Words are as loaded as ever while simultaneously carrying little to no meaning.
Back in March, Lindsay Ellis, a New York Times best-selling author and a film critic YouTuber with 1,000,000+ subscribers, said this in a now-deleted Tweet:
Also watched Raya and the Last Dragon and I think we need to come up with a name for this genre that is basically Avatar: the Last Airbender reduxes. It’s like half of all YA fantasy published in the last few years anyway
For that string of words, she said she was “harassed to her breaking point” and announced on December 28 that she’s quitting.
My friend Dea brought the situation to my attention back when Ellis was still resisting the absurdity.
The almost 2 hours long video where Ellis explains everything is at the very least an interesting analysis of cancel culture and how capricious people’s scrutiny can be over the words people choose.
Here are the video sections:
- 00:00 : Intro
- 04:46 : Twitter is garbage
- 14:21 : “”Valid criticism””
- 18:16 : White nonsense
- 27:01 : My list of sins
- 01:11:13 : The tweet
- 01:16:52 : She deserved it
- 01:22:37 : You’re next
- 01:25:56 : The beast
- 01:33:39 : What now
- 01:35:58 : It can happen to you
At the same time, online spaces, Twitter especially, are filled to the brim with incongruous points and words that don’t make sense when you look at them for longer than a fraction of a second.
Twitter holds the record for my “most blocked people on a platform,” which is comical considering:
- 95% of what I post there doesn’t come from my brain (I mean, it’s retweets, not like I have a Twitter ghostwriter [like a lot of thought leaders do])
- I rarely engage with people beyond Liking their Tweets.
Twitter (and other internet spaces) is where people with severely underused critical thinking skills THRIVE. People will deduct meaning out of thin air and claim what you said actually meant something else. The video below does a fantastic job explaining how often we butcher words and comprehension online.
That being said, while words mean the world to some and are frivolous to others, I’ll go ahead and make a loaded statement.
I think I have… a healthy relationship with the internet.
There’s no “thin line” between real life and the online world for me. While I’m aware the online world is very real too and that it involves tangible advantages and consequences, IRL and online are 2 separate, remarkably different realities for me.
I’ve set strong boundaries over what can or can’t (and shouldn’t) be shared here.
Catching up with a friend? We’d have a lot to talk about, even if my friend has read every article of mine and consumes all the forms of media I put out (newsletters, podcast episodes, Instagram stories).
Unless we had met up for coffee or drinks–or coffee and drinks, I don’t mind, I have all the time in the world because time is on my side–there’s a lot they wouldn’t know about. I prefer it that way.
The pros outweigh the cons by a long shot.
The (first and last) time I got into an internet fight with a celebrity
I know exactly what I was doing on April 20, 2020.
Well, yes, I was quarantining (as a huge military tank circulated the otherwise empty city, stating, “Do not leave your house. Wash your hands and stay home.”), but I also:
- Heard back from a potential freelance writing client who said they were excited to move forward with some of the topics I had suggested covering. Soon after, I decided to drop this client altogether. Long story.
- Saved this quote: We have no right to ask when sorrow comes, “Why did this happen to me?” unless we ask the same question for every joy that comes our way.
- Was inspired (well, scared) by a journalist on Twitter sharing her horror stories about losing work because of dead sites and bankrupt businesses, so I saved 66 pieces I’d written for others locally on my PC.
- Felt excited that my article A Trip Back in Time, Stats, Action Bias: How to Find the Perfect Job for You had 5.51 views for visitor.
- Saved a hair product recommended by a Curly Girl Method blogger. I was still listening to that nonsense back then. Long story, some of it briefly mentioned in 14 things I still haven’t figured out at 25.
- Retweeted “It never stops. I always feel you.” Still true.
- Got in a fight with a celebrity.
I’m not proud of #7, but I also won’t let the opportunity to reflect pass me by.
