Alex Thebez | April 11, 2022

The Monday Media Diet with Alex Thebez

On MMORPGs, forums, and James Bridle

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Alex Thebez (AT) is a friend of WITI and a kind human. We’re happy to have him share his deep love for Internet culture today. Wishing you a great week. -Colin (CJN)

Photo by Lee Chang Ming

Tell us about yourself.

I am a creative, curious nerd who loves the internet deeply. Currently, I am the Head of Community at Here, a wonderfully weird video canvas app. Prior to that, I had spent around five years at Instagram, spending most of my time on the Community Lab where we work to understand culture and trends on the platform.

Since I was really young, I had spent a lot of time online. Lurking IRC channels, playing a lot of MMORPGs, and scanning forums before I started making my own Geocities websites. I went to college at Parsons, for photography where I made GIFs and websites. Before I found my way to working in tech, I had photographed for publications such as Businessweek, Time, The FADER, and Vice. The internet and technology have always been central to my creative interest, especially in its ability to create collective experiences and memories across borders. Community building is core to my creative practice and I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to explore my curiosity through both my professional and creative endeavors.

Originally, I was born in Ambon on the islands of Maluku in Indonesia. I had lived in Singapore (where I moved to for high school after the May 1998 riots in Indonesia) and Vancouver before settling down in New York, where I’ve been for about 14 years. I live here with my husband, Malcolm, who is a filmmaker.

Describe your media diet.

It’s a bit of systematic chaos. I am kind of all over the place.

For reading, I use Feedly pretty regularly, to stay on top of my regular websites that I frequent (Verge, Polygon, Vox) in addition to a couple of blogs (like Kottke) so I can see them all in one place. For things that require subscriptions, I read most of the things on Apple News+. We still get the weekend edition of the New York Times

I spend a lot of time kind of wandering online, so things that I find online I usually save to my Pocket and my accounts. This includes things that I find on Twitter, Instagram, or anything else. I use Pocketcast to listen to a few podcasts. I loved Call Your Girlfriend and am a loyal fan of Pivot, Invisibilia, La Culturistas and Keep It. I also read a few newsletters that cover art, culture, the internet, and trends. One of my favorites is Dari Mulut ke Mulut and We, the Citizens.

Most importantly though, I get updates or sparks from my friends through group chats. I am on Discord, where some of my more nerdy friends and I share links on our private server. On Discord, we would talk through more tech, and business things with memes interspersed throughout. Then I also have a Whatsapp group, with a different group of friends who talk more about media, politics, movies, and literature. I try to go to a movie theater as regularly as I can!

What’s the last great book you read?

I’m a very slow reader and just finished Crying in H Mart, which was amazing. In my mind, however, I keep coming back to James Bridle's The New Dark Age and Eka Kurniawan’s Beauty is a Wound.

What are you reading now?

I’m about to start The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst as part of my book club and Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong. I am also working my way through My Hero Academia Vigilantes.

What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?

Honestly, it’s all pretty intuitive. I am definitely guilty of being a little too online, so sometimes I see a photo story, covers, or articles posted by editors or creatives that I follow and that would prompt me to find a physical copy. Sometimes it is also something that catches my eye when I am at a magazine store or a bookstore.

Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?

I honestly don’t really know, what people need from what they read could be so different from person to person. However, there are a few things that I think people should check out. Not necessarily a magazine in a traditional sense, but people should definitely check out Long Lead, a beautifully designed new project that highlights interesting in-depth journalism.

What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone?

Did I tell you, I started working at this place called Here 😅? I love Libby. Honestly, I have been spending a lot of time back on Tumblr again, as well. Also, I am a loyal fan of Feedly, Pocket, Day One, and 1 Second Everyday.

Plane or train?

A little bit of both, depending on where I am and where I am going. If possible, always train, though.

What is one place everyone should visit?

Anywhere that would challenge their preconceived notions of who they are, put them in a place of discomfort. Somewhere where they are not the majority.

Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into.

I love pixel art, which has a wonderful thriving community both on Twitter and Instagram. It felt like a little tunnel that I fell into organically since I am a nerd at heart and I also play quite a bit of video games. Some of my favorites right now include @waneella, @yelta_xyz, @itsbitbits, and of course the legendary @pinot. (AT)

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Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Alex (AT)

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