I recently decided to boot back up my Instagram account. I’d let it lay dormant for almost five years. A lot has changed since I stopped using it. I’ll withhold judgement on whether it is for the worse or not. Right now it’s mostly just modestly confusing. I feel like a beginner again.
Many of them are relatively sophisticated with templates that help you overlay text, audio, music and advanced video techniques. Being a creator these days requires a fair amount of sophistication so I’m not surprised to find $10 a month editing applications.
I am struggling to find to find the joy in the experience. It feels like like a lot more work to make visual content than written. Now, I grant that it didn’t feel easy writing at first either. Twitter was stop and go for me for years.
But Instagram is a more natural place for some of my interests like cosmetics and shopping. I want to give it a fair shake. And maybe I’ll find joy in the space with some time. But becoming fluent in the language of Instagram’s visual literacy makes me feel stupid. But I guess that’s what it feels like to be a beginner again.
Social media has given us so many ways to become fans. We have ever more content thanks the streaming wars. Give content a chance to live everywhere online and it will develop a fanbase beyond its intended audience. The internet gives small shows outsized impact.
I’m a fan of a Canadian comedy called a Letterkenny. It’s about a small town in Canada. It’s got people and their problems. It’s a very funny character study and has fundamentally warm and loving humor. I’ve watched every episode and the spin-off. I’ve taken a lot of solace in the very human nature of the show, particularly during the pandemic years when everyone felt far away from each other.
There is a phenomenon that is particularly prominent online called parasocial relationships. Someone creates art or a personality and it develops a fandom. Over time, the fans, through repeated exposure to a character or show, believe they know them like a friend. It is fun to be in the fandom. Enjoying art is a universal experience. I am a stan for Letterkenny. I’m in a parasocial relationship with the Letterkenny crew and it’s universe.
How deep is it? Well my husband and I recently ordered some Canadian chip flavor called all dressed featured on an episode of Letterkenny. The chip is, as the name suggests, every single type of flavor. It is salt and vinegar, bbq, ketchup (weird but crucial), and sour cream & onion. And it is absolutely delicious. As a Twitter friend said to me, it is the Dr Pepper of chips. It’s not for everyone but it’s spectacular.
Because it is Sunday, I am taking a medically necessary amount of THC. I’ve had a gummy. And I thought this was a perfect moment to try the Letterkenny chip.
And it was indeed glorious. All dresseds is a chip made for the munchies. It’s got bite and taste and texture and it all rolls up into an experience. It’s a chip worthy of the extra attention of weed focus.
Now on Letterkenny there is a clique called the Skids. They are the weird kids. They are the hipster ones. They are the nerds. They are small town weed dealers. Asking me to pick a favorite on Letterkenny is like asking me to pick a favorite child. One of the Skids is Roald. He is a loyal friend but his own man. He definitely likes weed. I love Roaldie.
I somehow missed watching the Mandalorian when it came out. My husband isn’t really into Star Wars and I’m a Star Trek person so as just missed it. I started watching it today for the first time and I’m experiencing it somewhat fresh of its original release context.
But I’ve got a vague memory of the culture war issues that it triggered at the time. Somehow Gina Carano got coded to team red and champion of the downtrodden right wing. I honestly couldn’t tell you why except I think she mouthed off on Twitter. She sacrificed her career as a main character on prestige Disney tv show for shitposting. She thought she had social latitude that she just didn’t when working for Big Mouse. Shockingly naive if I’m honest.
That somehow everything has a side in the culture wars is a real tragedy of our time. Because a couple years pass and whatever dumb stunt that got you put on team red or team blue probably gets forgotten. Normal people have moved on and the discourse gets digested eventually into common knowledge. Memory is a fickle thing. Madeleines and Proust or something in that direction.
If you are team red you go into an alternate universe where apparently being a dick with a right wing slant on YouTube gets you 50 million dollar media deals. I assume there are as many opportunities as now being on team red is a real badge of honor and whole media ecosystems arise because it’s an actual demographic. Shocking somehow to some people but I guess I’ve always lived adjacent to team red. I’ve be always known you could make money on that audience.
