Internet

Taylor Lorenz Makes Sense of Online Culture for the Rest of Us

The New York Times technology reporter is revealing how social media is encouraging individual expression.

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Do you know the phrase OK, Boomer? It's an increasingly popular put-down voiced by younger people toward older people whom they see as out of touch or unworthy of serious engagement.

If you've heard the saying—or used it—the likely reason is because of today's guest, Taylor Lorenz, who covers technology and internet culture for The New York Times. Last fall, Lorenz popularized the term in a story declaring "the end of friendly generational relations" online. More recently, she's exposed how former New York City mayor and current Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg is spending millions of dollars on Twitter, Instagram, and other social media services to suddenly look cool, hip, and happening. She's also explained why viral vids shot in bathrooms outperform those shot in less private parts of the house. 

If you want to know what's happening online, especially among Millennials and Gen Z types, you've got to read Lorenz, who joined the Times after stints at places such as The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, and Buzzfeed.

In a wide-ranging conversation with Nick Gillespie, Lorenz talks about how TikTok, the ultra-short video platform out of China, enhances self-expression, why government regulation of online speech is always ultimately doomed to fail, and how the future depends on all of us developing media literacy in a hurry.

Audio production by Regan Taylor and Ian Keyser.

Related links:

Taylor Lorenz's New York Times archive.

Her personal website.

Follow Lorenz on Instagram.

Follow Lorenz on Twitter.

NEXT: The Great Bernie Freakout

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    1. I at least hope Nick got to, not sure what the phrase kids use today, as Gen X I will use bump uglies with her in exchange for this vapid, puff piece interview.

  1. I’m going to judge quietly while listening to this.

  2. So, she’s the cvnt that taught young nitwits to disregard those much wiser than they are?

    1. Don’t trust anyone over thirty was her?

      1. No. She just said the same thing 50 years later and actually thought it was original.

        1. Oh come on. You of all people should recognize a rhetorical question.

          1. I am dense about sarcasm. My mistake.

  3. Jesus Christ, Nick. This has to stop.

  4. God damn, Nick… Enough already.

  5. If this is such a golden age of self expression, why does art it produces suck so badly?

    1. It seems that the concept of the individual is slowly being transformed and diluted, maliciously and intentionally. It’s not me, its we. And art doesn’t exist without the individual.

    2. You’re clearly looking in the wrong places for your art.

  6. In the 21st Century Progressive Era Luddism is a requirement for a “technology reporter”.

  7. She’s also explained why viral vids shot in bathrooms outperform those shot in less private parts of the house.

    So videos people take of themselves naked, which are often taken in or near a shower or a large mirror, do better than those shot other places that show people with their clothes on. Good thing we have Taylor around to point these interesting factoids out.

  8. Media literacy without historical literacy is useless

    1. OK, Boomer.

      *** ducks ***

      1. If you haven’t seen the baby Yoda “Ok Boomer” meme, look it up.

        1. 😎 “Meme like this, why do I?”

          1. Saying “OK boomer” while referencing a movie franchise that’s been around since the 1970s. Irony or stupidity?

  9. you know how I know this person is a retard and not worth talking to? she unironically penned a piece called: “the end of friendly generational relations” in 2019 as if that was some kind of original thought as it related to the internet and not something that has been occurring since the beginning of time and since the beginning of the internet.

    1. How can anyone be that illiterate about the past and human nature? She writes for the Times. I am sure she is some successful person’s daughter who went to all the right schools. She must have some level of cleverness. The question I have is how can someone became as dumb and misinformed as this woman appears to be.

      The easy answer is to blame the education system. But, I don’t think that fully explains it. It doesn’t take much to realize much of what you are taught in school is bullshit and to look beyond that. Indeed, school is only a foundation for what is supposed to be a lifetime of learning and accumulating wisdom. So, no matter how bad the schools are, I don’t think they are entirely to blame.

      Part of me thinks perhaps it is the culture and the culture of the sort of gentry left that this woman likely grew up in and certainly as an employee of the Times lives in now. Perhaps, there is so much pressure to conform that she never did look beyond whatever nonsense she learned in school. If she ever was curious and did question things, the culture was so constricting and that spark died very quickly.

      It is not a complete explanation. But it is the only start I can make towards explaining why otherwise clever people end up thinking so many really stupid things and being so uniformed about nearly everything.

      1. “But it is the only start I can make towards explaining why otherwise clever people end up thinking so many really stupid things and being so uniformed about nearly everything.”

