‘Oh, my, God Becky, look at her butt…’: on judging & mansplaining & other such nonsense

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Student: Are you married? You look like a married person. You got kids? I can see you with like two kids, and you’re the mom making the healthy snacks.
Me: That is depressing. Next thing I know you are going to tell me I look like I have a minivan.
Student: Yes! You do- you’re a soccer mom for sure!
Me:
Student: But that’s not depressing though. You know what’d be depressing is like if you go home and you got cats, and you walk in and they’re like meow meow.

Let’s just get to it: I look a certain kind of way. Although, rest assured “Soccer Mom” is not, and has never been, the intended effect, I can see how I might present that way, especially to my young, female students of color – a demographic for whom I have both an immeasurable appreciation for, and an equally substantial gratitude for having been able to work along side of in a variety of capacities for more than two decades.

Here’s the basics. I am white. I am middle-aged. I am not a flashy human (save for my shoes, which if you have been following my current life trajectory, you might realize have been reprioritized for a minute #hipreplacement). I am not and have never been particularly trendy, whatever that means. I chalk that tendency up to several things: 1) not having unlimited funding to constantly ‘keep up’ with whatever or whomever; 2) being a big, tall, strong kid through the anorexic-heroin chic-body dysmorphic late 70s, 80s, and 90s; 3) a chosen profession where if you have crazy/flashy, or even just a distinctive accessory, you become “that one teacher who always wears that…” (I have never wanted to be trapped by a passing fancy.)

But really, I am just sort of subtle in my aesthetic choices. A former colleague once told me that he saw it as an cool juxtaposition of being a strong woman who took no shit and occupied many traditionally male spaces (social studies teacher and coach) and understood that how I dressed ran counter to expectations in a way that gave both aspects of who I am more gravitas. My grandma (my grandma for chrissakes) once lamented that I was “so conservative” as I was considering buying some new item of some sort on a trip we took to Europe. One of my long-time BFFs and confidantes has described my style (and me) thusly:

Anne Taylor Hippie? Your countenance, demeanor, appearance is classy Californian casual with some sassy blonde thrown in. No one knows you’re a secret hippie Deadhead from Petaluma. It’s as if you’ve come out from your past unscathed… no one would know about your travails, your missteps over the years. You look perfectly pristine and princess-y. You are the least obvious looking Patti Smith I know. You have the intellect, knowledge, and stories of a rock star, but you are chill as fuck to the unknowing masses.

(I like that last part the best, obviously.)

An interesting (euphemism alert) consequence of the reality that we are all more than the sum of the clothes on our backs + the work that we do + the places from which we hail is that I have been categorically chastised and condescended to in professional settings based on an assumption that I am less equipped to do the work I do because of how I look on two very specific occasions. That this happened most recently on Wednesday of last week at my new job, was disappointing, but also clarifying in some important ways for me (in addition to the comments that were posted on my FB page in response to the opening anecdote of this post) that underscore the power of how we look, the words we use, and the ways we understand the interactions that arise from it all.

The first incident occurred in my first year at Berkeley High School on the occasion of me receiving what is likely to this day the worst professional evaluation I have ever received. The evaluator, a VP at the time with definite eyes on a principalship he would never get at BHS, was a sharp dressed, well-educated Latino, who felt that he was vastly more equipped to work with young people of color than anyone, and certainly more than I could ever be – a generic white woman, most recently teaching at a nearby district with a distinctively different demographic, and before that Asia… he actually would later say to me, “How could a person used to dealing with those kinds of students understand the students I was working with at BHS?” [There is SO much to unpack in that statement.]

The thing about this particular evaluation is that when I read it, it seemed completely dissociated from what had been happening in the classroom. I was not even sure how to engage in a conversation around it because I had no understanding of what was being discussed in the evaluation. The immediate result of this was that on subsequent evaluations there would be an additional person in the room. We settled on our school counselor. This would prove to be an even bigger problem because his inability to see actual areas of strength and need for improvement would be further obstructed by the presence of an additional white woman.

The second evaluation was (in my mind) an even stronger class. For whatever reason, that day, those sophomores decided to be active, interested, curious, engaged, cooperative… I mean, frankly, it was bizarre. At the conclusion of the class, the three adults in the room left seemingly on the same page. At the debrief I was shocked. I sat and listened to his assessment and literally had no words. The second set of eyes that had been in the room was also there for the debrief (we had decided via union reps that I would not meet with this VP alone after the previous experience) and where I was stunned to silence she became enraged in spite of her best efforts to remain completely calm. I ended up leaving while the two of them stayed because I had to teach, but I remember distinctly hearing her say, “I cannot believe we were in the same classroom based on what you have written here.”

