Our Little Corner of the Internet

Uncategorized

 

I like this little corner of the internet. 

It has begun to feel like there’s nowhere I really belong on social media. I’ve been Facebook-free since 2015. Twitter has become so cluttered that it’s essentially useless. Instagram is just the same ten photographs over and over, posted by different people (including me). I used to really love reading blogs but they have become so commoditized that the personal narratives I care about have been almost entirely replaced by vapid copy and affiliate links. Where’s a girl to turn?

The few voices that I have really loved hearing from lately have come to me via newsletters. Email is experiencing a renaissance. I’ve successfully unsubscribed to all the junky e-Blasts that used to plague my inbox (thanks to Unroll.me — even though I just found out they were harvesting receipt data from my inbox and selling it to third parties). Now, instead, I receive thoughtful long-form email newsletters from cool girls who aren’t trying to get me to buy anything. Here are some of my favorites:

Claire Carusillo, My Second or Third Skin

Claire, a writer and student living in NYC, describes her own newsletter as “off-label product usage advice for deeply troubled pretty little babies.” It is delightfully absurd in its almost existential approach to beauty. Since I’ve been following along, she has coined such skincare-related mantras as ‘That Wet Look’ (taking dewy skin to the next level) and ‘Nothing Works and Everything’s Just Vaseline’ (the philosophy that even the fanciest hundred-dollar serum is basically just petroleum jelly). Pretty little babies, subscribe here.

Randle Browning, The Waco Vegan

I first met Randle when I was living in Waco. As a writer, coder, photographer, chef, jazz singer, pizza shop owner, and more, she was the most multi-hyphenate person I’d ever met. Since then, Randle has: 1) Renovated an RV and traveled the country for 6 months with her husband and pup while working remotely for Skillcrush, 2) Moved to NYC for a new startup job, hopping between Airbnbs until she found a place to live, and 3) Moved into this amazing minimalist apartment in Williamsburg (which I got to visit when I was there last week). Her newsletter/blog, which formerly focused on vegan living in a small town, has shifted into a chronicle of her many adventures. To live vicariously through her like I do, subscribe here

Links I Would Gchat You if We Were Friends

This was the first personal newsletter I ever subscribed to. Created by Washington Post digital culture critic Caitlin Dewey, it rounds up the best of the internet each week: including the pop cultural, the personal, the political and (my favorite) meditations on how technology is changing the way we engage with all of the above. Caitlin has a remarkable ability to not only find the most hilarious, most engaging, most thought-provoking pieces out there — but also to articulate them within the larger context of why we should care. The newsletter is now defunct, but you can and should check out the archives here.

I hope that you, like me, are finding little corners of the internet where you feel at home. If you’ve discovered any that I should know about, leave a comment so I can crash the party. If you want to share these recommendations with a friend who should be spending a little less time on Facebook, share the link.

P.S. This was originally shared via my newsletter, My Most Recent Obsession. In it, I discuss a new subject every week: from weird beauty hacks to the effect of technology on our brains to personality tests and beyond. It’s my way of sharing all my intense yet short-lived obsessions with you! Are you subscribed yet?

The Closet Conspiracy (Introducing “My Most Recent Obsession”)

Uncategorized

Probably due to the number of podcasts I listen to, I’m deeply engrossed in a new subject just about every week: from weird beauty hacks to the effect of technology on our brains to personality tests and beyond. I’m starting this newsletter so that I can share those intense yet short-lived obsessions with you! Here’s a peek at what I sent out this week.

I’m kicking off the inaugural edition of my newsletter with my most recent obsessions in the fashion and beauty category. But first, some context: I love fashion and beauty. I’m fascinated by personal style. I love thinking about it, talking about it, and writing about it. But I’ve also always felt a tension inherent in loving these things because society paints them as silly and frivolous — not something that intelligent or successful people are interested in. That idea is reflected in everything from the tee-and-hoodie uniforms of tech CEOs to a mortal fear that many women (including myself) have of looking like they’re “trying too hard.”

