Is MeFi depressing? April 27, 2016 6:55 PM   Subscribe

I saw this Ask, and it really resonated with me.

I hadn't directly thought about it before, but I do find that I get depressed when I spend a lot of time reading MeFi; even more so than I do from generally using the internet too much. I've been (spending way too much time) reading discussions online for over 20 years now, beginning with dial-up BBSes, the Usenet and IRC, and this is kind of a unique phenomenon for me. Both in terms of how it makes me feel, but also in that I keep coming back anyway...

I'm curious, do others feel this way as well? How do you cope with it? Is this an actual problem with MeFi or just inherent in the nature of the stuff that gets discussed here?
posted by primethyme to MetaFilter-Related at 6:55 PM (535 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

"Brutally depressing" is the exact opposite of how I feel about MetaFilter. That Ask didn't go into any detail about what about the site is depressing (the topics? the comments?), but to me, MetaFilter is a site that lifts my spirits and gives me hope, not least because of the users who participate, even the ones I strongly disagree with. MetaFilter has literally made me a better person.
posted by ogooglebar at 7:13 PM on April 27, 2016 [50 favorites]


I still find MeFi mostly amusing, probably because I've learned what types of questions on AskMeFi and posts on the Blue set off my life sucks filter, so I just avoid them.
posted by COD at 7:14 PM on April 27, 2016 [11 favorites]


Sometimes the content of the FPPs depresses me, but I'm mostly to blame for that, because I seek out the ones that tend to be more depressing. I do that because the comments usually hearten me. There's a bad thing going on in the world, but I know that I can come here and read comments from people who are just as upset over the bad thing (usually written more articulately than I could say) and that makes me feel... better? Less alone? The internet can be a cruel place, and it helps that the people here usually aren't.
posted by Weeping_angel at 7:16 PM on April 27, 2016 [21 favorites]


On review, I see that Ask-er doesn't like the comments, and I feel that "primarily/exclusively focused on social (in)justice" is an unfair generalization, but I can't judge another person for what they take away from the site. It's just that my experience is different.
posted by ogooglebar at 7:19 PM on April 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


MetaFilter is fairly good at inducing reality checks, which can be depressing when unexpected, large in number, and/or severe in intensity.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 7:20 PM on April 27, 2016 [16 favorites]


I find that A. all comment sections are depressing, and B. MeFi's comment section is the least depressing I've seen.
posted by Flexagon at 7:22 PM on April 27, 2016 [13 favorites]


I have no actual data to back this up, but I feel that over the past few years Metafilter has become less 'cool shit I found on the web' and more 'look at this outrageous shit you should be pissed off about on the web'. We still get the cool stuff, but I personally feel like it is interspersed with more uhhh difficult (?) fpps.

That being said, I just glanced at the front page and it seems like there is a good mix of positive, negative and ambivalent posts, so maybe it is just me. Or, maybe commenters are more likely skew discussions of what I would assume to be lighthearted posts (goose cam?) into sensitive areas.

But yeah, I kind of have been feeling it lately.
posted by Literaryhero at 7:26 PM on April 27, 2016 [101 favorites]


Oh, not that the comments on the goose cam are bad, I didn't even open that thread, just using it as an example of a light post.
posted by Literaryhero at 7:27 PM on April 27, 2016


I get what they mean, I think. If you tried to read the front page of Metafilter from beginning to end every day, you'd be reading a lot of articles about racism, sexual assault, police brutality, economic disenfranchisement, government corruption, etc., accompanied by hundreds of comments by very, very smart people making a very strong case about how unjust the status quo is, and how difficult it is to effect social change.

And they're not wrong! Bad things happen, and change is tough, and I count on Metafilter to give me the sharpest and most thorough deconstruction of the major social issues of our day. But I also make a lot of judicious decisions about the links and comments I read, and work hard to shake the clinging sense of moral obligation I have to read, say, 800 comments about the horribleness of the Republican primaries. It sounds to me like the commenter hasn't really figured out how to do this, and I get it - it took me some time to find the right balance as well. I don't think Metafilter has to change; I think every user has to figure out how to consume the content here (and on the rest of the web) that is productive and beneficial to their mental and emotional health.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 7:30 PM on April 27, 2016 [58 favorites]


I find that A. all comment sections are depressing, and B. MeFi's comment section is the least depressing I've seen.

So... Most internet comment sections are depressing because the commenters seem so ignorant or hateful. I agree, MeFi doesn't have that problem (for the most part). But in some ways, I find MeFi's comment section more depressing than those other ones, because it can feel like it's made up of a bunch of really smart, but also incredibly angry, depressed, and bitter people riffing on how awful the world is, and how we're all doomed (and also how anyone who doesn't agree is evil). I mean, I get it - there's a lot to be angry, depressed, and bitter about. And we can't afford to ignore that stuff. But I'm also beginning to think that overexposure to it is pretty harmful too, and for me, the comments can be worst part.
posted by primethyme at 7:39 PM on April 27, 2016 [35 favorites]


If MeFi depressing?

Is Bismarck a herring?
posted by jonmc at 7:39 PM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


For my own part, just as a member, I definitely much much prefer the "interesting/cool/glad I heard about that" stuff, and I get bummed out when there is seemingly a heavy load of stuff on the "this sucks/terrible news/latest update on awful thing" end of the spectrum.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:39 PM on April 27, 2016 [20 favorites]


Hm. Sometimes yeah I feel like I get bummed out being here out so I go away for a while then come back when I feel like I can handle it. I find metafilter to be less of a cause and more of a reflection though. Like maybe my own internal cycle is in the "in a state of depression" and I'm just not up to being in the mefi mix?
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:49 PM on April 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


I also go away because sometimes I feel like I am at a place where my mental state is counter to what mefi needs from participants in order to maintain a healthy space for everyone.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:55 PM on April 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yes, I agree, and have thought about making a meta or ask about how people cope with all the bad news, especially as things are just getting worse and worse and don't look like they will ever get better again. I read stuff on here and it just makes me miserable and sad, and I don't even read the US election threads as they aren't relevant to me. I would be interested to hear how people cope with all the bad news (not just here, it is fucking everywhere) without losing their minds or giving up.
posted by marienbad at 8:25 PM on April 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


In my opinion, while I think that you can make a general case about "depressing content" in that a site that is all cat videos or something is the opposite of that, it's the case that if you have a site with a variety of content that can be a downer, it's the case that what is a downer to one person may not be a downer to another. And vice-versa.

I don't find the discussions about social justice here to be depressing. For the most part I find them encouraging (with some exceptions, such as MeTa threads which go very badly). Although the awareness and improvement here is incremental, uneven, and often difficult, it's still improvement and I find that more encouraging than discouraging.

In contrast, I personally find news of specific outrageous acts of x-ism to be, taken as a whole and in large quantity on a regular basis, pretty depressing. Although I'm a committed feminist and have been for decades, and am outspoken on the topic of sexism and feminism here and elsewhere, I find that I can't sustain a daily diet of news about specific, outrageous acts of sexism and misogyny and sexual violence. Even though I care greatly about these issues and discuss them frequently, and am happy to listen to anecdotes from others, what I can't really handle are a constant stream of specific horrors. And so I stopped reading some feminist sites years ago because those sites were all about that. Which is fine for other people! But it's not how I prefer to engage with these issues and it takes a toll on my mental health.

Or, for that matter, the US election threads. I keep up with the election news from a few specific sites and where I keep it at a certain distance. I don't read the MetaFilter threads because that places a whole bunch of stuff that depresses me right in front of me -- not the least (or, honestly, in fact it's the most) is the vicious way that sections of the left and specifically the MetaFilter left are attacking each other. That very strongly depresses me. That's no exaggeration, this is probably close to being as accurate as a clinical diagnosis. I suffer from chronic major depression and I know what my warning signs and symptoms are. And a prominent one is a sudden desire, a need, to go to bed. Reading some of those US election threads makes me deeply tired in that sense.

I think that most everyone has a complicated relationship about some stuff that they care deeply about, where they are engaged and feel angry about some injustices or whatever, and where to a certain degree outrage is motivating and natural and beyond that it's kind of soul-destroying in a sense that it leads to a kind of despair. Outrageous stuff has that kind of effect -- it first motivates you, but beyond a certain point it can be deeply disheartening. And, just generally, all the bad stuff in the world is like this. It's best to be aware, I think, I think we're all better off when people are informed and engaged. But we each have different emotional and psychological limits, boundaries, and it's not only okay to ration how much one is exposed to, but, indeed it's more responsible because only by being healthy can one continue to be functionally positive about this stuff.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:54 PM on April 27, 2016 [26 favorites]



I definitely much much prefer the "interesting/cool/glad I heard about that" stuff

I'm definitely on Team Bring Back 'best of the web'
posted by dhruva at 8:55 PM on April 27, 2016 [25 favorites]


primethyme: "I'm curious, do others feel this way as well?"

Yep. I used to at least skim the material in every FPP. Sure there was some activism and outrage stuff but it was mostly emotionally neutral stuff. Now between the constant politics, outrage filter, awareness filter and assorted undigestable megaposts I skip a lot.
posted by Mitheral at 9:06 PM on April 27, 2016 [17 favorites]


I tend to scroll through and find the threads with 50+ comments and read them. Some of the time they are really technical with lots of great people talking about it but most of the longer discussions are about really depressing things with lots of people lamenting. But that's what I come here for. Even if the topics are hard to deal with the discussions are so much better than anywhere else and that is what I value.

So the fact that I do indeed sometimes end up feeling absolutely awful after visiting mefi it's pretty much my own fault for self-selecting.
posted by M Edward at 9:06 PM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I do think there's a much greater frequency of "this is something to be outraged about" posts now than in the past. And less "look at this cool thing" or "here's an exhaustive 30 link post on a topic you didn't know existed" posts. I think some people really want to discuss "the news" with other intelligent people and that's hard to find online. I admit myself that when I see something happen that I find newsworthy I immediately turn to Metafilter to see what the other members are saying. But it's not why I joined or why I've stayed for a decade. Maybe there could be more moderation to cut back on current events vs. interesting subjects posts?
posted by downtohisturtles at 9:18 PM on April 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


If you want to be MORE depressed, check out the Deleted Posts blog showing that more posts are deleted for being "just a shitty thing that happened" or "two-minute hate" than for Doubles. It's a tough balancing act for the moderators (and if anybody needs to worry about being depressed, it's our Courageous Team of Mods). We went through a period during the Bush Jr. Administration when "Surely THIS" became one of our running jokes. All of us (especially Americans, and MeFi is USAcentric) are going through a rough period right now, where we are seeing some progress in some fronts but we are becoming aware of so many more problems and injustices that just weren't even acknowledged back when MeFi was new. A lot of us (like me) have recently realized (or are just coming to realize, or haven't overcome the denial yet to realize) "hey, part of what I considered just fine all my life has been just AWFUL for a lot of people not like me". Not to mention the terrifying backlash happening against anything positive.

Meanwhile the initial optimism of the Internet has been Facebooked away, and the classic version of "The Best of the Web" is almost an endangered species. I don't see much of the "look at this cool thing" that DOESN'T get posted to MeFi, otherwise I'd post it myself. If anything, you get less outrage from MeFi than elsewhere, which just shows how awful "The REST of the Web" is today.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:30 PM on April 27, 2016 [13 favorites]


I'm always hesitant to jump to the "maybe delete more stuff, please" conclusion. I would say a big part of the general feeling that there's more posts about grar topics is that the web is more tuned to producing that sort of content. Grar gets clicks, just like cute fluffy bunnies. There is a lot of anger, and a lot of negativity, but that has to do partly with the fact that, in the world as it is, there's a lot of anger, and a lot of not great shit happening, and it shows up on the blue.

On the other hand, what's waiting under the fold, just past the "more inside" is a community of intelligent discussion. It's not perfect, it never will be, but it's a community that (with a lot of kicking and screaming, then quiet, oh shit, understanding) has evolved over time to be less shitty to its members, and more supportive overall. Yes, the post might've about awful things, but the comments are usually something that, if it doesn't make everything better, well, it goes a lot further to that effect than if someone just saw the news on TV and had no one to turn to.

Unfortunately, the world is pretty damn bleak right now, and maybe that's being reflected on the blue. On the other hand, in an earlier meta from this week, there was clear and simple explanation of how you can use the My MeFi to deal with tags you'd rather not see. Rather than changing the content and character of the site, helping members to understand how to better use the site tools to make what they see more of what they want is, to me, a better trade off.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:39 PM on April 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


My completely non-empirical thought is that to some extent, the cool-stuff posts seem like they have become a bit polarized over the years. They run more to either giant link dumps that aren't attractive to a lot of posters -- because what are you supposed to do with 25 pages of Brony-ness? -- or quite slight posts with a short cat video in them. That makes the cool stuff posts take up less attention while the mid-weight "I can totally read/watch this and then participate in a real discussion about it" posts tend to be heavier. So it may be a skewing of attention more than a skewing of actual post counts.

Or it could be that the pattern I feel like I've noticed just isn't true.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:39 PM on April 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


I do think there's a much greater frequency of "this is something to be outraged about" posts now than in the past.

I used to read almost every social justice-related thread on the blue. The ideas debated and experiences shared made for fascinating and useful reading that strengthened or challenged my existing positions, gave me new ideas, or helped me articulate thoughts so that I was better at recognizing and combatting pernicious attitudes I encountered irl.

But now it feels like there are SO many of them, and the sheer volume can get overwhelming and sad. And to be honest I find the threads themselves to be more frustrating and depressing than they used to be.

They've been curated (both by actual mods and the actions of other users) to the point where they've essentially ended up being the same people agreeing about the same things until some well-intentioned but mildly clueless interloper wanders in, in which case (a) their comment is deleted and unanimity is preserved or (b) everyone piles on to see how many favorites they can accumulate for their SICK BURN and I get bummed about the level of hostility and assumptions of bad faith.

Anyway, this whole dynamic started bringing me down so I've drastically reduced my consumption of outrage-provoking threads.
posted by lalex at 9:44 PM on April 27, 2016 [86 favorites]


Well, I, as "wendell" was here from almost the beginning, and I posted a lot of "Best of the Web" stuff in 2000 that you'd call "slight posts"... and half of them have dead links now.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:44 PM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


they've essentially ended up being the same people agreeing about the same things

I avoid posting social justice stories because they're so common here now that the discussions almost always generate more heat than light, as lalex points out. I'd like to see more centrist—or even center-right—ideas tackled in an intelligent manner instead of being scornfully dismissed. NoLabels, for example. If nobody posts that before my 24-hr window ends I'll do it myself.

Also, enough with the goddamn cats; we need more dog posts.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:00 PM on April 27, 2016 [9 favorites]


Overall I find Mefi a useful exercise in practicing detachment. I have opinions about lots of things. And over time I have gotten into fewer arguments about them on mefi because mostly those arguments go nowhere. Sometimes I learn something. Sometimes I learn something and still disagree and practice feeling Ok with that being my little secret. Sometimes it's best to just skip a post for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that too much Mefi isn't good for anyone and you sometimes need to go do something else.
posted by GuyZero at 10:14 PM on April 27, 2016 [11 favorites]


In case it's helpful to anyone, I asked a question about this a couple years ago. Some decent suggestions there on how to take care of yourself, keep things in perspective, and occasionally step away from the always-on, left-leaning internet of injustice and sadness that we seem to have thrown ourselves into full-force in recent years.
posted by naju at 10:44 PM on April 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


I feel that way as well, down to the coming back in spite of mixed feelings. I left mefi for awhile about a year back because I'd started to feel like it was not good for my mood. I attributed it to either me outgrowing the community, or the community outgrowing me. But I never found a good alternative and I came back within a few months with the resolve to be the mefi I wanted to see. I'm trying to really limit the threads I look at, and making an effort to contribute the kind of threads I'd enjoy. I don't know how well that strategy is working for me though.
posted by Across the pale parabola of joy at 10:47 PM on April 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


It would be kind of cool to see some sort of "MeFi Positive" effort (unofficial community effort, or official, doesn't matter to me) - highlighting some of the fun, goofy, heartwarming, etc. stuff that gets posted. Like that Pixies video with the singing animals that was posted today. Or other stuff. The equivalent of a "give your brain a break" place for this site.
posted by naju at 10:56 PM on April 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


I agree that a lot of the content can be depressing but I'm glad it's there. Sometimes if I'm having a bad day I do skip the depressing stuff, more often I read it. On the whole I'd rather be informed, and it's easy (for me) to just ignore posts when necessary.

Admittedly I'm more likely to read a depressing news post than a depressing personal essay. I'd really hate to see any decrease in the amount of NewsFilter because I think MeFi is a really valuable resource for news. Actually it was the Katrina coverage here that got me hooked in the first place.

But don't get me wrong, I don't think the number of depressing personal essays needs any reducing either. Or any particular kind of post for that matter. The current balance is fine.
posted by equalpants at 10:56 PM on April 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've found MetaFilter both depressing and anger-inducing in the past, and I took a one or two year break (not as in "I totally disabled my account" but "I cut my MeFi reading by like 90%") because I realized that it was a net negative. Lately, though, it hasn't depressed me much, and while individual threads can depress me, as a whole it's no longer a net negative. It's not that MeFi has changed, I just have finally developed the ability to move on without clicking when I see certain key words in posts.

Another thing that has helped is that I've gained the ability to just bail on a thread when I find it turning into a perpetual "No, that's not what I said and it's not what I mean" cycle.
posted by Bugbread at 11:13 PM on April 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


Personally I think mefi improved when a few rules of conduct were maintained. In my opinion that boiled down to basic human decency. Don't shout lewd remarks at the ladies in the room. Don't be an ass. That kind of stuff.
But I don't think more is always better when it comes to moral rules. Especially not with a detail oriented audience that enjoys rule lawyering.

Then there's the aspect of social activism. I personally am not interested in specific political viewpoints a priori. It's not something of interest for me. (Not 'best of the web' if you will)
It's like the social guideline not to discuss politics at a party or at work. You don't do that because generally it doesn't lead to an enjoyable dynamic.

For me personally mefi veered away from 'common sense rules of behaviour' into territory where social/moral rules become a goal in themselves. And I don't find that particularly enjoyable to be honest.
posted by joost de vries at 11:21 PM on April 27, 2016 [9 favorites]


I've also felt frustrated and down at times, and in part that feeling has resonated to the vibration of various "bad news" posts (not that they should not exist, for the reasons others have stated).

Occasionally, and perhaps selfishly, I think to offset the horrors of the world by offering a little kindness to people here who should have it - e.g. congratulating someone on their new child, new job, new success or birthday. That is one anecdote and no advice, of course. But I do like MeFi and (naively and again probably selfishly) look on it as a treasury of potential friends, or at least interesting people to listen to and to occasionally shoot the shit with.

Anyway I say all that by way of sympathy, and in the hope your day gets brighter (however the sun comes out for you). All good wishes from house quidnunc, MeFite(s).
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:33 PM on April 27, 2016 [41 favorites]


Honestly, this site depresses the hell out of me. I only reactivated my account because it was kind of relief to hear that other people feel this way.

What depresses me isn't even the content, although it certainly doesn't help. It's the interactions. I just don't know how to handle the social aspect of this place. I mean, I've been writing and deleting this comment over and over again because I don't know how to phrase stuff in a way that won't sound wrong. Everything is just so fraught on this site. It's gotten to the point where I don't even know how to write a comment like this without wondering what I've done wrong. The last time I wrote a comment about being uncomfortable on this site, it started a conversation about how I'm being forced to confront my own privilege. Why would I walk away from writing this comment now and not feel like hell?

I've had great interactions with people on the site. I even went to a meetup, and I had great conversations with really interesting people there (I like to imagine that I didn't come across as neurotic in person as I am here). But there's something about the interpersonal distance of this site that just drives me crazy. It's that internet dynamic of text-based talking and relative anonymity. It's not even about knowing that people appreciate what you have to say, it's a more fundamental issue of being able to navigate the social space at all without the cues you get with other kinds of interactions.

This isn't making as much sense as I was hoping it would, but I'm tired and I've got to go to bed. I guess I'm just wondering if that really is an issue with compatibility. I've disabled my account half a dozen times because I seem to get along with this place better when I can't participate. But that's isolating, too. So I have to wonder at what point you draw the line and conclude that you just aren't compatible. I mean, it seems statistically impossible that no one on Earth would ever be fundamentally incompatible.

It's kind of embarrassing to be this obsessive, but it's late and I'm tired and I don't know how else to phrase this. Maybe I just need two months off of the site so I can join with fresh eyes, or something. You're good people, but trying to participate here makes me pretty miserable sometimes.
posted by teponaztli at 1:43 AM on April 28, 2016 [70 favorites]


I used to be really active here when I was unemployed during the depths of the Recession, but then I got a job. And for a while my job was normal work hours, so I could participate, more or less. Now my job has me time-shifted so much that either I am getting in on the very beginning of morning-posted threads and then not seeing them again until after midnight, or else I am not even seeing threads until after they have a zillion comments.

What I've found during this time of sort of enforced sitting back is that there are a LOT of discussions here which springboard from some article or topic that is adjacent to some other topic, that end up devolving into a rehash of positions about that topic. There's a point, someplace between 40 and 80 comments, where everything being said becomes familiar. And at that point, for a lot of threads, I just close the tab and move on. Even if I have something deeply insightful to share and find a truly eloquent way to say it, once the trenches are dug, there's no changing the course of the conversation outside of those well-worn lines.

Now, I am not saying that ALL MetaFilter comment threads are like this. I'm not even saying MOST of them are. But enough of them are that I have gotten to where I can come home from work and look at what has been posted that day and look at the number of comments, and start reading and then around comment 54 or 48 or something go "yeah, well, that was good for a while" and then just move on.

Now, I don't find MetaFilter depressing. I find it insightful and fun and educational and full of the best people on the planet. I DO find the state of the world depressing, and perhaps acknowledge that MetaFilter has helped educate me more about the actual state of the world, through its posts about marginalized people and difficult situations and heroic efforts and astounding art and all manner of things, than previous decades of reading a wide range of magazines and books and watching documentaries had combined.

It's pretty easy to look at the front page of The Blue and decide what you want to click through on. Some days it's easier to deal with the bullshit; other days, that post of kittens in costumes photos is all you really want to look at.
posted by hippybear at 1:46 AM on April 28, 2016 [23 favorites]


I find it depressing, but moreso when getting wrapped up in the discussions serves as a way to deflect worrying about my real-life responsibilities, which leads to shirking those responsibilities, which leads to more anxiety and hating myself, which I cope with via more internet, and then I become trapped in a downward spiral of self-loathing

but I know a lot about a lot of random shit so I guess there's that
posted by schroedinger at 2:07 AM on April 28, 2016 [11 favorites]


Your comment is like the much better version of mine. I was going to joke about forming a club based on us having a lot in common when it comes to negative stuff, but then I realized I was starting to describe a support group.
posted by teponaztli at 2:15 AM on April 28, 2016


Maybe we should have a month-long campaign like #JulyByWomen but for cheerful posts.

#YayInMay?
posted by Jacqueline at 3:51 AM on April 28, 2016 [18 favorites]


I don't have any problems with the FPP posts, since I'm fairly selective about which ones I read, and usually skip ones which seem like a rehash of previous conversations.

What I find depressing is so much of the stuff on Ask. I still have this vague image from my childhood of the US as this far-away land of golden opportunities, so the constant drip of questions from a position of grinding poverty, dysfunctional families, bleak futures or dead-end toxic jobs gets me down sometimes.
posted by Azara at 4:03 AM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


Maybe we should try not to repeat this discussion word for word.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:04 AM on April 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


I suspect the most likely demographic to find this site depressing is middle to upper class, white, straight, US males.
posted by HuronBob at 4:05 AM on April 28, 2016 [9 favorites]


It would be cool if we could find a mix of intelligent and informative yet not obsessively rational, provoking yet not "the daily outrage" and humorous without resorting to mean spirited humor. I think that sounds like a lively mefi.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:34 AM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


hippybear: either I am getting in on the very beginning of morning-posted threads and then not seeing them again until after midnight, or else I am not even seeing threads until after they have a zillion comments.

Welcome to business as usual, in large parts of the world.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:35 AM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oo. Sick burn HuronBob :) Although the number of PoC/trans/pro-SJ people who flame out after every contentious Metatalk thread suggests that it’s not just the straight-middle-aged-upper-middle-class-whites amongst us who struggle with this.