Long story slightly less long, the struggle for this VP to see that I could possibly bring anything not just of value, but that would not be toxic to my students continued. He said, “You do not understand children of color. You do not connect with them, particularly the young women.” No one I worked with could understand where this was coming from, and the student population that I worked most closely with would certainly contradict this assessment. Eventually, I would end up contacting a lawyer and be assigned a different evaluator.

I never really understood what the issue had been, but it really did seem like the way I presented myself – from how I looked, to how I talked, to how I worked with students – prevented this man from seeing what I was actually doing at the school. While my pseudo-bougieness has become somewhat of a calling card (emphasis on pseudo) I assure you I am in on the joke.

So much about how we look can be deceiving… No?

Last Tuesday, several days into PD for the upcoming school year, a Black Latino teacher I am working with (who ironically also worked for the aforementioned VP at the school he would eventually move to in order to secure a principalship) had an eruption in a team planing meeting. At the time, I felt like I understood the reaction – we were all tired and working to do something collaboratively that the majority of us were unclear about in terms of structure, cadence, and objective. That evening he emailed me saying he thought we should check in the next morning before PD. I said sure, I could make that happen and arrived that morning expecting him to say something along the lines of, “Hey, sorry for the outburst, just wanted to let you know where I was coming from…”

That was not what was awaiting me.

I showed up and we sat down and there began his soliloquy.

Unlike Omarosa, I was not prepared to tape it (though I see that as a mistake now as I try to make sense of it all) and so these are just some of the highlights absent the extremely verbose and rambling context built around his ‘I statements’ (sidebar: this man had just proclaimed the day before that he prided himself on timely and blunt feedback – there was not a single element of bluntness here.) The nutshell version of him talking at me for more than 30 minutes was that he does not like how I am. He circularly addressed how who he is does not allow for people like me, from the ways I conduct myself with others, to how I utilize time, among many other things. Suffice it to say, it was not the apology I thought I would be getting.

“I am at a point in my life where I have to address the things that trigger me. You took a phone call yesterday – I mean I took a call too, but you did not step outside!” (Nor did he, btw.)

“I feel I need to explain to you…” (I did not walk out at this point, but I must be honest, I am sort of done with men explaining things to me – shout out to Solnit and my entire life experience.)

“I am here to work and I want it to be a positive experience for me…” (What in the heck does he think other people are hoping for?)

“I have not always had good experiences working with others and being acknowledged for who I am at previous schools…” (I cannot even.)

“I want to respect your experiences as an educator, but…” (I have more than three times the number of years in the classroom as this man despite his being 5 years older than me, something that had come up earlier, which I think bothers him.)

I leave this as the last one (though it certainly was not the end of his presentation) because it was what really stayed with me. The idea that somehow my experience was less than. This man does not know a thing about me – who I am, what I have done, the work I have participated in, the students I have worked with, the way my classroom operates, but he felt he could speak to all of it.

This was troubling to me as I sat there conscious of my whiteness, which by definition is a privilege, and his being a man of color – no easy task in the world these days. How could I respond without simply negating his perspective (a known consequence of white privilege) but also speak to the clearly misogynistic diatribe I felt was being put on me? I considered all the ways he seemed to be trying to mitigate his speech and thought of a dear colleague from last year who had told me he never gets mad because he cannot – because being a black man removes that option for him in white spaces. I wondered what my new colleague’s actual point was (I am afraid I never got it, in spite of my efforts to do so) before it was lost in an overabundance of explanation and qualification about how who I am is less than simply because of who I am. Would it have been easier to understand if he had just said whatever it was that he meant even if it mean his getting angry?

Ultimately, I could not figure out why he felt so entitled that he could come at me and tell me how it all was. And then it hit me: all of these assumptions he was making were coming from his perception of me, which at this point could really only be based on how I present on the outside. I was stunned. His look is so hugely intentional and cultivated, I wonder if he really thinks that his look is him, in totality. I cannot imagine that is true, or that he believes it is.

