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Emotional Work Internet Culture

Day 293 and A Good Cry

I’m a cryer. I hear the swell of trumpet from the Star Trek theme song and I’ll start welling up. I’ll read a poignant passage in a cheesy airplane novel and my chest will tighten with emotion. My eyes will tear up when I tell a friend that I’m proud of them. I’ve found myself sniffling over a set of emotional text messages. I love a good cry.

I think I’m a cryer because I bottle up my emotions otherwise. I’ll share feelings in public but the real deep down core emotions are harder for me to express openly. The fear and hurt and sadness that make up the core of my emotional unconscious take some coaxing and a lot of psychological safety to get out into the open.

One of the reasons I find social media so much fun is it is a cesspool of emotions. Much of shitposting is just rage and anger expressed with a joke. And the shitposts that are sad are often told with a kind of vulnerability that I more commonly associate with 12 step meetings or group therapy. Internet culture has become an escape valve for emotions we didn’t know we even had.

The more I see the negatives that comes with keeping emotions bottled up the more I appreciate ways to let them out. If it is a good cry then I’ll take whatever brings it on. If you need something stronger than I highly recommend a light dose of Internet emotions. Just don’t let it overwhelm. Ease into the shallow end with an anonymous shitposting account first.

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Internet Culture Politics Preparedness

289 and Apocalyptic Aging

Millennials are aging, but that doesn’t seem to have kicked off the midlife crisis handwringing of popular culture yesteryears. The first millennial are edging towards 40 but it feels like no one is a day over thirty on social media. Maybe because it’s hard to feel like you’ve hit midlife when the traditional markers of stability like children and mortgages feel more like luxury status symbols.

Maybe no one is craving red sports cars and the open road because no one has the security of a home life from which to break free. A midlife crisis seems like an almost comically indulgent thing that our boomer parents did. Imagine having kids and a home and thinking that you wanted to go back to the insecurity of your twenties? And boomers have the balls to call millennials spoiled. You had to have have stability to throw it away first.

I’m an elder millennial and a reasonably comfortable even wealthy one at that. But I don’t have kids or own a house. I frozen my eggs when it seemed like having kids wasn’t financially feasible. My husband and I lived in Manhattan at the time and we both had early stage startups. It seemed like a wise idea to put off the decision at the time. And we never even considered buying an apartment. Tying up all that wealth into a one bedroom apartment was for trust funders not the professional class.

Now it’s clear we can afford children and a mortgage on a house, but it seems crazy to commit to either. No one has a clue what life is going to be like in ten years so why would you anchor yourself and innocent progeny? It almost feels immoral to consider.

I don’t really understand how one can age gracefully when so much of life feels casually apocalyptic. Maybe millennials aren’t acknowledging aging because we live in the stasis of the long now. If there is no future then we aren’t moving into it. Each passing year is just a lucky bonus when nothing builds towards stability.

Not being able to afford children and houses is a blessing if you don’t believe in the future will be better. We’ve rationalized that the basics of the American are luxuries only for the wealthy. The wealthy can afford to live with rising tides and six figure college tuitions. Everyone else is thrilled to have enough cash to buy prepper supplies and pay their health insurance deductible.

And in some horrifying sense it is rational. I don’t trust the political system in America. Which means I don’t trust we can solve pressing issues like climate change or rising debt. So when new and exciting issues like the pandemic destabilize life even further it makes committing to a future even less appealing. There is absolutely a part of me that stopped believing in the future sometime in 2016. Everything went Hobbesian. Millennials are aging but we aren’t growing into a future.

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Emotional Work Internet Culture

Day 283 and Presencing

Nick Couldry uses the term ‘presencing’ in his book Media, Society, World to talk about how we go into digital or media spaces to manage our presence over time. It’s a way we cultivate a sense of wider purpose through a public presence. And because of the way suffering and trauma marginalize people, this act of making yourself more visible is even more important.

