predictions for cryptocurrency, the metaverse, and/or Web3?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: Again, I think they’re mostly overhyped marketing gimmicks. I’m sure lots of stuff will happen with them, but that stuff will happen mostly because companies figure out a way to force us to use them because it makes them money, not because there is much novel or interesting about the tech or the culture it produces. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer.
EMBEDDED: Are you currently playing any games on your computer or phone?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: I play GamePigeon, the iMessage-based minigames app with friends—mostly pool and Cup Pong and darts. I like those games because they’re ways to interact with people I know IRL when we’re not physically next to each other.
EMBEDDED: What’s your most-used messaging app?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: iMessage. I use WhatsApp and Telegram for my European friends. But I find iMessage to have the most useful and easy interface.
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?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: The names are things that I would probably be canceled for if I revealed them lol. Like inappropriate in-jokes. I try not to argue with anyone via text though. If I am in a debate via text I call the person or tell them I will talk to them in-person. With text, you lose all the nuance of facial expression, gesture, tone, etc, so I find it’s often very counterproductive.
EMBEDDED: What’s your go-to emoji, and what does it mean to you?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: 🤬 is my most frequently used because it’s a way to kind of jokingly be displeased about something. If a friend says they can’t hang out tonight or whatever, it would feel very dramatic to be like “that’s okay, but I feel sad because I miss you, and a little hurt because we haven’t seen each other in a while.” I feel like sending “🤬” with the “echo” effect gets all that across without being so serious about it. I also LOVE this guy: ☃︎
EMBEDDED: Do you text people voice notes? If not, how do you feel about getting them?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: Usually just to be annoying or like sing a song at them or something. I prefer texting if we’re on our phones because I feel like messaging apps are not made for really nuanced convos. Some friends text me voice notes but if it’s a convo that needs to happen with voice, then I rather just call them or see them in person.
EMBEDDED: What’s a playlist, song, album, or style of music you’ve listened to a lot lately?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: I wrote about Experience, Prodigy’s first album recently. I find it to be so freeingly happy and chaotic. I also listen to a lot of nü metal cuz it’s exciting and feels cathartic (the world is bad, I have anger about that, let me thrash my body around to get the feelings out).
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?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: I pay for Apple Music because it has lossless sound quality and I really can tell the difference between it and Spotify. I honestly don’t know the last time I bought physical media. But, as you have probably been sensing, I am heading in a full-anti-technology direction these days and might very well become one of those people who collects CDs and DVDs soon.
EMBEDDED: If you could only keep one streaming service for TV and/or movies, which would it be, and why?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: Probably Amazon because you can actually rent movies through it. I watch Netflix and HBO and Apple TV and Hulu, but if all of those were to go away, I’d still be able to rent a vast selection of movies via Amazon.
EMBEDDED: What’s your favorite non-social media app?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: Fitbit because I love tracking my steps for some reason. I know it makes no actual difference in my life and yet I love being like “wow I walked 15,000 steps today!” I don’t know what this says about me (except that I like walking).
And Opal, which is an anti-social media app that prevents you from using social media.
EMBEDDED: What’s the most basic internet thing that you love?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: I don’t know if it’s basic but I think FlightAware is so cool—sometimes I’ll look out my window and see a plane, and then go on FlightAware and find the plane! That still seems like magic to me.
EMBEDDED: Is there any content you want but can’t seem to find anywhere online?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: I think most stuff I want to consume, I can find online but not in the legit, mainstream places. So I definitely have used websites I won’t mention that allow you to, for example, stream a Mets game or find a rare book that costs $200 on Amazon.
EMBEDDED: Do you regularly use eBay, Depop, or other shopping platforms? What’s a recent thing you’ve bought or sold?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: I use Etsy and Craigslist a lot for furniture and house stuff. And I should probably block TheRealReal from my phone because sometimes I all of a sudden have a NEED for a crossbody bag that’s 80 percent off and feel like I will die if I don’t get it.
EMBEDDED: Have you recently read an article, book, or social media post about the internet that you’ve found particularly insightful?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: Palo Alto by Malcolm Harris because instead of viewing the internet as some abstract and inevitable technology, he writes about it as an invention by specific people with a specific purpose (to surveil us and make money).
EMBEDDED: What’s the last thing that brought you joy online?
P.E. MOSKOWITZ: I love getting emails … it feels so business-y and official. “Dear P.E. Moskowitz … Sincerely … , etc.” In an era of over-familiarity and parasocialness, I like feeling formal and respectful, as if we are strangers (because we are!!!!!!).