18 places to find joy on the internet in an increasingly dark digital world

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Alicia Lutes
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Good news and positivity can be tricky to find on the internet, but Alicia Lutes has discovered 18 places to find joy, laughter and fun via podcasts, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and more…

Here’s my hot take on the internet: I choose to believe there is a lot of good on it. I know: it definitely doesn’t feel that way now. Every day, you log on and you see white nationalists attempting to gaslight America; trolls and bots infest any political conversation, and the news is flooded with photos from the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, Dayton, Ohio, and to a lesser extent, the under-reported shootings in Chicago. Oh, and in case you forgot, the Jeffrey Epstein scandal only broke a couple of weeks ago, and children are being kept in cages at the border. Nothing changes, despite hashtag or protest. And for every Emma Gonzalez, Blair Imani, or Marley Dias out there doing good on social media, it feels like there are just as many budding alt-right, #TeamMitch boys, posting photos of themselves assaulting a cut-out with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as they high-five and/or throw up Nazi symbols. And I don’t think we need to even begin to discuss the tweets of a certain president.

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Why it’s high time we stopped focusing on negative news stories

Sigh. I’ll admit it - sometimes the internet can be bad. But it’s not like most of us can live without it. We have a reliance on digital to get through our days because the real world isn’t just a terrestrial one. So what we see online does have an effect on our mood and mental health, for better or for worse (sometimes it’s important to stay aware and angry). And there’s a lot of stuff to see, whether you intend to or not.

So I’m advocating for you to add more to your daily routine. It may not make sense, but hear me out. While at times it may feel trite or meaningless, you have to make sure your online space doesn’t exist solely to make you angry and upset about the umpteenth norm destroyed by rampant bigotry and xenophobic nationalism or 597th international tragedy.

So you have to make the situation work for you, and add some silly, enjoyable, carefree fun into your feeds. Of course, curating a tiny slice of digital life that brings you joy, makes you smile and laugh, or gives you that “new episode of Bake-Off after crying through the latest season of Queer Eye, before catching up on The Good Place” feeling can be difficult for some. It’s hard to know what’s worth your time. Thankfully, I spend far too much time on my phone and the internet, so I know a good thing or two. Do you need some cute? Covered. Inspiration and self-care? Got that, too. Harmless celebrity gossip? Nice people on social media? Good people trying hard doing things they love? In spades, my friends!

So scroll on down and enjoy some of the good the internet provides us.


The Tiny Chef Show

Few things are as joy-inducing as the existence of The Tiny Chef. When I am in my darkest moments, it is he that makes me smile. This lovable green goofball with an earnest heart sixteen sizes bigger than his tiny, 8” body broke onto the scene in June 2018 and we haven’t looked back since. (Even Kristen Bell loves him.) There are lifestyle bloggers, and then there’s the Tiny Chef, an herbivore who just wants the world to know how lovely it is to cook. “The Chef would tell you he comes from the earth and he makes his home wherever his heart is,” explains the FAQ on his tiny website. “We think he’s dodging the question because maybe he’s not so sure himself.” No matter where he’s from, we’re so glad he’s here to brighten up our digital lives and text chains (seriously, my cousin, sister, and I have one dedicated to all things TC), and now that we both live in the same city (Bosh Angeles), I’m hoping I’ll run into him in real life and truly transcend to a higher plane of a more joyful existence.

Bon Appétit

OK so maybe yes, I am a very food-focused person. But food is good! And it’s the perfect medium for charming internet content on a platform that’s pretty much riddled with a lot of bad. Magazine Bon Appétit has managed to thread the needle on video content that makes sense for their brand, and involves the people who work there in an organic way that endears us to them (like when they’re all skulking around in the background waiting for a taste). Be it in the Test Kitchen, creating food hacks, dealing with living organisms while baking, how-to guides for recreating famous candy bars, or just watching actors like Michael Shannon and Shangela try and cook back-to-back - literally - with a professional chef, the channel has something for every level of food lover, or even just those types who like to watch a 3-part episode where doughnuts go horribly wrong. Their failures are just as delightful and heart-warming as their perfect souffles and ganaches.


Comments By Celebs

An Instagram account that tracks the social media habits of celebrities doesn’t sound fun in concept, but in practice it’s a blast. Think of the “Celebrities - They’re Just Like Us!” sections of tabloids past, but make it all the time and make it about their likes and comments on other celebrities’ social media. What may seem like a potentially catty and superficially obsessive account on paper is actually something far more sincere and humanising. Sure, there are the occasional wild antics, but mostly it shows you just how universal a lot of these things are, and how truly hilariously good Chrissy Teigen is at Twitter.