I suppose the real tell is that if you are team blue you don’t really change ecosystems at all if you pick their side in the culture war. You get to maintain your plum gig at Disney. You do not have Ron DeSantis gunning for you. I hear that woke mobs come to get you but I’ve never actually seen it in action. The worst part of my chaotic evil leftist Twitter bubble stops at Taylor Lorenz though I am aware that a murky left exists beyond Chapo Trap House and I know about Tankies.
It just seems so strange to take sides in any of this nonsense if your aim is to make a living as a performer. Sure maybe you can cater to one niche or another. But really isn’t the whole point finding the things that bind us all in the human experience? I always assumed art was meant to transcend whatever petty shit happened while making it.
I haven’t been on my Instagram account since 2018. I stopped actively posting in 2017. I’d become absolutely sick of the social media platform and the relentless aspirational influencer content marketing that had taken over my feed. I can’t say I’ve missed it, but I’ve decided to reinstall the application and begin posting again.
I’ve been a participant in the “creator economy” long before it had a name. A college friend set me up on a WordPress blog after a fellow student had written a piece criticizing me for being interested in fashion on campus.
I’d written something about designer denim in the competing school newspaper. My friend told me I needed to watch out as this new nemesis was going to ruin my Google results. From these petty seeds a fashion blogging “empire” was born.
I’d like to think having been there from the start of the creator economy counts for something but the harsh truth is that once you stop posting you tend to disappear from any social network. I stopped fashion blogging for my own enjoyment once I made it into a career.
During my girlboss years as the CEO of Stowaway Cosmetics being on Instagram felt like a part of my job. I had enjoyed it more when I wasn’t obligated to look cool. I remember 2012 Instagram fondly as a place where you followed photographers and fashion insiders at work. By 2016 it was loaded with aspirational lifestyle content. I felt like I all I saw was sponsored content.
Somewhere in that timeframe I racked up 30,000 followers. I don’t think I ever maintained anything remotely professional. It was just pictures of whatever was happening in my life so the usual mix of food and travel. It didn’t seem like a huge loss to walk away.
Oddly even if my follower count on Twitter isn’t actually that much larger than my Instagram account I feel like I’m much more influential there. I’m better with words clearly. I am a shitposter so it always felt lower stakes. And maybe that’s why it’s less of a burden in my mind. I do Twitter joyfully.
But I’m going to experiment with Instagram again. I’ve got visual things in my life that are worth sharing as I’ve now got a totally new aspirational lifestyle. I’ve graduated from fashion influencer to doomer optimist. Homesteading and cozy farmhouse is it’s own aesthetic and maybe I’ll enjoy sharing mine. And I’ll admit that I’m not at all above coveting back on gifting lists. I guess if you enjoy that sort of thing find me back on Instagram. Or if you want to send me some free stuff I’m open to getting back into the SponCon game.
It must have been somewhere in the late nineties or early aughts that I first learned about the concept of liminal spaces. I’m fairly certain I got it from William Gibson. I’ve associated it with travel and the in-between spaces like corridors, escalators to nowhere and empty lounges. But it really means any in-between space that is not clearly claimed as one type of space or another. The rules of the space are unclear as it doesn’t have an identity.
After my most recent flight to Germany last night, I am wondering if manners and social contracts can be liminal too. Between the spaces where rules and social probity apply, and where we believe we can we can engage in bad behavior, is liminal civilization.
You are not quite bounded by the rules of your friends and countrymen nor are you fully bound by agreed upon civilizational manners when traveling. And nowhere is this truer than traveling when sick.
On the first leg of my flight a white twenty something gentleman sat next to me. He had an awful cough. He would sniffle, hack and then snurg up a ball of snot and swallow it down on repeat. I hadn’t put on a mask as the airport was mostly empty and so was the flight.
But I was next to a gentleman who was clearly in the grips of some type of viral infection. I put on a KN95 and didn’t remove it. He stated daggers at me. Like I was the rude one. But frankly I had no intention of getting his cold.