Before you accuse me of clickbaiting, I’ll start off by saying “fight” and “celebrity” are used very loosely here.
fight: more than 2 (two) back and forth heated replies, where at least 1 (one) person insinuates something negative about the other's character celebrity: a non-troll person with a verified profile on Instagram (and 448,000+ followers as of December 2021)
On April 20, acting like I celebrate 420 (aka the marijuana holiday), I decided to speak my mind in what is possibly the worst place to do so, The Comment Section™️ (of a part-time meme page nonetheless).
I adore The Cut’s articles, but their Instagram gives me an unpleasant feeling, like they’re trying too hard.
A similar, but weirder, predicament is true for Grazia UK, a weekly women’s magazine. Their Instagram account is filled with humorous memes about relentless self-sabotage, toxic relationships, bad bosses, among others. I enjoy following someone who works for Grazia who shares these memes, often leaving me feeling puzzled (and/or miserable).
I tried linking to some of these memes here, but they’re all gone?!
Scrolling back to September 20, all I could find on their Instagram was exactly what you’d expect to see: politics, style, news about a celebrity’s love life, skincare. Almost all the self-deprecating memes were gone. Maybe I dreamt it up, maybe Grazia UK changed their social media strategy, maybe it’s Maybelline.
I was able to find 2 just to give you an idea of what I’m referring to:
- this post with the caption “My untouched meal prep watching me open the Uber eats app for the third night in a row”
- this other one, showing Emma Watson and Rupert Grint holding hands, where Emma represents “me deciding I’m not going to fight with my boyfriend this Christmas” and Rupert represents “3 glasses of white wine.”
Looking back, The Cut seems to have moved on from memes as well. I’ll investigate.
On April 20, though, The Cut posted this video.
Did you watch it?
I did and it made me quite angry. Back in April, Tik Tok wasn’t yet a thing in my psyche. I hadn’t seen hundreds of disturbing news regarding assault and rape or important information regarding racism or traumatic experiences, announced in short video form, accompanied by silly sounds and dances like I have now.
My thought process after seeing that video: “These fuckers. Breathe. Let it go. Breathe. Let me see the comments, I’m sure someone has already voiced my concerns eloquently and I won’t have to comment myself. Oh my God, no one has. Breathe. Let it go. Actually, you know what?!”
I commented something along these lines:
This isn’t right. While I can tell that the girl wasn’t hurt physically and the video was staged, it still doesn’t justify pushing kids aside and forcing them to put on an act for “content.”
I was the first to say it too. All the other comments were LOLs, #me, or coming from the fascinating breed of people who tag their friends in memes rather than sending them the meme as a message. I would pay to know how their brains work.
Well, someone did say: “She’ll bring this up in therapy in 15 years”, which gave me hope. However, when pressed by the replies (“It’s very obviously rehearsed” and “ugh god would you relax”), they said it was a joke, “because everyone is in therapy now for everything”. Welp!
I started getting replies, all but one (shout out to you!) negative.
One of the replies I received was from Sir John, said celebrity (with almost 500,000 followers) I mentioned above. From what I can tell, he’s a very talented makeup artist. He did Beyoncé’s makeup, need I say more?!
The Instagram algorithm considers comments from verified people “more valuable,” so it shows them among the first few comments, which obviously get the most views. Comments started pouring in. The Cut has 1,3 million followers. That kind of engagement was a little unusual for me.
Sir John had tagged the mother in the video in his reply to my comment, saying that my claim was outrageous and Coco was a great mother and that something must be wrong with me for me to think that way. Again, I don’t have screenshots of the back and forth conversation, so you’ll have to rely on my memory.
Now you might be thinking, Delfina didn’t you just scroll back to The Cut’s posts from April 2020 (they have 11,442 posts)? Couldn’t you find the comments as well so we could have the real tea, not this lukewarm leaf water you’re serving?
I couldn’t, but not because I got frustrated scrolling through hundreds of comments.
