Follow Friday
Circus nuns, Friendster, Tom Holland

Amanda Aronczyk (Planet Money)

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Planet Money co-host Amanda Aronczyk
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Today on Follow Friday, Planet Money co-host Amanda Aronczyk talks about how she and her colleagues find so many entertaining stories about the economy, and recommends four of her favorite online accounts:

- Someone who has stopped posting but needs to come back: The Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus, @carmeldcj on TikTok
- Someone she's followed forever: Stacey Vanek Smith, @svaneksmith on Twitter and Instagram
- Someone who inspires her: Kathy Liu, @joeywingsorg on Facebook and @joeyswings on YouTube and Instagram
- Someone who she doesn't know, but wants to be friends with: Gbenga Ajilore, @gbenga_ajilore on Twitter

You can get bonus episodes of Follow Friday every week — including a bonus follow recommendation from Amanda, coming next week — when you back Follow Friday on Patreon, starting at just $1 a month.


- Follow Amanda on Twitter @Aronczyk and Planet Money @PlanetMoney on Twitter and TikTok
- Read or listen to Amanda's 2015 story about Kathy Liu and donate to Joey's Wings
- Follow us @followfridaypod on Twitter and Instagram
- Follow Eric on Twitter @heyheyesj

Theme song written by Eric Johnson, and performed by Yona Marie. Show art by Dodi Hermawan.

Thank you to our amazing patrons: Jon, Justin, Amy, Yoichi, Shinri, and Elizabeth

Full transcript of this episode
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ERIC JOHNSON: Today on Follow Friday, we're going to talk about RuneScape, circus nuns, public radio, Friendster, activism, bassoons, and Tom Holland — BUT NOT Timothée Chalamet. That's in a minute with Amanda Aronczyk from NPR's Planet Money.


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[theme song]

ERIC: I'm Eric Johnson. Welcome to Follow Friday, the podcast about who you should follow online. Every week I talk to creative people about who they follow and why. This is a guided tour to the best people on the internet, led by your favorite writers, podcasters comedians, and more.

If this is your first episode of the show, please take a moment now and follow or subscribe in your podcast app. It's free, and you'll get fresh interviews with your favorite creators every week.

Today on the show is Amanda Aronczyk, one of the hosts of the iconic NPR podcast Planet Money. You've probably listened to Planet Money, let's be real, but just in case you haven't, Amanda and her colleagues find creative, entertaining ways to make sense of the big, complicated forces that move the economy.


ERIC: You can find Planet Money wherever you listen to podcasts. And you can find Amanda on Twitter @aronczyk. Amanda, welcome to Follow Friday!

AMANDA: Welcome to me, hello! Thank you so much, this is super exciting.

ERIC: I'm so glad to have you here. I've been listening to Planet Money for a long, long time, maybe one of the first podcasts I ever started listening to. And one of the things I love about it is it's kind of this box of chocolate approach that you all have with stories.

I was looking specifically at your recent stories that you've reported. You've done stories about the COVID vaccine, a mysterious stop sign, and how the financial crisis in Venezuela affected the video game RuneScape. So it doesn't seem like you have a very narrow beat, and I love that. So I'm wondering, to start off, if you could talk a little bit about you and the Planet Money team, how do you decide what to cover, and how do you decide who covers it?

AMANDA: Oh, that's so interesting. By the way, I love that you used the word "iconic" as opposed to like "grandpa's podcast" because it's like a really old podcast at this point.

ERIC: Yeah, by most standards.

AMANDA: Yeah, it's 13 I think, so it's not like old-old, it's just became a teenager or whatever, but yes, iconic very good. I'm pretty new to it, so I still feel like I'm getting my Planet Money legs.

How do we pick our topics? I mean, since I have been there, it has come up once in a while where it's like shouldn't people have a beat, a thing that they focus on, and maybe that would be helpful. But I think there are more people there who like the fact that they can do whatever they are interested in and that's what you get to do.