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When I eventually had the chance to speak, I told him what I had heard him say, offering him a chance to clarify or correct my understanding – he did neither. I apologized for taking the phone call the previous day and said that while I would never intend to trigger him, I understood that had been the impact of my behavior. Here he began to explain how his experience led him to conclude something (I’m not sure what, I couldn’t keep up with the circles at this point) and I politely interjected and said:

I am not comfortable with your insistence on explaining things to me. I hear you say you want to respect my experience as a teacher- “but”. However, because you feel compelled to explain to me how things are it is clear the “but” is more significant than the respect. Perhaps I can share with you that men explaining things to me is one of my triggers. We are both new teachers here, ostensibly hired for a lot of the same reasons, so let’s agree that we are both bringing a lot to the table, including positive intent.

He said nothing.

I said “I hope you have a super productive and good day!” and walked away. If only walking away from preconceived notions was as easy.

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Basketball, Officiating, Sports Analysis, and the Journo Block on Twitter 👊

Let’s get a few things out of the way:

I hail from a basketball family. My grandfather was an all-state player in Minnesota who would have played college ball had he not enlisted to serve in WWII (imagine a 6’4″ guy assigned to a sub – but that is a story for another time.) My dad grew up playing hockey (logically: Minnesota) but when he moved to LA his sophomore year, he picked up basketball. He was an all-city player in LA and led his Granada Hills High School team to a really impressive section title over Roosevelt HS, 71-68. He was just that good of an athlete – able to switch sports without missing a beat. He got a full ride to Whitman College where I imagine he would have had a pretty solid career had the late 60s, Vietnam, and other extra-curricular interests not led to the University suggesting he might be better suited elsewhere. Pretty much all of my early memories of alone time with my dad involve watching basketball – either watching him play in his men’s league, or watching the NCAA or the NBA on a crap little television. It was one of the languages we spoke early on – and how I was able to watch the Warriors win their championship way back when – and be conscious of the magnitude of the moment – then and now.

So, of course, growing up, I decided I wanted to be a gymnast.

I should have done a little more observational research because it was clearly not in my tall family future. But I was committed – until the bars could no longer be adjusted enough to accommodate my quickly growing frame. (Starting 7th grade at 5’2″ things seemed plausible. Started 9th grade at 5’9″ so something had to give.)

Basketball it would be.

It was a good choice and basketball would be something that would inform much of my life for the next three decades.

I learned a lot from playing basketball, and while not the most natural talent, I was one of the hardest workers you could find. My coach would still attest to this (shout out to Petaluma High’s Doug Johnson who knew I was the perfect size to be a college guard, but I was convinced at 5’10” I would always be a forward, because teenagers know everything right?) and along with my work ethic was a seriousness with which I approached the game. Everyday I wanted to learn everything there was to learn in order to be better the next day. I was a work horse, there is no other way to describe it. I was (am) still pretty strong for my size and I rebounded like crazy – bumping uglies as Coach Izzo would say, and clearly fouled. A lot. I’ll just say I got very familiar with all of the officials in our league. But they too taught me a ton.

One of my high school English teachers was a Pac-10 ref at the time. We thought this was pretty cool (not as cool as he did, btw, but still.) Mr. R would talk about his side gig all the time and throughout my high school career he was definitely moving up the ranks in big time college officiating. This was when I started learning about how the ref game worked, there was a lot of give and take in order to move up the food chain and this guy was playing it perfectly. We will return to Mr. R presently.

I opted to run track in college – in hindsight not the right choice – but whatever. I stayed connected to basketball in a variety of ways: playing in rec leagues, coaching youth leagues, NCAA pools (I still recall the first time I picked the Final Four – 1990, UNLV, Duke, Arkansas, Georgia Tech – it impressed the heck out of my neighbors, too bad I didn’t get in on a pool that year.)

When I eventually decided to go into education I knew I would coach. I was the Varsity Assistant my first year at Balboa HS in SF where we won the section along with the boys, under their famous Jet Offense (yeah, it was cherry picking: Winters Patterson to Marquette Alexander for the title) Twice is Nice for Balboa was the headline. And it was here that I began to get a better understanding of the nuances of the game, and in particular officiating.

As I progressed through the ranks working up to what would be a 15 year varsity coaching career – girls in the season and boys in the summer (the boy’s coaches that I worked with would coach my girls and I would take their boys in the off-season leagues so that we did not break player contact rules, and I always appreciated that those coaches trusted me enough to do that – not many women get a chance to coach men (HUGE shout out to Becky Hammon and my perennial favorite Coach Pop.) With my growing experience, knowledge and love for the game, my biggest learning curve came when I began officiating. To be fair I was only officiating fall and summer ball, but my goodness – it changed everything. I have always been a pretty savvy conversationalist with officials and definitely was not above trying to charm them from the sidelines. It mostly worked, though I certainly earned some choice techs along the way. However, the summer I started working as an offical was a watershed moment.

