Weird Internets: A Conversation with 'Online Curiosity Collector' Katie Notopoulos

Weird Internets is a new series in which we spotlight and explore funny, bizarre, or otherwise interesting corners of the internet. Today: we talk to Katie Notopoulos, proprietor of "Sorry I Missed Your Party," diaper fetishist fetishist, and innovator in the field of "found schadenfreude."

When Wikipedia took itself down for the day last Wednesday to protest the anti-piracy bill SOPA, the internet was treated to a small consolation prize: the tweeted responses of high school students. It's probably not surprising that lazy students would freak out when the go-to source for probably-correct information goes down; what was surprising was the range of reaction, from disproportionate emotion ("crying myself to sleep because I can't read this summary of paradise lost because Wikipedia is blacked out. -.-"), to restrained stoicism ("How Long Is This Wikipedia Black Out Thing? Cause I Have A Paper To Write"), to, best of all, mournful bewilderment ("Wikipedia banned by US Congress????"). The post we wrote about the great high school freakout did better than our post about SOPA itself. All thanks to the flawless and loving selection of a balloon-avatared Twitter user named Katie Notopoulos.

Katie is an expert in what she told me she calls "found schadenfreude": all that hilariously weird and stupid stuff on the internet that most people never read. Comedian Julie Klausner, who hosts Katie on her podcast "How Was Your Week?" calls her an "online curiosity collector"; What Katie does, essentially, is a very specific and very funny kind of curating — sorting through the constant and impenetrable noise of Twitter or Flickr to find the bizarre and ugly and idiotic. "It's noticing a pattern," Katie said when I asked about her method. "When it becomes a pattern, it's funny."

The patterns that Katie curates, whether for a few hours on her Twitter, or in a more extensive and permanent way on one of her many blogs, tend to highlight the special way that the internet makes our most serious and meaningful desires and expressions come across as petty and absurd. "Adult baby" fetishists, which, like the "bronies" she wrote about for this website last month, are some of Katie's favorite material on Twitter. "It's sort of shocking because it's yucky, but what I think is funniest about it is that how silly it sounds when people are writing out in words their fantasies," she says. "It probably sounds fine when they're whispering it to their diaper-buddies alone at night, but in written form it's just ridiculous."

You see the same movement in the sobbing faces from her great Tumblr Marina Abramoviç Made Me Cry or the found party photos on her first blog, Sorry I Missed Your Party, where the idiocy and ridiculousness of people's lives comes into sharp focus. There's a whole business model built on aggregating and curating the smartest and most interesting stuff on the web; Katie has dedicated herself to uncovering and collecting the saddest and stupidest and most banal (and most obsessed with My Little Pony). Amid the hyperbole and narcissism of the internet it's nice to be reminded of how fundamentally silly human beings actually are.

Vital Stats

INTERNETTING SINCE: "In college, I got really into reading other people's Livejournals, following the lives of depressed teens. I had a receptionist job in college where I had a lot of free time, and I got really into searching through Google for personal photos and personal sites. This was in like 2003 when there just wasn't as much personal stuff out there — when Flickr got popular, that's when I really started enjoying looking through people's photos. I would just email my friends links to funny pictures I had found, and then I had the idea to make a blog of them."

WHERE TO START: Besides Katie's Twitter account, the purest distillation of her skill is "Dumb Tweets at Celebrities," which is exactly what it says it is, and which reveals the supposed great democratizing power of the internet to mostly just be weird foot fetishists trying to get celebrities' attention. I told Katie how much I liked this one, and she responded "I think people who tweet at celebrities are just like... I can't even describe how idiotic that is. I started the blog based on one guy who I saw tweet at celebrities all the time, and he asked Padma Lakshmi if she would recommend gruyere for making mac and cheese. And like, Padma Lakshmi does not care about your godddamn mac and cheese, bro."

BEST KNOWN FOR: Marina Abramoviç Made Me Cry, a collection of photos, taken from the museum's public Flickr page, of people who cried while participating in Abramoviç's MoMA show "The Artist Is Present." "This spring I got a Google alert when she was the commencement speaker at a college," Katie says. "The introduction mentioned something about how her artwork made people cry a lot. I was like man, she's probably annoyed that this haunts her, because it's not really what it's supposed to be about. It was sort of poking fun of something that was being taken deadly seriously. I think that's why people liked it so much. Also, people look fucking funny when they're crying."

OTHER WORKS: Sorry I Missed Your Party, Dumb Tweets at Brands, Hot Chicks Misidentifying as Nerds, Narratives in Emoji.

FAVORITE INTERNET THING: "1) Tricia Lockwood's sext tweets. I love her so much. 2) Finding galleries of people who have collected hundreds of photos of themselves posing with celebrities over many years, i.e. this. Also, I really like this found photo blog Internet History."