: Today on Follow Friday, we're going to talk about himbos, bimbos, ice cream, frog bread, self-help, astrology, 30something punks, dyeing your hair, cottagecore, and how to forage for wild mushrooms without
accidentally killing yourself. That's in a minute, with Morgan Sung from Mashable.
But first, today's show is brought to you by the new and improved Twitter account for this podcast, which is @followfridaypod
. I was just talking with someone about the fact that I don't use this Twitter as much as I should. And there is no time like the present! I'm starting to retweet the best posts from the people you have heard on this show, as well as news about what they're working on and more. So if you use Twitter, go give us a follow at @followfridaypod
: I'm Eric Johnson. Welcome to Follow Friday, a 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. You can support the show and get bonus episodes for as little as a dollar a month at patreon.com/followfriday
Today on the show is Morgan Sung, an award-winning reporter who writes about internet culture for Mashable
. She has covered everything from TikTok trends, to online dating, to niche internet communities. You can find Morgan on Twitter @morgan_sung
and on Instagram @morgansung
Morgan, welcome to Follow Friday.MORGAN
: Hi, thanks for having me.ERIC
: So excited to meet you, to talk to you. I was introduced to your work from a previous guest on this show, Ryan Broderick from Garbage Day
. He said he was very jealous of the stuff that you've written for Mashable. He specifically mentioned something you wrote that he called "the bimbo piece
." For the uninitiated: Himbos, bimbos. What's the deal? What should we know?MORGAN
: "Bimbo" started out as a pretty misogynistic term to describe women. Around last summer, people started idealizing himbos, which are pretty much the same as bimbos, but they're hot, they're kind of dumb, and they're really respectful. They love women, but ultimately, they're just hot, stupid men that you love. You're like, "Oh, you're so endearing."
In the midst of all that, a lot of women were like, "How come we don't idealize bimbos the same way?" How come women are expected to have it all; be powerful, be hot, be attractive, and above all, be intelligent and contribute something to society intellectually? Whereas these men who are described as himbos, we're like, "Look at you. You're so hot and dumb."ERIC
: "Good work! Keep it up."MORGAN
: Right. Like Kronk from The Emperor's New Groove, the perfect Himbo. He just respects women. He's not smart. He definitely doesn't know how to read.ERIC
: He loves baking. He loves sharing what he makes with people.MORGAN
[clip from The Emperor's New Groove]YZMA
: "Is everything ready for tonight?KRONK
: Oh yeah, I thought we'd start off with soup and a light salad, and then see how we feel after that.YZMA
: Not the dinner! [whispers] The you-know
: [loudly] Oh, right
! The poison for Kuzco. The poison chosen specially to kill Kuzco. Kuzco's poison. ... That poison?YZMA
: Yes! That poison!KRONK
: Gotcha covered."MORGAN
: He just wants to cook and share his food. In the midst of all that, women were like, "Hey, I want to be a bimbo! I'm tired of wanting to be accomplished. I'm tired of #girlboss culture. I don't want to give into this capitalist market and get nothing in return. I just want to be pretty and not have to be expected to be intellectual all the time."
I read about that trend and how it's controversial, but at the same time, a lot of feminist women were like, "Hey, I'm tired of this. I'm tired of needing to know everything all the time."
Personally, that was something that really resonated with me, as someone who's painfully online. I think if you're going to have any sort of online presence or even just engage with online culture at all, you're expected to be on top of the discourse. You have to know everything at once. It's a lot of reading, and sometimes I'm tired.ERIC
: Well, let's find out who the painfully online Morgan Sung follows. 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.
Morgan, 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 someone that you're jealous of, and you said Bettina Makalintal. She's a food and culture writer for Bon Appetit, and previously wrote for Vice.com's food section Munchies. She's on Twitter @bettinamak
. She's also on Instagram @buttina
You said in your email that you're jealous of Bettina and that she also inspires you. Talk about her work. Why does it resonate so much with you?MORGAN
: Bettina writes, obviously, incredible food pieces, but also manages to really tie in aspects of classism and race into those food pieces. She did this really beautiful piece about why... She writes a lot about Asian American culture and as an Asian American person, I'm always like, "Man, I want to write about this." But I sometimes feel like it's too personal and I can't separate myself from that writing. So, I really admire and I'm deeply jealous of anyone who can write pieces about race and culture and all that without getting too emotionally attached to your own writing.
