: Today on Follow Friday, we're going to talk with Bridget Todd, the host of There Are No Girls on the Internet
, about the podcast that changed her life, cautionary tales from The View, and chaotic interviews with controversial people. BRIDGET TODD
: You might have already had a bad attitude about him or not liked him; that interview will make you say, "I am correct in my assessment that he is not a serious person. He is not a thoughtful person." ERIC
: But first, a big thank you to everyone who has donated to support Follow Friday on Patreon
. If you want to be like them, you can find the link in the show notes. And thanks as well to this week's sponsors.
[ad break] ERIC
: OK, here's the show.
[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, take a moment now and please follow or subscribe in your podcast app. ERIC
: Today on the show is Bridget Todd, the host of the award-winning podcast, There Are No Girls on the Internet
. It explores the ways marginalized people have been overlooked online, even though those same people have been shaping the internet from the beginning. She's also the director of communications for the gender justice advocacy group, Ultraviolet
You can find Bridget on Twitter @BridgetMarie
and on Instagram @bridgetmarieindc
. Bridget, welcome to Follow Friday. So glad to have you here. BRIDGET
: I'm glad to be here. Thank you so much for having me. ERIC
: Well, congrats on the recent Shorty award that you won. There Are No Girls on the Internet, you have been on my wishlist for a long time. I'm so glad we finally found time to make this happen. BRIDGET
: Oh, I'm so flattered! ERIC
: I was saying before we started recording that it's a weird week. We're going to get to your fun, cool follow recommendations, but first, there's all this serious s**t going on in the world. And I do want to ask you about something that you're an expert in, which is disinformation and social media.
We're recording just a day after this shooting in Texas where a lot of children died. And right away, there are all these liars online who were spreading disinformation about who the shooter was. And this happens a lot. This is a pattern. People pollute our social media feeds and make it hard to know what's going on. It makes a sad situation even worse.
So, I'm wondering from the work that you've done on the podcast and otherwise, do you have any advice for individuals who are trying to deal with this, how they're seeing disinformation flood the feed and they're not sure what to believe or how to process all the stuff they're saying? BRIDGET
: Yeah. I appreciate that question. I think it's such a hard time to be talking about it. I don't know how folks will feel when this comes out, but for me, it feels very raw. We were just coming off of a wave of pretty brutal shootings in California and Buffalo. Then even before that conversation is done, where folks can process, here we are again.
I just want to hold space for that, because it's a lot. For me, I had a moment last night where I was just kind of enraged. I was on a run when I got the news alert about the shooting. And what made me so angry beyond just the unfathomable loss of these young people and their educators was the fact that I have seen this play out over and over again.
And I was like, there's one image of a young woman from a school shooting that I know they're going to circulate and say, "It's the same woman from Sandy Hook who was at Parkland. It was a false flag. She's an actor."
It's upsetting because I already knew the playbook that we were going to see. Also, there were some new hits, I guess, from folks who are using our internet platforms to spread inaccurate, dangerous information about an active crisis. We talk a lot about how sometimes it can be fringe extremists or bad actors who are doing this, but we also need to contend with the fact that in talking about this shooting, elected officials...
I think it was Rep. Gosar who said
, completely based on nothing, that the perpetrator was trans, and that's not true. And from putting that out into our digital ecosystem, already, I have seen that narrative repeated over and over again.
Here we are. We have the name of the perpetrator; we know who they are. Yet, because of this irresponsible use of our digital platforms to spread lies, hate, and inaccuracies about people who are already marginalized and already underrepresented, this falsehood will persist.
So, for me, it's just enraging. I think that for anybody who feels like I do, who feels powerless perhaps in the face of all of this, it makes sense to feel that way. But we can all play a part in making sure that we're responding in a responsible, ethical way to the wave of BS that we're going to see about this shooting, and really that persists and pops up in any kind of crisis situation.
So, definitely don't engage with it. Even if you want to debunk it or point out how horrible it is, 9 times out of 10, because of the algorithmic nature of our social media platforms, you're actually helping that piece of content to grow and spread and become more powerful. So I would encourage folks to see this as an opportunity to practice mindfulness about how we're absorbing information on social media.
You don't have to retweet everything right away. Take a breath and really ask yourself, "Does this content that I'm about to share have verified information? Is it actually adding to the discourse in a way that is meaningful, that I need to be doing?"
