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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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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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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.

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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.

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Aesthetics Internet Culture Media

Day 251 or NYFW SS08

Today is Star Trek day. The original series debuted 55 years ago. I was searching for a photo of myself as a child wearing a captain’s uniform to commemorate it and instead stumbled upon a file containing my old WordPress blog. So rather than find an adorable picture of me in a red jumpsuit I found this picture from September 10th 2007 waiting for the Marc Jacob’s fashion show.

Several invitations to Marc Jacob’s fashion show for his spring 2008 collection seen from above. A blackberry, an iPhone & a recorder are scattered between wine glasses, a carton of cigarettes and two arms.

I used to be a fashion blogger you see. I have a few dubious CV distinctions, one of which is being the first person to live blog fashion week (at least according to Women’s Wear Daily). In the late aughts just before the Great Recession, it was a hell of a time to work in fashion and I wanted in. Being utterly unqualified I did what any kid would do and started a new media company. It went pretty well, we turned it into an ad tech company, sold it, and survived “RIP good times” but before all of that I partied professionally. A lot of business in fashion used to get done over drinks in fancy hotel lobbies while we all clutched our Blackberries.

This particular photo represents a time when Condé Nast still mattered. I was at the Mercer Hotel with my friend Lauren Goldstein Crowe (also apparently economic writer Felix Solomon). My friend Lauren was the newly installed fashion columnist for the new glossy magazine about money called Portfolio Magazine. We were killing time in the then trendy Soho hotel before the always reliably two hours late Marc Jacob’s show.

I don’t actually remember if I legitimately had an invitation or if I snuck in with Lauren that season. Back in 2007, if you can believe it, social media was considered very uncouth and no one has begun writing “bloggers are taking over the front row” thought pieces yet. Could have gone either way.

Portfolio was the last hurrah of the print behemoths, a glossy magazine dedicated to the culture of finance, so naturally I was appreciative that I could tag along with my much better financed friend. Condé Nast reported spent 100m on the magazine and I appreciate that some small portion of that went to drinks before the fashion of the season. Lauren is an especially erudite editor, of the sort who writes deeply studied long form work, so the fact that Condé Nast was paying to send her to fashion week was pretty decadent. She wasn’t a mid tier market editor who needed to see the clothes. She covers culture so the entire milieu was her domain. The gossip before the shows absolutely counted.

Of course, the business of media couldn’t support that sort of thing forever with changing advertising models and Condé Nast didn’t really keep up with the times. It’s a real loss. People like me ended up winning and it’s been perhaps a net loss for some things that were valuable cultural artifacts.

I spent no more than a couple grand getting our rinky dink operation up and running. We still managed to publish faster than anyone else. I had several meltdowns in service of that effort. In hindsight it was probably a waste but it felt so very new and urgent to be publishing things at the very second a look went down the runway. Now fashion week is an exercise in instant publishing and live-streaming everything from a million perspectives. But the actual studied writers don’t get expense accounts and drivers and corporate Blackberries anymore. If they are lucky maybe they have a blog with a subscription. Lauren knew it even then. She and I slowly occupied the same basic space in the ecosystem. She was just 15 years ahead of seeing it.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 239 and Missing Vanity

I wasn’t much for makeup or clothing as a teenager, but I fell in love with fashion as I got older. I was swayed by the mysteries of style. The power of being dressed precisely for the occasion was not lost on me. I wanted to command the powers of vanity for myself

But as the pandemic set in I cancelled all my beauty box of the month subscriptions and closed my Rent the Runway account. I didn’t need red lipstick or cocktail dresses. When we summered in the Hudson Valley the first summer of the pandemic, I only brought one suitcase of sweatpants and cotton dresses. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was was leaving behind dozens of vanity rituals.

Like many other people, we decided to move closer to family as the pandemic continued. Going from Manhattan to Boulder isn’t exactly conducive to keeping up with appearances either. I found myself buying hiking pants and wool socks. I had no occasion to dress for anyone but myself.

I’m not sure how much I actually miss getting dressed. At least not for myself. Earlier in May before the Delta variant squashed “hot vax” summer for good, some ink was spilled on the mixed emotions of getting dressed for others after so much time in seclusion.

The pandemic seems to have proven that for me aesthetics are all about the dance with others. The joy of communicating one’s taste and preferences to the outside world is more riveting than playing with my look for an audience of one.

But I do miss that dance. Vanity can be a wonderful motivator to connect and communicate with others. I so badly want someone to see my hair. I haven’t heat styled my hair for well over a year. In fact, I haven’t had it cut for nearly 10 months.

My vanity tells me my hair has never looked better. It cascades down to my mid back without a split end in sight. Just waves. It’s fucking princess hair. My vanity whispers that someone surely would notice how beautiful I look. If they noticed how I look then they must always want me to notice them.

