Word Vomit Wednesday - Flagged

 Welcome to Word Vomit Wednesday! A series of blog posts about random thoughts or a specific topic from current events that I, and sometimes the rest of the Internet, ruminate obsessively about. All thoughts/opinions/experiences are my own (unless otherwise indicated); I don’t claim anything that I write to represent anyone other than myself.

*At the time of posting this, I was and am still partially banned from sharing things on Facebook without any explanation from Facebook.*

Last week I was flagged on Facebook for “hate speech” much to my surprise and to the surprise of pretty much everyone I know. And, if I’m being honest here, I actually felt more inconvenienced than upset about it. I probably should have felt more upset about it because it’s indicative of an enormous and terrifying cultural trend: censoring critical thought and expression while protecting harassment, threats, and bigotry. I have no idea who reported me or what about me or something I posted (I only posted twice last week and I rarely engage with Facebook anymore except to post this blog and work for Female Frequency and maybe “like” some of my friend’s posts) was found to be problematic, which is part of the problem with reporting on social media platforms. No one has any idea what the fuck is going on and nothing is actually accomplished.

I talked to my friend (I’ll call her Viv for this piece) who co-founded and worked for an organization whose intention was to provide support for victims of online harassment. And what she found while working with Twitter and their global trust and safety departments was pretty abysmal. First of all, these are very small departments that employ very few people. Which makes discerning legitimate reportings and enforcing consequences for the hundreds of thousands of claims that come in weekly to be virtually impossible. And because these social media companies don’t want to shell out the money for more manpower on this issue we’re left at the whims of algorithms that end up doing more harm than good. By having bots that are programmed to find keywords and then trigger a ban based on those words removes any kind of discussion about First Amendment rights and protections.

Algorithms have no concept for context and nuance. You can’t define hate speech and symbols without also discussing context and you can’t pretend to care about the First Amendment if you can’t determine what speech is protected and what warrants consequences if there are no people having those discussions while working on cases. By setting up these algorithms you may be able pick up on that Neo-Nazi’s multiple profiles, but you’re probably also lumping people who educate about World War II in with the bigots as if they're in any way equitable. They’re obviously not even close. That's one way in which these social media platforms are doing a great disservice to it’s community members.

While Viv was working at her organization, she had the rare opportunity to personally and directly bring cases to global trust and safety which would expedite the process for her clients significantly. Even then, there were still many obstacles. No two social media platforms have a uniform way they deal with reports and they all require different types of “evidence” from the users filing complaints which users are either not aware of or have no idea how to obtain them. Not only that, but harassment is still just not taken seriously. According to Viv, even after personally bringing forward very serious cases involving death threats it still took 48 hours for any action.

The excuses for not doing more organizationally and even legislatively, is this bullshit idea that the Internet is too fast to even think about putting real protections for people around hate speech, threats of violence, threats to reputation, privacy and consent. Excuse me, but that’s just fucking lazy. So lazy and unwilling to do the work are these social media companies, that they opened up this country to major national security threats (hello, Russia Investigation). And it’s appalling that the people on the Internet who do cause harm and who express themselves with violence are only ever given a slap on the wrist. Why even have a reporting system if no one is going to be held accountable for their actions? Which brings me to my next point. Oftentimes reporting someone (as was in my case last week) is the harassment behavior.

Trolls employ reporting as a harassment tactic CONSTANTLY. My first personal experience with it was last week, but I have seen it happen over and over again to, in particular,  to BIPOC (black, indigenous people of color) activists and advocates (mostly women) that I follow on various social media platforms. And it is enraging every time that these people who are either educating, observing, asking, or sharing are policed at virtually every turn. THAT’S FUCKED UP AND REALLY NOT NECESSARY. But because there is no real discussion or real people discerning the difference between hate speech and a truth that may make someone feel some discomfort, reporting is abused and used violently toward marginalized people. Much in the same way all our other institutions are set up to uphold those same white supremacist and patriarchal standards.