I've already seen people tweeting things and then deleting them and then being like, "I said this and I wish I hadn't," because our emotions are hot. That's completely reasonable. But I would say, in this moment, taking a bit of time to practice mindfulness while we're using social media is key. ERIC
: I love that advice. I saw something someone tweeted yesterday. They said, "Unless your job specifically involves using social media, it's OK to close the apps and not be doom-scrolling all night."
I think that the well-intentioned idea of wanting to stay informed on whatever's happening in the world can lead to some of our worst behaviors. It can lead us to have these hair-trigger angry responses. It can lead us to spread disinformation unknowingly. It could lead to all these dark things, even though we may be approaching it with the best intentions of trying to read a lot and trying to keep abreast of everything. BRIDGET
: Totally. Last night, I completely logged off. I have been using the internet long enough to know what my physical and emotional response is when I'm triggered. And for me, it's exactly what you just described. It's feeling like I need to see and consume every single tweet, every single update, every new piece of information and move very quickly.
So, I caught myself last night, and I realized I am in a highly emotionally charged state where nothing that I put out into the wider social media ecosystem is going to be doing anybody any good anywhere, least of all me. At that moment, I was like, it's time for me to log off and take it to my journal, take it to my group chat, take it to my partner, and not take it to the wider ecosystem of social media. And that's fine.
There are other ways to process externally, other than social media. So learning to recognize your patterns and your triggers, whether it's over-consuming new updates on the news when it's heavy, or something else, I think it can be really good in a moment like this. ERIC
: Well, like I said, we are going to move on to your follow recommendations. You have a great list of some really fun, cool people who we should be following. I do hope that people take that advice for the future. Unfortunately, it does seem like this is not going to be the last of events like this. So, it's really good to bear in mind that there are ways to cope in that way.
But, let's turn to the positive side of social media. Let's find out who Bridget Todd 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 followfridaypodcast.com/bridget
Bridget, before the show, I gave you a list of categories and I asked you to tell me about some people you follow who fit in those categories. Your first pick is in the category "someone you have a crush on," and you said Jonathan Larroquette, who is on Instagram @jonathanlarroquette
. Jonathan is a musician and the co-host of a podcast called Uhh Yeah Dude
, which recently surpassed 900 episodes. Jonathan and his co-host, Seth Romatelli, have been making it since 2006.
I've never listened to this. I was trying to read up on it and trying to understand what exactly it is. Do you want to take a stab at explaining Uhh Yeah Dude? BRIDGET
: Uhh Yeah Dude is the first podcast I ever listened to. It was the podcast that made me fall in love with podcasts. I'm probably not exaggerating to say it low-key changed my life.
It's a podcast where, in the tradition of how all podcasts were in the beginning, it's just two funny guys riffing about the news, but it's also so much more than that. Fun fact: it was one of the earliest podcasts. They debuted in 2006 and most people think of Marc Maron as the first podcaster. But Marc Maron, in his interviews, has credited Uhh Yeah Dude as his inspiration to get into podcasting. So it's a very-early-days-of-podcast.
And it's so funny. When people ask me, "What's your favorite podcast?" I wish I could say something that's very high-brow, but it's definitely Uhh Yeah Dude. ERIC
: And so, they've been doing it continuously since 2006? BRIDGET
: Yeah, continuously since 2006. The podcast has all these little mottos and one of them is "2006 for life" because that's when they started. In 2006, I don't think we even had a concept for what podcasting was going to be. We certainly didn't know how the industry would change and how it would become bigger and more professionalized in a lot of ways. We had no idea.
But the idea of starting this thing back in 2006, and here it is, 2022, and you're not only still doing it, but still going strong. They have a small, but very dedicated fan base. Their live shows sell out massive theaters in big cities. I love that they have been doing it for so long. ERIC
: I was reading about Uhh Yeah Dude and reading things written by their fans. It does seem like they have a lot of … parasocial relationships, for lack of a better word.
