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Roman Mars (99% Invisible)

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99% Invisible host Roman Mars
"When you're a broadcaster, you don't have a conversation you can't use as content," jokes Roman Mars — well, mostly jokes. The host of 99% Invisible says he's trying to use the internet more thoughtfully than he used to, and that includes not needing to share everything with the world.

"The past year, it's been really the focus of my time, actually not having every thought be on social media and making everything into something," he says.

Today on Follow Friday, Roman talks about which creators he likes to follow, including: Constitutional law professor Elizabeth Joh (@elizabeth_joh on Twitter); writer and podcaster John Green (@literallyjohngreen on TikTok); competent people who calmly do things well, such as @stellarsidewalks, @texasbeeworks, and @rightchoiceshearing on TikTok; and the subreddit /r/oddlysatisfying.

And on Follow Friday's Patreon page, you can unlock an extended version of this interview in which Roman shares a bonus follow recommendation! Thank you to our amazing patrons: Jon, Justin, Amy, Yoichi, Danielle, and Elizabeth.

This show is a production of, hosted and produced by Eric Johnson

Music: Yona Marie

Show art: Dodi Hermawan

Social media producer: Sydney Grodin
Full transcript of this episode
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ERIC JOHNSON: Next week on Follow Friday will be our season finale. I'll have more to say about everything then, but FYI – our Patreon supporters will still get exclusive bonus follow recommendations from these last two guests. So if you want in on that, you can still pledge $1 or more at At the end of the month, I will pause the Patreon page, which means you only have a limited time to unlock dozens of bonus follow recommendations from the amazing folks who have been on this 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.

Today on the show is Roman Mars, the creator and host of the podcast 99% Invisible. It's a show about all the things designers and architects and planners see that the rest of us completely miss.

Roman is also the author of a spinoff book, The 99% Invisible City, with his digital director, Kurt Kohlstedt. You can find Roman on Twitter @romanmars and @theromanmars on Instagram.

Roman, welcome to Follow Friday!

ROMAN: I'm happy to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

ERIC: It's so good to see you again, and I'm so happy to hear your voice again. I mean, I was literally just listening to 99pi earlier today, but it's a different deal.


You've been making this show for more than a decade now, and I wondered if I should even bother explaining what 99% Invisible is. It feels like everyone in my bubble listens to it.

ROMAN: Everyone in your bubble might, but not everyone who should listen to it does listen to it. (laughs)

ERIC: Exactly. So yeah, you've been making this for a long time, it has become this really huge iconic podcast. But I'm wondering, when did you know that the show was actually working?

Was there a turning point where you realized, "Oh, this is turning from a side project or an idea into a real career for me?"

ROMAN: Well, the truth is I knew it was working from the moment I started it. There was something about the combination of what I wanted to do, what that moment felt like, how my writing was developing, how my hosting was developing, that I was like, "I think this is the one I'm going to put my chips on" pretty early on.

That didn't mean it was going to be successful. It just was the one that I felt like I could ask my friends to promote without shame. (laughter) It was the one that I could present in front of people and have some degree of pride in.

There was just something about it where I knew it was working early on, which made me work really hard on it, enough to turn it into the thing where it became possible to make some money on it, hire some people.

The real turning point was, it was struggling for sponsors. It was really early in the development of podcasting as an industry, and I did this Kickstarter for what I called "season three." It never had seasons; Kickstarter didn't allow you to just have a project that was open-ended, so you had to have a beginning and an end. And so I called it "season three."

We ended up raising the amount I was looking for inside of 24 hours. And then I was like, "Well, I think this is going to work."

No public radio show had bypassed the public radio system to raise money directly from an audience, and so it sort of got them going. I started getting calls from public radio people that I knew, because I came up in public radio, about, "Okay, maybe we would do this."

That was a moment where I knew things were really changing, and then it just grew and grew from there. We did a couple more Kickstarters, and then we founded Radiotopia. By the time of Radiotopia, I didn't have another job. But it took a long time before I did have another job even though-

ERIC: Wait, so when was that? That would've been like 2014-ish, or?

ROMAN: (laughs) I don't know. (laughter) That sounds roughly right.