My biggest takeaway was that perfection was not achievable, so consistency had to be the goal. I also became painfully aware of how officials can absolutely change a game – not necessarily through “bad” or “unfair” calls, but by inserting themselves too much into the game, by changing the pace of the game to something akin to pain for all involved, or simply by making the game about them.

I say all of this as a very long-winded way to say when a local sports journalist, who I am not sure has ever played or coached or officiated a game (if that matters), blocks me on Twitter (oh! The Horror!) because I make a snarky comment about the officiating assignment for a Warriors game (IT WAS SCOTT FOSTER FOR GOODNESS SAKES!) and suggests that I am some tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorist, I take serious issue with this.

Scott Foster and Tony Brothers are not good officials and I am defintiely not alone in this opinion. The two of them put far too much of their own ‘flavor’ (for lack of a better term) on a game. To be fair, they are consistent in their inconsistency, but they regularly make games unwatchable for me. And to be clear, I am not talking only about games that my favorite teams play in. I watch all the NBA games that are on tv. I watched all the NCAA games too – and any women’s games that the networks bothered to televise. I would never rarely say a ref cost a team (especially at the pro level) a game. Mr. R did not perform well on the largest stage I ever watched him officiate. Did he cost the Terrapins the game? Unlikely, although as they lost to Duke and I love Garry Williams and the Terps to the moon and back while simultaneously loathing the Blue Devils and their Grayson Allen culture, I would like to say this. But I do not say it because I know the game and I know better. However, I can still say Mr. R sucked that night.

And I can still say Scott Foster sucks on the regular. On Sunday Scott Foster was trending (why Brothers was not after the #TunnelTech is a mystery). Here is a quick peek at fans from across the country commenting on Mr. Foster.

 

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When I did a Twitter search I came across Tim Kawakami’s morning announcement of who would officiate game 4 of the Warriors-Spurs series. I retweeted his post with a comment: “Oh, this explains it. Had I had seen this I would not have rushed home to watch this game and stayed out to enjoy the weather” or something equally inane, and admittedly, not my most clever. (I later deleted it because I am not in the habit of trying offend, even the most sensitive on Twitter, although in hindsight that was dumb of me.) His response was swift.

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Now, I cannot say if Kawakami blocks people for breathing. But I can say I am well aware that these officials did not cost the Warriors the game (#AfternoonKlay). And I am still glad that I subscribe to The Athletic (Kawakami’s new gig) because I have been dying to see Ethan Sherwood Strauss‘ name back in the bylines and I rely on Marcus Thompson for good reporting. I am enjoying Anthony Slater quite a bit too.

What I can say is this: block whoever you want on Twitter – lord knows there’s enough heinous behavior out there to warrant it, And hey! Block me if it pleases you. But do not get it twisted and try to suggest that I am block worthy because I don’t know what I am talking about, or I am some conspiracy theorist. I love talking about basketball with my friends, my colleagues, my former teammates, and my former players – hell, with anyone, really,  who likes to talk about it. And we are allowed to be silly, sad, serious, contentious, outrageous, or whatever we want. I’d expect a journalist to know this.

So this just happened. For real.

My colleague mentioned an article that came out on Slate.com today that harkened back to my post of yesterday about the state of political discourse dialog general abuse rampant in the US at the moment. 

I chose to post the article as a comment, without any added commentary, to the thread that had inspired my original post. This is the article.


The following immediately ensued.









Interestingly predictably the only thing that got “B” to stop was an insult. 

Not that this kind thing needs any further explanation, but I think it is worth pointing out that the original article I posted was not about Sanders v. Clinton and was not calling for “B”‘s ‘education’ and we were told that he would only stop posting if we did because he is “stubborn.” I don’t think I need to point out too much else, I did wish there was a shovel emoji to help him dig his own hole…

This is what my (girl)friends and I are having to deal with -regardless of the candidate we support- every single day. 

The Stand Up….

I do not get stood up often. In fact, with one notable exception (very fucking notable) I can honestly say that until the last couple of months I had never been stood up, except by Comcast, (because they are total fuckers and do not care one single iota for the happiness, satisfaction, or sanity of their “customers.” I get so pissed when they answer calls saying “Thank you for choosing Comcast!” like I had some sort of choice in this, you monopolistic jerk-offs? But I digress… as per usual. [Ironically, as I sit here writing this I am in fact waiting for the Comcast guy to show up in his guaranteed time window. It has never happened, but a girl can dream. As, Comcast has now made their “guarantee” window two hours rather than one, I guess the odds are better.])

