It's called The Internet Review, but was the idea behind this as a print collection, something that you could hold in your hands, meant to help readers establish a more personal connection with the stories that dominated what everyone consumed online this year?
The Internet Review is my effort to take the conversation that we're having online offline and try to bring some more personal meaning back into it. There's a Teen Vogue phenomenon that says, "Let's stop talking down to our audience." Clearly, there's a younger audience that understands the news first from a consumer perspective, perhaps not from a political perspective. So, it's important to talk to young consumers, especially in the age of Trump, because he's a brand. Teen Vogue is covering brands, so we should not be ashamed to really analyze consumerism in news, and to understand the news as a consumer product. It will start with the print, but I'll also be doing a live event next year. I'll continue to work with artists to create physical objects. We also have a few pins that we're making.
Of course, big pop culture moments, like the release of Beyoncé's "Lemonade," and the international health scare presented by Zika, were covered so heavily and from so many angles throughout the year—how do the writers in The Internet Review broach these subjects?
With health-related issues, I wanted a more personal take. I didn't want to just cover that Zika happened, how the government could prepare for things like Zika. I wanted someone who had a real experience with Zika to write about it, because I thought that would be more informative. I actually went looking for someone who had some personal experience. The first woman who interested me as a writer is about 26. She's so young, just got married. She was like, "I can't have kids. I have to wait a couple of years because my doctor told me, since I live in Florida, it was a terrible idea." That, to me, is more powerful—that first-person account.
And you really put some constraints on your writers. I remember when you wrote an essay in Medium in October announcing the project that you said the essays would be about 250 words each.
The book has great writers who do a great job at knocking 250 words out of the park. It's hard to write that short and do it well. But I wanted the essays to be short, because I wanted everybody to get through the book, all the topics, as quickly as possible.
Today, the essay that keeps jumping out at me is by Lauren Duca [who wrote the now famous essay about Trump gaslighting America for Teen Vogue]. She wrote this great piece on the idea of banning men, the Twitter trend of women tweeting #banmen, and how the critique of hyper-masculinity is in and of itself a meme. It's funny for women to say "#banmen," even though perhaps a man who's unaware would find that offensive.
"The internet's ease of use has given us the assumption that we can find everything on it, when, in fact, we cannot." –Margarita Noriega
I think any woman would find it offensive, if she read a tweet that said, "Ha, ha, #banwomen." Lauren goes into why it's so important that women have the right to say "ban men" and to joke about aggressive masculinity. It's brilliant, and she could have written 3,000 words on it.
What else can we expect to find in the book? Were there certain writers who you just knew you wanted specific essays from?
There are 92 contributors, and there will probably be about 120 contributed works altogether. I looked a lot at individual expertise. For example, Stefan Beckett, who is the Mic politics editor—I'm obviously not going to ask Stefan to write about anything except politics.
"I am glad Scott-Heron didn't see 2016, because he might have written another B-Movie." — Sasha Frere-Jones
There are other people, though, who I wanted to write about a specific thing. Felix Stedman, who is at Fusion, is one of the best writers on global economics and finance, and when I pitched him the book, I said, "I need you to write about Brexit. I don't want you to write about anything else." Sasha Frere-Jones, one of my favorite music writers, ended up writing about [poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron's poem] "B-Movie," which he thinks perfectly captures the mood of 2016.
The illustrations also seem so important. Even the cover is so great, because the person is watching a dumpster fire through Snapchat spectacles, yet another device that's shaping how we share our literal view of the world.
I tried not to influence the editorial tone too much, because I didn't want to limit the writers' voices. But for the cover, I'd had this idea of recording a garbage fire, like it's a cool thing. That'd been in my head since I heard of the spectacles. Andy Dubbin, an editorial cartoonist, reached out to me, and he immediately understood what I wanted. It's a very androgynous figure, too. The reason you don't see the hair or much of the face is that they're supposed to be a bit genderless.
"The best way, I think, to combat that device exhaustion is to pursue things outside of your norm."
In 2017, what do you think people can do to establish a balance in their lives when it comes to device and internet fatigue, information overload?
The internet's ease of use has given us the assumption that we can find everything on it, when, in fact, we cannot. The best way, I think, to combat that device exhaustion—getting tired of arguments online, the feeds, and this overwhelming sense that there's too much going on—is to pursue things outside of your norm. That's going to a museum or going to an art fair, going to a craft fair, or seeing movies in the theater—getting outside of your comfort zone and your normal habits of consuming art and culture. It's fantastic.
If you don't read a lot of books, pick up a book, or if you don't read a lot of magazines, go buy a nice magazine. If you don't listen to radio, listen to radio. Whatever the unusual is for a person, they should experiment with those things, and it will teach them more about the value of the internet.