Their listeners are really attached to Jonathan and Seth. Why do you say you have a crush on Jonathan? What is it that he
does that makes him so special? BRIDGET
: You're absolutely right about the parasocial relationships. I hope that mine is not creepy. ERIC
: Not the bad kind. BRIDGET
: The normal kind; the healthy kind. In an episode, he once described himself as "big, hairy, and unreliable." And I was like, "That's so my type!" (laughter) I just realized, I probably should have said my husband is my crush. ERIC
: Too late! No backing out now! BRIDGET
: Too late. He's going to listen to this and be like, "Well, you had a chance to say me and you said somebody else. Interesting." (laughter) ERIC
: So, is it too much of a leap to assume that your husband is also big, hairy, and unreliable or is Jonathan a special case? BRIDGET
: Jonathan is a special case. My husband is not big, hairy, but very reliable. I feel like we all have two wolves inside of us. It's like, do you want to go with someone who is hairy, not big, but reliable, or someone who's big, hairy, and unreliable? I feel like we've all got two paths. ERIC
: That personality, the way he describes himself, that comes through, I assume, in how he and Seth talk about the world. I was reading an essay in KQED written by Lizzy Acker
, who's a big fan of the podcast. She says, "They are describing an experience, their experience, and that is the experience of being white, privileged, straight, and male, but also being confused and worried about the implications of that status."
They've been doing this for a long time. This is before the idea of two straight white dudes sitting around and chatting was a cliché or a joke in podcasting. They were pioneers, in a way.
But being a fan of this podcast for so long, how has that changed your outlook on the world or on people like them? How has listening to them changed your perspective on things? BRIDGET
: Oh my God. What a good question. It's so strange. That perspective of straight, white males is not a perspective that I immerse myself in. And that's kind of on purpose because I grew up having to read white men's writing in English classes, and then when I was no longer being assigned it, I was like, I want to immerse myself in something else. I immersed myself in my people and my perspective and people who look like me.
When I first started listening to Uhh Yeah Dude, I realized, I have built up a vibe where I don't spend a lot of time grappling with that experience, or thinking about that perspective. Honestly, their podcast is so intimate and honest and raw, I felt like it was giving me an entry point into a perspective that frankly, I would never encounter.
And what's interesting, I think the essay that you read gets into this. They've been doing this since 2006. I almost, in a lot of ways, feel like we grew up together. I remember in the early days of the podcast, back before we, as a country, were having conversations about things like language and perspectives and how you show up with respect for others and marginalized people, before we were having those conversations, they sounded like a completely different podcast.
As we've progressed as a society, I feel like you hear them grapple with that on the show. There's an episode where they're like, "We've been using the R-slur, just throwing it around, and now we're realizing we can't say that anymore."
It's interesting because I feel like, for better or for worse, we don't really have a lot of spaces where you can hear people grapple with things like that.
I've been in social change movements for a long time and I do think we have this expectation that we expect people to show up with the right ethos and the right language and the right perspective. And I get that, but I also feel like it doesn't leave room to hear the messy conversations of how people become smarter, better, more nuanced, and more thoughtful.
And certainly, I identify with that because I was a hot mess many years ago. I didn't come out of the womb knowing the exact language and the exact right praxis and yada yada. I think that podcasting, particularly the way that their podcast is framed, can be this avenue where you can hear someone deal with things, unlearn things, unpack things, move along. It's just so fascinating to me.
In a lot of ways, I feel like we grew up together. That is the most parasocial thing you could ever say because we did not grow up together. But you know what I mean. I've been listening to them for so long and I feel like I have gotten smarter and they have gotten smarter. We have gotten smarter together. And to have witnessed that and listened to that I think is really special. And we don't have spaces where that can happen in a way that feels okay. ERIC
: I would understand if they decided, "Hey, we're going to delete the first 100 episodes," or whatever, but it seems like they have kept everything, at least maybe for their Patreon supporters. It's possible to listen to that whole journey from the beginning, if you so choose, which I respect. That takes a level of owning up to your own growth and your own past failings that not everyone has. BRIDGET
: Totally. As a podcaster, there's something so … My podcast is a narrative-produced podcast and if I breathe weird, I'm like, "Cut that out." I've taken podcast episodes down for the smallest stuff, but their podcast is not like that. You could go back and listen to their whole back catalog if you wanted, which I definitely respect.
And as somebody who makes a very produced podcast, it's almost euphoric to hear a podcast that's warts and all, where you hear them say the wrong thing, get it wrong, mess up, start again, try again, and apologize. I almost feel like it makes me appreciate the art of podcasting more because that's the stuff that I love about listening to a podcast, when somebody is grappling with something in real time, or learning about something for the first time. Getting to hear that process, I think, is what attracts me to the medium. ERIC
: 100 percent. Well, that was Jonathan Larroquette, who is on Instagram @jonathanlarroquette
. The name of the podcast is Uhh Yeah Dude
: One quick fact: If you're curious if he is related to the actor from Night Court
, it's his son. ERIC
: I think I saw that when I was Googling for him. It was like, "No, not that John Larroquette. The other one."