        Go read about the concept of the “Clever Silly”. It goes some way towards explaining your question. Helped me sort of understand why so many objectively bright people I know, in fields as diverse as physics professor, trader on the Street, infectious disease doctor, etc… find leftist views attractive, and have such seething, irrational hate for Trump.

        1. Drawing on the ideas of Kanazawa, my suggested explanation for this association between intelligence and personality is that an increasing relative level of IQ brings with it a tendency differentially to over-use general intelligence in problem-solving, and to over-ride those instinctive and spontaneous forms of evolved behaviour which could be termed common sense. Preferential use of abstract analysis is often useful when dealing with the many evolutionary novelties to be found in modernizing societies; but is not usually useful for dealing with social and psychological problems for which humans have evolved ‘domain-specific’ adaptive behaviours.

          Interesting idea. I had never heard that before. But I think there is something to it. People who are good at abstract reasoning fall in love with it because it is easy. Reasoning is easy if you are smart. What is hard is the facts. The reasoning no matter how elaborate is only as good as the facts and assumption that go into it. Smart people don’t like that because their superior reasoning skills do not give them superior perception skills. So they just pretend reasoning is all their is and wind up rationalizing all kinds of really stupid beliefs.

          1. “People who are good at abstract reasoning fall in love with it because it is easy. Reasoning is easy if you are smart.”

            It is especially easy if you’re not also bright socially. Far easier in that case to go with what you’re already used to doing, and not spend the time trying to learn interpersonal relationships.

            I really liked—and I think you’re reading the same article I did—his inferred point that, really bright people do come up with much better ways of doing things from time to time, and that brings great rewards. Since he’s, I think, an evolutionary psych guy, that gets put in terms of having more opportunities to fuck.

            However, Sturgeon’s Law comes into play, because most new ideas don’t work. So spending all of their time trying to think of a new way of doing something ends up, on net, being a negative for the very bright individual who exclusively uses a strategy of always rationalizing through obstacles, instead of relying on older strategies worked out by the community: common sense.

            If you knew nothing about human behavior, Communism would seem to work. And it honestly occupied a lot if not most of the Western intellectual class throughout the 1910s-20s.

            1. Every sort of totalitarian nonsense over the last two hundred years has come wrapped in a package of “science” and “reasoning”. It is like crack to certain people.

              The other thing is that people who are smart understandably derive pride and their sense of self worth from being smart. So, they are very susceptible to ideologies like socialism that tell their believers they are part of an enlightened vanguard leading lesser lights towards a better future.

              This is especially true now with the decline of Christianity among the elites. Christianity served as a check on people’s egos. Everyone is equal before God and compared to God the difference between the greatest and most humble person falls to insignificance. Without that restraining influence, smart people can end up believing some very stupid and dangerous things.

    2. Again, she’s more of an arts and culture reporter. Newspapers need to stop calling these people tech reporters.

  10. I have one minor bone to pick, and I’ve picked this bone in years past… can we stop calling people like Lorenz a “tech reporter”? She’s a culture and ‘scene’ reporter. Using instagram and understanding or even being able to explain ‘memes’ doesn’t make you tech savvy. I may make you culturally savvy, but at this point, this stuff has transcended technology and have become the tools of the day.

    When the telephone was the primary way for people to communicate, I didn’t call my mom “tech savvy” every time she dialed our neighbor on the phone.

    1. Look Paul, she was told there wouldn’t be any math. Taylor is hip and knows the right people. She is a “tech reporter”. If actually knowing anything was required, she wouldn’t have a job in the first place.

      1. I don’t know much about Taylor. I’m listening now, but there’s so little about technology that she’s covering. She’s talking about being media savvy, generational divides in how people receive “memes”, how aging changes your perspective on media and messaging, how there might or should be disclosure rules on being a paid influencer…

        This has fuck-all to do with “technology”. It’s arts and culture shit all the way down.

    2. When the telephone was the primary way for people to communicate, I didn’t call my mom “tech savvy” every time she dialed our neighbor on the phone.

      Beautiful.

    3. Couldn’t agree more. Talking about the technology is entirely different from talking about how we use the technology.

      1. Yeah, being a pundit and talking about the culture as it relates to the internet doesn’t fly as being a ‘technology reporter’. I understand why maybe we initially thought of it that way, and to a degree, we’re still in a bit of a transition… but the internet IS the way we communicate and interact. It’s a culture discussion, not so much a technology question. Technology is woven in there– for instance, specific apps allow people to communicate with a different emphasis, so I don’t want to erase technology from the equation. But in a way, it’s no different than a band using changing instrumentation to produce their music. If Band X now uses synths or arpeggiators to produce an album, it’s still mainly an arts and culture discussion… with technology being used to express it.