I don't know if she does get too emotionally attached. It just takes so much to write things like that and put it out in the world. That's something I admire. She wrote this gorgeous piece
during the "Stop Asian Hate" campaign: Why are we pointing this out, "If we didn't have Asian American people, we wouldn't have their food?" Why is our culture so deeply linked to our food and our worth as humans linked to our food? I thought that was a gorgeous piece.
I'm also deeply jealous and inspired by her food pictures, which she always posts on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. It all looks amazing and every time I see something I'm like, "Damn, I wish I could make that."
I started a new medication about two years ago that affects my appetite. Food for me was always like, "Oh God, something I have to eat now." Great. Here's some nutritional mush of some sort. I'm just getting calories in. Whenever I see Bettina's things, I'm like, "Wow, that looks really good! That's something I actually want to eat," which is new for me, so I was inspired by that.
All of it just looks amazing. Bettina, I really want to be your friend. I hope that's not weird.ERIC
: That answers one of my questions. So you haven't met her in real life? This is just an online…?MORGAN
: We've been Twitter mutuals for a bit. Every time she posts food, I'm like, "I know you live across the country, but how do I befriend you? How do I go to a dinner party hosted by you and contribute a store-bought pie or something?"ERIC
: What you were saying earlier about speaking from her identity, applying that to food, did you see the thing that she wrote about the Kraft Mac and Cheese Ice Cream
: I didn't read that piece specifically, but I did see a lot about the Kraft Mac and Cheese Ice Cream. What did she say in the piece?ERIC
: She was talking about how there's all this knee-jerk, typical Twitter blowback as soon as it was announced. This was a thing like several months ago, I think. It was like all those people being like, "Ew." "Gross." "Cheese ice cream." And she was just like, "In the Philippines, we've been making cheese ice cream for a long time, and you know what? It's amazing." She was like, "If you don't like this reflexively, you're wrong. It's probably good."MORGAN
: I love that she can take something like a knee-jerk reaction of like "ew, cheese ice cream" and apply it to critiquing the way people have internalized racism. I think that's fascinating.ERIC
: I was looking at her recent articles. She wrote about pork rinds becoming a "healthy snack"
, tinned fish becoming "hot girl food"
. Are there any other specific things that she's written that you saw and you were a little jealous of because she beat you to it? She got there first?MORGAN
: Sometimes our beats overlap. I don't really write about food that often, but I do write about things like internet culture and viral trends. Way back at the very start of the pandemic, she wrote this piece on frog bread
. I don't know if you've seen it.ERIC
: No, I missed this one!MORGAN
: It was a TikTok trend for a while and she wrote this fun piece about, "Hey look, everyone's making bread that's shaped like frogs." Basically, it's a loaf of bread that you add two smaller chunks of dough to and then add little eyes and it looks like a little squatting frog. It's so cute.
I just remember seeing that and being like, "Man, what a great piece!" I just wish I had caught that earlier on. It was the kind of thing where I saw a video of someone making frog bread that morning and then saw that she had published a piece of frog bread. I was like, "That's so good."ERIC
: Just a little bit ahead of the curve.MORGAN
: Also, such a delightful piece about the pandemic and everyone's love of baking. Not to say that I wanted to look away from everything terrible that was happening, but it was just a nice reprieve. Frog bread! Adorable.ERIC
: Yeah. At the start of the pandemic, there was a big upsurge in people suddenly taking bread baking of all kinds, and stuff like that. I certainly have gotten a lot more proficient at cooking all sorts of stuff at home.
