12 hours online and zero regrets: A day with the internet’s funniest meme curator7 min read
Welcome to 24 Hours Online, where we ask one extremely internetty person to document a day in their life looking at screens.
People tend to talk about their screen time the way they talk about fast food: Too much is “bad,” a marker of gluttony or laziness or some other moral failing. Ena Da, an actor, comedian, and manager of what I would argue is Instagram’s best meme account, has a more nuanced approach. Despite her self-proclaimed “ungodly” 10-to-12 hours per day online, she argues that the lack of available third places in American society creates a void of shared community and culture that can only be filled by the internet.
That’s not what her meme page — current handle: @park_slope_arsonist — is about. Describing it is sort of impossible; it’s a mix between straight-up shitposts, chaotic TikTok curation, and intentionally amateurish WordArt graphics that skewer everything from US foreign politics to parallel parking. Her Stories are where the real action is, however: Nearly every day, she posts at least a dozen of the weirdest TikToks (a thirst edit of the old man from Courage the Cowardly Dog, the tragedy of children wanting to be marine biologists but never becoming them), and intersperses them with her own hilarious commentary.
Like a lot of 27-year-olds living in Brooklyn, Da’s first real experience on the internet was Tumblr, but she avoided the more discourse-poisoned corners and remained in her niche of surrealist posts written by people for whom “being funny on the internet” would someday become their identity. Here’s how she spent one day online in March, from trolling Tinder dudes to avoiding being recognized in Prospect Park, in her own words.
If my mother saw how much time I spent online, she would immediately drop to her knees and pray because it can only be described as ungodly. I know that I usually spend upward of 12 hours online every day, but I never turn on Screen Time on my phone because I don’t need to be reminded of that (except for today).
Speaking of ungodly, I wake up around 10:49 am and immediately start my daily routine: slowly cycling through my different social media platforms. I liken myself to a medieval knight traveling across the realm collecting taxes and keeping peace or some shit. My first stop is the land of Instagram. I don’t ever click on the notifications tab because a few years ago I read an article that said notifications on social media were conditioning us like Pavlov’s dog and I thought to myself, “I am no dog.”
The likes I don’t dwell on too much, but the comments I keep a close eye on. Like a knight keeping the peace, I gotta be on the lookout for any comments that disturb the order. This morning, there were none in sight — surprising, for what some would consider an “inflammatory” post.
The responses to my Story make me feel very plugged into the psyche of others. I get countless messages from people, many of whom have responded to my Stories in the past, and even though I have never returned the response, it doesn’t seem to faze them. It’s a phenomenon that fascinates me to no end. I feel as though I’ve been transported inside their heads (some of which could use some serious spring cleaning).
I leave the house to go for a stroll through Prospect Park. Or should I say, a scroll through Prospect Park because I am on my Twitter timeline while walking. Naturally, I stop to tweet about the breathtaking views.
Walking around this world with a low cut shirt staring at my own tits, truly the female gaze at its best
— Park Slope Arsonist (@PSArsonist) March 15, 2022
Scrolling and walking is such a surreal experience because it feels like my brain exists in a different plane than the rest of my body. Unfortunately, I don’t keep a close enough eye on the physical realm because I come inches away from a tree branch in my corneas mid-walk. I catch the eye of a woman with a stroller, who smirks sympathetically as if to say, “we’ve all been there.”
There’s been a few times where people have recognized me from my Tumblr, which is weird because I’m like, “You’re from Tumblr, what are you doing outside your house?” [People recognizing me from] Instagram is happening a lot, especially in the past year. There’s about a 5 to 10 percent chance that I’ll get recognized when I go out in New York. I never get used to it. It’s embarrassing!
As a chronically single 20-something woman, I would be lying if I said I didn’t check my Tinder at any point during the day. During this check, like most, I just look to see if I have any new messages. Nothing of significance today except a follow-up message from some guy trying to understand why it says “no twins” in my bio. It’s a tongue-in-cheek parody of the occasional bigoted, exclusionary statements that some people put in their bio, but he doesn’t need to know that. I will not be elaborating.
Tinder for me is a mixed bag. I’ve been on some good dates, but I find it hard to engage with full sincerity since I’m convinced that the platform actively works against you in order to force you to pay for its exclusive features. The mild online popularity doesn’t exactly help my case either as I’ve come across too many potential suitors who absolutely repel me by mentioning my other online activities.
I went on a date with a guy one time who was really cool and we were vibing, and then he revealed to me that he followed me on Instagram. After the fact, it left a bad taste in my mouth. People get a first impression of who you are from your online presence — your mannerisms, the way you talk — that you didn’t get the chance to introduce or influence yourself. They might not like the reality of you because they like the idea of you a lot better.
I have a Google Meet call with fellow comedians Reed Kavner (@reedkavner), Annie Rauwerda (@annierau), and Juan Nicolon (@juannicolon) to plan our upcoming show called Depths of Wikipedia Live. This show is a perfect example of what I like to call “the URL in the IRL” in which a popular, very internetty phenomenon breaks containment and interacts with the real world. The line between the internet and real life has never been blurrier, but sometimes that’s not such a bad thing. One less line to cross.
My roommate and I have a playful argument at dinnertime. I said I thought it was weird that she accompanies her meals with baby carrots. She found it equally strange that I do so with cherry tomatoes. So I decide to poll the netizens: 1,300 people voted that the baby carrots were weirder; 2,800 people voted for the cherry tomatoes. Whatever!
I scroll through Tumblr for a bit. I find the overall climate of the website to be comforting, like a twisted mental break. It’s my favorite social media platform, maybe because I really think I developed a lot of my identity on the site — which is a bit of a concerning statement now that I read that back.
But Tumblr had long text posts where people would go in-depth about, like, “this is what it’s like to be trans” or another part of their identity and issues that affect them. I feel like I had a front-row seat to learning a lot of different perspectives that I wouldn’t have gotten on other platforms. It’s also where a lot of memes and jokes used to start out, so it’s like being in the primordial soup of internet culture.
Or maybe I like it so much because where else on the web do you find absolute nonsense like this:
I end my day by watching some TikToks. My unpaid TikTok intern, my little sister who’s in college, sends me a hefty stack of videos (175!) and I watch every single one of them in its entirety to find ones I would like to save for my Instagram Story the following day.
I always find myself losing track of time while doing this. Today, I spent almost three hours watching TikToks, but I like to think of it as a labor of love. I don’t watch TV, so it fills that niche. Everything I do is because I love my online community and it brings me joy to entertain them.
I definitely spend more time online than the average person, but I don’t see it as a waste. I think these days, there are fewer available third places — spaces that are neither your home or workplace and are not commercialized, where you can hang out and do nothing in. And that’s what the internet is fulfilling. Malls are dying, and you can’t always go to parks. People who say the youth spend too much time online miss that important aspect: They spend so much time online because there isn’t anywhere else to go. So yes, my screen time is crazy, but if you think about it, imagine me hanging out at the mall all day. Which, I guess, is equally pathetic.
Total screen time:
10 hours and 1 minute
This column was first published in The Goods newsletter. Sign up here so you don’t miss the next one, plus get newsletter exclusives.