May 5, 2022

Introducing: Stuck with Damon Young

by Reply All

Background show artwork for Reply All

We'll be back with a new episode next week, but in the meantime, we're featuring an episode of a new show from Gimlet and Crooked Media: Stuck with Damon Young.

You can listen to episodes here:


EMMANUEL DZOTSI: Hey folks, Emmanuel here. We’re hard at work on a new episode for you, that’ll be out next week, but in the meantime, I wanted to drop-in and tell you about a new show that my colleagues at Gimlet are working on. 

It’s called Stuck with Damon Young. Um, if Damon’s name sounds familiar to you, he is an award winning author and writer who I admire because he is so brutally honest and funny about race, religion, and so many other things.

And he brings a lot of that to this show where he has conversations with a lot of really smart people about issues that are often difficult to parse. The show comes out every Tuesday – you can find it on Spotify. 

Anyways, we’re gonna feature an episode of the show on our feed this week. It’s about what being on the internet - especially if you’re a public figure - does to your sense of self. Specifically, about what it’s like to be black public figure on the internet. In this episode, Damon explores the weight of being a member of blue check black twitter with Jemele Hill, and then he talks to one very online couple, Joel Anderson and Jenee Desmond Harris, about the politics of defending yourself and the ones you love online.  

I hope you enjoy it. We’ll be back with that episode, right after the break. 

DAMON YOUNG: So for a long time, the internet me – well, at least when I’d been on the internet long enough to have a persona – was a persona. Someone a little wittier, a little snarkier, and with humor a little darker than I was in person. I mean, I wasn’t a catfish. Those characteristics of interne- me were a part of the “real” me too. But the in-person-me had neither the platform nor the comfort in my own skin to reveal those parts of myself. 

The distance between internet-me and in-person-me began to shrink, as I received more in person validations for my internet persona. Money, opportunities, and random niggas calling me “king” and asking me to “build.” The more of it that came, the more I felt myself becoming, in-person, the person I’d only been online. 

The first time internet-me was invited to speak, I was terrified. It was 2009, for a panel in D.C. about dating, sex, and relationships, and I needed to take five shots of Henny just to get comfortable enough to get on stage. And I fucking hate Hennessy. Hennessy tastes old jockstraps and new pennies. It tastes like bad credit. 

10 years later, when I was on my book tour, I’d still get nervous before getting in front of audiences, and I’d still drink a little sometimes to settle down. But I was much more sure about myself, because I had like a decades-worth of validations for my work and for my writing. I also drank better bourbon. 

It reminds me a bit of the fallacy about how money changes people, when the truth is that money just allows someone to be who they’ve always wanted to be. 

But sometimes I still feel like I’m stuck in The Matrix. Is that internet me – the persona I conjured and allowed myself to grow into – the real me? Or is it an exaggeration to overcorrect years of unactualized personality? And if I wrote myself into existence, what happens if someone or something hits delete?

This is Stuck with Damon Young, the show where we don’t catfish, we eat catfish.

On today’s episode we talk about the performance of internet behavior, and whether our personas online and in person – which I think we assume are distinct – are actually collapsing into each other.

JEMELE HILL: I'm Jemele Hill. And a testament to my lameness is that I have never not had a professional screen name. My screen name has always been Jemele Hill. It has never been like “Detroit's finest.” I was never a hot girl doing it big. Even on Facebook, you know, you have like “Reggie gettin money Jackson,” like that ain't never been me. I have always been just Jemele Hill. 

DAMON: So that’s Jemele Hill. She’s a contributing writer for The Atlantic, and host of the podcast “Jemele Hill is Unbothered.” And I wanted to talk to her because she’s very popular on Twitter, and very often gets criticized there too. And I guess I’m just curious how personal that feels for her. 

I’m wondering if you've ever felt a distinction between your digital persona and your in person persona. And if so, I guess, when did you first realize that and have you tried to rectify it – if it's if it's a thing. 