This one shouldn’t need an explanation: IS THERE ANY ONE HUMAN WHO LOVES MORE AND CONTAINS MORE JOY IN THEM THAN LIZZO? I’ve yet to find one, but if you do, let me know. The queen of Sasha Fluting (the name of her flute) has had a hell of a year and it’s been a true joy to watch her climb to the top of the heap. Whether she’s out there having fun with her friends, twerking with her dancers, or being real about her mental health and self-love struggles, Lizzo is a follow guaranteed to brighten your day and remind you that if you can love her, you can love yourself. Can I get an amen? 

Instagram animals

Listen, everyone is going to have their own preference as to what Instagram animal accounts to follow. For me, it’s all about corgi butts and wholesome memes and scraggly-faced cats. Oh, and also this dog named Pillsbury who lives by me has a ton of wrinkles. And also also, dog groomer to the stars, Jess Rona, who has elevated the slow-mo glamour shot into an artform with her dog-and-song clips. There’s also a raccoon named Pumpkin, but he hasn’t updated in awhile (sigh). Whatever sorta cuteness speaks to you, the better. 


Nicole Cliffe

The only good person on Twitter is Nicole Cliffe. (OK, and also Chrissy Teigen.) The writer is the queen of storytelling and asking great questions that lead to intimate and vulnerable discussions between strangers - famous and regular alike. She’s the sort of kind, brilliant, empathetic follow that will make you a better person for having read the stories, honesty, and kindness she elicits from other people. It is a beautiful, good thing on a site that can be VERY bad. Besides, through following her, you will discover other lovely people to follow, and who doesn’t need more of THAT on Twitter?


Who? Weekly

When my depression was at its worst last year, the one thing that could make me laugh or smile was the podcast Who? Weekly. “Everything you need to know about the celebrities you don’t,” is the extremely apt tagline to this delightfully frivolous and fun (and rarely ever mean) podcast about the B, C, and D list celebrities, influencers, and reality stars who make up our current pop culture world. Each week, Bobby Finger and Lindsey Weber, two of the finest celebrity socio-archaeologists in the biz, break down the news regarding all those people whose names you don’t know - the Whos - but see in the trending topics just as often as the Thems (legitimate famous people). Each Tuesday episode ends with conversation about the Queen of the Whos, Rita Ora, but there’s also variations on the theme that play out on their Friday episodes - ”Who’s There?” “Says Who?” and “Who Dat?” - that keeps things interactive and the hosts on their toes. (One time, Lena Dunham called in.) Learn the cultural importance of phrases like “Me in Greece!”, “ScarJo YummyPop”, “crunch crunch!” and “good form, Bella Thorne,” while you laugh and feel better about the delightful inanity of it all.

Reply All

It’s so easy to remove the humanity from our modern era’s problems, as technology, the internet, and social media can, at times, isolate us from what makes us all human. Enter: Reply All, the podcast about the internet that’s actually more of a portrait of our interconnectedly modern lives, and how the world wide web affects us. Started in 2014 by hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, the Gimlet Media production has been a staple for many for years, but only recently came into my life. The resulting podcast is achingly human in its pursuits, and shows us all myriad ways in which the internet can do some good - like helping a Syrian refugee who’s a fan of the show apply to college (and later get accepted). It will not only help you understand the internet’s constantly-evolving parts a bit more, it will help you understand humanity and yourself a bit better, too.

Everything Else…

This Breathing GIF

This one! It’s good, keep it on your phone! It helps! It’s relaxing! Breathing like this, even for just a few seconds, will make you feel all the better.

Insight Timer

Meditation/sleep apps can be expensive.Thankfully, for a broke, incredibly anxious, insomniac freelancer like me, Insight Timer’s free edition is as expansive as it is varied, with thousands of free ways to meditate available on the app. When it comes to meditation apps, I’ve yet to find a better, more comprehensive deal. There’s a free introduction course on how to meditate if you never have before and there are so many different sounds and stories to choose from. Try Insight Timer to figure out what you like and what you want from an anti-anxiety/meditation/mindfulness/sleep app. You’ll never know what works for you if you don’t try.

Collaborative playlists with someone you love

This is something my younger sister and I started doing recently: we created a playlist to which we can both add our favorite pump-up songs. As I have deeply terrible self-esteem and live and die by my imposter syndrome, and my sister is a cop who often works nights, we are both often in-need of an aural pick-me-up - and our tastes are so different it makes the whole thing fun as we learn and explore what one another likes. Besides, is there anything more exhilarating than turning someone you love onto an excellent song they didn’t know before?

And if all else fails…

Just think about those 30 - 50 feral hogs or Area 51 aliens on Twitter.

Image: Getty