Bridget, I asked you to tell me about someone that you're embarrassed to admit you follow. And you said Meghan McCain, who is on Twitter
@MeghanMcCain. Meghan is one of those political figures who's always been on the periphery of my bubble. I've never really paid that much attention to her, but she's very famous.
She was the co-host of The View
. She's been a pundit on Fox news and MSNBC. She's the author of several books, including Dirty Sexy Politics
and Bad Republican
. How did you start following Meghan McCain? BRIDGET
: Oh, Meghan McCain. Did I really put that? ERIC
: Yes, you did. I've got it in writing. BRIDGET
: I think I must have been writing this completely divorced from the understanding that I was going to be talking about it in a couple weeks. (laughter) I love to hate Meghan McCain. When her father was running for the presidency, that was when she popped up on my radar. And I'll never forget seeing this interview that she did on Bill Maher many years ago where she was asked by somebody, I can't remember who, "Do you think that the Obama administration blames the Bush administration too much for where we are as a country?" And she was like, "No, I don't think so."
Then whoever asked the question was like, "You're absolutely incorrect. They don't blame the Bush administration nearly enough." They had a whole list of things. And she was like, "Well, some of that was happening when I was a child, when I was nine years old."
That interview really sticks with me because, if you don't know, you could just say that. That one interview crystallized what I find so troublesome and problematic about a whole batch of political media, not right or left, but in general. If you're asked a question like that and you don't know the answer, it's OK to say, "Well, I don't know. Good question. I'm not sure." But the need to come up with a big, grandstand-y answer, only to — when it's mildly poked at — admit that you really have no idea what you're talking about…
For some reason, that interview sticks with me as a real illustration of a deep problem that we have in our discourse. For some reason, she came to represent a certain kind of political media that I really dislike and that I think is holding us back. But yet, I just can't quit it.
I follow her, I engage with her tweets, I've read part of her most recent book. People are always like, "If you hate her so much, why don't you unfollow her?" And that's a good question. Why don't I? ERIC
: What are some of the things that you like about following her? Is it because you agree with her on certain political issues, or is it something about how she has changed since that interview that keeps you coming back? How would you articulate that? BRIDGET
: That's a good question. I think why I hate-follow her — and I'm not sending her mean tweets or anything — but I think why I'm interested in her is that I do think she represents a kind of... how can I put this tastefully, or tactfully?
She's someone who, in a lot of ways, I could see myself not agreeing with, because we could not be less aligned. But in a certain way, I could see her being someone that I have a certain kind of respect for. We're of similar ages. I like the idea of women who are doing their own thing and are outspoken. Those are all things that, on paper, I should like.
And I think that when they come out of her, when it's her who is doing it, she has this way of reminding me that some things are obnoxious and it doesn't matter if I, on paper, should respect them.
It's hard to explain. I watched her a lot on The View
because my mom is obsessed with The View.
Whenever I'm home, mom and I would watch The View
constantly. There's a vibe to her on The View
especially, but also in her book and on Twitter, she kind of always has the position of "aggrieved." It doesn't matter what the conversation is. It doesn't matter what's happening. Her position is "I am aggrieved."
And honestly, it's a kind of cautionary tale for myself that that kind of stance doesn't move people. It's not compelling. And so, if you are trying to move people and find common ground and have conversations that are meaty and interesting, coming from a place of, "I am aggrieved" is never going to be the way to do it. And even on things where I could possibly see where you're coming from here, the stance of just grievance is not good.
I think that Meghan McCain is so interesting because … I've worked in the political space for a long time. And why I got into politics is because I'm a lefty progressive. When I was first getting into politics in college, during the Bush administration, I would be really active in my college, on campus and having these conversations with libertarians, Republicans, conservatives, and people that I did not agree with. But it felt substantive to talk about the ways that we disagreed and the things that we didn't have in common.
And even if we didn't agree, we were still talking about policy conversations that were of substance. I think there was this shift where now we're no longer doing that. One side is saying "two plus two is four," and the other side is saying "two plus two is applesauce." We're not even having the same conversation.
So I think Meghan McCain came about at a time where there weren't a lot of conservative voices that I felt were worth entertaining and that was a new thing for me. I don't agree with what they have to say, but I want all people to be saying things that are useful and thoughtful.