JEMELE: Well, you know, I think early on, like, I first joined Twitter in 2009. That was when Twitter was like really fun and also real ratchet, like much different than it is now, you know, where it's a certain level of seriousness. But then it was like, you know, super fun. It was just dumb topics all the time. And people were just, you know, it just seemed, it was really light. And a lot of that changed, I think, after, at least for me, in terms of the digital persona becoming, there being the expectations being different when, you know, I got into the thing with Donald Trump because that is where my… however people knew me was mostly through, you know, ESPN and sports. So the conversation was usually about sports and sports things. And then suddenly, even though from time to time, I would comment on things outside of sports for sure. But that all shifted because there was a brand new set of eyeballs that was watching me. And I became more aware of that because things that I considered to be kind of benign started to become news stories as people started to write about and think pieces. 

And I was just like, oh, so every word they're watching, got it, right? And what happened is people started to really look at me as just being this super serious, angry person all the time, which is not who I am in real life at all. I mean, there are things that definitely outrage me, things I'm passionate about. But it felt like people were, there was this expectation that I was, you know, kind of upset all the time and that just wasn't the case. 

I mean, I get in and I get out. I'll engage. But I just want to make sure that people see more of a balance in who I am. Yes, there are things I think very seriously about and take very seriously. But I also like to shame people who put sugar on their grits. People take how you are digitally and it's like they amplify by a thousand and think that that's who you are, like all the time. And I'm much more nuanced and well-rounded than the person that they see on social media. And it's just like, oh, OK, I'm going to say my quick two or three little Twitter comments and then I'll go back to watching, you know, Below Deck. Like it's OK. Like I can do that. Right? And so I think that allows me to always keep a certain amount of distance between digitally what's happening and, you know, my real life. 

DAMON: You know, it's taken everything in me not to respond to your grits comment. So I'll just table that and we'll come back. 

JEMELE: Are you a sugar grits person?

DAMON: I’m a eat the grits however the fuck you want to person.

JEMELE: We gotta stand for something, Damon. We can't have this. 

DAMON: If you want to eat them with sugar, with salt, with watermelon, with whale lard. Like whatever you want to eat your grits with. Eat your grits with them. 

JEMELE: I'm sorry, I'm not there yet. You're much more progressive.

DAMON: I mean, this is not about being progressive. It's about just, you know, responding to my palate. And if my palate is in the mood for sugar and grits, I am not going to be like, well, you know, you're not, I'm not supposed to eat this. I have to check in. Let me check in. See, again, we've gotten off track in the grits discourse.

So I'm curious, cause you're a public critic, but you also get criticized pretty publicly, too. And much of that comes from the left, comes from the right, where conservatives, white people are trying to troll or whatever. But some of it comes from us. And that coming from us reached a fever pitch when you amplified a piece that I wrote about five years ago, “Straight Black men are the white people of Black people.” And I guess I’m curious how you feel about the criticism you get from us? 

JEMELE: Yeah, I mean, between all those criticism buckets that I tend to ignite, I do think about the ones that our people say about me much more seriously because they're my people. So of course I do. Right? So it does bother me. 

So starting with your article and I have faced this criticism before at different points in my career, depending on what was said, is because I found there to be a lot of truth in what you wrote in your commentary. People reacted mostly to the headline. A lot of people didn't read what you had to say. But this is, I mean, this is what we do. So that's not a surprise. 

So from that, I did get accused of hating Black men and I'm called all manner of bed wenches, biscuit eaters, Aunt Jemima's, all this. Right? Which only proves your point, what you were saying, which they seemed to miss. It's like, hmm, you really just proved his point. And the reason I could relate to what you wrote is because being in sports, there are times where there have been Black athletes who have done things that I find to be reprehensible. And when I say something about it, that same criticism is leveled at me. And it doesn't matter if ninety nine point nine percent of the things that I say about Black male athletes is completely positive, right perspective, very nuanced, thoughtful, whatever, does not matter. I say the one wrong thing, the one time about the one guy that everybody loves and then suddenly it's like, oh, OK, you just doing the master's bidding. And it's just, it's disappointing for me, and especially since some people have drug my family into it as well, because I've been very open about the fact that my father's a recovering addict and that, yes, at one time we did have a very a strange relationship that is not the case anymore and has not been the case for some time. But people want to use that as being the reason why I have it in for Black men despite the fact that I more often than not express my love and appreciation for them. Hell, I married one. I mean, so I mean and I don't really, I don't want to sound like, oh, I got a Black friend, so that means X. But, you know, this supposed track record of me hating Black men is just not accurate and is not there. And it's hurtful for me as a Black woman who, like a lot of Black women, have done, we feel like whenever Black men go through something, whenever they are being persecuted, whenever they are being disrespected, we are on the front lines all the time. 

