Note to Self

Note to Self
Is your phone watching you? Can wexting make you smarter? Are your kids real? These and other essential quandaries facing anyone trying to preserve their humanity in the digital age. Join host Manoush Zomorodi for your weekly reminder to question everythi
Revealing Selfies. Not Like That.
Apr 19 • 20 min
Your selfies are sharing way more than your smiling face. They’re full of data. Which is being used by stores. And banks. And police. And, well, everyone. This week, you sent us your photos. We gave them to data scientist Andreas Weigend, to see what he…
Spring Cleaning for the Mind
Apr 12 • 17 min
Information overload has reached an all time high. Is there a way to stay-up-to-date without losing your mind? Yes. We call it “single-tasking.” Here’s a reminder of what multi-tasking does to your brain plus a proven way to find focus.
Cucked: Defining Manhood the Alt-Right Way
Apr 5 • 25 min
How one revolting, racist, sexist word emerged from the dark corners of 4chan and Reddit. And why we should care. With slang lexicographer Jonathon Green, writer Dana Schwartz of the Observer, and Derek Thompson of the Atlantic.
Deep-Dark-Data-Driven Politics
Mar 29 • 26 min
The story goes: the Trump campaign hired consultants called Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge uses data to target voters’ personalities and emotions. Trump wins. But it’s not so simple. Did the Trump campaign have a secret sauce? Or just more ketchup? This…
The Man Who Invented Facebook Ad Tracking Is Not Sorry
Mar 22 • 20 min
After building the social network’s ad system, Antonio García Martínez tried to set his career on fire with a tell-all. An inside view on Face-versaries, terrifying emails from Zuck, and the cult of changing the world. Turns out, it takes a lot to get…
Government Secrets Worth Leaking… or Keeping?
Mar 15 • 26 min
So, the C.I.A. has a back door to your phone. At least, according to the Vault 7 data dump from WikiLeaks. This week, when are these tactics really making our lives safer?
Will You Do a Snapchat Streak With Me?
Mar 8 • 18 min
A little yellow ghost has joined Manoush’s home screen. This week, Note to Self takes the plunge into Snapchat. Where we find lots of opportunities for passive aggression, obligation, and shade. And that’s not a bug. It’s a feature. With designer Tristan…
Zapping Your Brain To Bliss
Mar 1 • 19 min
Can brain stimulation tech replace your glass of wine? Or your joint? We strap a digital potato chip to our heads, and zap our brains with electricity, in the name of science. And we accidentally over-chill.
Can Your Phone Make You Better In Bed?
Feb 22 • 23 min
No, not by watching porn. By sharing with your partner what turns you on, and weirds you out. Through an app. Kaitlin Prest of The Heart podcast recruits two couples to test drive the Pls Pls Me app. And talk about awkward conversations, making out, and…
Privacy, Data Survivalism and a New Tech Ethics
Feb 21 • 28 min
Technologist Anil Dash on mistakes he’s made, and the new ethics of tech. Journalist Julia Angwin on why we’re all losing, and her strategies as a privacy prepper. Much laughter ensues. Note to Self nerds out, live from WNYC’s Greene Space.
Privacy Paradox: Results Show
Feb 15 • 31 min
Tens of thousands of people did the Privacy Paradox challenge. And the results are in. Seven percent of you said you want to give up. (Sorry. Don’t!) Seventy percent of you want to push for big change. (Hooray! Do.) And we have ideas. We’ll hear from…
Day 5: Your Personal Terms of Service
Feb 10 • 12 min
The last day of the Privacy Paradox challenge. We’ll draw some conclusions from this week—and some boundaries for the future. With Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented a little something called the World Wide Web. He has a big idea for a more secure, more…
Day 4: Fifteen Minutes of Anonymity
Feb 9 • 11 min
It’s day four of the Privacy Paradox challenge. We talk to Elan Gale, executive producer of The Bachelor, about how we perform for social media, and how we change when we know we’re being watched. Also, the dangers of drunk tweeting. And Stanford…
Day 3: Something To Hide
Feb 8 • 11 min
It’s day three of Note to Self’s Privacy Paradox challenge. There are the things you know you share online: selfies, emails, Facebook posts. But there is so. much. more. Marketers are mining the words you use, your tone and sentence length, to profile…
Day 2: The Search For Your Identity
Feb 7 • 15 min
It’s the second day of the Privacy Paradox challenge. You know - as you move across the web, clicking and searching and liking, you’re being tracked. You might use an ad blocker. Or a do-not-track plug-in. But you’re still leaving tiny traces everywhere.…
Day 1: What Your Phone Knows
Feb 6 • 11 min
Your Privacy Paradox challenges start today. What does your phone know about you? Too much, probably. And it’s even more than you think. Many apps track your location, even when you’re not using them. Others listen in via your microphone, even when you’re…
Introducing: The Privacy Paradox
Jan 30 • 23 min
We want control of our personal information. But even when risks to our data are high, we sign up for services and apps. We download, click, and post without being sure where that data ends up. The Privacy Paradox, Note to Self’s latest interactive…
Saving Big Data From Itself
Jan 25 • 20 min
There’s so much potential. With big data, researchers can smooth social interactions and create better cities. Maybe cure cancer, and slow climate change. But the data has to come from somewhere. And that somewhere is us.
