Focus
Holding Hands
Lily and Fiona at the Louvre.
Lily Nguyen:
We met on Are.na, didn't we?
Fiona Carty:
We did. It would be really cool to pull up the Tweets of our first interactions.
Lily:
So we're going way back. Our first interactions online were from last November. I posted something shitting on your former employer. Do you want to talk about it?
Fiona
: My former employer Tweeted out some pretty centrist thing about how they're the future of politics and the intersection of boba. And Lily said "Quickly, welcome to the resistance," and I said “Wow, that blew up." I was embarrassed on their part.
Lily’s tweet about Fiona’s employer.
Lily
:  Boba Guys...people associate them as one of the faces of Asian American culture. For them to say, “We're not going to take a side on politics” was pretty disappointing. It’s erasing the fact that so many Asian American people come to this country without papers, and ICE is after them, and all the other struggles minorities deal with on the day-to-day. It’s upsetting to me. 
Fiona
: Their injection of centrist politics within the company was disappointing to me, too. A lot of employees felt the same.
Lily
: I was pretty eeked out. I was pretty eeked about you actually.  
Fiona
: Totally fair.
Lily
: When did that turn around for us?  
Fiona
: I just started reply-girling to you. You posted these beautiful photos that you took on film and I thought they were cool. I didn't know you at all—just as an internet mutual. I saw your funny tweets and thought, "She's cool. I should probably interact with her more.”
Lily
: She slid. She slid into those DMs.
Fiona
: I did.
Lily
: At some point, we went to the same conference, and I remember seeing you on Hinge. There were so many missed connections, if you think about it.
Fiona
: You came to my place of work and I didn't even see you.
Lily
: I did, I went to fucking Boba Guys in Hayes Valley every Friday after therapy to cry my eyes out.
Fiona
: We were at the same concerts in the past too.
Lily
: Yeah, and we have a bunch of mutual friends. The world is so small?
Fiona
: Given the pandemic, we're all so far apart, too. Which is an interesting dynamic.
Lily's tweet a week after Fiona slid into her DMs.
Lily
: So you slid into my DMs and the week after, I tweeted, "Anyone want to catch feels and uhhhhhhhh collab an Are.na board together?" We dm'd about that and we actually did end up making that Are.na channel. We were talking and I said, "Hey, I know you play Animal Crossing?" I was supposed to have a friend over to my island that day. And she didn't show up and so it was just us two. That was our first date.
Fiona
: We were talking over the Nintendo voice call thing but it kept bugging out. I said, "Okay, I'm just gonna FaceTime you. Here's my number." We FaceTimed until midnight. 
Lily
: It's funny. We did all of these things that I would normally perceive as being too forward, but it felt very natural with you.
Fiona
: I just remember when I hung up I was thinking, "Something is different about this girl." I'd never felt that way so quickly after meeting someone. And then you sent me a coffee percolator, the Bialetti thing, in Animal Crossing. I was like, "Oh my God, this girl is sick".  
Lily
: I was just trying to be friendly?
Fiona
: And I was like, heart eyes emoji.
Lily
: The language of gift-giving is different in this pandemic.
Fiona:
A hundred percent. In Animal Crossing, we would just send cute gifts to each other back and forth, over and over. We would send each other Tweets that we thought would make each other laugh, or reminded us of each other.  
Lily:
I don't know if there's even an offline corollary to that. Me? I'm  so frickin caught up in my own bullshit in the world that I don't think I'd ever stop and think, “Hey, maybe I should visit you at work and drop something off.” That's excessive, especially when you’re first trying to get to know someone.
Fiona
: There's something so special and sweet about it online—sending your friends and your lover Tweets and things that remind you of them.
Lily
: Yeah, I wonder how the Internet fosters that? I remember reading about how Animal Crossing is an escapist experience, where you can do things in the game that you can only dream of in real life. You can own a huge two floor house, you can build a town to your own liking, you can own all these cool things?  A fancy coffee maker, or a bunch of house plants you don't have to take care of.
Fiona
: Or a DJ set and a dance floor?
Lily
: Hey exactly? Or a DJ set and a dance floor. In a lot of ways, it’s even easier for me to show love online than it would to be, IRL. There are things that I can do online that I can't do IRL because of money, or time, or other constraints. I can't take you to Japan, but I can take you on a Google maps date to Japan.
Fiona:
Hmm.  And we have the freedom of time, especially right now, to just fall into these rabbit holes of cool grocery stores in Japan and to visit museums. Our first Google Maps date was in Berlin, and we ended up at a museum, by accident. And then we ended up in an Adidas store in downtown Berlin, and then a department store.
Lily
: We just ended up walking around with Google Maps. “E-walking”. We got so lost. It was the closest thing to simulating the experience of being in a new city. 
Fiona
: Physical limitations and time really aren't limitations online. There is a lot of creativity and serendipity that came with it.
Lily
: Serendipity is a good word. Those dates came from our desire to travel, we've both been in California for a while.  
Going back to the first Are.na channel we made... we actually did make that Are.na channel that we sought out to make. It was images that remind us of Mitski. It was more images that remind you of Mitski. I put 10 images. You put 60.
Fiona
: I know, but it was just so great to still have someone that wanted to co-create.
Lily
: So what's the vibe of, "Images that remind us of Mitski?"
Fiona:
I was choosing images that were cathartic, but joyful. It was a beautiful sadness for me.  Sometimes that's what Mitski reminds me of. It's something so vibrant and sad and human. I was trying to capture the bursts of joy that you could feel inside of sadness.
Lily
: Tenderness and pain. I haven't looked at that channel for a while. We were both, subconsciously, probably down about a lot of things. We probably aren't now. It's interesting that this relationship bloomed out of our pain.   