ERIC: Yeah. I was rewatching your TED Talk from 2015 about all of the flags of major cities and why most of them are terrible.

ROMAN: Terrible. Yeah, that was a big turning point moment. That one felt like a big deal. That whole period of time was when I knew that 99% Invisible was going to be the major focus of the next few years of my life, and it felt pretty good.

I knew I could have employees and responsibly pay them and things like that. That was the moment that was happening, and that was when it felt pretty good.

ERIC: A lot of the podcast, you take on topics that are generally in the visual and physical world. So flags, buildings, urban planning, things like that.

There's some exceptions to that rule. But I'm wondering, given that this is an internet culture show, are those same principles of design that you explore on 99% Invisible, do you find that those are applicable when you're looking at digital stuff, when you're looking at social media apps and mobile games and things like that? Or is it such a different discipline that it doesn't quite translate?

ROMAN: I think it does. I think the thing about design as a beat and as a lens that the show has is that what makes it work for people is that you don't have to be really interested in the specifics of design for it to work.

It's basically a logic show about how you solve problems and what makes you feel good when you listen to things that are about problem-solving and how people find solutions to things, is when you can join them in the process of like, "Oh yeah, that is a good solution." You understand why, and you feel really good about it.

That kind of intuitive sense of what design is and how it would work and how it would solve problems and how the world would be better if people thought out their problems a little bit more and solved them with good design and good thinking and good care is very satisfying because it is so logical, because it does actually apply to so many things.

The TED Talk that you mentioned, when I was approached about doing a TED Talk, it's a little different for someone like me. I'm not a plant scientist who's been working on one thing their whole career.

I'm a journalist, I do 50 stories a year. I don't have an area of expertise or a specialty of any one thing. Design is kind of it, but it's not any one thing. And so when I started to think about what I was going to do for the talk, I had this grand unified idea of design with lots of little stories.

It had a vague structure, it was kind of working. I think I was trying to impart my way of viewing the world, but it just wasn't working, like I didn't enjoy it.

ERIC: Compressing that down in 20 minutes is like, "That's a bit too much."

ROMAN: Yeah, I don't know. It wasn't good. I make things that, I try to make them good. I was like, "This isn't really working for me. But I have this talk that I would like to expand and think about flags because I think this little topic will lead me to impart bigger ideas of design, about what makes a good flag."

They can kind of apply to what makes a good app, what makes a good logo, what makes a good government design. There's a lot of things to it that work and apply.

By going smaller, I achieved going bigger. And so that's why I think that the show kind of works. We zero in, we try to let people make their connections to things. And I do think it's generally applicable.

In the beginning, it's really important to have enough of a focus that people can find the show and grab onto it and, "Oh, I like design." In the beginning of the show, the most I heard was with graphic designers from Ireland. They just found the show faster.

You have to have a little bit of a focus to have that happen in the internet culture world. But from this point, it's basically a show about trying to explain how the world is. I think it applies to everything.

The perfect episode of the show is one in which I tell you about a thing, about manhole covers or whatever. And because of that, you do notice manhole covers. But from then on out, if you see a utility cover, you can kind of decipher that one.

If there's a building that's done a certain way, you can decode that. It just primes your brain for decoding the world in a certain way. And in that sense, I think it's a very general interest show, in that regard.

ERIC: Absolutely. All right. Well, let's decode some of the people who Roman Mars follows online. You can follow along with us today. Every person he recommends will be linked in the show notes and in the transcript at

Roman, 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 super talented who is still under the radar," and you said Elizabeth Joh, who is on Twitter @elizabeth_joh.

Elizabeth is a law professor at UC Davis and the co-host of What Roman Mars Can Learn About Con Law, which she hosts with, uh, someone named… I'm blanking on his name.

Can you tell us about this podcast? And it used to have a different title, right?

ROMAN: It did. Elizabeth is the smartest person I know. This whole show exists because of her Twitter, which is why I thought of this first when you put "underrated," because in my opinion, she can't be rated high enough.