If our society is going to progress in any way, we need to get this mess sorted out. Free speech does not mean one is free from consequences. If someone is being abused they should feel like they’re going to be heard when they reach out. When someone has been flagged, they need to be given specific reasons why something they did or said was deemed inappropriate and be held accountable appropriately, not just given a link to the site’s guidelines. And if someone uses the reporting system in a violent way they should not only be appropriately held accountable for that but also have it communicated to them why what they were reporting was not considered hate speech, etc. Fostering discussion and education through healthy communication practices is something we definitely need in these spaces. If these platforms continue to rely on these algorithms instead of having qualified humans facilitate we are never going to have the resources or professional support that we deserve in these spaces.

Katie Louchheim suggests that if an opinion makes you uncomfortable, go see a therapist before projecting your bullshit inappropriately on others.

Word Vomit Wednesday - Simulacrum

 Welcome to Word Vomit Wednesday! A series of blog posts about random thoughts or a specific topic from current events that I, and sometimes the rest of the Internet, ruminate obsessively about. All thoughts/opinions/experiences are my own (unless otherwise indicated); I don’t claim anything that I write to represent anyone other than myself.




I’m sitting on my parent’s couch with a heating pad hugging my left shoulder blade because I apparently strained it while trying to see around the very tall woman seated in front of me at Centennial Hall. And while Finding Neverland was a very cute and harmless production, it was definitely not worth this misery and I think I’m feeling more sore about that than I am about the pain itself. Couchella 2018 is about as big of a bummer as every Coachella that doesn’t have Beyoncé performing. It’s also forcing me to literally sit and reflect on this past week in Tucson. This trip has neither been all fibro flare-ups nor without stress entirely, but what it has been is bizarre. I’m coming back to a place that I consciously ran away from partly because I didn’t feel like I could be myself there. Or even find out who that was. It was a place where I felt so trapped and afraid of and frustrated by everything. As the cosmic joke that life can be would have it, my healing journey indicated that it was time to go back and dig into the shit I thought I left behind. As I now know, no one ever leaves anything behind. Wherever you go, there you are and sometimes in order to move forward you need to take a few steps back.

Random Kanye West-style philosophical rambling aside, it is weird being back and knowing that I’m not just heading to New York for good at the end of the week. I’m here seeing my family, family friends, and even some friends I haven’t seen since high school and so much feels unnervingly unchanged. Except for me. Every day I have had a sense of anxiety and unease and it’s not about moving back for this sabbatical. It’s more this jarring out-of-body sensation of recognizing a schema, situation, or dynamic and just feeling slightly off within it. I’m taking that as a positive thing. Because while I am not totally at ease I’m also not totally off-kilter either. I feel more grounded in myself and less like I’m compromising my authenticity like I was when I left almost 11 years ago. It indicates growth and a realization that I have more power in situations. But, it’s also a very naked and vulnerable feeling. Feeling those feelings in these situations that recall seventeen years of previous experience in living here is incredibly confusing. Almost every day I’ve been texting friends telling them how anxious I am, how I can’t just sit still and relax, how I’m constantly looking over my shoulder when I’m out in public, how I’m having such trouble sleeping and I just don’t know why. You would think I was under Witness Protection or something.

No matter where I go I sense this essence of a Katie that no longer exists and it’s obstructing my view of the situation. Like the town is haunted by this emotionally wounded child that just doesn’t have the skills or knowledge to pass on. I don’t know if it’s just my memories coming into sharp focus and confusing the past for present reality, but every day there’s been a moment of haziness where the next thing to do, say, or go is either muddled or doesn’t exist at all. So, maybe that’s the job I’m supposed to do here. Picking up my life one place and putting in another is not the challenge. I’ve done that quite a few times already. And I don’t think exorcising or slaying the demons is what’s called for either because, as I am painfully aware of right now, that will probably just cause strain that cannot be helped by a few hours snuggled up with a heating pad. But maybe learning to face them and help them across the vale will help me actually move on too.

