Jonny Sun: "Everyone's an Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too: A Book" | Talks at Google
Johnny. I just wanted to ask you first can, you tell us a little bit about the genesis, of your book and your alter ego on the screen there Johnny Sun sure yeah first of all thanks for having me and thanks for coming everyone, yeah. Sure I mean the book came about I, guess, it's inspired, by my. Work on Twitter and I. Guess. I started like my Twitter account when, I. Moved, to the US I went, in Toronto I was kind of involved in the comedy scene and I had a lot of friends who. Are comedians and writers and stuff and when. I moved to the u.s. I lost touch, with. That community. I guess and so I turned to the internet and I found Twitter and I found this weird. Subculture. Of Twitter comedy, called weird Twitter, which. Was just a bunch of anonymous accounts, posting like, surreal. Jokes, and poetry, and stuff and I sort, of turned to that as like a place to be, creative and to continue. Writing. Humor, and telling jokes when, when. I was in architecture, school and that, I've been doing that for like four six years now and I've sort of treated Twitter as my writers notebook in a sense and after. A while I moved. Here I started my PhD at MIT and, I. Got. Really anxious, and, depressed and, overwhelmed. With the. Program here and I needed some sort of creative outlet. I think to. To. Sort of to, sort of Center myself and so I turned to Twitter. And I looked at. Sort. Of like than like, the notes that I put, on there and I started realizing that all, those tweets sort of start to create a story and start to create a. Narrative that eventually, became, this, book, your. Alter ego specifically. How did that vision, of that alien come about well, it kind of goes to the Twitter anonymity, thing as well because when within. Weird, Twitter sort. Of this like place. That I started, a lot of the, accounts. Were anonymous, and they were things like famous crab or, like a cool ghost or. Like. Ghost. With sunglasses or, something like that and like I found. That an. Alien sort of made sense. Just, like as a natural. Character. For me because I'd always felt like an outsider in my entire life I think a lot of my comedy is and, my, perspective is based on. This. The sense of outside earnest and I think that's a great, comic. Perspective, to, have in a very fruitful one and. And. So yeah it sort of just happened naturally where, where, I've and, I like and I was a literal alien being a Canadian in the US uh-huh. And so, I I think all of that got got got wrapped, up into this character. Pretty, neatly and then, by the time the book came around, I'd. Realized that the story of like of outside, earnest and and alienness. Was. Something really important, to talk about and, so. I wanted to tell like an alien invasion story not from the perspective of the Earthlings but from the alien who is invading. And. Sort of and sort of draw, a lot of empathy. And sort of tell the internal, story of a, visitor. Coming to a new place and and. Sort of relate that to. Like. My own experiences, and what was going on at the time so, I mean I know you. Know it's it's billed as a work, of humor but it's very, emotionally, resonant and poignant throughout, and.
I Was wondering if you could talk a little bit about like striking that balance between being funny but also you, know tugging at emotional heartstrings, when, you're when you're writing right yeah, yeah, I mean I always like one, of the, biggest reasons why I love comedy so much is because I think it's a. Way into having. These other conversations, and to be, able to speak. To other emotions, and speak to other sort of, sides. Of the, human psyche and of humanity, and so. Like I think my favorite comedy, growing, up has always been the ones, that sort of balance like humor and, a. Little bit of darkness or humor and other things and use humor as a tool to, to. Sort of talk, about other, ideas. And so, for me I've always been like really. Excited, about the fact that you can sort of get someone on your page with a joke and then. Start. To have another conversation like, the humor sort of works as a tool to disarm. And to sort of empathize. With someone else and then once you. Sort of like Trojan, horse your way in. You're. Able to sort of talk about other things and so, for me like the, the. Internet was a place, where. I learned, to be, open about mental, health for, example and I learned to talk about a lot of my anxiety and depression in, in. Open ways because on Twitter I had found these, communities, that we're talking about this stuff in open, constructive, ways and it, was kind. Of like a totally, different experience than like, the real world quote-unquote, where, a lot of I think these conversations, around anxiety, and mental health are still stigmatized and, they're still. People. Sort of tiptoe around it and it's a strange. Conversation. Where's online I think, there were there, were places and there were people in communities that were talking about this stuff openly and and. Using, humor as a tool I think to address it and so I wanted to bring a lot of that sensibility, into, the. Book where it is like on one page you'll get a really dumb pun and on. The next page I, hope. That it explores, sort of these kind. Of deeper ideas, what's, interesting right is that Johnny. The alien comes to earth to, learn.
