We don’t need your white guilt

Yesterday, I had my very first argument on Facebook – with someone I barely know, as go all Facebook arguments. I, unlike many so-called ‘intellectuals’, do NOT believe in Facebook arguments. There, I said it. I don’t think Facebook is the right platform to conduct healthy discussions on issues that matter. Let’s face it, Facebook is oftentimes an outlet for people to brag about their deeds and their ‘morality’ with the appearance of caring about the world and humanity. Yes, sure, I do acknowledge that it’s a good way to be up to date with current news and issues (but even then, your feed will probably be covered with things you already agree with). But unlike what it professes to be, its ‘social network’ only expands to people users are already close to. Otherwise there wouldn’t be any privacy setting. I personally use it to ‘be moral’ and share news articles that I think are important and that I think make me look smart. I also use it to put funny and sarcastic statuses and pictures because that’s my vanity – believing my friends when they tell me that they like my Facebook statuses because I’m a funny gal. Yes, I know. I take pleasure and pride when people like me, or when they tell me they like me. Sue me.

This is why Facebook arguments are often (not always) useless because no matter how long my comments are, they will never truly be able to show my history, my identity, my background, and my experiences. They will be taken out of context by people who don’t know me and interpreted according to their history, identity, background, and experiences. When we live in a world where people can barely get through decent conversations face-to-face, how likely is it that we would be able to change people’s minds drastically through Facebook? Let’s not kid ourselves.

No, it is not possible to ‘have intellectual conversations’ where our ‘personal’ feelings don’t get involved. Everything is personal. So don’t blame me for being ‘defensive’ and ‘taking things personally’ when I’m being insulted and attacked under the guise of ‘intellectual debate’. It is possible to be ‘insulting’ while using words such as ‘sorry you feel that way’, ‘yes that is fair’, or ‘I didn’t mean to offend you’. Just because you use ‘civilized’ expressions doesn’t mean you can’t be insulting and condescending.

Having put this very long preface, this is what happened. It’s too long and complicated to summarize, and I wanted to be as objective as possible, so here goes – I explicitly made this post ‘public’.  (Click on the picture to see the comments). On another thought, I could have made the ‘commenter’ anonymous to protect her privacy, but that would have been too much trouble (ain’t nobody got time for that) and she chose to be on this public intellectual debate in the first place, so….

I have MANY MANY things to say about this, but will say this one thing – for now. I may go on several ranting posts after this.

One of the fundamental truths White People (WP from hereon – and I put this in capital letters because I am not speaking about all white people, but the history and privilege white people represent as a racial group) seem to believe, is that it is absolutely degrading and immoral to see Africa or African countries as both ‘poor’ and ‘wealthy’, as being the homes of both ‘joy’ and ‘pain’. They have (and still do) portrayed Africa in such a negative light for so many years in so many ways that the ‘woke’ thing to do now is acknowledge that Africa has much more to offer than just ‘poverty’, ‘malnutrition’, and ‘child mortality’. And yes, that is true. Africa is much more than that. Like ANY OTHER CONTINENT.

Why do WP go on talking about wealth gaps in ‘developed’ countries like the States, but the moment we mention that ‘some’ Africans may not practice Yoga (a very privileged leisure in places other than India), we have committed an immoral crime? Why can’t WP acknowledge that, like in ALL societies, poverty AND wealth cohabit in African communities? Why do WP feel the need to protect Africa, like it’s a child that knows nothing and stumbles into the harsh real world completely blindfolded? Colonization has been over for more than half a century now, but the white guilt coming from it is so strong that now the reverse has occurred – there is absolutely no way you can talk about serious issues in Africa, such as poverty and civil wars, without being a ‘racist’. You MUST acknowledge its potential! Its future! Its people full of hopes! WE  ARE ALL EQUAL! WP fail to see this is just ANOTHER White narrative they are imposing on their former colonies. A ‘more positive’ one, sure, on the outside, but just as condescending.

WP love talking about ‘African culture’ and admire it because it offers hospitality, a sense of community, and so forth. This is still another form of ‘exoticizing’ Africa. Africa is not the ‘black continent’ where people die under miserable conditions. But neither is it a place where children run happily without shoes because, you know, that’s happiness for them.

So no, it’s not OK to use the hashtag #firstworldproblem assuming Africans don’t have cell phones or don’t have to deal with mosquitos. But it’s also not OK to impose your white guilt on everything and pretend yoga is a national pastime. It is OK to think some people would have found my downward dog on the yard ‘the whitest thing ever’. I’m sure the Senegalese maid at the house I’m staying at rolled her eyes at me. And so did her brother that came in later. And I’m OK with that. I had never felt ‘whiter’ than that moment I was doing my Vinyasa being bitten by mosquitos (this is meant to be sarcastic – just pointing it out). It is OK, no, necessary, to understand a community, a country, a culture, a region, with all its complexities and differences. It is OK to think and say that problems and hope exist together. Denying either one only shows your white superiority complex that YOU know what’s best for them, because it makes YOU feel better.