Honestly? MeFI can get very, very fighty. Fighty threads are stressful, even if you just read them & don’t comment. It’s unsurprisingly that the amount of stress this creates leaves to people just deciding that the site is not worth the mental energy it costs them.

The Blue is less fighty than the Grey, but only because the mods keep a lid on things. Unfortunately the MeFi passive-aggressive approach to moderation leaves people feeling crappy when they’re on the receiving end of it & encourages a kind of “Ha! lets get the interloper who has transgressed outside the agreed limits of discourse.” dynamic. There’s a thrill to be had seeing a transgressor’s comments moderated away, especially if you’ve had the chance to stick your righteous sick burn response in first. I don’t think this is a very healthy dynamic, but at the same time the alternative “everyone piles on the person who is obviously wrong & they then try and respond to all the comments which makes the thread all about them, even though that wasn’t their intention in the first place” isn’t great either. (One of the recent metatalk threads where the mods found themselves on the receiving end of this dynamic was a perfect example of the genre & demonstrated very clearly that even entering into discussions in good faith can tie comment threads into sticky knots that are all heat and little light.)

I’m a bit short on solutions though :(
posted by pharm at 4:35 AM on April 28, 2016 [18 favorites]


(I include my past behaviors here in all of that comment as well)
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:36 AM on April 28, 2016


For my own part, just as a member, I definitely much much prefer the "interesting/cool/glad I heard about that" stuff, and I get bummed out when there is seemingly a heavy load of stuff on the "this sucks/terrible news/latest update on awful thing" end of the spectrum.

I agree. I try to skip the obvious outragefilter and a lot of the newsfilter as well, not because the subjects are bad but because the discussions often are.

What I've found during this time of sort of enforced sitting back is that there are a LOT of discussions here which springboard from some article or topic that is adjacent to some other topic, that end up devolving into a rehash of positions about that topic. There's a point, someplace between 40 and 80 comments, where everything being said becomes familiar. And at that point, for a lot of threads, I just close the tab and move on. Even if I have something deeply insightful to share and find a truly eloquent way to say it, once the trenches are dug, there's no changing the course of the conversation outside of those well-worn lines.

As someone with the same work pattern, this is also my experience. There are some conversational patterns that just aren't as interesting to deal with. I am also becoming much more selective about what AskMe questions I read, much less answer, for the same kind of reason.

Personally I think it is healthy and good to adjust one's expectations and patterns of interaction to make things more pleasant, rather than feeling compelled to engage in ways that inspire feelings of anger or sadness. If that means reading more cute puppy posts and less outrage, that is probably a good thing, for example, and the people who enjoy the heat and light can have their space.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:36 AM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


Ebb and flow.
posted by Fizz at 4:53 AM on April 28, 2016


HuronBob: "I suspect the most likely demographic to find this site depressing is middle to upper class, white, straight, US males."

Huh. As a middle-class, white, straight US male I thought "well, probably lots of middle-class MeFites, too, but otherwise that would be my guess too. Except so many women have chimed in in this thread to indicate that they find MeFi depressing, too." So then I ran the numbers to check.

Of the 25 people in this thread who have indicated they find MeFi can be depressing, based on the information in their MeFi profiles, 68% are male, 12% are female, and 20% are undeclared.

That wasn't what surprised me, really. What surprised me were how many of the users I had assumed were female were actually male. It was like, "What, that's a guy?" and "He's a guy, too?" and "Wait, seriously, this user is a guy, too?"

Apparently I have an absolutely horrible femaledar.
posted by Bugbread at 5:25 AM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


My first thought was 'totally disagree!' but actually I don't really read the blue so much, I love askme and that takes up most of my time. I would say that askme is the opposite of depressing, I have learned SO MUCH and feel up to dealing calmly with all manner of situations through all the really thoughtful, helpful advice people share. You read enough of it and it's like regular CBT sessions in assertiveness and self worth. Plus the kindness and thoughtfulness of replies, especially in those asks where the person is clearly hanging by a thread and needs human connection... I can read through old threads and see it play out and I want to send everyone big hugs even though it may be years later.

So ask I find inspiring. But yeah, mefi deals often with more serious matters and I feel out of my depth and ill informed and ignorant and there are no easy answers like kitty really is still in the house, cats are liquid and can hide in the damnedest places, it will be ok.
posted by kitten magic at 5:45 AM on April 28, 2016 [12 favorites]


Maybe one small start would be to treat the one-link cheerful posts better. Currently, there's an 80% chance that in the first 5 comments you'll see "oh, so this counts as a post on Metafilter now?"

Can the mods have a policy to always delete those and send the commenter a picture of a cat on a scanner?
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:56 AM on April 28, 2016 [17 favorites]


You have to kinda filter MetaFilter sometimes to get the experience you want. Sometimes I have to kind of nope out of threads I know are going to be fighty. The thing that sometimes really wears on me is the sort of cage match of righteousness that goes on in some of the threads.

I always work from the assumption that everyone on MetaFilter is either a friend, a friend of a friend, or a potential friend. Or at worst, some asshole a friend of mine likes I should try and have patience with. But not everyone rolls that way. Some folks are ever vigiliant trying to identify the hidden villains here. I'm not naive enough to the world to think they're always wrong about that, but it's a miserable way to be, for me personally.

There are ways to find a more relaxed atmosphere here though. FanFare has probably kept me more active than I might have otherwise been at this point. Sometimes I read the fighty threads, but only so far. And sometimes I decide in advance that I won't be commenting on something, just reading, learning and then getting the fuck out before the thing wearies my very soul.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:59 AM on April 28, 2016 [17 favorites]


There's a definite thing that happens in a lot of mefi threads where people will post something innocuous ("here's a picture of a baby goat!") and one other person will come in with a real downer ("see that scab on the corner of the goat's eye? That's a telltale sign of goatpox, and I should know, because I'm a goatyologist. That goat will be dead within eight days.")

My favorite example of this so far was the thread about mailing people glitter, which got "A child in Argentina recently died from glitter inhalation, after spending several weeks in the hospital, some of them in a coma. So, funny, not so much."

It's usually not even wrong when it's pointed out (a child dying is, true, not funny or good!) but the sudden tone-shift from lighthearted joy to Total Dourness could potentially be hard on a reader. Though I admit I frequently find the abrupt veering towards downerville to be kind of hilarious.
posted by Greg Nog at 6:09 AM on April 28, 2016 [147 favorites]


I've been thinking a lot about the toxicity of our current modes of communication lately, and I blame the metastasizing of hipster culture. Hipsters used to occupy nicely circumscribed spaces, like record and guitar shops, university common rooms, and obscure musical fandoms (before they were called fandoms). But their attitudes were fundamentally toxic and othering. Not able to list all Durutti Column recordings in release order? Wearing leather shoes? That, like, an actual cow died for? Haven't read Transparent Things? Well, get ready to be sneered at and dismissed. Hipsters, of course, could get away with this because they saw themselves as an oppressed minority, constantly marginalised and ignored by the vast swathes of people who hadn't heard of the Durutti Column or didn't have the inclination for late Nabokov. And no-one else really minded, either, because the peculiarly hateful dismissiveness that was always the flipside to hipster culture was confined to certain predictable physical spaces, which were easily avoided.

Over the last 15 years or so, we've seen the traditional systems of value that underpinned hipster culture fade and fluctuate. With the rise of the internet, being able to, say, recite the full Durutti Column discography is obsolete as a mode of performing credibility. Anyone with a phone and a 4G signal can do this in 5 seconds. And at the same time, modes of cultural value have shifted. Isn't punk rock just a bit, well, overwhelmingly, really ... white? Is it even OK to like that anymore? And as hipster culture has come to recognise the embarrassing lack of diversity in the canon it once defined itself by, it has moved to embrace the popular art forms it once derided. Pitchfork champions mainstream rap albums and treats the music it was founded to promote with a certain degree of detachment and amusement. Poptimism has become hegemonic. Beyoncé has become the new Durutti Column.

But, as hipster culture has moved into and started to define the mainstream, the hateful dismissiveness of its modes of communication has remained intact. Haven't streamed Lemonade yet? Still supporting that loser Bernie Sanders? Well, we know what to say about you. Everything is now discussed in the polarizing, dismissive, stigmatize-the-other-who-doesn't-get-it mode that was once limited to the realm of hipsters discussing old punk records and their presumed enemies. The entire world has become a fandom, with its in-groups and out-groups, who exist only to be interrogated about representational issues and then derided and dehumanized in the most insulting terms possible when they fail the test of membership. And it's fucking hateful.
posted by Sonny Jim at 6:17 AM on April 28, 2016 [28 favorites]


I don't find Metafilter heavy, depressing, echo-chambery, over-moderated or Way Worse than it Used to Be (reference for that last one--I joined in August 2001 after about 18 months of lurking and pushing the damn button until it let me in).

I have noticed changes over time (duh) but I think that's reflective of the internet as a whole. In 2000, Metafilter filtered the wheat from the chaff and showed you the cool things people were using the Shiny New Internet to do. In 2016, Metafilter filters me away from advertising, from content made and curated with an agenda, and from the background misogyny of the rest of the web. It's a place where I can see what the Flavor or Hate of the day is without having to actually engage with the Flavor or Hate of the day,

AND where I'll also see some cool thing I'd not otherwise have seen.

I really don't know what to say other than "I come here because it's entertaining, interesting or otherwise satisfying", but the premise of this thread and the Ask is contrary to my experience of Metafilter and the subsites, so I put that datapoint here.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:21 AM on April 28, 2016 [18 favorites]


Wow Sonny Jim, I am (serious here) really digging your perspective on this, and I'd like to add that with the advent of all these "1 block on each side Condo Mini-Cities" bracketed by 5 lane "streets" that are impossible to cross and popping up in cities across the U.S, that this is all starting to really feel like Snowcrash.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:22 AM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


(What on earth happened to my writing in my last comment? It appears to have fallen apart into some pot-pourri of vaguely English-like syntax in the middle.)

I wonder if there’s an anxiety / depression thing that feeds into that dynamic Greg Nog? - the desire to tell other people that “No, the world isn’t the happy place you make it out to be, and here’s the proof!” is something that can be very tempting. Or maybe I’m just extrapolating from a sample of one again?

SonnyJim: Sounds like human nature to me. Blaming hipsters for everything seems a little strong, even if it is tempting :)
posted by pharm at 6:23 AM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


I blame the metastasizing of hipster culture.

I've no idea how old you are, but from the standpoint of this almost-50 person, I would put FAR more blame on 40+ years of right-wing politicians and media personalities being openly contemptuous of anyone to the left of them. Here in the US, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh and James Dobson have spent decades telling millions of people that "Happy Holidays" = "WAR ON CHRISTMAS(TIANS)!!!!" and other such nonsense. That kind of hateful dismissiveness has been going on far longer and reached far more people than any kind of "hipster"-ness.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:33 AM on April 28, 2016 [37 favorites]


Shit, I still haven't watched Lemonade. Thanks for the reminder!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:34 AM on April 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


I am posting here from basically a hiding place right now, because I am currently hiding my degree of Metafilter consumption from my spouse, because he's gotten to a point of "This place is just bad for your mental health." So, yes?

I think some of it is the shift to news filter that may not always appear like news filter - like, if something just happened, and someone writes a Thoughtful Response Paper, it still feels to me like we wind up talking more about the Thing That Just Happened rather than "those are interesting rhetorical choices!"

And the news is depressing these days, and the focus of the news is depressing these days - it feels like it's either "look at those assholes", "look at those assholes but we are fighting them so kind of yay?", "look at how fucked we are".

And some of it is that us-against-them stuff, but I think a lot of it is because the news people are responding to makes THEM feel so anxious and upset they can't respond well.

I spend a lot of time in Fanfare, and even the "you are WRONG and have always been WRONG", in like, GoT threads or whatever is really friendly and nice. But I wonder if news posts sap our ability to be cool because they remind us how horrible a lot of things are.
posted by corb at 6:36 AM on April 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


I like #YayInMay.
posted by that's how you get ants at 6:37 AM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


What I find depressing is so much of the stuff on Ask. I still have this vague image from my childhood of the US as this far-away land of golden opportunities, so the constant drip of questions from a position of grinding poverty, dysfunctional families, bleak futures or dead-end toxic jobs gets me down sometimes.

I know. Interesting anthropological exercise, reading career advice from ten or more years ago and comparing it to what we take for common sense advice today. Asks from economically disaffected young people often break my heart.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:37 AM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


I don't find Metafilter depressing. I find it sobering. I'm a woman, fwiw
posted by Dressed to Kill at 6:40 AM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


but I feel that over the past few years Metafilter has become less 'cool shit I found on the web' and more 'look at this outrageous shit you should be pissed off about on the web'.

YES. This.

It's not that I think we shouldn't have the discussions about the outrageous shit, but it's been feeling the past few years like it's the same sort of outrage-filter every day/week, and the same kind of "I'm outraged!" comments, then some new user who isn't outraged, and the subsequent pile-on of that user, followed by lots of favorites, and so on and on. There's a few topics that it sometimes feels like whenever there is news/blog post/etc. about it, someone feels like it needs to be an FPP.

Now, I'm thankful that this stuff does get posted sometimes, because it's been really eye-opening for me and I think I'm a better, more empathetic, more aware person because of it. So I'm also torn. Maybe I just wish there was a bit more of a balance? Or maybe my perception of it is biased? I don't know.
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:41 AM on April 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


I think part of the problem is that it's getting more difficult to find Cool Things On The Internet that haven't already been posted or aren't already well known. It's much easier to find well-written articles on things that are often depressing.

The only solution, really, is to be the metafilter you wish to see. Post interesting things that don't depress you. Comment on interesting posts that don't depress you. Favorite interesting posts that don't depress you. Don't snark on posts that aren't about things you like or are about things you don't like.

(But actually do stop posting "cute" videos of pet primates. They are really depressing).
posted by ChuraChura at 6:44 AM on April 28, 2016 [33 favorites]

the past few years ... it's the same sort of outrage-filter every day/week, and the same kind of "I'm outraged!" comments, then some new user who isn't outraged, and the subsequent pile-on of that user, followed by lots of favorites, and so on and on.
Favourite-mongering is a huge part of it. I feel like there's been a leach over from Twitter of the "hot-take put-down followed by lots of likes" posting behaviour, which adds to the polarisation of experience we've been discussing in the thread. Those getting the favourites get the dopamine hit of affirmation, while those who see the comment taking them down get heavily favourited end up feeling marginalised and rejected. It's a basic brain chemistry thing.
posted by Sonny Jim at 6:52 AM on April 28, 2016 [18 favorites]


I don't want to step on anyone's joy, so y'all go ahead and just do your thing... But if this call for positivity could result in something more substantial than a couple of cat, hedgehog, or goat videos, then back to business as usual, like usually happens, that would be cool.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:54 AM on April 28, 2016


So, after the hiding of your Metafilter consumption from your spouse comes the 12-step program, yes?

(I kid: corb, I always look out for your comments in threads because they bring both perspective & insight, so I hope you manage to consume metafilter in moderation & thereby maintain your capacity to contribute because I am a selfish person who would like to be able to continue to read your comments. But if you need to take a break for your own mental health’s sake then you should totally do that.)
posted by pharm at 6:55 AM on April 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


#YayInMay sounds like a terrific idea.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:55 AM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't find any parts of the site depressing. I may be in the minority in this, but as I'm skimming the front pages of each subsite, I choose what I want to read/interact with based on the information above the fold. Occasionally I'll need to click inside to really get the gist, but I'm able to decide quickly if it's a conversation I want to get into or not, and then leave it or stay based on that. I don't tend to hold on to feelings I get when I dismiss a topic as sad/outragey/fighty but again, I might be an anomaly there.

I tend to be a really optimistic, always-a-brightside person generally so maybe that has something to do with it? I mean, of COURSE there's no brightside to a child dying (for example), but you know what I mean. I don't hold on to bad feelings. Unless you've wronged me, and then I hold on to those feelings with the grip of a God.

I don't say those things above to imply that people who get depressed reading MeFi are lesser than me. Not at all. I'm just trying to give my perspective on the whole thing. Everyone is different and that's a good thing! I don't want anyone to feel bad reading any part of this site. That does make me sad for them.

I wish I had any suggestions for those of you who feel overwhelmed when you read MeFi. More positivity is never a bad thing, but I also don't think we need more moderation to get that. It's got to be a community thing, you know?
posted by cooker girl at 7:00 AM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


Favourite-mongering is a huge part of it.

The single greatest MeFi stress-reliever for me was turning on "Hide Favorites" in my profile prefs. It removes a source of needless annoyance and allows me to focus on comments instead of commenters.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:06 AM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


My personal remedy to this has been skipping 90% of outragefilter/NewsFilter/politicsfilter and increasing my participation in FanFare by about a million percent.

Also if I do participate in MeFi threads of those sorts I'll often remove them from my recent activity.

Another thing I try to do a lot less of is answer Asks where a person is clearly miserable and there are not simple, concrete fixes for their questions.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:09 AM on April 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


I dunno, to me, saying "Metafilter is depressing" is like saying "This dictionary is boring". I mean, both are true if you're trying to sit down and read every single part, in order, from start to finish, but you don't have to use Metafilter or a dictionary like that. If you've figured out what kind of posts depress you, and you can still find other kinds of posts on Metafilter that you like, why subject yourself to posts that depress you?
posted by 23skidoo at 7:25 AM on April 28, 2016 [22 favorites]


I've been thinking about this a bit. MetaFilter isn't depressing for me, because if I want I can just scroll on by all the disturbing things that turn up on the front page and as long as I don't engage with the content or comments they usually don't affect me emotionally. Posters are generally very good about making it obvious when their post contains potentially traumatic content or touches on upsetting subjects. If I want to engage I can, and I have lots of options for how deeply to do that—I can just skim the comments, I can read the links and the discussion, I can choose to comment myself, etc. So it works well for me, as long as I am careful about how much emotional energy I allow myself to expend.

This is very valuable to me! I think it's important to be aware of what's really going on in the world, and a lot of what's going on is terrible. I don't want to let myself forget that, but at the same time I need to be careful how much of my attention I allow that stuff to absorb because I know I could easily hurt myself that way. I also want a place to go where—when I feel I have the energy to devote to it—I can read a sane and informed discussion of these topics, see people modeling a range of healthy reactions, and avoid being subjected to the noxious cloud of ignorance and hate that so often surrounds these issues. I often learn a lot and gain a lot of valuable perspective that way, and I know that if I ever wanted to go further with these topics the fine people of MetaFilter would be there to show me the way.

I think there is an element of privilege in all that, though, and here's why: through a combination of personal good fortune and my privileged position in society, I have never been a victim of most of the types of injustice that turn up on the Blue. If it were less abstract, if I were somebody who had a more personal relationship with the kinds of terrible events and situations that we often see reported here, scrolling past might not be as effective in terms of limiting their psychological impact to something that I can manage. I might feel compelled to engage because the stakes were higher, or I might feel trauma and distress just from seeing certain topics mentioned in my daily perusal of the front page.

I also am lucky in that I generally know my limits with this kind of heavy stuff, and can pull back before I get in too deep—not everybody knows themselves that well or has that kind of control, especially people who are already prone to depression or are already in a depressed and anxious state for whatever reason. I am prone to depression myself and have developed those skills as a coping mechanism, but not everybody has had the opportunity and guidance to develop good coping skills and some people have depression that is simply much less manageable than mine. So there are a lot of people who I think have the potential to be harmed by the density of difficult and potentially traumatic material that shows up on the Blue.

I think there is a solution here that can work for most people though, across the spectrum. During the recent (ongoing) Obituary MeTa, I learned that people can use My MeFi to exclude posts containing certain tags from their My MeFi page. If users who frequently find that browsing the Blue makes them depressed or upset, they have the option of setting up their My MeFi to exclude posts with tags pertaining to whatever subjects are causing them problems. It won't be a perfect filter as people will never be perfect about tagging, but I bet that for common subjects it would get rid of about 80% of it and I suspect that for most people that would be good enough. Nowhere in life can we totally control our exposure to the larger world, but even partial control can make a huge difference.

However, I have a feeling (though maybe I'm wrong) that most of the userbase is unaware of this feature, or doesn't use My MeFi at all. My MeFi's visibility on the site isn't great, and it's not a feature that tends to get a lot of discussion. I think we have an opportunity here both to tweak it so that it is more prominent on the site and easier to use as one's default MetaFilter landing page (though I'm not sure what form that prominence should take, and with pb leaving I don't know if any new interface adjustments are on the table right now) and also to do some community education to make people more aware of My MeFi's existence and of the fact that it can be used as a MetaFilter-filter (PataFilter?) to make unpleasant content less visible to those who would rather not see it.

I think a combination of those two strategies would go a long way toward making the content on MetaFilter less problematic for those to whom it is a problem, while preserving the existing mix of content for members who like being able to see 100% of the posts on the Blue and are happy to just personally moderate their engagement on a case-by-case basis. There are some details that might need to be discussed as far as how things should be tweaked and what we can do to make people more aware of their options, but I think this is fundamentally a solvable problem.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:26 AM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


Maybe we should have a month-long campaign like #JulyByWomen but for cheerful posts.

#YayInMay?


This was floated last year, and some people offered vague support to the poster. In the end, I was the only person who used the tag in the entire month.
posted by selfnoise at 7:26 AM on April 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


Rhaomi made a comment last year that articulates how I feel about the tenor of the posts on certain topics:
But I've also noticed that in the last 2-3 years such valuable discussions have been soured more and more by the most zealous aspects of the Twitter/Tumblr callout culture -- a kind of zero-tolerance hostility not just towards redpillers, gamergators, casual racists, and other overt enemies, but towards friends and allies that conduct themselves imperfectly. Where polite disagreement and well-meaning cluelessness is equated with bigotry and hate speech, and scorned just as hard. [...]

There's way too much assumption of bad faith and interpreting motives in the least charitable light. The heavy reliance on theory and jargon and meta-analysis (where the very act of talking about these issues impolitically is deemed offensive and even harmful) makes having any kind of constructive dialogue with the uninitiated even more difficult.

It would be really nice if we could all try to heed Jay Smooth's advice to criticize the behavior and not the person when it comes to sensitive issues like this, as well as to be realistic about the level of understanding the average person, or even the average MeFite, is going to have about the realities of [issue of MeTa post], even when those realities are incredibly important to said groups. I'm not saying ignorance of the burdens of [issue of MeTa post] is okay, but this tendency to attack both it and any attempt to bridge the gap is not healthy. And I worry about the long-term viability of the site if it develops a reputation as an unforgiving minefield of esoteric critical theory and identity politics that's unwelcoming not just for social conservatives but for people who are sympathetic to (or even members of) marginalized groups.
That last bit especially concerns me. I hang out with a lot of smart, interesting people who are passionate about and involved with activism and social justice issues and these days I would never, ever recommend they join MetaFilter to participate in related discussions here. It's just such an unforgiving minefield.
posted by lalex at 7:27 AM on April 28, 2016 [68 favorites]


One thing I will say is that often Metafilter is the end of the outrage train's journey. Putting together a post that did not somehow originate in a bubble of outrage or delight or bemusement somewhere on Buzzfeed or Huffpo or Jezebel or wherever is both a lot harder and more time consuming and often produces less positive feedback for the poster. Honestly I'm surprised there are as many such posts as there are and it continues to speak positively for Mefites' dedication.
posted by selfnoise at 7:32 AM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh, and if you're someone for whom seeing depressing stuff on the Blue isn't depressing per se but who wishes that there were less of it because it's "not Best of the Web" or whatever, My MeFi can be your solution too! Just set it up to exclude whatever tags you think are likely to be used exclusively in whatever not-best-of-the-web topics you are particularly irked by, and Poof! Returned are the days of nothing but experimental webcomics, gifs of cephalopods engaging in personal hygiene, and feline linguistics research. Those halcyon days can be yours again!
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:35 AM on April 28, 2016


I was thinking of Ronnie Coleman's aphorism this morning.

If you think that something is missing from the front page, put it there.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:45 AM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


At this point I basically take about six months off every six months, which seems to be just the right amount of time for me. I still read the site, but not being able to post or comment really has helped me hone my sense of both how to participate when I'm here (i.e. my opinion is not required in every thread of whatever sort) and how I ingest the content on the site (i.e. staying out of threads that would piss me off bc I know I won't be able to confront anyone about the thing they did that pissed me off.)

