In my dreams there are places I've never been
I wonder if we meet there when we both dream.
The places aren't old, nor are they new.
they are definitely not blue,
are they maybe borrowed?
While they are just the same, over again,
and I know that I've been there before.
Opening up like a maze, it just makes sense
once you get there, but never before.
I keep walking through door after door,
up the stairs, and then down the stairs.
Yet its core is out of my reach,
it's like a place I'll never breach.
Then in that stairwell, you give me your
hand and show me the door,
which leads to that central core.
It opens up, to a big cafeteria, and people laugh and talk,
the clock strikes 5 and they have closed their shop,
but we can still see the tasty treats offered up.
This is a place I've never seen,
yet so many times in my dreams I've been.
It comes back all over again
and becomes its own in my mind,
in our shared dreamland.
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This blog post will contain spoilers from Grey’s Anatomy up until season 16. If you haven’t watched it yet but intend to, I’d recommend you not continue reading here. That said, if you’d want to know what to prepare yourself for, there may be reason to continue reading.
non-character (real): possible death, covid-19, lockdown
I’ve been watching Grey’s Anatomy pretty much since it started, but the past few years (quite a few years) I’ve not been watching it regularly, but I will catch up once in a while. Recently however YouTube began recommending me clips from the show, and I knew if I began watching them it would start recommending me clips from episodes I haven’t seen yet. Even knowing this I watched a few, which I knew I’d seen, and then down the rabbit hole I went.
Eventually I began seeing clips from more recent episodes. I knew that the series had come up to season 16 (and now 17), and that a lot have happened. I knew that Derek had died but I hadn’t seen how. Which means I haven’t seen season 11 in full. I had however seen Christina Yang leave, at the end of season 10, but I don’t know if I actually had registered it as her leaving permanently.
I was enjoying watching clips, reminding me of the powerful episodes that really stuck with me, that would always make me cry, and that would make me cry more than I think I’ve ever cried to any shows. I used to use the show as my wind-down on Friday’s while I was still on sickleave, but training to leave the house regularly. It helped me cry and let out any stress that built up over the week. And me watching these clips this week was helping me do just that (it’s surprisingly stressful to move during a pandemic, and the 3rd lockdown in England).
I got to see two of my favorite broken characters not only get together (which I had seen on the show), but also get married, as the clips showed me. And here is where it took a really bad turn for me. So many times Alex Karev had said to Jo (Wilson) that he wouldn’t leave her. When I saw the clip of them finally getting married, my heart sang. They were growing together, and becoming stronger and better people together.
Alex’s development had partially started in earlier seasons with the help of Izzie Stevens. But she had left him in the most heartbreaking of ways, without saying goodbye, she had just left him a letter and gone away. He had later told her, that he didn’t deserve someone who’d leave him like that. And he was right, he deserved better.
So that brings us up to the dreaded 16×16 episode. We find out that Alex has left, for real. He was “missing” kind of, not where he was supposed to be. And his friends and wife get a letter each, explaining what happened and why he was gone. And it just hurt so deeply.
While I understand why they kind of had to go with it creatively, with Justin Chambers leaving the show abruptly, emotionally I’m reeling. It just pierced me with the reality that even when you think a relationship is good, and strong, and even fortified against any kind of disruption. Even when you know you would communicate about your issues to try and fix it, you could get hit by something completely unexpected.
In the story line there are somethings which makes it kind of make sense. There are children involved, children that Karev didn’t know about when he married Jo. Children made with frozen fertilized embryos he and Stevens had saved when she was going through radical cancer treatment. Embryos he had released to Izzie some seasons earlier. Karev brings this up in his letters.
A part of his letter that really bothers me is this part: “It was like no time had passed when we started talking again” (paraphrased). Because the last time they saw each other wasn’t necessarily a good time, it wasn’t a time where they were happy and in a good relationship. I understand what they were trying to go for where, when trying to salvage the actor leaving so abruptly. I also went to do some digging, what was his actual last scene, and yeah. It was tame, it was him reading out letters in court.
I guess in a way, this was not just Alex Karev leaving his wife, but also Justin Chambers leaving Grey’s Anatomy. “There’s no good way to say goodbye.” When that goodbye is happening on short notice because your priorities changed, and you want to go elsewhere, you may end up in this kind of a situation. Chambers has been on the show for 15 years. And it’s understandable that he wanted to go out and spread his wings and get a chance to get new opportunities.
I am pondering if it stung me harder because of the stress in my own life right now. Big life changes, me and my partner are moving into our first house together. Our own house. And the stress of moving, combined with the current pandemic, and feeling like a lot of things are out of my control, and I just have to keep swimming in order to stay alive. The thought that I can do everything right and everything can change by the drop of a hat is incredibly painful.
This isn’t revealing any hidden emotions or thoughts about a possible ending of my current relationship. But rather just reminding me that anything can happen, especially right now. Either of us could die, either from Covid-19 or something else.
