How Matt Bellassai uses the internet.

How Matt Bellassai Uses the Internet

How Matt Bellassai Uses the Internet

Innovation, the Internet, gadgets, and more.
Nov. 24 2017 10:00 AM

How Matt Bellassai Uses the Internet

The comedian on Harry Potter chat rooms, Seamless vs. Postmates, and why he loves the Beyoncé hair flip.

Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Photos by Tim Beckford and Karen Seifert, Thinkstock, YouTube, and Twitter.
Matt Bellassai

Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Photos by Tim Beckford and Karen Seifert, Thinkstock, YouTube, and Twitter.

At its best, the internet is a never-ending cocktail party, to which we each bring our own special libations. (Its worst is some other column’s problem.) This is How I Internet, where the web’s most interesting personalities share what’s in their punch bowl.

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This week’s subject: Matt Bellassai, comedian, web series creator, former BuzzFeed staffer, and author of Everything Is Awful
Age: 27
Location: New York City
Hardware: iPhone 7S, MacBook Pro, iPad Pro
Representative tweet:

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Slate: How would you summarize your internet persona in one line?

Matt Bellassai: My internet personality … irreverent? Oh, that’s one word. But I’ll stick with one word. I put zero thought into my habits and what I say. I guess it’s served me all right until now.

I think I’ve always been that way. I probably started really building a presence on Twitter and Tumblr around 2011 before I started applying to jobs. I’d always been into comedy and into being funny. It wasn’t until I started applying for jobs that I was like, maybe I shouldn’t talk about drinking all the time and, you know, things that potential employers might look at and be like, oh, we’re not going to hire this alcoholic. I deleted some of my party tweets. But I ended up getting a job at BuzzFeed where that was just the atmosphere. The stuff that we were doing at the office every day probably would be grounds for getting fired anywhere else.

How did you end up at BuzzFeed?

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I was a journalism major. I went to Northwestern and got a journalism degree and was like, I am going to move to New York and be a magazine writer. My dream was to write for Time or Newsweek. But BuzzFeed popped up and I thought I could go there and write about serious stuff if I wanted to. That’s right around the time when they had started an LGBT vertical and were getting serious about news.

I applied when I still lived in Chicago to be a fellow as part of their first fellowship internship program and got hired. Once I got there I was like, oh, I actually really like being funny and writing comedic stuff and not the serious stuff. I just don’t think I thought that you could do that full-time and ended up at a place that was super-encouraging and was able to make a full-time thing out of it.

When I started at BuzzFeed, there was maybe 100 employees total, including everybody on the business side. The editorial team was super-small. My parents had no idea what I was going to do.

What do you remember about your early online experiences?

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I had my AOL account, and my name was super-uninventive. It was just Matt and then my birthday. I remember I was into chat rooms and all of that. My most embarrassing fact is probably that I used to go into the Harry Potter AOL chat rooms and pick trivia fights with people.

I think before college the internet felt like its own separate thing. It wasn’t until probably my junior year of college where it felt like the internet was now just like an integral part of life. My senior year I sort of like gave up on actual academia, you know, just senioritis, and spent a whole lot of time on Tumblr and Twitter and discovering that there was this whole separate world. Tumblr was at its height. It had its own language and its own culture, and I just thought it was so interesting and fun. Senior year college was when my internet habits became deeply entrenched with the rest of my life.

If we did “fuck, marry, kill” with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, what would you do?

I guess if I had to, fuck Instagram, marry Twitter, and sadly kill Facebook. I still love Facebook. But as a consumer, Twitter and Instagram are my go-tos. I’d rather spend most of my time with Twitter and just have a good quickie with Instagram.

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With Twitter, I feel like I’m experiencing the same thing that I notice a lot of people on my timeline are experiencing, which is you open it every morning with a sense of dread. I tried a couple of years ago to go through and make a list of funny people whose tweets I want to make sure that I see every day. Even that list is now just mostly people bemoaning whatever is happening in the world. It’s just a complete trainwreck that you can’t look away from. I have a very hard time imagining my life without looking out Twitter all the time.

I think Twitter is still a great place for comedy and growing an audience and testing out jokes and things like that. So I probably will not be quitting it anytime soon.

Who’s your favorite person you follow?

I’m pretty shameless about celebrity follows. I feel like celebrities are more tolerable on Instagram because you don’t have to hear their thoughts, you just get to look at their pretty pictures.

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Beyoncé will always be my favorite. Her Instagram is so extra and outrageous, and I will defend it forever. She has these ridiculous photo spreads that she takes. Some poor person on her team has to put these designs together for her, and I love it. I’m absolutely that person who will like the Beyoncé photo that already has like 900,000 likes even though it will make absolutely zero difference.