I also mostly stay out of Hot Topic and contentious threads on the blue unless they align with a particular interest or area of knowledge of mine. I've read comments out of election threads, for instance, but I have not actually gone in and really read one because I know for a fact I'll come out of it feeling worse than when I went in. That goes for a lot of the bigger social justice/feminism/etc. threads. Not visiting those threads is a Self-Care thing for me, now, and it seems to be working pretty well. After years of fights, I developed a more positive opinion of both the site and the people on it by just turning a blind eye to the threads that really set people off. Maybe not the most noble of courses, but it's one that works for me and keeps MeFi a fun, vibrant place.

So MeFi isn't depressing for me, but I curate it like a bonsai tree and try only to participate in stuff where if I end up getting into an argument, it'll likely be about Star Wars minutia and I won't feel that tugging, misplaced sense of morality urging me to Keep Fighting The Good Fight.
posted by griphus at 7:48 AM on April 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


I try to make posts about articles that make me go, "Huh, that's so interesting." I'm not a prolific poster, and I've got a couple in there that are more "Here's a terrible thing I want to talk to people about," but the ones that I look back on with pride are the ones where I found an article so full of interesting facts I hadn't known before that I HAD to go dump all these factoids on y'all immediately. These, of course, do not get nearly as many comments or favorites as "Look at and talk about this terrible thing!" and sometimes when you only get five comments it does feel like a bummer. But those are the kinds of posts I most like reading as FPPs ("huh, that's so interesting" is probably tied with "check out this weird flash game/browser toy/thingie" for me), so those are the ones I try to make. And I try to be good about leaving comments on OTHER people's "interesting!" FPPs even if just to say "oooh, great find" or whatever so people will know I appreciate those posts.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:55 AM on April 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


I mostly make posts about things my Great Aunt Sandi shared with me on Facebook and it's going well so far
posted by beerperson at 8:09 AM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


This recipe for "bakeless death by chocolate brownies" is just shortening, bread crumbs and Nesquik powder.
posted by griphus at 8:12 AM on April 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


For those looking for better tools to manage the front page, rouftop's "Nope" script does a good of clearing the front page. To me, it's a helluva lot better than MyMefi, which relies on other people to tag things correctly, while Nope let's you manage things as you see fit.

But yeah, Mefi can be seriously depressing at times, especially when several "look at this terrible thing" posts appear close to each other.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:14 AM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's also Nancy which will let you keep posts and/or comments containing certain words from appearing, which has been super useful.
posted by griphus at 8:16 AM on April 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


Sonny Jim: "Those getting the favourites get the dopamine hit of affirmation, while those who see the comment taking them down get heavily favourited end up feeling marginalised and rejected. It's a basic brain chemistry thing."

Turning off favourite display while not fixing the site gaming aspects of favourites at least reduces the personally enraging sight of high favourite counts on selected comments.
posted by Mitheral at 8:21 AM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


> I don't find any parts of the site depressing. I may be in the minority in this, but as I'm skimming the front pages of each subsite, I choose what I want to read/interact with based on the information above the fold. Occasionally I'll need to click inside to really get the gist, but I'm able to decide quickly if it's a conversation I want to get into or not, and then leave it or stay based on that.

Same here. MeFi is depressing pretty much to the extent the world it reflects is depressing, and there's not much to be done about that. I second Rhaomi's call (quoted by lalex) to try to be more tolerant and less unforgiving of each other, though.
posted by languagehat at 8:21 AM on April 28, 2016 [12 favorites]


There's also Nancy which will let you keep posts and/or comments containing certain words from appearing, which has been super useful.

Oh thank GOD because I cannot STAND Ernie Bushmiller
posted by beerperson at 8:25 AM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


MeFi has had a lot of pointless infighting lately and I've found it not only depressing but have been seriously considering just leaving the site. I'm not certain it's really for me any more. Which is fine, not everything has to fit into the uncomplicated whims of my posting but you can't go home again, I guess is how I feel about it.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 8:25 AM on April 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


I don't read the blue anymore, specifically because it was triggering bouts of severe depression and anxiety for me. If I want to read about a topic that I suspect is currently on the blue, I enter the topic into the search bar, rather than going to the page itself.

I tried doing the My Mefi thing, and it didn't help enough to be worth the effort. I know perfectly well how to use such filters, so that wasn't the problem. It just didn't work, because the depressing-ness of Metafilter isn't based on a list of topics that upset me. It's a generalized attitude of "everything is shit, we all live in hell, that's the truth and you might as well get used to it" - that even permeates posts I would have never expected.

I'm at a point in my life where I've finally realized that I don't have to keep an internal catalog of the horrors of the world. It doesn't make me a more productive, helpful member of society. It just crushes me. I can't afford to be crushed - I'm the primary income-earner in my house, we're dirt poor, I have a toddler and a cat, my mother is extremely ill, and I'm in grad school. I do not have enough mental resources to handle all of that, and read a daily list of reasons why life sucks. It would be an amazing luxury to have that kind of breathing room in my daily life. As it is, I prefer to concentrate on the ways that the world is good.

So yeah. I agree that Metafilter can be and often is depressing. That's why I don't read the blue anymore and can't foresee a time that I'll read it again. It's not that I don't care about the parade of misery; it's that I care so much it damages my psychological health to read it all the goddamned time. I also don't agree that the bleakest possible view of the world, is necessarily the most accurate one. I'm honestly comforted to see that other people are having the same issue.

I might try out Nancy and Nope. We'll see.
posted by Coatlicue at 8:28 AM on April 28, 2016 [27 favorites]


MeFi has had a lot of pointless infighting lately

Yes, like that time everyone ganged up on dios in a thread where he said something vaguely right wing in 2008.

Wait, what year is it again?
posted by GuyZero at 8:35 AM on April 28, 2016


I wouldn't say that Metafilter is in-and-of-itself depressing for me, but I do find that it can be an amplifier for less great mental states if I'm in them. There are three sorts of things that really amplify this for me:
  • Outrage filter, awareness filter type posts.
  • "Cool stuff" posts that are about media/culture/whatever that I'm not into or not knowledgeable enough to appreciate.
  • "Cool stuff" posts that *are* in my wheelhouse (or at least seem light and silly enough for anyone to get into), but the comment thread ends up veering down the path of pointing out all of the ways that this-thing-you-like-is-problematic.
None of those things are necessarily bad, and I wouldn't want to discourage people from posting/commenting what seems important to them. Metafilter doesn't exist for me, so it's on me to realize when it's not meeting my needs and to go elsewhere.

But I also know that we get great gems like the ridiculously nerdy Disney songs post. And I find out about stupid and wonderful things to waste my time like slither.io, or every post about an incremental game that makes me go play that incremental game for at least 2 hours.

And, when you find yourself following a series that has the right group of folks commenting on Fanfare, it's like finding your tribe and getting a warm, overly-obsessive, hug every week.

So... I guess, I'm going to make a point to go find more Cool Stuff that I Like to post about.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:37 AM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think reading MeFi can be extremely depressing, because it frequently calls attention to struggles that have otherwise been rendered largely invisible to MeFi's largest demographic sectors. Like how wealthy straight white dudes will say "social justice" when what they mean is "stuff that has to do with people of color and poor people and also ladies," because they're accustomed to their own experience of the world being the default setting for everyone.

For those of us who experience life through a different lens, "special interest" topics can still be sad, but they can also be profoundly comforting and even enlightening. Sometimes FPPs that other folks find impossibly dire are the ones that really resonate with me -- I can see myself there, and it's a nice change of pace from having to read stories about wealthy straight white dudes all the time. So I do find a great deal of value in discussions about things that a lot (most) of people would call depressing. But I also have to skip a lot (most) of them, and there are more than a couple of topics that I don't dare talk about here because of the aforementioned paint-peeling rancor that rains down on anyone who strays out of bounds. Que sera, &c., I can have those discussions elsewhere, but the race to form a circular firing squad is almost always more depressing to me than 'newsfilter.'

Mostly, though, I just make sure to keep The Daily Puppy and ZooBorns open in my other tabs when I'm browsing MeFi in the first one, because those sites are very reliable emergency escape hatches from dire news into unbridled adorability.
posted by amnesia and magnets at 8:37 AM on April 28, 2016 [38 favorites]


I too would be genuinely curious what degree of this is letting in content from people who grapple with heavy awful stuff, which is a lot of people who are often not welcome to talk about their lives because hearing about it is painful, and what percent is people who live with that stuff.

It's not a judgment just genuine curiosity. I Metafilter gives me hope that maybe people will start hearing.. maybe people who would otherwise turn the pain of their fellow humans to ignore to increase their own happiness could start finding this suffering unacceptable and really working on changing it.

I ABSOLUTELY have to spend time with very positive content, funny videos, animal videos, relaxing asmr makeovers. You name it I spend time with positive content.

I just-- don't come here for that and consider some of the content at metafilter even when it's depressing part of the best of the web. Because they give humanity the opportunity to address the things that matter most and to me that IS the best content.

So "best of the web" is subjective and I do wonder if how much load you're carrying that could really use your fellow humans to understand and help with affects how uplifting vs depressing this website is. Because to me it fills me with hope that people are talking about things and it's not all just getting shuffled out for the convenience of people who don't want to see others suffering. When I hear "oh I'm just sick of all this social justice stuff, and hearing about what other people are going through- it's so depressing can we just stop with that already" my heart sinks.

I like coming to metafilter and finding cool science links, cool history links. I like all that but I also think some of the heavier content, social justice issues, shining a light on human experiences, and the discussions had can also be best of the web.
posted by xarnop at 8:38 AM on April 28, 2016 [11 favorites]


I realize that I generally post "here's a cool thing I found" things, but I probably mainly comment on depressing news stories, and maybe I need to recalibrate and comment more on cool finds rather than shouting about politics.

For what it's worth, I generally find obituaries non-depressing, because they're about interesting people and their cool lives.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:40 AM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the pointer to your Ask, naju, great responses. In line with a lot of the advice you got, I find there's an almost perfect correlation between my sense of powerlessness about Big Issues and the amount of time I spend online (period) / consuming information. Doing things within my scope has the opposite effect. One of my goals for the year (still working on resolutions!) is to do more. (For a sense of scope and hope to work towards, highly recommend Avi Lewis/Naomi Klein's doc This Changes Everything. I still need to read the book, just need to get myself to properly read again :/ )

I always appreciate comments on the Blue that make recommendations for solutions. They seem to be sometimes unwelcome, and can come off as naive or Spocky when the thrust of the thread is phatic expression, which I get, but I like them :/
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:41 AM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


for the convenience of people who don't want to see others suffering. When I hear "oh I'm just sick of all this social justice stuff, and hearing about what other people are going through

This is a really dangerous and wrong assumption, I think, that risks shutting out what a lot of people are saying in here. The stuff I find worst to be bombarded with, is the stuff about shit that does affect me-and-mine personally.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:46 AM on April 28, 2016 [30 favorites]


That AskMe, and this thread, have been surprisingly comforting to me in a way that I never expected, because I worried I was unique in finding MeFi depressing, or of significantly lower value than in years past, and apparently I'm not.

It's also making me think there really would be value in NewsFilter - or something similar - where the more contentious threads could live, and hopefully we could return the front page to more of a "Best of the Web" focus. We'd still need active moderation to keep the discussions from turning, but at least it would be a starting point.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 8:56 AM on April 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


I get that absolutely, which is why I said I genuinely wondered what the portion was. I nope out of threads all the time, because it is content that I am not able to look at but I am actually glad it's there and thankful for whatever people are willing to lift up those voices and to spend a moment learning about it.

It's absolutely essential to listen to personal limits on difficult content, but I do think there is a difference in taking a break from it when you personally need it, and wanting the content to all be shut down.
posted by xarnop at 8:56 AM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


I feel like people who are tired of threads revolving around social justice and then go into those threads and complain about their irrelevance are a far bigger issue than people who just avoid them. To be honest, if more people whose only contribution to those kind of threads is "this doesn't happen to me, I don't get what the big deal is!" didn't decide that everyone else needed to know that, the threads themselves would probably be more tolerable to actually talk out issues in, rather than just duking it out.
posted by griphus at 8:57 AM on April 28, 2016 [55 favorites]


I would say a big part of the general feeling that there's more posts about grar topics is that the web is more tuned to producing that sort of content. Grar gets clicks, just like cute fluffy bunnies.

I mentioned this in my recent MeTa, but: I think highlighting both grar AND fluffy bunnies is pretty spot-on here; a lot of stuff on the internet is put up by websites looking to make money off of pageviews that serve ads, so they want to provoke a specific, broadly-recognized emotion: get mad at this, get uplifted by this, feel joyful now, laugh here, outraged now, be amazed, turn your sex eyes on this bod, etc, etc, etc.

This is not bad in and of itself! Trying to drive specific human emotions is a thing art (and its shitty kid sibling commerce) has always done! But it can get pretty taxing to feel your soul yanked around on a chain held by entities who are vying for your emotional focus.

I personally don't think #YayForMay or #Nicevember or #JuneByHappiness or whatever is going to make it better, but that's my own possibly-idiosyncratic outlook on what The Best Of Mefi is; I think a better way to go is posting stuff that's kind of weird and opaque and not as pointed toward a specific desired emotional response. Stuff that will likely accrue comments like "what the fuck is the point of this?" or "ooookay..." or "whoever made this had way too much time on their hands". Stuff that resists easy categorizations into what the reader should feel or think. This is a surprisingly hard kind of post to find! But golly, it's my favorite kind of FPP.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:58 AM on April 28, 2016 [49 favorites]


I'm never bummed out by folks bringing the issues that matter to them deeply here to discuss, no matter how different we might be, demographically speaking. I learn a lot from that, and it broadens my perspective, which is invaluable. I am, however, frequently bummed to the point of hair-rending by some of the comments on said articles. I read just enough to remind myself of the kind of stupid bullshit nice people have to go through, even from other ostensibly nice people. I've tried to help here and there, but ultimately, it's not right for me to try and speak for other people. So I just listen and learn, mostly.

But yeah, sometimes, I get about hip deep in something along the lines of, "Are we sure the author of the piece isn't just poor because she doesn't understand financial planning, because I was poor and I just blahblahmotherfuckingblahblah and bobsyouruncle and now I drive a BMW so why doesn't she just do that and get a BMW, they're so much better" and I really just need to go someplace friendly and talk about last night's superhero show or something.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:59 AM on April 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


I think a better way to go is posting stuff that's kind of weird and opaque and not as pointed toward a specific desired emotional response. Stuff that will likely accrue comments like "what the fuck is the point of this?" or "ooookay..." or "whoever made this had way too much time on their hands".

Yes this please please please. I was actually going to post something along those lines today but totally spaced and posted about Magic the Gathering instead so maybe tomorrow.
posted by griphus at 9:02 AM on April 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


It's always valuable to remember that if you're in position to get tired of hearing about social justice concerns, just how imagine how goddamned tired people of having to actually go through the injustice on a regular basis.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:03 AM on April 28, 2016 [14 favorites]


hopefully we could return the front page to more of a "Best of the Web" focus

The problem with the tagline "Best of the Web" is that there's never ever going to be a good way to describe what "Best" means. So what one person thinks is the "Best" is not going to be what another person thinks is the "Best".

Metafilter's not about one definition of "Best", it's really about many definitions of "Best", and the more people the site gets, the more ideas of what's "Best" there will be.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:03 AM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


imagine how goddamned tired people of having to actually go through the injustice on a regular basis.

Again, I think this is a wrong assumption about who's making these complaints.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:05 AM on April 28, 2016 [17 favorites]


I feel like people who are tired of threads revolving around social justice and then go into those threads and complain about their irrelevance are a far bigger issue than people who just avoid them.

And contrary to some assertions above, it's not just clueless noobs doing it. A lot of the time it's people that are regular commenters who have a history of That Guy-ism.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:05 AM on April 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


It is, in my opinion which has nothing to do with Actual Statistics and therefore could very well be verifiably wrong, almost never new users.
posted by griphus at 9:06 AM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


Again, I think this is a wrong assumption about who's making these complaints.

Seriously, what's up with this repeated assumption that only people who are not affected by those issues find Metafilter's treatment of them too depressing and tiring to deal with?
posted by Salieri at 9:11 AM on April 28, 2016 [13 favorites]

It is, in my opinion ... almost never new users.
But, related to the issues being discussed in this thread, how many of those are we actually getting? If the site is as depressing, discursively hostile, and treacherous underfoot as many of the existing user base are suggesting here, what on earth motivates new members to pay for the privilege of joining it? I'm not being entirely facetious here.
posted by Sonny Jim at 9:12 AM on April 28, 2016


If the site is as depressing, discursively hostile, and treacherous underfoot as many of the existing user base are suggesting here, what on earth motivates new members to pay for the privilege of joining it?

Ask MetaFilter.
posted by grouse at 9:13 AM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


But, related to the issues being discussed in this thread, how many of those are we actually getting?

You're asking a completely separate question from the OP, and one that only the mods can answer, since they have access to user signup data that we don't.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:14 AM on April 28, 2016


We've got two conversations happening here.

Conversation One is about whether there are too many "heavy" posts on the front page, and what, if anything, should be done about that. This seems to me to be the conversation that the OP wanted to have, but maybe I'm wrong.

Conversation Two appears to be about trying to unpack the phenomenon of community infighting, and it's making me a little bit uncomfortable. Firstly because I think it's drowning out Conversation One, and secondly because I'm getting a real "Political Correctness Gone Mad!" vibe from it and I'm worried that it's going to cause this MeTa to explode into exactly the sort of infighting that people are concerned about.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:15 AM on April 28, 2016 [16 favorites]


I think that the assumption that people are just shocked to be seeing stuff they didn't know about is sometimes flawed.

I try to keep a good face on it (with varying degrees of success), but my friends who went to war and came back are literally killing themselves in droves, in part because of how awful the world is now, the world we were hoping that when we came back would be better, not worse. And that fuels me with this bottomless pit of rage and pain that I try really, really hard to keep a lid on. When I first got back I devoted myself to Fighting Injustice, and then I burned out, hard, with compassion fatigue because I was literally crying every single day because people were struggling and I could not turn off the ability to feel their pain.

I've gotten...better, I guess. It's been seven years since my last suicide attempt, which may be an over share, and if so, I apologize - and to a large degree, it's because I try hard not to wallow in other people's pain that I do not have enough spoons to fix. Because I have enough pain of my own that I'm swimming through and I have to handle it, because if I don't, I drown. And sometimes there's a lot of Guilt I'm Not Doing More, but it's not coming from a place of eating bon-bons and trying to turn a blind eye to The People, and more the fact that when I try to Do More it's so easy to pour out all the spoons I have and still not make a dent.

But that also makes it really hard when people say things like that that seem to be accusing people of callousness or an overabundance of privilege for not wanting to Clockwork-Orange our eyes open to the pain. Because I can't imagine I'm the only person who has a lot of it in daily living.
posted by corb at 9:16 AM on April 28, 2016 [32 favorites]


Seriously, what's up with this repeated assumption that only people who are not affected by those issues find Metafilter's treatment of them too depressing and tiring to deal with?

That's a fair point. I probably worded what I said poorly. I was intending more to comment as someone who isn't personally affected on what I do to try and keep my head on straight. It wasn't a criticism of anyone's argument above.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:17 AM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


...what on earth motivates new members to pay for the privilege of joining it?

AskMe, like grouse said, is I think where the bacon which is brought home is made, but many users who hang out on the blue I've interacted with with join dates all over the place lurked for sometimes years before signing up. I know I did. We all have something we know about that we'd like to share or ask or contribute in some way and that's when people who aren't signing up specifically for AskMe sign up, I think. And because MeFi is a generalist site, and because the blue is still relatively heterogeneous, there's usually something for someone, somewhere.
posted by griphus at 9:19 AM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


I was just genuinely curious because to me it makes a difference. One is a survival mechanism i.e. part of the point of content warnings. The other is more about wanting to shut out knowledge of how many suffer to go on enjoying without changing.

EVERYONE needs down time which is why I like content warnings or whatever you want to call them, not just for people with PTSD but because we all have to manage our mental wellness needs with what content we put up..


BUT this is something I was thinking about given the depressing effect of the news in general, what if we made a point everytime we address a difficult topic or issue of suffering, to also highlight the people working on changing it, what they are doing, what the general public can do etc?

So it's not just "here is a depressing thing let's be depressed" but "here is an issue going on and here are some avenues for change and healing and progress". So basically, when you look out into the dark, be sure you're shining the light so the new knowledge can make something better happen?
posted by xarnop at 9:23 AM on April 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


You know, like Mr. Rogers said, look for the helpers.
posted by xarnop at 9:24 AM on April 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


It's always valuable to remember that if you're in position to get tired of hearing about social justice concerns, just how imagine how goddamned tired people of having to actually go through the injustice on a regular basis.

That doesn't make me any less tired, though. Which I get isn't the point of the exercise. But I kinda came into this MetaTalk thread looking for coping strategies. I'm emphatically not saying it's on MetaFilter to change or for people who are experiencing hardship to shut up about it (definitely don't think "it's so depressing can we just stop with that already"). And I'm certainly not going into "depressing" threads and complaining about them; if you find me doing that, smack me, please.

I'll own up to being one of the comfortable people who needs to be made uncomfortable. MetaFilter bums me out sometimes and this has increased a lot over the years. I don't want it to change to accommodate me, but I am glad this thread is here and have appreciated reading how others have dealt with similar feelings.

Thanks for this thread and this discussion.
posted by ODiV at 9:49 AM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's always valuable to remember that if you're in position to get tired of hearing about social justice concerns, just how imagine how goddamned tired people of having to actually go through the injustice on a regular basis

It's always valuable to remember that you don't know what people are going through and it's important to listen to what they're telling you, instead of assuming the worse about them.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:55 AM on April 28, 2016 [34 favorites]


I often get bogged down in depressing stories or comment threads that upset me, and I think my commenting often reflects that. I often neglect to comment on or favourite the stuff that I really like, the cool things and the uplifting stories that make it on here.

One recent post I really liked but neglected to comment on or favourite until today was about Box 256, the 8-bit toy processor simulator. That was really neat.

Just recently, I am trying to remind myself that the shouty people are often not very representative. For example, with the whole Bernie vs. Hillary kerfuffle the dominance of the loudest voices gives an inaccurate assumption of a generalized acrimony and polarization that people are spending way too much time worrying about. Polling consistently shows that the Democratic primary has fought between two people who are both enormously popular within the party, even if they represent two completely different wings.

I'm trying to not let too much of my pessimism leak onto the blue. I want to be better at it.

But if you are a singularitarian pollyanna or someone who believes we will just innovate our way out of climate change, I'll always be here to piss in your cornflakes.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:56 AM on April 28, 2016


I have a Girl Scout troop in a poor neighborhood. We took in just shy of $450 in cookie sales this year--not bad at all! About $200 of that immediately went to cover out of pocket expenses my coleader and I have had to put in to buy troop supplies for the year. Another $100 or so saved out to finish out the year's meetings and buy the badges they've earned over the last several months. Which left not a whole lot to cover fun extras.

We carefully explained their budget, and about how much per girl it worked out to, and asked them to choose how they wanted to spend it. After much troop discussion and voting, they wanted to 1) go on a trip to the aquarium and 2) do something to help the homeless. These are girls K-3rd grade age, mind you. My coleader and I just sat back and observed, didn't offer any suggestions except when asked things like "what can we do at the Nature Museum?" Anyway, 100% their choice of how to spend the money they earned, and they said aquarium and helping the homeless.

Last night at our meeting we had someone from the Night Ministry come out and talk to our girls about how people become homeless, and the ways that we can all try to help. Our girls asked so many really great questions, like what's the youngest person who's ever had to stay in your shelter alone (12, which really sank in with them, just a few years older), what do they do if someone needs a place to stay but they're on drugs, and is there a phone number or an address they can tell people asking for money where they can go to get help, because they don't have money to give them to help. Really high level questions you wouldn't expect from kids so small. But they're thinking about this stuff.

After our discussion, we assembled bags of trail mix (all ingredients bought with the money they earned) for them to pass out when they do their night bus outreach. 54 bags of healthy, tasty snacks that they made themselves that were going to get sent out into the community that night. Completely unprompted, one of the girls stood up at the end of the meeting and publicly thanked another one of the girls for making the first suggestion to do something to help the needy, because she wouldn't have thought to do it otherwise and she had a good time and learned a lot at the meeting. These little tiny kids chose to use what little they had to help others, and just over and over showed boundless amounts of compassion. It was really special to watch.