 

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New year’s old resolutions

For the purpose of this post, see: Two Sides of a Same Coin
For the ‘other side”s take on this topic, see: 2014 Resolutions

Warning: I was too lazy to call for the usual help to my good friend Thesaurus.

2014. A new year. A new beginning.

There’s always something exciting about the end of a semester, a year, a job, any significant period of time, because as good as those may have been, you somehow expect and hope that even better things lie ahead for the new semester, the new year, and the new job. Stupid human beings that we are, always hoping, always being positive, even when nothing rational tells us it is actually going to be so. Even in the most mundane and daily situations I am hopeful. I am hopeful that after I work out and take a good refreshing shower, I will somehow open a text book and study. Yeah well, what usually happens is Thank you shower, Hello again Netflix. So it is not surprising that for 2014, a whole new year, 365 brand new days, I set myself some pretty high expectations and a goal I had never before even thought of. No more the usual “I’ll stay fit” or “I won’t procrastinate”.

The year of 2014 would be the year of KINDNESS.

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My obsession with Kindness began with this article: The Difference Between Being Nice and Being Kind.

I think I’m a rather nice person. Yes I said it. And did I also tell you that modesty and humility are two other qualities of mine? I know, I’m full of surprises like that. I had no problem with being nice (why would anyone?), until I came across the aforementioned article. And it hit me. I am nice, not kind. This was a problem, since clearly, the article was telling us that as decent human beings, we should focus more on the latter characteristic. I have difficulty saying no when people ask me for favors and I have a hard time letting annoying people know that they are terribly annoying. “Sure, (smile) I can translate that 200 word text for you for tomorrow (smile), no problem, my pleasure”. What I don’t add is the cynical and sour “for no fee, when I have tons of things to do for myself, but well, that doesn’t matter, does it.” What is worse, after I’ve smiled my face off, I’ll probably go bitching about it to someone else. I may not like you, but I certainly want you to like me.

Genuinely kind people (…) aren’t concerned with whether or not other people like them. Kind people can be assertive and set good limits.” Everything I’ve said so far contradicts this. I am very concerned with whether or not people like me and I am definitely not good at setting limits.

The nice person is careful not to offend anyone and wouldn’t dream of expressing a “negative” emotion. (…) Nice people stuff down their feelings, not wanting to be a bother to anyone, but the problem with this is that emotions can’t be kept down indefinitely. Feelings and needs are meant to be expressed and when they’re repressed, they find another outlet.” And for me, I think that ‘another outlet’ has been Facebook, not in the sense that I pour down all my feelings online (at least I don’t think I do), but in the sense that I’m easily annoyed by what I see on Facebook, and go into irrational rants about what I have seen.

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Yup, been there, done that. If I blocked more people than I already have, my FB wall will probably show nothing but Huffington Post News and Buzzfeed posts, along with TV shows.

I have only myself to blame because if I really wanted to avoid being annoyed, I would simply quit Facebook.

What could possibly be so annoying on Facebook? Well, what isn’t, I ask in return.

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Ring a bell?

People constantly feeling the need to show off and remind others of how tired they are, how hard-working they are, how misunderstood they are. People desperate for attention, for love, where there is none. The list goes on. I’ve been so annoyed that I dedicated two posts to this ‘disease’ some time ago (here and here).

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Oh yeah, ‘those’ people…

I thus realized that I was not being kind, not trying to understand why people would behave in such ways, and just discrediting them for being stupid and… well, annoying (how many more times can I used that word?).

If I were genuinely kind, as the article said, it would “be in my nature to care“. I wouldn’t for instance, “let my emotions leak, in the form of snarky comments, whining, needling, sarcasm, passive-aggressive behavior or even outbursts of rage.”

So I decided to be kinder, which essentially for me meant not being easily ‘disturbed’ by the general Facebook population.

2014 was going to be the year of Kindness.

But then…

Do you actually know how many different types of annoying people are on Facebook? Do you really, like really, realize how annoying these annoying people can be?

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Yes, why? why?

And…

Do you know how much fun I have talking about these people? Why, I asked myself, would I deprive myself of this pleasure and fun pastime, which, technically, doesn’t harm anyone, when I’m already depriving myself of Twix bars at 10:00 pm or a whole half a pound of truffle brie with some good wine? Why would I quit Facebook when it provides me with my daily dose of joy?

