First, I want to acknowledge the sick beating death, as a violation of public trust, of Tyre Nichols. When I have gone through minor life crises and loss, it has been so odd to see the world just go on. Right now, on social media, life seems to be going blithely on, for so many. I know that for some, it is self-protection and mental health self-care. For others, it just feels like we are becoming numb, even when this was so egregiously horrendous.
I read a few of the news stories, and they mention that he called out for his mother three times. I made the decision to watch two body cam and the “skyview” recordings. When he called out for his mother, it wasn’t what I imagined of a man dying at the hands of brutality–remembering and wishing for a love that overpowers all. He was screaming. And I couldn’t reconcile that until . . . until I later read in an article that he was only a few houses away from his mother’s house, where he was staying. He was literally screaming for his mother to hear him and come to his aid. I feel like vomiting even writing that.
I had planed to continue on and tell you about my mundane little life, my normal yard projects, my little joys, my little concerns. But, I can’t.
A friend of mine mentioned Mastodon. Actually, he had mentioned it in the past, but I was happy where I was, which was Twitter. I had curated a great Twitter feed.
But, I am a strong believer that people/groups we allow to have influence over our thoughts and feelings, even seemingly tangentially (which is never as tangentially as they would have you believe) is an important consideration. So, I had already decided it was time to leave Twitter completely, with a clean break, when my friend mentioned Mastodon again.
I looked. I was impressed. There is a lot being written about Mastodon lately and I am not a tech expert, social groups expert, or Mastodon expert, so my little beginner list here is very inadequate in every way. But, the things I like, so far, are:
No ads or sponsored posts.
No data mining.
Mastodon is kind of anarchist in nature (and I am not an anarchy expert either, so, no offense for misconstruing this). A bunch of independent random people host “servers” (in English, seems to be “instances” in other languages). You could host your own server. They make their own rules about moderating, post character lengths, etc. That is your “home” group. But, you can simultaneously have a “federated” view and see posts or “toots” from other servers/instances. Don’t like your current “home”? Migrate to a new one. They have made it very simple to do.
As an outgrowth of the above, experienced users tend to use content notices much more liberally and encourage us new users to do so too. And, they do it better than Twitter. You put the subject and then there is a button to click for “Show more.” So simple and elegant.
There is an edit function.
It seems to be a more international platform, likely because it was started, I think, in Germany. You can choose servers based on primary language. My first “starter” server was in English. My current server is German, but it said English posts were fine, there are a lot of English posts, and it gives me a chance to practice perusing in German and if I want to make sure I am getting it, I just ask for help from Google Translate (which is far from perfect, but it is fun to use as an additional help). In other words, I like the international character in general and it is specifically allowing me regular fun exposure to one of my target languages without being burdensome or frustrating. It is serendipitously? intentionally? ideal, actually. The federated feed has quite a few languages making appearances.
Following hashtags is a designed-in function. You could do that on Twitter, but it was clearly an afterthought.
Sorry for the resolution – I just don’t currently have the skills to fix that. Shows the four column advance web interface (selected in “Preferences”) showing 1. Where I can post or search, 2. My “home” or “server/instance” feed, 3. Notices, and 4. Federated feed* or with arrow to example of a content notice.
So, my very short experience has been this: There has been a huge flood of new accounts. There were a few servers that were open and accepting new accounts. Other accounts had temporarily put holds on new accounts because of the flood (and these are just regular individuals hosting the servers, for fun, I guess). Most other servers, you “apply” to join (sort of like joining a Facebook group or something). I joined one of these open servers that were accepting the flood of new users and got my feet wet.
There was nothing wrong with my server. It was run very well, actually. But, then I wanted to see what it was to join a specific community. I found this list. (I have no idea if it is exhaustive. I doubt it.) And, actually, this database looks like it has a pretty good search function.
And then came the question: Who am I? Who do I want to be? What do I want my downtime to naturally focus on?