I was browsing Anne Helen Peterson’s newsletter Culture Study when the above quote hit me over the head. The interview was on the topic of ambiguous grief with a media studies professor Samira Rajabi. While the writing is almost uncomfortably academic it resonated with me immediately. I have been engaging in presenceing for the entire course of my illness. I just never had a name for why I felt like a public presence mattered to me.

While it sounds unbelievable, I never considered that I might be using social media as a way to give myself visibility in the face of the trauma of an extended and chronic illness. I’ve always been a heavy user of social media so I didn’t find it unusual that I spent significantly more time on Twitter and blogging as I went through the diagnosis and recovery process.

I had been used to being visible in my previous life. I was regularly in media for my startups and I had cultivated some amount of public presence on and off since I was in college. But I didn’t really become a Twitter personality that cultivated a presence and interactions and a voice until I got sick. Without knowing it was presencing myself.

In American culture in particular, there is a strong preference for triumphant stories. So we can conceive of suffering if it can be managed and overcome, but rarely do we know what to do with a story of chronic pain and suffering and how relentlessly it reminds a person that they no longer fit into the so-called “normal” world. To me, it becomes even more important for those people to be seen.

I really wanted my story to fit into a narrative when I first got diagnosed. I had all kinds of ambitions of overcoming and healing that were quickly dashed on the reality of my life. I was never going to be normal again. And I hated that. I still find myself overcome with grief at the prospect that there is no triumphant return.

But I want people to see that grief. And see that it’s alright. That life went on. I didn’t lose myself. Even in pain and illness, or perhaps because of it, I’ve gained ground in finding myself. The pain and degradation of illness is ugly and shitty but also powerfully transformative.

I have not given up just because the narrative isn’t clear and the story has no simple arc. Any impression we have that stories have structure is imposed in hindsight. We love our post-hoc rationalization. We love our pattern recognition. But the through line is never clear in the moment. And that’s why presence matters. We all need the visibility of the truth even if it doesn’t fit neatly into the story our culture has given us.

Categories
Internet Culture Startups

Day 282 and Stop & Go

I wasn’t born until after stagflation so I can’t tell you what America or Britain felt like in the 70’s but the chattering classes seem to enjoy bringing up the comparison. But there does seem to be a bit of “stop & go” energy in the air. Everyone is raring to go but the energy cannot quite flow freely as we smack into obstacle after obstacle. Demand is pent up but the reality of supply is uglier.

Obviously this perspective of excitement and demand is colored by working in startups where the bias is always towards the excitement of building new things. Crypto is burning with the fire of millions of zealots, all of whom are confident we are building the infrastructure for a better future. Everyone feels like it’s worth investing and higher prices are a good sign. There is more go than stop here.

Of course, I am one of those zealots. I’ve got the optimism of someone who saw how fast previous waves of web1 and web2 changed my entire world. Wealth and creativity was unleashed twice over for the elder millennials who were lucky enough to witness the dot com boom as children and the social media era as their first jobs.

There were massive crashes and financial implosions too. Stop more than go. More of us got hurt than got wealthy. But we saw the possibility even as failure engulfed most of us. So we believe we might be the lucky ones this time. That we might be the ones to win the game. “Red light, green light” seems fun if you can make up ground when everyone is running. Just don’t get hurt too bad.

I feel this energy in my own body. I am excited to push into everything. My portfolio companies are all riding high. There is no way I can do it all in any given day. So when the go energy pushes me sometimes I find myself leaning into stop and simply taking a nap in the middle of the day. It makes me a little jittery to feel the push-me-pull-me of demand grind up against the limited supply of energy and focus. I’d like to feel fully unleashed but I know somehow there are moments where it’s best to stop before I go.

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Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 280 and Scooping

I first started blogging in college because a friend of mine pointed out that I needed to own my digital identity. I had written something about designer jeans in the lesser school newspaper and another student was dunking on me in her personal blog.

Unless I acted swiftly, Google results would be tainted forever he assured me. So I started blogging. Not because I necessarily felt like I was meant to be a writer but because I didn’t want this other girl to scoop my life story. I didn’t want to get “Bad Art Friended” by letting someone else tell my story.

