Let’s not get meta about it

This week: main character energy, scammy influencers, link rot, question marks and QR codes

Good morning, beautiful people! Today’s edition will be slightly briefer than usual, because I’m writing it in large part from the Fort Lauderdale airport. Someone recently told me that flying again post-pandemic felt like a “religious experience;” I can only conclude she was flying first class, or belongs to a masochistic religion.

Anyway, I’m finding air travel to be exactly as bleary and frazzled as I remembered, plus it seems the airplane snacks have gotten worse. But I would rather eat my five off-brand miniature pretzels in the sky over Virginia than, you know … in my office at home.

P.S. Links is off next week. I’m on vacation!!

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If you read anything this weekend

  1. The Fall of the Billionaire Gucci Master,” by Evan Ratliff in Bloomberg. Regular readers of this newsletter know I will always devour an Evan Ratliff caper, especially if it includes ... *check notes* ... high-rolling Dubai-based influencers who are actually email scammers!

  2. We All Have ‘Main-Character Energy’ Now,” by Kyle Chayka in The New Yorker. I’m not convinced this phenomenon is particularly new — haven’t we been talking about the self-involved impulse of internet culture since the invention of the front-facing camera??? — but this is a sharp distillation, and also a very sad one. The following cursed sentence will probably ring through my brain, like a ‘90s voiceover, every time I stop to take a picture on this trip: “We can assist one another as mutual supporting characters in our fantasies of being the leads.” Blech.

  3. Why Can’t We Be Friends,” by Brendan Mackie in Real Life. On the history and function of parasocial friendships, like the one we … maybe have? (No? Not quite there? Well let’s not get meta about it.)

  4. Meet the Anti-MAGA Trolls,” by Kaitlyn Tiffany in The Atlantic. This is ostensibly a profile of a Parler-raiding subreddit, but also a fascinating glance at how the practice/politics of trolling have changed. I love the idea that all these keyboard warriors, on both sides, are engaged in some virtual zero-sum shell game.

  5. At This Instagram Hot Spot, All the World’s a Stage (and the Buffalo’s a Prop),” by Vivian Wang and Gilles Sabrié in The New York Times. A truly amazing report from the Chinese province where residents fake an idyllic rural life ... solely so tourists can photograph it.

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Gen Z hates question marks. Slate writer hates QR codes. The scientist who tweeted the “lab leak” theory to life and the middle-aged diplomat who became a racist troll. A short history of same-gender pop music. A love letter to a time when knowledge was hard to get. The internet is rotting, and it’s too late to really do anything about it.

Yoga has a QAnon problem. The Eve6 guy rates his best Twitter jokes. God bless these brave souls inviting Reddit to critique their Hinges and Bumbles. The mystery of @rg_bunny1. The new weirdness of face-to-face conversation. “This has become the one constant of social media: not innovation or vibrancy, but a deadening sameness.”

That’s it for this week! Until the next one. Warmest virtual regards.

— Caitlin