Our blogger, Julia Bell, has a recommendation for a site that can help you clear your bookmarks, and your head…
By Julia Bell
After I realized I was forgetting some excellent online journalism I was reading, I started copying links of my favorite pieces into a Google doc.
The Google doc looks like a grocery list of narrative non-fiction. A feature from The New York Times about opioid addiction in white-collar professionals succeeds a blog post on Medium succeeds an article from Racked called “What Your Burial Outfit Says About You.” Clearly, I saved these three articles for very different reasons but, with my haphazard organization, they end up shoved next to each other. Although I devour online journalism, I didn’t have a good system to organize what I read—until I found are.na.
Are.na is a “visual organization tool” for curating media. On a white backdrop with sans serif text, users can create “channels,” which they fill with selected content. Although it has some classic hallmarks of social networking sites—followers, comments, explore feed—it promotes media literacy instead of clouding it.
For example, my “Women I Admire” channel is a salad of articles from different publications. GQ on Cardi B. The New York Times on Anne Carson. The Guardian on Sally Rooney. The content’s source is abundantly clear and articles are arranged as colorful blocks on the site—like Pinterest, but with a crisper, cleaner design.
If I want to create a channel full of articles about vegan Instagram influencers, I can. All my shamefully-but-ravenously read articles from the NYT Wedding section? Slotted and organized. Then again, I could also organize my secondary sources for an English paper (but probably wouldn’t). Are.na provides the simple answer to the social-media chaos of article sharing.
Are.na allows me to be more mindful of my media consumption. Through the follower function, I can see what friends are reading. But because there are no likes, ads, or sponsored content, I can decide what to read without outside influence. The only problem is that the site isn’t as popular as some of social media’s heavy hitters. With only about 50,000 users, it’s dwarfed by Pinterest’s 200 million users and Facebook’s 2.19 billion.
Are.na could be the next horizon of social media—highly transparent, beautifully simple, full of articles about Cardi B. But first people have to use it.
Julia Bell is a senior studying English at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She’s interested in media, especially in understanding how children understand culture through media.