Do you have any hate-follows?

I feel like I made a choice a few years ago that I wouldn’t hate-follow anybody. I’m a big fan of the mute button on Twitter. I would really rather use that than block anybody. I used to be pretty heavy-handed with the block button, and I started realizing that people like screencapping your blocked screen as a kind of trophy.

I wrote a lot about One Direction when I was at BuzzFeed. The One Direction fans on Twitter can be very vicious. I used to have to block a good number of them who would come after me. I fully realize that my struggles on the internet do not equate with the struggles of many people on Twitter.

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What’s your biggest time-waster online?

I watch like every TV show imaginable, and my attention span is now so limited that I can only watch one TV show at a time and all at once. I will usually either watch it on my TV and then be scrolling through Instagram, Twitter, or Tumblr while I’m watching, or I’ll watching it on my phone while I’m lying in bed, which forces me to pay attention to what I’m watching even though it’s on a very small screen. I probably watch much more shows on my phone than I do on TV, which is a little crazy.

Right now I’ve been rebingeing all of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which I’m a big fan of. It’s oddly inspiring to watch all of these drag queens break down over fabrics and makeup.

Have you fallen down any good rabbit holes lately?

This is maybe not a direct answer but one of my favorite things about the internet is following attractive men on Instagram. One of my favorite things is watching a guy slowly realize he’s gay and come out and express that. It’ll go from “I’m totally not gay” to a year later, full-blown, totally gay.

Everybody is on their own journey. I’m not pushing everybody out. I want everybody to take their own time. But I love when in the back of my head I’m like, “He’s probably gay” and then watching that happen in real time. I’m not placing bets. Instagram, I don’t know how their algorithm works, but I enjoy going to the Explore page and end up coming across all these people. I follow so many random people. It just feeds itself. Then I go to the Explore page and there’s all these new people.

It’s always seems kind of purposefully ambiguous. And then it goes to being extremely gay. For example, there’s an actor, Colton Haynes. He was on Teen Wolf, went from being not out to out to engaged, married in the span of like a year. And now every post is him and his husband being super-gay.

What about a favorite GIF?

It’s usually a Beyoncé hair flip. That usually expresses whatever I’m trying to convey.

Is there a meme that’s particularly special to you?

I don’t even know if she goes by anything besides Ava. She’s this tiny child who is very sassy. She has a bunch of characters. And she was really big on Vine—I think it’s her mom who runs the account—but is becoming this tiny YouTube star. I quote some of her Vines often that have sort of become memes. There was this Vine when she was a really little baby and she’s just repeating “I smell like beef” over and over. She has this character named Charlene, and people have compared Charlene to my persona in videos, which is just a mess. So she is my internet soul sister.

Do you organize the apps on your phone in any special way?

There have been times where I started putting thought into it, but I realized I only use like five apps, so as long as those are within range of my thumb, that is my order. Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, Seamless: As long as they’re on the bottom near my thumb, that is the organizing principle of my phone.

What would you say is your favorite and least favorite thing about the internet?

I guess my favorite thing is that I’ve been able to make a career out of the internet, which I never would have expected when I was getting into Harry Potter fights on AOL. It’s brought me closer to a whole bunch of people who probably never would have found me or my comedy. But the bad thing would be the flip side of that, which is that it exposes you to a whole bunch of shit that you probably wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to.

Let’s talk more about your Seamless habit.

I have been known to order three meals on Seamless a day. Not every day, but more than once I have ordered breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Seamless.

I’ve been traveling a lot and I always have to figure out what is the app of choice in whatever place I’m in. I know L.A. is very Postmates-heavy. I have them all, just in case. I’m always prepared.

I guess the difference between Postmates and Seamless is that Postmates is really just a courier service and Seamless is the restaurant sending a delivery person. I’m the type of person where I like as little interaction with the person giving me my delivery as possible. That’s the joy of being able to order food via an app is we don’t have to make eye contact at all. Postmates is a little more inclined to interact with you, maybe because they’re just a person on a bike. I mean, they’re all people on bikes. I don’t really know what I’m trying to say. My main point is I don’t want to talk to anybody.

I ordered from Amazon Prime Now, which is where whatever you order you get in like an hour. The man knocked on my door, left it at the bottom of my door, and was already around the corner at the elevator before I opened the door. At first I was like, that’s rude. Then I was like, actually, this is perfect. I get my stuff and we didn’t even have to see one another. Maybe that’s what I should really be writing in the delivery instructions every time.