I do a lot of health and science stuff, when health and science stuff comes in. That's what I have covered before, and so I feel comfortable there. And then there'll be people who you can tell like Mary Childs who comes from a finance background and Barrons and Financial Times and stuff. So we kind of have these circles of things that we know better, and try to lean into that a bit, but we're not forced to be like, that's your beat, you do this, and I don't get to do that, ever. Which is nice.

ERIC: What's your favorite story that you've reported for Planet Money?

AMANDA: Probably that RuneScape one, the one that you mentioned, I love that one. That one cooked on the back-burner for like over a year, and it was mostly because it started before the pandemic, so it was hard to sell video game stories.

This is about this super old video game, and it kind of came back in a wave of nostalgia. And it's so easy, it really requires very little computing power. It became like a big deal in Venezuela and people were making real-world money off of it, and so that's basically the story. And then maybe five or six listeners wrote in and were like, did you know what was happening in RuneScape with Venezuela? There was like listener interest, but the pandemic happened, and so it had to go on the back burner.

And then I had also talked to NPR about going to Venezuela, I couldn't quite figure out how to do it without going there, and that was like a big question mark. I've never been, I speak a little Spanish, but not a lot, and people were like, it's a huge security issue right now. So I got to get away with still doing it because of the pandemic, and it was fine that I was at home.

ERIC: Yeah, and the story opens with you taking a trip to, I forget the name of it, but the virtual world of RuneScape, where you have a tour guide. It's very well done and very clever.

AMANDA: Oh, thank you yeah, it was fun. It was like you can travel, but you have to travel within a video game, so yeah, that was great. And they all live on Discord, which is like a great place to record people, in Discord, there's so much happening and they're already there, so they feel comfortable there.

ERIC: Yeah, that's a good point.

AMANDA: Unlike calling up somebody who's not used to doing what you and I are doing right now. Like being in a booth and recording and headphones, whatever, these guys are all there already, so that was super fun, and also tragic. Because it's a sad story about Venezuela, but the reporting was super interesting.

ERIC: All right, well let's find out who Amanda Aronczyk follows online. You can follow along with us today, every person she recommends will be linked in the show notes and in the transcript at

Amanda, before the show I gave you a list of categories and I asked you to tell me four people you follow, who fit in those categories. Your first pick is in the category is "someone who has stopped posting, but needs to come back" and you said — I wrote in my script here, "deep breath" — the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus, who are, or maybe were on TikTok @CaramelDCJ.

As far as I can tell, and tell me if I'm wrong, this account was run by a group of nuns in the Netherlands, but at some point, they deleted all of their videos. So they have more than 260,000 followers on TikTok, and if you go to their profile, there's nothing there. So who are these nuns, and what's the deal?

AMANDA: Well that is a good question, that is like 'the' question. But you asked me to figure out who do I follow, and I really love TikTok, I have a TikTok problem, it is like the funnest thing ever. I can lose hours and hours. And you asked me who I followed, and I actually don't know who I follow on TikTok. I don't know if you do this too, but I literally just go in and I swim around and I see what's happening. And I basically just watch what is fed to me, which is largely like people getting puppies in boxes videos. Are you in this zone?

ERIC: My personal favorite, it's not a TikTok thing, it's more of a YouTube thing, but it's like at Christmas where either there's a dog in a box or there's the returning veteran parent in a box. Those are reliable hits.

AMANDA: Oh, I have never seen the veteran parent in a box.

ERIC: It's a whole genre. It's pretty saccharine, it's like the kids haven't seen the parent in months and months and it's like "here's this gigantic Christmas box." I don't know.

AMANDA: Saccharine is the right word, but I don't know. I actually saw one the other day, it was an engagement TikTok and a puppy in a box. Like she got a puppy in a box, she's playing with a puppy, and he is standing behind her with the ring, waiting for her to turn around. And I was like oh my God, it's double! That was amazing.

So anyway, I went to TikTok to see what I follow and I only follow 51 people. I don't follow very much. I follow Planet Money, of course, I follow a couple of my coworkers, and then I was like, I don't remember following more than half of these. So when I dug back in my list, I was like oh, the nuns. Had you seen any of these before?