About The humans but. We don't see any humans, and the actual. Humans. In the in the actual graphic novel, but, what you do see is sort of you. Know all these different animal, characters, that. Are dealing with very human. Emotional, issues around, you know like anxiety. Imposter. Syndrome to, a certain degree. You. Know the anxiety of an artist who with the the otter who's, also an aunt to her. That's. One of the dumb puns yeah. But. It's. It's, sort of interesting, that in. Some ways it becomes even more resonant. When. You. You put it through personas, because. All this stuff is so stigmatized right, so. I was wondering if you had any thoughts about like, exploring. Human. Emotions, in that way yeah absolutely I mean I think like in essence, the book is extremely autobiographical. Answer each, animal. Sort, of becomes a symbol of like each thread, of. Like. Stuff that I'm working through, and so there is a, character, that I split off that kind, of talks about my feelings. Of impostor syndrome being. Here in Cambridge, and being at MIT and being surrounded by all these brilliant, people and feeling like I don't belong. There. Is one. Of my favorite characters as a hedgehog because the Hedgehog struggles, with like, the, idea of like how to make. Art. Or how to make something well feeling like totally. Unable. To do so and I wrote that character. In while I was writing the book because I was trying to grapple with my feelings of writing look as I was writing the book and so it became, that. Became the character that sort, of went through that and. Yeah. I think the power of like using animals, and using symbols, and characters and metaphors is it, kind, of goes back to like this idea of what. Humor does to like I think both of these are ways, to. Sort of, filter. Like. Conversations that are more difficult to have and, filter, them into sort, of easier. Ways to digest them and sort of allow those. Conversations, to be had in. Ways. That doesn't, make someone immediately sort of like step. Back and become, guarded like I think it's easier to talk. About. Like. Anxiety. Through like. A cute alien character than to sort of walk up to someone be like I'm, really anxious help, me I, need to unload all this stuff which. Is I, think I think part of why, I I'm. Interested, in using kind of these symbols in these characters in, this way there, are any of the themes of the book the same things you're exploring in your doctoral research sort. Of yeah I mean like I think the. Other like element of the book that I really love talking. About is like, structurally. I'm. Really interested in actually the book as sort of this way to distill, like a social media narrative or this. Idea of how, we read, the Internet's and I, wanted to think about like. This book for example it's. About an alien who comes to earth and then meets. All these different characters and gets little updates from each of the characters interspersed. Throughout soar like on one page there's a beaver on one page there's a tree on one page it's an egg and then it goes back to the beaver and then it jumps to the egg again and then it's, kind of this like very scrambled. Timeline. Which if you think, about like a traditional, sort of kids book in this form I always think about like we neither poo we're, like, sort of all the characters, are like divided, into chapters and, so there's like a chapter for the owl and you get the whole story, and there's a chapter for a or and you get all of your story but. In this one I wanted, to in this book yeah I wanted, to sort of do, away with the chapters and sort of think about like how you could scramble all those different, pieces, of the story amongst, each other and to, me that's that's. How we read like. Social media now right like that's sort of the Twitter timeline in, an essence where I go on Twitter and I follow 100 people and then I get all their updates, interspersed. Throughout, and. The. Book was sort of like this test to see if that type, of narrative format, could, still work in like. A traditional, medium and. And. Yeah so that was like that was really fun and that kind of relates to my. Dissertation research which, is primarily. About I guess, how social media forms. Community, and how how. Different. People. Can come together and, and, find each other online. And, I. Think that's sort of what the the. Book both I guess formally, and, content-wise. Is, about so. Right. So you talked a lot about the positive. Aspects, of finding community, online there's, an anonymity, aspect, to it where, you can sort of create your own persona, but there's also obviously a dark side to that as well yeah. So. Do. You have thoughts on that like where where things are going well in terms of community, and how. We can ameliorate some, of these issues like Twitter you. It was this timeline of positive stuff and then all of a sudden like, yeah I'm, sick Bru, underneath, the service that comes bubbling up yeah I think it's something that I think anyone on Twitter.
Has. To grapple. With and has to deal with I'm, I've. Seen it like firsthand I've seen a lot of my friends, sort. Of deal. With like, the dogpiling and the, sort of bad side of Twitter and the alt-right and, wait supremacist, and the Nazis and if, I keep talking about this I get really depressed, but. It's I think it's, it's absolutely something, that needs. To be addressed I think one of the things I've been thinking about a lot recently is, how a lot, of like the community, forming tools and a lot of the the, ways that a lot of the good stuff happens on Twitter is sort. Of like almost, the same technique, that like. The bad side will take and and, use to. To. Do. Their work as well and so, like I think, a lot I think a lot right now about. This. Idea that, platforms. And technologies are, neutral and and. This sort of way, that Twitter. Kind. Of steps back from, any of the problems going on in the platform by saying oh this is like this where, we don't have a say, in how people use it like we're just gonna let people use it and. I think that's I, mean. That's a political, stance in itself and, I think it's kind. Of caused a lot of problems, and I think the. Next step for, like, this sort of mentality about technology, is to. Say that these platforms are not neutral and that we need to take a. Stronger. Stance in, in, how people use, them and what, what. They're used for to. A certain extent to the the, the platforms. And the technologies sort of set the rules of, engagement, so on Twitter for example because. Most. People choose to do public feeds in, order to get their message out and these, systems that are in place that let anybody mention each other creates. The environment where, you can have those sorts of interactions right so. I'm. Wondering, if you in your research you looked into any ways. That technology, mediates. The, interactions. That we have and what are good choices to make sure, order to support, that well I'm thing, that I'm definitely interested in researching I think like, just off the top of my head I've been really. Interested in how like Twitter. Seems to be the place where all this sort of conversation is happening now and it's it's sort of a place where all this community building is happening now as opposed to like, the other big social media platforms, like Instagram. And and, Facebook we're like, if you look at Instagram for example. There's. Not really a way for two people to interact directly right like Instagram, is a much more sort of like broadcast. Type, platform, where you post a thing and then other people can comment on the thing it's, much harder to have like a one-to-one. Conversation. On, Instagram, which is why I think community, doesn't form in. The way that it does on Twitter but, on Twitter. You're right is that it's, like it's all public and now with the quote tweets I think there's a way to broadcast. Ideas. In. Ways, that sort of are not strictly, like. One-to-one and in ways that. Like. If I quote tweet someone I've noticed actually a lot like I've stopped, doing this for, this reason because. If I if I quote tweet someone. Who I, don't.
