Lauren: Our guest this week is Taylor Lorenz. Taylor is a prominent technology journalist at The Washington Post, and she’s the author of a new book called Extremely Online: The Untold Story of Fame, Influence, and Power on the Internet.
Taylor (audio clip): We’re living in this internet-mediated world already. I would say that the online world is already the default reality in life. What happens online matters almost more than what happens in person, which is inherently limited and ephemeral. More and more, the real world is sort of just a stage for online events.
Gideon: Lauren, do you consider yourself extremely online?
Lauren: No, I don’t.
Gideon: I think you’re pretty online.
Lauren: Well, I was just gonna say there’s a qualifier there. It’s perhaps pretty online, or very online, or just online, but not extremely online. I interpret that to mean it’s a whole new level of being online.
Gideon: What’s extreme? What is extremely online to you?
Lauren: Being very active on TikTok.
Gideon: Really? That’s your bar?
Lauren: Yeah, don’t know. I do have a TikTok, but my bio on TikTok literally says I’m too old for this. And I don’t show my face in my bio, and then I think I’ve posted maybe half a dozen videos. I’ve experimented with it, but I’m not super on it.
Gideon: OK, well that’s, that’s still way more than me.
Lauren: OK, I do, I do spend a fair amount of time on text-based social platforms like the company formerly known as Twitter, and now I’m experimenting with Threads.
Gideon: Can’t bring yourself to say it.
Lauren: I know, ugh, X is such a dumb name, but yes, uh, and I am on, I am on Instagram. I’m probably a little too on Instagram. What about you?
Gideon: I’m a weird person for a journalist. I’m just very ambivalent about being online. I am on the company formerly known as Twitter. I am on Instagram. I’m barely on Facebook. I putter around on some of the others, but there’s something about being very online and being out there that just sits funny with me, which is not a great, uh, quality perhaps for somebody in my profession.
Lauren: And why is that?
Gideon: Well, I just, I’m very wary of what I say and how it gets received, and that’s, you know, a tricky thing for a journalist these days.
Lauren: Yeah, especially since we’re already putting ourselves out there so much. This is really why I wanted to bring Taylor on Have a Nice Future, because her book chronicles the rise of the internet creator, right? It explores how they’ve emerged and made some real money along the way, how they’ve been utilizing platforms like Tumblr and Vine, YouTube, Instagram, of course, TikTok. But Taylor also has a bone to pick with legacy media over this, because she thinks the industry has been caught flat-footed by the rise of internet creators as brands, and personally, I’m interested in that because I think it has a lot of implications for us—the people who are very online but still make a dead-tree magazine.