ERIC: No, I had never heard of this account, but clearly I missed something, like, this was hugely popular.

AMANDA: It was hugely popular. And there's more, there are like lots of nuns I guess, that have started their own TikTok accounts, but these nuns were just super delightful. I don't know what to tell you. They have one video where ... they do a lot of duets, that's what is left that you can go see because they took down all their videos.

But I watched one which was this girl just asking them all these questions, like "can you wear clothes, can you shave your legs," and they just answer all of these questions. I remember years ago, one of the first stories that I ever worked on at WNYC, a long time ago, was when the Ringling Brothers came to New York.

And the Ringling Brothers' arrival was like this big deal because my memory of it was that they could never actually get the elephants into Manhattan in an organized fashion. Like they couldn't go over the bridges, they were too heavy. And so the whole arrival of the Ringling Brothers, they would take them through a tunnel, I think? So they would send out their press releases to all the media in New York, and one of the things that they traveled with was a pair of nuns.

I was like, that's crazy, I have to go interview these nuns. So I went to Madison Square Garden, I think was where they were performing, and I got to meet with the nuns and it's like they're living a life in the same world that we are in, but barely. And I just remember asking them all these questions, like "where are your things, where's your stuff?" And they were like "we don't have stuff, we don't have boyfriends, we're not worried about our hair." The reason they were with the circus was because they saw the circus people as ...

ERIC: A kindred spirit?

AMANDA: Not kindred spirits, no, like an itinerant people. So the circus people were itinerant people traveling the land and that they might need spiritual guidance that they can't get because they're on the road.

ERIC: They don't have a community, right.

AMANDA: Well I mean the community is the circus, I guess.

ERIC: Right, a local community.

AMANDA: Yeah, so these nuns had lived in Papua New Guinea for 15 years or something, come back and not know what to do with themselves, and ended up with a circus. So back to TikTok.

ERIC: Yeah, so @CarmelDCJ ...

AMANDA: Yeah, so it's interesting to watch the world engage with them, it's interesting to watch them engage with the world. They're silly and weird and funny, and also like so wholesome. You know, they're nuns!

ERIC: Right, if they weren't wholesome, that would be bigger news.

AMANDA: It's true. So you said 'who needs to come back' so I went to go look at them again and they're gone.

ERIC: Do you know what happened, do you know why they deleted everything?

AMANDA: So I should've given myself more time. I phoned them, I think, yesterday, and I actually did get somebody on the phone, but she spoke Dutch and I don't speak Dutch and we just had a confusing back and forth, whatever. We didn't go anywhere, but I have emailed them. When you click the link on TikTok, what you actually get is like a shop in the Netherlands that sells religious jewelry. So they're still out there, and if I get the answer before this is published, can I get back to you?

ERIC: Absolutely.

AMANDA: Okay, if I had more time, a hundred percent, that is all I would do. It'd be like, what happened, why aren't you on TikTok anymore? Where did you go? Did you guys get in trouble? You know, that's what I worry about, is that the order was like "you guys are being too fun."

ERIC: Right, somehow being on TikTok is ... it's such a surreal thing. I mean it's also mind-blowing the nuns traveling with the circus, but the nuns being active on TikTok and doing things like duets, really using the platform's unique characteristics that way. I don't know, it's just such a strange dissonance for me, where I just never would have guessed A, that they'd be there, and B, that they would have 260,000 followers from being there.

AMANDA: Did you watch the ones that you can see?

ERIC: I only watched a couple of duets that people had posted in the past. It was really funny, they were doing the TikTok memes where there are some sound playing, and then they are performing, acting out the sound. I mean, it was really cool.

AMANDA: Like they're doing lip-syncs, and all this stuff and they're also explaining nun life. Yeah, it's amazing.

ERIC: Okay, well we will stay tuned for the mystery to be solved one day.

AMANDA: I'll try to solve it.

ERIC: That was the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus who are on TikTok @CarmelDCJ, albeit with no videos at the moment.