So when Trump was elected … The original name of the show was What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law. I was looking for a name so big. 99% Invisible is so evocative and mysterious and like, "What does it mean? What is the show about?" But it feels something.

I wanted something very straightforward and un-cumbersome and not catchy and whatever. But when Trump got elected, there was so much talk about, "Okay, they're doing the Muslim ban. Is the Muslim ban constitutional? Is it this? Emoluments?" No one had heard about emoluments before, which is basically taking bribes. "What does that mean? Where is that in the Constitution? Is he breaking that?" And there was this sense that Trump was stress testing the Constitution in a certain way.

But I didn't know anything about the Constitution. When people were talking about it online, I was like, "Yeah, you're right! He can't do that." And I was like, "Actually, I don't even know." (laughter)

Elizabeth, at that time, was a fellow parent at an elementary school. Our kids went to school together. I followed her on Twitter. She's so funny. She's so smart.

She teaches Con Law 101 and a lot of other law at UC Davis. I wanted to create a show where she told me whether or not the things that Trump said on Twitter — because at the time he was on Twitter — or other people said about how he was breaking the law, I wanted her to tell me if that was true or not.

I just needed someone as a guide. When you're a broadcaster, you don't have a conversation you can't use as content. I wrote her out of the blue. We'd known each other a little bit.

And I just said, "But I don't want to talk about the controversy, necessarily, or Trump. I don't want to hear Trump's voice. I want to use these moments to teach me about the Constitution and get very quickly into the Supreme Court cases that establish the precedent, that establish the interpretation that we build upon and how we make a functioning government and a set of laws."

So that's the show, and the show was great. I've done it now for five years or something. We changed the name to What Roman Mars Could Learn About Con Law when Trump was no longer on Twitter and no longer the president.

I wanted to keep it evergreen, but there was still things to talk about. And there's still a ton of things. We talk about the Second Amendment. We talk about Ginni Thomas and Clarence Thomas's recusal — why he won't recuse himself, why no one can force him to recuse himself, even if it involves his wife. Things like this, we talk about.

She's so good at … A Supreme Court case, the decision gets released, she's just on top of it. She's funny. She has the same Gen X sensibility that I do. She has the same reference points that I do. I just love to follow her. To me, it's like everyone who's interested in politics in the world should follow her.

Her specialty is on privacy and surveillance and technology. And so if you have any interest in that, she writes articles about that all the time.

ERIC: What's an example of something that she has taught you about digital privacy that has blown your mind, or changed your perspective on things?

ROMAN: The main thing, the broadest thing, is that the technology and the use of the technology is so far in advance of policy thinking that the policy is being decided by designers.

We talk about body cams on police or something like that. What gets determined as to what gets admissible into court, no one's ever thought about it. No one thought about it in a holistic way.

What is determining it is the company has the thing pre-roll for 20 seconds before you hit record, and then therefore it's there. That decision was made by a designer at some point. It's available. Is it admissible in court? Whatever. But it's like, that is available because a designer made that decision, not because of some kind of global police policy. Not that there would be. All the many global police policies, it's basically like a collection of 18,000 different institutions when it comes to the police.

But still, the technology and the design of it is really leading the conversation before the policy. Because people, A, aren't fast enough and, B, aren't smart enough.

That's the kind of thing that blows my mind. The fundamentals of how we think of how to use this stuff is really being determined by companies and not by people that have the public interest necessarily at heart. And so that's fundamental, too, when it comes to digital privacy.

ERIC: With issues like this, both with digital privacy and with all the other political issues you were talking about… In my opinion, understanding these things better, having that knowledge, at least for me, it gives me the confidence to go out and have smarter conversations.

It generally makes me … happier? (laughter) Or, more in control in some way. You started this podcast at a politically fraught time. We are, I think it's safe to say, still in a very politically fraught time.

Working with Elizabeth on this podcast, has it changed your outlook on the future? Has it had a big impact on just how you perceive the nation?

ROMAN: I think it has. You had a feeling that Trump and his ilk were changing things in a way that was really different and realizing that the guardrails on behavior are just traditional norms and practices... Because the constitution is a very slim document that is, by design, somewhat incomplete and up for interpretation in lots of different ways. It's a 5,000-word document.