She came about at a time that was a really interesting time for conservative voices. So part of me feels like I should have respect for her, but every time she tweets, I'm like, "Ugh, terrible take again, Meghan." Every time I see her on The View
, I'm like, "Ugh, another horrible take." ERIC
: "Terrible take, I'll see you tomorrow." I'm not super familiar with her politics, but whoever wrote her Wikipedia page was certainly emphasizing ways in which she has tried to push the Republican party to be more socially liberal. She's apparently, based on what I read, very pro-gay rights, which certainly is not the norm in her party. So there are ways in which she is, as she describes herself in the new book, a "bad Republican."
You were talking about talking with people who you disagreed with about policy and the fact that that conversation has basically gone away; just the disconnect between political parties right now. Do you think that individuals who don't work in politics, who are just run-on-the-mill voter, do they have a responsibility to be having those conversations, to be following people? Or is that something that should be left to policymakers and journalists and folks who are actively in the public conversation? BRIDGET
: What a good question. I'm not sure that I have a good answer. I feel like if you would've asked me this 10, 12 years ago, I might've said, "Sure, of course. Get to know people that have different attitudes than you."
I feel like the attitudes that we're discussing sometimes are so unserious. And I don't want to paint people with a wide brush. I don't mean that this is reflective of everybody, but I don't think it's necessarily going to be a fruitful use of your time to have a conversation with somebody who believes that Hillary Clinton is drinking baby's blood, or that Nancy Pelosi is in a dungeon somewhere with children.
I think that it's a real testament to how out of control some of our discourse has gotten. And the fact that people who are leaders of our political parties are saying these perspectives, and it's not just fringe extremists and people on the internet. I don't know that it is a good use of your time always to engage with people if their position is coming from a place of not believing that you are deserving of human rights, or believing something that is completely harmful and dangerous.
I wish I had a better answer to that question. I think it's a good question. I think that these days, I really yearn for what it used to feel like when I was 19 on my college campus having what felt like meaty, substantive debates with people who didn't agree with me. And even though I didn't agree with them, I felt like, we're both talking about policies; we're both bringing something to the table that we feel is meaningful. I yearn for those days because I got a lot out of that. That was really useful to my development, both as a political professional and as a person.
I worry sometimes that we're losing spaces where people can have those kinds of substantive conversation. These days, I don't feel like it would be useful advice to be like, "Yeah, go get out of your bubble." I feel like a lot of us are steeped in the attitudes and perspectives of people that we don't agree with all the time. I think you'd be hard pressed to find somebody who was truly in some kind of a liberal-only bubble. ERIC
: I'm a big proponent of curating your social media feeds pretty aggressively. I'm like, you should unfollow, you should mute, you should block, whatever you gotta do to maintain your sanity. And I'm thinking that my rubric for the people I follow is dehumanizing posts.
If someone is targeting someone for their gender, their sexuality, their race, or anything like that, I feel like that's the automatic, "I don't want to hear from you again." But I think that's also a really good point. We are all surrounded by people who have nuanced views on things. It's harder to do that for the people you know in real life. Maybe that's where the most productive conversations are going to happen. I don't know. BRIDGET
: I agree with you. I'm a huge curator. If somebody dehumanizes even a marginalized group that I'm not part of, I don't have time for it. I feel like we should no longer be coming from a place of trying to convince people that we are deserving of basic human dignity and respect. We're not doing that anymore.
So if you're not there, then bye
. I don't have the time to catch you up to speed. That is your work. That is your ministry. I wish you luck, but do it away from me. ERIC
: Uh-huh. Well, anyway, that was Meghan McCain, who is on Twitter
We are going to take a quick break now, but we'll be back in a minute with Bridget Todd. She's the host of the podcast There Are No Girls on the Internet.
And while we take this little break, I would love it if you could go to lovethepodcast.com/followfriday. That is where you will find links to all the places you can rate and review this podcast, which is a free and easy way to help us grow. The link is in the show notes.
OK, we'll be back after this.
[ad break] ERIC
: Welcome back to Follow Friday. Bridget, let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for someone you don't know, but want to be friends with, and you said Ziwe, who is on Twitter @ziwe
. Ziwe is a comedian and a former writer for Desus & Mero. She now has her own variety show on Showtime called Ziwe
This is how Showtime describes the show: "A no holds barred mix of musical numbers, interviews, and sketches that challenge America's discomfort with race, politics, and other cultural issues." Does that sound right to you? Is that what you go to the show for? BRIDGET
: Oh yes. That's a very apt description. ERIC
: Talk about what she does. How does Ziwe run the show? BRIDGET
: No one does an interview like her. Do you know when you're watching an interview and you can tell the interviewer is being softball or you're like, "Why don't they ask him this?" She asks them that, and then she makes them uncomfortable until they answer.