I did not think I would write a whole blog post about this, but it kept stirring in my head, and I kept crying to various clips and montages relating to this particular episode, and some other heart-wrenching episodes. I just needed to put it into words.
Tell me about something in a story that struck you a lot harder and deeper than you had expected it to?
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I weigh my heart, and care for other people around me. I weigh putting into words what others need to hear. I weigh connecting people. I weigh community. I weigh my curiosity, always looking to learn more about the world, and people and cultures. I weigh my imperfections, and also that I am looking for ways to improve where I can, without pushing too hard. I weigh my physical and mental health journey, which is a never ending winding road. I weigh that I care.
If you’re reading this, it means you survived 2020. Congratulations!
I think it’s important that we recognized what a victory merely surviving this year was. Especially if you’re disabled, an immigrant, BIPOC, or part of any other minority groups.
Now that it’s over, the year feels both short and mega long. It was the year with a million billion months, in July. It was the year with forest fires we forgot. It was a year of plague and fascism. It was a year with revolution and riots.
It’s easy to think everything is done and over once we turn the leaf to a new year. We can close a chapter, but we still need to remember the content and lessons of that chapter.
We still need to continue fighting. We still need to take care of the most vulnerable people in our society.
However, today you can say that you survived 2020. And you should be proud of that, and you should celebrate that.
Cherish your chosen family. Remind them you love them.
I watched this YouTube video, and wrote this giant comment at the same time. Figured I’d share it with you. Enjoy, and maybe tell me your own thoughts with each point as you watch the video. You can do it here, on fedi, or Twitter. Or find my comment on the video and respond there.
Breathing, I tend to hold my breath for extended periods of time when I’m stressed and tense. But now breathing makes me feel lightheaded. Am I breathing too fast, too much oxygen…
Inconsequential contests, we watched Dragula earlier today. It is such an over the top fun show. But I also tortured myself with watching something painful, because fighting pain with pain is good right?
Crosswords will probably not work when I’m too stressed. I lose so many words, but then again maybe it would actually help. Your brain processes things differently when you step away which is nice. I should ask my mom to send me a Swedish crossword book from home.
I’ve been reading so much since July, but the past few days my brain just stopped. I need to pick something lighthearted to distract me maybe. I recently read Colour of Magic finished it in October. So good. Ohh, I should reread Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy! Yes! Thank you.
(I’m writing this giant comment to keep myself distracted but also focused enough to watch the whole thing and not go look for more election stuff)
Exercise, I… The fucking pandemic is just making me afraid to go out, and I hate it. I know I love getting out when I do. I should start again. Hopefully after I get some sleep. Or exercises at home.
I have been cooking the past few days, it’s been so nice. Fried meatballs and cooked pasta in the middle of the night tonight. Baked banana bread earlier in the evening. I guess I knew I needed something to comfort eat tonight. Cook foods you enjoy eating. Remind yourself what you like to eat.
Cleaning, my housemates were a way for a few days, so I got a chance to take care of the house, as a preparation for when I get my own house. I got a chance to try out things that I’ve been mulling over, but never really get the chance to do because my house mates does some of the things out of habit before I can get to it (it’s their house).
Body scan meditation helps be relax. I think we can it something else as well. But just going through each group of muscles, tensing to relax. It’s so good. I think I have a recording of this somewhere, I should try to find it.
Yoga often makes me feel like I’m walking on clouds afterwards. I miss it.
How do we seek unrelated news. Phew. I wouldn’t even know where to start. I rarely seek out news as it is. I did decide today that I wasn’t going to look at the results during the evening, and try to not think about it. I can’t change the results by watching them. They will be what they will be. We’ve done what we can. I’m prepared for the worst. I wasn’t 4 years ago.
Video games, yes! I’ve played graveyard keeper, it really got me stuck. Similar to Stardew Valley but a bit darker, and goofy.
I’ve been taking hot showers, sometimes sitting down and just relaxing. If you don’t have a bath bring a small towel over your shoulders to keep some of the warmth in.
I’ve been journaling every day since the beginning of September, it’s helped me a lot. In processing. Seeing patterns. Seeing myself. Seeing my thresholds. I also managed to start some creative writing again.
Researching stuff for home, I’m dreaming about the house we’re trying to buy. But the process is so slow because of the pandemic and social distancing. So right now I dream and plan.
Seeing a conversation about traditional publishing, and the issues with it and how books that seems like a treat don’t make it through because traditional publishers just don’t know how to market it my mind went on a tangent.
What if we allow ourselves to write for a non-traditional audience? If you’re neurodivergent, like me, you may know that you have trouble to sit down and write some of the thoughts and stories you’d like to write because you have this idea of what traditional writing should be like.