Like Or a source has said something kind. Of mean, to me or. In. Some way, I've. Noticed that a lot of my followers will then take that as permission, to start dogpiling this, critic of mine for example and and. And. It'll. It sort of creates like a more toxic environment, where if I if I say oh you can all see. This person and you can now respond to this person a lot, of people will start. To. Respond badly right and I. Think that's I've, stopped doing it because I think it's not the, right way to do it I don't know what the right way to sort. Of create to, have like a good, discourses but I. Know, plenty, of wrong ways from experiencing, both sides. I. Was. Talking to some friends late, last week about when. We're interacting with each other in person there, are there are certain rules of etiquette and, certain you. Know moral standards, that we we, uphold just, by, not by nature of like seeing a person in front of us and seeing recognizing. Their humanity, and, it's, interesting when we go online. We. Craft. Our own persona, in our own humanity the way we want but we sometimes fail to recognize, other people's humanity we think it's okay to talk. In a certain way that we would never do in person, right so. I'm. I'm wondering, if, there's a way to. That, aspect, of humanity, into these vertical communities, where it's really you know up. In your face hey this is a person right, yeah yeah I've, been thinking a lot about that too I think like I mean I think Twitter gets a lot of, criticism. Because of its like. It's short, handedness, and the fact that in 200 like it used to be 140 now into 80 characters it's harder it's, still hard for people to get like a full story in I think, people are trying really, hard to work within those confines to, sort of be. Nuanced, and and to and to have more. Of a sort. Of full picture to what they're saying and that's through threading, and that's through sort of like these these, longer. Conversations. That they're having on the, medium. But. I think it's it's really difficult and I think it's a lot easier to sort of, not. Recognize, that the other like, the person you're talking to on the other side of the screen is a person because you just see like. Like. A text, kind, of handle, and a bio and an image, as opposed to like a person. Sitting. At a screen, typing. This stuff out and. I think it's I think it's I don't. Know how to address that really because I don't know if the solution is sort of to give, everyone like. Pictures. Of who they are and, and allow like everyone to see, exactly. Who it is they're talking to you because I think anonymity, has been, really. Powerful in in. A, lot of good ways in terms of like for example political dissent. Where. The. Most marginalized, communities, and sort of the most targeted members, of certain. Communities, can't. Put. Their real identities, out there and can't sort of speak speak, against, power. By. Putting their real, faces online.
And So I think an entity is a great way to. For. Those communities and for members of those communities to. To. Have. A voice and and to have a say and so, I don't know I think it's like it's such a big problem. And I think we're right in the middle of it and I think that's it's super, messy and. I'm. Just, as curious as to on, how it's all gonna kind, of turn out you, recently, put together tiny, care bot right which is just like a bot. That tweets, self, care messages, for people just, to. You know engage with them on that human level it's, interesting that in some ways technology can, even be more humane than the people using it sure, when, apply I'm. Curious what kind of uptake you've seen on that and response. From people is is they do they like a bot tweeting, at them saying you should drink more water and things like that yeah so, like tiny care but is this really simple, but. That, I made that is they just it sends hourly reminders, of, little. Actionable, self-care, tools and, I built it actually for me, personally. To use I built. It in November of 2016. Because. Something happened during. That time that captain. Made me really upset and. It kind of kept me on Twitter a lot. And I found that like, days after, for, like the whole week a while. After the election I was glued to Twitter because I just I thought. That getting the updates and seeing all this stuff would. Somehow. Mmm. Like help me understand, what, was going on and there was this like this, I was caught in this cycle of just being stuck to, my. Phone and stuck to the news and everything and at. Some point I realized like I needed to get off and I needed to. Take. Care of myself better, and. So I built like ironically I built this thing on the platform that I was using to tell me to get off of it, and. And. I I, I, built, it because I wanted, it to, to. Show up in between all the other updates like I thought the best way to enact, change, was. To have, like. An agent on the same platform that I was sort of stuck, on right now and I. Built that and it sort of was, and, then, I tweeted about it and it I think it was the right time and, the. Right sort, of types. Of. Self-care.