Something else I remember from April 20 is that I worked out. My phone helped me remember the other 6 things I mentioned doing that day through photos and screenshots, but that’s now how I remember the workout.
I usually work out in the evening, so considering The Cut posted the video around 4pm my time, and assuming I commented an hour later and worked out at 8.30pm, I’d been getting negative comments for 3.5 hours. I brushed off the comments and didn’t engage with most of them, but I thought of them while I worked out.
It felt gross. I deleted my comment shortly afterward.
It felt pointless. The people in the replies weren’t making me change my mind or even consider another point of view. Granted, civilized discourse is rarely the point of someone’s comment on the internet. Many just want to vent and tell you they disagree and that you’re wrong. Often, you’re “thick in the head” too.
Social media feels real to me when it affects our offline life, views, livelihood (as is the case for influencers), and, unfortunately often, our safety.
Here’s a dreary excerpt from #CouchGuy, who had his relationship, body language, and faithfulness thoroughly analyzed and questioned by millions of strangers on the internet.
“On Sept. 17, 2021, my long-distance girlfriend, Lauren, paid a surprise visit to me while a friend filmed my reaction. Three days later, she set the 19-second clip to a hokey Ellie Goulding song and posted it to roughly 200 TikTok followers. The first commenters—Lauren’s close friends—had positive things to say. But soon strangers—among whom the video was less well received—began commenting, criticizing my reaction time or my being seated on a couch next to friends who happened to be of the opposite sex. “Girl he ain’t loyal.” “Red flag!”[….] On TikTok, Lauren’s video and the hashtag #CouchGuy, respectively, have received more than 64 million and 1 billion views.
At times, the investigation even transcended the digital world—for instance, when a resident in my apartment building posted a TikTok video, which accumulated 2.3 million views, of himself slipping a note under my door to request an interview….. Meanwhile, as internet sleuths took to public online forums to sniff out my name, birthdate, and place of residence, the threat of doxxing loomed over my head.
– I’m the TikTok Couch Guy. Here’s What It Was Like Being Investigated on the Internet.
Doxxing and infidelity. All from a 19-second TikTok.
The comment fiasco didn’t affect my safety. It didn’t affect my “real” life views either. It’s not like I changed my mind, started watching family vlogs, and no longer found this type of kid content disturbing all of a sudden.
Related: Second article in a row of me shouting out Unnatural Vegan, one of my favorite logical YouTubers. This time I’d like to suggest 2 of her family vlogging videos:
I thought my healthy relationship with the internet, and social media specifically, stemmed from various internal factors, some of which I’ve written about in Introducing Social Media in a New Light— How We’ve Been Fighting the Wrong Addiction All Along and What to Do Instead, but turns out I can attribute a huge chunk of our successful relationship to Michael Scott’s philosophy.
(Please watch this video!)
“Don’t ever, for any reason, do anything, to anyone, for any reason, ever, no matter what, no matter where, or who, or who you are with, or where you are going, or where you’ve been, ever, for any reason whatsoever.”
JK. Kinda. Obviously, I have a lot of opinions I express openly, loudly, frequently and have been doing so since November 17, 2015.
On the other hand, though, this was the first and last time I got in a fight with strangers on the internet.
It’s a very Don Quixote-esque thing to do. A very milk crate challenge thing to do. It goes straight to my people mistakenly answering the question “Can I?” instead of “Should I?“ folder.
Can I speak my mind in random posts on random pages? Sure. Should I? Meh.
Can you walk up a pyramid of milk crates? Maybe. Should you? I’m not sure.
Scrambled eggs with an espresso machine. Can you do it? Turns out you can. Should you, though?
Okay, okay, I lovingly called The Cut “random” for the sake of the argument. Don’t get weird.
I’ve had wonderful conversations with my readers. We disagree often. This is something I feel I “should” do, however. I love critical engagement, so I want to see it happen and encourage it in my spaces on the interwebs, like my Instagram or my blog.
I have a healthy relationship with the internet and I intend to keep it that way.