From the past year, year and a half, what's been the biggest change in your relationship with food? Either what you're making, what you're eating, and that sort of stuff.MORGAN
: For one, I started writing down a meal plan every day, or like for the week, because I, before this, was very much the kind of person who would go to the grocery store and be like, "I guess I'll make something with this and I'll make something with this." I'd always have food waste or I'd be hungry in the middle of the night and go to the fridge and be like, "What can I make with blueberries and bacon and a bunch of orzo?"ERIC
: That sounds alright.MORGAN
: I'm sure someone brilliant can make something, but before the pandemic, it was really like I was just playing Chopped every day because I would just go to the grocery store, with zero plan. What's really changed in my relationship with food is finally being like, "Okay, this week, I'm going to make these things and buy only the ingredients for these things."
So, I've had a lot less food waste, a lot less opening the fridge and sighing and just Postmating something. Many fewer chaotic grocery trips, for sure.ERIC
: That's good. Happy to hear that that was Bettina Makalintal, who's on Twitter @bettinamak
Morgan, your next follow is someone you have a love/hate relationship with. That's the Instagram account @afffirmations
. Their Instagram username is the word affirmations, except it's spelled with three F's. Looking at this account, it's giving me flashbacks to one of the weirdest things ever mentioned on this show, the Horse Mafia
For any listeners who are not currently driving, it may be helpful to go to @afffirmations on Instagram just to see what we're talking about. Morgan, do you want to take a stab at describing what a normal post on @afffirmations looks like?MORGAN
: It's almost like if you took one of those self-care, aesthetically-pleasing Instagram accounts that posts cutesy graphics like, "Don't forget to drink water today," or, "You're doing the best you can and that's great" ... It's like if this post was personified and then fed nothing but Juul pods, and Monster energy drinks for a year, and kept in a dark room, it's like that.
Everything is very chaotic, very bright, a lot of neon colors, a lot of strange word art. And it's all things like, "I will not get symptoms after Googling disease.'' Or it's a stock image of someone or a Mr. Krabs meme in a dizzy state and it says, "I am not feeling mysterious pains." "I am not acting strangely at airport security." It's stuff like that.
Oh! My cat is turning off ... she managed to turn off my light. Anyway. Sorry.ERIC
: Agent of chaos.MORGAN
: She really is. If she could read, she would love this Instagram page.
I don't know. I've definitely fallen prey to the whole self-care trend; self-care without actually doing any self-care work trend. I feel like this page is just a much more realistic affirmation that everyone needs in life. It's not faking anything. It's all kind of funny and it's all very realistic.
Who hasn't Googled something or a mysterious pain and been like, "Oh my God, I have bone cancer." Or, "Oh God, I have this mysterious disease that only originates in the depths of a rainforest."ERIC
: "When did I go to the rainforest? I forget, but I probably have this anyway."MORGAN
: I did that exact thing last week after a hike, when I had a weird bump on my leg and I was like, "Oh my God, it's a tick." I live in Southern California. There are no ticks here, but it's definitely a tick. It was just a bump on my leg. It went away the next day.
I love that this page is like, "I do not have symptoms of a mysterious disease." It's like a kind of love/hate relationship because it's so real. Things like, "I will not cry alone at 4:00 AM." "Climate change does not worsen my mental health." "I am vital to the group chat."
It's kind of taking all your insecurities and putting it in neon font and being like, "You're okay."ERIC
: When I was looking at this account for the first time, this is what I wrote down in my notes. It reminded me of Spam, as in the meat product, because there's lots of people who get a lot out of it. There's lots of people who find it to be a delicacy and I'm just a little bit just not convinced, a little bit grossed out by it.
That's how I felt about this, but I'm willing to be convinced. And it does sound like, at the core of it, it sounds like there is an important message. Even though the aesthetic of this account is kind of ridiculous and maybe invites being made fun of a little bit, it's still getting at something that is meaningful and helpful in some way to you. Am I getting there a little bit?MORGAN
: Yeah, totally. For one, I'm the kind of person who loves Spam and I think that's just growing up Korean. It's just part of the culture. Second of all, I think it's that very online sense of humor where you're like, "This doesn't really make sense and I definitely feel a little bit called out but also reassured." It's chaotic and a little bit nihilist.