And so everything about the way that people comport themselves has to do with their own compunction or lack of compunction. That is a terrifying thing to realize, but it's good to know that that's what's happening. I feel somewhat forearmed and therefore forewarned when it comes to stuff with Elizabeth.

A part of design that I like is that we're on a continuum all the time and people are very solipsistic about the way the world should be and it's when they were born or become more sentient and they think that's the way the world should work and anything beyond that change is a mistake.

The way that we've seen the Constitution interpreted over time and the different norms and stuff, to see that flow is actually pretty interesting. It makes you think like, "Okay, we can flow. We can continue to flow in good directions and bad directions." And so that's the comforting part of it.

It was always a discussion. There was always strange things afoot. And so it fits in there nicely. The part that's not comforting is once you learn that you can break these things by just not having shame, that is an alarming thing.

I think people will use it, now and forever more, into maybe the detriment of democracy, or the end of democracy.

ERIC: Well, that was Elizabeth Joh who is on Twitter @elizabeth_joh. And the podcast is called What Roman Mars Can Learn About Con Law.

Roman, let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for "someone you're jealous of," and you said John Green who is on Twitter @johngreen, on Instagram @johngreenwritesbooks, and on TikTok @literallyjohngreen.

ROMAN: Yeah. I think @literallyjohngreen is the only place that he's really active, although he does delete it a lot.

ERIC: John and his brother Hank are known as the vlogbrothers on YouTube. And they host the podcast Dear Hank and John. But John is probably best known for writing books like The Fault in Our Stars, and for his solo podcast, The Anthropocene Reviewed. So, how'd you start following him, and why do you say you're jealous?

ROMAN: I'm just jealous of John — you ask a couple [categories], jealous of and who you'd want to be friends with, and John fits both of those things. We are friendly. We'll email and if there's an event and we're in the same place, we'll chit chat for a little bit and stuff like that.

He just is so good. Especially, I knew his fiction writing was good. You can tell it's good. It affects a lot of people and gives a lot of people comfort and makes people feel good.

But when he got into doing Anthropocene Reviewed and his work with Crash Course, explainers and history, he just is so smart and thoughtful in a way that is enough reminiscent of what I do that I recognize how good he is at it and how much better he is at it than me.

Especially Anthropocene Reviewed, which is a book that … He did a podcast about. He and I chatted about it, and I featured it on 99. And then he came up with a book on it.

To me, that book is a perfect book. It's so good and thoughtful, the way that he uses these mundane objects and rates them on a five-star scale to talk about himself and his life and his point of view. And he has a very humanist and kind point of view. It is just so thoughtful.

He is really warm, and he really grapples with things and just has deep thoughts. I think I approach that every once in a while.

There's this really funny moment that I had in production. I did the architecture tour for the Guggenheim Museum, and I released it as an episode of the show eventually. But I wrote this line, literally thinking, "This is a John Green line."

So, Frank Lloyd Wright is the architect of the Guggenheim. And a few years before, eight of Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings and commissions had been accepted as UNESCO Heritage sites. Other UNESCO Heritage sites are things like the Grand Canyon. (laughs)

I made this line. It was like, "Of all the UNESCO heritage sites in North America, 12 were made by God. Eight were made by Frank Lloyd Wright." I wrote that literally thinking, "This is a thing John Green would write." Literally, just copying his style.

We don't write a lot, but we exchange emails every once in a while. He literally wrote me about that line and said, "I really loved that line." (laughter)

I don't think he loved it because it was like him, but I just think we were just tapping into the same thing that we both admire the way to describe something. And it was just a great moment.

But he has one of those literally every page of his writing and every minute of his work in podcasting, and I'm lucky to have a few a year.

ERIC: (laughs) His podcast that you mentioned, The Anthropocene Reviewed, he's reviewing, as you said, these mundane things. I think the very first episode was Diet Dr Pepper and Canada geese.

It's a very transparent head fake. Each review is an excuse to talk about something else. Generally, existence and other small topics like that.

ROMAN: Totally.

