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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.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 292 and Television

I overdid it a little today. I pushed to go for a evening walk and got overwhelmed by the appearance of some pain. It wasn’t so much the pain that bothered me, it was the anxiety that washed over me as I contemplated the pain. I struggle to juggle life with pain sometimes, less because the pain is bad but more because I let it get in my head. The surest path to letting the worry go has been television.

If I take half an hour to watch some TV and let every other thought go but the plot of some cartoon or sitcom I’ll be calm and eventually the pain will be controllable again. It’s fascinating how the mind body connection works sometimes. I wanted to let the anxiety over the pain spiral in my mind but the utterly predictable and calming plotting of a Tim Allen comedy grounded me. I can let my mind wander the simple pathways of a half an hour show and find myself more centered than after a mediation.

I’m sure I’m not the only one that finds television soothing. We wouldn’t call it zoning out to the boob tube if it didn’t do something to tamp down higher level thinking. But maybe derogatory commentary is missing the point. Maybe the dumbing down of America has some benefits. We are constantly overstimulated. In my case the stimulation can be spinal pain. Letting the high frequency worries come down to a more mellow intensity is a positive for me.

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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.

Categories
Aesthetics Emotional Work

Day 284 and My Birthday

I’ve not enjoyed celebrating my birthday the past few years. There hasn’t felt like a lot of joy to go around which hinders my appetite for celebrating. I was struggling with my health and then the planet was struggling with a pandemic, and frankly I was just too sad to see my way into being happy about a birthday.

Not that I’ve traditionally been a big believer in birthdays. Some people love them and I find that lovely. I think it’s nice to celebrate another turn around the sun but it’s not generally been the mile marker for my own life. I’ve looked to other markers like the new year or the start of a new project. This post is title day 284 because on New Years Day I committed to write on essay every single day. But I don’t entirely write off birthdays. I do have little rituals that I enjoy for my birthday, and I was relieved that they felt joyful again this year.

I like to call my mother at precisely 7:14am California time as that was when I was born. I have always felt like my birthday was as much about her as it was about me. She brought me into this world, so taking a beat for the exact moment of my birth with my mother has felt like the most important ritual.

We were texting before the clock turned as we are on mountain time now. But at 8:14 MTN, I turned the text into a call and we got to enjoy the moment together.

It’s been hard to find the right ways to spend time with people as the various worries of the pandemic added rules and concerns to interactions. But today we just celebrated. I had lunch with my mother and my husband. We got an enormous sushi lunch. And then a surprise chocolate cake. And while this was all decadent it was also normal. It was normal to have a fancy meal and cake on your birthday with your family. I’d like to have more normal because that means more joy. And that’s my wish on my birthday. That we all have more normal joys.

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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
Media

Day 281 and Villains

This is a post that will have spoilers about the end of the second season of Ted Lasso. Do not read any further if you have not seen it. I’ll put an extra paragraph to keep it from your eyes and we can meet again tomorrow.

SPOILERS BELOW

The first season of Ted Lasso may be one of the most perfect seasons of television ever made. It’s like being inside the best session of therapy you’ve ever had. The kind where you have a breakthrough so profound that the hurt and agony of your worst childhood trauma suddenly feels not only bearable but also the reason to fully love yourself. It’s just that good on the emotional truth scale. The warmth and safety and growth is beautiful.

But season two leans into tropes and villainy where it used to rely on nuance and kindness. Rather than feeling the pride and hope of emotional truth that has been hard gotten (the truth will set you free but first it will piss you off), we are given the obvious end of Nate betraying Ted and Rebecca by going to coach for Rupert’s new team West Ham.

Nate makes a massive accusation that Ted abandoned Nate emotionally but we are given roughly thirty seconds to wrack our brains for these betrayals before it is revealed that Nate has chosen to abandon Ted. How do we feel about this? Wouldn’t we normally explore how both people contributed to the feeling? But nope it’s send Nate right into insecure narcissistic reactivity rather than mine for the potential nuance.

