In the latest issue, we took a comprehensive survey of how New Yorkers use their devices — which iPhone games they obsess over, how often they check their email, where they expend their social-media energy.
In addition, we asked a lot of well-known New Yorkers (and a few famous non–New Yorkers) more intimate questions about how they arrange their digital lives. Here’s what they said.
Which apps do you have on your phone?
Spike Lee (director): “I’m on social media. I use Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.”
Jenny Slate (actress, comedian): “I have one of the iPhones that won’t let me take any more pictures. So really I just have Twitter and Instagram.”
Judah Friedlander (actor): “For someone my age, it’s way too many. But well, I’ll tell you, these young kids, they need more apps because they can’t do anything by themselves. They’re absolutely helpless individuals.”
Rachel Antonoff (designer): “Well, I definitely have Instagram and Twitter. Bark Buddy is my favorite app. It’s Tinder, but for adoptable dogs.”
Jason Collins (center, Brooklyn Nets): “I’d be lost without Google Maps and Waze. As far as gaming apps, I play dominoes. There’s a dominoes app, and I play it with a lot of my teammates in the NBA. A couple of my teammates in the Nets, and also the Atlanta Hawks, and Washington Wizards. We have a longstanding dominoes game going.”
Damon Lindelof (creator, Lost): “Well, you know, I’ve been ‘Yo’ing, as everyone else has, too. And it’ll either be the next big thing, or it’ll be over in a week. I’m still prone to this 2048 game, and I just got to 4096, which was like sort of a massive accomplishment in the grand scheme of my life.”
David Byrne (lead singer, Talking Heads): “I use Maps all the time, all the time. Today I used the Citi Bike app to see where the stations are. What else? I use the Zipcar app.”
Jonathan Ames (writer): “I don’t know how to download [apps]. But I have a phone. I think it has apps, but I didn’t put them on.”
Ben Smith (editor-in-chief, BuzzFeed): “Twitter is the best app for breaking news, in all its messy glory. My family and I may be the last ones using Path, but I love it for kid pictures that only blood relatives could possibly care about. Facebook for much of what’s in between. WhatsApp for communicating with Jonah Peretti, Shani Hilton, Ashley McCollum, and a couple other BuzzFeed types. I tried to get my kids on Kik, but it didn’t really take. Gmail, of course. For not communicating: Rdio, BuzzFeed, New York Times, Uber, Waze. The only game I occasionally play is Badland.”
Morgan James (singer, actress): “My top five apps are Voxer, Shazam, Etsy — oh my God, it’s embarrassing. I’m, like, knitting. Starbucks, because I’m gonna be on the Starbucks playlist for August. And I love TripCase for all my travel.”
Nico Muhly (composer): “New York Times, Uber, the Offender Locator (location-based sex-offender registry!), Tripit, Seamless.”
Ashanti (singer): “Google Maps, Waze, and I just got a new one that’s really good, Eat. It’s an app that basically, you put in your location and it puts in all the top restaurants that you can go to or get delivered. It’s called Eat, E-A-T, it’s a red logo, and I just got it like two weeks ago and I looooooove it.”
apl.de.ap (member, Black Eyed Peas): “My favorite right now is Instagram and Vine. I love Vine because you can create something special in 15 seconds. That’s a challenge, and you’ve got to make it funny, and people’ve got to like it. It’s like the new TV for me.”
Kevin Hart (comedian): “I’m a social-media freak. I love the fact that I have a direct connection with my fan base. I love the fact that I can get their reactions, that people can see me and give feedback on what I felt. That being said, I love Twitter, I love Instagram, I love Facebook, I love Vine. I love the fact that if I can’t have a personal trainer all the time, I can use the Pump It Up app, or the Men’s Health Fitness app.”
Coco Austin (actress, web personality): [My app] just came out recently. It’s called Coco’s Workout World, and you can get it on iTunes. It’s not just the mandatory, like, let’s do aerobics. Like, I teach you how to twerk.”
Do you have a guilty pleasure app?
Chris Hayes (host, MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes): “The one thing is my friend’s ridiculous and ridiculously addictive game Make It Rain, which is kind of like the iPhone software’s commentary on the utility of capitalism. You literally — the entire game is swiping at bills. I’ve sort of stopped, because it’s ludicrous. It’s highly addictive. At a certain point, I was doing it on the subway and realized someone was gonna recognize me. I look like an idiot.”