But I’d like to propose a different take. It’s one that many of my friends and style icons have already embraced, but I think it bears repeating here: Fashion isn’t frivolous. Personal style is a form of intimate creative expression that we engage with on a daily basis and in a very public way. I’m not talking about dressing “for your body type” or looking conventionally attractive. I’m talking about arming yourself with the clothes that make you feel like your most capable, confident, true self — whether that’s sweatpants or a silk duster or wide-leg cropped pants. (Don’t worry, we’ll get deeper into that later.) Now on to the links!

Fat Mascara Podcast

You wouldn’t think that discussion of beauty would lend itself well to an audio format — but you would be wrong! In this weekly podcast, beauty editors Jessica Matlin (Teen Vogue) and Jen Goldstein (Marie Claire) discuss problems, products, trends, and hacks in between interviews with beauty industry insiders. My favorite so far has been this one on the science behind perfumes.

Why I Love It: There’s something about women unabashedly discussing their makeup and skincare routines that makes my heart sing. It’s like being at a slumber party with your best girlfriends if those girlfriends had access to all the latest beauty launches and weren’t embarrassed to talk about bleaching their mustaches or the current state of their bikini line.

Why I’m Not Looking in the Mirror for a Month

During a month-long mirror fast, the author keeps a log of what she learns, like how prettiness is often seen as politeness, how knowing what you look like affects your interpretation of the world around you, and what it’s like to abandon the emotional labor of constantly checking your own image. 

Why I Love It: A woman is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. “Whilst she is walking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping.” This series explores what happens when the image of oneself is withheld — and what happens as a result is pretty profound.

Skinny Jeans Are Killing the Fashion Industry

I don’t want to alarm you but there’s a conspiracy happening and it involves your closet. As of 2017, skinny jeans have dominated the denim world for 10+ years and the fashion industry is panicking. People no longer have a reason to shop. This podcast dives into why clothing companies have devised an entirely new silhouette just so you’ll be forced to update your entire wardrobe: “Once the bottom changes, all the tops are wrong — and that gives consumers a whole new reason to spend.”

Why I Love It: It dives into the inner-workings of the fashion industry in a way that makes me feel like Anne Hathaway getting schooled by Miranda Priestly on the origins of her blue sweater. It also reminded me of a time when people had the exact visceral reaction to skinny jeans (“They’re so unflattering!”) that I first had to the styles that are coming out now. But mostly, it explains a phenomenon that has perplexed me for over a year: the increasing prevalence of wide-leg pants!

…and why I have so many pairs of them saved to my Pinterest board right now.

I’m excited to put together these newsletters each week, so make sure you sign up!

A List of 12 Things I’ve Worn

Style

A piece I wrote on personal style was recently featured on one of my all-time favorite sites, Man Repeller! These outfits form a timeline of my style and how it has shaped my identity over the years, whether I knew it at the time or not. Man Repeller has been a big part of the process for me and I’m proud to be part of that community. Enjoy!

1. The same threadbare floral dress almost exclusively from ages five to seven. My mom begged me to try something else, but I felt incandescent — invincible — in that dress. I’ve chased that feeling ever since.

2. A denim skirt and zip-up hoodie, my first attempt at an outfit a boy might find attractive. It was seventh grade and my best friend decided to set me up with Casey from art class. Nothing came of the crush, but I can vividly remember my cold legs, the creeping hemline and the sensation of being assessed.

3. Unflattering colors, avant-garde proportions and incongruous patterns in high school, when clothes took on a magical quality. In those years, every piece came with the imagined story of the girl I would be when I wore it. A shirt was never just a shirt.