I love the way that she puts people on the hot seat. And even before she had her show on Showtime, her thing was these very chaotic Instagram Lives that she would do whenever there was a celebrity, usually a white celebrity but not always, who was in hot water for something that they had said or done. She would have them on her Instagram Live for a very deep, needling interview.
I'll never forget the interview that she had with … famous chef, I make her shallot pasta all the time … Alison Roman! It was after Alison Roman was in all that hot water for comments that she made about Chrissy Teigen
. Shortly thereafter. Ziwe had her on Instagram live. And when I tell you that everybody that I knew was glued to our phones to watch this interview…
Another iconic one was the kind of scammy influencer, Caroline Calloway
. She had her on her Instagram Live. So even before she had her Showtime show, her Instagram Live was the place to be. This was the height of COVID also, so we were in the house. I was in the house, glued to Ziwe's Instagram. (laughter) ERIC
: I saw that before the Instagram live, maybe the Instagram is a spinoff of it, she had a YouTube show called Baited. According to Wikipedia, she "baited non-Black friends into making racial faux pas." BRIDGET
: See, it's just chaotic. In a world where everything is polished … I used to be a producer on a podcast where all the guests were A-list, famous people and people would listen to that podcast and be like, "Oh, such and such A-lister is so down to earth and just a regular person." If you knew how many frantic PR people and assistants went into that interview, making you think it was human and down to earth, it would appall you.
So I feel like in a world where there's just so much perfected, polished, PR-driven moments, having people like Ziwe who can really cut through that and give us the real-real and hold people accountable and make people uncomfortable and make us uncomfortable as viewers, I really value.
We do not have enough spaces like that. There's been so many times where I'm like, "Oh my God, I bet her PR person is texting her, 'Stop talking about this right now,' during a Ziwe interview or a Ziwe live stream." But God bless her. We need it. Bring a little chaos to the internet. ERIC
: You mentioned the Alison Roman Instagram live. Are there any other interview highlights that she's done either from her Showtime show, from Instagram, or anywhere else where it's like, "Oh my gosh, this is the ultimate of what makes her so incredible at this"? BRIDGET
: I do have one. When she has people on the show, it's not like she's mean to them or hates them, but she does ask hard-hitting questions. So this is an instance where I was like, "I like them both, but I'm curious to see what happens."
The playwright, Jeremy O. Harris... He is the author of the play "Slave Play," which I have not seen. I would die of happiness to see it, but I have not had a chance. But during the run of that play, it was accused of being a not so great depiction of Black women. And he's Black himself.
So I think that she has a really good way of interrogating intra-community issues in this very nuanced way because Black folks, we are not all a monolith. We think differently. We feel differently. We have different perspectives, and I feel like that interview, in particular, she handled … not delicately, the opposite of delicate, but in a good way. She really got to the sort of needling issues under the surface in a way that I don't think many interviewers could.
So yeah, her interview with Jeremy O. Harris is a good one. Also, her recent interview with Tom Hanks' son, Chet Hanks… ERIC
: Oh, no. I'm out. BRIDGET
: (laughs) You're not on board? ERIC
: I'm like, you gotta really sell me on this one. Do I really need more Chet Hanks content in my life? What's good about that one? BRIDGET
: It's good because … I'm not a huge Chet Hanks fan and what's interesting is that I think her interview shows him... You might have already had a bad attitude about him or not liked him; that interview will make you say, "I am correct in my assessment that he is not a serious person. He is not a thoughtful person."
I went into that interview being like, "I wonder if I'll learn some Chet Hanks nuance." And I walked away thinking, "There's less to Chet Hanks than I thought." (laughter) If that makes sense. ERIC
: It does. Okay. Maybe I'll watch it. Maybe I'll have a drink and turn it on. Let's say Ziwe calls you up tomorrow and says, "Bridget, I just heard you on my favorite podcast, Follow Friday. You seem like a lot of fun. Let's hang out." What do you want to do with your new friend? Do you want to go somewhere with her? Is there something you want to talk to her about? BRIDGET
: What a good question. This is going to be a little bit of a weird answer. I don't know if boys in middle school did this, but girls in middle school and high school, we used to do this horrible thing, which looking back now was torture: The three-way phone call, where you would call someone and be like, "Hey, what do you think about Judy?" And they don't know Judy's on the other line listening.
