Poisonous tea


Did you read Taylor Lorenz on the “Tea Industrial Complex” last week? She did a great job picking apart a bizarre feud between makeup YouTubers as an object lesson in the big business of influencer drama. For the full effect, watch this videoof a full-time gossip pundit try to un-cancel one of the article’s subjects, only to yell, “I’m GREENLIGHTING A CANCELING” for someone else. Total witch hunt!

I’m not really a YouTube person, but the article made me feel self-conscious about how often I end up spectating the same type of conflict on Twitter. I spent more than five minutes of this beautiful spring morning clicking through a relationship feud between an elf costumer and a streamer witch. It continues to be a bummer that Twitter’s mechanics lead people into these vicious fights, which become attention-sucking black holes of quote tweets and side threads. I guess one cost of micro-celebrity is having your emotional life torn apart and fed into the personalized checkout-aisle magazine that is everyone else’s timeline.

It’s even more interesting and sad how this dynamic haunts communities who use social media platforms in service of an actual mission. I have a friend who volunteers at farm sanctuaries near NYC, and last week she told me that a sanctuary in New Jersey accused one of the more established ones, Woodstock Farm Sanctuary upstate, of helping two former employees sabotage its operations and steal its animals (!). The two are now in court, people have been fired, and Facebook/Instagram are full of dueling posts and “receipts” compilations. Because these organizations fundraise by cultivating enormous social media audiences, what likely started as a misunderstanding spilled over into their fan bases and then ballooned into a fight that forced hundreds of people to take sides.

In hindsight it seems like having its reputation destroyed by infighting was a risk that Woodstock should have considered before building a viral following. But opting out of social media isn’t really an option for non-profits and small businesses. Big accounts are like zeppelins full of flammable gas; they can keep you aloft as long as the content keeps coming, or they can explode at the slightest sign of conflict.

Here’s what else I’m paying attention to this week: 

Other great newsletters. If newsletters are the new blogs, I should really have a “blogroll” of the ones I’m always excited to open. In the meantime, a few faves:

  • Gnamma: Lukas makes these beautiful connections between artistic practice and the material processes of the earth. Delivered with a degree of open self-reflection that makes you want to work on your own habits.

  • dellsystem: Wendy is a lefty tech writer / worker publishing a short piece on politics and technology every day (😱) in 2019. The newsletter has the highlights, which are great.

  • Notes from a small press: Opinionated and non-condescening explanations from Anne Trubek (of BELT publishing) of the ins-and-outs of making books.

  • Meatspace: Great weekly roundup of internet news and viral silliness. You could ditch Twitter and still hear about the good memes by reading this.

  • THE CITY & The NYC Thorn: Two really good local news roundups which you should read if you live here! The Thorn is from DSA, which, feel free to eye-roll, but did you know a law might pass in June that stabilizes your rent?

  • All my stars: Short dispatches from Joanne Mcneil, who is an incredible writer and observer.

  • Penny Fractions: Wonky newsletter by David Turner about Spotify and the music / audio / streaming industry. I don’t subscribe to a lot of super-nerd newsletters but I like this one.

  • Kneeling Bus: Drew Austin’s writing on urbanism and technology. This one, filtering mobility platforms through the ideas of Ivan Illich, blew me away.

This new Citizen app. It’s a Waze-style aggregator for crime reports, which lets users add incidents and even upload video or comments. It also pulls in content from crime blotters and sends push notifications. Seems suspicious even before you learn it was originally named Vigilante! I think what’s most worrying is the way this and products like the Ring doorbell create a state of “total information awareness” for people with money, smart tech, and a lot of racial fear – a kind of fortified filter bubble for the Permit Pattys of the world that plugs directly into the surveillance state.

Uber stuff. Mike Isaac dissects the IPO disappointment for NYT. Matt Levine explains unicorn logic in normal person language for Bloomberg. Aaron Gordon explains why Uber’s hard line on contract workers actually makes it vulnerable to accusations of price-fixing.

The rise and fall of Philly’s tow-truck king. Just read the story, it’s wild.

Trans-regional gentrification”? This NYT op-ed about abortion by a Brooklynite who decamped to New Orleans made me think about the broader politics of NYC yuppies moving to second-tier cities. Is there even a name for this? You see a lot of trend pieces about Portland and Denver getting more expensive, or places like Pittsburgh and Raleigh attracting millennials, but I’d like to read more about the big picture. Anyway, started an Are.na channel for more links. 

Thanks for reading! If you enjoy this newsletter, please consider suggesting it to a friend :)

Sipping tea,