Actions, That it related to a lot of other people as well and it's absolutely not the first stuff self care bots on Twitter and it's. The. First first, one that anyone's done but I think at that point and, the specific. Types of. Tweets. It was tweeting made. It really resonate, with a lot of people it's good, we, need more messages. Telling. Us when when we should engage when we should disengage I think because it, can it. Can really be overwhelming, so yeah. Yeah, you want to read some of your book sure yeah let's do a reading do people have copies of the book right now I like to do it as a read-along for anyone who has a copy out of the book and if not the slides are up here too so we can we, can do that as, well but let's, start on the first page if you have a copy of the book it's. The page with all the four, UFOs on it. Whoosh. In, comes the spaceship carrying, this the night sky with it. Wabble. Wabble screech. Thump. The, spaceship lands. Out. Come a bunch of aliens, please. Find out about the earth creatures says the first alien, humans. Says the second alien pointing to a bird yes. Humans, says, the third alien pointing, to a tuft of grass, take. Your time really take as much time as you need says the fourth alien, so. You're. Leaving me here all alone asks Romney well. We'll check up on you in case you miss anything up says, the fifth alien ok. Says Johnny still worried can. We go already says, the 6th alien already boarded this planet, and. So. Off they go taking the night sky with them as they leave. Everyone's. An alien when you're an alien - look. Johnny. Walks along and happens upon a tree hello. Are you earth creature, Johnny asks yes, says the tree I have. Met a human says, Downie contentedly, walking away. Johnny. Sees a snail and kneels down and says tell me about yourself, to. Which the snail responds, oh gee, well. Nobody's. Ever asked me about myself, hmm. Well I guess everybody tells me I'm too small and too slow to make a difference in this world but I'm making a difference in my own world and I hope that's enough. Johnny. Comes up to a bear and starts poking the bear wow your big says Johnny not knowing what a bear is, are. You gonna run screaming from me then ask the bear no. Says Romney continuing, to poke the bear oh, thank. You says the bear meanwhile. All the other earth creatures are, running away from the bear and the turtle screams, run. Run, as fast as you can, faster, save yourselves leave me behind and save yourselves. Run. Our un-run, says one particular be. John. Nikki's walkie and comes along at across, a dog and the dog says a word that can roughly be translated, to the symbol of a hearts oh. I'm. Sorry I do not understand, that word says Johnny but okay. Johnny. Comes across the egg hello. What are you ask Johnny, I don't know yet says the egg, okay, says Johnny isn't. That exciting, so the egg shaking, with excitement. Germany. Comes across a hedgehog, and asks who are you oh I'm. An introvert which is different from an extrovert says the Hedgehog what's, that Johnny asks, well, introverts. Enjoy people watching extroverts. Enjoy people watching. It's. A grammar joke. Okay. Says Johnny looking at a flower who he decides must be an extrovert, the. Flower has, the attention of all the bees and is saying oh yeah bees you like this you like what I got you like what you see because, there's plenty of me to go around, and one. Particular bee, says hi a chai hi. Germany. Comes across a pond swim. Splash. You. Swim very nicely says john me to the otter of, course I'm a not Taurus as the otter hello, otter says Johnny swim. Swim. The. Otter rises no. Wait I'm an auteur says. The otter trying to clarify. Romney. Comes across a smaller pond and sees a bunch of smaller creatures hello.
Who Are you Johnny asks, it's, not about who we are it's about what we will becomes as the caterpillar that's. The gift of being a babies as the tadpole isn't, it exciting says the egg again shaking with excitement. Johnny. Thinks of the idea of a gift and goes, up to the tree and asks, what is a gift can I have a gift and the, tree says oh I. Actually learned to stop giving things to somebody just because they want something. The. Tree frowns knowingly, I don't. Think that would end well for me. Jame. Asks what if I give you a hug and the. Tree says oh I love hugs but really you don't have to give me anything to be my friend, what's. A friend asks, Johnny a. Friend. Is anyone or anything who shares a life with you that you would never be able to experience without them says the tree Johnny. Thinks about this and walks, up to a bird and says hello friend you used to be a dinosaur. Then, Johnny walks up to a skeleton and says hello friend you used to be a baby. The. Tree posed omneya simon says maybe stay away from that friend, okay. System. Johnny. Comes across an onion and the onion says I'm like an onion peel, back the layers and you'll see that deep down inside I'm just a smaller more afraid onion, but. You are an onion so strongly helpfully, I yes. I know that but now. I want to cry says, the onion feeling misunderstood. Romney. Comes across an owl and says hello friend who, are you who. Who. Who. Asked. The owl Who am I I don't. Really know everybody, calls me wise and, I've tried to learn very much about the world but, I don't feel very wise and I know that owls are supposed to be wise so, then I don't feel early enough to be an owl. One. Day I feel, like one day I'll meet another owl and they'll take one look at me and say oh somebody. Made a mistake you're, not supposed to be an owl at all. Anyway. Who are you that's the owl, I'm.