4. Anything I could borrow from my mom (or steal from my sister).

5. A ’70s gown in cobalt blue with a plunging halter neckline. It was my first prom. I’d exhausted myself looking for a dress at the mall, but nothing was right. One day, I stopped by our local vintage shop (previous purchases included a children’s baseball belt, an ascot and a pair of platform motorcycle boots) and there it was. I bought it for 65 dollars, curled my own hair and felt that glimmer of invincibility once again.

6. A ponytail, a miniskirt and a men’s XXL tee with Obama’s face on it in gold foil. Cops were involved. That’s really all I’m at liberty to say.

7. A strand of pearls borrowed from my roommate whilst in the throes of an identity crisis my first semester of college in Alabama.

8. Not much, during my brief stint with the bar scene. It lasted exactly one night. It was like with my seventh grade art-room crush all over again, but much colder and with more hairspray. When I returned home (early), I promised myself that I would not voluntarily do something I hated that much ever again.

9. The aforementioned platform Harley-Davidson boots with jean cut-offs and a bikini top to my first music festival. And every summer since.

10. A white blouse, vintage skirt and leather jacket on the rooftop where he proposed. It wasn’t the outfit that made me feel beautiful that night.

11. I’m 24 now and my personal style is still evolving. Clothing continues to cast an almost mythical hold over my imagination — but it’s no longer the clothing that creates the magic; it’s choosing it, wearing it and allowing myself to be transformed by the experiences I have in it.

12. I like to think that when I’m 80, I’ll swear off everything but my favorite dress — just like I did when I was six.

Photo by John Rawlings for Condé Nast via Getty Images.

Digital Detox: Finding Balance

Uncategorized

It’s so easy for me to erase. 

When I decide that something isn’t useful to me anymore, I will ruthlessly prune it without a second thought. It’s how I put all our furniture on Craigslist before we moved to Nashville. It’s why I have whittled my closet down to around twenty items. Famously, it’s why, when I was ten years old, I threw away a stapler that had run out of staples. It’s also what made it relatively easy to quit Facebook and stop using Pinterest. 

It’s a personality thing: I cannot stand to keep something in my life once I’ve decided it no longer belongs.  

But what about the things that toe the line? Activities, habits, or people for which the decision isn’t so cut and dry. Other social media — like Instagram or Twitter — or screen-based activities like watching Netflix or reading blogs, haven’t yet earned their own tale of going cold turkey. It has been slightly more complicated to figure out how those things fit into my day-to-day.

I have to remind myself, time and time again, that my ultimate goal isn’t total eradication: it’s balance.

On all the platforms that I still use (Instagram, Twitter, and Bloglovin), I follow a small and carefully selected collection of people. They are a mix of friends and people I look up to, all of whom I genuinely enjoy hearing from on a daily basis. With such a small group of people, it only takes five minutes to scroll through all my feeds. I don’t keep the apps on my phone except to post when I need to, and I feel the urge to post less and less frequently these days, an unintended side effect of slowing down my social media consumption.

A few months into my social media fast, something incredibly surprising happened. I was in the middle of a project when I realized it, so I quickly jotted it down in my notebook to come back to: “I used to feel like sharing moments and thoughts from my daily life added value to them, but now it seems to rob them of it.”

The feeling was weird and refreshing: a reverence for what was going on in the present moment and a reluctance to pull myself away from it — mentally, emotionally, or physically. The best description I can think of is something akin to a toddler that has finally learned to sit still. My mind used to go wandering off without me, in pursuit of the next distraction or red notification. Now, I find that I am able to concentrate again. I can bask. I can savor. I can hold a train of thought without first dragging it through the filter of the crowd.

Since taking inventory of how I interact with technology, I am keenly aware of the difference between what refreshes me and what drains me. I am all too familiar with the lifeless, disoriented feeling of spending multiple hours online or scrolling through social media posts. Conversely, I know the deep satisfaction that comes from being engrossed in a novel, going on a long Sunday walk with Thomas, wandering the catacombs of an art museum, or simply being still.