Amanda, let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for "someone you've followed forever" and you said Stacey Vanek Smith, who is on Twitter and Instagram @svaneksmith. I think it's pretty likely that anyone who knows your work also knows Stacey's, but for the benefit of everyone else who is Stacey Vanek Smith?

AMANDA: Okay, so Stacey Vanek Smith is the host of Planet Money's like what we call our sister show. They come out five days a week, we're like bi-weekly, we do the longer things, they do the shorter things and they do more wonk. That's the idea, it's a little more, if you really want to hear more kinds of wonky economics ideas, you go to The Indicator. She has been at the Indicator or Planet Money, I don't know, six, seven years. I'm not sure. Before that, she was at Marketplace and that is how I knew her. So I went back to look at my Twitter origin story. I'm very addicted to Twitter, I live on Twitter.

ERIC: Join the club.

AMANDA: Are you?

ERIC: Oh, yeah.

AMANDA: I mean, I'm unabashed at this point. For a while I'd be like "Oh no, I'm not really addicted to Twitter or I could leave anytime," and I'm done with that. I love it, it is wonderful, I've made many friends, it's a super positive place for me. I probably should cut back a little, but that's fine.

I have about 2000 people I follow and I scroll down, which is really hard, there must be a better way, but I scroll down to the very beginning and I was like oh yeah, I think I must've joined…Do you know how old Twitter is? I couldn't find my joining year.

ERIC: I think it was like 2007, 2008 when it launched?

AMANDA: Okay. Because I think I must've joined in 2008, I think I'm on year 13.

ERIC: ... It launched in March 2006.

AMANDA: 2006, okay. Yeah, I think I joined in 2008. And so at that time, if I'm not mistaken, I was working at Marketplace and it was kind of the economic crisis-like tale. I was in the public radio world already and I followed Marketplace and I followed Stacey and I followed some friends. And I just remember feeling at the very beginning where you're like, I don't know what's going to happen here, I can't even believe I am still on it.

ERIC: This is back in the era where the joke was like oh, Twitter is just for telling people what you had for lunch. And so following someone, it was a little bit of a mystery of like, what am I actually going to get when I follow this person?

AMANDA: Yeah, that is a good point. I was on Friendster, I'm old enough to remember Friendster. Did you ever do that?

ERIC: No, I never had Friendster. I missed Friendster and MySpace, but I could have had them.

AMANDA: Yeah, Friendster, we just burned through it. It was super fun, and you would put up all your information and you'd like answer some silly questions and then you were like, now what? It kinda ended.

But the fact that you can still find your Twitter record of who you followed when ... Stacey is a great tweeter, she's a supportive positive person, she is a host who is very kind, generous and nice. She is that person in real life, and that person on Twitter too, which is fun. She's a great retweeter, so you're also like oh, I did something funny and Stacey sort of has your back, which is great, and she knows economics at this point back and forth.

I left Marketplace and I left business and economics for years and did health and science. And so to come back, she is a very good, solid person to follow who knows the ins and outs and is also humorous, positive, fun, and a great person to follow. It also just reminded me too, like this week is my 20th year in public radio, I got my job 20 years ago this week.

ERIC: Congratulations!

AMANDA: Thank you. Which I was going to tweet, but then I was like it makes me so old, I kept myself from tweeting it. I was like, I don't think I can take that much crap about my age. So I'm telling you. But it's a weird thing where there's enough people in public radio and it has grown, so it changes and there's new people, but it's also like, everybody kind of knows everybody. And so to go back 13 years and be like wow, basically my career and my friends, and I'm like all in the tank, my friends are all public radio people and I don't really have a life outside of this. I don't, and so we've all just come up together.

So to go back 13 years and be like oh my God, Stacey was there then, Stacey is there now, I kind of can't believe the continuity of it. So that's a bit of a personal follow, but if you follow her, you won't regret it. You'll be happy with what you find.