Johnny Says, Johnny oh lucky. Says the owl. Johnny. Comes across the, bees again and asks will you be my friends and the bee say sorry we can't we're afraid we'll accidently sting you. Johnny. Comes across the beaver and and, shouts wait hello friend as the beaver runs by and the beaver responds I'm sorry I'm sorry I have work to do I don't have time to be your friend I'm sorry can't you see I'm in a hurry here the, Beavers Canadian, hence all the apologies. The. Beaver runs past the tree and the tree says oh don't bother with that damn beaver but. I need to works as the beaver please stay out of my damn business. Then. Please stop stealing my branches, shouts the tree they're, not yours shouts the beaver yes they are shouts, the tree I'm sorry they're my damn branches, now shouts the beaver, those, are my arms, shouts the tree. What. Have I never had shouts, the egg or what if I do hatch and it's the best moment of my life but then I never get to hatch again what, if I want a hatch but also never hatch can I do both or neither. Why. Are you so worried your egg says, Johnny. That's. Not fair you already know who you are says, the egg but. You're a egg says Johnny trying to help, the. Egg rolls over on its side you just, don't get it says the egg Oh. Says johnny sadly. Johnny. Walks along and sees the dog again and the dog says another word that can roughly be translated, to the symbol of a hearts I still. Do not know what that means but I know that I'm happy now says Romney meanwhile. The spaceship flies in again carrying the night sky with it. Johnny. Runs up to the aliens and says I like the humans they're all so different and I wish I could be more like them you're. Not supposed to like them says the first alien you're, supposed to research them says the second alien I do, not like them says the third alien he. Should be more like us as the fourth alien. He's. Already too weirds as the fifth alien yes. As the sixth alien agreeing with the fifth alien the, humans are weird says, the seventh alien yeah, says, the alien, agreeing with the seventh alien, and. So off they go again leaving, Johnny alone with the night sky to contemplate. And. That's where we'll stop their eating, thanks. Everyone. So. We'll, open things up to questions, now I liked. What you said about sort. Of mixing humour and darkness and that immediately, made me think of a softer world and maybe a few other like. Canadian yeah. So. I was wondering like, you.
Mentioned, The Canadian beaver in here like do you feel especially. Having. A bit, of an outside perspective spending, a lot of time in the US at this point. Anything. Particularly. Like Canadian. About the the work that you do or the the, milieu that you find yourself in I like. I think I've because. I've grown up Canadian. And I've like I am, Canadian, it's hard for me to sort of see outside of, myself, a bit to like understand, what it is about the work that, and. People do respond and say this makes, sense that someone, Canadian, wrote it and I'm, not entirely sure what, element, of it it is I think there's a, bit. More of a kindness, and a bit more of a. I've. Heard this like metaphor used. Across, like Canada in the US where the u.s. is a melting. Pot and Canada as a salad. We're. Where. The idea in the u.s. is that everyone comes and sorts like sort of is expected, to ameliorate. Into this like identity the single American identity whereas in Canada I think, that the, approach is more, of a celebration of all the differences and all that diverse pieces, and I. Think ultimately the story that I wanted to tell in this book is is, a, celebration, of all the differences, and sort of the idea, that all these different. Personalities. And creatures and and. Personas, can all coexist. And, get along not. By becoming, the same but by sort of celebrating, what's different about them so. I think, maybe that's part of it. And. Yeah. I really, do love the softer world and I grew up sort of reading that, when, tonic and. Yeah. I'm not I'm not entirely sure I think there's there's a bit about. Perhaps. Canadian, I don't I don't want to speak to like abroad, things, I'm not going to but I'm but. Yeah I don't, know I I'm. Not sure. Thanks. Aging. I. Just, want to say I really appreciate how open, you've been about talking about mental illness. But. Once your persona, your private, persona, became more public did. That change the way you talked about it or the way people, in. Your life or professional, people treated. You or like your own stigma, around your experience yeah that's a really good question I. Think. I definitely got. Let's. See I think for a while I didn't have, like the right language. To talk about it and I sort of didn't grow up knowing. That I, too. Could, have anxiety. And depression, and, I didn't know that like therapy for example was an option. For. Me until I started, like, reading about it online and then still until I started like kind, of befriending, people on the internet who were.
Talking About therapy, and talking, about mental health a lot and. So. I think for me a lot of why I really, care about talking, about this. Stuff in a public way is because I know how much it helped me. When. I didn't, know about it and when I sort of had a stigmatized, sort of internal. Idea of what mental health was and, so I think I'm trying now to sort of give back to I. Know. A lot of people sort, of follow, me and and kind of see what I'm saying and I'm trying to in my, own way continue. To like pass, it on and to continue to distinguish, and. Normalize, these conversations. But. I definitely think it's it's. Become, I. Think. Just the way that I've. Sort, of because. I'm so public with it I think it's become. Something I have to be really careful about too and. I never. Want to say anything. That. Sort. Of brings up any like sort of false. Stigmas. Or biases. And I think the I. Think for the most part people are really. Open. And and, kind, of kind. About, it in person like as you asked about like how it affects me. Now in person and I think part. Of that is self selecting in the sense that like I don't want to assert. Like to be friends with someone, who is gonna be like well that's like, dumb and like pull yourself up and. I. Think it's, it's. Sort. Of interesting because I think the more I've been, open about it the more people. Sort, of know that about, me and sort of I, think, just the fact that I've been opened up open, about it opens. Up the conversation for, other people and I think if I'm sort. Of setting the stage of, how to talk about it I think it allows. Others. To sort, of come. Into that conversation in. A different way so I, found it really helpful for the most part but it's also really scary all the time so. Thanks. Yeah. Yeah so I I was. Checking out your Twitter, earlier and, I saw that you tweet, a lot of funny stuff thank. You, I. Also. Used, to try to tweet funny stuff on Twitter with some. Success, and a lot of a lot. Of failed, tweets sure, and I was just interested, in your perspective on like the, Twitter the tweet writing, process, and like when, you think of a joke and, how you sort of or like think of something that you think could be funny, in the, you, know because it also sort of has to fit the format and you, have to you know like, phrase, it correctly, and things like that and that makes a big difference you know especially when there are so many followers, and stuff like yeah how many people even see it and so I was, wondering if you could just like comment on your your methodology me show me some tips yeah absolutely, I mean like you, mean like first, to start off I think I was.
