My family got our first computer in 1996, when I was twelve years old. My childhood was lived offline, but my adolescence was not. Luckily, I went through my teenage years before “social media” became a thing: There is no self-reported evidence of my existence prior to about 2002, at least using my real name or other identifying information. That said, I’ve omitted from this column the three things I check most often: my email, which I consider a form of work, my (public) Twitter profile that I use as a platform to show off how funny I think I am, and my Facebook profile, which is private and usually little more than a place where I share inside jokes with fabulously attractive friends.
I didn’t feel like they “counted” for this exercise because it would be like answering the question “What are you reading?” with “Street signs, food labels and advertising.” They just are, and my use of those sites is far more reflexive than edifying. But even without including the most obvious markers of my online life, I think that the rest of my selections provide a pretty good overview of What Kind of Person I Am: I’m a liberal, self-satisfied pop culture junkie with a sarcastic streak who is incapable of impulse control. Who’s a voice of a generation now, Dunham?
(Note to self: start a Tumblr.)
Read and refresh both daily. It’s my go-to for news, media, and celebrity gossip, as well as personal essays (including a regular one penned by former Scene music editor Tracy Moore). You either like the brand’s “snark” or you don’t, though I’ve never really considered the Gawker Media house style particularly snarky: more like hilariously exasperated.
2. The AV Club
Hands-down the best pop-culture writing, recapping and analysis on the web today. I’ve got my own profile and everything, and subscribe to status updates for The Simpsons, Community, Louie, True Blood, Breaking Bad, and way, way too many other shows to name. It’s an asocial sickness, but where else can I point out that True Blood’s Marnie was played by Fiona Shaw, who previously worked with a very young Anna Paquin in 1996’s Jane Eyre? In public with my friends and loved ones?
3. The Awl (and The Hairpin, The Billfold, and Splitsider)
The Awl family of blogs has given me much — the phrase “Knifecrime Island,” a suggestion to read Charlotte Brontë’s Villette, and in-depth analysis of assorted sketch-comedy acts. I like their tone, I like their free hand with linking to assorted long form pieces I probably wouldn’t have found on my own, and I like the honest cynicism of Alex Balk.
I try to read Alex Pareene every day, because I love him. He’s a former writer for Gawker, and I liked his style so much that I followed him to his new home. His writing is like a more scholarly version of something you might read on Wonkette: that is, very liberal, and constantly agog at how terrible everything is. I also love his media criticism in form of “The Hack List.”
I also read Salon so I can hate-read Cary Tennis, the most unqualified advice columnist the world has ever seen. The dude has never met an inspiring platitude that didn’t cause his heart to pop a boner. He’s incapable of answering a question without going on a personal aside about how one time he swam with dolphins and caused him to realize that there’s a spiritual thread that binds all things, and maybe you should consider this the next time your husband bookmarks twink porn.
Sometimes in this life you have to listen to “I’m Not in Love” by 10cc right this very moment, and YouTube is the place for that. I’ve also used it to find an instructional video on how to use a fancy can opener that confounded me while housesitting, learned about non-Newtonian fluids from a Spanish-language TV program, and, duh, cats.