ERIC: That's a great recommendation. And you mentioned that she was at Marketplace the same time as you, and now you're both at Planet Money/The Indicator. Is there a specific type of story that she covers or a specific story that you remember she has covered that really just knocked your socks off? That was just like wow, she's really good at this.

AMANDA: Oh, that's interesting. I mean, I know from talking with her, she's like "Amanda, if you've got an idea you want to do, there is always an economic angle, I can help you find that."

ERIC: Oh, that's great.


ERIC: So I want to mention another thing if it's all right, that you said in your email to me, which is that another Twitter account you've been following for a long time, since 2010, is @NPR and they do not follow you back.

AMANDA: Dude, they don't follow me back! NPR doesn't follow me back! And for the people who can't see this, I am drinking tea from like the world's biggest NPR mug. Like I just told you, I'm all in the tank, I'm in the tank with NPR and they don't follow me back. I think I've been following this since if I'm right, 2008, 2009.

But it's just gotten to this point where it's super awkward, like what do I do now? I like their stories, I interact with them and it's kind of embarrassing, I'm in Slack now for NPR. I worked at WYNC, which is not NPR, it's like a member station. It's different, you know that, I don't know if your listeners know that or not, but it's different. Now I work for NPR, so I'm in the Slack and I see all the people who run the social media channels and I'm like, can you just follow me back already?

ERIC: It's free to follow someone. It feels like that should just be, when you sign the actual employment paperwork, like I'm working at NPR-NPR, the company, I feel like that's reasonable to ask.

AMANDA: Yes, it is time for you to now follow me. And they follow lots of people, it's not like one of those accounts where they follow one person, they follow thousands of people. I don't know, maybe they'll hear this, and after all these years, they'll finally follow me back.

ERIC: Justice for Amanda, yeah. Memo to the NPR social media people, follow @aronczyk, Everyone else, please follow Stacy Vanek Smith, who is on Twitter and Instagram @svaneksmith.

AMANDA: Eric, I really appreciate that, I hope this works.

ERIC: I got to put them on blast. We're going to take a quick break now, but we'll be back in a minute with Amanda Aronczyk from Planet Money.


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Hey everyone, quick heads up: In the next segment of the show, Amanda and I are going to talk about pediatric cancer. If that's not something you want to hear right now for any reason, you can skip ahead about seven and a half minutes. Thanks.

Welcome back to Follow Friday! Amanda, I asked you to tell me about "someone who inspires you" and you said Kathy Liu, who is at Joeywingsorg on Facebook and Joey's Wings on YouTube and Instagram. You profiled Kathy's family many years ago for a story at WNYC, which I think also ran on All Things Considered. I'll put a link to that story in the show notes because folks should go listen to it, but could you just briefly summarize, what was that about?

AMANDA: Sure. So when I was at WNYC, I was covering health and science, and we collaborated with NPR, PBS, and WNYC, and it was because a book had just come out called the Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. And so they were going to do like this big series about cancer, and I was assigned to work on it and I was like "Oh no, it's going to be really, really hard." And it was extremely hard, but I also learned a ton.

I basically spent a year doing stories about cancer, so it was actually kind of like a particularly exciting moment for treatments. There were these new treatments that were called immunotherapy, it was a few different kinds. And so I had interviewed this woman who I think was a Slate writer who had like stage four skin cancer. I interviewed her in person, and she's like they said I was going to die, I took this thing, it was amazing, I'm fine. So in cancer treatment, there is always these things, this new miracle thing and you have to be very skeptical, but this actually was kind of a breakthrough moment.

So I was working with Paige Cowett, who is now at the New York Times, she's an editor there in their podcasting. And the two of us were working together to do these stories, and I think we were looking for somebody who was going to try drugs experimentally for cancer treatment. Anyway, we came across Kathy Liu and her son, Joey. Joey was 10 and he had kidney cancer and it was very bad. And his mother was this woman who, I don't even know how to describe her, like the ultimate activist parent

She knew everything, she read everything, she had called every doctor in the country and outside of the country. She's originally from China, and she was going to do whatever it took, to the extreme and for better or for worse, and that was definitely challenging for the doctors. So we decided to follow her story, and it's not like we didn't talk about it at the beginning, but I think we thought we were going to watch a miracle happen.