        If Rolling Stone does a 5000 word thinkpiece on band x’s new musical direction, we don’t call the Rolling Stone critic/reporter a ‘tech reporter’.

    4. She writes about people who play with toys the gray-haired old hippies who run the NYT don’t know how to operate. Therefore: “Tech Reporter.”
      It’s as accurate a label as the modern Times definition of “News.”

    1. The very next video you linked after the Brandon Oneil one is Steve Bannon talking at the Oxford Union. WTF isn’t he interviewed here or by someone like Tyler Cowen? It’s upsetting to me given how important he was in 2016 and how demonized he is. I don’t understand the desire to hide and marginalize him as a figure. It strikes me as intellectually bankrupt and cowardly.

      1. Sort of like Reason’s position on people like Jordan Petersen whose message was completely innocuous but was treated as if he was some kind of fire breathing nazi around here by editorial staff.

        1. What the fuck are you talking about?

          1. Did you ever listen to or read articles alluding to on here Petersen? The man’s message was basically rehash of Tony Robinsons and self help bullshit and a take down of cultural marxism and the importance of hierarchies in our society. Pretty basic stuff with plenty of disagreements to here and they refused to even acknowledge him beyond talking about how terrible his followers were with Soave basically to be suring. On the podcast they would talk about how much of an intellectual joke he was.

            1. Petersen has a PHD and is a practicing and successful therapist. For a bunch of liberal arts majors who have literally done nothing in their lives but get paid to talk out of their asses to call him an intellectual joke is pretty galling.

          2. Reason ran multiple articles that were dismissive and derisive of Petersen. You need to learn to use the search function and make more effort to try and keep up with what people are talking about.

            1. Reason also ran plenty of positive and neutral articles about Peterson. You should try to keep up yourself.

              1. Reason also ran plenty of positive and neutral articles about Peterson.

                No, they did not. Which is why you didn’t bother to link one, you lying fucking prick.

                  1. That doesn’t help my argument at all SO FUCK Y7OU LIBERAL!!!!!1!!1!!!!1

          3. What the fuck are you talking about?

            the sneering dismissal of Peterson by Gillespie, Brown and Soave on particular points that were either entirely misunderstood, misrepresented or aggressively mischaracterized.

            Had Peterson popped up in the early 2000s, he’d have been a guest contributor to Reason.

        2. Welch called him a “cult of personality”. Petersen, like Bannon, is one of the most important figures of the last decade. Reason should be all over Petersen. And I don’t mean support him necessarily but engaging with him and taking his ideas seriously because a lot of people do take them seriously and are greatly influenced by them. Instead, they just launch cheap shots over the wrong sorts of people liking him and write hit pieces.

          1. he was a cult of personality. But that makes it all the more important to talk to people like him and either take down his positions or find common ground. Reason and many many people I used to respect as classical liberals and libertarians have really shown their true colors the past couple of years by missing much of this. They are so scared to be marginalized in their social circles they refuse to talk to these largely innocuous and moderate figures and cast their followers as dangerous cretins. It’s cowardly and bankrupt and leads me to believe they shouldn’t be trusted with anything.

            1. The fact that he became a cult of personality tells you all you need to know about where society is going. A guy saying very basic, well-reasoned things– is now considered controversial.

              As Joe Rogan said, there’s never been anyone more mischaracterized and falsely maligned that Peterson. And when a real towering intellect like Douglas Murray considers him serious and a fellow traveler, Peterson is no intellectual joke.

              Peterson has been asked by interviewers why he became so immensely popular and his answer was telling. He said himself that he didn’t believe he was saying anything particularly revolutionary or controversial, but it had more to do with the fact that we now have an entire generation who’ve never been told any of this stuff before. We have an entire generation of young people who’ve been fed a steady diet of “rights rights rights rights” and no one has ever once talked about “responsibility”, and further, no one has ever talked to them about looking inward. Everything is about looking outward. So when someone comes along and says, “get your own life in order before you go off and try to change the world… because it’s far easier to make things worse than it is to make things better” that simple concept is “controversial” now.

              1. So when someone comes along and says, “get your own life in order before you go off and try to change the world… because it’s far easier to make things worse than it is to make things better” that simple concept is “controversial” now.