ERIC: It's one of those shows where I have vivid memories of like, "I was in this spot when I was listening to this podcast." He has a turn of phrase like the example you gave from your own writing, where it just stops you in your tracks and you remember.

"I was in the kitchen when I heard him talking about Ginkgo trees and about his daughter" and all this stuff. That's such an impressive skill. I cannot even get my head around that.

ROMAN: No, he's so good, it's irritating. He's so good. But he's also super nice and stuff. He has lots of things going for him. I think that he evokes this feeling in a lot of people, you feel like, "Oh, I would like to be around him more in his head and in his thoughts."

So if there's any opportunity in the world and I could hang out with John Green, I would totally take that opportunity. We've only availed ourselves of that a couple times in our lives, but I really do like and admire him quite a bit.

ERIC: You mentioned earlier with Elizabeth that there's no conversation that you don't turn into a podcast, or something like that. (laughter)

But let's imagine you and John are going on a friend date and the rule is, no TikTok videos, no tweeting about it, no podcasting. You have to just enjoy each other's presence.

ROMAN: Yeah.

ERIC: What do you want to do? Do you want to go somewhere with him? Do you want to talk about something in particular with him over coffee?

ROMAN: Yeah, that thing I said about turning every experience into content is a thing that I'm actually really endeavoring to get away from. And I have, actually.

The past year, it's been really the focus of my time is actually not having every thought be on social media and making everything into something. So it's actually getting kind of easy for me.

I don't know, he takes a "stupid walk that he hates for his stupid mental health," is what he often says when he is doing his TikToks. I think just going on a walk in the woods with him in Indianapolis seems like a perfectly great thing to do.

Maybe we would notice things and try to impress each other with our knowledge of trees. But I think mostly what I like about connecting for real with people is not performing.

I spend a lot of time performing, and he just seems like someone you could fall into without performing, and have it be perfectly great. So, yeah, I would do anything with him. It seems fun.

ERIC: I'm not a big TikTok user. So, I was looking at his TikTok for the first time while prepping for this. And it does seem … Again, this is still performing. But the way he uses TikTok, I think it speaks well of him.

There's no fancy editing. There's no filters. He's just answering questions and doing the best he can. It's very earnest in a way that I admire and that I really respect.

ROMAN: Yeah, he's old hat at this, with the Vlogbrothers that started his YouTube life with his brother, Hank, who also is someone I totally dig and admire and like to talk to.

There's a casualness for people that have basically done this for 15 years. They just know how to be in front of the camera and not be self-conscious and really present a version of themselves.

I'm enough of a performer and broadcaster to know that everyone's projecting something when they do that. But they've figured it out.

ERIC: Well, that was John Green, who is on Twitter @johngreen, on Instagram @johngreenwritesbooks, and on TikTok @literallyjohngreen.

We are going to take a quick break now, but we'll be back in a minute with Roman Mars.

[ad break]

ERIC: Welcome back to Follow Friday. Roman, I asked you to tell me about an expert in a very specific niche you love. And you sent over three great recommendations from TikTok: @stellarsidewalks, @texasbeeworks, and @rightchoiceshearing.

You said in your email that all three of these accounts are examples of the main thing that you use social media for. Do you want to explain what that thing is?

ROMAN: Yeah. I like watching competent people do things well and calmly, and it is the main way I relax. It is probably second to podcasts, it's the main form of entertainment that I take part in.

Right Choice Shearing is this really great woman who picks up gigantic sheep and shears them. (laughter) And shows you how it's done and how to take care of them.

Texas Beeworks is this woman who, if you have a colony of bees that is infesting your eaves of your house, she'll come in. She'll scoop them up with her hand. They never sting her.

Then she puts them in a hive. She takes the queen out. She has a really calm voice. I just … love it. It's almost hard to explain what this does to my brain that I need so badly.

Literally, this is what most of social media is for me. It's me taking part in that. Not me contributing to it, but me taking part of it. I just love it.

ERIC: Well, I wonder if part of it is what you were saying earlier about your TED Talk, where you as a broadcaster and as a journalist, you learn about all these different things. Just a huge number of different things.