And the whole point of what you wrote and what a lot of us feel is that when there are intercommunity issues that we need to discuss and because we are mostly around our people and, you know, yes, there are Black men that have hurt us. And whenever we want to talk about that, then it becomes an entirely different story where we're told to swallow our pain, swallow our trauma, shut the fuck up. Stop being, stop trying to ruin the Black man. We're told all of that. And so if it seems as if when, you know, Black women need that support and protection that I go overboard to give it to them, it's because I know based off what I've experienced, what they will face once they begin to speak to some of the issues happening inside of our community. Yes, we do have misogyny issues. We do have abuse issues. We have all that. And none of that is saying that only Black men are the ones with these issues. It's societal issues. But in our community, it's a bit more tricky and nuanced because we have the the shadow, the heavy shadow of racism over all of us. 

Long winded way of saying that, yes, it does bother me because I know what, I know how I feel about Black people. I know how I feel about Black men. And for somebody who doesn't know me and doesn't know shit about me to come in from another direction and try to accuse me of or question what that love is, you damn right I will be pissed off about it. 

DAMON: Yeah, and I see, you know, sometimes and I see this with you, I see this with other Black and Black women who are, who are friends and peers, where the sort of criticism that y'all receive just has a different bite to it, like even if you, you know, you tweet a joke that is corny, right? 

JEMELE: Yes, which I do. 

DAMON: Which everyone, which we all do. I'm corny as fuck. I'm 42-years-old. I'm a dad. I laugh at Dad jokes, I tell Dad jokes. I’m corny as hell. And we all do that, but you see that when Black women kind of just step outside the line either way, like, oh, that was little, that joke was a little late, or that comment was a little off. Then this sort of push back and sort of criticism just doesn't like match. It's like someone who kind of hit you with a feather and then you respond to them with a uppercut. It's like, yo, what, what, where the fuck? There's no scale here. You know, I wonder if, you know, when that happens, if you ever feel, I guess, kind of outside of yourself, like who is this person that they are responding to?

JEMELE: So at the end of the day, I just, I'm glad that I have been a journalist for over twenty years because on a smaller level, you saw examples of that all the time. I mean, I've been getting yelled at and cussed out and called racial slurs about stories for twenty years, all right? And it's the same thing, is that to them, you are not a real person who's written a story and said something that they just don't like. You are just this journalist I can't stand, or this public figure I can't stand, and that's all you are to them. And so I try not to take most of it personally, but every now and again, when it's such an avalanche, you just, you know, because if I respond to one thing, realize 500 other people have said the same thing. And so I'm just like, OK, now y’all on my nerves, and it puts you in an interesting spot, because you know that when people discuss you, when they criticize you, your humanity basically isn't even part of the equation. 

DAMON: I think the internet, because there's so much and there's so much like, OK, I'm going to present this very best version of myself. The self that I want people to see. OK, if I want to be known as this petty motherfucker, then that's who I'm going to be on the internet. That's the persona that I want to portray. If I want to be seen as super woke, or one of the L.L.C. Twitter niggas who, you know, rise and grind or whatever, then I'm going to portray that on the internet. But then you step back and you just question, OK, how authentic is that? 

JEMELE: We are literally splitting ourselves, versions of ourselves between so many different things. And, you know, that's why each, I think social media forum and platform has such a distinct personality. You know you know that a lot of people on Facebook, for example, that's usually where most of their family, friends, you know, high school friends, college friends, that's where they all congregate. 

DAMON: I'm the most me, like of the social media platforms that are the most me, that’s Facebook. I feel really, I feel the freest on Facebook. I can sprawl. 

JEMELE: I think on Twitter I'm probably the most me because that's the one I probably frequently use the most. So people are getting more of me. And Instagram is probably a close second because Instagram has the variety that shows my personality. Yeah, I put up video clips from my podcast, but also things that people should think about, but also silly things about, you know, I just put up this one video about how – I mean, it feels like everybody Black was kind of raised the same way – but about how, you know, if it's a stack of cups we just take, we take from the middle, like we never take from the top. 