ERIC: Oh. Because you had already done this reporting on the woman with stage four skin cancer, so you thought, we'll see this again.

AMANDA: Right, and it was kind of in the ether and it is always the thing that people hope for, right? It's like they'll be the one, the odds are like 1% chance, and they'll be that 1%.

ERIC: Right.

AMANDA: So we followed his story. I traveled to Florida, I traveled somewhere else, the kid was at two different hospitals and I was basically like in bed with the family, but they gave me a lot of access and ... he didn't make it.

And I still honestly think about this because there was nothing worse. I went to the kid's funeral, I absolutely bawled through the whole thing, it felt like I could not have been less professional. Everyone just wept, but it was also quite beautiful and Kathy had arranged for all the kids to let go of balloons with little cranes on them with Joey's name in it. She was amazing, and I think she knew what she was doing with me, too. I think she understood that getting media attention on her son would be a long-term benefit.

The day after the funeral, I had to go to their house, which I don't usually have to do that kind of thing, like knock on somebody's door when something horrible has happened, but we needed to do it for the story, the story needed that to happen. And I went to the house and already knew this was going to happen, and she had donated some of his organs to charities. She had already...

ERIC: ... mentally prepared for how to deal with whatever was coming next?

AMANDA: That, but also like how am I going to turn what happened to my kid into something really like OK and positive. Anyway, I follow her on Facebook, I have watched her, and this weekend is the seventh anniversary of Joey's Run, they do this 5k run-walk where they raised money. I just watched this woman on Facebook birth a charity for childhood cancer and to like increase research, to increase money to help families, and that has been crazy.

You meet these people who are in your stories and usually you don't really know what happens to them, but now through Facebook, sometimes I follow a few of them or I'm still in touch with a few of them. So just watching what Kathy has done has been kind of incredible.

ERIC: Yeah, and that charity's name is Joey's Wings. So you talked about what made her so impressive while Joey was alive, sort of the work she was putting in to get out there and try and find the right experimental therapy, all of that. Can you talk a bit more about what are some of the things she's been doing in the years since he died? You know, the inspirational things that she's been doing to honor his memory and help other kids like him.

AMANDA: Yeah, I mean that's what you see on Facebook, you see very specific families that she's like we have given this family X amount of money from this charity to help with X travel or treatment or whatever.

ERIC: That's great.

AMANDA: Yeah, and she promotes their stories so that they can get attention, and she's also worked very closely with researchers, too. Researchers need funding to do the work that they are going to do and it's not like a meritocracy of like, oh this disease is the worst, therefore it gets the most money, that's not how it works. Sadly or weirdly or frustratingly, you have to go get it if you think it's important, and so that is what she's been busy doing: Corralling resources for something that she cared a lot about and also lost her son to, but also is looking out for all these other kids. It's amazing.

ERIC: Have you talked to Kathy in the years since?

AMANDA: You know we did, after the fact. We were in touch, I think we must've been texting, I don't know how we were in touch. I've donated to her charity before, and I guess maybe on New Year's I'll still sort of send her something, but no, I haven't heard her voice or called her in years. But now you're making me like, now I think I will because we're doing this and I'll be like "Kathy, I talked about you in this podcast," so I'm sure she'd be kind about it and happy to hear from me.

ERIC: Well I'm certainly inspired by Kathy's story, I'll be making a donation to Joey's Wings, and listeners, if any of you want to do the same, you can go to

That was Kathy Liu, who is at Joeywingsorg on Facebook.

We have time for one more follow today. Amanda, I asked you for "someone you don't know, but want to be friends with" and you said Dr. Gbenga Ajilore, who is on Twitter @gbenga_ajilore. Dr. Ajilore is an economist who works at the US Department of Agriculture, he's a senior advisor on rural development. I'm condensing his very long title.

AMANDA: Yeah, it's a very long, super long title.

ERIC: And if I did my research right, you interviewed him recently for a story on the Indicator. Is that right?