For a while, after having a long period of severe aphasia, and memory loss, and my mind just wasn’t putting words together, I was able to write smaller sentences again, and kind of string them together into something someone could read. I could tell it wasn’t an article, it wasn’t a poem, nor musings. But in a way it could be all of those things. I was letting myself write to the little capacity I could, and it brought my joy and I could tell others saw themselves in some of it.
We tend to get hung up on what we think writing should be. Because we’ve been taught all the rules. It’s common to say that knowing the rules are needed in order to break them. And it may be true in some cases. But what if we just let go?
What if we just let ourselves write that sprawling messy story, where we don’t go from point A to B in a straight line, but we jump to D and C, maybe X and J, on our journey to tell whatever we’re telling.
Let yourself write in the way you think. And let that be it. You can always come back to it, and create something else out of it.
Don’t restrict yourself with writing the perfect lines. Just write for the joy of it.
Sometimes, when I give myself time and space to think, connect the dots and so forth, I also am able to write something down in a coherent matter, like this post i wrote just now while having breakfast, because a conversation between friends hit the right notes.
Why do I write this? Because I needed to read it years ago. Heck, I needed to start learning about this in kindergarten if not earlier. All the links I’m adding in this post is for you to read, some will be pointed at more than once to drive home that point. I don’t want to just reference them in passing, I’m trying to point at them for you to go look closer at.
Mid-Covid-19 pandemic, I found myself thinking “now is not the time to write this anti-racist article”. As those thoughts danced around my consciousness I realized that they are part of the problem. “Now is not the time to talk about racism”. We always find excuses not to talk about racism, and to not be political. It’s always the time to talk about racism, and anti-racist work. If you didn’t yesterday, there’s no better time than today. And now, as May ended and June began with the Black Lives Matter protests against Police Brutality, it’s even more important for us to talk about. Racism isn’t a new thing, and racism isn’t something only pervasive in America. The racism that killed George Floyd was built in Britain [UK resources]. It is so easy to deflect and point fingers at another country as being guilty of racism and anti-blackness, but never look yourself in the mirror. It’s about time to learn your history, especially from the perspective of silenced voices.
This blog post is partially inspired by conversations I see regularly on Mastodon/the fediverse, conversations about how white that space is, and how we as white people fail to do our part. While sitting with the feelings those words evoked in me, I always found myself making excuses, because of my own health and disabilities. I accepted it as truth, even when reading and agreeing with people criticizing white women for hiding behind their queerness and disabilities. So I had to check myself, and thought: what can I actually do? I can talk with other white people about these things, to slowly help change how people behave and talk, and think. When I can’t talk with them in a physical space I can always write.
This article is not me trying to provide all the answers, but rather me gathering some of the resources that other people have already shared, so you in turn can find it and share it with other people. I want to highlight some of these issues, but also help other white people to start looking at their own actions, behaviors and habits, and give you some tips for how you can change and challenge yourself.
For me this is one way to try and be more anti-racist, as sharing this with you should help alleviate some of the work that we tend to put on Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). This post will become a collection of resources, both embedded in the text for you to come back to when you’re ready but also specifically listed towards the end. You can read it through once and then go back and look at the links, or head over to each link along the way, whichever feels more comfortable to you. Take the time to process, take notes on how you feel, how you react. Sit with it. Be silent. Just listen.
I will keep referencing my own experiences, because I want to show you that it is a process, and that you wont change or improve over night.
White Privilege – Where to start
First of all you need to see that you as a white person have privilege because of the colour of your skin. This can be hard to recognize, and even harder to accept.
It is so easy for us to say “but I don’t have privilege because x y z.” There are many ways, a lot of us aren’t privileged, but other ways we are. When you’re white, you do not have to deal with people being biased towards you because of the color of your skin, you can never get away from that.
If you as a woman can reflect on sexism, and see how patriarchy has molded you, then taking the next step to also see racism, colonialism and capitalism, isn’t too far off. This is exactly the leap which Peggy McIntosh made in their “White Privilege – Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”, and in turn their text was definitely an eye-opener for myself and many other people.
Do you have White Privilege?
1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
3. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
4. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
5. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
6. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
7. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
8. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
9. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods that fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
10. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
11. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
12. I can swear, or dress in second-hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.
13. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
14. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
15. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
16. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
17. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
18. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my race.
19. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
20. I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
21. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.
22. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.
23. I can choose public accommodations without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
24. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
25. If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.
26. I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more less match my skin.
There’s more to the original text than just the above list, and this list isn’t perfect. It is however an opening portal. Whatever your opening portal is, be it the White Privilege text, be it a break-in like described in this update from a Awaken Café, it doesn’t matter, because you are reading this far because you want to start to see, you want to unlearn your racism.
Understanding Racism: Everyday, Structural and Intersectional
It is so easy for us to be ignorant of our everyday racism and microaggressions, especially when we do not see that racism is so much more than just “individual acts of meanness“. We are unable to see that it is systemic issues, which we perpetuate on a daily basis. The hard truth is that we, as white people, are always benefiting from white supremacy, every single day.