After all, “kind people have good self-esteem and because they love themselves as much as they care about others, they expect to be treated with respect“, the article also says. And gawd do I love myself. And so far, I’ve been treated with respect by people I’ve been nice to. “Kind people are happy people to begin with” and yes, I’m a happy person. “Nice people are needy people who inadvertently create more and more unhappiness for themselves.” – nope, not me. I absolutely abhor neediness.

So I concluded I was both a kind and nice person (I already warned you and made clear that I did love myself) and that if I was easily annoyed by Facebook, there was an absolutely rational reason behind it: some people are just annoying and it is only natural for me to be annoyed.

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It’s you, not me.

So screw being Kind with capital K. I’m kind with small k and am happy with it.

And here’s to my never-changing new year’s resolutions: work out regularly and be fit, try to wake up before 8:00 am, focus more on my studies.

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2014 is going to be awesome.

Disclaimer: Clearly I was just having fun with my own silly interpretation of Marcia Sirota’s not-so-silly and serious article.

How WordPress came to my rescue when Facebook couldn’t anymore

Once upon a time…

1. Start Facebook/Twitter.

2. Friends greeting and leaving stuff on your wall gradually turns into just you filling your statuses ranting or showing off.

3. Rambling on and on about how life is hard and how people are annoying is your new hobby. Friends replying to your frustration is a definite plus.

Problem

4. Another casual annoying day, your thumbs are furiously typing away your anger.

5. You realize practically EVERYBODY is now on Facebook, and even if those who are not your FB friends might see what you wrote about that particular aggravating thing they just did. They will definitely realize that behind that patient smile you put on bravely during the actual offline meeting, lingers the goddess of wrath, about to wake up from her nap.

Dilemma

6.  You hope they’re too stupid or uncouth to realize you’re actually talking about them (it wouldn’t be a surprise, since they were insensitive in the first place to annoy you). But the guilty ones somehow seem to know you’re talking about their crimes when you’re ranting online; this seems too risky.

7. The whole purpose of Facebook crumbles down, and your world is pitched in a disturbing chaos. Your idle thumbs are itching. Your anger gauge rapidly increases because now you can’t even express your disgruntlement through SNS, which, of course, is the healthiest way you know of to release your resentment.

Solution 1

8. A cryptic status, which clearly shows your frustration, but subtly avoids any particular hint on the person responsible for your current state or the particular act, seems a perfect solution. With a devious smile, you furiously yet thoughtfully type away what you believe is a very smart status, in the lines of

“I knew it was too good to be true, I couldn’t possibly have stayed un-annoyed for such a long time. And today, the biggest bomb of all. FML”. 

Counter-argument to Solution 1

9. Just when you’re about to press/click that Post/Tweet button, what is likely to happen in the fascinating offline world where nobody ever rests, unfolds in front of your eyes.

People comment ‘Awww what’s wrong?’ ‘Dislike!’ ‘What happened?’ ‘Who is messing with you again?’, ‘Ach, just like me today’ to which you probably won’t be able to give a straightforward answer (see no. 6 to refresh your memory).

You realize this is another group of people you find annoying on SNS – those who leave cryptic messages, haunting your curiosity, but who somehow are reluctant to elaborate on what is actually bothering them, leaving you just as frustrated as they are. Why bother tell the whole world you’re annoyed if you don’t want to talk about it?

You don’t want to belong to that group, so you have to give up Solution 1, fuming.

Solution 2

10. You write about your experience as if you were analyzing a specific social and psychological phenomenon you think is the new ailment today’s society and youth are facing, on a blog you hope people who don’t care about you enough will be too lazy to click on. You know how much effort it takes, clicking on another link while lightly facebooking.

Pros of Solution 2

11. You feel smart about yourself. Good job, as always, you tell yourself, with a mental wink and a mental pat on the back. Or an actual pat on the back. Who cares, you’re by yourself, writing in front of your laptop. Nobody’s looking. Just go ahead. *pat pat smile*

While you’re at it, mental self-high-five; and you’ve just upgraded yourself to the level of awesomeness of Barney Stinson. All is good, no, legen… wait for it… dary. No YOU ARE legen…wait for it…dary.

(OK, stop, you’ve started creeping yourself out)

12. You know those who care enough will notice and read this post and let you know they sympathize, which is enough.

13. There is only little chance the person responsible for all this in the first place will find about this. Therefore, that person will still believe you are a nice friend. That’s never bad, you can definitely live with that. Once again, you’ve managed to dodge that bullet of becoming the ‘bad guy’. Phew! It was a close one. Your lifelong cover could have really blown up this time.