On my second flight I encountered a couple even further removed from decent manners and leaning full into liminal incivility. United had a huge fuck up on my flight which had them scrambling to reseat me after they gave away my seat when their own flight didn’t make it to Denver. I had bought another ticket on another flight and checked in at the lounge and has my husband call to confirm but alas I almost didn’t make it onto my flight. After pleading, I was reseated next to these two chumps.
I noticed the wife coughing first. A polite hem hem cough sniffle sniffle. She asked the flight attendant for a tissue. But her companion was far sicker. He coughed every 8-10 seconds while he was awake. A wracking hacking wet cough. And neither one of them had masks. A passenger with a baby asked if they would consider one. I said I had masks still in their wraps and NyQuil if it might help.
Whatever liminal edge of society in which they live, it is clearly one where the politics of masking has taken them so far beyond the bounds of basic decency, no one on the flight could convince them to cover up. Not even while the flight circulator was off during take-off, landing and taxi. These were visibly sick people. It wasn’t Covid paranoia. It was simply please keep your germs contained.
The gentleman thought it was so rude. Unless someone has cancer or another immune disease it was ridiculous for anyone to wear a mask. He explained has anti-bodies so it was clear he couldn’t get any of us sick. That’s how antibodies worked he explained. We stated incredulously. His argument was because he has had“it” before his immune system was fine. He couldn’t get us sick. In fact he wasn’t even sick really, just showing symptoms right? Needless to say this isn’t how infection works.
Furthermore, if he could get any of us sick from these coughing fits, it was because we were weak. I told him I took immune suppressants for a spinal condition and an infant was one seat away from him. The parents of the child and I both wanted to avoid a cold or flu if possible. He just laughed and said we were idiots.
I can’t really fathom living this far out of basic civilizational norms. It used to be impolite to cough in people’s faces. You were encouraged not to travel when ill. Other cultures introduced masks so the ill wouldn’t infect the rest of us. But since COVID’s disastrously overdone masking policies, we’ve now lost a basic tool of hygiene and human decency to keep those infected from harming others.
One reason I identify as a doomer is because of how often I see people like these three travelers completely ignore the needs, wants, desires and safety of others. It’s like they have their own bubble and fuck any of us with our needs and boundaries my desire to not get sick is just my opinion man. And it’s rude of me to ask.
I ended up masking till the air circulators came on. I slept without one. I hope the baby managed. If I were their parents I’d be furious some asshole decided his right to engage in society when sick was so much more important than theirs. Travel might be full of liminal cultural spaces where the rules of civilization no longer matter. Covid broke everyone’s brains.
I scrambled a bit to do round up of this year’s posts. I went through through each day individually and attempted to sort posts that grabbed me into succinct categories. I don’t want to call it a “best of” list so much as a set of themes and experiences that made up my 2022. It was quite a year.
The most popular post I wrote this year was my viral hit about dickriders by a huge margin. The tweet got several million views and the blog post got upwards of 50,000 readers. Nothing else even compares. I think my some of my most honest writing came through twodays in May when Alex and I decided to buy our house in Montana. Day 499 and 500 respectively. But I cover a huge breadth of topics over the year so without further ado here is the list. In no particular order.
I spent my entire day on Twitter. I’m not embarrassed by that to be clear. It felt like a vacation day. And even though I live in a majestic mountain paradise, I will spend my time off inside looking at my phone.
Yes it was absolutely gorgeous day in Montana. I marveled at the playful pinks of the sunrise over the mountains in our backyard while drinking coffee. And then I got back in bed and on my phone. And you better believe I fucking doomacrolled.
I just gorged myself on cheap attention calories. Gimme that dopamine drip. I did not even try to modulate my consumption pattern or prevent myself from going into fight or flight. It was goblin mode. I’m still not embarrassed.
But Twitter is a fucking mess. Watching people go tribal on Elon Musk is worse than people going tribal on the president somehow. Maybe because it feels more personal to me? Don’t get me wrong Trump felt existential, but Elon Musk is personal.
And it’s fucking embarrassing watching people react to him and his decision making. Here it is my industry’s moment in the spotlight. The technology industry showing itself as a keeper of common goods and open discourse right? Absolutely fucking not. We’ve shat the bed. Old management was incompetent sure. But new management is not an improvement.