I miss the pleasure of seeing beauty in each other. Sharing a compliment and an appreciation for the little vanities we all keep.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 214 and Their Rules

If he wants to play their game, then he has to learn their rules.” – Downton Abby

I’ve been on a bit of a kick with taking notes for my grand unified theory of shitposting. Naturally I’ve been obsessed with the British aristocracy melting down during modernity in Downtown Abby. A great deal of class implosions make for excellent drama. Class and it’s privileges are crucial to understanding who can get away with what. And I’m becoming rather sure that shitposting is a way of changing the rules, through satire, of who gets to accumulate social capital.

I own a reasonably good library on the intersection of class, wealth, and capitalism. I suspect that sort of preoccupation isn’t that odd of a leaning when you come from family that jumped from working class to bourgeois and had set its sights even higher for their children. And it’s reasonably amusing that I file the topics together in my head and on my bookshelf.

Class, Greed, Liquidated, Capitalism and of course Zizek.

Money has never been the determining factor for class, but the American preoccupation with capital has led us to develop elaborate social mores to try to distance that we have overlapped wealth and status into the term “upper class” in this county. We don’t have peerage so things like taste and creativity has come to dominate. We absolutely hate the nouveau rich and disdain people with bad taste.

I spent a number of years working in “style” which is the overarching set of professions that dominate who has class. I worked for luxury houses, founded a cosmetics brand and even did marketing for a very high end gym. All of the kinds of things you can buy to demonstrate you have good taste and thus are worthy of being considered upper class.

Honestly it seems easier to have to learn the manners of the aristocracy than to have to bother with keeping up on style. At least those assholes had a consistent dress code. But an elaborate set of social distinctions overlaying signifiers on who has taste and credentials is fundamentally more accessible. Hipster are social progress.

Showing you’ve got the capacity to read social signals has lead to a lot of weird shit. Our current preoccupation with critical theory for one. But it’s opened up class status to people who are capable of demonstrating their understanding of what it takes to occupy their place on the ladder. And yes I think shitposting is the new Harvard degree or house in Newport. I guess it’s no weirder than marrying someone with an estate on a cold island off the coast of Europe.

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Internet Culture

Day 212 and Notes for A Unified Theory of Shitposting

Yesterday I was fucking around on Twitter, as I am prone to doing. I made a barely sit-com worthy joke about divorced guy energy.

You ever notice how women thrive in the aftermath of divorce but men implode? Why is that?

My husband Alex replied with a searing burn “don’t worry, I’ll be fine” response and we were off to the races with all our mutuals dunking. I was howling with laughter. The two of us were trading zingers and watching the DMs roll in from friends.

Obviously the undercurrent of any thread on social media got dark very fast. So quickly I ended up putting out resources for men who were struggling in the replies. The amount of pain on display was enough to make you want to donate to the first domestic abuse charity I could find.

So why is it that I can shitpost about a topic and come away unscathed, indeed it was a fun and entertaining night for both myself and Alex, but others melted down? I think it might be about class and social signaling. It takes a lot of social capital to shitpost. And those that shitpost on the most socially contentious topics are demonstrating their social capacity to discuss whatever they want without consequences. I can shitpost because I’ve got enough social capital to do so.

One theory I’ve got is that shitposting is a backlash to Ted Talks, super serious reverential coverage in glossy business magazines, and the proliferation of HBS style “business” books. We’ve had an saturation in performative professionalism.

Once it became unclear that every self seriousness biography or magazine puff piece was placed by professionals to make their clients look like geniuses (visible effort undermines certain kinds of status) the savvy social seeker knew they needed a more authentic way to telegraph in-group power. The next logical step was demonstrating that you were so smart, so powerful and so connected you didn’t even need to demonstrate it. Hence the shitpost.

The weirdest part of “shitposting” being an actual status symbol in venture capital is that a couple of billionaires are going to see me and Alex making jokes about divorced guy energy and this will only increase our status. Which is ludicrous on its face ans yet absolutely true.

This isn’t even a flex on my part (though it obviously is a flex) as it is now accepted that having a following for saying whatever you like gives you a leg up in startups. A friend likened it to “dressing down” or the practice of wearing causal clothing even in formal settings. It shows you are so powerful and wealthy you don’t need to give a fuck about manners. Shitposting on Twitter is like wearing ripped jeans at the country club.

I want to explore this topic in more depth so this post is just some sketch notes. But I wanted to get it down and organized so I hope it’s alright to have some half baked ideas. It’s my blog so I figure it’s fine b

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Aesthetics Emotional Work

Day 197 and Status Anxiety

I’m becoming quite bored of feeling like shit as I go on maybe day 8 or 9 of a poor reaction to an anti-viral. It’s not fun when the cure is worse than the disease. I noticed something fascinating as more and more “days off” piled up. I’ve still got a lot of emotional shit when it comes to being sick.