The Bookie, The Phone Booth, and The FBI
Jan 18 • 23 min
The Fourth Amendment doesn’t mention privacy once. But those 54 little words are a crucial battleground in today’s fight over our digital rights. This week, Note to Self gets in our time machine, back to the court cases that brought privacy from parchment…
The Four Tendencies: How to Feed Good Habits
Jan 11 • 17 min
Are you an upholder, a questioner, an obliger or a rebel? Gretchen Rubin of the Happier podcast has identified four ways that people respond to expectations - the Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw of habit change, if you will. Figuring out…
New Year. Same Old You.
Jan 4 • 26 min
Can we really start fresh when our every step, nap, and calorie are measured? If even a hard-core coder fails at a tech-enabled diet, maybe we need a new way to optimize our quantified selves.
Go Ahead. Miss Out.
Dec 28, 2016 • 18 min
FOMO is real. And it’s amplified during the holiday season when party glam shots and scrumptious food pics are everywhere. So let’s embrace a little JOMO (Joy of Missing Out) instead.
Messages From the Beyond
Dec 21, 2016 • 28 min
Ginger Johnson is battling cancer. She has three children and wants to stay in their lives after she’s gone. So she’s using a service called Safe Beyond that helps her make messages and then schedule them for delivery in the future. But her kids aren’t…
Meet the Textalyzer… and Our Next Big Project
Dec 14, 2016 • 19 min
If police smell booze on your breath behind the wheel, you’ll be asked to blow into a breathalyzer. But if they notice distracted driving, how do they measure clicks, taps and swipes? Plus, a sneak peek at Note to Self’s next big listener project. Note to…
Distracted Is the New Drunk
Dec 7, 2016 • 16 min
Back in the ‘90s, health researchers planted stories against drunk driving on primetime shows. Growing Pains even killed off Matthew Perry in a crash. Now, the challenge is getting people to stop texting on the road. But we don’t watch TV like we used to.…
Tech Under Trump
Nov 30, 2016 • 31 min
We’ve seen the good, bad and ugly of tech this election cycle. And we all have big feelings about it. So Manoush hosted a good old-fashioned call-in, for listeners to share their thoughts and fears about our digital lives under a Trump administration.…
Shaking Up Your Echo Chamber. For Democracy.
Nov 29, 2016 • 10 min
We tend to click on things we agree with already. And social media networks like it that way. Bumming out your customers is a bad business model. This week, we talk with Tracy Clayton and Katie Notopoulos from BuzzFeed about why that’s a problem, and get…
Your Facebook Friend Said Something Racist: Thanksgiving Edition
Nov 23, 2016 • 18 min
Don’t throw a turkey leg. Don’t go ALL CAPS rage over racism on Twitter. This Thanksgiving, when the conversation makes your blood boil, take some deep breaths and just LARA.
Drop Your Phone, Make Your Bed, Says Gretchen Rubin
Nov 16, 2016 • 21 min
Note to Self listeners are struggling to find joy on the internet after this election. Gretchen Rubin, ‘Happier’ host and author of the New York Times bestseller, The Happiness Project, has advice.
A Post-Election Note to You
Nov 9, 2016 • 5 min
The nation is divided, and we’re all processing. So, we curated a list of 7 episodes from the archive for your post-election reality.
Do You Really Want to Live Forever?