Fiona
: You're right. We were both going through our own sadness and disappointments of the time. Because it was the beginning of "The New Normal." We were mourning “Precedented Times.”
Lily
: What was special about that collab?
Fiona
: I didn’t know what to expect. I thought, “Oh my god, she’s funny.” I didn’t expect you to add the thumbs from Spy Kids. I was going for a Tumblr aesthetic, but I loved these funny, quirky images you added.
Lily
: Building our relationship around Are.na removes so many of the limitations of our physical world. In Are.na, knowledge is in abundance. You're not fighting with people for the amount of likes, or the amount of followers, or whatever bullshit vanity metric.  You're just trying to connect the dots to other dots and you see at the end how many wonderful things that you've built. And I think learning how to love you felt so similar—my love for you is in abundance, for sure.
Lily
: Let's talk about our first IRL date.
Fiona
: Okay, our first IRL date. I was going to a Black Lives Matter protest and Lily texted me the night before that she was going too. We both went to the protest but didn't see each other until close to the end. And we got to spend one hour with each other.
I met you on Eighth and Bryant. Oh my God. I was sweating. I sped walked all the way there because I wanted to make sure I didn't miss you.
Lily
: And then my friends ditched me?
Fiona
: Her friends ditched her, on purpose, and we walked around SOMA, on Mission Street, back to the Mission.  
Lily
: It was so disgusting.
Fiona
: It was a lot of PDA, given this is the middle of a pandemic.
Lily
: Think of all the germs.
Fiona
: The date was amazing. It was very blissful. But a lot of our relationship, and the things that we do together, is very contextual with what's going on in the world.
Lily
: We didn't have a normal date until, maybe, four months in?
Fiona
: Yeah.
Lily
: Our first date was at a Black Lives Matter protest and that's not normal, number one. And number two, I felt really conflicted about it, too. I'm living at my parents' place an hour and a half away, and I haven't been out to SF in months. I knew that this was probably the only time we're going to be able to meet for a while.
The second IRL date we had was probably the worst date that I've been on ever?
Fiona
: That's the worst date I've taken anyone on, by far? My best friend drove us up to San Jose to see Lily. And my plan was to teach Lily how to skateboard.
She broke her arm. And I'm surprised she's still with me.
Lily
: First off I was like, props to you for bringing your friend and roping her into driving you. To your friend, thank you and bless your heart, but also, are you the third wheel on our second date?
Fiona
: It was a lot.
Lily
: And then I broke my arm. I  tried to play it down. I drove myself all the way home. Every time I wanted to make a left turn, I had to pull my left arm over to do the turn signal, and then I would have to pull my broken arm over again with my other arm, so the wheel went all the way .
And then the third date... It was karma for the second date.
A virtual cast that Fiona and some friends made Lily when she broke her arm. 
A virtual cast that Fiona and some friends made Lily when she broke her arm.
Fiona
: I almost got a concussion on my bathroom floor. I don't know if I should explain why, but, I fainted and I knocked my head on my bathroom floor, really, really, really hard. So... our relationship has been very chaotic?
Lily
: Are there any challenges you'd associate with bringing this relationship IRL?
Fiona
: I don't think challenges, per say. I was afraid that you wouldn't like me, but, that goes with the nervousness that anyone feels in any dating scenario. We didn't meet in a traditional online dating setting, but I feel like that's something that people probably  feel from those settings. It was heightened because I was (and still am) in love with you.
Lily
: How do you think that the internet has affected our level of vulnerability?
Fiona
: Older people, especially in the design community, and younger people use the Internet to talk about their feelings and emotions very differently. Younger folks put a lot of ourselves online, whether that's private or public, in a lot of ways. What we post, whether we like it or not. Does become to some degree, a public / private diary depending on the setting.
I wouldn't say that's for everyone, but I'd say most people, even if they're shitposting, there's some truth to how they express themselves online. And that persona does become part of our personality, whether we like it or not. If you're young and online, chances are you're going to post about your feelings.
It did take a little bit of the fear of talking about emotions since we followed each other on Twitter. You knew a little bit about who I was, and I knew a little bit about who you were, but not too much about your personality.
Lily
: What did you think I'd be like?
Fiona
: Your Twitter Persona is definitely a little bit of a front. The first time that we talked, I thought you would be more angsty.
Lily
: I'm not as angsty as I am on Twitter?
Fiona
: You are as angsty, but I don't know what I was expecting from that first call.
You only see one dimension of people online. Everyone has a persona, but that persona is also some of their most vulnerable parts sometimes.
Lily
:  I feel like you are pretty true to who you are online.
Fiona
:  People have said that I am .
Lily
:  You are true to who you are online. I've definitely dated people where that's not the case. You meet them IRL, but only when you really, really, really, really, really get to know them you  understand who they are as people. For me, online accelerates that process a lot.
Fiona
:  I agree. In some way, people are posting genuinely how they feel and what they're thinking about. And you're scrolling on your phone, how many hours a day? You're getting to know  small little parts of them, or what they think, or  what their personality is,  just by consuming and scrolling.
Lily
: Have we collaborated in any way besides the amazing date?
Fiona
: We have two ongoing projects together. And we've made one-off things in the past. And with a group of all of our other internet friends we made something that went viral. We also have a book club together. So we have a lot of projects.
It's not a central part of our relationship, but it definitely is something that we both cherish.
Lily
:  We love to run circles around each other, and just make cool shit. Earlier we broke the Internet with 60 of our best friends, raising $200K for causes we care about. I think we’re still trying to chase that high.
Fiona
: Exactly. I love seeing all the amazing stuff she does.
This piece appears in the Are.na Annual 2021, themed “tend.”
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