Since August 2011, a pseudonymous Twitter account named "@NYTFridge" has been effortfully but effectively taking part in the cozy conversations of media Twitter. In its three-plus years of existence, the account has piled up more than 30,000 tweets and has accumulated more than 8,600 followers in the process, making up in relentlessness what it lacks in efficiency.
Where other pseudonymous corporation-themed accounts, such as @GSElevator or @CondeElevator, have been sneaky jokesters about the self-important cultures they purport to document, @NYTFridge strikes a wholly different tone. It takes itself and the Times extremely seriously, and apparently wishes to be taken as profound media critic.
The resulting tone is bizarre: equal parts pompousness, nastiness, flattery, and inanity, all couched in an affected British accent. Above all, the NYTFridge is extremely thin-skinned, an incredibly strange posture for a pseudonymous Twitter account with obvious axes to grind. It can dish out criticism, but it cannot take it.
Most of the interest in the identity of the NYTFridge account is in the Times' newsroom. "Everyone is obsessed and trying to figure out who it is," said one Times insider. The NYTFridge's opinions on media, however, are not limited to the Times. In May, it published an essay on Medium excoriating the Guardian US under Janine Gibson, with "its insistence on trumpeting its digital gains." It has expressed confident and nonsensical analyses of Gawker.
A recent tweet took a swipe at the New Yorker: "Intriguing, a hugely touted @NewYorker profile seems to have fallen flat. Have seen little mention of it here; no real life discussion." No one was quite sure to which profile it was talking about, or what had constituted the touting. Most of the time, no one knows what the NYTFridge is referring to in its veiled tweets, until they get very, very personal.
There are several working theories as to who the NYTFridge could be. It presents itself as female, but an automated gender analysis of its writing concluded that the author was male. It first appeared shortly after the Times media desk had been joking on Twitter about acquiring a refrigerator—seemingly as a witless "parody" account, like a moribund @GowanusDolphin, but refusing to die. Those early tweets lack the distinctive simpering tone of the latter-day NYTFridge, suggesting that the account may have been handed off from its creator to another person, or persons.
Some observers say that the NYTFridge is a current Times employee—some suspect a web producer or graphics staffer, others suspect various prominent reporters, perhaps even one based in D.C. Others think it has no Times connection at all, but is simply some random gadabout with a freakish obsession with the newspaper. Still others propose that it's the wife of a former Times employee, or perhaps a project taken on by a couple or a group of people.
One of the asses most prominently kissed by the account is that of USA Today media columnist Michael Wolff, whose trademark conflation of snottiness with omniscience has clearly influenced the NYTFridge's style. Restricting the search to people who respect Wolff would seem to narrow things considerably.
At least 10 people claim to know the identity of the NYTFridge, but so far none of them are willing reveal it. The NYTFridge itself has said that its identity is the worst-kept secret in New York.
Yet the Tweeter grows very angry at the prospect of being identified. At the mere mention of being doxxed, the NYTFridge martyrs itself, as if its pseudonymous existence matters. Christ on a cross, this account isn't. Did we mention that the NYTFridge is, at bottom, not very bright?
Ultimately, the mystery is not who the NYTFridge is. The mystery is what sort of person thinks that being the NYTFridge is a cool secret to have cultivated. We're already laughing at you. We would like to know at whom we are laughing.
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