Hassan S. Ali is a comedy writer, video maker, and creative technologist with over 15 million video views, 2 viral chatbots, and yet zero grandchildren to give his mother. He is the creative marketing director at The Onion and editor and founding member of Slackjaw, the largest humor publication on Medium. Recently he talked to me about three of his favorite tweets, plus Millennials, positivity, and instant feedback.
Millennials are so annoying. They wanna advance in their careers, earn more money, and better their lives. Ugh, the gall of these people.— Hassan S. Ali (@hassanisms) January 17, 2017
Ali: I was so sick of reading articles about Millennials being entitled snowflakes who are SO demanding because they want jobs they actually care about. Yes, it is SO wrong to hustle and ask for a promotion and ask for more money and have a career that you’ll feel good about when you look back on your life. We Millennials are such brats, and it’s probably all Drake’s fault, right!
Do you find yourself more often tweeting about trends that upset you or ones you like?
I’m a positive person, so I try to put goodness into the world as much as possible. I won’t deny I’ve RT’d a bunch of polarizing political stuff over the past few months. But by and large, if there’s a way to comment on an issue in a way that stimulates positive, productive conversation, that’s what I’m aiming for with my tweets. And hopefully get a laugh out of people along the way.
when i meet another person of color in advertising / media pic.twitter.com/VhOqYghk1U — Hassan S. Ali (@hassanisms) January 18, 2017
As much as I like to tool around, I *am* genuinely passionate about diversity (and oftentimes, lack thereof) in advertising, media, and entertainment. It’s definitely improving, but still a loooong way to go. The incredible show Black-ish does a great job of tackling those issues, especially at the ad agency where Anthony Anderson’s character works. Similarly, I’ve walked into meetings where there’s like one other person of color across the room, and we lock eyes, do a little head nod, and channel this sentiment. Like, “yeah I see you!”
What are your favorite and least favorite things about spending time online?
My favorite thing about spending time online is finding new GIFs to express myself with. I mean, obviously. But also, I’ve been using Twitter lately to connect with amazing people I really want to collaborate with in the future. People whose work I’m a big fan of, which is super exciting. For me, I now use Twitter to make online-to-offline connections just as much as writing out silly tweets.
My least favorite thing about spending time online is how sucked into it I get. Lately, it’s been fucking up my sleep, where I’m checking Twitter in the middle of the night, and I just go down a rabbit hole. Not good. It really is addicting, so I’m working on my self-control and giving myself a digital break more often.
“I thought the tweet was better than the web series, to be honest.” -society in like 2 years— Hassan S. Ali (@hassanisms) September 29, 2015
I mean… isn’t this where we’re headed? Media business is changing so much, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone’s viral Twitter thread gets turned into a Netflix series or something. What a time to be alive!
How has the way you use Twitter changed over time and how do you see it continuing to change?
I started using Twitter for purely self-indulgent purposes: sharing dumb thoughts, not really interacting with fellow users. Over time, I began using Twitter to have conversations with other users and actually add value to people through my tweets (or at least try). And that’s when it got fun and useful and rewarding. It’s all about finding your unique voice and niche, so I anticipate I’ll get even more focused on that as I continue to use Twitter. I’m still self-conscious about my tweets being a little all over the place and unfocused, so I do want to work on that in the future.
Do you ever use tweets to workshop bigger projects?
Usually I’ll fire up Twitter when I have a funny idea I want to get “validated.” The most common sentiment that gets me tweeting is: Let’s see what Twitter thinks about this silly idea or joke or whatever. And that’s the beauty of the platform, right? I can get instant feedback from people, even complete strangers, and take those learnings back to whatever it is I’m working on. A lot of times I’ll use Twitter to workshop material for stuff I’m working on at The Onion and Onion Labs.
Jenny Nelson lives, writes, and performs in Brooklyn.