I would want to time-travel back to junior high and make some really chaotic three-way phone calls where Ziwe's listening in on the other side. That sounds so mean, but it would be a dream come true. ERIC
: I bet she'd be really good at that. I wonder if maybe that's what she used to do and that's how she got so good at what she does. BRIDGET
: She would be a master of the sneaky three-way phone call. ERIC
: Well, that was Ziwe, who is on Twitter @ziwe
Do you have a suggestion of who should be on a future episode of Follow Friday? Send us an email — firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have time for one more follow today. Bridget, I asked you for someone who makes the internet a better place. You said Naj Austin, who is on Instagram @najaustin
and on Twitter @najjmahal
Naj is the founder and CEO of the social networking platform, Somewhere Good
, which describes itself as an audio platform for intimate community conversations. Are you on Somewhere Good? Do you use this platform? BRIDGET
: I think it's only in beta, but I just got it. I have not been optimistic about a social media platform in a really long time. That's how much I enjoy it. ERIC
: Explain how it works for people who either don't know it, or can't get into the beta. BRIDGET
: It's a bit Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces. So it's an audio based platform. I'm a podcaster so I love audio, and it's about building these intimate little communities and groups around niche subjects. I have this thought about platforms like Twitter, Facebook, or TikTok, sometimes they can be a bit much because everybody is invited. So if I wanted to tweet at you, not only are you seeing my tweet, but everybody could be seeing our tweet.
So there's this understanding that sometimes scale, trying to make things as big and open as possible, can be at odds with things like curation and building intimate communities intentionally. So Somewhere Good to me feels like I've returned to this idea of, what if we built intimate communities around niche subjects and things like that.
It's much more intimate. It feels like an exciting, fun place. It reminds me of some of the early days of what social media used to feel like when I was a bit younger, where it felt like you were gathering around the campfire rather than gathering in the cafeteria. ERIC
: Because all the social media companies to date, maybe not Somewhere Good, but all of them, the explicit goal has been to get as big as possible, have as much engagement as possible. And it sounds like this one is intentionally being designed to have different goals, to encourage a different type of engagement that's not quite as public-facing or that would have no chance of ever getting to that scale. Does that sound right? BRIDGET
: That sounds right to me. You would have to ask her for her ultimate mission, but that feels like the experience that I'm having when I'm on the platform. You've really hit on something. I don't know if you can have the goal of being the biggest platform with the most users, which I know that platforms like Facebook and Instagram and TikTok, that's their M.O. I don't know that you can have that as a goal and still keep things like care and intention at the heart of what it feels like to use that platform.
So it's nice to show up online someplace where you feel like a person rather than a user. I feel like the experience of being on other social media platforms, you are very aware that you are a "user" and not a person. But we're all people, and our humanness should be at the center of all of our experiences online, I belive. ERIC
: Well, I saw that Naj, before Somewhere Good, she founded Ethel's Club
, a social club and coworking space for people of color in Brooklyn. Have you been to this space before? Is that how you got introduced to her? BRIDGET
: I'm very familiar with Ethel's Club, but I am not a member. I live in DC. They don't have one here. ERIC
: Oh, my bad. I thought you were in New York. BRIDGET
: I used to live in New York pre-COVID, but now I'm in DC so I have not been able to go.
I think the fact that she founded co-working spaces and community spaces, particularly for people of color, it really demonstrates what she's about. I like the idea of carving out spaces where we can show up authentically as ourselves. The fact that she brought that to first physical spaces with Ethel's Club and then now online spaces with Somewhere Good, I really see the vision that she is trying to create in terms of carving out these intentional spaces online and off where folks can show up and have a different kind of experience. ERIC
: Before the term got distorted out of all recognition, this is how I first learned of the term "safe spaces." It's this idea of a place where you can go where it's just your authentic self. You don't need to be looking over your shoulder. You can have, maybe, a tough conversation without second-guessing yourself. I'm so glad that someone is trying to make that happen online, because it's very difficult to do. BRIDGET
: We don't have nearly enough places… I know the term "safe spaces," people don't like that term now, but we don't have enough spaces where people can just show up authentically as themselves and where it feels good. ERIC
: What are some things you think that we can do to learn from Naj's example? What can regular people do to make the internet a better place in the same way that she does? BRIDGET
: Ooh, I love this question. I would say just really practice being a good steward of the internet, the same way that you want to be a good steward of the environment. Be a good steward of the digital environment as well. So be mindful about what you're putting out on the internet, what you're consuming yourself on the internet. Practice intentional slowing down when you're on the internet.