On I've, been on Twitter for so long and I think it, took me like. Seven. Six or seven years ago I was like tweeting jokes with like hashtags at the end of it like so and so so a hashtag joke hashtag pun. And. It took me a while to sort of like underst I think like, understand. Or fall into sort of like a. Community. And an, understanding, of how to. Tell. These jokes in a way that kind of suits the format and sort of. Works. With. Yeah. It works with the medium right and I think the thing that really switched for me was when I. Stops. Just trying to like tell jokes to like to get. Jokes out there and it switched. When I started, kind of seeing like. This group of writers that I looked up to as a community and, I. Started. I think Twitter. Became really fun for me when I started realizing like oh I just want to like make jokes with, these other people I admire and it sort of became much more of like. It. Wasn't about like getting views or getting likes or whatever it was sort of about like well, let's like riff off of each other and let's treat this as like this big writers room and I think that's when I started really. Loving. It and and, finding. That all of us together. Had. Like come, across, this type of joke, telling that people appreciated, in a way I, think now I like, I'm very, sort, of conscious about how kind. Of like Twitter humor is very different from other forms, of humor right and other mediums, and even, in trying to like adapt some, of the jokes I wrote on Twitter into the book there, were a lot that I just immediately, struck off and there are there things that I, think on Twitter there's a lot of value, in sort, of the real-time nature of it and I think that's one of the strengths of Twitter, humor is that you can comment on stuff. As as happy as it happens right away and that's like. Easily that's like political humor. And and stuff about politics, and current events but it's also just. Like being part of the conversation as it's happening and sort of like taking a meme and restructuring. It and kind, of playing on. It, as it's sort, of. As. It's sort of fun. Kind of in. The, ethos, right, so. Like one joke that I wanted to put, in the book was like John me looking at a cloud and being like how do I make friends and then a bigger cloud shows up and says don't talk to me or my son ever. Again and that. Obviously, doesn't make sense now because, that was a meme that was like two years old at this point, uh-huh, but I think like I wanted, to yeah, this, guy gets. But. I wanted to like. I think I wanted to make sure that the book was less. Connected. To like this real-time sort, of fast, paced constantly, updating. Updating. Type. Of humor that Twitter is good at I, also, think Twitter's really. Made me a more. Conscious. Writer. In terms of like structure and format and I'd turned, it to it originally because of the short the, short format and it really allowed, me to like strip away the extra and to really figure out what the joke was and how to tell it properly, and. I. Think it's made me a better writer in the sense that this. I get, to a the idea quicker and I get puncher, and punchier. It's. I, think one of the downfalls is that now when I try to sit down and write a longer piece I can, write like three tweets worth of ideas I'd be like that's it like that's the whole essay I don't need to write more. But. Uh but. Yeah I hope that answers yeah, it definitely does I'll take some of your tips to heart, awesome. Hey. How's. It been you, know kind of being a creative, artistic, person, with your art out there and then also dealing with the professional, world of graduate, school you know like how did your advisor or colleagues, or whatever. Receive. That you're you know writing a book being a Twitter humorist, all of that stuff right I think, luckily I've sort of found. Again. It's sort of like that self-selecting, idea but I think I found advisors. Who. Understand. What it is that and. Do on Twitter and are. Deeply, supportive, of it and have, have. Kind of my. Sort of like thought, in terms of like how do i how do i merge this like creative, pursuit with an academic pursuit is, sort. Of like what sorts, of learned, experiences, do I have in this like online, world in practice, that, I can. That. I can look at in, an academic way or that that sort of helps me helps, like inform, me on how to. To. Have like an academic. Conversation about, it and I think, there. Are I'm sure there are a lot of professors. And sort of people, in the academic world who are like that this, is dumb or that I don't they, don't get it but, I've been lucky enough that my advisers really.