It's kind of got that little Dadaist twist that makes it so viral online. I guess that's the appeal to me. Sure, some could argue it's inauthentic, but it doesn't feel as inauthentic as aestheticizing mental health. You're not looking at this and being like, "Yes, I can cure my anxiety with a walk outside." You're looking at this and being like, "Cool. I am not going crazy."ERIC
: It's certainly better than some aspects of self-help culture, where it's like completely ignoring mental health. I'm thinking specifically of hustle culture, and stuff like that, which is just, "Work harder, grind harder. Don't listen to what your brain is telling you." It could be a lot worse than this. I think positive affirmations, in whatever form they come, I think there's definitely some value there.MORGAN
: I feel like it doesn't play into toxic positivity as much as a lot of other self-help mental health accounts do.ERIC
: But you said that you have a love/hate relationship with it. What's the hate side of it? What are your reservations about @afffirmations?MORGAN
: To be honest, it's mostly a lot of my friends who follow it will DM things to me and be like, "Ha ha. This is you." I'm like, "Come on." I do the same thing where I DM my friends things that will call them out. Sending each other astrology posts where they bully you for the time of year you were born. I just love that.
I'm against all forms of discrimination, except for astrology. I've been wronged by many a fire sign.ERIC
: I'm very not in touch with astrological significance. I am a Leo. What does that mean? Is there some specific trait that I should be aware of, some stereotype that I should be concerned about?MORGAN
: I think Leos are known for being very over the top.ERIC
: Yeah. That tracks.MORGAN
: Not a bad thing. I'm a Pisces, so I can't really judge.ERIC
: I have more than 700 DVDs, so I think that that qualifies as over the top. Well, that was the Instagram account @afffirmations
. We're going to take a quick break now, but we'll be back in a minute with Morgan Sung.
Today's show is brought to you by the Patreon page for Follow Friday
. That is where you need to go to get a bonus follow recommendation after every episode. And the Patreon episode with Morgan Sung will be out on Monday or Tuesday. Here's a little preview of that. MORGAN
: "So, I follow a lot of roller skaters, and I was watching her do one of these moves I was trying to replicate. And I found out, she's also a journalist! I was like, that's so cool! Another journalist who skates." ERIC
: So, go to patreon.com/followfriday
. You can pledge any amount you want to support the show, starting at just one dollar a month. No matter how much you pledge, you'll get a shout-out on the show and you get the bonus episodes and more. That's patreon.com/followfriday
Welcome back to Follow Friday. Morgan, I asked you to tell me about someone you don't know but want to be friends with, and you said Madeline Pendleton. She's on TikTok @madeline_pendleton
. I watched a few of her videos and I'm very into this one, right away. Explain what Madeline does and why you want to be friends with her.MORGAN
: Madeline is a fashion designer who lives in LA. I found her on TikTok and she's been described on TikTok as everyone's cool aunt or cool older sister because she's a little older than the stereotypical TikTok user. She's 34, but she's so cool.
She is super punk. She is really artsy. She's hella socialist and "down with the man," but also being like, "Hey, I have to make a living wage too. I'm also stuck in this capitalist machine like the rest of us, but here are the ways I do it ethically." I just think she's really cool.
She owns a clothing brand that I think is pretty sick. I think she's cool because she's in her 30s, but she doesn't have that mentality of "You need to settle down. You need to get your s**t together." Although she does seem like she has her s**t together.
She's like, "You don't have to be confined to corporate culture and have a natural hair color and not do crazy makeup." I like that her whole thing is teaching young people that you can still be really artsy and super punk well into your 30s. There's no pressure to do the traditional nuclear family thing.ERIC
: As you say, she has this amazing punk hairstyle — I wrote down in my notes, "Harley Quinn adjacent hair" — tons of jewelry, very intense eye contact. Yet it seems like a lot of the videos that she's posting, she's giving advice to maybe teens and 20-somethings, people who are really figuring things out and giving really rock-solid advice on adulting, on relationships, on making a living in the most ethical way you can.
Was there a specific thing you remember watching of hers that got hooked? Do you remember what specifically she was talking about when you first discovered her channel?MORGAN
: I'm not going to lie; I fully learned how to budget from her. She had a whole video series about being young and living in a major city and struggling to save money. I'm in my mid-twenties living in a major city. Her whole thing was like, "I think a lot of budgeting tips are super outdated, like avoiding coffee or not buying coffee out and avoiding your avocado toast, not having Netflix."