My anxiety over being seen as weak, lazy or lacking in willpower started to compound the more days I’ve needed to recover. What will people think of me that just as I’m making a comeback to full time work that I let myself get waylaid by a virus? Every project and meeting that needed canceling felt like I should accompany it with an apology tour. I felt like I owed everyone my time and energy. I felt ashamed.

The social striving and status chasing that have gripped the aspirational class seems to have its claws firmly in my psyche. At least when it comes to work, I’m convinced I must always be working to be “better.” Where the fuck did this self limiting belief come from?

Who cares if I needed a week off to cope with health care needs when I’ve been on medical leave for nearly two years? What is another week. Why am I so anxious to show that I’m capable of going back to work? Who the fuck cares! It’s not as if I’m dependent on a salary to survive. I’m not chasing a resume or CV polish on LinkedIn. I can just not work.

Technically I’ve already made it out of the status social climbing games. I’ve got money. I’ve got traditional credentials. I have a well compensated skill set that is easily hired out for income without sacrificing much of my time. I should not be experiencing any class anxiety at all. I should happily go into the leisure class and not concern myself that my workaholism isn’t possible for health reasons. And yet I’m absolutely panicked that I’ll be see as lazy and unreliable every time I have a minor setback.

It’s abundantly clear that aspirational class signals, especially around meritocracy and knowledge work, are as bogus as Edwardian England’s aristocracy. Class division can be upended if you just stop giving a fuck. But I’m experiencing exactly this anxiety noted in The Hedgehog Review.

The aspirationals’ endless pursuit of better can produce psychic restlessness and doubts beneath the façade of confidence and accomplishment.

I’ve always thought of my habits as being high status. I read science fiction, make a hobby of macroeconomics, and pursue healthy biohacking experiments. Of course, that I think of these things as having status is precisely what makes me signaling it low status. The perception of me caring so fucking much is proof that I don’t think my status in life is secure. I’m no better than the middle class strivers in Downtown Abbey who miss manner cues. How embarrassing!

But if I can admit that I’m anxious about my place in the world maybe it’s a sign I’m not so beholden to class systems after all. I’ve just now admitted that I’m afraid of how I will be perceived if my climb back to health isn’t perfectly stage managed. I hope that is the first step in letting it go. Fixating on fear and anxiety isn’t great for physical health. So I’m putting it out there that I’m afraid of how I’ll be seen by others. And I’m letting it go.

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Aesthetics Emotional Work

Day 178 and Looking So Normal

On the surface I’m basic. But my aesthetics are lying to you. I’m a fucking weirdo. But I don’t look the part. I think this gives people a bit of cognitive dissonance. I’ve noticed it’s particularly acute in more personal social or familial settings. Because I look like a pretty regular white woman with a pretty regular life, folks assume I have pretty regular social mores. They want me to hew to what normal people do because that’s less cognitive overhead for them. I look normal so I should be normal. No reason their pattern recognition should be failing them so badly.

So when they discover I’m incredibly introverted, very reluctant to socialize, and do not prioritize any traditional social or family structures it’s confusing. “But she looks so normal!” It’s like if I had any of the aesthetics of a social outlier or a recognizable community outside of cultural norms, this would all make sense. Heck even if I had short hair and some tattoos it would all track. Their pattern recognition would work.

“Oh she’s counter cultural” or maybe “she is kind of a hippie” or even “ slutty weirdo” would all make more sense. But I don’t look as weird as I am. Why don’t her aesthetics match her lifestyle? Instead they see a kind of regular brunette who wears Ann Taylor. I kind of like conservative clothing. This doesn’t mean I’m a conservative person. I had a terrific boyfriend who had a thing for women in suits because he liked the idea of a woman who was into power. It was a bit of a letdown to learn that I’m a bit submissive.

The reason this is even a problem is because humans want to be understood. According to Psychology Today we all require a bit of external validation to feel like our reality lines up with others. Feeling like we are understood apparently even makes us happier. I often struggle to feel like I’m understood. I worry I’ll be judged for not living up to other people’s standards because they need to extend more cognitive effort to understand me. I often don’t feel like I have a right to ask for that from people.

The thing is I could make this all a lot easier on myself. If I telegraphed more of my idiosyncrasies visually I wouldn’t get put into the normal bucket. Then I wouldn’t disappoint people when they learn I don’t meet expectations for middle of the bell curve socially. If I talked about my sex life or my preference for alternative family structures I’d need to match that against some leather or kinks or hell even some bright lipstick or it’s just going to seem fucking weird.

Nobody registers me as an outlier no matter how much I say it out loud. But I have to be honest I’m just not that interested in making it easier for folks with my looks. If you want to get to know me I’m an open book. The only catch is you have to get to know me.