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Month: September 2023

Giving people grace in online discourse

Giving people grace in online discourse

I loved this piece – investing from a cave – mostly because I have been discussing the same thing with Mr. Tucker lately. When I started this blog and when I set up my Instagram I limited comments. Why? Because I used to work in social media, that’s why. I know people are going to hate this because in the past 15 years since social media became a HUGE thing we have been told that everyone has a right to their opinion in the online town square but I am here to say the opposite: no. No, I don’t need to hear every opinion under the sun. In fact, it is probably better that I don’t.

This is not to say that I don’t respect people’s ability to have their own space to voice their own opinions: I most certainly do! But I don’t feel like I should have to “take it” just because it’s online and some bro is screaming, “freedom of speech!” at me. That’s why I tightly control the spaces I have created. While this could be a lengthy treatise on the state of online discourse, that would just be beating a dead horse. We all know that the state of online conversation often rapidly descends into name-calling, abuse and even threats. People have actually died from swatting so it’s a very serious issue that should be taken seriously. I take it seriously by not allowing comments to blow up to that level by …not allowing comments. It’s also why the first thing I did when I went on disability leave was to shitcan twitter. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

I do maintain a facebook account for community stuff as well as to keep in contact with certain people. I also have Instagram to document photos and keep up with an entirely different group of people. Often, the algorithm will serve me up some random content – usually a reel – with 20k+ comments on it. It’s just so shocking to me that 20k+ people felt the urge to spend some time of their “one wild and precious life” to argue, denigrate and generally act like an ass online. WHY? Are we so addicted to the dopaminergic buzz we get from beefing with strangers that we let it consume our minutes, hours and days? Clearly the answer is yes. What’s more, other people create this content in order to sew discord amongst people with their hot takes in order to generate income. What a mess.

I have been on the internet for a very, very long time and I remember the days of Livejournal with its snark communities (no literally, they were called Snark_OtherCommunityName) that were designed to trash posts where people were (often) asking really dumb questions. To this day I cannot remember even one of the arguments I had 20 years ago on Livejournal. All those hours spent angry and trying to one-up people was in the end, a ridiculous waste of my time.

As the newer platforms ramped up, reacts & comment sections did similar dirty work on public accounts, and it got worse and worse as the algorithms keyed into the fact that enragement is engagement. If you haven’t read The Chaos Machine yet, I highly recommend it. It details the far-reaching consequences of that business model and how it’s undermined democracy, encouraged genocide and rewired our brains. It’s a great read and a macrocosm of the online negativity we’ve all experienced.

I spend a lot of time thinking about how humans historically have had about 100 people in their circle and even the people who ventured outside of their small hamlets have really only come across about 500. Compare that to the 22k+ comments on a reel and it is no wonder we are living in a time of huge anxiety and worry. Marketing and algorithms favour making us feel inadequate and promote lies and misinformation, so no wonder we are confused, depressed and miserable.

This isn’t to say that I don’t love a rousing debate – because I do! In fact, in high school I was co-captain of the debate team. Nothing fills me with more joy than a couple of pints at the pub with some of my friends, discussing weighty issues. In general, social convention often (but not always) dictates that these conversations are what Nick Cave calls Good Faith Conversations. Here is the difference between a battle of minds at the pub and online comment sections: there is a real, live person in front of you. No one is hiding behind a screen spewing off rage, you know who you are speaking to and you know how to shut things down if they become overheated. It’s much more difficult to read someone’s intent or rage levels when they are behind an avatar. In-person discussions with strangers tend to be kinder, more respectful because you can see their faces, see their feelings and have to often live with them in your community. Conversations happen in the moment, giving people time and space to explain themselves as opposed to online where dialogue can be stretched out over myriad days as just when you think the convo has ended…some random person jumps in and starts fighting all over again. It feels like you constantly have to look over your shoulder because you never know when the attack may start afresh (it’s also why I make all of my facebook posts private after 24 hours – to control the time I spend on there).