I went into Twitter being purchased by Elon Musk modestly optimistic. He’s our guy right? He’s one of us. He likes startups and capital and technology. He reads the same science fiction as me. We’ve got friends in common. This is what it’s like to be a fan of the home team right?
Well fuck me sideways it has been going poorly. The site is pretty broken but I’m over that. It’s just the constant mayhem. Dave Kellog termed it adhocracy. Some random bullshit happens and the whole website has to lurch around conspiracy theories and rationalization.
It has frankly not been a fine showing for techno-libertarians. Not sure about showing up for a monarch executive now that you’ve seen your civil rights up for terms-of-service revisions by fiat huh? I’ve always thought the neo-monarchists to be dickriders but that’s a sentence that’s only comprehensible to the terminally online. And yes I should go outside and touch snow. I’ll do that now.
So Elon, this isn’t likely to actually make it to you, but this is my blog, I write every day for myself, so why not, I can give it a try and pretend. If it turns out this is any good I’ll ask a mutual friend to send it to you.
tldr: I feel a (parasocial) connection with you & I want more from you (and maybe also for you). I know it feels cool and edgy to wink at taboos but you’re getting rekt by fuck bois, sycophants and opportunists.
I know we are all Galileo in our own mind shouting “and yet it moves” to narrow minded Papists but you realize being a martyr requires your death right? I don’t want you to die.
You certainly don’t remember this, but we met a number of times in the mid-teens. Times like when a friend of mine hosted a blow out birthday party in New York. We sat next to each other in some awful club and discussed chess with a small group. The same friend had a big wedding. I remember goofy dancing. Your sons made snow angels in the confetti. It was nice.
You seemed as uncomfortable as the rest of us nerds. Your autism didn’t seem any worse than mine though. I remember finding that comforting at the time. It has curdled into alienation over time as your fame far outstripped your origins. And I’m sad to have lost the feeling of love I had for you.
Before we “met” I had slight case of hero worship. I remember thinking here is someone just like me. He likes the same science fiction. He dreams about the singularity. He’s neurodivergent. And he wants to get us off this damn rock. And he’s got more money and power than I do so maybe he is worth admiring. I was young and stupid and hadn’t yet gone to real therapy.
I would tell my friends I wanted to die outside the earth’s gravity well. I thought perhaps you might be the man that got us there. Had I not had a chance to see how much you were just like me, perhaps I’d still be a stan.
What I see now from you isn’t power and happiness, it’s isolation and sadness. But I want you to know it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to listen to the flattering dick riders. They want shit from you. They want their agendas and they see your money and power as a way to achieve it. I know you know this.
It makes me angry to see you coddle the parasites. I’m shocked your mother hasn’t told you to knock it off. She seems like a cold bitch who gets shit done. I’m sure she’s told you that you are better than them. The nerds and autists did not inherit this Earth just to squander it for the roar of the crowd. If it is all bread and circus, remember you are a king and not a clown.
Maybe you think their slavish slobbering attention is a fair trade for some of your magic, I used to be emotionally slutty like that too.
And yes, I am projecting my own insecurities. But maybe I can tell you a story that will comfort you in the big wide universe. Maybe it will comfort someone else. Maybe it’s just to comfort myself.
I read you named your family office Excession. I’m also a fan of Ian M. Banks. Since 2008 or so, I carry around a paperback of Excession with me whenever I vacation. Which isn’t a lot. I normally use a Kindle to read but this paperback has become a kind of totem. It signals to my hindbrain that I am in a sympathetic state of rest and digest. I reread it over and over in 20-30 page chunks. It bounces me out of fight or flight now after much repetition, it’s my comfort book.
Your love for Ian M. Banks all felt very relatable to me as I’ve been dreaming of a post-scarcity world where my AI space ship friends shuttle me around as they pursue their inscrutable intentions. I want to sublime. Maybe not for a few thousand more years though. But I want to make it through the singularity to the other side, or at very least avoid dying in William Gibson’s jackpot. I feel like you get what apocalypses preoccupied my mind.