There was a geographic option that fit me, which would have great advantages. But, I have never seen myself as mainly an experience of where I live. More importantly, I did not want even subtle limitations of my feed based on my current location. So, I looked at other options and actually did some significant reflection. My job? I love my job. It is meeting my needs beautifully at the moment. Great people. Great mission. But, I am not my job and, as perfect as it is, it is not my passion. My social concerns/activism? Honestly, I need a break from that sometimes because it is so emotionally taxing. I will be able to find it whenever I want through hashtags, etc, but I don’t want to be immersed in it when I need to relax. I do need time to relax. We all do. There are topics I am interested in that did not seem to have a server, yet. I ended up on one of my lifelong passions. Emergency medical care has never left me. It has been a part of me my entire life. It brings me joy. So, even though it is a small server, I ended up on medic.cafe. Plus, it has a cute mastodon medic. 🙂 I am
One thing I have noticed is that my little niche interests, of which I had a great group and lots of activity on Twitter, have not really made it over to Mastodon, yet. I have high hopes.
So, check things out on Mastodon if you are wanting to make a social media move. Give me a follow so I can see you are there – I am rebuilding my feeds from scratch! Especially if you are interested in:
emergency medical services
building mutual aid systems and strong communities (found some on Mastodon)
religion (all walks, traditions, faiths, types)
backpacking/hiking/camping/trail running (found some on Mastodon)
One last quick note on consciously and intentionally choosing our identity and how social media influences our outlook on life: I am so grateful to have the freedom to just drop Twitter and pick up Mastodon on my own terms. In my previous job, it was important for me to maintain various social media accounts for our organization. We were very active in social justice and nonviolence. I loved our mission and loved working there. I also love being able to put that on the back burner at will when needed. If I were to give advice to any young person it would be to not be a social media manager, either as a part of or as an entire role, professionally.
*(The federated feed is not to be confused with the Fediverse, which I did, originally. Here is an explainer of the Fediverse. It’s in German, but you should be able to click to have it appear in English.)
* * * * *
Now, for a quick update on my life: Last weekend, I planted 10 inkberry bushes, three elderberries, and two persimmon trees. And, I ended up with poison ivy reaction (despite my carefulness) so bad that I am now on a long taper of prednisone. I think I am also developing secondary cellulitis on my arm. I will mark the perimeter with a Sharpie at work tomorrow. My plan is to do no more fall planting and just focus on keeping these new plants and the two previously planted paw paws alive and, hopefully, root thriving. Given that I will need to water them regularly and thus brave any lurking poison ivy, this will be enough in itself.
My daughter just sent me this photo from where she and 1-year-old A are nannying. A keeps calling this toy, “Grandma.” I love it.
Photos of bouncy happy dogs ended up in my Twitter feed one day. Who can resist photos of happy dogs? It was Blair Braverman’s feed — they were sled dogs, and she had written a book, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube. Eventually I bought it and, a further eventually, I read it.
Great decision. Not only is Braverman a dogsledder with interesting Arctic experiences that developed her skills and interests, but she is clearly a writer as well. I would read beautiful sentences or note how she skillfully alternated between timelines and I would be increasingly impressed. Then it was revealed that her first year out of high school she had a capstone-type project of writing a novel and that her undergraduate degree was in English or journalism or something similar. “There we go,” I thought. “Now I see how this all came together.”
In writing about falling into a pit during a race and then getting back out:
“And [the dogs] were so happy, every muscle in their bodies bounding with excitement, smiles wide, not wolves at all–they were sled dogs, and it was a perfect ten below, and there was nothing in the whole world as fun as running and racing and tumbling into pits and getting out of them again.”
“The noontime sunset cast the water in shadow but lit the mountaintops gold.”
“Our breath trailed behind us like footprints.”
But, as beautiful as the descriptions of working with the dogs, of Norway, and of the glacier in Alaska, were, this book was a tough read for me. I was not entirely prepared for it, despite the subtitle that starts out Chasing Fear. Braverman uses her skills as a writer to perfectly capture, in all its nuances and manipulation, what women face all the time when dealing with men.