                When ”””””libertarians””””” concede the Marxist critique of capitalism to Jacobin Magazine in a formal debate, it’ unsurprising they also piss all over anyone who suggests that maybe guiding principles accumulated over 3,000 years of hard won experience shouldn’t be discarded on the basis of histrionic emoting.

                1. No kidding? Who did that? Where can I find this?

                  1. Think the poster is referring to this debate Nick and KMW had with people from Jacobin, in a video within this article. https://reason.com/2017/11/03/livestream-of-nick-gillespie-and-katheri/

                    I don’t have time to watch the video, but the commenters noted fairly early in the thread that, “When you concede the language to Marx you have no chance of victory.”

                    1. Thanks. KMW is a fucking dingbat. She really is. I have no idea what she does at reason or why anyone ever hired her.

            2. Petersen is an interesting guy and if you listen to him not really a creature of the right. He is a Jungian and writes a lot about the limits of ideologies and the value of all of them from certain perspectives.

              His following is mostly do to him giving people practical advice how to live a fulfilling lives. He was a therapist for like 20 years and drew a bunch of pretty good lessons from what worked and did not worked for his patients.

              1. He rose to initial prominence because he said “fuck you” to compelled speech. What came after was based on his vilification in the media, and his steady, continuous defense of his position. That Reason didn’t give a shit about it is their problem, not Peterson’s.

                1. He refused to go along with the transgender bullshit. And reason for cultural reasons has bought into that hook line and sinker. Reason has a funny habit of not giving a fuck about freedom when the freedom involves objecting to whatever their pet culture war issue is that day.

                  1. that’s why whenever I post a video with Brendan O’Neill railing against transgender bullshit, I make sure I note him as “Reason Contributor Brendan O’Neill”.

          2. Reason should be all over Petersen. And I don’t mean support him necessarily but engaging with him and taking his ideas seriously

            Exactly. No one is demanding that Reason embrace 100% of his ideas, but the flippant dismissal of him and determined lack of engagement is telling to me.

            I don’t know much about Bannon, so I can’t comment on him. But Peterson’s well reasoned and logical arguments against the collectivism of popular social movements should have been engaged by Reason. They seriously missed the boat.

      2. Huh, I didn’t catch that. It’s interesting that in a video ‘chain’ of Brendan O’Neill, an established and vocal “man of the left” and self-described cultural Marxist, that Steve Bannon would come up.

        Tells you something about how much churn there is in the political spectrum.

        1. youtube does an amazing job.

        2. At some point in the last three years, I found that Glen Greenwald and I are on the same side. How the hell did that happen?

          1. the media lost its collective mind and also lost interest in the truth and their purpose of informing, and instead fully dedicated themselves to influence.

            1. They were the last to realize how much they burned their currency and relevance during the Obama administration.

          2. He’s not a coward. He may be wrong but he’s principled and not intellectually dishonest about his positions. Where I disagree with him he is honest broker about how he arrived at his conclusions.

      3. The other thing is that even if you hate Bannon, there is no denying a reason interview with him would make for great content and likely generate a lot of page views. Yet, Reason won’t do it despite Bannon being both a very important figure in modern politics and an interview likely generating readership and revenue.

        Intellectually bankrupt and cowardly is a perfect way to describe it. And intellectually confident publication would want to interview Bannon and hear his side and use that as a means of putting out its side. Reason doesn’t because Bannon would likely hand whoever interviewed him their ass. Certainly no one on the staff would be up to the challenge. And it is unclear they could get someone on the outside who was both willing and up to the challenge.

        Even if they could, reason is still too cowardly to do it. The social circles that reason and its staff inhabit have declared Bannon persona nongrata. Reason lacks the courage to give him even a hostile platform. And that is pathetic.

          1. Transcript for those who don’t want to watch a 45 minute video, here: https://www.realvision.com/rv/media/Video/7412a3f6b4a349b3a050fb38cdbc1761/transcript

            Bannon’s a bright guy. Not sure I agree with his points in the talk. I especially disagree with his point on the growing Chinese middle class. He seems to think that making people richer gives them political power, like the US middle class has operated. I think those people in China are merely wealthier, but not more powerful. He is dead correct that Western elites have completely bought into jumping into bed with the Chinese, as a means of feathering their own nest, increasing their power over their own citizens, and that they consequently will do just about anything to not cut China off. Which might be why Western governments, and UN orgs, have not been publicly calling “Bullshit!” about how China’s been handling this epidemic. Or allocating blame in any way.