DAMON: The top cut up is evil. You don't take the top cup. The top cup has cooties.

JEMELE: The top has cooties. We all know this. So go from middle on down. 

DAMON: I mean that’s a fact.

JEMELE: But we all are kind of built this way, just like with the microwave. Like how many people? Because this was also part of the video, is that instead of hitting two and a half minutes on a microwave, we just hit thirty five times. Why do we do this? I don't know why. 


VOICE 1: On the subject of first AOL screen names, I am a woman of a certain age. So I was kind of obsessed with the Spice Girls and my first screen name was Ghetto Spice, but I spelled it G-E-D-O-S-P-I-C-E.


VOICE 2: My screen name used to be “topofthelinedime.” I'm inspired by Mike Jones. The one, the only.


VOICE 3: My first e-mail address was People PC was the original rent to own computer. Yeah, I've redeemed myself since.


VOICE 4: My first ever screen name was “MoonTanned1” because I guess I thought it would be cool if you got a tan by the moon. 


VOICE 5: It was sixth grade. I was watching MTV, a new world premiere of Bootylicious came on. I sprinted to the computer room. I thought, this song is going to change the world. I have to get this screenname. My hands were trembling as I typed it out, trying to be the first bootylicious on AIM. I was not. I did get Bootylicious88. It's AOL, you're like writing to all of your friends and your crushes stuff and like very, very proudly using Bootylicious88.


DAMON: So we’ve been talking about the distinctions between online and in-person personas, but what happens when both you and your partner are very very online? Are there predetermined rules to follow? Do you perform partnership for your audience? For some answers, I reached out to one of my favorite very online couples, Jenee Desmond Harris and Joel Anderson. Jenee is Slate’s “Dear Prudence” advice columnist, and was my editor when I wrote for the New York Times. And Joel, who also works for Slate, is a writer and reporter and the host of Slate’s Slow Burn podcast series.

DAMON: So when did you decide to go public with your relationship, or was it like more, was there an intentionality behind that, or was it more like an organic sort of thing? 

JENEE DESMOND HARRIS: I guess, if by public you mean social media

DAMON: Social media, particularly Twitter, we’re talking specifically today about Twitter. Specifically Twitter-public. 

JENEE: I remember going Instagram-public when I went to a Buzzfeed holiday party with you and we posted pictures. That was like a big moment for me. As far as Twitter, I think it was after we got engaged. Does that sound right?

JOEL ANDERSON: There were people who did not know that we were even together. And then they found out we were engaged. And I was like, Oh, you know, you just realize nobody's paying attention to you. You know, I mean, it's like, Oh, I thought y’all saw my Instagram, you know, we kind of interact a little bit. I moved to D.C., I live with her. You all didn't know? But yeah, that's, I think I think you're right that our engagement really kind of tipped everybody off that we were together. 

DAMON: So the IG, I guess public thing happened before the Twitter thing. Was there a reason for that? Or was this an organic thing? Because I know that there are, there are also rules that govern Instagram revealing some relationships. There are like the soft, the soft open, where you, you share like their elbow. You show their shadow in a story.

JENEE: Some people know who it is, yeah. 

DAMON: I’m on a date with someone, you know, you just…

JOEL: So happy at a restaurant, like yeah. 

JENEE: It's like that picture of someone, like clearly someone you love took it of you across the table and you're like, great dinner and great company. 

DAMON: Yes, it's like the Liz Taylor White Diamonds treatment, basically. Yeah, you get that is like, who the fuck is taking this picture? 

JENEE: Oh yeah. 

DAMON: There are all these filters and you’ve never looked better. Do you think that Twitter has maybe a similar dynamic or is it just kind of like the wild wild West where you just do what the fuck you want? 

JENEE: I feel like Twitter, I feel much more vulnerable sharing things on Twitter than I do on Instagram or Facebook because I guess just because of like my privacy settings or the way I've selected my friends and followers, I assume most people on Instagram and Facebook like me and want the best for me, and I don't feel that way about Twitter. So deciding to be public there means you're exchanging like the dopamine hit that we're all addicted to when you share anything on Twitter for the fact that you know that some people who hate you are taking note or rolling their eyes or whatever. 