I started volunteering with the Girl Scouts several years ago because there were several FPPs about how completely awful the Boy Scouts of America were choosing to be, and I know that GSUSA has made an active choice toward inclusion at every possible step. I wanted to be a part of that. If it weren't for the "outrage filter" last night's meeting wouldn't have happened.
posted by phunniemee at 9:58 AM on April 28, 2016 [105 favorites]


That goat will be dead within eight days.

Yeah the combination of this sort of thing and the constant unyielding Community Arguments I find a little depressing. So I spend less time on the blue and I unfollow threads in MetaTalk when I think they've turned non-productive. I came to the conclusion long ago when I worked here that those Dead Goat People really have no idea (or don't care) that they're doing That Thing but I think it's obvious to a lot of people around them. And that can change the mood of a thread really quickly. And mods try to stay on top of things, but policing threads for tone isn't really a thing they do except in egregious situations.

I suspect the most likely demographic to find this site depressing is middle to upper class, white, straight, US males.

This sort of thing, for example, reads like threadshitting without any more context and yet I know HuronBob as a longstanding member of the community who I assume isn't doing that but I'm left trying to figure out what is going on. That these people are reminded of their eroding privilege? That these people get a hard time from other vocal members of the community? That these people feel less welcome here than the rest of the world? Taking the piss? What?

Activism is difficult, no matter what the venue is, and MeFi has always been more of my corner bar (or library) and not my infoshop or campaign headquarters. It's a lot of things to a lot of people. Like phunniemee I've really tried to channel what I consider my activism into offline pursuits because I really find the sort of neverending debates on certain topics to be a non-useful way (for me) to engage with the issues I care about. That is probably more about me than it is about the quality of the discussions but I'm happy I don't work here anymore for that specific reason, I can opt entirely out of the heavy threads and still enjoy the rest of what this site has to offer in the way I want to interact with it.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:29 AM on April 28, 2016 [46 favorites]


I got really, really acutely unhappy during the EL thread days because the EL thread kept reminding me of my crappy, crappy relationships and how the work I was putting into them was not making them less crappy. I kept going back and reading that thread and all its offshoots on the gray and the green, like worrying a sore spot. At the same time I was memailing people on the site, and then I was e-mailing them. I made two long-distance snailmail friends in that time--no, three! Some related to that EL thread and some not. And then I started ending and changing the crappy, crappy relationships that were the real reason I was sad. And then I made a noncrappy new no-distance relationship that is now a source of constant delight and sustenance to me. All of this happened speedily. Like, at internet speed. Unlike previous revelations and life changes, which happened over years. And it was this place. For sure. This place that can be very depressing. I lurked for ages and only joined in like 2007 or something. I don't know why I thought I paid the $5 back then, but whatever I thought the reason was was wrong: the reason I paid $5 was that I needed the site to depress the shit out of me in 2015 and save my life.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:32 AM on April 28, 2016 [38 favorites]


I suspect the most likely demographic to find this site depressing is middle to upper class, white, straight, US males.

This sort of thing, for example, reads like threadshitting without any more context and yet I know HuronBob as a longstanding member of the community who I assume isn't doing that but I'm left trying to figure out what is going on. That these people are reminded of their eroding privilege? That these people get a hard time from other vocal members of the community? That these people feel less welcome here than the rest of the world? Taking the piss? What?


I'm Canadian, but otherwise that's essentially me. I don't know if I'd in the group most likely to feel this way, but I do find the site depressing to read. The problems I read about here that depress me are caused by me and people like me. Being part of a group that's accused of whatever it is we're talking about depresses me. Realizing that the accusation is justified is more depressing. Knowing that the depression I'm feeling about it is not a real problem, but probably my brain trying to make me feel like a victim for reading about the actual problem which I'm probably complicit in makes me feel worse. So yeah, sounds like it's wrapped up with erosion of privilege.

I can't speak for HuronBob obviously, but that's what happens for me. Hopefully that helps a bit? Or I got what he was saying wrong and this was a waste of time.

Also, please note I'm trying to explain, not asking for anyone to help me with my feelings and definitely not wanting MetaFilter to change.
posted by ODiV at 10:52 AM on April 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


I've learned a lot of good stuff through the community, but

ugh this is hard to navigate

Comments can go from 0 to blistering contempt in seconds. Even when the topic is a thing that affects me personally, and the zinger is on 'my' side, I twist up inside in a vicarious discomfort because that's not a conversational space I'm at ease with participating in.

I don't know user backstories, so those 'this guy deserves it' reasons aren't apparent unless someone raises that point in the thread. So reactions can seem inexplicably out of proportion, which then makes me feel like I don't understand the community culture and it's intimidating and unpredictable.

I'm not saying that people should comport themselves like X or tolerate behavior Y. I do feel like nuance is more trouble than it's worth a lot of the time, because it seems irresistible for some folks to resist shoving a shades-of-grey idea into a black-or-white interpretation so they can bounce a withering bon-mot off it, which inevitably seems to eclipse any other potential engagement with subtlety.

I guess you could chalk this up to frailty or tone policing or Political Correctness Gone Mad, and I'd feel shamed and diminished by your righteousness, because I'm also a person who feels like a thief when I walk out of a store without buying anything. I'd love to be better at words enough to be confident that I could make crisp unassailable distinctions. But I never feel like I can see all the things I might be wrong about, and while I love it here, I accumulate inadequacy feelings like I could trade em for Valuable Prizes. So I take breaks when I start excoriating myself for being able to enjoy time travel stories or something.
posted by Fantods at 10:53 AM on April 28, 2016 [17 favorites]


That these people are reminded of their eroding privilege? That these people get a hard time from other vocal members of the community? That these people feel less welcome here than the rest of the world? Taking the piss? What?

I can't say what HuronBob meant or didn't mean, but I think there's a pattern on this site of people who figure out they are privileged, in some way, acknowledge it, in some way, and get some sort of a handle on social justice issues and concerns and language and then try to be arch and funny about it in a supportive/self-deprecating way and it just falls so flat and so hard and Doesn't Help. And whether it intended to or not, it fits the pattern.

I don't want to impugn motives or whatever but stuff like that is the same species of self-deprecating "well i'm just a pasty lily-white etc. etc." thing that was talked about in the last Cultural Appropriation MeTa.
posted by griphus at 11:00 AM on April 28, 2016 [11 favorites]


That question resonated with me, too. Maybe it's why I unconsciously stopped reading the blue entirely a few years ago and hang out mostly on the green. The occasional chance to help people in some small way lifts the mood in a way that the blue no longer does for me.

Not too long ago, however, I was told in MeMail that an answer I'd posted on Ask was "mansplaining." If that becomes a trend (it hasn't so far), I'll probably give up MeFi entirely.
posted by kindall at 11:07 AM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


General PSA: people should not be sending MefiMails like that.

If you're a person who tells other people off in MefiMail like that, stop it.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:09 AM on April 28, 2016 [27 favorites]


Why not? If the choices are A) spam up the thread with the seven millionth "You're mansplaining!" "No he isn't!" "That's not really a thing!" derail, B) ignore it so the possible-mansplainer isn't ever called out on it, or C) correct the person privately, isn't C a reasonable option?
posted by Etrigan at 11:17 AM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


(Of course, style of approach is important, but a blanket "stop it" seems unnecessarily broad.)
posted by Etrigan at 11:21 AM on April 28, 2016


I can imagine a scenario where such a message would be helpful in intent and tone.

But we've had a few reports and I suspect there are many people who haven't reported to us, of people sending crap in Mefimail that would get deleted on the main site, pointedly insulting or denouncing the recipient, or questioning their commitment to good causes, or whatever -- and from the perspective of the recipients these messages are coming out of nowhere, like they were not engaged in a conversation with the sender, it's just someone who feels free to send mail just to say "you suck" or "if you really cared about cause x, you would do y". That's not cool and I don't know why people think it's okay.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:21 AM on April 28, 2016 [32 favorites]


So as someone who has recently discussed Metafilter in therapy, I think I am qualified to speak on this. The conclusion I took away from that conversation was that this isn't a Metafilter problem, it's a Zeusianfog problem. And since that conversation I've become remarkably less depressed when reading MF, because I know what my triggers are, I recognize that sinking feeling when it starts to happen and I walk away. It's not a perfect process.

But this sinking feeling is definitely tied to the topics under discussion and not the actual dynamic of the discussion. I read Metafilter for years before I got an account and the moderation has improved by leaps and bounds in that time. Our wonderful mod team is much better at stopping the ugly shitfights in their tracks. I used to panic at the thought of ever posting even the most innocuous comment lest my head wind up on a pike. I don't feel that way anymore. But then again, I've also learned to read the room. In the unlikely event that I'd choose to read an electionfilter thread, I would certainly never post in it, because I like my entrails where they are. I guess the difference is that the election is something where you're more likely to see sharp polarization in opinions, whereas the "maybe racism is not so bad" people are getting vaporized with an orbital laser. Which is (relatively) new! ALL HAIL THE ORBITAL VAPORIZING LASER
posted by zeusianfog at 11:27 AM on April 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm not saying it should be an official rule or anything, but my personal rule of thumb for reaching out to someone via MeMail is to restrict it to shooting the shit or other friendly commiserating with another user, or to help coordinate an event like a meetup (and sometimes both!). The chances that a "NO U" kind of MeMail exchange will end well are not high.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:28 AM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Why not? If the choices are A) spam up the thread with the seven millionth "You're mansplaining!" "No he isn't!" "That's not really a thing!" derail, B) ignore it so the possible-mansplainer isn't ever called out on it, or C) correct the person privately, isn't C a reasonable option?

To circle back to what an earlier commenter said in this thread about call-out culture-- is it really necessary to call-out mansplaining? Especially in AskMe, where everyone be 'splaining? If it was bad advice, it will probably be countered by another asker, right?

I've gotten a couple-or-three shitty comments in MeMail, and it does kind of suck (most MeMails that I get that are taking an in-thread topic private are positive, or at least trying to work out differences between us, I appreciate those). Thank you LobsterMitten for making it clear that MeMail callouts are frowned upon. I think I'll be more active about reporting them in the future.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:30 AM on April 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


OH AND I absolutely do not want to see the social justice/depressing news articles go away! The discussion that happens here is really valuable and enlightening when I can stomach reading it! It is not something I can find anywhere else on the Internet and it is a big part of why I come here every day! If Metafilter turned into a repository of cotton candy fluffy bunnies I would be very sad. And I think probing articles investigating injustice ARE some of the coolest things on the web.
posted by zeusianfog at 11:30 AM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't know why people think it's okay

Probably because it's not specifically called out in the FAQ? Like, "Do not use MeFi Mail to harass or stalk other users" is vague and what you're describing may not seem like harassment or stalking to some users. You don't have to wait for an invitation in a thread to quote and respond to someone, so some people might think they're doing the exact same behavior by using MeFiMail.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:31 AM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


And reminder, if anyone is being crappy in MefiMail you can block them.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:31 AM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


To be clear, the "mainsplaining" note I received wasn't out of nowhere; it was clearly an attempt to avoid cluttering up the thread itself with that sort of thing. By the time I read it, my crap answer had been rightly deleted by the mods anyway, so it was sort of moot. Really, I'm just saying that if it becomes a trend that people don't find my answers useful for whatever reason, there's no reason for me to continue participating in Ask. The "mansplaining" thing was meant to be an example, but was perhaps too specific.
posted by kindall at 11:38 AM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I recently went through a spate on FB of hiding a number of my friends from my feed. A number of my friends were posting too much along the lines of 'look at this horrible thing!' and nothing about their actual lives. And I woke up one morning, and had the thought clear in my head that if I were to check the internet to see how friends were doing that I don't get to talk to and instead it was all BAD BAD YOU MUST BE ANGRY AND HURTING NOW, I would kill myself. And I don't say that at all lightly, it was one of the more crystal clear times I've had that thought roll through my head, and it was like a bright light declaring to me that this relentless hunt for negativity and outrage was causing actual pain, in this case to me. I wasn't going to tell people what to curate of themselves on their walls, but I had to start blocking posts, and soon people whose only contributions were to make me feel worse about living.

And not a single one of the articles or posts were about things I wasn't already aware of.

I don't think of MetaFilter as a place where I'm finding out about friends' lives, it doesn't come with pictures unless I click the link, and it at least has the politeness to spread Terrible US Election stuff more sparsely rather than endless days of reminders of just how horrific the Republican candidates are being. But yes, it depresses me to spend time here, not just in the occasional focus on Outragefilter-style posts, but also how those threads would predictably progress.

And I think comments like HuronBobs,

I suspect the most likely demographic to find this site depressing is middle to upper class, white, straight, US males.


and others by a number of sadly predictable users, is one of the main reasons why. (Less than half, Bob, but thanks for presuming!) Because it's a massive assumption that the only reasons why people might disagree with you about something is because they're having their privilege checked or their eyes forced open to a world they don't normally see, rather than they might know the same things but just have a different viewpoint. It's the argument to shut up and listen, where there's no room to still not agree 100% after having done that.

It's a presumption of bad faith rather than difference, that you can only disagree because you're not as good a person, and what used to be topics that could be about something depressing but still lead to super solid discussion instead mostly becomes a purity test for participation.

So, no, people aren't just finding MF depressing because they're not woke enough. But that presumption of bad faith is a toxic response that certainly doesn't help make the situation any better. Trying to be more positive would be nice, and I really, truly appreciate LobsterMitten countering some of the assumptions of bad faith, but I also remember how the last MeTa that tried to suggest more positivity turned out.
posted by gadge emeritus at 11:40 AM on April 28, 2016 [45 favorites]


Sorry if this seems unnecessary, but given what you've said and the topic of the thread: always remember, if you're feeling like suicide is a good idea: please reach out and talk to somebody.

You can reach us at the contact form, or email mods@metafilter.com, 24 hours a day. There's a big list of hotlines at ThereIs Help. A lot of hotlines now have online chat options, and there are warmlines that you can contact if you're not in immediate crisis but still could use someone to talk to.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:50 AM on April 28, 2016 [23 favorites]


it's a massive assumption that the only reasons why people might disagree with you about something is because they're having their privilege checked or their eyes forced open to a world they don't normally see, rather than they might know the same things but just have a different viewpoint.

I completely agree. It's sort of a bummer to me that this comment I made seems to have spurred some bad feelings on that front:

It's always valuable to remember that if you're in position to get tired of hearing about social justice concerns, just how imagine how goddamned tired people of having to actually go through the injustice on a regular basis.

I had intended that to be an answer to Huron Bob's comment, in the form of saying what I literally tell myself, as one of the aforementioned, white/male/etc. people to try and keep my head on straight. That is, I was saying, "Fuuuuuck, I'm trying." It sort of got absorbed into the discussion as an echo of that assumption of bad faith, rather than a response to it. Short comments pick up context that wasn't intended sometimes.

That's not the only thing I've said in this MeTa, though. And I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to sort of counter-finger wag at folks. I wasn't even sure what I'd say, "Don't ignore some of the stuff I said to assume I'm making assumptions based on stuff I ignored?" But I suck at that kind of thing, and it's exactly the kind of stuff that makes MeFi depressing to me sometimes. I'd rather just say I did see some great stuff said here, by xarnop, odiv, Lobster Mitten, and others. we could all use a break sometimes.

Also: I love you, MetaFilter.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:08 PM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


I totally agree with the shift from "Here's a cool thing I found" to "Here's a thing you should be outraged about and if you're not then you're an oppressive shitlord." Maybe it's just the heat of an election year but I feel like there's a total willingness to dogpile anyone that has the slightest hesitation from the orthodoxy of the site's commenters for being a bad person.

I've often said I wish there was a Newsfilter or Politicsfilter for the people that want to shout at each other/along with each other.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:15 PM on April 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


US Election years are a nadir for the internet as a whole, I think. Maybe media in general. Maybe even human civilization.
posted by griphus at 12:16 PM on April 28, 2016 [17 favorites]


MetaFilter will absolutely be 30% better when the election is over.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:16 PM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


Is an underlying factor in both (subjectively) depressing threads and infighting, the fact that MetaFilter (the front page) is used more or less a catch-all subreddit and is treated as such, but really is /r/all? And that participation and moderation of such a large space can be challenging because people have all sorts of different expectations about the front page?

I also think that a big part of what makes MetaFilter special is that we're all in it together, and that segmenting users/creating enclaves goes against that spirit, but I wonder if there are compromise solutions that can capture the best of all worlds. I mean, it feels very much like we're moving in that direction already. I don't visit FanFare very much but I very much appreciate that there is a great space for like-minded people to happily discuss their favorite shows and whatnot.

FWIW, I'm strongly against artificially fracturing the site further, but maybe we can offer users better tools for avoiding things they don't want and finding things they care about and letting them figure out how to filter organically.

(This is not an endorsement of reddit btw, I'm just using subreddits as I think they are a well-understood concept. /r/all is not a real subreddit per-se but a virtual subreddit that includes posts from all subreddits. I do think social media platforms can learn from each other and borrow features and best practices to improve themselves.)
posted by kyp at 12:17 PM on April 28, 2016


MetaFilter will absolutely be 30% better when the election is over.

I say it will be 35% better. We are enemies now.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:19 PM on April 28, 2016 [25 favorites]


That number is pie-in-the-sky and you know it, prize bull octorok. Let me send you some insulting image memes that "prove" it.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:21 PM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


This is kind how I feel about the internet as a whole these days:

The Happiness Machine
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:22 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Let me send you some insulting image memes that "prove" it.

Just post 'em inline. I hear you can do that now.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:22 PM on April 28, 2016


Is our userbase aging? Is that a thing? I ask strictly because I am, and I see more and more negativity in overall worldview among my friends these days. Admittedly, that's anecdata. And it maybe means nothing of any kind. But given the age of the site, I do wonder if a focus on the negative is just a consequence of having a growing percentage of craggy weary people like me.

Not that I'm saying MeFi's userbase is aging. Just asking. Or that I'm saying all older people are pessimists. They're not. I'm not saying anything bad about anyone. Really, I think I personally, just need more upbeat young friends. Please be my upbeat young friends.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:24 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've gotten two memails telling me I'd behaved badly, and they were very helpful to me.

I say this not to object to the position that negative memails are generally a bad idea, which I agree with, but to try to help ameliorate feelings of guilt I imagine people who've sent them in good faith might be feeling right now.
posted by jamjam at 12:26 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've often said I wish there was a Newsfilter or Politicsfilter for the people that want to shout at each other/along with each other.

Right, but also you and me and everyone else here, everyone ever on metafilter, on the entire internets actually, we all have the power to not read threads that are focused on topics that we dislike, that we know will annoy us, that we know will go terribly, that we know the usual suspects will participate in and Ruin Everything. And yet people still posit that removing those topics from the main site entirely is a reasonable way to solve the problem of people seeing these topics and reading the threads and then being upset that they chose to read a thing that they knew would upset them. It's like when my boss tried to ban all snack food in the office because he didn't have the self control not to snack, he thought this was 100% reasonable for everyone. No! It is not! I want snacks! give me snacks
posted by poffin boffin at 12:28 PM on April 28, 2016 [15 favorites]


Honestly my sense is that younger folks tend to be the ones who are more pessimistic.
posted by kyp at 12:29 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I look at a lot of the posts that make it to the Blue, and wonder if they'd get through a little pop-up asking if this is really the best of the web.
I think part of this is our own doing...the community that was built on Best of the Web (tm) seems like such a great place to have great talks with great people that some of us can't resist throwing up outrage-filter/election posts. Who better to talk about these things with than my Metafilter people?, etc.
I'd like to see that pop-up. Seriously.

Separately, the assumption of bad faith on the part of posters who disagree is something that keeps me out of a lot of threads on the Blue, and it's sad to see it on Metafilter in general.
posted by Kreiger at 12:30 PM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


I understand the school of thought that has taking a discussion to MeMail to be equivalent to rolling your neck, flexing your muscles, and saying, "Let's take it outside!" But I also think, when handled civilly, it can help people solve their shit one-on-one without stinking up the whole room. I've certainly done (what i assumed) was the latter before. That's something for me to think about, I guess.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:30 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think it depends on who is mailing. I take memails from someone who's been, say, arguing with me in a friendly fashion about GoT or monstrously addicting me to games that steal my soul and free time (you know who you are) a lot better than I do memails from someone I've never heard of or spoken to. If you have a relationship of some kind with someone, sure, memail them. If you've only been yelling at them, maybe not.
posted by corb at 12:36 PM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


Is MeFi depressing?

That's why I post mostly jokes (or "jokes", depending on whether or not a given person finds them funny) at every possible opportunity. No need to thank me, I consider it a public service.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:43 PM on April 28, 2016 [12 favorites]


Right, but also you and me and everyone else here, everyone ever on metafilter, on the entire internets actually, we all have the power to not read threads that are focused on topics that we dislike, that we know will annoy us, that we know will go terribly, that we know the usual suspects will participate in and Ruin Everything.

Except the Mods, who are stuck looking over the threads. Though it's their job, and I hope they have snacks.

Aside from the topics and people leading to threads being destined for Ruin also being subjective, it's also not great for the site to have topics whittling down to just those too stubborn/too obdurate to behave differently.
posted by gadge emeritus at 12:47 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't think that articles about social justice issues are the problem, I think jerky behavior is. I disagree with very little of the general direction of MF politics, but I still get tired of behavior to the point of taking long breaks from it, and sometimes long for different perspectives.

Some people like to bully on the internet. This is not something you can get away with on MF but there is a loophole; I CARE SO MUCH seems to be a get out of jail free card.

I care a lot about social justice issues, but have realized that while MF appears to be a discussion area really it's mostly just internet comments. Although I'm not very good at following particular members names or histories, I feel like a lot of my favorite members have just bailed out of most discussions.

I don't think there are too many negative posts, political posts, social activism posts, any of that per se, I think that there are a few people that enter every discussion, no matter the topic, and turn it to their favorite punching bag. There seem to be people who really want to discuss only a handful of topics and turn everything that direction. But there are plenty of places on the internet devoted to such topics. That's where I go to read about such things. I feel like some want this to be an activism site. I already have activism sites. This isn't one of them.

It's a case of searching for the lost item under the street light where it's easier to see.
posted by bongo_x at 12:48 PM on April 28, 2016 [11 favorites]


I'd just like to point out that "Best of the Web" has never been an official goal for MetaFilter, let alone some acid test of whether a post is a good fit or not for the Blue. It was an unofficial slogan for a while that got picked up by the userbase incorporated into the collective memory of the site, but that's it.

And if you don't want to see threads on Topic X on MetaFilter, you totally have the option of using My MeFi to exclude them from your personal view of the site. I'm surprised more people don't do this already, to be honest. I feel like if people were made more aware of the option, it might get greater use and we'd have fewer MeTas proposing that we create a PoliticsFilter subsite.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:50 PM on April 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


Give The Mods Snacks 2016
posted by poffin boffin at 12:56 PM on April 28, 2016 [13 favorites]


I would use MyMefi, but a lot of people don't tag either consistently or clearly enough for me to sort well.
posted by corb at 12:56 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've often said I wish there was a Newsfilter or Politicsfilter for the people that want to shout at each other/along with each other.

Respectfully, I wish people would stop characterizing certain kinds of posts as only appealing to people who want to argue. Just because people who want to argue are attracted to certain kinds of posts doesn't mean that everyone in a news or politics thread is just there to argue and yell at people.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:57 PM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


What depresses me is when a thread about something is going well, and then a person comes in and says something like "well don't you forget that 18 and a half years ago, that person said this one thing about [ISSUE] so I will always believe they are an awful human being," derails the whole damn thing, and seems to think they deserve a cookie for being Aware.

There is less tolerance for past misdeeds and attitudes and that is pervasive and poisonous. If I blocked everyone out of my life who made a comment years ago that would be considered offensive today, I'd have no friends, family, and I'd have to cover my mirrors.
posted by kimberussell at 12:59 PM on April 28, 2016 [42 favorites]


I have pretty low expectations as far as whether or not people will treat one another with decency and respect, and I am pretty fucking shocked that ANYONE is sending "YOU SUCK" through MeMail. It makes me ever more grateful that the few MeMails I've received have been such kind, thoughtful, or generous notes.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:59 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I just sent $5 I would like allocated to mod snacks, please.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:00 PM on April 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


Thank you! I am eating a snack right now.