We could have been given a story where we see Nate and Ted equally participating in the traumas they each carry and how it affects their relationship. Ted with his fear of abandonment brought on by his father’s suicide very well may play out that pattern of abandonment on Nate. But that’s left largely unexplored. Perhaps it could have shown us how Nate intuitively sees that because of Ted’s unresolved pain with his father, Ted in fact isn’t fully there for Nate in his new role as a surrogate father figure coach.

The struggles of a young man coping with a new position and unexpected authority granted by father figure like Ted juxtaposed against Nate’s own issue with his father who doesn’t show him respect would have been an empathetic story in the hands of this show.

There was so much fertile ground for how each character could trigger emotions in the other and for how they could own and resolve these feelings. But instead it’s straight to villain don’t pass to don’t collect 200 dollars. By the end I wasn’t even sad about the loss. I’d resigned myself to the conclusion. But they could have done so much better by everyone. Even if Nate must experience his darker impulses we would have been wiling to see the full journey of how he arrived there and the pain other’s traumas has inadvertently wrecked on Nate.

I guess I’m not sad. I’m just disappointed. And that’s how you know it really mattered to me.

Categories
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
Preparedness

Day 279 and Takeout

I’m not entirely sure when or even how it happened, but I’ve been eating nothing but takeout. I think it’s some “emotional exhalation” around food. When the pandemic first hit I was in Manhattan. As wasn’t yet clear how Covid spread, we locked down in our apartment and cooked every single meal for three straight months. Probably a record in my life for going without ready made meals. But boy did I miss takeout by the end of it.

I’m sure both facts say something about the privilege I have. I can afford to have someone prepare all of my food in restaurants. And when disaster struck I had the time and ability to stay home and cook. Most folks chose their food based on budgets, literal and time.

As I’ve been concerned about the looming supply chain crunch I now think it might be time to flex the cooking at home muscles again. Letting fresh food linger in the fridge without a plan is wasteful. Whether or not I can afford the waste isn’t the point. It’s offensive to the energy and work of the many people who put their livelihood into feeding others.

I feel this especially acutely as my milk and produce come directly from local farmers. I feel like I’m letting down Daphne if our milk isn’t turned into yogurt or ricotta (or at very least put into my morning coffee). Although I will say I have no good plans for the sheer volume of peppers and chilis my farm share produced. In Colorado it is the chili that’s the crop that goes overboard in your CSA box not zucchini or some other squash. I genuinely have no clue what to do with some of more exotic peppers so send me recipes!

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
Reading

Day 273 and The Newsstand

I used to travel a lot. It seems like another life, but before the pandemic airports were my most important liminal space. Even as a child this was true as my father loved taking us on trips. That emotional weight meant the airport have always had significance to me. This persistent exposure to airports lead to me to developing certain affinities and aversions in my routines around travel. But the one that I liked the most was buying something at the newsstand.

There was a period as a teenager where I thought carrying both the The Economist and Rolling Stone (neither of which I read anymore) was just the height of intellectual signaling. And no place was more crucial to signal than inside an airport. I could meet someone in passing that would change my life and they needed to see immediately that I was both smart and cultured. Yes it’s embarrassing now.

But this signaling was part of a wider ritual I felt was important to ground myself. Even if I felt the unsteadiness of traveling, I could bring routine and ritual into it. I knew no matter how much I anxiety or uncertainty I felt around a given trip I could always treat myself to buying something to read from the airport newsstand.

Generally I would pick up some kind of periodical. I’d leave myself time to browse the newsstands for at least ten minutes so I could adequately cover all the weird genres. Because I grew up in a small town and not a proper city, the only newsstand I ever encountered was at the airport. There was simply no place that held as many magazines covering as many topics.

And while I had the Internet very early in my life, the actual transition away from physical publishing wasn’t as far along. It’s not that I loved magazines so much as it was the only place I could find writing that wasn’t a novel was in newsstand. Now of course I read blogs, email newsletters, forums, Subreddits and my beloved Twitter. But the memories I have of finding new worlds came from newsstands. And while I may have literally been going someplace new, it was never quite as horizon broadening as picking out what I was going to read.