Ever since we’ve been dating, Luke and I have joked that he’s turned me into a boy. More specifically he has turned me into a gamer, someone who owns a Nintendo Switch and knows what a DLC is and has opinions on which Assassin’s Creed (Ass Creed, as it is known around our apartment) is the best. (It is obviously Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, where you play as a hot lady in ancient Greece who is friends with Socrates.) He has convinced me of the merits of many things traditionally associated with men: poker, YouTube clips of Penn & Teller’s Fool Us, the kind of tabletop board games that require a 45-minute tutorial before you even start playing, blackout curtains, and Rick Steves.
Listen, I know gaming is not just a thing straight men do. I know that there are legions of gamer girls and gaymers and they (we) are braver than the Marines. But gaming generally, along with the other things I mentioned, exists on something Luke and I call the Boy Internet. The Boy Internet is a mysterious, shadowy place where men go to talk about Bill Simmons and Colin Cowherd and Ryen Russillo and all these mens’ names who I unfortunately now know as a result of living with a boy. It is where they coalesce around podcast hosts whom they adore so deeply that it manifests as hatred and compete to see who can be the most disaffected leftist on their Letterboxd review of Goodfellas.
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I could try to explain the Boy Internet all day, but the best distillation of the difference between the Boy Internet and my own is this tweet:
I have developed a particular fondness for at least some segments of the Boy Internet, mainly because I think internet communities can be beautiful when they are not busy being awful, and because men should be able to connect with other men in normal, platonic online spaces where no one is trying to sell them human growth hormone, just as the mentally ill bisexual women on my timeline deserve to tweet feral gibberish in peace. In particular I have come to enjoy old YouTube clips of a poker TV show that ran from 2010 to 2011 called The Big Game where you watch the worst-dressed dudes in the world win or lose tens of thousands of dollars and pretend not to feel anything.
During the pandemic, though, I started to see the inklings of the opposite phenomenon taking form. One day Luke walked into the living room and asked me who Caroline Calloway was, and I exhaled so deeply I felt life’s stalwart grasp exit my body. I simply did not have the mental, physical, or emotional energy to explain to a 30-year-old man why this particular woman had confounded and infuriated so many people, for he was not a citizen of the Girl Internet and could not possibly understand.
The Girl Internet is where all of the important things happen. It is where culture is born, where social norms are litigated, aesthetics are christened and slang terms defined. It is where unfathomably powerful fandoms collide and whose explosions have ricocheting consequences for the rest of the world. The Girl Internet is where people talk about that New York Magazine article on Fleishman or that New York Magazine article on etiquetteor that New York Magazine article on nepo babies. Again, the Girl Internet is not just for women, rather it is simply one framework with which I view the vast landscape of two subsets of internet culture that rarely, if ever, bump into each other, except for on Twitter during like, the Oscars or the Super Bowl.
Somehow, despite living with and being in a longterm relationship with someone whose job is somewhat predicated on having deep knowledge of the visual-first platforms favored by the Girl Internet, Luke has never once downloaded TikTok. Recently, however, he has been spending a great deal of time on Instagram Reels. Part of me feels quite triumphant about this, because I have been writing about how addicting this kind of content is for as long as we’ve been dating, and until now he’s been staunchly repelled by it.
But also: Instagram Reels?! Quite possibly the most annoying place on God’s whole internet!? One time I spent five minutes scrolling through Reels and I developed a hatred towards my fellow man that honestly scared me. I avoid it whenever possible, which is not that often, because to spend any time on Instagram is to consume at least a dozen Reels, most of which seem to be two different-sized ladies dancing dorkily next to each other in matching outfits. (Can someone please do an investigation on why there are so many of these? And they are always from some random boutique in Alabama called, like, Bonnie’s Funky Closet???)
What has stunned me most about his pivot to Reels is how much more exposure he now has to the Girl Internet. Every morning we wake up and watch his Reels feed, which is full of adorable baby animals from accounts called @kittenzonee and @the_land_of_bunny, one-pot pasta recipes, POVs, itineraries for hiking the scenic Scottish Highlands, or discussions on household divisions of labor. Hilariously, he has also started getting served those sort of cringey and aggressively hetero couples accounts, where they do little skits in which the guy can’t look away from his girlfriend’s reality TV show or “how girls think their boyfriends react to their selfies vs. how we actually react” (the twist is that the boyfriend in the video is actually very excited to receive the selfie). It’s all very cutesy and wholesome (here is another example) and however stupid and viral engagement bait-y it all is, it has actually brought us quite a lot of joy.
He’s been getting served a lot more male fashion Reels lately, which I know in part because I see them on his feed and in part because the other day he was like, “I’m thinking about getting into cologne.” If you know Luke, you can imagine how ridiculous this might sound coming out of his mouth. But if this is him on only a few weeks of Reels, I am extremely looking forward to what the next several months will bring. He has already (jokingly? I think?) suggested that we get a pet rabbit, so if history is any indication, by summer he’ll have a multiple-step skincare routine. And I think that’s beautiful! Long live the Girl Internet.
Stuff I’ve been into recently:
I literally can’t stop buying little tweed outfits, and then this came out and I was like, ugh, I am simply a COG in the fashion MACHINE!
Cunk on Earth, which just came out on Netflix and is an absolute delight if you like very silly British humor
Theme parties (some recent-slash-upcoming ones include: “rhinestone cowboy,” gay Lord of the Rings, A24, like, the production company, and “dress as your sexual awakening”)
The new Fire Emblem: Engage
My bodega’s stock of pumpkin beer leftover from like 6 months ago that I keep buying
Debating coloring my hair red??? Help?
Til next time, who knows when!
The backlash to that list was extremely funny to me, particularly the 30- and 40-something media men pearl-clutching at the idea that a magazine should publish something fun and intentionally controversial, which is kind of the whole point of magazines. More importantly, I would like to note that New York Magazine did not accept my suggestion for this list, which was “you should advertise your single friends on Instagram Stories.” (With permission, obviously.)
I did actually contribute to this package, in what I assume is the least-read story in the whole thing. It was about backwards nepotism (thirsty parents of famous kids!).
Sometimes I'll mention something like "overnight oats" and my boyfriend will not know what I'm talking about, and it's in those moments that I'm most acutely aware of Girl Internet vs Boy Internet.
Damn. This is the paragon Substack account. Beautiful reflections on internet life. I'm addicted.