Structural, systemic and institutional racism is pervasive through our society, and if you aren’t looking for it you probably don’t see it. Unless you’ve been taught to see it from an early age, like pretty much all BIPOC who are raised by non-white parents (adopted or birth) have been. White people however, were probably only taught in school that slavery was a thing, but it’s over since over 100 years ago, and the American people had the Civil Rights Act of 1964 . And then you are taught to not be mean to people because they are different than you, and that’s probably it.
For example, in Swedish education we are not taught about the systemic oppression of our indigenous population, Sámi people. And you should ask yourself, what do you know about the indigenous population of your country, and the history of how your government has treated them? And the fights they are still having to have in order to be recognized?
Systemic racism is also upheld through capitalism. Capitalism relies on a lower class, an othering, in order for us to shift the work onto someone else. Since the birth of capitalism, with chattel slavery, up till now, our society relies on this. Our society has built its wealth off of the backs of BIPOC for generations.
“Racial capitalism, which is to say all capitalism, is not a thing, it’s a relation. However, if we look back through the history of capitalism as it developed, we see that the understanding that those who own the means of production had of their differences from those whose labor they exploited were understandings that we can recognize today as racial practice.”
This brings us onto one of the things which makes it possible: othering is used to divide and dehumanise groups. It makes us think of others as less than ourselves. It makes it easier for you to accept that those people don’t deserve to be protected. It’s a way to distance yourself, they don’t have names or faces. You will view them as “those people” or refer to them, to their faces as “you people”.
We often actively do not want to see the connections between all of these things. We do not want to see how all injustices in our society are interconnected. We’ve all heard about the cobalt mines with child labour over the past few years, right? Yet we’ve still bought a new device which uses lithium batteries during that time. This makes us complicit. It makes me complicit and it makes you complicit.
Yes, I know, this is a lot. And there’s even more to untangle. I just want to help you grasp that we ignore some of these things as defense mechanisms, it’s too big to grasp all at once. For example if we’d try to only eat ethically sourced food we may have to spend most of our time focused on finding that food until it becomes a habit, until we know a lot of the good choices out there, same goes with clothes, electronics etc.
I would like to use intersectionality to help us understand the things we don’t see. It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot, but I do think that you can use intersectionality to help you use your understanding of one oppressive structure to begin to see another. If you for instance know and understand ableism, sexism, or transmisia, you may be able to use that to recognize that there are other things you don’t see yet:
You know that other people don’t see the things you do because it’s not their lived experience. You know how difficult it is to explain these things to them because it is just out of their realm of things they know and understand.
In a way it’s an unknown unknown, they don’t know that they don’t know it.
If you think you know and understand everything in the world, it pretty much means that you don’t.
Sit with that. Let it sink in.
It can be painful to accept, but once you do it will unlock so much room for growth and things you can learn in the years ahead.
Human beings are naturally curious, sometimes this curiosity can be used for good.
Allow it to do that for you, get curious again, and listen.
Sometimes listening means just being silent, and hearing what people are saying. Sometimes it means engaging with what they are saying, not necessarily with them, as a way to process the content. Sometimes it means to sit down and write something, like this.
Where do we go from here?
There’s a lot in this article, and you may not be ready to process everything yet. Take your time with it. I hope you came here because you already started to see the cracks in the facade of white supremacy, and wanted to start untangling it, without really knowing where to start.
Now that you’ve begun to see, to put it in the words of Ursual K. LeGuin in her Essay “A War without End”:
The shift from denial of injustice to recognition of injustice can’t be unmade. What your eyes have seen they have seen. Once you see the injustice, you can never again in good faith deny the oppression and defend the oppressor. What was loyalty is now betrayal. From now on, if you don’t resist, you collude.
The Wave of the Mind—Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination
You now have the opportunity to begin resisting, together with millions of others across the world, and that is a beautiful thing.
Do not put the burden on BPOC
It is so important that white people put in the work on their own. We can’t continuously expect other people to check us and tell us when we’re doing something wrong, we have to learn to review our actions and introspect.
It is easy to say “just come to me and tell me when I’m being racist or anti-black”, but that is putting the onus on someone else to do the work, instead of yourself doing quiet introspection over time. It’s okay to look at yourself and say “I have been racist, I participate in the structural racism, as I’ve been socialized and indoctrinated to do. I have acted in ways harmful to others.” Accepting the wrong you’ve done is the first step to doing better, and less wrong. No, you can’t take it back, but you can start harm-reduction today.
