computers, Mardi Gras, communication, and living with our parents

Part 4 of the 6-part series called "Reactions"

Heather, Havrilesky, Is my absence from social media a red flag?

This article is actually one of those Ask-type articles, where an anonymous person (here named Off the Grid) asks for advice from the columnist. The quotes come from Off the Grid above the line, and from Polly below.

Social media fueled my anxiety and made me uncomfortable, this weird public diary of sorts left for random people to gawk at.

I agree with this, though in my agreement I see a weird dichotomy of thought: what is this blog but a weird public diary of sorts that anyone can see? I don’t know how it’s different, except for that maybe I own this site, so it’s mine in a sense that a Facebook post can never be. That, and I know none of these posts will ever be scraped to sell to an advertiser to make money off of my attention.

But more often I’ve found my lack of social media makes people suspicious, in particular when I’m dating someone new. They think something really horrible must have happened for me to go to such a measure, that I’m hiding something.

This is a big reason I’ve stayed on social media, especially the shallow ones like Facebook. It makes me think of that Chinese social credit system or one of the episodes of Black Mirror.

Polly, is my absence from social media helpful for my anxiety and neurosis, or is it simply a product of those things? I don’t know anymore.

God, I know this feeling. Not for social media per se, but that whole Am I avoiding this because it’s harmful for my health, or is my avoiding it harmful for my health because I’m not challenging myself to do something healthy?

Of course, making an off-trend choice is the same thing as being ahead of the times.

I don’t think I agre with this. It’s sometimes true, but not always — and the difference between the two is stark. (I’m thinking, of course, of fringe off-trend choices like being alt-right or flat-earth or anti-vaxxer.)

Is your absence from social media helpful for your anxiety or is it a product of your anxiety? Why can’t it be both?

I feel like this isn’t what Off the Grid was asking? I read it as OtG wondering whether their avoidance of social media was a product of their anxiety, and whether they should stop avoiding it because that avoidance is ultimately unhealthy. Maybe that’s what Polly is saying too, actually. Maybe I’m reading it wrong.

We’re all way too smart and too complex to try to express the full breadth of our perspectives and emotions on Twitter, and we’re also way too stupid and shallow and lazy to understand other people’s tweets as the inadequate, incomplete snapshots of their humanity that they are. We’re too glib and sloppy with our words to avoid pissing someone off on social media, but we’re also too easily triggered by strangers and their lack of understanding of our unique circumstances.

Tweets and toots and Facebook statuses are especially bad for this, and the more I use Reddit, the more I think the same of that site. It’s a hard problem to solve — I’ve been a part of fora that really allow for substantive conversation, like the (now taken-down) Crunchbang forum, some subreddits, Hacker News (to an extent), and now TildesI actually came to this article through a link on Tildes.. But I think a big part of it is that these sites are all local: once something gets big enough, there’s too many people to have a good conversation. People start getting glib and sloppy, or something, I’m not sure what.

The other day I wrote something that amounted to Carpe diem! and someone was pissed at me for not taking her anxiety into account when I wrote it. I wanted to say, BUT I’M ANXIOUS TOO, WHY ELSE DO YOU THINK I’M TYPING WORDS INTO THIS POINTLESS MACHINE?

This is something I notice even when texting, or messaging one-on-one with someone. It’s way too easy to take written words as the worst possible version of those words. I’ve been trying to take everything typed with the benefit of the doubt, but it’s hard — maybe we need training or something?

And when I’m no longer writing words for you, the readers of this column, whom I imagine as discerning yet mildly amiable and guided by open hearts, and instead I’m writing words for some far less discerning, impatient, aggressive tl;dr shadow army on Twitter? Big surprise, my writing suffers.

Maybe this explains the concern I had earlier, about why writing on this blog is different than posting on Facebook: it’s more my space, and there’s more space to explore things, than in a tweet or a status jumbled up with everyone else’s.

It sounds like you don’t want to give some imaginary shadow army undue influence over your choices. And please note, the shadow army IS IMAGINARY. That’s the whole point. There are countless opportunities for us to project our issues and our damage onto every (largely imaginary, incomplete) interaction. We’ll read a few tweets, race through a few FB posts and comments, scroll past a day’s worth of Instagram, and keep building that imaginary shadow army from it. The shadow army will come to curate our thoughts, curate our identities, curate our art, curate our choices. I, for one, need to murder that shadow army every single day so that I don’t constantly do battle with it — or worse, slowly but surely mold myself into some insipid shape just to please it.

This is resonating with me on an environmental level: I just realized that I’ve been stressing about the future of society regarding climate change and the fact that no one’s doing anything about it, but I’ve been stressing in a totally non-productive way, just worrying around in circles about what’ll happen and how I can’t do anything about it.I expand on these comments a little bit on this topic. That’s just building that shadow army and letting it control me, like social media can do.

It also sounds like you still socialize and have friends, so why worry about it? There are plenty of other ways to connect with old friends. Lately, I’ve been trying to write long letters to close friends who I admire and care about. Some of these letters are written in pen, on paper. Others are rambling emails, packed full of weird digressions and ideas, sent to friends whom I really want to encourage to indulge themselves with weird digressions and ideas in turn. I want to connect, and I want to do it long-form, and also face-to-face. I need new ways to reach other people.

This is a great idea. I need to write more letters. (Apparently, April is National Letter Writing Month!)

Nancy Pope, April is National Letter Writing Month!

Yes, I came across this while looking for when the letter-writing month was. There’s another one I just came across that’s in February, so I was going to say it’s too bad it passed, but apparently another is in April. And besides, do I really need a special month to write to the people I care about?

Each letter still brings with it that gift, a physical connection that can’t be replicated through phones or tablets.