Also, we are so much different online than in other sphere of our lives. We act differently around our grandparents than we do our friends. We speak in different tones to our children than we do our bosses. Context matters. So for a lot of people social media has been a balancing act between saying what we feel vs. not saying anything at all for fear of alienating certain groups of people in our lives. Sure, we can have different accounts or use filtered lists (and block the more unsavoury people we still need to keep in touch with) but often it is just easier to keep our social media to the most innocuous content. This makes us feel disingenuous and alienated and sometimes I wonder if it is just easier to not have any content at all.

I am grateful to the internet for bringing me some of the closest, most amazing friends I have ever had but with that comes a dark side. I enjoy blogging and I enjoy reading blogs. I don’t even mind respectful, contrarian points being made. But much too often I see even the most normal people react in extreme ways to content they don’t enjoy or agree with – myself included. Sometimes I will go back and read comments I’ve left previously and they come off as harsh when I intended them to just be factual. That is the challenge with online discourse: you have no frame of reference in body language or knowledge of people’s personalities so it can be read in a completely different tone by different people. Previously I always read comments as being more negative in tone but over the years I have learned to give people more grace and until they show me otherwise, I choose to read their commentary positively instead. It’s difficult and I don’t always hit the target but I do try. We are all human though and are ruled by human foibles like overreacting when we have had a bad day.

Still, in the end, if you don’t like the content I am serving, you are free to not read it at all. You are also free to post a counter-argument in your own space. But you will have to excuse me if I choose to not debate you in public. I don’t have time to respond to pile-ons from strangers and quite frankly, you shouldn’t either. No two people are going to agree 100% of the time and that’s ok. Scroll on my friend, just scroll on.

Let’s all go for a walk and touch some grass.

A major, life-changing surgery

A major, life-changing surgery

All we have for coffee this morning is some dark roast that we’ve accidentally purchased. I have drowned it with sugar (I take my coffee without sugar generally) in the hopes that I can get through it. I don’t want to throw it out but it still may end up on Buy Nothing.

This morning is the first time I have really been able to sit up straight for a decent period of time so I figure I would update on how my surgery went. It’s 11 days post-operation today and I am feeling pretty great. For those of you who are interested and who don’t get squicked out by talk of surgery and/or menstruation, I have put the details after the READ MORE below so that you don’t have to continue if you don’t want to. But for people who have struggled with their monthly cycles their entire life – like me – I hope this helps other peeps with functioning uteri make informed decisions. This post is actually taken from a series of posts/comments from facebook so it may not be as well written.

Warning: graphic.

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No good deed goes unpunished OR let’s reno a condo!

No good deed goes unpunished OR let’s reno a condo!

I’ll be quite honest with you: I never wanted to be a landlord. I had no dreams of a real estate empire or building equity in owning buildings. It’s risky, a lot of work and it’s not my thing at all. Now with the increasing interest rates bearing down on people it’s terrifying to think of how leveraged some people are*.

But when we moved into our current house, I jointly-owned a condo downtown with a relative. Mr. Tucker & I began our life in there with our dog Dixie so it holds some nostalgia for us. This relative also owed me a lot of money for making capital repairs to their home while we rented the house from them (it is quite confusing but originally the plan was that we were supposed to switch homes and we would pay a certain amount. It didn’t work out.). At the same time ANOTHER relative was breaking up with a partner and struggling. So it made sense to just let the second relative move in at cost and figure things out from there because…

We had moved in December two weeks before Christmas, then a series of misfortunate events happened:
– We discovered that the condo had been basically destroyed by water & smoke damage and we suddenly had to do a lot of renovations
– The kids started in their new school and it was a challenging time
– I was diagnosed and we found ourselves suddenly without one income

I thought things couldn’t get worse from there but over the course of the next year we discovered that the relative we had rented to was unreliable. It was nothing too onerous: partial payments here, asking to borrow money there but there were definitely signs. Two weeks before the following Christmas we got a call that they were struggling a lot with their mental health and so they moved into our house for a few weeks as I helped them chase down emergency therapy supports around the city. It was then that we discovered that they were deeply in debt and struggling, so (stupidly) Mr. Tucker and I offered to help consolidate their debts onto my line of credit** and help them get back on their feet again. Previously they had been a pretty responsible adult with a great job so we figured they only needed a bit of a boost. I smartly had a lawyer friend witness a contract agreement between us both that had this relative paying us a certain amount every two weeks with the goal of paying it all off and building back their credit.

