How the internet works
Elongating eyeballs, surveillance robots, dubious thirst traps, racist soap, Frances Haugen and drop-shipping scams
Hi friends. Today is November 19, 2021.
And since we’re only six days out from (American) Thanksgiving, I’d like to wax grateful for a moment. I know you — whoever you are — have myriad worthwhile news alerts, Black Friday ads, terms of service updates, social media notifications, shopping receipts and crypto scams competing for your inbox attention. But today you thumbed past all those treasures to click this little boatload of nonsense!
Thank you for that, and for your zany replies, and for the link submissions and classified ads and occasional, unsolicited rants. Thanks to all the people who wrote notes when Dory died. Thanks x100 to everyone who has shared and plugged this project. (Especially the lady who recommended it once on … a Canadian librarian podcast).
I plan on being hungover at this time next week — from pie or pinot, no one can yet say! — so I’ll see y’all in December. Have a filling/fulfilling holiday.
If you read anything this weekend
“Unfriended: Frances Haugen on Her Facebook Testimony and What Comes Next,” by Noreen Malone in Vogue. This is the first true glimpse I’ve gotten of Frances Haugen the person, as opposed to the anthropomorphized TED Talk in a tailored blazer. How did she grow up? What motivates her? And to what extent does she — maybe, possibly — also suffer from illusions of grandeur?
“Singapore’s Tech-Utopia Dream Is Turning Into A Surveillance State Nightmare,” by Peter Guest in Rest of World. If Singapore is the future (and so much of its present reads like science fiction, from the Bluetooth-connected tracking tokens to the surveillance robots) — then I’m sad to report the future is pretty damn dark. Other heralds of things to come: “Face Pay” in the Moscow metro and floating cities in Saudi Arabia.
“A Close Reading of the QAnon Shaman’s Conspiracy Manifesto,” by Mark Dery in Lithub. This is maybe the closest thing we’ll get to a comprehensible, unified theory of right-wing conspiracism. QAnon et al are “what happens when the hermeneutics of suspicion escapes the page, into the wild. The world is a text; anything can be a sign, a symbol, disinformation, propaganda, psy-ops, a subliminal message, evidence of dark designs.”
“Why Staring At Screens Is Making Your Eyeballs Elongate – And How To Stop It,” by Adam Popescu in The Guardian. Sorry, real buzzkill of a link here, but I read it through my -8.5 lenses with a sense of rising panic. So, you know, here it is! As a public service. 🙃
“Anatomy of a TikTok Hunk,” by Rebecca Jennings in Vox. On the phenomenon known as the “alternative -thirst trap” — because of course average dudes stumble into fame, while women (literally/figuratively) work their asses off.
This edition of Links is powered by The Antlers’ upcoming U.S. tour, this super-easy-but-impressive-looking flan de calabaza, and the promise of four days off work next week. Even if I’ll be cooking through half of them.
As always, you can get your product, newsletter or cause in this space/in front of 12,200+ subscribers, ALL while supporting this free and time-consuming newsletter, for what I’m told is the artlessly low price of $35. Fill out this form to book.
The high-five harassers of Peloton. How TikTok knows your real-life friends. Work is the new vacation, I … guess?, and Jezebel is the new Deadspin. Sound the Caity Weaver celeb profile klaxon. How “Succession” makes wealth look so depressed. “After we reached out they did release a new bar of soap, ‘Journalistic Integrity,’ with a particularly long product description criticizing the press.”
The man who invented modern internet culture. The language too tricky to type. “Meta” almost actually just means “after,” and that feels kinda right. Of course that plant-a-tree meme is a drop-shipping scam; of course HBO will ring every penny from Harry Potter’s cooling corpse. Last but not least: a clever feature on Netflix infrastructure that also taught me how the internet works.
That’s it for this week! Until December. Warmest virtual regards.