Really. Understand, it and are really supportive, of it and. So. Yeah that's been really great yeah. Cool thanks, thanks. Actually. I do want to add too is that like. There's a lot of I, think this. Type of like, study. This sociological, study of the, internet and of internet culture and Internet and, like, Media Studies that type of thing is getting, more and more traction now and so, one. Of the like, when I started, at MIT I wanted to look at data-driven cities, and understand, like urban. Processes. Through big data which, is totally different than like where I've ended up which is sort of like Network cultures and kind of the study of media and Internet and community. And it. Really is because well, at MIT there were a few, compared. To media studies classes that directly, talked about internet. Culture and like memes and, and, all. This stuff that we're talking about now and it, was just cool to me that there, were people studying, it and I think there's been. A, huge community, I found that has been, really, interested, I'm, part of the Berkman Klein Center, which, is a place, that it's. The Brooklyn client center of Internet in society over at Harvard and they're really interested in the. Confluence of Internet and in politics and activism and AI, and sort of all these like human. Elements. That compose, the Internet, and so I think it's really cool that there are people, and pockets that are really, interested, in this type of stuff so. Yeah. Thanks. You're. Talking about anonymity, on, Twitter. And some of the other social. Media networks and its influence, on poor. Behavior, and how, maybe humanizing. It would would, help with that I'm, curious, why. You believe that's the case. Here. At Google we've got a bunch of internal social networks yeah it's a hundred, percent known, who everybody is people still opt out of showing faces, they still shitpost they still troll yeah. Even. Face to face I think about watching, conversations. Around here, and, you. Like to think that you'll treat people yeah. As more, human, because it's face to face and people still treat each other pretty badly on. An ongoing basis. The co-workers. They spend all their time with so, why do you think humanizing. The internet would help I think. Being able to. See. That. The. People you're interacting with our. Three-dimensional. People is sort. Of the basis of any sort of, empathetic. Conversation. And sort of empathetic, connection. To that person. And. I, think, that sort of forms the basis of how I believe, we can move forward, I think there's such, a divide, right now and I'm, not saying. Let go, make. Friends with someone. Who like is targeting, you and who wants like you. And everyone ID who you identify, with to. Like be, killed or something. But. I think on sort of like a day to day level. It. Sort of helps builds kind, of community and the ways that I've the, communities that I've sort of found. On Twitter have been. Really helpful for me because of the fact that, they. Are just I think a lot of people humanizing, and empathizing, with each other. I think. The question of anonymity is different, when. You talk about kind. Of like a general. Completely. Accessible, or not completely accessible but as sort of a general platform, like Twitter where. Anyone. From anywhere could, have a voice as opposed. To somewhere, like Google which is a self-selected. Kind of group and that like. In, in. A place like a workplace. I think, anonymity. Is. Still. Valuable in certain ways but I think there's, less of a danger. Kind. Of associated, with like. Associating, what you say with your face like if if, you're. At I think if you're online and, you're. Like. A. Member. Of a very persecuted. Group you. Can't really put your face on what, you're saying or else people will find you and sort of. Identify. It right and I, think that sort of danger isn't present in. In. A place of employment perhaps. Or. Less less dangerous, so it seems a tenet of faith that humanizes. Internet, will somehow solve this we've tried the experiment. And. Found. I don't.
Think It did yeah so, I'm curious since you're doing PhD research, on yes was, there any evidence or, is, it just a tentative faith at this point right now it's an, unsubstantiated. Hypothesis. Okay so yeah, I'm I'm like super curious to see how. Yeah. To see how it plays out and I'd love to talk to you more about it because. Yeah like, sort. Of I've. Yeah. I've just finished my PhD exams, and so I'm going into the research mode and so there's actually thank, you. And. So. So, I'm actually like, this is the the right point for me to really, figure out what the research is gonna be in so yeah, I'm I'm excited. And happy to talk more about it Thanks. Hi, Jonathan thanks so much for taking, the time to answer our questions I'm. Snow and I do, drawings and, some. Painting, and, some curious, about your artistic, work process. So. You mentioned. That you are an artist /, writer, so. Could you just talk about your, experience, with art, what. Led you to this project and what, kind of artistic inspiration or. Creative, decision, you made that, were, fundamental. To this, project sure, yeah, absolutely I'd, love to talk about that I think I've, sort of grown, up drying. And and, kind of. Being. Involved in like visual design and trying, to learn. Different. Methods of like communication. Through. A visual medium right, and. For. A while I was really into. Like. Painting and street art and sort of these very like lush detailed. Drawings. And graphics and and processes, and, when, I went to architecture school actually got really into technical drawing and like these very details like 3d axonometric. Intricate. Things. And, so, I had, all that sort of under my belt and in my head when I started, thinking about what this book would look like and I. Really, wanted, to make a conscious effort to sort of like step back from that and to, minimalize. It as much as possible and to sort of make, the. Characters, as as. Simple. As as possible, and sort of like as. Almost. Resembling, icons more than characters, and finding like the balance between. How. Do you like make, sort of like this simple, relatable. Icon, image. While still giving, that icon like enough character, and enough sort of humanity. And enough. Relatability, I guess to be a character, and and, so, that's sort of where I landed. I've. I'm, really, into for example like the aesthetic language of this book is. No. Corners. Like, everything, is curves right, and I. Really. Tried to make it as like bubbly, and as sort of soft looking. As possible and. And. Like, some. Of the fun details. Of like even John me the character I'm just looking at it now is, there's. A little bit of like formal, structure, to him because he's three circles. This. The belly and like the two circles that comprise like the beam and the. Rule that I used internally, was like the two circles that comprised the head the, distance. That they overlap is the same distance that, the body circle is away from the second circle and so like there's a little bit of like a math formula involved. In that which is like my architecture, background coming out. But. But, for the most part I tried to keep it as like sort of simple looking as possible, and, I, found, that's been really cool and like the black and white things been cool too because people on Twitter, have started. Coloring the book and like sharing, sharing, with me and seeing and for. Me seeing like how other people interpret the book and how they color it has been really. Cool because it sort of makes it, there's. As much as it is mine it, sort, of creates this like cool. Connection. So. Yeah. Thanks. Sorry. Just making notes here on the geometric deconstruction. Of the, no. I just actually I'm just here to thank you for leaving us this book as a timeless. Artifact as opposed to Twitter, which is this as you said very like you know in the moment artifact. And they both provide, different. You know benefits but this at least is something that you can return. To later. Without. Necessarily all that context, and and I wanted, to pass along the best book review of this which I've gotten which I got from my kids, specifically. My daughter who is six at the time who after we had read, a few pages together and then I'd let the beach go off with it for a bit she came back to me and very earnestly ver urgently said dad this. Book is full of feelings, and. So, I just want to pass that along to you, thank. You. Thank. You. So. Just. You know from the way you talk I imagine, Canada, is such a wonderful place mmm. So. Why did you leave. And. What. What do you have to say to you, know people, like me actually want to move to Canada uh-huh what can I advice could, you give me I, like, I I often. Like I never want to fall into the danger of saying Canada's like this perfect utopia because it isn't, there, are a lot.