14. You feel smart AND satisfied. You’ve been happy with much less. This is AWESOME.

Being nice and Facebook

I thought I had blurted everything I despise about Facebook users in my last post, but I guess you can never be too mean. So here goes, my second attempt at unleashing the demon inside me that Facebook does so well in pulling out to the surface.

I love SNS. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Tumblr, you name it. I enjoy using them, as much as I like peeking around what others are doing with these new means of communication. I won’t deny it, I think I’m a little bit addictive to it. I’ll secretly check for Facebook notifications (OK, now it’s not a secret anymore) whenever I post something I think deserves attention (which, since I’m a self-involved person, is usually most of the time) and will get disappointed if my what-I-think is damn sarcastic, thus funny and witty, status gets ignored while one of my ‘Facebook friends’ whining on their long day gets sympathy ‘Likes’ and comforting comments.

However, I have come to learn, especially recently, that you need to have a decent personality to be able to bear with the overreaching consequences of Facebook. You need to be forgiving, open-minded, in other words, a ‘nice person’ to be able to fully enjoy it But the fact is, I am not a nice person. Sure, I can think of a couple of people who would describe me as nice. Well,  in fact, I would like to believe that most people that I know think I’m nice. But when I’m by myself, getting enraged at all the idiocies people post AND above all, COMMENT on my statuses and posts, I have to admit, I am not that nice, nor am I very forgiving. In fact, I think that in a perverted sort of way, I do enjoy being mean, as long as the others don’t know it, especially those I would want to be mean to. Is that too much to ask, really?

On the other hand, when I am done blaming myself for this negative influence on my life (like most things we enjoy, such as alcohol and caffeine, I guess Facebook should be taken in moderation), I do wonder, if it is really my fault that I’m easily irritated by Facebook users, those who are called my ‘Facebook Friends’. I wish people would be more aware of the presence and meaning of the word ‘Social’ in SNS. Yes, ‘social’ implies ‘being with others, living in society’ and all that ‘together’ crap, but if you think about it, it’s also knowing how your actions and words have consequences and an impact on others. You should be considerate towards others. So, really, I think people should be more careful about how they behave on these platforms. If you don’t want to be more careful, there’s something called ‘diary’, which you can make by buying a notebook, or anything to write on, and then keep it to yourself. Or, if you’re too sophisticated to use the good old times pens and pencils, you can still do it typing on your computer and not show it to anyone else. But once you decide to be on an SNS platform, please be aware that it is NOT your personal space. I don’t even talk about your Facebook status.

True, like Ricky Gervais always likes to say on his Tweets, if I don’t like your FB status or Tweets, I can always ‘unfollow’ you or ‘hide’ you from my feeds. But unfortunately, I can’t control what you choose to write on what I consider my personal space. Sure, nowadays, Facebook has gotten more privacy oriented and allows for stuff like ‘acquaintances’ and what not, but like I said, although I do enjoy being mean, I would like it to be kept a secret. I don’t really want you to know that I consider you as an ‘acquaintance’ and not as a ‘friend’.

So please make your own judgment. If you’re hesitating, then the right thing to do would probably be to just laugh and nod at my cool status and move on. You’re still not sure? Well then, let me make it clear for you. If there’s no sign whatsoever that I seem to give a shit about your life (no Likes, no comments, not even a ‘haha that’s funny’ to something that is obviously funny) and I have clearly been ignoring your comments on my page (not even a pity Like), then yeah, you’re probably in that ‘I don’t consider you as a friend so stop bothering me’ zone of mine. Move away those fingers of yours from the keyboard. Sure you’re my ‘Facebook friend’. But surely, you don’t mean to tell me that you would actually think I give a damn about your opinion, when obviously you and I both know that we are not really friends. Surely, you know the difference between ‘Facebook friend’ and ‘real friend’. And no matter how much SNS has invaded our lives, I would still like to think that there is a clear difference between those two. So, yeah, no offense erm, (and you know the thing about ‘no offense’ right? It usually means ‘yeah, please take the offense’), but would you be so kind and get the damn hint. I do apologize in advance.

Etiquette on proper FB behavior.

This is long overdue.

It all started with a little thing, like all great things do, come to think of it.

My sister and I are very close. Like best friends. We sometimes do freaky things, like we would be miles apart, but we would do the same thing at approximately the same time. And it’s not anything usual like having cereals for breakfast. We often say the same weird thing at the same time, things that only people with our code of humor would say.