I’ve been curious if the trend toward more digitalization has been driven, in part, by a latent pervasive belief that the mind is good while the body is evil. I think that’s an old, old dichotomy that I see everywhere when I’m in that frame of mind. I’ve been trying to live more physically as a result, but of course, it’s weirdly hard to do.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, For Mardi Gras, a parade celebrates Mexican immigrants in New Orleans

I just went down to New Orleans yesterday to catch four of the older krewes: Okeanos, Mid-City, Thoth, and then a few hours later, Bacchus. I wish I’d known about this parade, which seems smaller and more in-line with what I’m interested in, which is seeing people proud in who they are parading their lives to share with the crowd. The big parades turn into big throwing parties, and there’s little chance to interact with the paraders other than asking, Throw me something, Mister! and getting some cheap plastic (though sometimes we get glass, which is nice) beads or trinkets. I’d much rather catch a smaller parade that’s more people-oriented, like the parade I’m a part of, Mid-City Gras in Baton Rouge. I’ll have to check the Krewe de Mayahuel next Carnival!

Hannah Seligson, The new 30-something

This article caught my eye because I still receive financial help from my parents, for my cell phone, and until recently, for gas. It would be more, probably, except I don’t own the car I drive, which will probably change soon, since it’s about to die.

As one economic analysis concluded recently: For Americans under the age of 40, the 21st century has resembled one long recession.

I know that for me, I’m currently in the highest-paying job I’ve ever had and I make right at $30K pre-taxes. That’s entry-level, really, and I have two advanced degrees. Add to that that most millenials are paying down house-payment levels of debt for college, and it sure has felt like the recession never ended.

He lives with his partner in Bergen County, N.J., where his home cost a fraction of what a comparable property would have in New York City, but came with a commute of over two hours to his office in Manhattan.

I see this a lot too in my reading: we’re forced to trade our time for affordability in housing because cities don’t make affordable housing (and I mean just affordable, not Section 8 or low-income, but actually affordable for someone who doesn’t make six figures) for some reason.

Those who do receive parental assistance often do not fit neatly into the stereotype of lazy, entitled millennial.

I’d say because no millenail does. I’m tired of this stereotype because (as is often true of stereotypes) it’s 100% not true.

In our market a buyer is expected to have 20 percent down to compete — that is between $80,000 and $100,000 to become a homeowner, [Mary Wallace, a real estate agent in Boston] said.

That’s why buying a house is out of my league, as well — even in the cheaper market, we simply don’t have the savings for a decent down payment.

I think millennials need to get past this narrative they’ve made it on their own and I pulled myself up by my boot straps, Mr. Isaacs [the founder of parenting website, Fatherly] said. It hides all the kinds of ways they have been privileged by their race or parental help.

I feel like this reckoning with privilege, and seeing where we’ve all been given extras by our parents or by society or by jobs or whatever, is our generation’s Big Job.

Nathan Pyle, Strange Planet

This is a comics page on Instagram. I love all of them; they’re fun little drawings of aliens doing regular things but describing them in non-regular ways. It’s cute.

/u/the_kiwi247, My son broke his computer, he’s allowed to use yours!

This story was wild. It features breaking and entering, computers, dial-up, and crazy mothers. I pictured it happening in my friend’s house, I’m not sure why.

As an aside, I’m trying to figure out if I’m going to post things like this to my daily reading log. On the one hand, I read it; on the other, it’s just fluff. Does it matter that I read it?

Alejandra Borunda, It’s time to rethink Mardi Gras — without tons of plastic beads

Mardi Gras season (also known as Carnival) is almost over, so I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently. It’s a weird tradition: a lot of fun and community, but also problematic on a few levels. One of them is the amount of trash that’s thrown from floats that the people watching sometimes fight over.

Groh knew that the tons of shiny plastic beads flying overhead — which were ultimately made from oil — would end up piled on the streets, clogging the gutters, and eventually lining a landfill.

This is my main issue with Mardi Gras: we go and scream at strangers (who are, if not actually very rich, playing the part of being very rich) to throw us some cheap crap made overseas and shipped here, and most of it’s dropped and trampled into mud and what isn’t goes home to our houses and sits in the attic for most of the year mouldering and eventually gets thrown away anyway.

For onlookers, catching a throw went from something rare to something expected.

I noticed this yesterday, as I was in New Orleans for a few parades: the people next to us expressed their frustration that the cops, hired for security, weren’t throwing beads at the onlookers or smiling — while they were doing their jobs.

Fitzwilliam, the founder of Atlas Beads, is part of a krewe that’s incorporating trash pickup into the very act of parading. The Trashformers, as they call themselves, kitted out bikes with welded-on shopping carts, painted electric green, to collect trash along their route. Parading in costume, they dance and high-five onlookers as they pick up trash.

We’re flipping the script, Fitzwilliam says. Waste reduction may not seem cool, but guess what — if you’re not picking up the trash off the ground, you’re not having as much fun as we are.

This is such a great New Orleans way of dealing with the problem: turn it into a party! I’m going to be on the lookout for these guys in the future.

Now, it’s about volume, says Gary Zoller, the founder of Throw Me Something Green, a company importing non-plastic Mardi Gras beads. Krewes want sparkly, crazy stuff in the sky for the whole route. But the goal we have is to change people’s perceptions of what is a successful Mardi Gras: Not just that you end up with the most stuff, but stuff you’d actually want to keep.

I absolutely agree with this: sometimes, the easiest way to fix a problem is to convince people to act in a way so that there stops being a problem. Expectation management is a good way to fix things.

Drew DeVault, Sourcehut’s spartan approach to web design

Since I use sourcehut to host this website’s source, I read this article by the developer. I really like sourcehut’s design: at first, I thought it was too spartan, but I’ve come to appreciate its no-nonsense approach to git flows. I need to donate to the project soon. My next payday, maybe!