The Monday Media Diet with Randa Sakallah
On not traveling, bathhouse culture, and Gossamer
Randa Sakallah (RS) is a product manager, a CS grad from the great University of Michigan, and also a newfound matchmaker extraordinaire. Her recent Substack project, Hot Singles, has gotten ink in the New York Times and elswhere. Here, she shares what is capturing her attention lately. Have a great week. -Colin (CJN)
Tell us about yourself.
I’m Randa and I run Hot Singles, a newsletter and community that makes dating fun. It was featured in the NYT a few months ago and has since become how I spend most of my time. I’m doing a whole lineup of events for Hot Singles Week starting this Thursday.
I really like surfing, reading, and writing. And making stuff with friends. I am a prolific journaler. Also I studied computer science and used to work in tech (and sometimes still do).
Describe your media diet.
I tried making a graphic of the actual food pyramid with different media as food groups but it was too hard so I’m going to write it out (starting with the bottom of the pyramid):
Grains: Twitter and Instagram. Even though I’m always talking about how I’m gonna become a luddite. On Twitter, I’d say I’m somewhere between tech, media, and memes. On Instagram I am watching Tinx stories and what I eat in a day videos.
Vegetables: Culture, advice, and philosophy-esque newsletters like Default Wisdom, Bookbear Express, and The Cereal Aisle.
Fruit: Q&As with creative people on sites like Passerbuys and The Creative Independent.
Dairy: Podcasts like Longform and curated playlists like Naomi Zeichner’s NTS Radio show.
Protein: Culture stuff that is harder for me to comprehend like Dean Kissick’s column in Spike or anything in Real Life Mag.
Fats, Oils, and Sweets: Actual books… I used to read books way more but my attention span has been utterly compromised.
What’s the last great book you read?
I loved the Loneliest Americans by Jay Caspian Kang. He basically explains what it means to be Asian American and how class plays a major role in our common understanding of Asian American identity. I think a lot about being Arab American and what that means and to what extent it matters, so I related to a lot of what he said. It’s a great read for anyone who is a child of immigrants living in the US.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading The Art of Gathering and Get Together: How to Build a Community with Your People. I started Hot Singles as a newsletter with no real intention to do events, but it’s become super obvious that people want to hang out and meet in person. So I’m trying to learn as much as possible about community building and event production.
What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?
I only read one print publication and it’s Gossamer magazine (also I just noticed Verena, its creator, was your first ever MMD post). I came across it at a store in San Francisco several years ago and have been hooked ever since. On this past NYE, I turned my phone off for 24 hours and just read the magazine (and played the games) cover to cover on my couch.
Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?
I joke that my favorite genre is navel-gazing. But like, philosophical navel-gazing. My favorite underrated philosophical navel-gazers are May Sarton (dead) and Sheila Heti (very much alive and about to release a new book). This isn’t to say that people should be reading them, but if you like to think about thinking and feeling then you might like their stuff. I loved Journal of a Solitude and How Should a Person Be?
Also, I am always recommending Cal Newport for his takes on modern work culture. He has a column in the New Yorker and also a bunch of books. I think people originally dismissed him as a promoter of toxic productivity but he actually just wants people to spend their time intentionally. I aspire to his lifestyle.
What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone?
If I may recommend a physical product that functions like a utility app, my favorite non-famous “app” is my cube timer. I love setting timers for everything. To steep tea so I don’t forget about it. To shock me back into my body while I’m sucked into the internet. I’m trying to unbundle other functionality out of my phone too… maybe I’ll start navigating without using Google maps… I heard it’s a good way to meet strangers…
Plane or train?
Right now I am anti-travel. To be annoying and quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Traveling is a fool's paradise.” I like being in the same place and seeing the same people all the time and getting really familiar with my surroundings. If I’m going anywhere I’m flying for a surf trip.
What is one place everyone should visit?
To continue my anti-travel tirade, everyone should visit their local spa or bathhouse. It feels so good to get really hot and then really cold and then really hot again. It’s the next best thing to being at the beach. It also can be funny for people watching. Actually, an excellent book that talks about spa culture around the world is Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui which is so fun to read if you love the water.
Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into.
I love to Google every question that pops into my head but one of my best was probably “are there female incels?” which landed me on the Female Dating Strategy subreddit. Madeleine Holden (one of my fav writers on sex/relationship stuff) did a story on it. (RS)
Newsletter du jour
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Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Randa (RS)
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