The real truth of the matter is that I don’t generally get stood up for a two logical reasons:

  • I don’t really put myself in situations where this is any sort of possibility because I trust the people I choose to meet when I go out.
  • Everyone has a phone – so really, in this day and age… is there any possible reason to straight stand someone up? No. No, there is not.

I would like to think that I don’t get stood up because I am a pretty cool human, and what sort of fucknut does that sort of thing to any kind of human… but hey, who knows.

So, of the three times I have been stood up (excluding Comcast) how did they fall outside of those aforementioned logical reasons? Oh, yeah. They did not.

In order of impact – so I guess the severity of the standing up, or the logistics therein – they went like this:

1) “Yeah Yeah Yeah I Can’t Wait To See You!”

We will just say, I should have been suspicious based on the frequency of exclamation points and emoji, but I trusted in this one because this was someone I had met before. In fact, when we met, we really met, if you get my meaning. And we are (were?) in touch pretty regularly. Granted it ebbs and flows, but it is generally not like some weird shout in the dark when we talk to each other.

What made this stand up particularly curious, is that there was confirmation of the meet up happening a mere four hours prior to the stand up. We were in the same town. Plans had been rearranged to accommodate the meet up. Connections had been established. And then, at T minus nothing, we had total radio silence.

Now, that is just rude.

Fortunately for me, I did not have a lot vested in this situation, but seriously, to just ignore the arrangement and go totally dark? Lame. I was also easily able to make new plans and parlay the situation into something awesome, but seriously? Not even an “I’m a chicken shit” text message? Puh-leeze.

Before you think I am just cruel and like, maybe he got in a horrible traffic accident, no. He did not. He just chose to do something else, which is totally legit. But homeboy, MAKE A CALL.

The only explanation for not being grown up enough to cancel (save for some sort of catastrophe) is that you actually enjoy this feeling of making someone super uncomfortable (I mean really, after three texts that don’t get answered, it feels pretty ridiculous.) Maybe it is an ego thing. Maybe you are just busy hanging in mom’s basement. I don’t really know. But standing me up like that was pathetic.

Go sit down.

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2) “We Are Going To Be The Most Amazing Couple Ever.”

To be fair, this is a sort of abstract stand up – but stand up it was. I say abstract because this person stood me up in an unrealized way. I also knew this person. We had hung out together and then decided we wanted to do that again. And we did – in a totally cute, spontaneous, and sneaky way.

And then he started laying out all the plans for the future. Travel, Cohabitation. Dates, Meeting family. Blah blah fucking blah. Suffice it to say I was a very good listener in all of this, and truth be told, he wove fine tales.

But when he was first given the chance to pull the trigger (I found out way after the fact) he balked. When given a second chance he came through. When directly asked about the third chance, he back pedaled (none to gracefully), lied (never very graceful), and cowered a way like a very small, small person.

Again, he had every opportunity to just come out and say, “Yeah, this is not going to work for me.” But no. Apparently his phone(s) and computers no longer work. They sure did for a while there though. (Have you ever looked at the sushi emoji and the eggplant emoji juxtaposed with each other? I am not sure that is acceptable adult communication in hindsight.) After all that, I was not even worth a “thanks for the conversations” communiqué? Really? What a lame stand up.

Oh. go sit down.

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3) “I cannot wait to meet you in San Francisco.”

This was the first of the epic stand-ups. And really, I had this shit coming for sure. But still, at the time… it was awful. Like way worse than the other two that make this list because I was less prepared, more fragile, and I had flown 8,000 freaking miles to make it happen.

No lie.

I took a total chance here, and I guess I was in the mood for it. This person had found me via my blog (look at my ego grow just typing that) and was super smart (and super well-versed in internet wooing it turns out) so he always said just the right things. We talked on the phone for hours and messaged each other and wrote blogs laden with private jokes and personal references. It was clearly ridiculous.

Me, being me (as I was in both the above mentioned situations as well) was very much in the shit or get off the pot mode with this person. If we were going to b like this we needed to meet each other. He agreed. Enthusiastically.

We bought airline tickets and counted down days. It was all very romantic and exciting and the stupid shit that fiction is based on, because: FICTION.