I’m pretty grateful to both my friend James and the “mean girl” Phoebe for launching my social media habits. Every big break I’ve ever had has come from the connections I made on the Internet. If I hadn’t been petty enough to want to own my own digital identity I might have missed out.

Rather like the “Bad Art Friend” piece where one writer uses details from another’s life for her art, whoever is able to own the narrative is the default winner. It’s not terribly fair but it could have been someone else telling my story had I not chosen to write. If the victors write history then there is an incentive to be the one whose narrative wins. And the only way to win in our social media saturated works is to be sure you’ve got the scoop on your own life.

Categories
Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 276 and Magical Thinking

I like to watch television to let my mind take a break. Because I spend so much of my time intaking and integrating new information for a living, I find it relaxing to have someone do that work for me. Plus I wasn’t allowed to watch TV as a kid so rebellion.

I’ve been getting served up a lot of tv shows about magic. Earlier in the year WandaVision was all about chaos magic. Then we had Loki. The algorithms then sent me to a Norwegian show about the Ragnarok. And now all I seen to find on Netflix has some kind of magic plot line. A secretly Ivy League university for magic? Check out the Magicians. Prefer Victorian era? I started with on The Irregulars. But only because I just finished Witcher as I thought I’d tried some medieval fantasy. Basically any setting you might like now has a show about magic. Outlander, Supernatural, The Order, The Umbrella Academy, Shadow and Bone are all popular right now and available to binge on Netflix.

I’m beginning to think that Harry Potter might have rotted too many brains in the millennial generation as now everyone needs stories about how they are secretly on the edges of society because of powers only a select few can ever wield. If reality is so disappointing then we need to have some other layer of existence revealed where we can thrive.

I remember being depressed when I was in 3rd grade when my mother explained to me that it was unlikely I’d ever be able to work on The Enterprise. The one TV show my parents approved of was Star Trek because I guess they wanted me to be into utopian science driven worlds. But once it was explained that this was so far in the future it’s not likely that I could be a science officer on a space ship I was sad.

Now granted I got over it and did the next best thing to living in a science fiction utopian and went to work in startups. I still feel like I get to help the future come about. But what about all these kids being raised on magic? There is no easy career alternative for the dismal prospect that you cannot manipulate physical reality with a wand or saying a spell in some elder god language.

Or maybe kids will figure out you can manifest stuff into reality. I guess the meme mobs have done weirder things like turn a washed up tv star into the president. Maybe chaos magic is real for someone. Or are least chaos is real.

Categories
Internet Culture Reading

Day 271 and Correspondence

I love writing to others. I had some pen pals as a child but it wasn’t until as a teenager that the Internet gave me the chance to correspond with practically whomever I liked. And it’s been one of the great joys of my life to reach out to others for conversation.

I developed a habit of writing to journalists, authors and academics whose work I admired. Many of them maintained email addresses and personal websites even back before social media. If you are ever worried that someone will find it odd or unsettling to receive a note from you, don’t fret. I can share that if you are polite and sincere outreach is almost universally appreciated. Most people want to be seen. If you feel you’ve seen someone then you should share it with them. It’s a kindness to you both.

While I particularly like short form correspondence like Twitter, there is no substitute for a more in-depth and layered letter. I’m personally a fan of the threaded twenty response deep email chain. I think of it as like the letter writing of our forefathers. Maybe it’s a bit less satisfying to our heirs than discovering a box of letters but I’ve got a fantasy that the Ken Burns of the future will make excellent use of email and chat logs.

If you aren’t convinced of the benefits of reaching out through writing feel free to test it out on my before you write a letter to your favorite author or thinker. We just might become pen pals.

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Internet Culture

Day 268 and The Game

Twitter addicts like myself love to praise the platform’s connective capacity. Sure, we might admit it’s dopamine factory that amplifies bad takes, but we’d rather focus on how it is so effective at bringing together all kinds of people and leveling the playing field of discourse. Twitter power users tend to be utopian that way. But it’s really because we’ve won the Twitter meta-game.