Of Things, that Canada needs to work on as well. For. Example it's like its treatment of indigenous, peoples. But. I think. You. Know I don't really I find, myself asking that question a lot like why did I leave Canada especially, in these. Last two, years. And. I. Think. I'll always, see Canada is my home and like I've always intended, to go back there I think, for like myself in a lot of sort of Canadian students, who end up in the u.s. have done it because. We. Want. To go to a school in the States and essentially that's sort of where that's. Like the strongest reason, I can come up with for now is, I. I. Need to be here because I'm, going, to school here but, at the same time I've been here long enough that. I've really, kind, of made a lot of American friends, and and, seen. Kind of what is happening in the US and I've become, really. Invested. In in. The. Politics. Here. And in sort of like the. Just. Everything that's happening and I really, care about, my. Friends. Who are people, of color who are getting persecuted, in. The US and then have to live in fear all the time and. And. So it's given me a, lot to empathize, with here, and I think I've come. It's become like a place where I've fallen. In love with but. Also. Am deeply critical. And sad about and so but I think ultimately I've like I've it's. Become, a country, that used to just be like oh this, is the country south of where I am as now. It's sort of like my second home and now I really care about what. Happens, here in about my friends were here and what and the people who are here, so. Now I feel, like this weird split, between like. Understanding. That I'm Canadian and being Canadian, but also deeply, being invested, in the, outcome of this, country. So first of all thanks for being. Hopeful, you. Ever want. To no longer be an alien do. I ever want to no longer be an alien um, no. I don't think so I think. First. Of all I don't know if that's like my decision to make first of all. But. I think I, think I've been really. Happy. With or, I've grown comfortable with sort of. Being. Placed, as. An outsider and sort of seeing. Myself as, an outsider and I. Think. There's a lot of value in that and I think there's a. Lot. Of I think sort of being an outsider to most. Things allows you to be critical, in a way that is. Harder. To see when you're like, ingrained. In that thing. But. Yeah. I don't know no I kind, of like it for now and I think the best thing about it is that I, think like someone, once described me is like a public. Like. Lonely. Person. Or. Like. Something, like that and I think the the kind of beauty, about sort of like. Publicly saying. That is that I. Find, other people who also feel like aliens, and who feel like outsiders and together. We form like this community, of outsiders, and we find like a connection. And, that's. Really sweet and it never becomes like it never goes from like a group. Of outsiders to like one. Group of insiders, it's always just like this lovely diverse. Group of other. People, and I, think that's that's, really nice and I kind of I kind of really value that. So. Yeah I think, we, should all be I'm. That sounds cheesy I'm not even gonna say I'm, not even to say I think we should all be aliens but I think, but. I think I think there's like a value to that and I think I'm. Happy with with my place with him, yeah. So, I heard, you made an announcement about an upcoming next, project, you want to tell, everybody about that really quickly sure. The, next book I'm working on is a book with liminal, Miranda, who's. The creator, of Hamilton and in the heights among other things and. I'm. Actually really excited about it's called it's it's, called good morning good night and, it's a compilation of Lin's good, morning and good night tweets that are from, Twitter and, basically. We compiled them and I've done. Illustrations, for each good. Morning good night tweet and it's this like suite in, a very sweet cute, look. That. Hopefully. Does, something. Similar to what this book does in, the sense that it creates like this objects that people can, really hold on to and that. Is. Full of feelings and. And. That. I think is like this hopeful kind of empathetic object. And. Yeah I'm, really, really excited about it it comes out October 23rd. So. Yeah yeah. We, will be on the lookout absolutely. Thank you so much for coming again Johnny thank you thank you for having me. You.