Citizen Framed

Intern Tess's graduation Tabs! Amazon puts the "fine" back in solitary confinement, we're finally all too online now, and butts.

It seems fitting that Meltdown May should go out with Andrew Frame, CEO of Gladys Kravitz’s favorite app Citizen, exposed by leaks to Vice in a full shouty-Slack frenzy trying to spur vigilantes to catch a supposed arsonist that he couldn’t even bother to make sure was actually guilty. A guy named Frame accusing someone innocent? What am I even supposed to do with that, comedically?

This is the third time this week that Citizen has made the news, thanks to some great dystopian reporting from Joseph Cox, and it’s hard to choose which new horror is the worst: this one, yesterday’s Tabbed data scrape, or the South Africa styleprivatized secondary emergency response network,” which might be even more on-the-nose than the CEO’s name. Though that’s up for debate.

It won’t be Meltdown May forever though, and some tech lords are taking time to reflect and retract. The Amazon News Twitter account, last seen picking fights with U.S. Senators, appears to have deleted a video of its solitary confinement cell—er, “ZenBooth.” Sure you could “have a union” or “use the bathroom” or whatever, but are those things really better than squeezing into a gray box with a new age themed Fire tablet, surrounded by the ceaseless, unblinking gaze of Big Brother, in the middle of a warehouse? Of course not, as any bot can tell you.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about recently is how strange it was to see the virtual world eclipse the meatspace for more than a year. I’ve always been helplessly addicted to the internet, ever since I managed to talk my dad into letting me use Prodigy before I learned to ride a bike. I spent a lot of time connecting with other users who liked hamsters, which in retrospect probably included a ton of creepy adults pretending to be my eleven-year-old message board pals. Because I was chubby and lonely, my formative experiences with the web made me stubbornly affectionate toward it. Over time, of course, that relationship became more complicated—like when I ditched my Twitter account because social media made me gloomy and depressed. Six months later when I tried to retrieve it I found that it had been yoinked, it’s now “the established twitter page for your treasured adult babe” with a pair of globular NSFW butts where my avatar had once been.

Being too online was still a choice however, until Covid hit. Then it became almost a necessity—the sole source of breaking information and connection, albeit distant. And when it was finally time to get vaccinated, those of us who had previously felt a modicum of shame about the amount of time we spent scrolling found ourselves with an edge. All that time wasted sure did come in handy when we had to navigate for a purpose.

It’s also easy to conflate my eager participation in the discourse, and with tech usage in general, with the acceleration of societal demise. The feeling of scuzz that clings to me when I look at the ZenBooth may have something to do with my complicity in the unavoidable Amazon Web Services, even if we all know we should draw the line at Prime. And although the thought of a private security vehicle powered by an app formerly known as Vigilante disgusts me, it’s hard to resist downloading something that can tell me if the sirens I hear in the distance are headed toward a brush fire outside my kid’s preschool. It’s a messier tangle than it has ever been. But just when I think tech couldn’t get any dumber, it creates something like the Kellogg’s Bowl Bot, and totally redeems itself.

The art I had planned fell through, due to the late-breaking nature of tabbed journalism, so I thought I’d improvise and doodle what would happen if you mashed up my old Twitter page, which featured Tom Petty looming over Ventura in the “Free Fallin’” video, with my bot squatter. Unfortunately, I ended up with this as my first draft:

The second attempt was, if possible, even worse. According to my husband, I should be in prison for this. Look, what did you expect, Drawing Links? I just bit off more than I could chew:

I couldn’t go out on that note. I had to add legs.

👌 Perfect.

Thank you for having me as your May Intern, it’s been a blast. I never thought I’d be the world’s oldest intern, but the pull of Tabs was too strong to resist. And honestly, although I had some romantic idea of focusing on parenting until my kids go back to school full-time in the fall, I’m so glad that I had an excuse to sneak away and read about bugs and media gossip and generally release myself from the idea that there’s something virtuous about being The Guy who moved to a lake to hide from the news. Although that does sound nice, the lake and all. I’ll be resuming my newsletter next month if you’d like to subscribe to bloggy weather content, but it would be even better if you became a paid subscriber to Today in Tabs, because Rusty is truly the best and I never want this thing to go on hiatus ever again. Extra thanks to my sponsors, The Content Technologist and Discourse too!

Cue outro music: Pogo, “Jaaam”

It’s been such a joy working with Intern Tess. The most fun I can have as an editor is when I feel like we’ve made something together that’s better than either the writer or I could have made alone, and I felt like that every day this month. I still don’t know if she’s trying to get back into writing but selfishly, I would like you to please commission her so I can read her more, and I know I’m not the only one. Happy Friday, and I’ll see you in Meltdown June. —Rusty

Join the conversation

or to participate.