(But seriously, the best thing people can do if they feel a twinge for the mods is: go make a positive comment somewhere on the site.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:03 PM on April 28, 2016 [11 favorites]


I would use MyMefi, but a lot of people don't tag either consistently or clearly enough for me to sort well.

I think it would probably be okay to (m)email a mod (or the thread poster) and ask for a common tag to be added, like if an obituary didn't have "obit" or "obituary" and you are tired of death. People definitely ask in-thread for tags to be added, although this is usually done for lols purposes. But yeah, at that point you've already seen the thing you didn't want to see and not really through any fault of your own.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:03 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


a lot of people don't tag either consistently or clearly enough for me to sort well.

I feel like mathowie sort of "gave up" on tags at some point. I'm not sure what he was hoping they would do or how he was hoping they'd work but I felt like tools could have been built on top of the tagging structure to both

- surface the usefulness of tags
- allow people to really drill down finding things via tags

However it's a cart/horse thing. Those tools were never built and tags have sort of languished but I still think they're useful and important so here's a reminder that you can tag anyone's post what you are a co-contact with, so consider doing so and maybe we can get My MeFi more useful and maybe even spur a tagging renaissance.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 1:03 PM on April 28, 2016 [12 favorites]


there should be a dorite-shaped icon on the profiles of everyone who has Helped The Mods Snack
posted by poffin boffin at 1:03 PM on April 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


(But seriously, the best thing people can do if they feel a twinge for the mods is: go make a positive comment somewhere on the site.)

Will do! But seriously, I really did send snack funds. Have a taco or something, would ya?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:04 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I am a mutual contact of Jessamyn. I'm gonna tag all her posts "BUTTS" from now on.

(I kid... just trying to make MeFi a happier place.)
posted by bondcliff at 1:06 PM on April 28, 2016


I'd just like to point out that "Best of the Web" has never been an official goal for MetaFilter, let alone some acid test of whether a post is a good fit or not for the Blue. It was an unofficial slogan for a while that got picked up by the userbase incorporated into the collective memory of the site, but that's it.

That's not how I remember it. According to Wikipedia, "MetaFilter's name derives from the idea that weblogs 'filter' the 'best of the web,' and MetaFilter posts would be the best of the best."
posted by kindall at 1:11 PM on April 28, 2016


Didn't the title actually say "Best of the Web" under "Metafilter" at one point or did I dream that?
posted by bondcliff at 1:13 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


In fairness to MetaFilter, a lot of the web sucks these days.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:14 PM on April 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


"Your wrong"
posted by clavdivs at 1:16 PM on April 28, 2016


[no]
posted by clavdivs at 1:16 PM on April 28, 2016


"Your wrong"
posted by clavdivs at 1:17 PM on April 28, 2016


MeFi Nope sounds great but doesn't seem to be working for me in Tampermonkey (Chrome, up-to-date). Does it work with the Classic Theme?
posted by Rock Steady at 1:18 PM on April 28, 2016


I wrote this in a different grey thread a couple years back:

"Personally what I like best about this place is getting to learn about stuff I knew nothing about and chat with a bunch of smart interesting people about that stuff. But what I like ain’t what other people like."

At the time, the vast majority of people in that thread felt the amount of Important posts were fine and dandy and a just reflection of the state of the world. To me it seems like that trend away from Interesting to Important has only increased since. Partly that seems to reflect broader attention to these issues on the Internet as a whole. But it also seems to me to reflect a shift in many user's view of the site, that this shouldn't be a place to learn but rather a place to challenge outmoded views and reinforce correct ones.

My own feelings haven't changed. I don't view or value MeFi as the Necessary Flail, the place to come to every morning to get my conscience scrounged, so I can go forth with my wounds fresh-weeping and salt-ready. As a result I read and participate here less.

I don't know if there's anything much to be done, though, really.
posted by Diablevert at 1:18 PM on April 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


MeFI can get very, very fighty.

Families fight.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:20 PM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


NO WE DON'T
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:21 PM on April 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


According to Wikipedia, "MetaFilter's name derives from the idea that weblogs 'filter' the 'best of the web,' and MetaFilter posts would be the best of the best."

Yeah, but whoever wrote that probably just wrote it because that's what they remembered. The links cited in that section on Wikipedia both link back to Metafilter's guidelines, and if you click through, neither cited link on Metafilter mentions anything to do with being the "best of the web".
posted by 23skidoo at 1:24 PM on April 28, 2016


Hold up, wait a minute, pause... are you saying Wikipedia is subject to human error?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:27 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


did I hallucinate the damn logo thing. because I totally remember words under the logo saying a thing and I want to believe it said something about best of the web or some thing.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:32 PM on April 28, 2016


The Wayback Machine reveals the following slogans below the Metafilter logo:
--It's your web, log it
--You're wrong, no YOU'RE wrong!
--We're all in this together
--Self-policing since 1999
--Weblog as conversation
And, since 2006,
--Community weblog.

There may be others. But I did not see "Best of the web."
posted by zeusianfog at 1:38 PM on April 28, 2016


There used to be lots of different taglines under the logo, Annika. I don'tknow if "best of the web" was ever one of them, but I wouldn't be surprised.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:39 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, the podcast does say Best of the Web right there in the theme song.
posted by bondcliff at 1:40 PM on April 28, 2016


You missed the true slogan:

--The plastic.com it's OK to like
posted by selfnoise at 1:40 PM on April 28, 2016 [13 favorites]


There may be others.

Also: "more addictive than crack"
posted by 23skidoo at 1:41 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


OK, I went to the wiki. This is probably the most comprehensive list of former taglines that there is. I don't see a "Best of the Web" in there, but it would've fit right in.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:42 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Kuro5hin is over there"
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:43 PM on April 28, 2016


^ was a joke,

the one I am thinking of "we're all in this together"

I lurked for like 10 years on this site before I ever got over my fear of commenting >.>
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:46 PM on April 28, 2016


The only things that depress me about MetaFilter are:

- When people are shitty to each other
- When people, usually marginalized people, feel the need to button because of the site's atmosphere

Otherwise just the level of eloquence and thoughtfulness on the site are enough to bring a smile to my face.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:46 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


MeFI can get very, very fighty.

Families fight.


Which is why we go hang out with our friends instead.

There's a post from June 2000 that is the earliest tagged with "bestoftheweb". Here are the others.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:47 PM on April 28, 2016


Is an automatic tag allocator a thing? If so - possible for a thing like that to parse pages for word instances (and pairings and associations, maybe weighting for frequencies)? And then generate tags according to one of the existing library catalogue frameworks? Good for finding things as well as blocking them out. (I believe this is possible, because I ordered a quarter pounder from a kiosque without having to discuss upsizing at all. The future is here.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:47 PM on April 28, 2016


I've really benefited from some of the most contentious and difficult stuff I've read here so thanks to all who've been willing to enter the fray.

I also feel like I read a lot of one-liner comments expressing glib misanthropy and knee-jerk pessimism, often kinda jokey but not really, like "humans suck, we suck, they suck, the planet will be better without us, we or x group deserves whatever bad fortune befalls us/them", etc etc and it's an unpleasant low-level background hum, like a bad fluorescent light. Maybe there aren't so many and I just notice them more now, I dunno, but it bums me out.
posted by generalist at 1:49 PM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


I ordered a quarter pounder from a kiosque

yeah i do need to read that naomi klein book, probably :/

posted by cotton dress sock at 1:51 PM on April 28, 2016


Unfortunately I think keeping all activism, human rights issues, and awareness about human experience or new avenues of progress separate is that then that creates echo chambers were small pockets of people who care about the issues talk to each other and the general public can close their ears as preferable.

It's like wanting to keep racial equality in a separate location... separate but equal-- when integration requires changes happening I public places where people might find it annoying and just even members of the group in question often gets benefits from laying low and accepting the status quo so there will be back and forth even within members of a group being marginalized about whether to accept to the status quo and not be so fighty and mean and depressing vs bringing some of it out in the open.

And it's not just metafilter, people are realizing a lot of this stuff needs to happen in communities, like bystander intervention and asking men to address comments promoting sexual assault/rape/harassment/objectification of women. And yeah a lot of these changes are depressing, there were so many people who thought all the gay marriage stuff was annoying and needed to stay in the closet where it belongs, do your activism on your own terf and it really did take uncomfortable conversations, bringing the issues to places where it wasn't asked for as a topic, bringing up that anti-gay bigotry isn't cool in the places where it's happening rather than in the secret of a special interest group where it can be easily ignored.

It's NOT fun. And yeah I do think it can be depressing whether you are in or not in these groups and the news and learning about what's happening in the world certainly can be depressing. Integration didn't happen because of people sitting around in special interest groups spaces out of the way,it had to be FORCED and it was UNWANTED and unpleasant to a lot of the people who didn't (don't) want it. Just some ruminations about why I see a great deal of value in depressing content despite also agreeing there is value in other types of content and in taking a break from heavy content when you need one.
posted by xarnop at 1:52 PM on April 28, 2016 [10 favorites]


Poking around the Wayback Machine, I found something very amusing, from the halcyon days of June 2001, a Metatalk post from RakDaddy titled "Ask MetaFilter":
There have been more than a few times when I wanted to one of those "Does anyone know...?" type of questions to the community, and I couldn't think of an appropriate place for it. Asking a question on the front page seemed like a dumb idea (and one that would open me to ridicule), and I couldn't think of a proper place to put it on MetaTalk. So how 'bout a link on the front page that sez Ask MetaFilter. Click on it, you can ask a question ("Does anyone know...?"), and generate a discussion.

Granted, it could be abused by smartasses and idiots, but I think the community on the whole would swiftly punish actions like that.

There are a bunch of smart people here with very different backgrounds and educations, and I think something like this could be very cool and simple to implement.
The best part is the first response, from y6y6y6:
I think you're asking Metafilter to be something it's not.

It would be cool and simple, but grafting odd parts onto something that works fine as is doesn't seem like a good idea to me.
Then mathowie:
Adam, it does detract from what the site does normally, and takes it into a realm of being like a mailing list.

It could be done, if controlled, so it's always and obviously a sort of "thing over there we also do, but not the primary function of the site."

Slashdot does this by picking very few questions and doing like one every few days that people can help answer. If it were allowed to run unhindered, people could just sort of hang out on the question threads and chit-chat all day, mailing list style.

So if I did this, I'd have to be very careful in how I go about implementing it, but I'll admit even I've wanted this when I was about to buy a DVD player or get my car fixed.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:57 PM on April 28, 2016 [13 favorites]


A relevant comment by chambers in the recent "men and emotional honesty" thread.
So while some are inviting us to share our personal feelings about why sharing some things are difficult, others seem to be saying 'Yes, bring them out, so they can be judged and condemned, because your feelings and thoughts as an individual on the matter are irrelevant.'
posted by J.K. Seazer at 1:59 PM on April 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


It's NOT fun. And yeah I do think it can be depressing whether you are in or not in these groups and the news and learning about what's happening in the world certainly can be depressing.

Long story short, it takes emotional effort. Not everyone is up to doing the labor when they see a post and hell, even having to shift through several of them to decide what's what can be a bit much at times. I do wish there were better tools on Mefi to sort posts on an individual level.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:02 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Having followed this thread all day, here are my not-very-original thoughts:

1. Metafilter has been bumming me out... in the best way. As some have said more eloquently above, its shift in tone has been painful but also so rewarding, empowering and truly thoughtful.

2. I am a new-ish member, and long-time lurker (2006 onward). I joined specifically at this time because I felt so strongly that the things I was reading recently were important.

3. I posted something on the blue that could have been construed as rarh-ing and outrage... but that would never have been how I intended it. I crave discussion with people I've watched for so long, feel as though I've kinda come to know, and respect. I'm placing my faith in a smackdown when I need it. And I am confident enough in myself to not get an ulcer over whether I should take it too personally.

4. Metafilter is what we make it: if you want "this is interesting! so unusual!" material, post some. Material begets material.

5. I .... I love you guys (kersniffle) dunt fite.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 2:09 PM on April 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


So, let me explain..

As a white, middle class (but losing ground in that regard), older, US, Male... I often find, as was mentioned upstream, that my demographic is sometimes viewed (rightly or wrongly) as the root of a lot of the evil. We're often lumped together with some term like "old white guys"...

My experience/observation has been that trying to defend that group, or object to generalizations where we're all thrown into that one pot, is usually met with even more negativity. Just saying "hey, I'm not like that" isn't met kindly.

So, it's hard to read that kind of condemnation on what feels like, to me, a regular basis. So, yes, the site becomes depressing when that happens.

If I offended anyone, that was not my intention, neither did I intend to diminish anyone else's response or thoughts from their own perspective.
posted by HuronBob at 2:10 PM on April 28, 2016 [22 favorites]


I have pretty low expectations as far as whether or not people will treat one another with decency and respect, and I am pretty fucking shocked that ANYONE is sending "YOU SUCK" through MeMail.

People do. It sucks.
posted by zarq at 2:11 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


I do wish there were better tools on Mefi to sort posts on an individual level.

Following up on that and Jessamyn's note about the potential usefulness of tools built on top of the tag structure... currently you can't post anything to the green without choosing a category to assign it to. Might we consider requiring that same step for posts to the blue?

I'm not actually calling for implementing a similar category structure on the blue (that seems overly ambitious, especially with pb leaving us), but even if it just automatically added a tag relevant to that category, that seems like it would be useful.
posted by Shmuel510 at 2:14 PM on April 28, 2016


One thing I've been trying to do less of lately in online conversation is painting with a broad brush over a lot of people. There's a lot of pain and suffering and shit in the world and sometimes those feelings in each of us are gonna bleed through into online conversations in ways that are unpredictable and painful to others. I think trying to "own my shit" while talking about how "shit other people do" affects me can go along a way to reduce the overall fightyness online and it's something I'm committed to. If I fail at that I'm totally open to a friendly memail to remind let up a little on that manner of mass communicatin'.

I've been tryin' real hard to be the shepherd, I hope it's been showing?

(props if you can recognize the two movies I cribbed phrases from in this comment hahahahaha)
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:20 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Categorization (instead of tagging) of posts seems like a no-go to me, because it relies on the site having a comprehensive enough set of categories that we all agree on, and posts that fit neatly in exactly one of those categories. That is unlikely to happen given how widely FPPs vary in style and substance. It also relies on the poster's singular opinion of what category the post belongs in, rather than the wisdom of the hive mind.

As an alternative, since newsfilter / outragefilter posts in particular are seen by some as a problem, I would prefer a new flag or flags that lets people quickly and unambiguously signal to the mods that the post is too news-y and/or outrage-y. cortex signaled in another recent MeTa that a free-form flag text feature was in the cards (not sure how pb leaving us changes that) but until that happens, maybe an additional flag reason or two would help those who see these categories of posts as problematic communicate that so that mods can decide where to set the bar for current events / grar-inducing content.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:24 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


The flag-and-leave-a-message option is coming pretty soon, yes.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:27 PM on April 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


It could be done, if controlled, so it's always and obviously a sort of "thing over there we also do, but not the primary function of the site."

LOL reading how lukewarm mathowie's response was to AskMe back when it was first proposed is really funny in retrospect. Aren't AskMe ads the site's primary source of revenue now?
posted by Jacqueline at 2:47 PM on April 28, 2016


How about community tagging?

Tags are currently set by individuals but may not represent the collective perception of MeFites. If we had a way to tag posts and/or favorite tags, we could depend on all users to improve the quality of tagging. Or maybe some other implementation thereof, but the point being to standardize on tags as well as to be dynamic about tagging.
posted by kyp at 2:50 PM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


I absolutely agree that using Metafilter can, on occasion, be a stressful or negative experience.

I think it needs to be recognized more that it is a kind of social space where people of different values encounter one another and interact. It's even considered a valuable space, since it's often held up as an example of good moderation and user interaction, by other media and academics.

So, if there are structural or social aspects of MeFi that tend to produce posts and threads that don't work on occasion for some readers or myself, that's sort of a very open-ended matter of first understanding where that's coming from. It sounds like a very deep research problem with many facets.

Yet there are simple cases too—sometimes, a single line of sarcasm can cause a very negative exchange. Meanwhile in the other person's shoes, they might feel justified in expressing a bit of polemic or satire that they perceive as necessary and efficient. What could be done about these fundamental differences? How can users be more fair to one another in this social space? What steps can we take to elevate our conversations? Etc.
posted by polymodus at 2:51 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


How about community tagging?

Oh god yes please this. I hate trying to think up all the things my posts could/should be tagged as.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:03 PM on April 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


They say MeFi is like a cocktail party. Lots of different conversations happening at the same time, and you can move from room to room. Invariably, there will be someone that tells you that you're wrong about something.

That's OK. I get it. Sometimes, I like it. I learn something.

But very often, I'm meeting the person at the cocktail party that not only tells me that I'm wrong, but I should be ashamed of myself. And that's depressing.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:10 PM on April 28, 2016 [15 favorites]


Aw hell. Of course I just noticed this thread after not sleeping all night on the train and zombie-ing my way through a workday. I suppose that I will now read the comments in it before commenting further.
posted by brennen at 3:16 PM on April 28, 2016


I'd be interested in a community tagging proposal… how would it work, though? It sounds like something that would be ripe for abuse. I think that's why we got the current compromise system, where mutual contacts can tag each other's posts, but we can't just tag any old post we want. It's maybe not the best compromise, because a lot of posts presumably still go undertagged (as someone who primarily interfaces with MeFi through Mobile Classic I don't see tags) but I'm not sure how we could open it up further without making a lot more work for the mods. I'd love to hear what ideas people have, though.

I imagine they'd have to be pretty lightweight features though if they were going to get implemented anytime soon. I get the impression that pb is only sticking around until he's finished work on the features that are already on his plate right now, and that the new hire will be focusing mainly on keeping things going rather than adding new stuff. I don't think there is currently even a firm plan (at least not one that's solid enough to be worth going public with) to bring dev services back up to historic levels.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:16 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Naw, HuronBob, I get what you're saying--I'm pretty guilty of dismissing things as "Old White Guy" (despite the examples of, say Jimmy Carter or all the in-their-70's white dads of my friends who are both white and girls where said dad's supported and helped them to become scientists or programmers or lawyers or whatever. So, you now, despite having many examples of non-evil old white guys or even liberal social justice warrioring old white guys) and it's something I've been working on not doing.

There is actually as much to unpack in the inner life of a picked at random old white guy as there is in the inner life of a person picked at random from another demographic, even though we've been there and done that for so much of our collective history and even though it feels like we should not have to listen to it any more, ever. There's a lot of voices here that I really don't hear other places in my life--including old white guys--regardless of what link we're reacting to. And that remains neat to me.
posted by crush-onastick at 3:26 PM on April 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


I contacted the mods a few weeks back to ask that there be a higher bar for posts about sexual assault and harassment. I find participating in the constant low level rumble of OK to good posts about sexual assault really exhausting, and it makes it hard to have the energy for those really exceptional threads - Schrodinger's Rapist, Emotional Labor, etc. - when they come along. I think that pruning the decent but frequent posts about challenging topics would make room for more productive conversations to occur more occasionally, and make it less of a slog to engage with the posts on the front page.
posted by ChuraChura at 3:27 PM on April 28, 2016 [10 favorites]


but I'm not sure how we could open it up further without making a lot more work for the mods

I don't think there's any getting around the need for good moderation of community tagging, which is what makes MeFi great after all. A simple high level implementation could be:
  1. User creates post with their own author tags
  2. When viewing a post, other MeFites have a chance to favorite community tags or create new ones
  3. Author tags and community tags above N faves are considered "official" tags and can be used for MyMefi filtering and searching
  4. MeFites can flag community tags like they do with comments already for mods to look at

My guess is that improving fundamental aspects like tagging will have knock-on effects that will improve other aspects of the site. For example, MyMefi becomes more useful because the quality of tags goes up. And the need for comment moderation is diminished because tags are higher quality and standardized and people can easily identify and ignore posts they don't want to see. Etc.
posted by kyp at 3:32 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


if you want "this is interesting! so unusual!" material, post some. Material begets material.

Hey if I knew where all the cool and interesting stuff was I wouldn't need you people
posted by Hoopo at 3:45 PM on April 28, 2016 [15 favorites]


I endorse the community tagging idea. That would help me a lot.
posted by corb at 3:51 PM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


OK, but I see seriously Best of the Web work--stuff my professional peers have published, stuff I LOVE--on the site, and there Is so little that people won't just fucking rag on. I actually DREAD seeing my own stuff here, because even if it's appreciated, there is a significant chorus of people who are very loudly negative & critical about shit they DON'T EVEN KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT. You're (GENERAL YOU) not a critic, sorry, and you're not any more enlightened than a big swath of Reddit (not the pathological ones, ok?), and if you don't like something--not are TROUBLED by, but just don't LIKE--that's fine, but why do you need to take a shit in the sandbox? People don't even behave like a lot of what's here is even INTERESTING to them but participate actively ANYWAY, and especially now that I have seen MY FRIENDS roundly trashed, I find THAT to be the depressing part of Metalfilter. To some degree (WITH MANY CAVEATS INCLUDING THE GREEN), there's a real Look, Got My Own Blog and Here It Is!!! contingent, and seeing how casually shitty those folks are ruined the blue for me.

Woof. I realize my saying so is probably not important, but I used to HOPE I would see my stuff here and now I'm actively relieved when I don't. And I have been here longer than I've been listen, lady, and it has just been a let down.
posted by listen, lady at 4:09 PM on April 28, 2016 [14 favorites]


Sorry about the arm-waving up there with the caps.
posted by listen, lady at 4:11 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


...but why do you need to take a shit in the sandbox?

I have a new hypothesis about why MetaFilter likes cats.
posted by Celsius1414 at 4:13 PM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


MeFi very occasionally goes very close to misery porn, in the sense that it feels every other day there's a story about someone who was wronged by the world etc. The thing is that the issues behind that condition are important and need fixing, so doing away with them won't help anyone. I'd rather feel shitty (well, shittier) for a moment and learn about something outside my own shitty experience than not learning at all. This is why I'm here, anyway.

The main problem often stems from the aggressiveness that even slightly different views lalex referenced above. Going out on saying how MetaFilter is so much better that every other place with comments, yet still assuming the worst on every comment that might be a bit off-colour is shitty behaviour. Because of that, this week I was very close on PMing a mod explaining why I was deactivating my account and buggering off for good. Instead I removed post from activity, and made silly comments here and there.
posted by lmfsilva at 4:20 PM on April 28, 2016 [12 favorites]


Hey if I knew where all the cool and interesting stuff was I wouldn't need you people
You can find some here!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:25 PM on April 28, 2016


Shit, I still haven't watched Lemonade. Thanks for the reminder!

Is there a Lemonade post, because tonight I'm making the decision between Tidal and iTunes (I don't think I can wait for the CD) and am leaning Tidal. I want to see that movie!!! Everything I've heard and seen has been so epic; she is like condensed awesome with an awesomesauce and a side of awesome salad. I'm really looking forward to the thinkpieces; even just the little bit I've gotten so far has dug into these awesome layers of history, and gender, and race, and issues around taking responsibility, making amends, and forgiveness. It's like a thirty layer cake.

So it's not just "here is a depressing thing let's be depressed" but "here is an issue going on and here are some avenues for change and healing and progress". So basically, when you look out into the dark, be sure you're shining the light so the new knowledge can make something better happen?

One of the things I decided to do is that whenever someone is a target of much grar and attack, and something is posted about the attacks, I will seek out the awesome things they did and post it in the thread. I think we're currently primed to view victims of abuse and violence as solely victims of abuse and violence because that is how we write narratives, and narratives shape how we think and what we assume.

It was an eye-opening day for me when I realized that people pointing out places I'd miss-stepped could actually be helping me - and could want to help me. Since then I've taken the general stance of trying to be as clear-sighted as I can be to my faults and failures, and to thank people who see the things I don't and share that with me. A more recent revelation was that people pointing out the flaws in things I loved weren't ruining it - they were putting it into a context I don't see.

From this perspective, I really notice the tendency to label the pointing-out-of-flaws as the problem. From my perspective, problems arise from responses to the pointing-out-of-flaws. For example, claiming the self or others are unflawed, or implying that the person points out flaws for some nefarious purpose, or focusing on why the person pointing out flaws is a bad person trying to do bad things. I don't think this is a conscious response, but it's a response I've found in myself that takes a while to recognize and untangle, and it's a response I see a lot on MetaFilter.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:48 PM on April 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


I think it is partly that there are about 7 billion people in the world, so there is no end of bad news, and the internet gives us access to that bad news 24/7 while not giving us immediate solutions, so a lot of people feel pretty overwhelmed. I think that bleeds into discussions and colors it.