Most of my fantasies and fears have been touched by my love for science fiction. I saw in you someone who saw the same possibilities as me. You were very much one of us.
I also see someone being used for their dreams. They are harnessing you and your power to drive the rest of us to focus on their nightmares. Don’t let them steer you.
But your posting is reaching people. It’s annoying to some, but it hits. Maybe it hits too hard. But the isolation I imagine you feel isn’t necessary. Power laws can separate just as effectively as they bring us together. You don’t have to be surrounded by reply guys. There is a path to connection even for the most singular among us.
Now of course, I want something from you too. I want you to get us off this rock before it’s too late. I know it’s a big ask.
My best is advice is to go reread Excession and get yourself out of this persistent “fight or flight” cortisol pump. Get focused back on the shit that matters. Maybe find yourself a nice autistic sociopath who will love you for you. Maybe she can protect you from some of the pain. I’m sure you will figure it out.
I want you go to therapy. Mine is pretty good if you’d like an introduction. She’s an aristocratic 80 something Swedish woman, so you might like her. She’s perfect for working through attachment issues. She’s quite good at dealing with poor little rich kids with mommy and daddy issues. Her neighbors are all billionaires so she won’t be impressed by your bullshit. She has a sub-specialty in sex so she can probably help with that dick riding problem too.
And most importantly, she’ll be the only person who doesn’t want anything from you. And you need that more than anything.
Working on a Wednesday is expected. Working on a Sunday is a transgression. And like all modern transgressions, working when you aren’t supposed to be working is now a desirable thing. When work becomes a rebellion, strange things happen to your life. I think magic happens.
I’ve excited for the dead time that the end of the year brings for work. Because it’s secretly one of the best times to get shit done. I am never more productive than when I’m expected to be at rest.
In America, there is an expectation that we take some of the time off between Christmas and New Year. But the time off grows and suddenly no one is expected to get anything done for two whole weeks. And then it’s just a mess of resentment where we are at work but not getting much out the door. It’s such a waste. But as soon as people are actually off the clock. That’s when the entire energy of the situation changed.
When everyone is out of the office, is the best times of the year to sprint ahead. Maybe it’s that when people are off work officially they are more receptive to new ideas. They are less on the clock and can take more chances. It seems fun to check your email after too many hours with family where no one shares your interests.
But trust me people are looking for an excuse to do deals when it’s taboo to be working. It’s as tantalizing as getting a message from someone you want to bone. Look at you doing this thing that is a little bit naughty. What a secret you have getting work done when social convention demands we be with family.
So if you get an email from me during the holiday season know it’s because I’m having a blast. You might enjoy responding. Who knows what kind of cool deals we get done when no one else is hustling.
Our most brilliant entrepreneur and erstwhile scientist reaching for the stars is now fighting a battle against attention whores. And I guess that’s how we fund things in late stage capitalism. It is honestly very cool even if it is very scary.
I know we have all read Ian M Banks. We love the Culture. Bring on AGI! Fun fact, Elon Musk’s family trust is called Excession. That’s the book I read on vacation every year. Clearly I have a lot of the same interests as the guy. So I get it. We want Elon to win.
But our boy is fighting some fights he might not even be aware he is in. He being used. He’s been recruited for a host of interest groups to launder some of the weirder corners of Reddit.
One narrative that outlines this agitprop civilian targeted skirmish is that Musk is freeing us from the tyranny of wokes. He represents the the real Americans populists who like goodness, dynamism and slightly dehumanizing working conditions.
And also somehow it involves grooming and pedophilia. Meaning that QAnon has come for Silicon Valley. So I’d be going to ground if I were a target, as you don’t want to be found by the crazies at the end of the internet. What Elon Musk just did to Yoel is at best naive and lacking impulse control, but at worst, puts a former employee at direct and extreme personal risk.
Silicon Valley used to be its own culture war. We fought for free information and open source software. We wanted cryptocurrencies and privacy. And now we have instead differing factions fighting for their own inscrutable means. Except maybe getting us to the singularity. I think he’s been clear on that. But beware fringe political movements flattering your ego. They just want your power.