Nov 8, 2016 • 23 min
Americans voted. Now we can think way, way beyond 2016. The failed 2016 presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan (pretty convincingly) explains why you might live forever and vote for him and the Transhumanism party in 2040.
Mindfulness on Demand
Nov 2, 2016 • 24 min
Can’t afford a personal guru? No worries. Chade-Meng Tan, Silicon Valley’s mindfulness coach, is making meditation accessible and he’s got tips to incorporate it into our everyday lives. His latest book is, ”Joy on Demand: The Art of Discovering the…
Come and Sit with Marina Abramović
Oct 26, 2016 • 21 min
Sure, legendary performance artist, Marina Abramović, got 750,000 people to wait in line at MoMA just to sit across a table from her. But can she get us ALL to count lentils? She just published Walk Through Walls: A Memoir and she stopped by N2S to chat…
Bonus: Marina Abramović’s Method Blew Our Minds
Oct 25, 2016 • 21 min
How Marina Abramović, the world’s most famous performance artist, got Manoush and producer Jen Poyant to sit in silence for 30 minutes before a “magic” performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
If My Body is a Text
Oct 19, 2016 • 27 min
In a time of racial tension, how do you manage information overload—the storm of news online—when paying attention is painful? This week, two friends find their answer.
When Silicon Valley Takes on Elementary School
Oct 12, 2016 • 27 min
This week, Manoush visits a micro-school in her Brooklyn neighborhood where the cushions are cozy and every child is optimized. Think Montessori 2.0… and the future of education if one former Google executive gets it right.
Facing Our Weirdest Selves
Oct 5, 2016 • 25 min
After exchanging hand-drawn postcards for a year, two data designers discover how compiling and parsing the little things in life can lead to unexpected self-reflection— and friendship. Those real-life pen pals and authors of the book, Dear Data, divulge…
Digging Into Facebook’s File on You
Sep 28, 2016 • 18 min
Algorithms are everywhere in our daily lives. But most of the time, we have no idea how they work. In this week’s episode, ProPublica investigative journalist Julia Angwin explains how Facebook’s algorithms categorize us. Plus, Note to Self listeners, we…
Bonus: Chelsea Clinton Talks Global Equality and Breastfeeding
Sep 26, 2016 • 10 min
In this bonus mini-episode, Chelsea Clinton tells Manoush why she’s frustrated by the gender gap in tech. Plus, the art of juggling a new baby and a hectic campaign schedule.
The Secret to Making Video Games Good for You
Sep 21, 2016 • 24 min
Games are the new self-help. Jane McGonigal, game researcher and developer explains how, with the right approach, games can be a powerful tool for unlocking our best selves.
There Is No “Off the Record”
Sep 14, 2016 • 25 min
Imagine a future where every word you utter is recorded and saved. It’s not that far off. Our guest Rose Eveleth, host and producer of the Flash Forward podcast, tested out the transcribed life to see what happens when nothing is off the record.
Sext Education: Teens, Photos, and the Law
Sep 7, 2016 • 25 min
On this week’s episode, Manoush goes to North Carolina to find out why a high school star quarterback and his girlfriend were charged with felonies for sending each other racy (or romantic, depending on your point of view) photos. Turns out the U.S. is at…
Blind Kids, Touchscreen Phones, and the End of Braille?
Aug 31, 2016 • 19 min
Touchscreen phones work so well for blind people that Braille may become obsolete. But advocates worry this could render the next generation “functionally illiterate.”
The Thing About Texts From Your Ex
Aug 24, 2016 • 20 min
If you’re not one of Text From Your Ex’s 1.9 million followers already, here’s what you need to know: Elan Gale’s brainchild is an Instagram account with pages and pages of awkwardness captured in screenshots. It turns out, reading through hundreds of…
Should We Post Pictures of Our Children Online?
Aug 17, 2016 • 23 min
Nearly 92 percent of kids in the U.S. have some digital presence by the age of two. But that doesn’t necessarily mean your child’s face should be all over the internet. So where should we draw the line? In this episode, which is a repeat from 2015, hear a…
The One Thing You Can Actually Do to Fight Surveillance
Aug 10, 2016 • 19 min
Security technologist Bruce Schneier, author of “Data and Goliath,” says you should stop feeling guilty about skimming the Terms of Service. Get mad instead.
Is My Phone Listening in On Me?
Aug 3, 2016 • 27 min
Is your phone listening a little too closely to what you have to say? Author Walter Kirn tells us why you’d be crazy NOT to be paranoid about your phone.