Knowing this, and reminding myself of it regularly, means that I am much less likely to trade those experiences for a short-lived and disappointing digital interaction. It enables me to make decisions and set priorities that reflect the person that I want to be, not the one that my addictions and instincts would shape me into.

Striking a balance between the way I use technology, an increasingly inextricable part of all our lives, and the time I spend unplugged has given me a much healthier view of both. I have discovered how I can use technology in a way that enables the things that really matter to me: creativity, depth, and and connection.

When I started this experiment, I just wanted to get my time back. What I found instead was contentment.

I would love to hear about your experiences with technology, screens, social media, stillness, contentment and anything in between. Sound off in the comments or find me on Instagram or Twitter. If you missed any part of this series, you can catch up below: 

Digital Detox | An Introduction

Digital Detox | Reclaiming Boredom 

Digital Detox | Quitting Pinterest

Digital Detox | Quitting Facebook 

Digital Detox: Quitting Pinterest

Uncategorized

I’ve found that anytime I quit one social media platform, another rushes in to fill the vacuum.

As soon as I stepped back from Facebook, Pinterest was ready to lay claim to all my newly-liberated time. I was a late adopter (I even wrote a column in our college newspaper about my failings as a DIYer), but it didn’t take long for me to get swept up in it. Pinterest, however, posed a much different problem for me than other platforms had. If Facebook had been a stand-in for real friendship and connection, then Pinterest was my stand-in for inspiration and creativity. 

On Pinterest, I found process of curating images completely engrossing. I could do it for hours on end, dreaming of the person those boards said I could be: my bright white home, my perfect hand-lettering, my breathtaking vacations and my closet full of outfits that would make me look Parisian. I loved imagining what my life had the potential to look like.

What I realized, though, was that Pinterest was a straw man: what felt like creativity was actually keeping me from actually making something original. What seemed like productivity kept me from using time in a way that refreshed my soul and reconnected me with the things I truly found inspiring. Pinterest gave me the feeling of having accomplished something (“Look how good I am at curating beautiful things!”) without challenging me to switch off the screen and make beautiful things myself. 

A quote from Hamlet’s Blackberry, one of my favorite books on the subject of our digital connectedness, captures my experience well. The author talks about how the internet has turned into an echo chamber of everyone else’s thoughts — often, at the expense of your own:

“A decade ago, the digital space was heralded for the endless opportunities it offered for individual expression. The question now is how truly individual—as in bold, original, unique—you can be if you never step back from the crowd.”

The author’s point, that the internet runs the risk of annihilating rather than encouraging our individuality, stuck out to me. I began to understand that the endless algorithmic flow of images on Pinterest, while beautiful, was limiting my range of thought. I needed space from everyone else’s ideas in order to bring my own to life.

I knew the clandestine feeling of stumbling across something truly inspiring: those moments when you are going about your day-to-day and you happen upon something that strikes a chord deep in your soul in a way that feels transcendent and moves you to create. Having been lucky enough to experience this many times in my life, I know that it rarely happens in front of a screen.

This author call those moments “thin places.” Elizabeth Gilbert, in one of my all-time favorite TED Talks, calls it a visit from your fickle creative genius. Those moments are magical when they happen, but they can’t be manufactured. Their power of truly inspirational things, their ability to grab hold of you in a transformative way, comes from being rare and real, surprising and mundane in their beauty. That was the feeling I wanted to chase — but I couldn’t keep tricking myself into thinking I’d find it on a Pinterest board.

So, a few months ago, I hit the delete button. In an instant all the images I’d worked so hard to curate disappeared.

Since then, I have begun to look for inspiration in my real life. I rediscovered the slow joy of flipping through a coffee table book or the waterlogged pages of my favorite novel. I’m finding beauty in thick conversation with friends, on walks with Thomas through our favorite art museum, and in that song that I can’t stop listening to

When it came down to it, I decided I would rather spend more time living than planning to live. Instead of pausing to carefully curate a selection of other people’s moments; I wanted to be creating my own.