Why I’m Rooting for Matter
I became a capital R Reader late in life. Twitter was my Rabbit Hole and just as the story goes for Alice so it went for me; “curioser and curioser.”
Compared to many of my peers, I’ve always been somewhat of a Luddite. I never felt the pull to social media; I mostly skipped Facebook and I definitely skipped Snapchat. I always let my siblings take my phone upgrade. My laptop keyboard needs to have several missing keys and a cracked screen before I get a new one. But when it came to tech Twitter, I was hooked. I know that’s not the cool thing to say in 2021, but I can’t deny that it made me a more context-aware, more engaged, more thoughtful colleague.
It was around this time in 2018 that I first met Ben. He was thinking about buying the Browser Books on Fillmore Street as a way to test a use case for building software that could help bookstores. I had been thinking about books a lot as part of my work standing up Stripe Press, which is how we ended up across the table from one another in Stripe’s office on Townsend Street. I quickly learned that Ben was always a capital R reader. It turned out we went to the same small college in Massachusetts, but oddly hadn’t crossed paths. We had a lot in common.
Ben told me about his newsletter, The Winno, which was a weekly email of curated reads (akine to The Browser) that included relevant endorsements from many of Twitter’s most thoughtful voices. It sounds like an obvious pairing, but as a (shamelessly star-struck-for-the-literati) Twitter reader, seeing a glowing review from my intellectual crushes was a sure way to get an article to the top of my reading list. I warmly welcomed The Winno into my inbox.
It wasn’t before long that Twitter’s charm started to wear off. The further I traveled into the topsy-turvy infinitely-expanding Twitter Wonderland, the more scrolling and swirling I had to endure before I got to the good stuff. Yet still, if there was even a millisecond of downtime, straight to Twitter I went. I was becoming overwhelmed and unsatisfied, but like any social media-addicted Millennial, my fear of missing out won out. I was starting to more viscerally understand the toxic side of social media everyone had been talking about. But, I wasn’t ready to let go of its role in my life (and intellectual development).
The Winno started to play an increasingly important, and productive, role in my reading ritual.
With some extra down time over the holiday break in 2019, I started conceiving of my internet dream home. I eventually started a digital shoebox of my favorite clippings I called Brie’s Wax and decided to make it public because what random obsessions aren’t better shared. (I don’t keep it updated anymore, but I often lament this fact).
Ben read the post and reached out to tell me The Winno was evolving into a reader app that he was building in the same spirit. (He called it Matter which, funnily enough, this is the name we chose for the corporate entity behind Stripe Press). We talked about what the other reader apps that came and went had missed and why now was a good time in the internet’s life to build one.
Over the last year, I have cozied up to the Matter team. They’re relentless in the ways you’d expect from an early, hungry team. They work with the focus and velocity required to realize such an ambitious mission. But also the modesty and humility required to chip away at improvements little by little, day after day, without getting lost. As you’d expect from a bunch of readers, everyone is curious about each other and the world. Everyone thinks before jumping to answer questions. They’re kind to each other. It all adds up to the team being able to do this work for a long time.
Like I was once hooked on Twitter, I am now hooked on Matter. This feels different, though.
It might sound ridiculous, but it changed the way I saw the internet and all the stuff written on it. I got faster at getting to something I enjoyed reading. I feel more in control of my experience on my phone; less like I was being yanked around corners and more like I was choosing which ones to peek around. I saw a more thoughtful side of the internet as I explored the community and found others that shared my tastes. I could follow that curiosity about new people and new ideas with more focus, more presence of mind, and more warmth.
We should all have a place to go on the internet where we can reliably fill up on the good stuff. We deserve a place on the internet that satisfies.
Matter has become mine. And I hope everyone will find theirs.
In the words of Alexandra Horowitz, “follow me here: your brain will begin to change as you do.”