JOEL: Right? You got to be strategically vulnerable on Twitter. There's no need in opening up your heart and baring your soul because it can only be used against you later on Twitter. That's what I think. 

DAMON: So tell me some more about the strategic vulnerability because I'm curious, too, because I am terrified of Twitter. Like I'm on Twitter, you know, to tweet my shit out and to read stuff. But I don't really engage. I never really have engaged there either, because it gives me more anxiety than it's worth to do that. 

JOEL: Was there ever a time when you were on it like that?

DAMON: There have been stretches where like, maybe I'll laugh, tweet or I'll respond in a conversation or start a conversation, but I've never been active on Twitter, like I never have been. 

JENEE: That's interesting, I always thought that was a sign of your discipline, not being scared. 

DAMON: Nah, it's a sign of my anxiety about getting about, you know, to your point Jenee. You know, people who are on your IG page are, should be your friends. But again, Joel, what does strategic vulnerability look like? 

JOEL: Well, I mean, if I have like a larger point to make, I just think about all the times when I talk about health care, if I have some sort of issue with my mother, like usually for me, it relates in some sort of way where, you know, I have a larger point to make about how the health care system or the hospitals say, you know, the way they treat Black women when they come in there or, you know, we don't, not getting the service you need, or even related to the pandemic today. Like I just basically made reference to the fact that, you know, one of the reasons my mother's procedure took so long is that people continue to pass around this damn disease and so like me revealing that about my mother, it's like me being strategically vulnerable. Even though I would never show her picture, I would never share her name on there. You know, that sort of thing. 

It's for me in service of a broader point, but I would never just go on there and be like, man. Jenee yelled at me, dog, and I'm hurt. I'm sent down here on the couch, you know, I mean, you know, I would never be. There's no benefit to that, you know what I mean? So I just have to be real about it. Like Jenee said, you know, we have, you know, I guess this, not insignificant number of followers, and I don't presume that even a decent plurality of them love me. You know what I mean, or like me. Like, there's a lot of people that probably follow me and screenshot my tweets or hate me or whatever. And so I don't, I don't want to give people material to hurt me with later that, you know, actually that I am vulnerable about, I guess. 

JENEE: I think one of the most brave and like transparently vulnerable things people do on Twitter, which I've never done, is to just go on there and say, like, I'm feeling horrible about myself, can someone say something nice to me? It's a little jarring to see that explicit request, but I actually think that's behind what we're doing if we share a tweet thread about, you know, something difficult that's going on in service of a larger point. A lot of what you're getting back from that is people affirming you and comforting you. And I think that's what a lot of people want, and we all just go about it differently. 

DAMON: What you're speaking of is kind of like a Trojan horse vulnerability and where you're able to kind of shield yourself from from the fuck shit by making about this larger point, but you're still receiving the dopamine and you're still getting the retweets, you're still getting the like, you're still getting the well-wishes. 

JENEE: Exactly. Like I think, I shared that I was going through IVF and had some miscarriages in a larger conversation about how we don't talk about this enough or whatever the point was, Black women's health care, and I made the plan, which was fine. But what I got was a million DMs from women who were comforting me and opening up to me and offering support and eventually like sending me baby clothes. And so I really, I got a lot out of that strategic vulnerability, even if I wasn't explicitly thinking, I'm doing this because I need some people to rally around me. I think on some level, I knew that would happen. 

DAMON: Have you all encountered any, I guess, any sort of indication that people have a parasocial relationship with you? And I really try not to say that because I felt like 2021 ran that word into the ground, but that’s the only word that fits. 

JENEE: Well, I know that we both have like those settings where you only see replies from, I think people who follow you. Oh yeah. Or maybe even people you follow back. So that's my way of protecting myself from stuff that I just don't want to hear, that won't make me feel good. Because to me, Twitter is for fun and I'm on there to have a good time to get that dopamine hit, too. It's a shortcut. As someone who identifies as a writer. It's easier than pitching a piece, submitting it, publishing it, having it edited. You throw out two lines and you get feedback and it feels great. 