A lot of budgeting things like that are unrealistic so here are ways to budget instead. It was all stuff like splitting your paycheck into multiple accounts and only having one debit card linked to one account for your spending money. I was like, "That's so smart." The budgeting tips that a lot of boomers would have just don't work in today's world.ERIC
: They're either outdated or super judgy.MORGAN
: Exactly. And it's almost like a lot of it has the mentality of if you don't make a certain amount of money, you don't deserve a quality of life or you don't deserve a certain living standard. I really liked her approach was like, "No, of course, you deserve that living standard. Here are ways to work around it. Here are ways to achieve it while still not having a super high income."
I like that a lot of her videos don't come off as condescending, even though she's usually talking to a much younger audience.ERIC
: You described her as what, TikTok's aunt?MORGAN
: She's TikTok's cool aunt, TikTok's cool older sister. Not quite a parental figure, but still a figure of authority, advice, and good mentorship.ERIC
: What we're not saying is, she's very funny. MORGAN
: Oh, yeah!ERIC
: She's got a really strong personality, a really good sense of humor and I think the aunt or cool older sister is a great description, because she has the authority of like, "Here's how it really is." Then she's like, "I'm not going to jerk you around. I'm not going to talk down to you."
It's very much like, "I have more authority or credibility on this topic than you do, but you should still listen to me." "I'm still going to talk to you in a real way and in a funny way."MORGAN
[clip from Madeline Pendleton video
: "OK, yeah, when you're mentally ill and you make friends with other mentally ill people, at first you're like 'Sick. We're all mentally ill.' But then eventually, you're like 'Aw, f**k! We're all mentally ill.' And the reality is, sometimes you're not going to be able to be there for your friends, because you're f**king mentally ill, too! And they're not going to know that, unless you communicate boundaries. But the good news is, in my experience, other mentally ill people are really great at understanding and respecting boundaries, especially if they've been heavily therapized. Oh my God, they're going to get it. And if they haven't it, they're gonna be empathetic, probably, at least."MORGAN
: I also really like that she talks about her late teens and 20, not as a lot of others "responsible" creators do where they're like, "Well, I did this and that's why I can live this way." Or, "I didn't have a social life in my 20s and that's how I owned a house." She's like, "Here are the ways I f**ked up. You can do that too, and here's how I fixed it, or you can avoid it." I really like that approach.ERIC
: But so if you had a one-on-one audience with her and you could ask her for advice on something, what would be the thing that you would want advice from her about?MORGAN
: I'm going to be honest, I want to know how she dyes her hair so often without completely nuking it. I'm sure she has so much knowledge and experience about owning a business, designing clothes and all that, or even she's lived in LA for a long time. I moved here four years ago, so I'm in a place where I'm finally settled in, but I still want to know what's up with the city.
I'm sure she has a lot of advice on that, but I dyed my hair all through college. I got back into it after the pandemic and started dying my hair all over again. Now, I'm at a point where it's been two years of constantly bleaching and dyeing my hair at home and I should probably give it a break. But how is Madeline doing it?ERIC
: She changes it all the time, yeah.MORGAN
: Yeah, definitely. I just want to know how she's not balding, because I had points during the pandemic where I was dyeing and bleaching my hair pretty much twice a month. And it was like, okay, my hair is falling out. This is bad.ERIC
: Well, that was Madeline Pendleton, who's on TikTok @madeline_pendleton
We have time for one more follow today. Morgan, I asked you for someone who's an expert in a very specific niche that you love. You said Alexis Nicole, who is on Instagram @blackforager
. Alexis describes herself as a "foraging and envirosci enthusiast" and a "vegan food concocter." What specifically do you love about her Instagram account?MORGAN
: I found her Instagram account at the height of TikTok's obsession with cottagecore, which is this aesthetic that's an idealized version of a pastoral lifestyle. It was really huge in Sapphic communities and it's what it sounds like. Cottagecore is just fantasizing about living in some sort of forest cottage.ERIC
: Not to be confused with goblincore
, which you've also written about.MORGAN
: Yes, cottagecore's feral younger cousin, goblincore. I remember at the beginning of the pandemic, being very stressed and depressed and not doing a great job of taking care of my own mental health and following a whole bunch of these accounts. I was like, "This is a really nice lifestyle. This is such a delightful escape from what's going on right now.