I don't find it depressing. My dad grew up in The Great Depression and fought in two Wars. My mom grew up in Germany during WW2 and it's aftermath. I was a military wife for a lot of years and I spent time on health lists with frequent death notices and read accident reports at work for over five years. I am a) kind of thick skinned and b) someone with a high exposure to folks who lived through really bad stuff, survived it and then went and got a normal life. So, it isn't simply that I am calloused. It is that I do not feel like big challenges mean there is simply no hope.

I don't spend a lot of time on the blue. I spend more in AskMe because it is good for my mental health to try to help other people solve their problems. It makes the world look less bleak to me. And when I do spend time on the blue, it is often in a thread I created myself to share cool shit because I mostly don't want to participate in the FPPs that have an outrage filter framing. Outrage is a feeling you have about a thing you can do nothing about. It is a position of "this is a shitty thing and I feel helpless, so I am just going to vent." And I don't live that way. If something pisses me off that much, I am going to do something about it, to the best of my ability, in my own small way. So, outrage isn't my thing.

Depression is also about feeling helpless. So if you find it depressing, it might be helpful to a) skip the outrage filter posts and b) go over to AskMe and try to leave a good, useful answer so someone is one crumb closer to having a more awesome life.
posted by Michele in California at 4:51 PM on April 28, 2016 [11 favorites]


MetaFilter isn't exactly depressing; excessive internet use is a symptom of depression though. I do think MetaFilter is more welcoming than anywhere else to people living with depression and anxiety disorders. In fact, I once suggested to a user on a subreddit devoted to my local community, that they check out MetaFilter. There was a thread that touched on mental illness, and many of the comments (written no doubt by 13-year-old basement dwellers, the little bastards) on the Reddit thread were shockingly insensitive. I put up a good fight, explaining that people living with mental illness are human beings etc etc. My comments were downvoted, but I got Reddit gold, and also had a chance to talk with someone who was bewildered and frightened by the comments made by people living in his/her very community. So I pointed them at MetaFilter, a place more welcoming to people living with depression and so on.
posted by My Dad at 4:55 PM on April 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


Ok, so I read everything in here. There's not much for me to add, but since my ask touched this off I guess two thoughts:

1) I wasn't by asking for some alternatives trying to suggest that MetaFilter needs to change. Maybe (probably?) there are ways things could change around here, and people have said good things in this thread about some of what makes the culture here kind of rough, but I don't have any brilliant ideas about Policy or Mechanics.

2) I appreciate and relate to a lot of what has been said in here, so thanks.
posted by brennen at 5:01 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


...there Is so little that people won't just fucking rag on.

I feel ya. Someone even complained about my sea monkeys dancing to trance music post. :(
posted by Jacqueline at 5:22 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think reading MeFi can be extremely depressing, because it frequently calls attention to struggles that have otherwise been rendered largely invisible to MeFi's largest demographic sectors.

Digging pretty far back in the thread, amnesia and magnets touches on a point that I don't think has quite been plainly stated in this thread yet:

Marginalized people have an increasing ability, thanks to the web and social media and the 24-hr news cycle, to have their concerns and struggles reach a greater number of people and be noticed by the more "mainstream" media.

And from my perspective, this has really ramped up in the last five years or so. Which means, yeah, more of these marginalized voices and pieces about their experiences and perspectives and struggles are going to show up on MetaFilter. There's more of it ON the web, which is no longer nearly as separate from "Real Life" as maybe it used to be, so even with the "filter" of MetaFilter, more of it will show up here. I don't know if the world is getting shittier so much as it's always been shitty for some people, and we're just now hearing about it or realizing the extent of how many people are affected and how badly.

Does this make MetaFilter a more depressing place? Maybe, yeah, depending on your perspective and state of mind, sure. There's a lotta rocks being turned over to give us a glimpse of the nasty shit lurking underneath; there's a lotta things some of us could be oblivious to, because we're white, or cis, or straight, or never needed medication or therapy, or whatever, that're maybe not so easy to avoid anymore. Sometimes this might come across as people's noses being rubbed in their own unearned privilege, sometimes people in the marginalized group just don't have the emotional reserves to read yet another piece about how being [X] can be a daily horrorshow. I can see how both of these reactions would make for a depressing experience here.

I think if you find it depressing, for whatever reasons, it is to a large degree on you the reader to manage this (both griphus and Ivan Fyodorovich, just to pick two examples, have written clearly and eloquently above about their coping techniques and managing their involvement here), because I don't think this is going away anytime soon - the world is changing, the voiceless are finding their voices.

But one thing that helps me not get burned out over this (besides, in all honesty, my own privilege of being fairly removed from many of the experiences of marginalized people) is the perspective that overall, in the long run (yeah, yeah, "in the long run we're all dead"; doesn't mean we can't try to make the world a better place now) this rise of formerly-marginalized voices and perspectives is necessary and good. It's painful now, but maybe it's not unlike the pain of putting alcohol on a wound to kill infection.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:35 PM on April 28, 2016 [16 favorites]


Metafilter is too heavy for me sometimes. I usually just stick to Ask and try to be helpful.
posted by NoraCharles at 7:39 PM on April 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


Just ran across another depressing "you're wrong and you should feel ashamed" moment. AskMe questioner gets smugly hammered by a responder for a word choice only marginally related to the nature of the question. I flagged it as "other" and moved on.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:54 PM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


I flagged it as "other" and moved on.

Did you really, though? ;-)
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:02 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm never really sure what the Other flag means, but hopefully the Flag and Comment feature LobsterMitten mentioned above will help. I mostly use it when it looks like two people are just arguing back and forth in a thread outside of the wider discussion (which isn't usually a derail because they are arguing about the thread topic, but only to rebut the other person).
posted by downtohisturtles at 8:16 PM on April 28, 2016


Flagged as "othering"
posted by My Dad at 8:20 PM on April 28, 2016


Flag It And Moan Ostentatiously
posted by tonycpsu at 8:26 PM on April 28, 2016 [10 favorites]


For me it's not the subject matter itself that gets me down. Yesterday's post on Ana Mendieta--about as grim and horrifying as it gets--is exactly the kind of thing I rely on MetaFilter for. The resulting conversation was appreciative, illuminating, and brief. I don't think that's a coincidence. When confronted with serious things (and in that I'd include things that are seriously goofy or seriously weird or seriously lovely) this community does well in my opinion. I think it's the combination of serious issues and shallow clickbaity bullshit that promotes the type of interaction that makes people feel bad.
posted by otio at 9:07 PM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think it's the combination of serious issues and shallow clickbaity bullshit that promotes the type of interaction that makes people feel bad.

One thing I personally disapprove of, but don't see changing easily, is low-wordcount articles with minimally-framed posts on controversial/political issues. Just from those 3 characteristics, I always anticipate 100+ comment argumentative threads. It seems very predictable. Framing matters a lot, and besides that, thin content tends to get people to be more voluble than the articles warrant.
posted by polymodus at 9:53 PM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


(And I'm assuming many similar quality posts get nipped/axed already, it's just those tricky cases that slip through.)
posted by polymodus at 9:56 PM on April 28, 2016


I'm not sure if this is 'too real' for the thread, but I've had an interaction on this site (some time ago) that genuinely made me have suicidal ideation, even though that is not a thing that previously existed in my mental health history. Like it made me feel like a worthless human. This was related to one poorly expressed opinion about a popular cultural entertainment. Bullying and piling-on happens here and it happens a lot to rather hapless people like myself who don't always express themselves properly or who hold an unpopular opinion. There is a turning point in these kinds of threads, and I see it often, whereupon a user figures they're going to school someone and that becomes a signal to join the league of the righteous against this one user. In my case, that user was an exhausted and physically unwell person who was driven to tears for days by the unkind words of other community members. One commenter even felt they should point out how my user name indicated my immaturity and lack of worth or insight. The couple of users who memailed me privately to offer support were invaluable, but as a community we owe it to our members, who are all individuals, to remember that those comments where you think you're being so cleverly scathing are going out to actual people and have real consequences. It doesn't make you bigger to point out how others are small, or does it?
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 11:11 PM on April 28, 2016 [37 favorites]


Mefi is basically a support infrastructure for askmefi, imo
posted by Sebmojo at 11:24 PM on April 28, 2016


I guess I'd agree that MeFi feels like a different place to read in recent years, and not necessarily always a good one, and I think the Dead Goat people are probably behind it to a certain extent, at least for me (and I quite like having a phrase to sum up that particular attitude). I haven't stopped from adding comments to threads, but I've definitely cut back a lot in recent years. And thanks to the Mefi Navigator greasemonkey script, I get made aware of how much people are participating in threads, as it shows the # of other comments the user has made in a thread. Holy moly, are there some threads absolutely dominated by one voice, and often the threads about outrage or injustice. And I just feel less like interacting, even if I have experiences with something, when it means defending against dead goats or when I can already tell who's going to comment, since they've already filled the thread.

I stick around because there's still good links from time to time, and reading threads is a good time-passer when I'm waiting on some GIS processing. But more often than not, these days I type up a comment, hover my mouse over the post button, and then think "ehhh, why bother?" And then instead of pushing the button, I just close the tab.
posted by barnacles at 11:34 PM on April 28, 2016 [18 favorites]


Here’s a Dead Goat moment in the Linda Hunt thread. The thread is about celebrating Linda Hunt, but someone can’t resist dropping a negative comment about Asian erasure into the discussion. Inevitably this immediately kicks off the obvious fighty dynamic (“They didn’t have a choice!” “Who else were they going to cast”, etc etc) which just turns a really positive thread where people were sharing their thoughts about Linda Hunt into a one filled with negativity & conflict.

Yet Asian erasure is a thing in Hollywood & it’s shitty & it shouldn’t happen, so I don’t want to prevent people from raising that issue. At the same time, dragging that fight into a thread about an actor who has absolutely no control over it is exactly the kind of fighty derail that makes Metafilter feel like a really negative place a lot of the time these days.
posted by pharm at 12:25 AM on April 29, 2016 [8 favorites]


The occasional chance to help people in some small way lifts the mood in a way that the blue no longer does for me.

The blue also has plenty of more topical comments where someone has specialist knowledge of, or has spent years working on, something we all interact with (anything from how car finance works to inside a recording studio) and shares it without any kind of motive in an argument. I can get a whole day of feeling good out of one or two of those.
posted by colie at 12:59 AM on April 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


My Dad: I do think MetaFilter is more welcoming than anywhere else to people living with depression and anxiety disorders.

Not in my experience. Or I would say, not with threads like this one.

Again, my perspective only, good for you not for me, etc. - but I've found there's a number of topics that to describe MetaFilter as 'good on' is to more accurately say 'good for a certain perspective on'.

As for Dead Goat, it's more MF-specific than the mental Debbie Downer 'wah-wahn' I'd often think should accompany certain comments.
posted by gadge emeritus at 2:04 AM on April 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


... either I am getting in on the very beginning of morning-posted threads and then not seeing them again until after midnight, or else I am not even seeing threads until after they have a zillion comments.
Welcome to Australia.
posted by dg at 2:16 AM on April 29, 2016 [8 favorites]


Here’s a Dead Goat moment in the Linda Hunt thread. The thread is about celebrating Linda Hunt, but someone can’t resist dropping a negative comment about Asian erasure into the discussion.

This seems incorrect. That comment looks more like a factual reply to someone earlier asking "is Linda Hunt Asian, or was she just cast as Billy Kwan?". It's three comments above it.
posted by polymodus at 2:28 AM on April 29, 2016 [9 favorites]


Now I feel dumb.

On the flip side, that whole exchange still kind of typifies MeFi at the moment for me. Someone asks an honest question, gets a straight answer & that triggers a defensive response from someone else because they perceive an attack. Cue (potential) derail.

MeFi does feel like there are lots of people on a hair trigger waiting to jump on any perceived transgressor rather than engage positively a lot of the time.
posted by pharm at 3:48 AM on April 29, 2016 [8 favorites]


A lot of the things that are being discussed in this thread are things that annoy me or piss me off, but not the things that depress me. The depressing stuff generally tends to be the discussions of real-world bad stuff, not the interactions between members.
posted by Bugbread at 4:01 AM on April 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


For me, Metafilter is frequently a shining light in the utter squalor that is the internet. When I see mefites coming together to celebrate something cool, and especially when that something cool is from a marginalized person who otherwise gets only shit on from the internet, and then when we have a great conversation about it that doesn't include racism/sexism/homophobia/transphobia, I am reminded why this site is one of the only ones I visit daily. When I see hate rear its head, and it gets deleted by the mods, I celebrate. When I see ignorance rear its head, and it is met by smart eloquent explanation by mefites, I celebrate. This is where I can discuss the Hugos and know I will be discussing them with smart interesting people who love science fiction, not fucking assholes. This is where I can discuss our reunderstanding Marcia Clark, Monica Lewinsky, Tonya Harding, and Anita Hill and know I will be discussing them with people who are open to the idea that everything they "know" about those women is wrong. Metafilter is absolutely still the best of the web. Both in the links, and in the people who are here.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:24 AM on April 29, 2016 [21 favorites]


The dead goat thing is why I don't post to the front page much. I'll have an idea for a post but then get cold feet because I realize that someone will find something to object to about it. One I did post, I thought was totally innocuous and was about how an heir to the Packard fortune had spent millions of his own money to preserve and restore classic films but someone on the thread said he was an asshole because he was too smug about his good deeds. Sometimes I think people are actively trying to find the most negative thing to say.
posted by octothorpe at 4:28 AM on April 29, 2016 [22 favorites]


MetaFilter sometimes feels like a real-life Total Perspective Vortex. No matter where you start off with it, Crippling Nihilism is where you end.

You can love the Social Justice-y threads on this site, think it represents the pinnacle of what this site is capable of, and still find this site depressing as fuck, by the way. The emotional labor thread wasn't depressing, even though as a guy I was reading it mostly to learn about things that I suck at. It was exhausting, yeah, but also beyond fascinating. And it seemed like to a lot of users who were SHARING their stories, it was a lucid moment of recognizing mutual experiences and realizing that, no, this isn't "the way life works", it's a shitty trend inflicted by shitty people and it ought to not be that way.

It isn't even the Goat Cancer stuff, though obviously Goat Cancer is a phenomenon and kind of a shitty one at that.

The problem is that MetaFilter, being a forum, is organized around topics, and that topics are such a vague umbrella that a hundred people will see a topic and find at least seventy-odd different ways to perceive it. The notion that the issue is a lack of "civility" ignores the fact that civilizing can only occur when there are specific things being civilized around and towards. MetaFilter has stuck itself in a weird, paradoxical niche, wherein it's simultaneously trying to be less shitty along some let's-face-it politically definable lines, while also attempting to be a place "for" people with a wide range of perspectives and believes who it doesn't ask to toe party lines.

This is a site in which long threads about the nightmares of capitalism or the grossnesses of consumerist America exist side-by-side with long threads about the new Star Wars film, or where conversations about men holding dominant positions in music/philosophy/film/politics/whatever are held next to conversations about all those things, as they stand today, mostly male-dominated and whatever else have you.

It's a cliche that people who're passionate about a given subject often find themselves sounding very humorless about it—witness the recent thread on Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who's subjected to humorous rants by Marxists who're similarly humorless about their own subjects of choice—but that cliche is rooted in a real phenomenon, which is: people who care about a thing often find it hard to see that thing subjected to idle, ignorant conversation. That's as true of comic book geeks as it is for staunch progressives as it is for evangelicals as it is for typographers. I don't know if I've ever met a person who DIDN'T have at least one area of passion within which the Facts Mattered.

So for any given thread, you're getting a bunch of people rushing in to talk about whatever thing they particularly find to be the worthwhile perspective on it, sometimes interrupted by dourless-seeming folks who can't bring themselves to be anything but depressed about that particular subject. Though, of course, if the tables were turned, it would be the mainstream people feeling left out, as the dour and humorless types start to crack their obscure jokes in relief, with a joyous feeling like they've finally found a place that they can belong.

My definitive experience of MetaFilter, which I've realized hasn't changed since I first joined this site at 19, is: I will love the threads with six comments in it that involve my obscurer passions. I love the instances of threads revolving around a cultural force I unequivocally enjoy, though even those will leave me feeling tired and sad by their end. I must avoid like the plague any thread involving a thing where my opinion deviates from the cultural norm even a couple of percent, or else I will be the one throwing damp on the party. If a subject exists which I know nothing about but find fascinating, I can jump in and learn something exciting and new. If a political thread exists, my capacity to jump in is determined wholly by how misanthropic I'm feeling on a given day, how willing I am to jump in and start despising my fellow MeFite, whether I agree or disagree with them on basically whatever.

What's really interesting is when I happen to luck upon a thread in which I hold a deviating opinion, but it's somebody else who's been stupid enough to offer their perspective. Because then I find myself hating, not one side or the other, but both sets of participant at once. Because who are they, these oblivious idiots, to try and insist upon something that I think is accurate without the manpower necessary to establish it as a current within the conversation? Why would they think that would work? It's ridiculous.

It's not just a MetaFilter problem; it's a Reddit problem, too, and a Twitter problem, and a Facebook problem, and a Tumblr problem. The only places it doesn't seem to be a problem are places like Gawker, where a small group of people determine all the stories and threads, and the commenters who complain about that get ignored until they give up and go away. Which, okay, that's probably the same problem too, but tyrannical power imbalances have at least made it funnier to watch. MetaFilter's trying to play the game fair, which means it's doomed to be a perpetual rollicking fuck-up, achieving everything it achieves within the utterly dreadful mire of the day-to-day lunacy. That it's done as well as it has is some mixture of really hard work on the mods' part, some serious emotional labor on the users', some very well-placed bans, and the good fortune with which MetaFilter failed to become popular. Because even a fuck-up as glorious as this could never possibly scale upward without collapsing.

The counterpoint to describing it like that is that MetaFilter did collapse, and will collapse, and every time 9/10ths of the people who could use this web site decide they'd rather go to FunnyJunk instead, the people who remain here will celebrate that as a cultural victory, whichever 1/10th that happens to be. If, in 2007, we'd chased off all the women, we'd be here right now celebrating with our fellow #GamerGaters that this site could stand for fifteen-plus years and only get stronger and stronger with every passing day.

The reason there isn't a web site that's "like MetaFilter but less depressing" is that community sites like this are by their nature insular, hostile to anybody who exists outside their definitions, and totally willing to exclude people who don't fit into a particular definition. Do you want a forum full of hyperliterate Marvel enthusiasts? That exists, though it certainly has some unpleasant backwinds. How about a bustling theology discussion forum? If you want blogs full of people cracking jokes about Trump, boy oh BOY do you have options. But each time you have to make the same trade-off, which is that you either accept what the community has deemed the "norm", or you accept absolute anarchy, or you go somewhere else. Even on porous loosely-defined communities like you find on social media you'll find that to be the case. (MeFi's social media offshoots tend to sound exactly like MetaFilter but with certain people who're no longer here helping to set the tone, and listening to them complain about MetaFilter is delightful fun except for when it's even more depressing.)

So, yes. This place is fucking depressing! It'll probably get more depressing over time. It'll probably also be a better web site, for certain fairly-insular definitions of "better"—and if you think I'm using "insular" as a pejorative, think again. I find that MetaFilter is best appreciated by never reading any of its threads, taking eight month breaks every two months where you never glance at the site, and occasionally dipping into a thread the way you'd slowly sip a wine, rolling it around in your mouth, thinking, "Goodness, what a memorable concoction," then spitting it out into the bucket that holds five thousand other globules of saliva and partially-processed bitterness. Or else drown yourself in it, black out, and wake up the next morning with a headache and a whole bunch of regrets. Is there really any other way?
posted by rorgy at 4:32 AM on April 29, 2016 [17 favorites]


Since we're talking about Dead Goat People, I'd just like to point out that one person's Dead Goat comment is often another person's attempt to shine light on a genuinely problematic aspect of what seems superficially to be a lighthearted topic. For instance: ChuraChura (who is a professional primatologist, for those who don't already know) brought up earlier that she would be happy never to see another "cute pet monkey" post on MeFi, and I really agree with that. Those videos are only cute and funny if you ignore the fact that they are almost universally depictions of serious animal abuse. Primates belong in the wild. They're highly intelligent, often highly social, are not domesticated, and if kept in captivity need a level of care that pet owners are generally both unable and unwilling to provide. So seeing people point and laugh at a funny monkey in a snow suit is depressing to me, both because animal abuse is depressing and because I like to think that my fellow MeFites are more thoughtful and empathetic than that.

Sometimes Dead Goat People are providing a valuable service, is what I'm saying. Not everything that seems lighthearted on the surface is so in actuality, and I would prefer if things like animal abuse weren't allowed to masquerade as light comedy around here. Individual opinions on where to draw the line may vary, but I don't think people should be shy about pointing out hidden injustices when they see them. We generally don't post those "frog holding a leaf like it's a banjo" photos anymore for instance, now that we know that the leaf was probably superglued to the frog and the frog probably died shortly after its unwilling photoshoot.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:43 AM on April 29, 2016 [38 favorites]




I mainly post about moderately famous dead people. If I do that and stay out of political threads and threads about music, sex, and other contentious stuff, I'm fine.
posted by jonmc at 6:20 AM on April 29, 2016


Okay, this might be the wrong question to ask, but are there stats on ... how many members there were say, 6 years ago vs today? are people leaving in droves? I'm genuinely curious. :/
posted by Dressed to Kill at 6:38 AM on April 29, 2016


I would like to say, as the person who originated the Dead Goat Metaphor, that I agree wholeheartedly with Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival The! Like I said in the original goaty comment, it's not that the goatyologist is wrong, just that it's a bummer. But like, I'm glad the goatyologists among us are here, and greatly prefer learning about goatpox to being ignorant about it.

If there's an actionable takeaway I would hope comes from my comment, I would hope it's less "shut up, goatyologists" and more "just be aware there are probably goatyologists in the room". Like, the identification of people providing downers does not mean those people are bad; it's life itself that is full of badness! All is suffering, is I guess the phrase I'm tryina coin here
posted by Greg Nog at 6:46 AM on April 29, 2016 [19 favorites]


On the flip side, that whole exchange still kind of typifies MeFi at the moment for me. Someone asks an honest question, gets a straight answer & that triggers a defensive response from someone else because they perceive an attack. Cue (potential) derail.

Yeah, (to me) this is the bigger problem than Dead Goat Comments. It's like someone reads a Dead Goat comment, imagines a whole bunch of stuff not in the Dead Goat Comment, and then replies with a Maybe Goats Prefer Being Dead Response.

It's like, someone said they didn't like the thing you thought was cute. That's not the same thing as someone saying they didn't like YOU for liking a cute thing.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:47 AM on April 29, 2016 [7 favorites]


I can't decide if Dead Goat People is great band name or the name of group of reanimated super-villains who were brought back to right the wrongs they committed.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:54 AM on April 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


Remix: the group of reanimated super-villians brought back to right the wrongs they committed ARE a band
posted by 23skidoo at 7:00 AM on April 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can't really isolate why (and I wish I could), but I know I feel more and more alienated from the culture here. Was a longtime member under a different name, felt so alienated that I buttoned, eventually came back under this account, and I'm thinking of buttoning again. And I can't even figure out exactly why. It's not disagreement with the prevailing politics of the userbase; I share them. But somehow most threads wind up leaving me feeling either frustrated or depressed, usually with a side helping of suspecting that for unspecified reasons I'm a terrible person.

I thought it was probably just demographic drift; I'm in my early 40s, and I figured that if the userbase is skewing younger because of new members, I'm just culturally out of synch. Aaaaaand maybe; I don't know. I guess this thread's a little encouraging, just seeing that I'm not the only one who feels somewhat off.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 7:14 AM on April 29, 2016 [24 favorites]


I would hope it's less "shut up, goatyologists" and more "just be aware there are probably goatyologists in the room"

Yeah, agree with GregNog here. My suggestion is not at all "Shut up" but "Be aware of the conversation you are entering as you enter it" It does take more work to let people know "Hey that frog is maybe not doing so well" without taking the whole room down with you, but it can be done and people will learn something AND you won't kill the thread as dead as the goat.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:20 AM on April 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


And for those observing the Dead Goaters in action its OK to just ignore their comment and keep talking about how the goat sounds like Freddy Mercury or what have you. You don't have to either yell at them or agree with them or address what they said in any way. You can! Just! Be! All! About! The! G O A T !
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:25 AM on April 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah, there is a little bit of the concept of All Your Faves Are Problematic to the Dead Goat comments. Just because someone points out that your fave is problematic doesn't mean they are attacking you or your fave, just pointing out some things to consider and act on as you choose. I mean, they might be attacking you or your fave - Dead Goaters are problematic, too - but I think a lot of people react to any Dead Goat comment as if it was a direct attack.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:38 AM on April 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


I have read this whole thread and I can't figure out who we're calling Greatest Of All Time

Is it me?

