If Then

Social Media’s Weird Future

The Atlantic’s Taylor Lorenz explains TikTok, Instagram eggs, and why teens are reading the comments.

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On Wednesday’s show, hosts April Glaser and Will Oremus discuss news that PG&E, California’s main power provider, plans to file for bankruptcy due to the billions in liability it faces stemming from last year’s deadly wildfires. Allegations have been made that PG&E’s power lines and equipment aided in the fires, and the company did not adequately address the hazards beforehand. As home to some of the world’s most powerful tech companies, California’s economy last year surpassed the U.K.’s, but it’s clear that this wealth has not trickled down to help Californians suffering the effects of prolonged drought and longer fire seasons hitting more populated areas.


They’ll also talk about a letter sent this week to Microsoft, Amazon, and Google from more than 85 civil rights and racial justice groups, including the ACLU. The letter demands that these companies stop building face-recognition technology that could be used by the government. We’ve seen employees of these companies voice their concern, but what might we expect from outside pressure?

The hosts touch on one of the least discussed themes from last week’s CES conference in Las Vegas: privacy.

Then they welcome back Taylor Lorenz, journalist for the Atlantic. Glaser and Oremus talk to her about what social media might look like in 2019. Forget Facebook for a second. Forget Twitter, Snapchat, even YouTube, which was the focus of our conversation with Lorenz last year. They talk to her about what the kids are up to now, like making dance videos on TikTok, making Instagram eggs go viral, and making friends in the comments sections of social apps.


21:14 - Interview with Taylor Lorenz.

39:30 - Don’t Close My Tabs

Stories discussed on the show:

• Slate: “California Could Use PG&E’s Failure to Get Wildfire-Prone Areas Off the Grid

• ACLU: “Nationwide Coalition of Over 85 Groups Urge Companies Commit Not to Provide Face Surveillance to the Government


• Slate: “Which Smart Speaker Should You Trust Most—and Least?”

• The Atlantic: “TikTok Is Cringey and That’s Fine

• The Atlantic: “How Comments Became the Best Part of Instagram

Don’t Close My Tabs:

• Mercury News: “Entire East Bay Express Editorial Staff Laid Off on Friday

• New York Times: “More Start-Ups Have an Unfamiliar Message for Venture Capitalists: Get Lost

Podcast production by Max Jacobs.

If Then plugs:

You can get updates about what’s coming up next by following us on Twitter @ifthenpod. You can follow Will @WillOremus and April @Aprilaser. If you have a question or comment, you can email us at ifthen@slate.com.

If Then is presented by Slate and Future Tense, a collaboration among Arizona State UniversityNew America, and Slate. Future Tense explores the ways emerging technologies affect society, policy, and culture. To read more, follow us on Twitter and sign up for our weekly newsletter.