Things you can start doing:
There’s a saying about if you can look back at yourself 10 years ago and cringe, it means you’ve grown. So allow yourself that, by admitting to the unsavory things that you’ve done in the past. Here are 10 things you can start doing today:
Start by listening to at least one other voice that is Black, Indigenous or a Person of Color. If you use Twitter or Youtube, you can start by extending who you follow with few black voices in something that interests you. E.g. a few years ago I woke up one day realizing how white my entire twitter feed was. I slowly started to listen to more and more black voices online. We shared similar interests which allowed for an intersection. And since we had very different lived experiences I got a sneak peek into a different world. I began learning about cultures I didn’t know much about. I continued by following other voices that were associated with them, got boosted by them, and so on. And I was there to listen, and give support. When you do this I think it’s important to just listen for a long while. Read, fav, boost. Listen. If something makes you curious, see if you can google it, or ask a friend.
Read, watch, and listen to more culture produced by Black, Indigenous and People of Color. In the long run you will learn a lot about how cultures can differ, even within the same country or state.
Practice being silent. Any time you read something and you want to RESPOND. Don’t. Yes, this takes practice.
Do not use the N-word. Do not quote it. Do not sing it in lyrics.
If you have money, donate to a fund that hasn’t reached it’s goal yet, I’d recommend starting from the bottom of any list you find. There are a lot of underfunded crowdfunds, bail funds, and 115 other ways you can help by donating.
And lastly, be willing to learn, and expand your horizons by learning about how vast the world truly is.
Learn how to apologize.
The journey continues
Made it all the way to the end? It doesn’t actually end here. Being an anti-racist is defined by your ongoing work, not that you declare “I’m not racist”, because being not racist isn’t enough if you do not start seeing the issues you are perpetuating.
Growth is painful, and you will feel a lot of weird emotional stuff through your journey. Even writing this whole thing has been a painful work for me, with a lot of anxiety for various reasons, but we have to push through. We have to keep doing the work to change the world for the better.
Just keep in mind that you’re not alone, and I’ve been where you are. The things that look like a lot of work right now will become habits and internalized soon enough, and then you’ll start being able to see when others are doing the things you used to do, and you can help them start their journey to becoming an anti-racist.
There is a lot more to talk about, and if you’re noticing something that’s missing, you can join the conversation with your own article, or blog post, extending upon what we’ve talked about here. Let us continue this conversation together.
Additional materials and resources
13TH has been on Netflix since 2016, and I keep recommending it to everyone who start to open up their eyes to racial inequality. Now it’s also available to watch for free on YouTube, in full (embedded below). On Netflix there’s also an interview with Ava DuVerney (director and producer of 13th) by Oprah Winfrey.
Free Ebooks by revolutionary BIPOC. With subjects such as racial politics, black and Marxist feminism, prison abolition, racial capitalism, critical race studies, indigenous studies, revolution, and more.
Body and Soul—The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination, by Alondra Nelson, available to read for free online.
Facing a slew of media requests asking about how protests might be a risk for COVID-19 transmission, a group of infectious disease experts at the University of Washington, with input from other colleagues, drafted a collective response. In an open letter published Sunday, they write that “protests against systemic racism, which fosters the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on Black communities and also perpetuates police violence, must be supported.”
The people in our household have come to the point where we’ve lost count on how long we’ve been in lockdown, especially since we started self-isolation long before that, but a few things have become clear: Lockdown depression is here to stay.
Disclaimer: I do not have a neurotypical brain, as I probably have ADHD. The content in this post may or may not be relevant to you.
So, it might sound macabre to say that the lockdown depression is here to stay. But to me admitting that I was actually dealing with depression again, when it’s been some years since depression was my main issue, made all the difference, because I know how to deal with depression. The past few years have mainly been physical issues causing depression like symptoms occasionally, and there is a difference between the two. Knowing what your dealing with makes it easier to bring out the right tool kit. Like you wouldn’t try to use an Allen Key for a Phillips screw. No that’s not true, we’ve all tried it, because getting the other tool would be too much work. But we also know how it ended: the wrong tool didn’t help you handle the problem nearly as efficient as the right one could’ve. That said I feel like it’s also important to note that efficiency isn’t everything, and do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, but if you have the right tools available to you, do take a day to try them.
When I realized that I was dealing with depression and remembered that I have an entire toolkit to deal with depression, which is slightly different from dealing with anxiety and other ailments, I decided to get to work.
The first try actually resulted in a severe backlash, so be aware that your mind may punish you for trying to fix all the things at once. At first when I realized that I can help myself feel better I started by trying to take a walk every day, and showering and cooking etc, all at the same time. And for my brain (I dunno if this is a ADHD thing, a me thing, or a general thing) just went “what the actual fuck”, and kind of shut down even more and led me to be more depressed. This was when I realized that just taking better care of myself wasn’t going to cut it I had to restart entirely. For me this was when I decided to really get back to basics.
What do I mean with basics? Well, this will vary for different people and I’m sure I’ll get plenty of tips from you all after reading this as well, but for me it was this:
I don’t have to do anything.
I chose one thing every day that I want to do (emphasis on want), and try to do that.