Don’t let my many unanswered posts on her FB wall fool you about our bond. If you’re good friends enough like we are in reality -where things still matter, I want to believe, more than in the virtual world- it’s not that big of a deal if my stupid comments stay unanswered or ‘unliked’ on FB.

But this is where it all started. I wrote something on her wall that wasn’t really serious and then, since she left it unanswered, I kept commenting on my own posts (which, in hindsight, is pretty pathetic) until this ‘common FB friend’ we had ALSO commented on it. This is when we BOTH flipped. Who was he to butt in our very sacred conversation like this? Maybe he thought he was doing me a favor, or that he was a great friend to us, but primo, we don’t have that great of a friend yet to allow such an intrusion, segundo, neither of us considered him that great of a friend, so two versus one, I think we were in our right to flip.

That’s when I decided that with more or less half of our live on Social Network Services – in this case Facebook – it was high time we draft some set rules on our behavior on FB, something like the better known bro-code, but I guess much less cool.

1. Don’t butt in conversations that are CLEARLY personal, like two awesome sisters having fun. Although one is not apparent on the post, her answer and presence are understated, which anyone who had a hint on our special relationship would definitely know. It’s spelled ‘Social Network’, but it’s read ‘I still need my personal space/privacy’, at least for those who are smart enough to perceive the subtle difference. I think FB creators and employees do know, because they’ve started creating a bunch of ‘privacy’ tools. So if you use FB, you should be just as smart to spot the difference. Rule of thumb: in case of doubt, you’re probably not seeing the difference, so walk away. Don’t leave your stupid comments in personal conversations, which the actual people involved are too polite to get rid of.

2. FB is not a stadium or arena for you to compete on who works the hardest. Clearly, if you’re updating your FB status on the late hours you’re spending at work, maybe it’s because you’ve spent so much time on FB, especially since anyone can see on the FB feedback and thread all the comments you have updated an liked. Stop complaining about the work you haven’t done. Go do it. Okay, we all grant you one or two complaints, since people can’t restrain themselves from lamenting on their pitiful lives (knowing deep inside that even so, their lives are much better than their friends’). It’s in our genes, so there, you have two chances. Use them wisely.

3. Don’t ‘like’ all the bloody comments just for the sake of it. I personally find it quite disappointing to find out that all my notifications, which I sometimes leave until the very last moment to check, trying to control my trembling fingers as I click on the bright and shiny red number, are about someone ‘liking’ my pictures/status/comments. Okay, maybe a ‘like’ is better than no like at all. Maybe I’m being too greedy. But when you see that all the dozens of comments have been ‘liked’ as well as yours, when clearly, some lack the wit and wisdom I have tried to offer through my comments, well, that ‘Like’ button doesn’t seem so special anymore. Especially when it comes to something I posted like a gazillion years and totally forgot about it, don’t ‘like’ it because you forgot to then. If you forgot it then, it probably wasn’t worth it. I don’t need your ‘pity likes’.

Exceptions: birthday posts. Since like half of them are from people you barely see once a year, I know that posting a simple ‘Thank you’ seems useless and disrespectful. Just in those moments, a ‘like’ click does make sense and is much more respectful.

4. Don’t ‘friend’ me if you’ve seen me once, at a large party, and we didn’t share more than a few sentences. Don’t ‘friend’ me if it’s been more than 5 years we last saw/spoke to each other and the chances are, we will continue to do so in the future. AND we weren’t even that close 5 years ago, for that matter. Maybe some people like seeing 1,000 above their Friends list… I just think it shows how shallow and easy you are, opening your friendship and heart to half the world population. I refuse to be friends with you then!

5. Don’t post stupid comments or try to make a joke when I post something serious. I’m clearly trying to show you how smart I am, that I can think and speak for myself, although what I mostly post on my wall are ‘shares’ from pages like ‘Life is a bitch’ or ‘Damnyouautocorrect’. Bear with me and my awesomeness. After all, I bear with all YOUR humble brags (no, scratch that, JUST brags. Nothing humble) without being a douchebag myself.

6. In continuation with the #5, when people post how tired they are, they want your SYMPATHY (if you still know what that is). They don’t want you to tell them how lucky they are, they have it easy, they don’t want to hear how tired YOU are AS WELL. If they wanted to know, well, they would have asked, or better, they would have read your bloody last dozen posts, which are all about how tired you are and how hard working you are, but no one acknowledges you. It’s not a competition to see who is the most tired and hard working, we all are, so try to comfort the other person and he/she will do the same for you. There’s always someone saying ‘Me, only 2! And for the past 5 days!’ to the status ‘I only managed to sleep for 4 hours last night’.

The FB-code still has much to be improved, but these are my primary findings.