 

 

Katie Louchheim is looking into a career in supernatural diplomacy.

Word Vomit Wednesday - Apology

Welcome to Word Vomit Wednesday! A series of blog posts about a specific topic from current events that I, and sometimes the rest of the Internet, ruminate obsessively about. All thoughts/opinions/experiences are my own; I don’t claim anything that I write to represent anyone other than myself.

 

 

Thanksgiving was a little rough this year, which means that for a person living with chronic pain and illness, like myself, a huge amount of time to heal afterward was necessary. I was so stressed out this past holiday that the moment I got back to the safe space that is my apartment, my body turned into a brick and I was unable to get out of bed for a good 24 hours. The following days were spent being in intense physical pain topped off with an emotional state of hyper-vigilance and panic. It’s taken me over a week to “normalize” and feel like myself again. My days generally focus on checking in with myself constantly and making decisions based on what I’m feeling and how much energy I have. It makes it hard to commit to anything because my energy can (and does) change at the drop of a hat. And because there’s no known cause that medical institutions can point to for Fibromyalgia, I end up having to try a million things to see what feels helpful and what doesn’t.

My life is literally in my own hands. And it’s a full-time job. So, below I’d like to share an exercise that I have used off and on that has been really helpful for me on my healing journey with chronic pain (and other wounds) and maybe it can be a tool that you can have in your toolbox too. I’ve used this tool to write to younger versions of myself that needed soothing and understanding and to specific body parts that I’ve historically been angry with. Every time it’s hit an emotional nerve that has led to some form of catharsis and deeper understanding of myself. This week I wrote a letter to my fibro asking for forgiveness and extending an olive branch for moving forward together. I added a new component for myself by writing a response letter as my fibro. This second part was extremely powerful for me because I was able to give voice to a part of myself that had important things to say and needed to be heard.

Here are my letters:

Dear Fibromyalgia,

 

I have been feeling really tested this week. I spend all the time and energy I have working with you and around you. As much as I feel like we’re figuring things out sometimes weeks like the past couple hit and I find that I just don’t know what you want. I know you’re helping me to acknowledge areas of my life and feelings I need to work on, but why does it have to hurt so much? I know it’s out of trying to help me and protect me. I cannot express how eternally grateful I am for that. Especially since, you’re probably very used to being treated so ungratefully from me. I’ve minimized you, ignored you, blamed you for holding me back in life and equated you to weakness. So now that I’m trying to be open to conversation and to building a relationship it can feel like the levees breaking and I’m drowning. I’m trying not to view this that way anymore. Maybe this is more like me breaking out of the cocoon you’ve turned my body into so that I can eventually break free into the form I’m supposed to be. Becoming is not and has not been easy. Or glamorous. Or simple to explain. And it’s taking a really long time. I’m learning to trust the process and I’m learning to listen and take appropriate actions for myself. I’m sorry for not trusting you and for treating you like you didn’t matter. Because in doing that, it’s meant that that’s how I’ve felt about and treated myself. I hope you can forgive me and that we can continue to move forward in friendship, even in times of regression. I will keep in mind that, those times especially, are reminders to treat both of us gently.

 

Your friend,

KT

 

 

Dear KT,

 

Thank you for this letter and your apology. I know how earth-shattering and difficult these past few years have been for you. This has been a learning process for me too. As you’re growing and learning, I’m having some trouble letting go. What can I say? Old habits die hard. I’ve sprung into action so immediately and for so long for you that it’s hard for me to find other ways to help you to manage what life throws at you. You’ve been through alot and I’m extremely proud of who you are and all the work you’ve been doing. I will always be here for you and I look forward to continuing moving forward together. Even if that moving forward sometimes looks like stepping backward. Like you said, becoming is not easy. And I know when you finally emerge from one form to the next you will realize and take ownership of the power you have and lead a life that is meaningful for you.

 

Love always,

Fibro

 

Katie Louchheim is here for the destigmatization of mental, chronic, and “invisible” illnesses and hopes you are too.