It's me isn't it
posted by beerperson at 7:39 AM on April 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


Is "dead goat" a term of art or something? Not all of us have law degrees here.
posted by GuyZero at 7:41 AM on April 29, 2016


Au contraire if you read the whole thread u get an official degree in WebLaw
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:44 AM on April 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


beerperson, esq
posted by beerperson at 7:46 AM on April 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


Is "dead goat" a term of art or something? Not all of us have law degrees here.

It's a name that came from analogy of Greg Nog's.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:47 AM on April 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


After several Malheur threads I do have a degree in Moon Law, so I look forward to never passing a bar in WebLaw.
posted by GuyZero at 7:54 AM on April 29, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's a name that came from analogy of Greg Nog's.

Actually, it's a cloven-hoofed, ruminant mammal of the family Bovidae that has ceased all biological activity.

/Goatsplaining
posted by Rock Steady at 7:56 AM on April 29, 2016 [8 favorites]


The world is depressing. I find it depressing when I think things are getting better because people are actively discussing alternative ways of looking at things here and then I read the comments on things like my local newspaper and discover that actually everything is just as shitty as it ever was, if not more so.

I don't read everything on here anymore. I used to but I just can't now, but that's okay. I like being able to pick and choose.

The thing I find most uncomfortable here is when people are actively misread based on something they may have worded poorly. I get sad with derails based on someone's (what seems to me) awkward way of expressing something that isn't meant as an insult but gets turned into one, particularly if they're called on it and they apologise but that's just not enough, they're told they should never have even thought it in the first place. There's a massive difference between that and someone who is actually dismissive or actively hostile to something they don't understand fully. Og knows I've learned so many things from Metafilter, including the fine art of shutting the fuck up, but I clearly remember my days of saying whatever shit came into my head at the expense of others who knew so much more about *insert topic* than I ever could. I understand people having reached the end of their tether but at the same time, I do believe ignorance can be cured with something subtler than multiple blows to the head.

It can be depressing to be confronted with pain and ignorance and wilful denial and cruelty, for sure, but that is not all that Metafilter is. This is a tab that's never closed and I really do learn something new pretty much every day on Metafilter and I wouldn't be without it, rain or shine.
posted by h00py at 8:00 AM on April 29, 2016 [13 favorites]


Families fight.

So... I find the family metaphor for online communities troubling, personally. The aspect of "it's okay if we're casually cruel to each other [the way families often are]" for one reason, among many (others include things like personal-boundary ambiguity, and tribal knee-jerk rejection of outsiders). MetaFilter is an interesting place, and I'm glad I have a membership, but it's not my family, sorry, and I wouldn't want it to be.

(Semi-tangent: There is a local pizza chain in my part of upstate NY whose ad campaign is "We Treat You Like Family!" and my partner and I shudder and vow we'll never go there for that reason, given how excruciating family get-togethers usually are.)
posted by aught at 8:03 AM on April 29, 2016 [15 favorites]


"There's a direct correlation between knowledge and being a bummer"
posted by xarnop at 8:06 AM on April 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


As a white, middle class (but losing ground in that regard), older, US, Male... I often find, as was mentioned upstream, that my demographic is sometimes viewed (rightly or wrongly) as the root of a lot of the evil. We're often lumped together with some term like "old white guys"...

I started and deleted a couple of comments elaborating on HuronBob's original comment along these lines when people questioned it, not wanting to speak for him, though they resonate with my experience; I've have felt the same strong vibe against participating in particular discussions because of my age and ethnicity. Now that's not a huge deal; I've never been someone who felt compelled to express his opinions.

So, relatedly, and it might be a coincidence, but it's a fact that I have gotten fewer hostile reactions to my opinions in hot threads in the year or so since I removed my head-shot photo and other personally-identifying info from my MeFi profile page.
posted by aught at 8:15 AM on April 29, 2016 [7 favorites]


What's depressing to me are all of the "online communities" and internet mobs that are not metafilter, even with all of mefi's flaws. The folks who complain about mefi being addicted to misery puzzle me because they seem not to realize that the entire "world wide web" is addicted to misery.
posted by blucevalo at 8:26 AM on April 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


someone said they didn't like the thing you thought was cute. That's not the same thing as someone saying they didn't like YOU for liking a cute thing.

I think it depends on how it's said. I know there's been a couple of what I call 'Increase Mather comments', or "That thing you like is frivolous and possibly brands you a witch."
posted by corb at 8:50 AM on April 29, 2016 [7 favorites]


The interesting thing, to me, anyway, is how Facebook has really replaced MetaFilter for me over the years. While I am connected to friends, family and people in my "community" where I live (it's the tech sector), I rarely interact with those folks at all on Facebook. Instead I have been able to make connections with people with a similar life experience (a deep intergenerational connection to and understanding of northeast Asia in my case) that I could never make on MetaFilter, which tends to be pretty US-centric and parochial. It's tough to find those shared experiences on the Internet and Facebook has helped with that. The same goes for Twitter. What that means is that MetaFilter tends to attract people with a different shared experience based on MetaFilter.
posted by My Dad at 9:17 AM on April 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


upstate NY whose ad campaign is "We Treat You Like Family!"

We always just say that that particular pizzeria gives you diarrhea.

Anyway. My MeFi attitude is that there are Generally Accepted Experiences, and if your personal experience doesn't mesh with the GAE, you have to be *very* careful about what you say and how you say it, lest you get accused of trying to deny the GAE or just deleted outright.

I'm not necessarily saying that's a bad thing - it's opened my eyes to a lot of privilege I do have. But it can also be very exclusionary.
posted by Lucinda at 9:30 AM on April 29, 2016 [8 favorites]


Sometimes Dead Goat People are providing a valuable service

How valuable a service can it be if it alienates people from the site and makes them dread to read and comment here?

The Shakers died of their purity. Nice furniture. No future.
posted by Diablevert at 9:31 AM on April 29, 2016 [11 favorites]


Way to erase Brother Arnold and Sisters June and Frances, Diablevert.

Point taken, though. Also, that was as of 2010, so maybe they are dead now, sadly.
posted by col_pogo at 9:50 AM on April 29, 2016


The original Dead Goat comment cited - what makes them Dead Goat comments, rather than merely other perspective comments - is of a certain type of comment, where they're not saying they don't like YOU for liking the cute thing, but they're sure as hell strongly suggesting it. Or at least, again going from the original comment, suggesting, 'Well I just can't find something that kills children funny, I'm sorry.'

And even then, the idea that you can just ignore it only works if every user silently knows to do that, because if someone engages then it becomes a thing. Add in that what some people read as a scold others will read as a sincere apology of a personal gap in their humour. Also that when it's about anything even slightly more serious than glitter or a cute goat video bad faith reading becomes almost guaranteed. And that the line between going after words and the person saying them, or the group of people they're being attributed to ('they're saying people who use glitter are killers. Well, I use glitter'), is mostly hazy at best...

It's kind of funny, because if the Dead Goats and the toxic comments were that easy to avoid or not have make the place more depressing, surely a bunch of users here talking about why they affect how they see the site would be doing those things already. But instead it does feel like those people whose suggestion when they find out you're depressed (most people have suggestions when they find out, and that's fine) is, 'but have you tried being happy?' - because of course, and duh, and if it were that easy surely we'd be doing that instead of feeling this way.
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:51 AM on April 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


I saw this post here, on Facebook and on Twitter, so I was curious to read what others felt.

So, it's hard to read that kind of condemnation on what feels like, to me, a regular basis. So, yes, the site becomes depressing when that happens.

This sort of explains how I feel.

I don't personally feel like I am a problem. I feel I am an advocate/ally. But I am constantly reminded that others who match my white/male/middle class demographic are the root of all evil &mdash and for the most part I do agree. However, from what I read, stating that "this is not me" is the equivalent of "all lives matter" or "not all men." So my response has been to not participate in most conversations on the site and hold my tongue. I can appreciate the backlash against the privileged white male ruling class. They deserve it. But I don't feel I deserve it, and so rather than being accused of being part of that group, I shut up. And that can depress me.

Don't get me wrong though. I don't have a lot to contribute, so no one is missing out on my opinions/thoughts.

That isn't the only reason I don't participate that much. The other — as others have mentioned much earlier in the thread — is the favorites system. I jousted that windmill a long time, and was told repeatedly that will never change, so I try not to be too vocal about. But, it bears repeating (especially when the mods answer is to use the feature) that turning off favorites for me does not make the system any better. Just because I don't see the favorites doesn't mean others aren't fishing for them and thus influencing the tone of the threads and site.

Back to the shadows.
posted by terrapin at 10:07 AM on April 29, 2016 [21 favorites]


The original Dead Goat comment cited - what makes them Dead Goat comments, rather than merely other perspective comments - is of a certain type of comment, where they're not saying they don't like YOU for liking the cute thing, but they're sure as hell strongly suggesting it. Or at least, again going from the original comment, suggesting, 'Well I just can't find something that kills children funny, I'm sorry.'

Meh, reading that thread for the first time, it seems like most people were able to shrug off the fact that someone didn't find glitterbombs to be funny, and it didn't seem like anyone (or maaaaaybe 1 person) in the thread left responses indicating that they felt judged based on a comment that someone didn't think this was funny. The thread is mostly people enjoying the concept of glitterbombs. Are we overfocussing on how much of an effect these types of comments actually have on people, and on Metafilter in general? (I mean, I'm sure there are other worser examples, but I'm just saying that this example doesn't seem like something that ruined a thread or anything.)
posted by 23skidoo at 10:15 AM on April 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


I can appreciate the backlash against the privileged white male ruling class. They deserve it. But I don't feel I deserve it

Regarding being a privileged well-off white guy posting on here, I don't how this is going to sound, but I sometimes post on other sites like The Guardian in order to sort of dilute the experience of knowing I need to fully deal with my privilege, but that obviously it can be hard as an individual. So you go off for a few threads to some newspaper site, realise that OMG nearly everybody out there is a total ranting, 'splaining arsehole who has absolutely no idea that they are, and come back here with renewed energy for for examining yourself critically, and coping with that backlash.
posted by colie at 10:23 AM on April 29, 2016 [13 favorites]


You know, a lot of these threads ARE depressing. That doesn't mean you can't also feel anger or purpose as well. I definitely don't feel great about Asian racism, but it's something I'm used to discussing, and I appreciate when those threads turn up on the Blue. Take what measures you need to in order to keep your mental state. When you're feeling better, then try and be more empathetic.

On an earlier point, perhaps if younger people are more negative, it's because they are more used to and accepting of negative news? The internet has really made it easier to get past the constructed veneer to actual issues that a majority involved would rather not talk about.
posted by halifix at 11:17 AM on April 29, 2016 [9 favorites]


Yes, I do find MetaFilter increasingly depressing, but I think I just have empathy overload, and I'm not convinced that my individual feelings are important.

For whatever reason, I seem to be drawn to the kinds of threads where I can learn about people's personal experiences, and especially when those experiences do not mirror my own. But those threads often seem to be the darkest and also the most likely to include member in-fighting. And there are a lot more of those threads now, because we strive to be an inclusive site, which means there are more voices to listen to, but that means there is a net gain in suffering to process.

I don't think it should matter to MetaFilter that I am drawn to aspects of the site that depress me, especially since many of those threads are explicitly not for me, and whatever psychic pain they reflect is honestly not mine to claim. Empathy should convey no associative rights from the experience or expression of the experience to the reader.

But that was the question asked here, and this seems like the appropriate place to leave my data point.

So, I guess, add me to the "Yes, MetaFilter depresses me, but it's user error, not endemic to the site" column. There is a column for that, right?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:59 AM on April 29, 2016 [9 favorites]


I feel like a lot of topics that come up here just get poisoned by a kind of reflexive cynicism, like it's become part of the site culture to have a sneering hot take on 'meta' aspects of the subject at hand. For example, I love comic books, but I can't stand reading most comics discussions here because they inevitably seem to turn into opportunities for people to practice their latest one-liners about Zack Snyder or "DC's grimdark murderverse". (Frankly, it seems like 80% of the comics posts over the past couple of years have been explicitly framed to generate the same old tired conversation.) Content from BoingBoing got poisoned by people who can't miss any opportunity to tell you how much they hate Cory Doctorow. Content from Reddit can't escape discussion of how shitty Redditors are. Content from the Gawkerverse almost always seems to have someone sneering about Nick Denton. Cynicism and snark adds little value to conversations. It's incredibly refreshing to read threads where people just engage in good faith with the content of the post itself.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 12:22 PM on April 29, 2016 [25 favorites]


I mean, I'm sure there are other worser examples, but I'm just saying that this example doesn't seem like something that ruined a thread or anything.

I guess instead of listing examples (though I'd recommend parenting threads in general, if memory serves before I just gave up on the topic; too many 'but they're doing it all wrong!' comments in threads involving cute videos and I stopped checking) or pointing out it wasn't even my example, though I think it's a good one, is to ask if there's any comments you can remember that had that effect.

Because you acknowledge that this is something that happens, right? Or are you suggesting that this example doesn't fit, or people didn't leave comments to say how it made them feel, so it's not actually a problem?
posted by gadge emeritus at 12:29 PM on April 29, 2016


Metafilter: who are they, these oblivious idiots, to try and insist upon something that I think is accurate?
posted by Segundus at 12:44 PM on April 29, 2016


Because you acknowledge that this is something that happens, right? Or are you suggesting that this example doesn't fit, or people didn't leave comments to say how it made them feel, so it's not actually a problem?

That's not what I'm suggesting. I was just pointing out that this particular example seems (to me) to be a good example of where people were able to shrug off a negative comment and enjoy the thread. Obviously, glitter is less important to people than parenting, so people will be able to shrug off certain comments in certain topics more than others.

I don't think there's anything really wrong with pointing out that sometimes negative comments don't seem to affect a thread or make people depressed. It's not to start a fight or discount anyone's feelings, it's to try and understand why it happens sometimes and not other times (and also to point out that it doesn't have to happen everytime).

I'll bow out of this discussion now.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:45 PM on April 29, 2016


I posted about Horse Wife once, a couple people's only takeaway from the comic seemed to be that it was suggestive of pedophilia. I disagree, but if you post art you have to expect people will be critical and maybe come to different interpretations. But at the same time...I just don't know where a conversation about a lighthearted comic featuring an incompetent pony housewife can go from there. It kind of takes the air out of the room to go that heavy.
-
On the site in general, I would find it less depressing if cliques and bullying were kept under control. It's really hard to not be depressed when the site sometimes reminds me of the social dynamics of middle school.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:06 PM on April 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm not a fan of attributing fights to who wrote the first negative argument, because then you also have to figure out who gets to decide what's negative, since easily a marginalised person in that context might perceive the entire discourse/premise of the post to be already negative for them, so how is that fair, and so forth. That's a sticky issue of perspective.

Arguments take two or more people to happen. De-escalating conflict is a learned skill. And speaking for myself, one of the hardest lessons is that other people being highly critical, or hostile, or dismissive, or passive-aggressive at me doesn't mean responding in kind is a choice that helps or works for me.
posted by polymodus at 1:16 PM on April 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


I love Metafilter, but I do find it pretty ruthless and rather depressing. It's like a super strict and snarky moral compass.

I say this as a woman of color, whose husband has suggested a couple of times (just like Corb) that MeFi isn't necessarily great on my mental health. I keep coming back because I admire and respect everyone here and I just can't walk away from such engaging discussions. I respect those who dare contradict the very clear main stance in some threads and I hate pile ons on clueless/unlearned members just as much as I hate it when one of our experts burns out and leaves.

At the same time, sometimes I just really want to see cool or funny stuff, and I care about feminism and race issues, but I don't want to be reminded of my own oppression all the damn time. Then if I see a thread about women's issues I feel like I MUST read it otherwise I fail as a feminist. This is not to say depressing things shouldn't get posted, but I mean there is a reason why my therapist told me to stay away from the news.

This is one of the reasons I asked a question about websites that will cheer me up. Metafilter doesn't do that anymore. It educates me and it keeps me engaged and it is super interesting, but it is intense and even just writing a comment feels like I am writing a mid term paper, because the wrong word or the wrong sentence can provoke a horrible pile on.

By the way, I really love it when someone sends me a message to cheer me up whenever I get snark. It has happened a couple of times over the years and it felt SO good to know that the whole MeFi universe didn't think I was worthless. I really appreciate the kindness of those MeFites! <3
posted by Tarumba at 1:38 PM on April 29, 2016 [42 favorites]


I posted about Horse Wife once, a couple people's only takeaway from the comic seemed to be that it was suggestive of pedophilia.

That does not appear to be what is going on in this thread
posted by beerperson at 2:16 PM on April 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


I think another factor is that it's hard to share "good news" for a bunch of reasons. If you say your life is going well, it can make people whose life seems hopeless feel all the worse and it can make people angry at you and feel like you are being callous and insensitive to their issues. It can also make you a target. If you brag you made a bunch of money, well, you can become a target of someone looking to try to get some of that from you, one way or another.

So, I think a lot of people do a lot of kind of "pointless kvetching" in part because it is a socially safe form of bonding.

But, the other thing about good news, and this is a thing I have said before on MeFi and said elsewhere -- I have said it for many years, well before I knew MeFi existed -- is that when they put the oil well fires out in record time by bringing in all the crack teams and inventing new solutions on the spot or they solve Y2K quietly behind the scenes and the world banking system does not melt down and does not result in a post apocalyptic world, we don't get up every single day in 2016 and go "THANK GOD THEY FIXED THOSE THINGS AND I AM NOT LIVING IN THE Y2K POST APOCALYPSE!!!!!!!!!" or whatever. We get up and go "Man, another tornado, Greece is going to shit and refugees are dying trying to escape shitty places. The world totally sucks!"

I am kind of someone who keeps my eye on that far worse road not traveled and it makes me see this road in a different light. Most of the time, people don't really want to hear that this road really looks reasonably good to me, or even happy shiny sometimes, or at least nowhere near as bad as what we "should" be experiencing.

I am well aware the world has plenty of shitty stuff happening in it. Some of that shitty stuff is happening to me. People who are depressed about it don't feel cheered up if I try to share my perspective. They feel dismissed and pissed off. So, I don't see a fix for the depressive atmosphere that is very real to some people here, even though I am big on light one small candle rather than curse the dark. Most people seem to not want to hear that at all.
posted by Michele in California at 2:20 PM on April 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


I posted about Horse Wife once, a couple people's only takeaway from the comic seemed to be that it was suggestive of pedophilia.

Are you saying that because I called it creepy and weird in the thread? Because I didn't mean that it was pedophillic. Just that it was infantilizing the wife, and objectifying her.
posted by zarq at 2:20 PM on April 29, 2016


This is the pedophilia comment:

Actually, she doesn't really resemble any horse I've ever seen.

If we are to read this as a satire on the housewifely role (can we?) then it makes sense that she should be both a toy and the kind that covertly encodes qualities of infancy. The traditional husband, we are surely invited to agree, wishes not merely to objectify the wife, but also to infantilise, both in the service of society's oppressive power relations, and dare we say, in order to gratify his unacknowledged paedophilia.

Probably the full depth of the semiotic apparatus escapes me, though.


Bit in general yeah the other comments about how it is creepy, weird, or offensive were similarly depressing. Maybe true, but definitely not the kind of thing that encourages me to post silly stuff I think is fun.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:28 PM on April 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm sympathetic to threads going south, believe me. It bothers me when it happens to mine.

Didn't notice the pedophilia comment the first time around tho.

Sometimes if something that's posted bothers me I will bow out without commenting and just assume I'm not the intended audience. But yeah, I it felt creepy, and that feeling was strong enough that I wanted to say so.
posted by zarq at 2:43 PM on April 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


_9HORSE9WIFE9BRONY9
posted by Greg Nog at 2:54 PM on April 29, 2016 [5 favorites]


I've been through the desert on a horse wife 4 9s.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:02 PM on April 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


Sometimes if something that's posted bothers me I will bow out without commenting and just assume I'm not the intended audience. But yeah, I it felt creepy, and that feeling was strong enough that I wanted to say so.

I think the reason people are pointing this stuff out isn't individual comments. They can usually be justified. It's more a belief that this is a pattern across the site. People feel that they can't really avoid someone shifting the discussion on just about any topic in negative directions and once it happens it's hard to break out of that conversation because others are obviously going to disagree. It's not an easy problem to solve because, as I said, the original comments are often justifiable.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:13 PM on April 29, 2016 [8 favorites]


MetaFilter is basically the first panel of this comic at nearly all times, except when I'm feeling like the first panel, and then it's inappropriately become panel four.

This could be anecdotal, but I've found reliably that people with similar interests and worldviews to mine are far more frequently depressed, bitter, and cynical than I like to spend time with, and that people who're close to my polar opposite are far happier, calmer, and more forgiving of others. I used to think this was a matter of, like, people with certain mental tendencies to form (what I felt indicated) more sophisticated worldviews, but I've gradually realized it's the other way around: certain ways of looking at things are counterproductively draining and misanthropic, and it's up to me to actively find the balance I needed. Which is hard work of a sort I'm still unused to practicing, or developing my capacity for.

I also think that, as a general rule, people have a difficult time recognizing the extent to which others have that awareness/capability, and are bad at extending empathy to others along those lines. (Further complicating this, I bet people with huge gobs of privilege—the sorts of people fucking it up for everyone else—are the people with the least practice doing this. Though perhaps I'm wrong?)
posted by rorgy at 3:40 PM on April 29, 2016 [9 favorites]


Michele in California: "or they solve Y2K quietly behind the scenes and the world banking system does not melt down and does not result in a post apocalyptic world, we don't get up every single day in 2016 and go "THANK GOD THEY FIXED THOSE THINGS AND I AM NOT LIVING IN THE Y2K POST APOCALYPSE!!!!!!!!!"

Completely unrelated to depressing Metafilter: Oh, man, seriously, this is something that bugs me Internet-wide. While I personally didn't work on Y2K, I worked with a shitton of people who put in massive overtime rewriting code and replacing equipment and changing configurations and whatnot in order to prevent Y2K from being a problem. Due to all that work, Y2K came and went and...no problem! But instead of people thinking "Whew, peoples' hard work really paid off, we dodged that bullet" people seem to have universally agreed on the interpretation of "Man, Y2K was a joke! All that hype, and nothing happened. What a bunch of idiots people were to have been worried about that."

If we come up with some amazing solution that stops global warming in its tracks, 10 years later I fully expect everyone, be they left-wing, right-wing, or centrist, to agree that global warming was a joke and we were all stupid to have worried about since in the end nothing happened.

</derail>
posted by Bugbread at 3:41 PM on April 29, 2016 [34 favorites]


*Ha ha! Remember when global warming was supposed to be a thing?! Ha ha! What a bunch of rubes!


*translated from the original Dolphin
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:46 PM on April 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


I have definitely encountered people who claim that the ozone hole shrinking is evidence of hysterical scientists and not that, like, the solutions we implemented based on science helped.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:49 PM on April 29, 2016 [5 favorites]


Here on MeFi?
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 4:16 PM on April 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


No no, meant out in the world.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:19 PM on April 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


I used to think this was a matter of, like, people with certain mental tendencies to form (what I felt indicated) more sophisticated worldviews, but I've gradually realized it's the other way around: certain ways of looking at things are counterproductively draining and misanthropic, and it's up to me to actively find the balance I needed. Which is hard work of a sort I'm still unused to practicing, or developing my capacity for.