AMANDA: Yeah. So when I said I didn't know him, it's not true. It's kind of a weird thing, I didn't end up interviewing him, but I was in touch with him, so I do know him a little. We've been on the phone a couple of times, but I've never met him and I've never seen him in person. He is actually in a category of people that I assume other people have, which is like people you don't actually know, but they're your friends because you're on Twitter together all the time.

ERIC: I see, yeah.

AMANDA: He's like my pandemic friend. I think there's probably about 15 people that I've considered pandemic friends. We don't know each other, but we were like there for each other, and we were all watching The Mandalorian at the same time or Loki, and yeah, so Gbenga falls in that category.

And when you start a new beat, which is essentially what economics is for me, I did it before, but not in-depth, you need people to help you. So in health and science, I went to a lot of conferences, I went to a lot of group things where you get to meet people in person, and I have not been able to do that. Most of my time at Planet Money, almost all my time has been in my basement, so no conferences, no in-person, whatever.

And so it's been very hard to understand the landscape, the relationships, how do academics work with the government? How does policy get implemented? Who's doing what? I don't feel like I have a handle on it yet, and so I need people like Gbenga, who is my buddy, we're on Twitter, we DM each other. And a couple of times I've gone to him and been like who should I call for X or who should I call for Y? And he's been super helpful, and he's a good Twitter follow. Like, over the course of the pandemic, he learned to play the bassoon.

ERIC: I was going to ask about this, yeah!

AMANDA: That is amazing, A, that you said you were going to do it, and then you did it, and also like ... bassoon, you know?

ERIC: Of all the instruments.

AMANDA: Of all the instruments. When I was in high school, I played clarinet and my husband was a sound recording engineer. And when we met, we were talking about how you tell what instrument in the orchestra different people played, like you can guess. So Eric, can I take a guess? Did you play an instrument?

ERIC: Very briefly, yes, I did not last very long.

AMANDA: I'm going to guess drums.

ERIC: Clarinet.

AMANDA: Clarinet? Eric, come on!

ERIC: I flunked out real fast though, so it just really rub off for me, you know?

AMANDA: So you don't feel like a clarinet person?

ERIC: No, not at all. I do have, sitting outside this room, a ukulele sitting in the corner where I've learned maybe three chords. Two and a half, generously.

AMANDA: Do you feel more of a kinship to that ukulele than the clarinet, more of a ukulele guy?

ERIC: I guess so, I spent more time with the ukulele than I ever spent with a clarinet. I think I was going to ask you what you want to do if you were closer friends with Gbenga in real life, but I think you need to put together a performance of like Peter and the Wolf or something. He's got his bassoon, you've got your clarinet, I think this has got to happen.

AMANDA: That is a very good idea. Just for the record, I don't play the clarinet anymore, yeah, no, no. I guess I'd have to pick it up again and then we could have like adults learning instruments kind of band.

ERIC: Yeah. OK, so if you were hanging out in real life and you weren't, for some reason, putting on a children's concert, what would be like the next thing you would want to do, to be friends with him? Would you want to go somewhere? Would you just want to talk about something in particular?

AMANDA: You know what I want to do? This is so lame. He has a drink night for Econ Twitter that he puts on in DC. And that's kinda what I want, I'm like, help me understand my beat better, invite me to drinks, and just let me listen to you guys talk about whatever it is. My favorite thing is to ask questions, and I would love that.

Is that like the nerdiest answer ever, like me and my new friend are going to go to Econ Twitter night at a bar in DC?

ERIC: Yes. Yes, it is. You found it.

AMANDA: I found it! I want to win some special award for that. So he'd be like my work friend, and that's what I'd want to go do.

ERIC: So back to the bassoon thing, in his Twitter bio, Gbanga says "bassoonist ( has heard on NPR and Politico)." Did he play the bassoon for you, have you heard this yourself?

AMANDA: I think he must have done this for The Indicator. He knows those Indicator people better than he knows me, so I think he must have been on there. It may have been regular NPR, but I suspect the Indicator must've done something with him. And he also wears Christmas sweaters. Did you see any of the videos?