Taking the Lead Bonus: Andrew Moravcsik
Jul 27, 2016 • 35 min
Author and academic Andrew Moravcsik dives into why he and his wife decided he would be their family’s “lead parent,” how they came up with that term, and how that decision has affected his marriage, his kids, and ultimately his career.
Taking the Lead Episode 4: The Partnership
Jul 26, 2016 • 34 min
In the final chapter of our four-part series about women and work, co-founders Rachael and Leslie hear a tough critique of their pitch and make a tough decision. Plus, New America CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter explains how she thinks the culture around work…
Taking the Lead Episode 3: The Pressure
Jul 20, 2016 • 32 min
After tapping into their kids’ college funds, Rachael and Leslie join a startup accelerator to compete for a cash prize. But as they prepare for the competition, the business partners feel pressure to choose between selling investors on their app’s…
Taking the Lead Episode 2: The Paradox
Jul 13, 2016 • 28 min
In episode two of our 4-part series, the two moms-turned-entrepreneurs beta test their app on 20 local mothers (including Manoush). But as they get deeper into start-up life, personal differences begin to surface. Leslie, whose husband is her family’s…
Taking the Lead Episode 1: The Pain Point
Jul 6, 2016 • 26 min
Welcome to the first episode of our 4-part series: Taking the Lead. This is the story of two working moms, Rachael and Leslie, who have a big idea (a tech idea) to help more women get some work/life balance and “lean in.” But before they can launch a…
Coming Soon: Taking the Lead
Jun 30, 2016 • 3 min
Rachael and Leslie are two working moms in Brooklyn, building an app to help more women on their quest to ‘have it all.’ Manoush follows them on their journey as they confront the same struggles many women face as they try to reconcile profession with…
Bored and Brilliant: BOOT CAMP 2016
Jun 29, 2016 • 16 min
Putting down your phone and letting yourself get bored can jumpstart your creativity. Tens of thousands of you helped us prove this in 2015 with our week-long project: Bored and Brilliant. Now, just in time for summer, try out the bootcamp version with…
A Beginner’s Guide to International Tech Etiquette
Jun 22, 2016 • 24 min
NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley, Elise Hu and Gregory Warner share their insider knowledge regarding how people in other countries use tech.
What Happens When We Skimm the News
Jun 15, 2016 • 26 min
This week we dive deep into the modern media diet with theSkimm co-founders Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin, and John Herrman, media reporter at the New York Times.
Infomagical: BOOTCAMP
Jun 8, 2016 • 18 min
If you’ve been with us for awhile, you know about our Infomagical challenge to fight information overload. This week, we’re giving those of you who loved it a tune-up, those of you who were overwhelmed the tl;dr version, and those of you who totally…
When To Stop Looking for a Better Date or Restaurant
Jun 1, 2016 • 20 min
Can algorithms help us eat and love better? We went on a mission to find out.
6 Algorithms That Can Improve Your Life
May 25, 2016 • 20 min
That pile of papers on your desk? That lunch meeting you can’t seem to nail down? The hundreds of emails that raise your blood pressure? We’re here to help.
Sexiness, Social Media and Teenage Girls
May 18, 2016 • 22 min
Author Peggy Orenstein tells us what the Internet is teaching teen girls about sexiness and desirability.
The Realities of Virtual Reality
May 11, 2016 • 19 min
We’ve put it off for long enough. It’s time to talk about VR.
What Happens to the Videos No One Watches
May 4, 2016 • 22 min
Exploring the Lonely Web.
Eye in the Sky
Apr 27, 2016 • 35 min
Ross McNutt has a superpower — he can zoom in on everyday life, then rewind and fast-forward to solve crimes in a shutter-flash. But should he?
The Puppet Masters Behind Online Shopping
Apr 20, 2016 • 23 min
We head inside Etsy’s Usability Testing Lab to understand the art of User Experience and online shopping seduction.
Two Dope Queens on Feminism
Apr 13, 2016 • 12 min
Phoebe Robinson—a stand up-comedian, writer and co-host of WNYC’s new podcast ‘2 Dope Queens’—joins us to talk about finding digital feminism.
Creating a Super-Human You with Dave Asprey
Apr 6, 2016 • 14 min
The man behind the Bulletproof empire explains why sometimes in order to get results, you have to go to extremes.