The morning I was flying out he texted me – no call – to say, he was afraid he might miss his flight to SFO (he was flying from the southern US) because he had some sort of work emergency. *cough*bullshit*cough* But I was en route to a trans-pacific flight. Was I supposed to cancel? No, he said, he might still make it. What? Not even committing to the stand up? I should have told him to sit the fuck down right then.

So I flew the 12 hours to San Francisco and landed… And he was still telling me maybe he could come. How lucky for me (and him really) that I am from San Francisco and so I had friends to stay with and to visit. As I sat at the airport ready to return to Asia after my whirlwind weekend, he kept telling me how terrible he felt that he was unable to make it and thinking of me “so sad” was so hard for him. Huh. Well, you certainly could have done something about that. At that point I was sad, but I would eventually become enraged. He tried to become invisible, but it was a challenge for him. And I played him one final time in a sort of way that was truly hilarious and fodder for an entire different post. (Play with fire? I got you.)

In the end, I somehow reaped great benefits from this debacle of an adventure… it was when I first started getting upgraded at Cathay and they put me into Marco Polo, we still never worked out why – but really, why ask why? In an ironic twist, this little weasel now lives in the community where I work. And being that the Bay Area is such a small place, I am sure that someday, some way, the unfortunate circumstance of running into each other will unfold. And I will only have one thing to say:

Sit the fuck down.

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For what it’s worth, today the Comcast guy got here ahead of schedule and sorted his shit out clearly, amicably, and effectively.

So maybe there is hope after all.

How I suck at “Social Media” and how this allows me to use it prolifically.

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Let’s start with full disclosure: I blog (which is a poncy way to say ‘I have a blog’), I have a Facebook (again, a ridiculous way to say ‘I use Facebook’), I have an Instagram (I actually think this is how everyone says this), I have two Twitters (one is for work; my students use Twitter for current events via KQED and it is a good format, and I have a personal account which is my only truly locked down and private outlet within the social media sphere), I used to have Myspace (two of those too – one for me and one I allowed students on – I do not do this with Facebook now, I just say no until students are out of school, then if they still care, I will accept their friend requests), and I have a Google+ but I have no idea what it is – although it seems public. Oh, I have a YouTube account too, but I think if you use gmail you have this because of the pervasive trend towards conglomeratization. I do not have a Linkedin – and I wish people would stop inviting me because it is a totally useless concept in my field. I do not have Flickr, DeviantArt, Tumblr (although I had a school one for a year), a Bebo (don’t even know what that is), and god help me I do.not.SnapChat.

Basically, I have a fairly visible digital footprint. Regardless of this, I still suck at social media. And I am totally fine with this because I think it is why I am able to use social media so prolifically without becoming angry and insane.

Here’s why: I do it wrong.

It turns out, I am just not really that “social”

I have always known this about blogging. I like to blog (look at me go!) but I don’t really read other blogs. I do occasionally come across blogs that I read because I am looking for something specific – like research for work or personal interests, and then I will read them, but in general, in the same way I look at my blog as a way to be hugely self-indulgent, I am not that interested in reading other people’s self indulgences. Unless they are about me or something uniquely related to me. The blogs I write that get attention get it from small niche populations. Thus it is no surprise that a blog I wrote about my cat remains to this day the blog that got the most hits out of anything I have ever done in any internet capacity. When I write about friends from home, my friends from home read it. When I write about being a teacher, my teacher friends read it. When I write about events and adventures, the people who shared the experiences read them. And there are a few exceptions here and there, a clever tag that gets others over to the page or something, but really the audience is terribly limited. And I am okay with that. I don’t interact with commenters (oh, I will get to them in a minute) and I don’t comment. I do very little to engender interaction or interest in my blog. I harbor no illusions that I am telling stories or illuminating ideas that no one has ever considered. In fact, mostly I feel like I am just adding validity to the reality that our shared human experience is far more similar than it is unique most of the time. And in its own way that is kind of cool.

I use Twitter for news. I love it and scroll through it regularly, occasionally retweet things, favorite things I want to come back to, and mostly leave it at that. I originally got it as a way to text for free from overseas, but now I use it primarily for information and as a way to measure the social temperature around said information. I like Twitter and it is very handy for my students to use as well.