Do you use emoji?
Isaac Mizrahi (fashion designer): “I do! I live for emojis! I live and die for emojis. I love them.”
Andrew Sullivan (blogger): “NO.”
What’s your favorite emoji?
Nico Muhly: I am rather partial to the turd.
Jenna Wortham (New York Times tech writer): “That changes on a per-hour basis! Right now, I’m really into the peach emoji as a way to say ‘cool’ or ‘that’s peachy’ or ‘yr a peach.’”
Jason Collins: “It’s a smiley face, but it’s the one where the guy is giving a little bit of side-eye action.”
Dan Porter (head of digital, WME/IMG; creator, Draw Something): “Fist-bump and thumbs-up.”
Tatyana Ali (actress, singer): “It’s like one of the original emojis, but it’s this little girl’s yellow face with braids that are twisted kind of like Pippi Longstocking, and she’s like, ‘Bing!’”
How do you get most of your news?
Jenny Slate: “I listen to the radio in my car, and in the morning I get up and I put on Morning Edition. So that’s really it. And then, yeah, I don’t really read. I get the New York Times to my email every morning, so I click on that.”
Bill Maher (HBO host, comedian): “I certainly hope that nobody gets their news from Twitter. That would be a shame. Not a lot of news you can fit into … try to explain what’s going on in Iraq right now in 140 characters.”
Evan Sharp (co-founder, Pinterest): “I get my world news from the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. I get work (technology) news from friends in the office or on Facebook.”
Jason Binn (publisher, DuJour magazine): “The Wall Street Journal or Variety, when its entertainment, or Business Insider. I think all the major news outlets are all trying to keep up with the BuzzFeeds.”
Pete Wentz (bassist, Fall Out Boy): “I like real-time on Twitter. Other than that, I’ll do CNN breaking news on the internet.”
Do you take self-imposed tech breaks?
Matt McGorry (actor, Orange Is the New Black): “I used to. But it’s been a while. I find myself checking it — the first thing I do every morning. I need to develop a better system. I haven’t had to go into any support groups yet, but I may need to look into it in the future as the fan base grows.”
Jonathan Ames: “I once took a train in Europe. I had no phone, no computer; it was wonderful.”
Evan Sharp: “Yes, I do my best to avoid the internet on the weekends, unless I’m working. My wife and I also seek out weekend trips in California where there isn’t any cellular reception, so our brains can reset!”
Jenna Wortham: “It’s actually very easy for me to take a break from technology. I do a lot of hot yoga, go on long runs, spend a day reading outside. I never miss it.”
Are you an active Twitter user? How many people do you follow? Why do you follow them?
Nico Muhly: “I follow 1,168 people, many of whom are muted. The ones I like the best are clergymen and women, musicians (particularly opera people who seem to be constantly posting under duress), activists (who fight one another), and some crazy French grad students; I don’t know how they got on there.”
Bill Maher: “I follow some people, but I never read my Twitter. My fans know that, and they’ve accepted that in me.”
How connected to your phone are you?
Chris Hayes: “Totally tethered. I mean, all the time. All the time, all the time, all the time. I would say the only time I’m sort of away from the phone, which is intentionally, is when I’m home in the morning with my kids and my wife. I very intentionally try to leave it in another room.”
Matt McGorry: “When it gets closer to the show coming out, it gets a little obsessive. I find myself in conversations with people and think, that would be a great tweet, and write it down later. I try to limit my time, and in the future, [I hope to] do that in a more objective way in increments. At some point you can’t respond to every person and read everything.”
How do you use Facebook?
Chris Hayes: “My own personal presence is, I would say, less newsy and more like, ‘Here are my adorable kids.’ But I find links on Facebook too.”
Andrew Sullivan: “I’m not on Facebook.”
How do you feel about voice mail?
Olivia Wilde (actress): “No! Don’t ever leave me a voice mail. You’re better off sending me a carrier pigeon. I’ll never hear it.”
Pete Wentz: “I don’t leave voice mails because I don’t check them.”
Mike Birbiglia (comedian): “I miss the age-old tradition of talking. That’s one of the sad casualties of modern life. You’ll text someone for 20 minutes and then at the end of it you’ll feel so cold. You’re like, ‘Oh, this could have been special, we could have spoken like humans, but we didn’t.’”
