Down Time: Jillian Tamaki On the Joy of Friend Chat Rooms

Down Time: Jillian Tamaki On the Joy of Friend Chat Rooms
Photo:Jillian Tamaki

Down Time is a Jezebel series in which we ask our favorite artists and authors what art, books, and activities they’re turning to in this moment of isolation and uncertainty. Here, Canadian illustrator and author Jillian Tamaki talks to Jezebel about her return to retro internet chatting.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

The thing that’s like the highlight of my day [right now] is Internet chatting, like the old days. My partner Michael DeForge, who is a cartoonist and is isolating with me, he’s running a kind of movie night where we just play shorts and stuff over Twitch, and it’s got a chat room. I haven’t really chatted in that way for many, many years, but it [reminds] me of the first time I fell in love with the Internet when I was 14. That was why it was so exciting, [the] chat rooms. It’s kind of funny to be revisiting chat rooms with people that I know in real life. We’re friends getting together to have a communal experience, [and] we talk about what food we ate or the weather. A friend of mine streamed some [videos] of Olympic figure skating from the last Olympics, and we’ll just chat over that. It’s been a sanity saver.

There will be 30 or 40 people to a room, but only a few of us chat. It’s a little muscle that you kind of forgot about, [knowing] how the chat flows. There’s a surfing aspect to it—it’s going by so fast and you’re just trying to catch a wave and hot dog a bit and puncture through. It’s quippy and less calculated, which is nice because it’s just a flow and you can add to it. There’s something competitive about it, which I don’t think is the same on Instagram or Twitter. This is definitely a sort of Internet moment, in addition to other moments. I feel like we’re all learning to move through digital space and some of us are more comfortable with that than others.

I also signed onto to do another book and I’ve been quilting and also been soliciting requests from people on my Instagram, like, what should I put on this thing? [Laughs] I just know I’m the type of person that needs to move their hands a lot. I’m not a good reader, I can’t just sit for four hours and read a book even if I like the book. I need to be making something, or moving my hands, or creating.

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