I use Facebook (which I keep private, although I do not consider private in the way my personal Twitter is because there are people on my Facebook that I would not share certain things with because it would be weird and inappropriate) a lot. Although, it is getting harder to use it the way I would like. But again, it turns out I am not that “social” on FB. I post a lot of things. Things *I* think are interesting, important, funny, relevant, whatever. Again, I am under no illusion that these things are “interesting, important, funny, relevant, whatever” to other people. I am not posting for other people. I am posting for me. That is why I put the stuff on my Facebook page. If it is interesting to other people, that is cool – and I generally can predict with nearly perfect accuracy who will respond/comment/reply to the things I post. That is a benefit of having people who you actually know on your Facebook.

But I don’t get really interactive on other people’s Facebook pages. There are several reasons for this. First – Facebook is making this harder and harder as they only automatically show you the stuff posted by people you “interact” with regularly so it is easy to see how that circle gets inadvertantly smaller and smaller. Another reason I am not super active on Facebook is that there is a lot of stuff that people I really like post that I don’t wanna see. This does not mean I like them less, or do not want to be their friend in real life, or on the internets, it just means I am not into seeing stuff like that and so I don’t look at it. Going to the page of a person, like my friend D.M., a guy I have known since the first grade, and really like in a ton of ways, is not fun for me because we hold diametrically oppositional views on politics and a lot of social issues. Telling him how I disagree would be stupid – or having the audacity to tell him he is wrong or should not be posting something because it bothers me is just inappropriate. He is not posting that stuff for me – he is posting for him, so why do I want to go there and get all fired up – or worse, get involved in some comment battle where I am trying to convince someone that their opinion is “wrong”. Opinions – like feelings – cannot be wrong. They can be in disagreement with my opinions, and certainly wrong for me (or you), but telling someone their opinion is wrong is a waste of time, and really offensive. So instead I leave comments and “likes” on his Instagram where we have much more common ground.

I do believe there are times and places to help someone perhaps see that their opinion does not match data/history/science/facts or something, but I would suggest that would be like in a teaching situation, or as a parent, or an actual conversation among friends. Not really apropos for “social media.” I mean, it’s like the rules that govern polite conversation at dinner parties. People used to say ‘do not talk about politics and religion in mixed company.’ And this was not because people didn’t think about that stuff, or should not hold different opinions – it was because it was a “social” situation and being a dick by telling someone that their opinion is wrong is not very social. Remember when we were taught that if you didn’t have anything nice to say to not say anything at all? If social media is as it claims to be [social] – maybe that is a good rule…. I mean treat other people’s pages as their dinner party and use your own home(page) to say what you have to say. If people don’t want to hear your opinion they don’t have to come to your dinner party.

Facebook in all its deficiencies does allow for a couple great ways to deal with this. First, you can straight hide someone’s posts from your news feed (either by unfollowing them or selecting certain posts.) I have done this. A lot. If someone whose posts you enjoy following generally posts something you cannot deal with, you can had that specific post. A friend in HK who is super active in animal rights posted a super awful photo of an elephant, which I assume was attached to a story about how disgusting people are to elephants, and I could’t take it so I hid it, but not her. I hide all the silly fantasy sports stuff one of my former students posts – it is clutter and useless, but I love hearing about him and his family. I posted a misogynist rant that came out around the Isla Vista shooting on my page and one of my really good friends in HK who I discuss almost everything with, was like, ‘I can’t take this, I’m hiding it from my feed.’ And I totally get that. She didn’t feel the need to tell me how my posting it was wrong or that it was somehow not appropriate – she just said, I don’t want to look. That is what I would call solid use of the comments section.

Which brings me to the commenters. OH.MY.GOD. There is a seemingly growing population of people on the planet that have infinite amounts of time to dedicate to some sort of personal calling to comment on internet activity. These are trolls. I have had a few trolls. I know who one of them was, and I think I have finally blocked him enough that he cannot comment on my blog and Instagram (my only public pages) and his deal was just that he was (is?) a weird little man who thought I rebuffed him inappropriately. But it was still really annoying to get shitty comments from him. Another one I had was a former coworker who was convinced I was subliminally writing about him in my blog, which I was not, but his misunderstanding was illuminating. I am always surprised at how bad the (poor grammar and spelling aside) words of a total stranger or someone I could really not give two shits about can make me feel when it shows up on my stuff. Do the trolls have their own pages? Agendas? I have no idea, but they freaking should because that would be the right place to vent. Venting on the pages/posts/comments of total strangers just to spread vitriol is so bizarre. And it is like they get a certain kind of joy from just being awful.

Says a lot about society.