Twitter meta-games have been capturing the imagination in the long form discourse of Substacks and podcasts. The aggregation of influence, audience, and opinions have sorted themselves into status games that are being monetized as crypto economies and investing.

Alex Danco is the first person I saw articulate the perspective of status and world building through his Dancoland writing but recently Packy Mcormick has been furthering the discourse with his Great Online Game theory.

I wish I had a bit more capacity to go on with this topic as meta-games have been a topic I love as someone that has spent time in fashion but I find my brain and body are just coping out so I’ll remind myself that it’s alright to just capture my thoughts on the day with some links and carry on the discourse tomorrow. Save game progress. It will be here tomorrow.

Categories
Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 264 and Shiner

I’ve been eyeing the full recline zero gravity chairs and desk combinations for a while. Because of a spinal condition sitting upright at a regular desk is tiring for me. It seemed like an extravagant purchase as they are well over $4000 at a base model but being able to spend a full work day in comfort reclining seemed worth the investment.

The Altwork chair and reclining desk

Last week I finally decided to pull the trigger and buy the chair on the advice of executive performance coach Dr. Julie Gurner who helped me see that investing in an environment that accommodates my physical needs is worthwhile.

Today was set to be the big set up and reveal day but in the excitement Alex was trying to take a picture of me laying flat while working and he dropped my phone form about three feet over my head onto my right ocular bone. It hit so hard it formed a blood bruise immediately. It was such a shock I didn’t even yell. So rather than playing with my new desk I’m icing my face.

Blood bruise from a phone hitting my face while photographing my new chair.

It hurts like hell. My face is swelling and I’ve got that jumpy nerves thing that comes from a physical trauma you didn’t see coming. So tomorrow I’ll finish setting up my new workstation. Right now I’ve got to stave off a shiner.

Categories
Emotional Work Internet Culture

Day 263 and I’m Baby

One of my friends got me an embroidered “I’m baby” patch with a Moomintroll holding a knife in place of the original Kirby. It’s an elaborate play on the “I’m Baby” meme and was a truly excellent Christmas gift. I’m a fan of the Finnish children’s author Tove Janson who created the Moomin series and also emotionally baby and my friend knows it.

Original “I’m Baby” Kirby meme vs a photo of my Moonin “I’m Baby” embroidered patch

The “I’m baby” meme is generally a play on why someone should be allowed to continue with their behavior or emotions without consequence. It’s a kind of elaborate joke about wishing to dodge responsibility if only for a few minutes. Obviously it’s very popular with Gen Z but it’s really more about wishing to live in a world where it’s even possible to be a baby when life feels overwhelming.

The original meme came out of an emergency but it’s come to be a kind of wishful demand and hope that one can just well be a baby for a bit and have someone else handle it.

Moomintroll is an excellent stand in for Kirby in the meme because in the Finnish cartoons he never has to live without Moomin Mama. Moomintroll is an archetypal baby. The Moomin universe has constant catastrophe (no seriously there are floods and asteroids) but Moomintroll can always count on Moomin Mama. It’s a soothing set of books for children obviously but it’s also just nice that there are parental figures to which one can turn. That’s a fantasy we all have at some point. Especially when shit looks bad.

But being baby also means someone else has to be the adult. The willful insistence on being baby is about giving your power to someone else. Unless you are literally baby (in which case how are you reading this blog) you’ve chosen to put someone else in the position of power. Which is an important lesson for adulthood. You always have the power. Even if you chose to be baby. Especially if you are baby.

So be careful when you say “I’m baby” and act helpless. You gave up your power. And that’s alright. Being helpless can be a totally cool sex thing and it’s great to chose your kink when. But you’ve got to have consent for that shit. Bringing someone else into your fantasy of being baby might be non-consensual. When my friend jokes that I’m baby it’s because he knows I like to give up my power. But alas it’s a fantasy and I can’t go back to being Moomintroll for real. But it’s a nice patch right?