When I'm scrolling my social media feed, I try to be very aware of how I am feeling. Does this post make me feel anxious or sad? Am I comparing myself to them? It really does start with individual choices and individual mindfulness. Then I would say, even if you're hate-following somebody like Meghan McCain like I am, really think, when you send a tweet or send a post, think like, does this need to be said on this platform by me right now? Is it helpful? Is it kind?
There's so much value in having a perspective, having an attitude, having an idea, and thinking it and being like, "OK, I thought that and I didn't tweet it and there it goes." So really asking yourself before you hit send, is this really what I want to be doing? And just slowing down.
I think social media companies want us to be in this heightened sense where we're smashing retweet and hitting like immediately. That benefits them. It doesn't benefit us. It doesn't make our digital ecosystems any better, any smarter, any more thoughtful. It doesn't make us physically and emotionally feel any better. So why do we continue to engage in behavior that only benefits tech millionaires and billionaires? We shouldn't.
So we should really come from places that champion and care for ourselves and our online and offline communities when we're using these platforms. ERIC
: You mentioned Somewhere Good is in beta now, a limited number of users. I guess the tricky part is, do you have 1,000 different Somewhere Good apps for these small communities? Everyone needs to socially connect in a way that's not with all these angry strangers on Twitter.
I think it's really important and good to have the opportunity to express yourself in a different way, to not feed into that vicious cycle that only benefits Silicon valley billionaires. At the same time, it's that scale question. Where does that happen?
Is it just a lot of very tiny little islands? Is it one island with a lot of neighborhoods? I don't know the answer to this. I'm just wondering what it looks like. BRIDGET
: It's something I grapple with all the time and I think the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. I think that what Naj is doing with Somewhere Good is incredible. End of sentence. Anybody who wants to build their own thing where folks can show up in a different kind of way that's more positive or more thoughtful and more gratifying, I think it's great.
However, people shouldn't have to do that to show up safely and authentically online. I think what they're doing is great, but we deserve to have digital spaces and digital ecosystems where thoughtful content and accurate information are incentivized and can thrive. And we don't have that. It shouldn't be up to us as individuals to go out and raise seed funding to build our own thing and hire coders and this and that. We deserve that. That's what our digital media ecosystems should be because we deserve it.
So, while it's great that people build their own spaces that I'm very excited about, we should still be advocating for tech leaders to do the right thing and own up to this massive responsibility that we, the people, have allowed them to have, and make sure that our spaces are spaces where we can all show up authentically and meaningfully and really thrive. ERIC
: We'll see how Elon Musk does. (laughs) BRIDGET
: I don't have high hopes! ERIC
: Me, either. Me, either! Well, that was Naj Austin, who is on Instagram @najaustin
, and on Twitter @najjmahal
As a reminder, our supporters on Patreon get a fifth bonus follow every week, including one from Bridget! Go to patreon.com/followfriday
and donate any amount to unlock that now. This week, patrons can hear Bridget talking about a brilliant writer and artist who quit Twitter in 2014, but he really needs to come back.
Bridget, before we go, let's make sure that listeners know how to find you online. Where do you want them to follow you? BRIDGET
: You can follow me on Twitter @BridgetMarie
or on Instagram @bridgetmarieindc
. It gets where I live. Or you can listen to my podcast, There Are No Girls on the Internet
, on iHeart radio. You can find it on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts on. ERIC
: You're a pro. I can tell you've said that a couple of times before. BRIDGET
: (laughs) Like 1,000 times a day. ERIC
: You can follow me on Twitter @HeyHeyESJ
, and please subscribe to the Follow Friday newsletter at followfriday.substack.com
If you like this episode, then check out the past Follow Friday interviews with The Stacks host Traci Thomas
, The Guyliner writer Justin Myers
, and comedian Alexis Gay
Follow Friday is a production of LightningPod.fm. Our theme music was written by me and performed by Yona Marie, our show art was illustrated by Dodi Hermawan, and our social media producer is Sydney Grodin. Special thanks to our Big Fri Patreon backers Jon and Justin.
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. I'll see you next Friday.