While I cannot even begin to grok why you would spend this sort of energy being a dick (and far worse) to total strangers, I am even more mystified by people who would do this to people they know – unless they just don’t want to be friends anymore, which is fine, but “breaking up” on Facebook/Instagram/blog seems pretty lame.

I am grateful for the ability to see what my friends – from near and far – are up to in their lives. It is really fun to see who has gone somewhere amazing, had a new baby, got a new job, and be able to be a spectator. I realize email could do the same thing, but that is a much different interface. Do I want a whole email every time for all these events? I think I prefer being able to look through the “news” feed. It works for me. I also have a growing appreciation for the vastly divergent attitudes and opinions my friends hold around religion, politics, social issues, and life in general. That I am friends with such a diverse group I think says a lot about me and my friends. I don’t need them to change for me, that they are who they are is what I love about them. And I do like having conversations with my friends about our thoughts, feelings, and opinions, but this does not happen in the comments. This happens in a pub in Hong Kong, at a secret diner party in SF, poolside in Vegas, on a phone call from Paris, or in email exchanges from Dubai.

In the end “social” suggests being with people and so while social media does endeavor to so this – it is not them same.

And I am okay with this.

The way I choose to use social media works for me. And if it doesn’t work for you, then there are lots of ways to handle that…. (like why are you reading this?) But whatever you do, if you want to remain hopeful for humanity and maintain your sanity… trust me on this: NEVER READ THE COMMENTS.

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[First image from HuffPo, cartoon from unknown source.]

 

Coachella: New Rules (apologies to Bill Maher)

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Just back from the experience that is Coachella (my first visit since it has gone to the two weekend format – I think weekend 1 is probably best, if for no other reason than being 1st.) And it was…. as it should be. While we were there we did, however, determine that there are a few ‘new rules’ that need to be put into action. So, listen up Coachella… this is important stuff.

1. New Rule: No long chains of people holding hands to get through a crowd. You have a phone and a ridonkulous beacon (see #9) so you can make it on your own – unless you are complete amateurs.

[No photo because I was actually getting through the crowd – the correct way: with focus]

2. New Rule: No wearing of Indian head dresses. Particularly if you’re (blonde) white girls. You look derivative, and you’re years past the trend – as if that sort of cultural co-opting was ever okay (it wasn’t.)

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3. New Rule: No sitting in the crowd during the sets. You’re tired? It happens, I understand, I’m in my 40s. Go take a timeout on the sidelines like a pro (see photo above illustrating a double foul.)

4. New Rule: Consider just how ambitious you want to be in your fashion choices. Do it for me. Do it for you. Do if for all of us.

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5. New Rule: Know where you lay your head. And go there. It’s a win-win for everyone.

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6. New Rule: No amateurish line jumping. You hate lines? Guess what? So do I. If you’re gonna cut in front of me you better be hella impressive. Don’t be that trollish little twat who sing-songs to me: “Oh my gawd! I didn’t see you! I’m with them!” Really? Really really? I’m 5’10” and wearing white. So, either you are blind, which I’m guessing not based on the beeline you made to your other trollish friends, or you’re stupid. So, yeah: you are stupid.

[No photo because I was too busy contemplating the opportunity cost of dumping my $11 margarita on her head.]

7. New Rule: Don’t try to enter through the exit. There are around 90,000 people there and about 89,060 can distinguish these two words: EXIT – ENTRANCE. This is not the time to be different… You should have taken that opportunity with your personal stylings… where you were apparently happy to be EXACTLY like everyone else.

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8. New Rule: If you’re going to be tripping balls, have the courtesy to handle your scandal. Enough said.

[photo redacted]

9. New Rule: Don’t rock the bro step. There is just nothing about it that is not awkward.

[No photo because, can you just not… but hilarious link here – go to #9.]

10. New Rule: If you are going to use a giant placard, be it a head, a phallus of some sort, a Brazilian flag, or an inflatable unicorn, be wise and lower your shit when the set is happening (if your friends haven’t found you by now… Maybe they don’t want to?)

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[Though I do like this little tiny purple unicorn, so it is just there for that.]

11. New Rule: Know the legends. You don’t know who Bryan Ferry is? Shame on you. You don’t have to love said legends, but you need to know them.

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12. New Rule: Get the lay of the land, and be sure to let your geographically challenged friends know that there are ways to work around limited spatial understanding (those desert named tents are in alphabetical order!) And know your landmarks. But, seriously people: DO NOT MOVE THE ASTRONAUT.

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And as you can probably predict… I will be seeing you next year regardless.