DAMON: You’re also crowdsourcing answers for Prudence I've seen. 

JENEE: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So it's for fun, and it's also very helpful for work. And so because of that, I really try to protect myself from anything that's going to upset me because like, I'm on here voluntarily to have a good time. So I don't actually want to hear from people who I don't like or who are, you know, being intentionally annoying or critical. 

JOEL: Right, and in fact, she encouraged me to do that because I think early in our relationship I was a little bit more combustible on Twitter, is that maybe? You know, I was more willing to get in there and fight with people. And I think that's a spoiler, probably more than a few evenings, you know, being fixated on trying to get the right tweet or being mad at somebody. And so eventually she was like, You know what? Why don't you set your filters up? And so eventually I did that and I had to admit, like, it has been a much better experience because even like, the barrier for entry to respond to me now, you just got to follow me. But like a lot of people, don't want to do that right? And so like, you know, those are the only people that I guess I'm really interested in interacting with, not people, you know, doing a one off or something like that. 

DAMON: So I feel like for you all as a couple, you're coming out party had to do with someone, you know, she was a colleague of Jenee’s and apparently there was a, she had invited you to lunch. And, can you tell a story, please, if you don’t mind.

JENEE: Sure. So I think she's a terrible person. Therefore, I didn't want to interact with her beyond what was required professionally. I also think she's a dishonest person, so I certainly didn't want to be one on one with her without like a mediator. So when she asked me to go to coffee, I politely declined, said I had too much work, and she reported me to my boss and I got called into his office. But I wasn't allowed to tweet about this because of New York Times social media policies. So I just had this bizarre story that seemed to fly in the face of everything she would stand for. And that I couldn't tell because my workplace rules wouldn't allow it. And when you know she did something else, terrible one day and Joel took the opportunity to share my story with my permission. 

JOEL: Well, I think the thing that was happening is there was a big staff meeting or something at the New York Times, and she was airing out what was company business like, she was basically live tweeting, you know, a staff meeting and talking about how she felt isolated or within within the department because people were treating her a certain sort of way. And I'm like, you know why people are treating you like that, like nobody really knew who you were before you got to the New York Times. There was no reason for anybody to have any resentment to that person. And so whenever, you know the way she got treated as the way she got treated and then she's complaining about it on Twitter and I'm like, You on some bullshit. I know exactly what you did to my wife and I worked the tweet up. I had to run it by her first because I didn't want to, I didn't want to get her in trouble with her people. She still had to go to work. I want her to still be in good standing with the Times. But when she gave me to go, you know, I was like, Let me go ahead and shoot this out here real quick. 

JENEE: There is so much chaos going on that day. I was like, it won’t even make a difference. There's so much going on, right? Right? 

JOEL: I never thought anybody would pay attention to it or would care. We would say that. Yeah. 

JENEE: And actually just this relates to Twitter, too, in that part of the complaint that I was confronted with in my boss's office was, she also says, your husband called her racist on Twitter. And I just remember saying, I can't help you with that. I can't. I don't think he actually did use that word because we try to be careful about that because people are so sensitive, but I just said, I can't help you with that. I'm not. I don't monitor his social media account, although of course I do. I didn't think it would be such a big thing, but it was funny that people started calling Joel a wife guy and stuff, and I was like, Oh, he's always been great. This isn't like the best thing he's ever done for me. Yeah, the reaction was really funny. 

DAMON: Do you feel like either of you have aged-out of any conversations? 

JENEE: Oh, probably a lot of them. 

JOEL: Most. Like all of the dating questions, for instance, because like, I've never used a dating app, you know what I mean? Like, I'm old enough that I've never been on a dating app. So any questions about $200 dates or somebody finessed you on Tinder or something like that? I was like, I have no idea. I have the vague outline.

DAMON: But your expertise is as a presumably happily married couple. 

JOEL: Very, very happy. 

DAMON: You know you have some valuable insights there about dating. And I've never been on a dating app either, but you know about Tinder. And I would imagine that the dynamics aren't that different than offline dating, I guess whatever. 

JOEL: It depends.