Immediately, I was thrown back into my own “normal” experiences as a woman when some men have thought they were entitled to my space, my body, and my decisions:
The guy my first night of college who thought it was perfectly fine to crawl into my dorm room twin bed. Luckily he was too drunk to be too much of a threat.
The coworker who would sit and watch me doing a task and make suggestive sounds and motions repeatedly and I was too young to really know how to handle it. I have randomly pondered how it was that someone from the company eventually came to interview me privately if this had been going on. And during the interview, as professionally and kindly as it was handled, I experienced a weird guilt and embarrassment?! It was only years later that I realized that one of the chefs had probably reported it, putting his neck out for me. (Sexual harassment reporting was fairly new at the time and he was African American and I and the harassing co-worker were white – I think there would have been social dynamics he must have considered before he reported it for me.)*
The paramedic who would always follow me out to the bay at night when I put my turnout gear next to the ambulance, even when I specifically waited until he was not in the room to see me leave to do so. I eventually just quit volunteering with that shift.
The guy I was semi-dating who, when I suggested we go for a run at my favorite park, agreed but then never got out of the truck and instead wanted to make out. When I called him on it, I said, “When I said I wanted to go for a run, that’s what I meant.” He just laughed and said, “I know.” He’s also the one who suggested that we do some martial arts practice together and then came out of the changing room stark naked. Semi-dating turned into no interaction. We eventually became friends again and to this day he randomly tells me he has always loved me. I actually believe him. But, how do you trust someone when the relationship begins like that, before it is even a relationship? The confusing part is that he has other great qualities.
Braverman captures that aspect well, too–how these kinds of interactions (and worse) make women doubt ourselves and leave us with a sense of confusion and shame that does not belong tous.
Although I was not prepared for it in her book, it is important. These misogynic/disdain-for-women-as-full-humans secrets should be dragged out into the light.
Another thread gently and unobtrusively woven throughout the narrative addresses how we care for each other as a society and in community.
Around the same time I started the book, we were having Gene Nichol as a guest lecturer at my place of work and he was speaking about his book The Faces of Poverty in North Carolina. I was quickly trying to read his book before the lecture. In it, he writes of the devastating poverty that exists in our state while our state and local governments and our general population make a studied effort to be totally blind to it. So, at the same time that Nichol’s words were ripping out my gut and dragging my battered heart along behind it, I was reading Braverman casually mention that in Norway,
“. . . their poverty was less about need than class, less about money than the facts that they were both northern and rural.”
The immediacy of the contrast, coupled with my own personal experience in the past of seeing how easily we cast off people, brought me to tears. Why do we do this here? Why are we so committed to not caring for one another?
Braverman does not spend a lot of time on the formal social support systems in Norway, but woven throughout the narrative is her experience getting to know Arild, the local shopkeeper in a northern rural part of Norway. In the rural areas, it has long been the social role of the shopkeeper to be an additional safety net. The shopkeeper knows everyone in the area and checks in on people if they had not been seen in a while or are generally homebound. While Braverman was living there, she saw that this included the local alcoholic. They never let him go hungry. They made him use his own funds for the alcohol and, when he ran out each month, he ran out. But, they never let him go hungry or unseen.
Over the course of the book, it seems that she may be suggesting that this tradition is fading as modern life continues to creep into the livelihoods and ways of those in rural areas. But her descriptions of the role Arild played are a glimpse into how communities can care for each other, even when the shopkeeper is just as human and imperfect as the rest of us.
“During visits [traveling out and around] he kept careful track of what people needed, whether it was a new belt or a refrigerator or just human company, and he did what he could do to provide it.”
* Yes, there is anonymous reporting, I believe. But, the location I was cornered into to do my work would have been in the line of sight of only one person. If I figured it out when I thought about it enough, so could anyone receiving the report or learning of it. I never told anyone about the company interviewing me, mainly because, again, I was embarrassed that any of it had occurred in the first place. Now, I am glad I never told anyone, for this other reason. And, if it was him, I wish he would know he did the right thing and that I am grateful.