ERIC: No, I haven't seen his Christmas sweaters! I have to look these up.

AMANDA: He's got lots of good sweaters to wear with the bassoon. And he works with the government now, so he can't talk to us as much. But do people usually tell the people that they want to follow for your podcast, in advance of being on your podcast?

ERIC: No, I used to tell people explicitly "don't do that," but even though I stopped saying that, people generally don't say in advance.

AMANDA: Yeah, he's going to really wonder about me now. Sorry.

ERIC: I sometimes see the follow-up of people who have been recommended on the show talking with the folks who recommended them. Like an early episode, Alie Ward from Ologies was talking about how much she loved Chris Fleming, the comedian. And afterward, I saw him say on Twitter to her like hey, Ali, let's get coffee, let's hang out, let's be friends.

AMANDA: No kidding, so maybe I should have picked a bigger celebrity. Who should I have picked that I wanted to hang out with? I kind of want to hang out with Zendaya and what's his name? Her boyfriend. Tom Holland, I think.

ERIC: Which one is she dating? Him or Timothée Chalamet, that was the coin toss.

AMANDA: Not Chalamet, I don't want to hang out with Chalamet. I want to hang out with Tom Holland and Zendaya because of their lip-sync thing. Did you ever see that?


AMANDA: I am going to send it to you.

ERIC: Okay.

AMANDA: It's Tom Holland doing Rihanna's Umbrella.

ERIC: Oh, I have seen that, yes!

AMANDA: It's amazing, and I'm like, I think you guys are cool. Whenever there's like dumb videos that show up of them anywhere I go and watch them. That's who I should have recommended. Next time.

ERIC: The next time, we'll have you back on the show in a year.

AMANDA: Thank you.

ERIC: Is there anything specific that comes to mind that talking to Gbenga has really illuminated? Has like completely turned you around on something, changed your mind on something, blown your mind in some way?

AMANDA: You consume these things, and I read the tweets and I read it and I absorb it and I read it and I absorb it, but do I remember each one? Not really. I know he said something about ... his focus is on rural America now, and I know he said people think of it as like this place full of just white people, and that's kind of this weird take on rural America. I remember being like oh yeah, that is interesting. I've heard that from a few people where it's like that's not the case at all, and that's not actually where the lines fall, and that stays with me.

ERIC: That's an important myth to clear up.

AMANDA: Yeah, for sure.

ERIC: All right. Well that was Dr. Gbenga Ajilore, who is on Twitter @gbenga_agilore.

AMANDA: Hopefully he won't get in trouble for me having recommended him.

ERIC: It's a free country.

AMANDA: That's true.

ERIC: Amanda, thank you for sharing these follows with us today. Before we go, let's make sure listeners know how to find you online. Where do you want them to follow you?

AMANDA: At Twitter, that's where it's at. I'm never going to put anything up on TikTok so they should follow me @aronczyk, and that's on Twitter. Or wait! You should also follow @PlanetMoney too. And you should follow Planet Money on TikTok, which is weirdly good. I don't know what to tell you, it's super good.

ERIC: I've seen the Planet Money TikToks, and I gotta say it's maybe like the best/weirdest media account on there. It is wild.

AMANDA: I take zero credit, I have nothing to do with it. I don't know why it's so good, but they're great.

ERIC: Follow me on Twitter @heyheyesj, and don't forget to follow or subscribe to this podcast in your podcast app. If you like this episode, then check out the past Follow Friday interviews with Kara Swisher from the New York Times, Johana Bhuiyan from The Guardian and Dave Pell from NextDraft.

Follow Friday's theme music was written by me and performed by Yona Marie. Our show art was illustrated by Dodi Hermawan. Special thanks to our Big Fri patrons on Patreon, Jon and Justin. Visit for bonus episodes and more.

That's all for this week. This is Eric Johnson, reminding you to talk about people behind their backs, and when you do, say something nice. See you next Friday!

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