            I do think Trump did himself a disservice by canning him.

            Anyway, read the transcript. You’ll probably find it interesting.

  11. Do you know the phrase OK, Boomer?

    PAY YOUR OWN DAMN STUDENT LOANS OFF, BITCH

    1. Hint: It doesn’t take a college degree to comment on modern internet culture.

      1. Just a general rant. But I’m sure she went to the best schools her boomer parents could pay for.

        1. She went to Harvard. That goes a long ways to explaining why she is so misinformed and dull.

          1. And majored in physics or engineering…right? the most dangerous people to the republic are liberal arts ivy league grads..they are given without any experience or talent “expert” level jobs in govt, the media, and hollywood…and they just f things up time and again.

    2. +100
      Do you know the phrase Pay Your Own Fucking Bills?

  12. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    The social media companies are operating an oligopoly secured by federal legislation whereby they routinely destroy people’s livelihoods for holding the wrong political opinions while piece of shit censorious cunts like Gillespie applaud like trained seals. But yeah, other than, it’s totally encouraging individual expression! Let a hundred flowers bloom!

    1. They are basically a honey trap to get people to express their views in a public way that is recorded forever and can then be used against them at the mob’s pleasure.

  13. Bloomberg has NOT hired “good digital talent”. Most of what Bloomberg’s whiz-kid meme team has generated is laughable and cringeworthy. It’s being talked about because it’s so bad.

    Sure, being talked about is a good chunk of the goal. But it won’t translate to support. Ever. So at the end of the day, we need to check our belief that “being talked about” translates to a political victory.

  14. What the heck is up with her eyebrows? She has the full Brooke Shields going on there. She is still fairly doable but damn are those things big.

    1. Just…yuck.

    2. Millennial eyebrows is a meme unto itself.

  15. So “OK, boomer” is actually hate speech?
    Ageism at it’s worst?
    Let the lawsuits begin!

    1. That has to be the dumbest thing any generation has ever come up with. Only generation retard could come up with something that stupid. I love a good insult more than most people. But that is just pathetic. First graders come up with more clever insults.

      1. “I know you are but what am I?”

  16. I could be wrong, since it’s dumb in the first place so I haven’t thought about it much, but I’m pretty sure I heard/saw “Ok Boomer” before 10/29/19.

  17. It’s an increasingly popular put-down…

    Its use is on the slide but okay, boomer.

    1. What is funny is that this woman is probably in her late 20s or early 30s. She might as well be 50 to kids who are actual teenagers and college students right now. She is like that annoying aunt you had when you were a kid who always thought she was hip and up on things the young people did. Sorry grandma, cougars went out with Bush.

      1. Yeah, she’s a marriage and/or a pregnancy away from cresting away from “totally with it”.

  18. she seems to be bouncing all over the place @43:00. She talks about preconceived notions and “it’s important to you know, kind of like, you know, know the history of stuff but…” then goes on to go into things with an open mind without preconceived notions.

    Uhh, knowing the history of stuff is invaluable in going into things without preconceived notions. Having no sense of history is exactly what leads to so much misinterpretation of modern events.

    For instance, no one knows the difference between a:

    Racist
    White supremacist
    White separatist
    Nazi
    Communism
    Socialism
    Fascism

    In my estimation… because history is no longer effectively taught in schools.

    1. If knowledge of history and having an open mind are mutually exclusive, which is what she seems to be saying here, then knowledge itself is a bad thing because it gives you dreaded “preconceived notions”.

      There is another name for “preconceived notions”, expertise. An expert has a lot of preconceived notions about a situation. A novice, not so much.

      This woman is a dingbat.

  19. Ok, now I’m thoroughly confused. Nick turns to a good topic: how users ultimately control the messaging, and how awesome it is that users end up interpreting the products in their own way, out of control of the company or producer of the product. After Nick expresses his approval of this kind of grass-roots cultural interpretation of products, she agrees, then immediately goes on to say that Twitter has failed its users because it failed to segment its audiences– and that platforms like Discord are the result of Twitter’s failures.

    So which is it there, young feller?

  20. Is this the person who replaced the Korean women who was a bigot towards the very people who saved her ancestors ass in Korea and allowed her to live in America at the expense of their own lives?

    Reason is being replaced by Joe Rogan for podcasts..honestly who the f cares about this topic..

  21. Haha, is this ok boomers memes refference?, it’s a dead memes now.
    RAJAREMI

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  23. The actual “okay, boomer” moment; watching everyone overreact to memes.

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