Disclaimer 2: If you have a family and children or pets to take care of this will probably be a lot harder to accomplish at least in the way I’m going to describe it. But if you find yourself depressed in such a way where you’re not taking care of yourself or them this may be the place to start. For example: if I had still had a dog my one thing every day would be taking care of the dog by a small walk with them and feeding them. That also ended up being where all my energy got allocated, and then I’d return to bed and cry, or go to the computer and distract myself while being very numb.
Context: one of my most extreme ways to get out of my depression was leaning full into it. I was in my early 20s, and I had all these “must”s and “should”s looming over me, and it was making me sick. Even writing about it now makes me feel uncomfortable, and I can feel those sensations in my body. I had to remove myself from everything that had “I have to” or “I should” attached to it, until I was ready. So I stopped showering unless I wanted to, I ate danishes for breakfast or dinner if I so felt like it, or a pint of ice cream. All of these were associated with myself, I still took care of my dog even if it was the bare minimum. I don’t remember how long this period lasted, because it’s well over 10 years ago, and I don’t recommend it as a first solution, but when nothing else works I know I’m the back of my head that I can always try that. But, since this wasn’t the extreme I wanted to go to yet, I needed a different method.
Step one was telling myself to stop trying to force the good things to happen. Stop trying to force myself to do all the things (which had caused a backlash), but I didn’t want to go as extreme as I had in the past.
Thus I decided to choose one thing a day that’s what I want to get done today. Saying that I “want” to do it, rather than I “have to” do it, also makes all the difference. There’s a cognitive difference there, and even if you know you’re tricking yourself by changing the wording, it may help. For the past week I’ve been doing this, and every morning (or noon or late afternoon) I’ve decided on a thing I want to get done that day to make myself feel better about having done something. Today it was to take a shower. A few days before that I wanted to make a proper meal, enough for leftovers which I could have later. Each of these things made me feel better that day, and by me saying this is the one thing it relieved a lot of pressure from myself because I didn’t have to do anything else, unless I felt like I could, and I still did good.
Choosing one thing that you want to do every day doesn’t mean you won’t do other things. You still can, but it’s important to remind yourself that you don’t have to do anything else. Earlier this week when I also had “shower” as my one thing, once I had I felt good about having done my one thing, so while I was in the kitchen I ended up wiping off some surfaces, I helped my house mate in the garden, and I made late lunch for me and them. It’s important for me to reiterate here that this isn’t supposed to be a trick to tell yourself that you only do one thing today, but then secretly plan other things, your mind knows these things, so be careful of creating backlashes because of that.
On Saturday this weekend, I spent all day doing nothing and eventually realized that I wouldn’t get one thing done. I chose to forgive myself for that, that I can’t always do something. Some days are just going to be horrible. That night had been terrible, and I had not gotten nearly enough sleep, and I needed to just wind back down from that.
In choosing to forgive myself I removed the pressure of “I have to do something today”, yes even the one thing is some pressure, which I try to make it fairly small, and beneficial so the cost is outweighed by the reward, and so I can get it done first thing when I get out of bed. Removing that weight from my shoulders helped me relax again, and eventually that evening I sorted out a box so we can move some boxes upstairs (I moved into a couple of my friends’ house a while back, and we’re still shuffling stuff around). I do not think I would’ve been able to do that if I hadn’t forgiven myself.
Another tip, bonus, is to be the friend to yourself you’d be to your friends. Tell yourself all the things you’d tell your friends when they were struggling with similar things as you. If you can’t do it in your head, try writing it down as a conversation, or something like that.
In these trying times we need to take care of ourselves and each other. For me sometimes the best community care is self-care, because the better I feel the more of myself I can give to others. You can not pour from an empty cup.
How are you dealing with your lockdown depression? Or mitigating it before it even turns up?
Mastodon was scraped, again. It was not the first time it had happened, and it probably wont be the last. This time it was for research, not just archiving which we had encountered in the past. The actual scraping happened in 2018, but the research was recently published, and this is why we’re talking about it now.
While it is tempting to do a complete analysis of the research, in this post I will point out a few issues with it, both from a technical perspective and an ethical one. In doing so I will reference and quote a few sections. However, it will not be a full analysis of all of the paper.
The research papers both contained datasets: the first one had focused on meta data; and this last one’s dataset was match-able with the previous one, even though it was “anonymized”. However, it was brought to my attention that their anonymization was pointless, because the username was still in the URI.
The 2nd dataset, for the latest research paper, has been removed from online access with the comment:
“Deaccessioned Reason: Legal issue or Data Usage Agreement Many entries in the datasets do not fulfill the law about personal data release since they allow identification of personal information.”