My healthy relationship with the internet – 6 other potential reasons
#1 Organizing my life to optimize my personal energy
I’m a bit of a minimalist/ reductionist/ simplifier. Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic, made me realize that I organize my life to optimize my personal energy and happiness, despite how selfish it looks like I’m being. It’s a good thing, try it.
#2 Optimism bias
I’m also a bit of a rational optimist. God knows how much I despise saying “I’m a ___” (which is weird considering how much I enjoy categorizing, sensemaking, and content models), but stay with me here.
I take conscious steps to further my optimism bias, like:
- have a Brag Folder
- avoid the news (and keeping in mind that “Most well-read U.S. media are outliers in terms of their negativity”)
- question the fucked up shit I hear.
“It’s true, I have rose-colored glasses on, but I’ve fought long and hard for them. I don’t intend to take them off. I can’t pretend I don’t see allll the people who are making the world a better place just by the way they’re existing and what they’re emphasizing.“
#3 My altruism research findings were positively surprising
In university, for my Social Psychology class, I interviewed 80 people to find out if pure altruism exists.
Spoiler alert: it does. This deepened one of my core beliefs that people are good.
#4 Remember the sequin pillow
Here’s a life-changing, breakthrough teaching from Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High.
Crucial conversations are debates whose outcomes can be so good or so terrible as to make or break your entire perception of the person and the relationship.
These are some common crucial conversations:
- Ending a relationship
- Asking a roommate to move out
- Asking a friend to repay a loan
- Talking to a coworker about a personal hygiene problem.
Whenever you find yourself in a heated discussion (or a crucial conversation) with someone, ask yourself this question:
“Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do what this person is doing?”
In my book, this is what I call Remember the sequin pillow. You can find out why here.
#5 Rutger Bregman let me in on humanity’s best kept secret
Veneer theory is fake. Lord of The Flies too. We live on Planet A. Rebecca Solnit found that during the 9/11 terrorist attack, people would actually say: “No, no, you first” or “No, no, please take my place.”
Where’s Planet A? You can read all about it here. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from my article:
This is human nature. This is humanity’s best kept secret, that under duress, we won’t kill each other, metaphorically and literally, but we’ll join forces. In wars, our morale won’t suffer, but we’ll get stronger. In plane crashes, in terrorist attacks, we won’t run for cover and ruin anything in our way, au contraire, we’ll help each other to get out safe, even if that means risking our own lives. We’re good fucking people, despite what Freud, Hitler, Lindemann, or Golding would have us believe.
Okay, I have one other excerpt, this one’s from Bregman himself:
“To stand up for human goodness means weathering a storm of ridicule. You’ll be called naive. Obtuse. Any weakness in your reasoning will be mercilessly exposed. Basically, it’s easier to be a cynic.
The pessimistic professor who preaches the doctrine of human depravity can predict anything he wants, for if his prophecies don’t come true now, just wait: failure could always be just around the corner. Or else, his voice of reason has prevented the worst. The prophets of doom sound oh so profound, whatever they spout.
The reasons for hope, by contrast, are always provisional. Nothing has gone wrong–yet. You haven’t been cheated–yet. An idealist can be right her whole life and still be dismissed as naive.”Humankind: A Hopeful History, Rutger Bregman
Dismiss me as naive. I’ll be right my whole life.
I’m a Stoic. To me, being immune to misfortune is more about the way we react to misfortune rather than about never encountering misfortune. I concern myself with what I can control and what’s within my power to change.
I won’t sit here and pretend I don’t complain about the weather or the traffic, especially when I’m trying to make small talk with a taxi driver.
But I’ve realized that Stoic teachings are something I will come back to often. At the moment, I’m all in and doing so well in tending to my own garden and doing what I can do rather than worrying about all that I can’t do.
Can you imagine how much energy we’d save if we only focused on what’s under our control? Can you imagine how much calmer and happier we’d be if we focused on what we can change, rather than online fights and the like?