Do you use Pinterest? Instagram? Who are the best people to follow?
Evan Sharp: “I use Pinterest to bookmark interesting things I find on the web. I also use it to plan projects in my life, personal and professional both. I use Instagram to share photos I’ve taken and see what friends are up to.”
Andrew Sullivan: “Just a few close friends and [my] husband.”
Dan Porter: I mostly use [Instagram] to follow people who are really good at Instagram. That’s an art. Diplo is a master of it. @NowThisNews is great, [as is] @Thefatjewish. They are so good at Instagram as a medium.”
Romany Malco (actor): “I got so much shit the other day for following Big Booty Girls on Instagram, but I’m telling y’all right now, those are fitness people. I follow fitness girls … okay, maybe a couple of Big Booty Girls. But for the most part … okay, I’ll just go down my timeline. [Flicks through photos of women.] Like, an inspiration to me is, her name is Lauren … Strength Project. Follow Strength Project! You just … you don’t think that humans can do the stuff that they do.”
Is there one app that you wish someone would come up with?
Jason Binn: “It would be kind of nice to have an app that did all the work for you that you didn’t want to do. Like, your own robotic butler that went around the city.”
Dan Porter: “An app that managed everything school-related. I get so much disparate web-based information from my kids’ schools about homework, grades, and teacher communication.”
Damon Lindelof: “The app that needs to exist is a 24-hour mechanic app. Because it always feels like your car is having trouble at 8 p.m. on a Sunday, or like 1 a.m., and you can’t even get your car assessed until the morning — like, you have to leave it. And in this world where 24/7 you can get anything 24 hours a day, why isn’t there somebody who can fix my car?”
Kim Cattrall (actress): “I’d love to have somebody that I work with or who assists me that they would be that conscientious on things that I’ve ordered, or done, liked or disliked — a smart assistant app.”
Ice-T (rapper, actor): “We need an app where you can just reach through and grab a hater right through the phone.”
Niecy Nash (actress): You know, I need a mobile hair-braider. Because my daughters wear braids, and I need an app to say, ‘Can I just make an appointment and you show up?’”
Romany Malco: “So my idea for the app would be called something like Lost & Found, that would be a great name for it. And what it would do is it would be this app where you get these tabs and you can stick them in your bag, you can stick ‘em in your phone, wherever. And whenever you get within a certain amount of feet from your items, your phone buzzes. Like, ‘Yo!’ so you don’t lose stuff.”
Were we better off before smartphones?
Isaac Mizrahi: “I think we were better off, yes, I do. I think we’re safer and quicker with the fabulous smartphones, but I felt that life had a different pace, more of like a sort of pace where I could notice things more. I don’t notice what’s right in front of me anymore. But it could be age.”
Olivia Wilde: “Well, in terms of encouraging young people to be creative, the iPhone is allowing us to document at such an extraordinary rate that it’s kind of bringing out the inner artist in all of us. I mean, whether it’s … you know, Camera Plus. Even Instagram! Everybody’s on Instagram. Even people playing with filters are feeling like they’re bringing out their own inner artist.”
James Brolin (actor): “It’s a dichotomy for me. [My phone] is a black hole, but it’s a bottomless pit of information — some true, not so true — so I get to decide what I think. For instance, if I needed an antibiotic, I can go on there and see the good side and the bad side and try and balance and then call my doctor and say, ‘I ain’t taking it. I’m just gonna drink green juice.’”
Chris Hayes: “Oh, it’s better in the iPhone era. Because you are much more connected to people. I’ve just learned a lot that I wouldn’t have learned. Look, there are benefits and costs, and there are costs to the constant connectedness. But I think the benefits outweigh the costs.”
Bill Maher: “Well, life wasn’t necessarily better. I love my iPhone and all the things it can do and how convenient it is, and I love texting. That was a huge improvement. And I do like Twitter. I like tweeting out and feeling connected that way, but [need to] learn to just have it and not be owned by it. They asked Groucho Marx one time about somebody [who] had nine kids, and he said, ‘I like a cigar too, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while.’ You know. Put the phone down once in a while.”
Reporting by Alex Jung, Meg Miller, Lauren Schwartzberg, Adrienne Gaffney, Renata Sellitti, Kevin Roose, Allegra Hobbs, Meg Miller, Trupti Rami, Katie Van Syckle, and Max Cea.