Seeing someone who's an expert in exactly one or two things and they're so good at those things, this is really the ur-example of an expert at a niche you love, right? I wonder if that's what's reassuring or what's comforting about it.

ROMAN: I think it could be that. I also think there's just movement and calm and care.

If there's a video of a farrier reshoeing a horse, I'm there. I just stop and watch it. I just like it. There's a whole phenomenon of ASMR and things that are calming for people.

The intentional world of ASMR is not exactly the one… I'm familiar with it, where people whisper and click things into microphones and stuff like that. It's totally good in lots of ways, but this is my version of that.

I can tell when people talk about that, but that's what this means to me. And it's just lovely. I learn a little something. But mostly, it just chills my ass out, and I just like the feeling of it.

I like the fact that there is a community of people that this really does it for them, and you feel a kinship with that. That's the social aspect of it, I suppose. But I truly love it.

ERIC: Stellar Sidewalks, out of these three, is probably the most 99 Percent-y.

ROMAN: Yeah.

ERIC: It's a guy going around the sidewalks of LA and explaining like, "Here's how these are poured. Here's why you would have this sidewalk versus another."

[clip from Stellar Sidewalks]

ERIC: Have you invited him to come on the podcast? It feels like you guys are natural, you're bosom buddies.

ROMAN: TikTok is pretty new for me. I had tried it because I was trying to figure it out as a conduit for 99pi, in the process of how we tell stories and if it would fit.

I do think it really would, actually. And so I just started subscribing to anyone who I could find, like infrastructure and architecture or whatever. Stellar Sidewalks came up, and they pour concrete for sidewalks. They tell you about the breaking joints and this and that.

It's well-done. It's smart. It tells you the difference between concrete and cement. Yeah, that type of person could be on the show for sure. Part of it really works with the visuals, and I always have to figure out a way to not make it about the visuals and make it more about story.

I dig those people a lot, and I definitely glom off of them. That's for sure.

ERIC: I'm hesitant to bring this up. But when I was looking up Texas Beeworks, apparently there was a whole drama in the TikTok beekeeping community last year. Are you aware of this?

ROMAN: Not at all. (laughs)

ERIC: Some rival beekeeper was strafing her with complaints about like, "Oh, well, you're not wearing the proper protective gear." Or, "You're rescuing the wrong type of bees."

I don't actually care about the drama, but I am a little bit delighted by the fact that there are rival people in these niches. (laughter) That there are people who are also public influencer, broadcaster, social media type folks who are challenging each other on the best way to do these specific things.

ROMAN: Totally. My years in academia, it's like that … the vitriol is so high because the stakes are so low. (laughter) It happens that way.

One of the things about these things that's always, or could be hard, is that I don't really pursue these people beyond the most basic form. I don't know what they're like. In this case, I don't know the politics. I just like watching them calmly do things.

ERIC: I think that's the way to go about it. Honestly, I don't need to know who everyone I follow voted for. Just try and be kind. Just try not to get stung by bees. Just take care of yourself.

ROMAN: The Texas bee woman, I'm not worried about her being stung by bees. She seems to have a complete control over them.

ERIC: (laughs) Well, those were three great TikTok accounts run by competent people calmly doing things well: @stellarsidewalks, @texasbeeworks, and @rightchoiceshearing.

We have time for one more follow today. This is another expert in a niche, sort of. It's the subreddit Oddly Satisfying, which you can find at

This is one of my favorite subreddits, too. But for the people who have not heard the good news, explain what sort of stuff… this is gonna be very visual. We will have to do our best. Explain the sort of stuff that you might see on Oddly Satisfying.

ROMAN: This is kind of related to the above. If somebody is reshoeing a horse very competently, that'll be there. If somebody is pounding mochi or something like that, in a traditional way, very quickly, that'll be there.

Then there's a lot of physics things, like the shaking of nails and have them line up perfectly. Do you have any examples? I'm trying to think of what's a good ur-example of what oddly satisfying does well.

ERIC: There was one, I was just looking at it today. It was records being pressed. It was like a vinyl record with a custom design. It's not like a basic black vinyl record, but a really cool pattern.

It starts off with this green, putty-looking material. I didn't know exactly what it is. I guess it must be vinyl.