JENEE: Oh, I think we have good insights. I don't know if that's just because of my job, like I'm paid to feel confident in my insights about dating and relationships. But Joel is always like, No, we can't get cocky. We don't know anything. We've only been married for years. We hadn't had any challenges. We don't know. Don't get cocky. So I think I have plenty to offer Joel thinks like, we don't know anything. 

JOEL: I just, I just think that, you know, life is very long, you know, and as much as I love Jenee and want to spend the rest of my life with her and raise our children together, and that that is what I'm intending to do. That is my, you know, like I don't want anything to get in the way of that. Like that is how I want to live the rest of my life with her. But she may get sick of me, man. You know, one day she may just look up and be like, I don't like that nigga man, you know, and I got to deal with it. So that's all I'm saying. Or, you know, just life. Life gets hard. So I just think that, you know, being intentional and being in the moment is more important for me than, you know.

JENEE: I think the internet has done a lot to make us all like paranoid and self-conscious in a healthy way. I remember all the articles a few years ago about emotional labor and how, you know, women do all the emotional labor and men don't take responsibility for anything like he really absorbed those and like, became obsessed with them. And he's also a very competitive person, so he will try to do more around the house to not be a bad person, but also to beat me. Like if I do something, he's like, Oh shit, you're ahead now. So whatever works and we’ll report back in like 40 years and tell you if we have like a formula to offer.

DAMON: If that day were to come where you wake up one morning, she's like, Yo, this nigga stinks. 

JOEL: If she leaves me, it will be because I stink because I smell great. 

JENEE: We’re a two shower a day household.

DAMON: If it gets to that point, how do you think you would handle that just in terms of your public? You know, I guess personas?

JOEL: That would be the absolute least of my concerns. I think I would be devastated no matter what, you know. But I don't think the internet, you know, of course, it would be embarrassing on the internet, but I would have to live with that heartache and hurt for the rest of my life. You know what I mean? I just think that the pain of it all would be so intense, so long lasting that I would probably not give much of a shit about Twitter. Now, I probably would disappear for a while off of social media, like if I, you know, because I probably wouldn't want to face the world. But you know people make small talk so much about branding, you know, the fear of branding their relationships and don't put too much out there or whatever. And I think it's just a fear of being embarrassed and being hurt. But my rejoinder to that is that you're going to hurt regardless, like if you lose somebody that you love in that way, it's going to hurt you. And I really don't think that people going on the internet and being told you are, Oh, I guess I like go to brunch no more, like, I mean, you know, I really, you know, but what would they actually mean in the context of like, I've lost the love of my life? I don't think it would register that much. 

JENEE: There is such a good answer. I was going to say I thought we might put out a short little statement with the Notes app.


DAMON: The first thing I do when waking up in the morning, before yawning, sitting up, stretching, and even getting up to brush my teeth, is reaching over the side of the bed for my phone, and checking to see what I missed in the five hours since I last looked at it. And not just texts or phone calls, but emails, tweets, Facebook posts, likes on recent ig posts, and updates to reddit threads about Kyrie Irving.

And then I’ll do whatever shit humans need to do to prepare for the day, but then most of the rest of my time awake will be spent online.

I guess my point is that it might be silly now to have any anxiety about the distinctions between the virtual me and the physical, real world me, because the distinctions between the virtual me and the physical me are so minute, so inconsequential, that they barely exist. Even if I tried to have distinct personas, the time I spend online--and my reliance on the internet to make the money that allows me to live in the physical world – would make that impossible. Internet me has to be the real me, because that’s the choice I made. And also because there’s no other choice.


DAMON: Stuck with Damon Young is a Spotify Original Podcast from Gimlet and Crooked Media. It’s hosted and written by me, Damon Young. 

Ruben Davis is our Executive Producer. Our producers are Ashley Velez, Morgan Moody, Carlton Gillespie, Priscilla Alabi, Stephen Hoffman, and Corinne Gilliard.

Mixing and Sound Design by Jesse Naus, Charlotte Landes, and Veronica Simonetti. 

Theme Music and Score by Open Mike Eagle.

From Crooked Media, our Executive Producers are Tanya Somanader, Sarah Geismer, and Katie Long. From Gimlet, our Executive Producers are Rosie Guerin, Krystal Hawes-Dressler, Collin Campbell, and Lydia Polgreen.