Forget Edibles: Getting High on Wearables
Mar 30, 2016 • 20 min
There are a lot of tools out there that claim to train—even change—your brain. So do they work? We put them to the test and things get… interesting.
Apple’s Security Debate is Everyone’s Problem (Including Yours)
Mar 23, 2016 • 13 min
If your phone was stolen, you’d most likely be concerned that the thief would now have access to your bank account…and your vacation photos. But what if the thief was the government?
Your Quantified Body, Your Quantified Self
Mar 16, 2016 • 27 min
What happens when we start thinking of ourselves as walking, breathing, calorie-consuming piles of data? We asked hundreds of people to weigh in (figuratively speaking).
Why You Feel More Productive But the Economy Isn’t
Mar 9, 2016 • 17 min
Douglas Rushkoff, author of “Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus,” argues that our fixation on “growth” has made us less financially secure, with big consequences for our communities.
Wait, You’re Into [Insert Kink] Too?!
Mar 2, 2016 • 22 min
As promised! The time has come to talk about sex. Or, rather, to swipe about sex.
Why You Should Put a Post-It Over Your Laptop Camera
Feb 24, 2016 • 16 min
How much would it take for someone to hack YOUR life? And really, how worried do you actually need to be? This is what happened when Fusion’s Kevin Roose asked some of the best hackers in the world to have at him.
We Tried to ‘Hack’ Our Diets. We Totally Failed.
Feb 17, 2016 • 10 min
We tried using apps to stop sugar cravings. It… didn’t work. Now, we want to hear your stories.
What We Learned When 25,000 People Tried to Fight Information Overload
Feb 10, 2016 • 28 min
What we learned through a week of experimenting with information overload interventions.
Infomagical Challenge 5: Magical Life
Feb 5, 2016 • 14 min
Infomagical Challenge 4: Magical Connection
Feb 4, 2016 • 7 min
Discuss something you’ve heard, read, or watched with someone for at least seven minutes, by phone or in person. Social psychologist Sherry Turkle explains why and how. More details here:
Infomagical Challenge 3: Magical Brain
Feb 3, 2016 • 11 min
Your third challenge: Avoid a trending topic, or “must read” today. Consume only what’s valuable to you. Issued by Cates Holderness, who launched The Dress meme, and Ann Blair, historian of information overload. More instructions here:
Infomagical Challenge 2: Magical Phone
Feb 2, 2016 • 10 min
Tidy up your apps and transform your phone into a portal of wisdom. Brought to you by “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” author Marie Kondo herself. More information here:
Infomagical Challenge 1: Magical Day
Feb 1, 2016 • 11 min
No multi-tasking today. Work on one thing at a time, and give each task your full focus. For more information:
The Case for Infomagical
Jan 25, 2016 • 25 min
All of the information you need about information overload. Sign up for Note to Self’s Infomagical project at!
When FOMO Meets JOMO
Jan 20, 2016 • 19 min
Caterina Fake (the person who popularized the term “FOMO”) talks with Anil Dash (the person who coined the term “JOMO”). Turns out, they’re good friends.
An Apology to Our Listeners. Because Two Dots.
Jan 13, 2016 • 21 min
Two Dots game director David Hohusen on what it’s like to balance “caring about users’ well-being” with “designing an addictive game.” The brave man came back!
A Neuroscientist’s Guide to Getting Organized
Jan 6, 2016 • 16 min
If you had to guess, how many facts have you taken in today? Dr. Daniel Levitin says it’s probably way too many to process.
Listen to Your Voicemail
Dec 30, 2015 • 10 min
Love it or hate it, there’s at least one important thing only voicemail can do. A reprise of one of our favorite episodes from 2015.
Why You Should Care About LEGO and Creativity
Dec 23, 2015 • 20 min
Your kid’s seven new LEGO kits really do matter for the future of creative thinking.
5 Links We Would GChat You If We Were Friends
Dec 16, 2015 • 23 min
Caitlin Dewey, one of our favorite technology and culture critics/newsletter curators, picked five stories of the year for your listening (and actually relaxing into the idea that we don’t REALLY have to care about EVERYTHING) pleasure.
Marina Abramović’s Method Blew Our Minds
Dec 9, 2015 • 21 min
Why Marina Abramović, one of the world’s most famous performance artists, is making you sit in total silence for 30 minutes before a “magic” performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.