Does this mean that they did not take any of these things into account when they wrote the paper to begin with? If we look at their ethical and legal considerations we can see that they half-considered it, and I would argue missed the mark. The way most people were talking about it, it did not actually seem like they even had made any ethical nor legal considerations in their research. Reading them, I realized that they probably would’ve been better off if they had written the legal consideration first, and then have that inform the ethical consideration.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
In the legal consideration, they said that from what they had gathered they had not found anything in the ToS (Terms of Service) of the standard agreement, bundled in with a Mastodon installation, indicating that they were breaking it by doing this gathering of data. I would like to argue that there may be ethical considerations about not technically breaking any legal barriers. What do I mean when I say this? I’m trying to convey that the legal considerations could have also had ethical concerns. As the saying goes: just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
In the legal section they also write:
I can understand that if a legal document does not explicitly mention something you may feel like you have free rein. Stating that there is nothing explicitly mentioned, may indicate that there’s something implicit that they chose to ignore. However, they do not elaborate. If they had followed the legal considerations up with the ethical considerations, maybe they could have discussed the ethical implications of the decision they made there.
Further, they do recognize that each instance has the ability to adopt their own Terms of Service (ToS), but then seemed to have not followed through and actually checked if any of these 300 something servers had added their own ToS. I feel like there’s a clear disregard for the possibility of there being other ToS. With no indication that they checked a certain % (say 10%) of the listed servers and their ToS, which would have showed that a clear “majority” used the standard ToS. They could have recognized what differences do exist. I feel like there was simply an assumption rather than actual research done for this part.
Did they make any ethical considerations? It seems to mostly reflect the collection methodology, rather than answering any ethical questions, such as:
Would the users of Mastodon want to / expect to have their data scraped?
Would it be better to ask servers/users if they would want to participate in the research?
Is this research actually a Computer Science research, or should it be a Social studies research paper, taking into consideration such ETHICAL questions?
Should Computer Science have mandatory ethics courses?
Credit where credit is due: The last question is lifted from several people on the fediverse who’ve asked it before this research paper was published, and continued to ask after it was published.
I think the biggest issue here, is that because these researchers do not seem to understand some of the culture on Mastodon (no there’s not only one culture, but there are some which come to mind for me) and have some basic misconceptions about the community and software, it was hard to come to any useful ethical considerations. Would they have allowed themselves to come to the conclusion that they should not publish their paper? Probably not.
In their methodology they described how they interpreted the technological “sensitive” field in the meta data:
“each toot provides the fields related to the inappropriate-ness of its content, namely the entries “sensitive”, “content”,“spoiler-text” and “language”. The boolean field “’sensitive” indicates whether or not the author of the toot thinks that the content is appropriate. If the toot is inappropriate, the field is set up to “True” and the field “spoiler-text” would contain a brief and publicly available description of the content.” (Sic)
Correction: The sensitive tag happens when someone adds a Content Warning to their post. The sensitive tag says nothing about the actual content, and what the person thought about it when they did us (I’ll elaborate on what Content Warnings mean culturally on Mastodon further down).
However, they had interpreted the technical function of content warnings correctly, with this first two sentences:
“By clicking on the “CW” button, a user can enter a short summary of what the ”body” of her post contains, namely a spoiler-text, and the full content of her toot. Automatically, the system marks this toot as “sensitive” and only shows the spoiler-text in all the timelines. (…)
The next part was unfortunately where one of the misinterpretations of the data happened:
“(…) We exploit this latter feature to build our released dataset. This way the toots are labelled by the users, and we assume that they are aware of the policy of the instance and aware of what is appropriate or not for their community.”
This section emphasizes that they believe that the Content Warning is only used to mark content as sensitive if it’s inappropriate, and if it does not belong on the server. Correction: If the content does not belong on the server, the users is most likely going to be banned.
This point was an reiteration of the previous statement in the methodology:
“Here we describe the collection methodology of the two main elements of our dataset: i) the instance meta-data and ii) the local timelines of all the instances which allow toots written in English.
Specifically, we are interested in the full description of each instance and the list of allowed topics. From our viewpoint, these two fields contain the information related to the context which makes a post inappropriate or not.”
The misinterpretations seem to be stemming from assumptions, rather than research, about how the technology is used, what the “sensitive” tag actually means, and how it’s used on the over 300 servers used. This leads me to the cultural and social misinterpretation.
The Social Construct of the Content Warning
I believe that the biggest issue is that this research was in computer science, without any social science involved, with no consideration to the social part of social media. I’ve already noted that their assumption and interpretation is incorrect, so how are the Content Warnings used?
While I only have the empirical evidence from the servers I’m connected with, I’m still going to go out and say that: Content Warnings are in fact not used for content we do not believe belong in our communities.
Rather, Content Warnings can be used in many ways. One way to describe it is simply as a subject line, similar to email. In some cases we will talk about more sensitive subjects, like addictions, drugs, war, news, politics. This is not to hide the content, but rather to offer the people reading it a chance to decide if they want to open it or not. If today is a day where reading about US Politics would just drain all my energy, I can choose to not open it.