ROMAN: It's vinyl, yeah.

ERIC: They just put it into a press, and they squeeze it incredibly flat. They pull it out, and it's this beautiful semi-translucent green and black disc. And it looks like magic. (laughs)

ROMAN: There's a lot of, if you ever have seen the show "How Is It Made?" — or something like that — a lot of factories, something made really well. And you see the intricacy of how to create this simple thing and the satisfaction with its creation.

There's a lot of stuff there that's really, really good. There could be something of brushing a horse and getting all the loose hair off. It just is this grab bag of videos, like the world order being created in the world or something like that.

It is just oddly satisfying, and there's stuff that you had never heard of. You just see it happen, and it lights up your pleasure centers in some way. And it's great. It's another form of the same thing that I'm searching for about that niche, competent people, with a little more scattershot approach, I think.

ERIC: When do you watch videos like this? Is this something that you discover just scrolling a bunch of subreddits, or do you go specifically to Oddly Satisfying to see what's new there?

ROMAN: I go to Reddit; if Oddly Satisfying is present on the front page because of what I subscribe to, which isn't that many things, I check it out there. I don't really dive deep with most of this stuff, I would say. It's what comes to my attention.

TikTok, for example, learns you pretty quickly. It begins to feed you other things like that. I don't use the internet as much as a time-wasting device as I've heard other people do. So it just so happens.

At least I used to monitor these things, because 99pi has a subreddit. I use Twitter mostly for promotion and the random jokes and stuff, and so when things come up like that… The TikTok thing is brand new, and it's really in idle time maybe before bed or something like that, where I'm trying to calm down. But that's it.

ERIC: Yeah. There's something about Oddly Satisfying… This is going to be a weird question. There was a time, a long time ago, when Reddit was really into what I would call safe-for-work porn.

There'd be these communities like /r/EarthPorn where it's just amazing landscape photography. I think there's something a little bit porny about Oddly Satisfying. I don't mean that in any judgmental way.

But do you agree? I think there's something I can't quite put my finger on. There's something a little bit … abstracted? I'm having trouble putting the word to it.

ROMAN: Well, I think you're chasing a high and satisfaction. The feeling you get from it…

There's this American life radio story about ASMR. It drew very similar comparisons where this woman is like, "No, it's not porn. It's just this thing that I have to search out online so I can get this feeling of having my brain kind of tingle. And after I use the same one over and over again, it doesn't tingle anymore. So I have to go search for other things".

Her boyfriend's like, "Yeah, that's porn. You're watching porn." "I know it's going to sound like porn, but it's not porn." And so there is some parallel to that searching for the thing that is a satisfying part that's somehow basal to your existence?

ERIC: You need a specific brain chemical, and this is how you get it.

ROMAN: I get that. I guess my use of Oddly Satisfying is a little more casual. I don't really search it out for that thing. It just comes up. But there's no denying that there's something about that feeling, which is about that search for a kind of satisfaction. And it can be a preoccupation in that way.

ERIC: Going all the way back to Con Law, the video is Oddly Satisfying? Well, you know it when you see it.

ROMAN: Exactly. (laughter)

ERIC: That was the subreddit Oddly Satisfying, which you can find at

Roman, before we go, let's make sure that listeners know how to find you online. Where do you want them to follow you?

ROMAN: I'm most active on Twitter, but I have to say, much less than I used to be at @RomanMars.

I have an Instagram account @theromanmars. And that's about it. But mostly, I want you to listen to the show, or the two shows, 99% Invisible and What Roman Mars Can Learn About Con Law.

I have the luxury of being a broadcaster, so I get to say my piece to a million people a week, just by virtue of having a show. So I don't use social media as much. I have that privilege.

ERIC: You can follow me on Twitter @HeyHeyESJ.

If you like this episode, then check out the past Follow Friday interviews with Hrishikesh Hirway from Song Exploder, Dallas Taylor from Twenty Thousand Hertz, and Avery Trufelman — the first-ever guest on this show — who is a producer emeritus of 99% Invisible.

Follow Friday is a production of 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 Sidney 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.

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