Her whole thing is foraging, which is a very cottagecore thing to do. and she does all these really cool educational videos on like, "Here's a mushroom that you can eat." "Here's a mushroom that looks like it that you definitely should not eat." "Here are some sprouts that would be great salad toppings."
I also like that for a lot of her videos, she doesn't necessarily venture deep into some wilderness to forage. She does it in cities, in the suburbs. I've never tried foraging, to be honest. I watch all of her videos. I'm obsessed, but I personally am terrified of foraging.ERIC
: Really. Why?MORGAN
: Knowing my luck and knowing my own arrogance, I would absolutely pick up a leaf and be like, "I'm going to make a salad out of these leaves and then poison myself somehow." Which is unrealistic. She has a lot of amazing videos on how to avoid doing that kind of thing.
I'm just convinced that I would absolutely poison myself, or give myself a weird throat rash. I don't know.ERIC
: I saw one of the videos that she made. It was about twin plants that grow next to each other and she's like, "Okay, this one is poisonous, this one's delicious." Then she explains, "Here's how to tell them apart." "Here's the poisonous one; it produces this milky substance if you squeeze it. This one doesn't produce anything. Go ahead and throw it into a salad or whatever."
I appreciate the fact that she is, for people like me who also have never dared to try foraging, she is trying to provide some helpful guidance to encourage people to get out there and do it once we get over ourselves a little bit.MORGAN
: Absolutely. Yeah. I think it's so cool. It's also fascinating to see plants in their natural habitat. I think I am a pretty avid gardener. I've got like a fig tree growing on my LA balcony and that's my pride and joy. I've got house plants all over the place and a little herb garden that I love.
It's very self-contained and it's very controlled. It's like if I can look at my herb garden and pinpoint out herbs and be like, "This stem is from this herb, and that can go into these foods." But if I were out in the wild, I would never be able to pick that out myself. If it's not in my little balcony garden box, I have no idea.
I just like that. She forces me out of my little city mindset and into, "Oh, there's a garden outside of the Home Depot garden section."ERIC
: She also brings this really fun energy to the videos, which is not what I was expecting when I saw that she was a forager. She's really funny. There's a lot of fun stuff where she's bringing her phone closer to her face and then pulling it back out to have some dynamic zooming going on.
I think it's really impressive the fact that she's able to communicate all of this while doing live video editing. She's making it into a celebration of nature. It's not like, "Here's this outdated thing that people used to do for sustenance." You can tell that she genuinely loves doing this, which is so nice to see.MORGAN
: There's so much joy in all of her videos, which are mostly educational. It really reminds me of those Discovery Kids shows, or like The Crocodile Hunter show that I grew up on. There's just so much joy in educating about nature. I love that energy.ERIC
: I think on balance, foraging is still safer than wrestling crocodiles.MORGAN
: Yeah, I think I would realistically work myself up to doing one over the other. But I'm learning a lot either way!ERIC
: Exactly. That was Alexis Nicole, who's on Instagram @blackforager
. Morgan, thank you for sharing these follows with us today. I loved all of them. Before we go, let's make sure the listeners know how to find you online. Where do you want them to follow you?MORGAN
: You can find me on Twitter. I'm @morgan_sung
or you can find me on Instagram, which is @morgansung
. I've tried having the same handle and someone on Twitter has Morgan Sung with no underscore and someone on Instagram has Morgan underscore sung, which is the most infuriating thing.ERIC
: That's so rude. Why can't they just understand that it'd be so convenient for you?MORGAN
: I know. It's really doing a number on my brand. Come on! But that's how you can follow me.ERIC
: Well, follow me on Twitter @heyheyesj
and this show on Twitter
, and TikTok
at followfridaypod, no competition there. Follow Friday's theme music was written by me and performed by Yona Marie
. Our show art was illustrated by Dodi Hermawan
. 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!