How Shea Serrano uses the internet.

Shea Serrano on How He Wastes Time on the Internet and Why He Loves the Sailboat Emoji

Shea Serrano on How He Wastes Time on the Internet and Why He Loves the Sailboat Emoji

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Nov. 7 2017 5:55 AM

How Shea Serrano Uses the Internet

The Ringer writer was once a web commenter who actually used his real name. Now he commands a Twitter army.

Shea Serrano
Shea Serrano

Photo illustration by Slate. Illustrations by Thinkstock. Photo by Larami Serrano.

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: Shea Serrano, a staff writer for the Ringer whose latest book, Basketball (and Other Things), just hit No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list.

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Age: 36
Location: Houston
Hardware: iPhone 5, 2012 Macbook (15”)
Representative tweet:

Slate: Describe your internet personality in one sentence.

Shea Serrano: I would say I just want to be honest online. Then everything that happens is not because you were trying to game the system or whatever. If a thing happened, it’s because of you as a person and the things you were trying to do or hoping to do.

Do you know what your first screen name or first email address was?

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That’s a tough one. It was through school, so it was probably like SSerrano at SHSU or something like that. In college, I had an eBay account, and I’m pretty sure I just kept using my last name or SSerrano. That’s what they gave me, so I was like, “Guess I’ll do that for everything.” I use my real name because it’s too much to remember. I try to use my regular email address, which is SheaSerrano at gmail. I just use that for everything. That way when I inevitably forget the password, it will go back to that email account.

Fuck, marry, kill: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

I would marry Twitter. I would F—I’ll just say F—Facebook and kill Instagram.

The main one I use is Twitter. I use that one every single day. A whole, whole bunch. It’s like the first thing I check in the morning for news and just to see what’s going on in the world. And then every once in a while I use Facebook but not too, too often. That’s it. I don’t have Instagram or Snapchat or any of that other stuff.

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I was never a big social media person, but once I started using Twitter—I had to do it because the place I was working at the time made you set up an account—after a while I figured out it’s a text-based thing, which is natural for me because I’m a writer. Also, it’s a thing that’s moving constantly, not like a Facebook post where you put a thing and then there’s stuff in the comments. It’s always moving and always updating. So it’s really good in situations where everybody’s watching a thing together, like the Oscars or the Super Bowl or an NBA game. After a while, you start to find these pockets, like, OK, here are 400 people who are always on Twitter watching basketball. And here are a bunch of people who are always watching football, you know, you have all these different versions of Twitter that you can peek in on.

Do you have a favorite person that you follow on social media, maybe like a guilty pleasure?

I don’t think of it as a guilty pleasure, but I think the funniest person I follow is Jason Concepcion. I’m just smitten with that guy. I got to hang out with him a few times, and he’s just really smart and funny. He’s my favorite guy, like, on the planet Earth.

What about like a secret enemy that that you maybe hate-follow or just like think of it as your competition?

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I think of all of them as my competition: Every other writer, I’m measuring myself against them. If I have to pick just one, probably I think Rembert Browne, because for me I need for it to be somebody that is better than me. So it’s him, Jia Tolentino from the New Yorker—writers who I’ve read their stuff and go, “Oh shit, this is incredible.” So I follow them and then they post an article and I read it and it’s great and then I just feel shitty for two weeks after I read it because I’m not there.

Have you ever commented online?

That’s one of the ways I got started. There’s a paper in Houston called the Houston Press. I was having a hard time getting the editors to respond to emails I sent with pitches because they don’t know who I am, why would you respond to an email from a person you don’t know? So what I started doing was whenever a thing would go up on the site that one of the editors wrote, I would leave a comment but not just like a “great job” or whatever but like a paragraph or something and let them know that I read the thing and I just kept doing that with my name, Shea Serrano, Shea Serrano, over and over again every time. That way, when I sent an email two weeks after that, I felt like I had a better chance of them opening it because they would see my email address was Shea Serrano. It ended up working.

What would you say is your worst or most time-wasting habit online?

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Probably NBA Reddit. There are a ton of people on there who are smart about basketball or funny about basketball, so I’d like to go on there to sort of read through all the stuff that they’re coming up with.

What tabs do you have open right now?

Right now, I have one for the Google Doc for the thing I’m writing that will go up tomorrow. I have my email. I have a thing for a song called “Don’t Leave Me” by Blackstreet that came out in 1996 that I really like. I was reading through the Wikipedia page. Oh and then there’s a separate browser for this mixtape I was listening to. The mixtape was called “Nice and Slow 52.5.” It’s a collection of a bunch of old R&B songs that have been chopped and screwed.

When was the last time you fell down a rabbit hole online?

The most recent one would be earlier today, actually. The thing I’m writing for tomorrow will be about old R&B songs. While I was doing that I ended up coming across a song I listened to in high school called “Movin’ On” by Mya featuring a rapper named Silkk the Shocker. And then I just started going through all of Silkk the Shocker’s old stuff. He was on a label called No Limit Records. It turned into a No Limits Records thing, and then that turned into a Louisiana rap thing. I think I lost maybe an hour and a half or so doing that.

What’s the last thing you remember learning on the internet that blew your mind?

It was: Kobe Bryant has scored more points against the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs than any other player in NBA history has against the Spurs. It blew my mind because I felt like I knew that already, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure.

Do you have a favorite or most used emoji?

Right now, it’s the one of the little boat, that’s the one I use the most. That basketball book that I just wrote, the acronym for the title is BAOT, which I pronounce in my head like boat, so I use that instead. It’s usually on Twitter, if somebody sends me a thing or I post a thing about the book, I put that on there.

I’ll see what comes up in the frequently used part … oh, that little man that’s shouting. I like him a lot. It’s like a profile of his face. There’s no secret meaning to it, I just use it to shout a thing.

What about GIFs?

At the end of every week, I will post a thing that’s like, oh thank God I didn’t get fired this week, and then it’s always a basketball GIF of a guy celebrating. That’s mainly what I use them for.

What’s the last screenshot you took on your phone?

The last screenshot was a still of a video of my wife doing this dance that our sons taught her. It’s called a backpack kid dance or something like that.

Do you use any other techie devices beyond your phone or computer?

I tried to do one of those fitness watches that you wear, and I didn’t like it because it was just reminding me that I was not exercising, so I stopped. It’s the same reason I deleted the exercise apps off my phone. So now I don’t have anything anymore. It’s just a phone.