We can also use it for other things, that may be slightly sensitive to some, like food, meat, sex, nudity, private, venting (of emotions). It’s also common to use for post about money, house-hunting, mental and physical health, very positive emotions and very negative emotions. In some cases it offers us a chance to unburden ourselves, without dumping those emotions onto someone who is not given a fair chance to prepare themselves for it.
There are other fantastic uses for Content Warnings, one which is especially dear to the community’s heart is as a setup for a joke. Some times the same CW will circulate in a meme like fashion, and contain things that make us giggle. Another common one is as spoiler warnings for Movies or TV series, or even books or other readings. You can then use the headline to tell everyone which TV series you’re about to talk about, and also denote which episode. This was great towards the last year of Game of Thrones for example, when a lot of people would be talking about it the day of the new episode.
So, to emphasize, we do not post Content Warnings because we believe the subject is inappropriate, we just want to offer the reader of the post the chance to give informed consent. And using informed consent, is something which I believe the authors of the research could take a lesson from.
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A new feature was added to Mastodon, and that was account migration. I moved accounts from mastodon.social to elekk.xyz 1.5 years ago and I was wondering how my followers would look like if I migrated them over. Prepare for epic mistake, a realization of unintended consequences of the migration feature, and what we can try to learn from it?
I did not reflect on this until after I saw how many accounts I was forcing to follow my “new” account this morning while I was pressing accept on them. I had started the process last night mostly thinking “it can’t be that much can it”. Watching all the follow requests (because my current account is private) made me realize that I was forcing a lot of accounts, who may have chosen to unfollow me or not follow my new account, to follow me. In light of that I decided to use this opportunity to write a blog post about it, to actually share my findings and thoughts about the whole process.
Important things to note: Mastodon.social does not seem to purge old accounts, at any point. (I don’t remember if this is a software issue that it’s not available, but the admin of mastodon.social is also the main developer of the software.) I think maybe because people use it as a backup, which makes sense. But I still strongly believe that they could send out a warning email after 3-6-12 months saying that the account will be removed if they don’t log in within say 3 months from that email. This would mean that I probably wouldn’t still have access to my old account, which I don’t use and haven’t really used for 1.5 years, and I would not be able to do what I just did.
What is Account Migration on Mastodon?
Simply put, it’s a built in feature, where on your new account you tell it that you’ve moved from another account.
In a few steps: Account A is my previous account, Account B is my new account. Account B sets “I have migrated from account A” in it’s settings, and allows for the ability to migrate in followers. On Account A you start the migration by saying that you’ve now moved to Account B. As soon as you start the process the Account B’s server will probably chug for a bit as it starts processing the requests from Account A’s server (I’m unsure in which way it’s doing it exactly).
Account Migration is Good
Being able to migrate your account is great. And a few days ago I noticed it when someone wrote “I guess I’m posting here now” and I was already following them. I was first a bit confused, and then realized that they had used the migration tool, and I was pleased to see that I was following that new account immediately and not missing out.
Recently, I had caught someone’s “This is my last post from this account, if you haven’t already you should follow my new account”, I can’t remember if it was on Twitter or Mastodon. But it happened, and I was happy they reminded us, because sometimes you just don’t see those things.
These are some obvious cases where it’s good as we’re able to keep following people we’ve chosen to follow. But what happens if we chose to not follow their new account, or later unfollowed it, and they do this migration late?
Malicious by Mistake
What I ended up doing last night is definitely malicious use of this current feature, even if this was never my intent when I started the migration. I was mid-through accepting followers when I realized that this was turning into a very malicious use of this feature. I want to apologize for that, I’m sorry that I ended up doing this, and following through with it. When I realized, I did still followed through because I felt it was an important part of the process, and would yield useful data as allow me to process what was happening, and what to write in this post about it.
It is possible that you saw the link to this post when I posted it after having accepted the follow requests that you did not make. Because as soon as it hit me, I realized I needed to not post anything until I had finished off with this blog post, so you could read about what happened.
Lessons to Learn
I will definitely not do something like this again, where I migrate very old account followers. Why did I not just stop immediately when I realized? I think I was mechanically just going through the process, and doing so allowed me to figure out all the things that was wrong with it. And being half way through my brain kept insisting that we finished, because there’s no other way to remove follow requests.
Do migrate your followers, when you’re on an active account. But do not migrate your followers from an account that has been inactive for 1.5 years.
There’s a few improvements that I’ve been mulling over with regards to the follower and follows management of Mastodon, and in some regard they also apply here.
Do not migrate followers that are other migrated accounts (I’m not 100% sure if it does this, but it seemed like it may have.)
Offer option to only migrate mutual followers.
Allow Account C (the follower account) to receive a follows suggestion or request instead of doing it “seamlessly”
Do not allow accounts that have been inactive for 6-12 months migrate their followers.
Do not migrate inactive accounts (maybe allow user to set a time frame, 3 – 6 – 12 months.)
Allow private accounts to mass reject follow requests (because right now I’m stuck with a long queue.)
Do you have any suggestions for improvements?
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