I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty of it but as it turns out this person hasn’t been going to work. They got by in various ways, I guess, but in May of this year they basically just stopped paying and didn’t return calls, texts or emails. In August Mr. Tucker had to go down to the condo and ask them to leave in person. They still haven’t spoken to me and have now holed up in YET ANOTHER relative’s basement.

So for the SECOND time in 5 years we found ourselves doing a complete renovation of a trashed condo. The floors are damaged, there is smoke damage, and all of the appliances need to be replaced. So once again we find ourselves paying a mortgage and condo fees on a place that is unrentable and unsaleable. It is compounded by the fact that I have a broken foot still, school starts on Tuesday and I have a major abdominal surgery on Wednesday so Mr. Tucker will need to stay with me for that first week.

Originally Mr. Tucker and I wanted to hire a contractor and just get it done as soon as possible. We thought we had found someone but then he basically bait-and-switched us for more money and asked for more time. Even though his prices were astronomical the timeline was such that he said he’d be able to complete the work quicker than anyone else, which is why we agreed to his terms. So him coming back and changing the terms was so weird that Mr. Tucker and I told him that we would discuss and get back to him. The next morning at 6am we received an email from his “son” saying that he had been injured (between the hours of 10pm and 6am – what rotten luck!) and that he would be out of commission for a few weeks…and then he posted a video on social media a few hours later of him doing some tree and hedge work. I just absolutely had to laugh at the ridiculousness. Just bow out gracefully, my dude, no need to make up stories.

Note saying to not use the microwave

At that point though Mr. Tucker had had enough. So we hit up the IKEA website, he borrowed tools from his dad and he just made the decision to DIY it. So far he’s gotten rid of the appliances, over this weekend he has replaced the countertops and taps in the bathroom and kitchen, will replace the showerhead, do some grouting & sealing and then hopefully paint it all so that we can stage it and get it on the market. What makes me laugh is that we will basically save $8500 by DIYing this project despite losing so much time with the back-and-forth with this “#OurCity’s Handman.” Mr. Tucker is essentially learning new skills out of spite and fueled by rage.

So I guess not all is lost: Mr. Tucker is impressed with how easy it is to install things from IKEA (which #OurCity’s Handman also said he uses), he’s enjoying the process of learning these new skills and a friend has offered to help us repair the floors where they have come up. Sure, it’s not an ideal situation but knowing what we know now I wish we had started two weeks ago instead of messing around and going back-and-forth with this numpty (we also have a local contractor who is lovely but he does amazing work, is reliable and so, is already busy).

Hopefully we can get it all cleaned up and looking great sooner rather than later and then our realtor friend will put it on the market for us. While we are both nostalgic for the great times we have had there, the future has us moving forward towards Mr. Tucker’s retirement. Keeping the condo isn’t an option unless he works full time and while we are sad to to let it go, we are happy that someone else can make great memories there.

Mr. Tucker is already talking about what projects he could also tackle around the house. So I guess if there is a sunny side to this story it is that it is fun to learn new skills & it is empowering to know you can DIY things…and of course, a special thanks to YouTube and IKEA.

*I am not, I could afford to keep the condo and rent it but again, I have no interest in being a landlord. We will try and sell it first and then if it doesn’t sell, we’ll consider it.
** Yes, yes…only lend money you can afford to give away. It won’t sink us but it is truly maddening.