I think finding this balance can take most of one's life, honestly. We're all works in progress here.
posted by naju at 4:31 PM on April 29, 2016 [7 favorites]


out in the world

A place to be avoided at all costs.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:31 PM on April 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


I face not ye daystar.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 5:08 PM on April 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


... people who put in massive overtime rewriting code and replacing equipment and changing configurations and whatnot in order to prevent Y2K from being a problem. Due to all that work, Y2K came and went and...no problem! .. people seem to have universally agreed on the interpretation of "Man, Y2K was a joke! All that hype, and nothing happened. What a bunch of idiots people were to have been worried about that
I was one of those people (in a very very small way). My then boss was furious that I'd wasted all that time and money on something that obviously didn't exist :-(
posted by dg at 6:10 PM on April 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm coming to this thread late, but I started following Metafilter way back when because it felt significantly different than a lot of places I was following at the time and part of it was because it was welcoming and diverse, at least superficially. The site's certainly grown a ton since then, in a lot of really great ways, but I've fallen off over the years mainly because of lots of snark and sniping.

But it frustrates me a lot to see suggestion that it's somehow tied into having too much Social Justice Talk and if people would just stop bringing those issues around then the site would get less depressing, somehow, especially since all those issues I'm referring to have been a problem since I signed up to the site in 2007. There's always been a lot of snark and sniping, and blaming the relatively recent ability to talk more widely about issues/problems as the cause of it is ignoring a hell of a lot of history about the site. I mean, I can personally go look at some of my most favorited comments from 2010ish and remember how I was intentionally trying to get favorites with them by being a dick (because I was a frustrated student trying to get internet popularity as escapism, as you do). It's not new, and it's certainly not something to put on the shoulders of people being open.
posted by flatluigi at 7:56 PM on April 29, 2016 [16 favorites]


No matter where you start off with it, Crippling Nihilism is where you end.

Crippling?
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:06 PM on April 29, 2016


flatluigi: "But it frustrates me a lot to see suggestion that it's somehow tied into having too much Social Justice Talk and if people would just stop bringing those issues around then the site would get less depressing, somehow, especially since all those issues I'm referring to have been a problem since I signed up to the site in 2007."

I get where you're coming from, but that's why I made the distinction between "depressing" and "infuriating." MetaFilter is depressing because it talks so much about depressing things. Those will necessarily include but not be limited to SJ things, because SJ is about righting injustice, and injustice is depressing. Snark and sniping, on the other hand, are irritating or infuriating.

So, if you got rid of all the SJ stuff, the site would be a little less depressing, but still somewhat depressing, because there's more depressing stuff than just racism/sexism/etc. Also, the irritating/infuriating level would be unchanged, because that's an issue of communication dynamics, and people can be absolute dicks about any subject.

Likewise, if you kept all the SJ stuff but got rid of all of the global warming/cancer/healthcare stuff, the site would be a little less depressing, but still somewhat depressing, because there's more depressing stuff than just the environment, health, and mortality. Also, again, the irritating/infuriating level would be unchanged, because that's an issue of communication dynamics, and people can be absolute dicks about any subject.

But, either way, I think there's also an issue that some people interpret "Subject X is depressing" to mean "So we should talk about Subject X less", while others interpret it to mean simply "Subject X is depressing." I think it's dangerous to assume that anyone saying "Social Justice threads are depressing" are therefore advocating eliminating them.
posted by Bugbread at 8:21 PM on April 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


I contribute far less to Metafilter than I used to, and unlike those above saying "but I love you all", I don't love you all. I feel distinctly less close to, and more alienated from, the community here than I used to, for basically the reasons listed above: there are streaks of progressive puritanism that flare up here, and if you don't fall in line you're going to suffer for participating in a thread.

However, that's not a bad thing in itself. I've rarely actually disagreed with the gist of the puritanism on display, and in fact, the less I participate, the less I'm invested in any particular position, and the easier I find it to sympathize with the puritan impulse: when I'm not actually posting "har har lookit da goat!", I can acknowledge the goatyologist's point much more easily.

Which just makes Metafilter into a place that is frequently hard work on a personal level. Again, it's not a bad thing that I've been confronted with my privilege or otherwise forced to empathize with a particular perspective. I'm definitely a better person for it. But I don't surf the web looking for more hard work to do, so while I feel that morally, participating at Metafilter is good even when it makes me feel bad, on a practical level it dampens my enthusiasm and makes me a grudging community member instead of a joyful one.

I don't have a solution to this tension, and honestly, I find attempts at technical solutions annoying. Different flagging options are a distraction from an essential quality of a community that's been long established, namely (trying to) create a safe spaces for marginalized voices to participate (and to do so beyond the "101" level). So I still lurk (quite a lot, actually) and I don't participate much, and continue to learn a lot, and when I'm not feeling stung, I can easily acknowledge that my lack of participation here isn't a great tragedy because I've little to contribute that someone else hasn't already done, or will do.

The poster above who used the word "fraught" really caught the atmosphere, I think. Metafilter threads can be great fun, until suddenly they're not, and the result seems to me to be a lot of participation that's on eggshells: genuinely happy-go-lucky, but reflexively prepared to toe the line and even muster as enforcers certain boundaries are crossed.
posted by fatbird at 8:22 PM on April 29, 2016 [8 favorites]


One thing I will say that has helped me a LOT is attending meet ups, so I can see people as "that guy who made the delicious cookies" or "who is weirdly good at geography" rather than "some stranger." I've also found it has helped my participation a lot to have that personal familiarity - when I see someone I've met on the other side of a thread, there's less "He must HATE me" because often that person was just "oh man I'm sorry about your car accident" or what have you.

And in at least a few notable occasions, it has been helpful for people to see me as a person too. Like, don't get me wrong, they will still tell me I am SO WRONG, but there's no malice in it. Or maybe I just see less malice in it, I don't know. Either way, it helps a lot.
posted by corb at 8:42 PM on April 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's not new, and it's certainly not something to put on the shoulders of people being open.

It's not a problem with people being open, or about if people would just stop bringing up tough issues. SJ stuff is often depressing topics, that don't have to be discussed in depressing ways - bad faith readings, Dead Goat comments in all sorts of threads, the focus on outrage above all else. The number of those threads (or other threads that turn into them) can be depressing, as the mods put in a MeTa awhile back about how wearing it was to have to wade through the same horrors; outragefilter in general is depressing, both by the design of the posts and the behaviour within them.

In my experience, this is also the sort of thing people leave the site over, though they don't usually make a big deal about it or even bother to close their accounts, they just stop coming by. There's no returning under a different name, or fuss if they do button, let alone come back - they're rarely the biggest users. They might not even have been made explicitly unwelcome. But it just stops being worth it to be here, so after they stop commenting they stop reading.

It's not a search for a technological solution - though I'm sure there could be an interesting diversion coming up with ways to regulate cheerfulness. It's about the consequences of an insistence on focussing on the negative, in all its forms. As LobsterMitten pointed out above, sometimes you can want a break from this negativity not because it's something different for you, but because it's something you already deal with every day.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:08 PM on April 29, 2016 [7 favorites]


Hell is other users.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:24 PM on April 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


I feel like whenever we discuss topics of social relevance here, they are now corralled by two factors: the overwhelming First Principles / Usual Suspects crew that never fails to show up, but also, to a lesser extent, mods aggressively curtailing side topics. Under the combined influence of these forces, discussions can't help but tend to be the same fatiguing retreads over and over.

The first factor I mentioned is more significant, but it has been hashed out frequently on MeTa-- and yet I feel there's been very little discussion of the increasingly "on rails" feel of threads where mods are very vocal in spelling out what aspects of the topic they deem relevant/irrelevant or novel/redundant. I (mis?)remember a time when deletions and thread-steering comments were restricted to preventing the tenor of conversation from feeling rancorous, bigoted, or unsafe (and I hope the mods will continue their good work in that regard)-- but now it's not uncommon for whole discussion offshoots to be nipped in the bud just because a mod has decided it's too circular or repetitive or something. For me, that degree of topical direction has the opposite effect and really contributes to the plodding Groundhog Day-esque vibe of these threads.
posted by threeants at 10:37 PM on April 29, 2016 [12 favorites]


And for those observing the Dead Goaters in action its OK to just ignore their comment and keep talking about how the goat sounds like Freddy Mercury or what have you.

Since this came up, I thought it worth mentioning that research is underway, but moving in a different direction.
posted by Fantods at 11:23 PM on April 29, 2016


A worthy scientific pursuit, but they're going to need to work on the hair too.
posted by bongo_x at 11:40 PM on April 29, 2016


All in good time, bongo_x.
posted by Fantods at 12:48 AM on April 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


I feel there's been very little discussion of the increasingly "on rails" feel of threads where mods are very vocal in spelling out what aspects of the topic they deem relevant/irrelevant or novel/redundant. I (mis?)remember a time when deletions and thread-steering comments were restricted to preventing the tenor of conversation from feeling rancorous, bigoted, or unsafe [...]

They weren't always great at picking up on that and (speaking personally) Metafilter has become a lot more pleasant since the Mods discouraged people from banging out the usual antisemitic nonsense in I/P threads. It turns out that there's a strong correlation between people who can't stay on topic and those who want to pursue their own personal bêtes noires, who knew.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:24 AM on April 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


Hey, I wanted to say, in reference to this thread and the "Keep MeFi Weird" one above, that the added front page sidebar spotlight items the last few days is AWESOME. Sadness futures down and weirdness futures up with those quick links to the Best of the Site. Thanks for the extra effort!
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:34 AM on April 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


Huge kudos to whomever (I think mostly taz?) took the initiative to seriously up MeFi's sidebar game. It is so consistently awesome now!
posted by lalex at 9:57 AM on April 30, 2016 [6 favorites]


What depresses me is that I think it's really easy to read this site and form the conclusion that there is no joy or justice in the lives of people who are women and/or minorities. I hate seeing that many of the most-favorited comments are basically people saying, "and this is why it sucks to be a woman." It's difficult enough to fight against those assumptions in real life and it seems very reinforced here.
posted by girlmightlive at 10:09 AM on April 30, 2016 [9 favorites]


I (mis?)remember a time when deletions and thread-steering comments were restricted to preventing the tenor of conversation from feeling rancorous, bigoted, or unsafe (and I hope the mods will continue their good work in that regard)-- but now it's not uncommon for whole discussion offshoots to be nipped in the bud just because a mod has decided it's too circular or repetitive or something. For me, that degree of topical direction has the opposite effect and really contributes to the plodding Groundhog Day-esque vibe of these threads.

Without knowing any actual numbers, could this be due to a growing increase in thread participation? The single thread conversation style of MeFi doesn't seem to lend itself well to holding several conversations at the same time.
posted by kyp at 12:15 PM on April 30, 2016


What depresses me is that I think it's really easy to read this site and form the conclusion that there is no joy or justice in the lives of people who are women and/or minorities. I hate seeing that many of the most-favorited comments are basically people saying, "and this is why it sucks to be a woman." It's difficult enough to fight against those assumptions in real life and it seems very reinforced here.

I see that as evidence that women have more voice here. There are a lot of places where women cannot even say "It sucks that women have to deal with this." That doesn't mean it is not problematic, but it is a necessary first step towards solving the problems. You cannot fix it if you aren't even allowed to speak of it.
posted by Michele in California at 12:23 PM on April 30, 2016 [17 favorites]


Yeah--for me, the angry "sexism/racism is real and these shitty things happened to me" posts are actually reassuring because they counteract the gaslighting effect of mainstream culture. It's easy to get tired and think "well, the fact that I'm always worn out and there's never enough time to do the work expected of me and people keep coming to me with their feelings" means there's something wrong with me, rather than there being something wrong with expectations of women. Angry conversations about -isms existing remind me that some of the shitty things that happen to me aren't, actually, my fault. Or my responsibility, for that matter.
posted by sciatrix at 2:54 PM on April 30, 2016 [21 favorites]


It's tough, because I think for some people there's also something unbearably draining about having to say "this is a real problem and it happens to me." Those comments can mean a lot to other people, but I've also seen people burn out after opening themselves up like that.

Personally, what bothers me isn't, and has never been, seeing people talk about their negative experiences - or even posts about really negative stuff (I mean, one of the best things I've ever read was an article about babies dying). Rather, it's the dismissal of people's viewpoints and experiences that just makes so many threads grueling. It's depressing to see a thread about, say, Millennials and their finances, but what really gets me is seeing all the comments about how they should have planned better. What a nasty attitude.

For the most part mainstream culture isn't particularly oppressive towards me, but I identify strongly with the mental health disabilities that have seriously affected my life for the past three decades. Whenever a topic on mental health comes up, I feel almost obligated to weigh in because this is me and I want to fight the negative attitudes that goes in hand with mental health, but whenever I do I feel more on edge than if I'd just clammed up. I don't know how common that feeling is, but a lot of my attitude towards this site is rooted in that feeling of total vulnerability: you can open yourself up, but there's always that possibility someone will think you're doing something wrong, or that your problems are insignificant, or that it's a problem you've invented for yourself.

Even with the hypothetical goat post, it's the threat of casual dismissal that can turn things really sour, and I think it's kind of lurking everywhere. Especially if you're sort of a sensitive person, it can be a lot to take.
posted by teponaztli at 3:16 PM on April 30, 2016 [16 favorites]


kyp: "Without knowing any actual numbers, could this be due to a growing increase in thread participation?"

My sweet summer child. Participation is down on Mefi and AskMefi, not up.
posted by crazy with stars at 3:52 PM on April 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


Two things:

1. Reading this thread, I realized that I recently dead-goated a thread. I will try not to do that again unless something is truly egregious and abusive.

2. If I were a better singer, and could play guitar, I would become a one-woman Mountain Goats tribute band. I like to fantasize about this. I've never been able to think of a good name for it, but Dead Goat People definitely has promise.
posted by not that girl at 4:00 PM on April 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


You know what I hate ? Chickweed. Purple oxalis. Quackgrass. And spurge. Why do people grow spurge ? Beats me.
posted by y2karl at 4:19 PM on April 30, 2016 [1 favorite]




That very first comment alleges that concerns about antisemitism in the UK's Labour Party are "part of an ongoing campaign the right wing of the Labour party have been promoting in the media in order to unseat Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters".

It wasn't a Labour MP calling for the mass deportation of Jews as a "solution for Israel-Palestine Conflict". It wasn't another Labour MP defending this and alleging that Hitler was a Zionist. It wasn't even Jeremy Corbyn's incredibly weak defense of the indefensible. No, it's some political conspiracy, and what Jews themselves think about it doesn't even count.

It is an outrage that that comment was allowed to stand, let alone many of the ones which followed it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:58 PM on April 30, 2016


Too many favourites on comments about the less discussed, negative aspects of being a woman?

No, this is the only place on the internet I feel people try to listen instead of the very shocking alternative experienced elsewhere.

That's not depressing.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 6:20 AM on May 1, 2016 [15 favorites]


It is an outrage that that comment was allowed to stand, let alone many of the ones which followed it.

I've come to the reluctant conclusion over the years that it's good to know something about people's commenting histories. Too often, when people have defended hate speech or said vile things, those comments have been expunged from the record. There is value in not only knowing that a small number of people refuse to recognize anti-Semititic acts (including Holocaust denial) and play bullshit semantic games and unapologetically defend those acts when they see them, but also that the rest of us can remember each of their names and exactly what it was they said.

The mods have been very active in that thread, with detailed notes, a few deletions, etc. They've been responsive. Exactly what we asked for in last year's metatalk post about anti-Semitism. Maybe they're not going far enough? I don't know. But it's a big improvement, at least.
posted by zarq at 8:39 AM on May 1, 2016 [12 favorites]


I suppose so. I just feel that that thread was poisoned from the start by Grangrousier's comment. It isn't just that the comment itself is sickening, but it closed off any possibility of the thread being better. I'm pretty sure the FPPs on rape and sexualised violence go better now that the mods automatically prune out comments saying "but what if women are liars?"
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:36 PM on May 1, 2016


There were plenty of opinions in that thread other than yours, Joe in Australia. Long may that continue.
posted by colie at 3:41 PM on May 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


the rest of us can remember each of their names and exactly what it was they said.

wow
posted by colie at 3:52 PM on May 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


I know, I still can't remember my wife's new cell number, and it's been six months!

Joke aside, it bugs me like crazy when people respond, presumably to something they object to, with a one-word comment. Apologies if I'm reading it uncharitably wrong, but it seems like glib passive-aggressive clutter. Engage or move on.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:05 PM on May 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Blorf!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:06 PM on May 1, 2016


In this context, I remember who people are and what they've said because it's very instructive. And depressing. MeFi has a blindness about antisemitism, but it's a blindness that it has about some other issues and it's a blindness that a large portion of mefites suffer where they are in the position of relative privilege. There is hardly a week that goes by that I don't observe someone who is very aware of and deeply impatient with the predictable defensive response to criticism about an example of x-ism in one context do the very same thing themselves in another context where they have the privilege. At least one person arguing against the antisemitism in that thread is someone I've observed being similarly very defensive and clueless in other contexts.

In some ways, this is something about MeFi that depresses me the most and which I emotionally understand the least. Intellectually, I understand it, because being unaware and getting defensive when called on stuff is basic human psychology in this regard. But I feel an intense disappointment and anger whenever I see someone who I admired for their awareness and outrage in one context completely fail in another. I just don't understand how it is that when people have seen this very predictable defensive reaction before -- and all the very typical responses -- that they are so unable to recognize it in themselves.

And the depression is a function of how I begin to feel pretty cynical in response to this. I link this up with the very strong tendency I see on MetaFilter to always, relentlessly externalize these as being vices that other people have, never ourselves. Somehow the lesson people draw from an example of, say, transphobia in a MetaTalk thread is that there are bad people out there who are transphobic and not that any and every one of us has been encultured with numerous ideas and behaviors that reinforce institutionalized bigotry and injustice, that at any time we might be the person who is in the wrong and that we have a responsibility to take a step back when criticized and reflect on our feelings of being defensive. At the very least, not do the defensive dance and just do a reevaluation and, if one decides that one was misunderstood or whatever, it's still more productive to step away or, alternatively, at the most, reevaluate and recognize that, yeah, that statement arose from some toxic stuff. It's not other people, it's us. I say this all the time because the bottom line here is that almost all of us have some relative privilege on numerous axes and so nothing will get better without self-criticism -- criticism of other people isn't going to be enough.

But it seems like it's enough for a whole lot of people who are primarily interested in being aware of and combating other people vices but not very interested in being aware of their own. And so that makes me depressed because I begin to wonder what's really going on here. Are we trying to make MeFi a better place for everyone, or are we each individually just trying to make it better for our individual selves?

That thread and the past MeTa thread on antisemitism are, to me, litmus tests of how MetaFilter as a community has learned to be aware of these patterns and to be self-critical. And I think the test results aren't pretty.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:13 PM on May 1, 2016 [22 favorites]


colie: wow

Your account is disabled and I don't know if that was your doing or the mods.

I've been here a while. I remember incidents where mefites said ill-conceived things I felt were antisemitic. Not anti-Israel, but antisemitic. Or, fought tooth and nail to defend things said by other people which I thought crossed a well-defined line.

It hasn't happened often. Some were talked about here in metatalk. Some not. Some date back quite a few years. But in each case I do remember who said them. Even if I don't say anything. Because when people say things that reveal they have a problem with Jews, I find that threatening.

If anyone doesn't have a firm grasp of what antisemitism is and isn't after last year's extensive metatalk post about the topic and a thorough definition of antisemitism having been added to that thread as well as several explanations given by Jewish mefites, personally I think it's safe to say they've made a deliberate choice in the matter.
posted by zarq at 7:31 PM on May 1, 2016 [8 favorites]


Alvy Ampersand: " know, I still can't remember my wife's new cell number, and it's been six months!"

After forgetting my cell phone somewhere and having to use a payphone, with no access to my phone's address book, I finally memorized my wife's cell phone number about two months ago.

She's had the same number for at least 12 years.
posted by Bugbread at 9:28 PM on May 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


One commented deleted. Let's step back from the personal stuff, please. Colie closed their own account, which is a decision people can make for whatever reason, and they can also decide to come back.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:17 AM on May 2, 2016


Interesting that even in this thread, there are people saying, "actually, your example of a depressing comment is wrong and that thread is just fine."
posted by smackfu at 4:49 AM on May 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


(And now I feel bad because I literally did the same thing, saying people are posting wrong.)
posted by smackfu at 5:02 AM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


> But it seems like it's enough for a whole lot of people who are primarily interested in being aware of and combating other people vices but not very interested in being aware of their own.

I sympathize with your frustration, but as you yourself say, this is a human thing, not a MeFi thing. Learning to see your own biases and trying to equalize your tolerance levels (being as intolerant of yourself as you are of others, and being as tolerant of others as you are of yourself) is one of the hardest things we can try to do as human beings, and it takes a lifetime. I find MeFi an excellent environment in which to practice it, and I've gotten less eager to participate in pile-ons as a result. But this is one of those things in which you have to hope for occasional individual improvement, because the human race as a whole (and thus MetaFilter as a whole, because it's made up of humans except for... but I'd better not go any farther, there is no cabal) ain't gonna change in our lifetimes, or in the foreseeable future, so if you're hoping for a MeFi revolution in this regard, you're just going to wind up ever more bitter.
posted by languagehat at 9:08 AM on May 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


I link this up with the very strong tendency I see on MetaFilter to always, relentlessly externalize these as being vices that other people have, never ourselves. Somehow the lesson people draw from an example of, say, transphobia in a MetaTalk thread is that there are bad people out there who are transphobic and not that any and every one of us has been encultured with numerous ideas and behaviors that reinforce institutionalized bigotry and injustice, that at any time we might be the person who is in the wrong and that we have a responsibility to take a step back when criticized and reflect on our feelings of being defensive.

I can't believe it's been almost seven years since he posted it, but I've gotten great mileage out of Mister_A's comment in this MeTa thread. It really helps me avoid being knee-jerky and "oh it's others who do that, not me!" about these things. He presented it solely as "I don't have a racist bone in my body" but I think it applies across the board: It's not me defensive about these things, it's the sexist/racist/transphobic/whateverist bone in my body. I rarely raise a peep in threads like this because I feel like I have so much to learn and so little to contribute, but if that comment helps anyone the way it helps me, I'll be really glad.
posted by SpiffyRob at 9:09 AM on May 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


A few weeks ago I made the conscious decision to stop visiting Metafilter multiple times a day and instead just come back every week or two. I've been active on Metafilter for over 10 years. I'm finding that I don't regret being less active on it.

The large number of social justice posts on their own don't bother me. I'm extremely happy that less-privileged people have a place online where they can talk. For me (a cis straight white upper-middle-class guy), some threads have been very educational and I appreciate the work that people have done to explain things in them. And I often just skip threads that aren't for me.

The thread that caused me to change how I visit the site was about a systemic problem that unduly affected one group of people, and pretty much any reasonable person would agree that the problem is bad and the situation needs to change. But then some commenters (who were in that group) followed a tangent complaining about a couple specific things they've experienced that I thought were not so much systemic but just inconsiderate on the part of those causing the problem. Definitely related to the systemic problem but less horrible and more just annoying. On one hand I wanted to suggest it wasn't on the same level as the problem in the main post, and maybe it was adding some unwarranted negativity to the thread. But I don't think that would have gone well. On another hand the comments bothered me, as a member of the group being criticized but who isn't part of the problem, and I wanted to say something like "not all [privileged group]", but I don't think that would have gone well either. A lot of the thread was cathartic venting, I wasn't going to get in the way of that.

Additionally, I felt that the tangent problems were actually similar to a couple not-horrible-but-still-annoying things that have happened to me. I wanted to talk about that, but I was pretty sure I would be told the thread wasn't for me because how could I talk about my problems in the context of the awful one in the main post, or something to that effect. So I closed the tab in my browser. Maybe I could have written a super diplomatic comment, but I don't have the time or energy for that on a regular basis. (I'm working hard to write a diplomatic comment here, but this is a special case.) Others in this thread have talked about this, but as a well-intentioned person it was frustrating to restrain myself like that. This has happened for me in threads before. This particular time just crystallized how I felt--pretty much all the reactions I had to the comments were things that, if expressed, would not have helped the thread and probably would have gone badly unless I were super careful.

I accept some negativity, and policing, in threads as the cost of discussing the issues involved. But it is a bit much sometimes, I feel like there have been more threads like this over time, and I haven't been experiencing enough positivity or just plain fun elsewhere on the site to act as a counterbalance. So Metafilter has become a site I want to interact with less and less. Meanwhile I've found other sources for new and interesting links.

Sorry for the length of this but I wanted to get into some specifics and share my experience instead of just being someone who drifted silently away.
posted by A dead Quaker at 2:37 PM on May 2, 2016 [17 favorites]


So.... and correct me if I'm reading your comment wrong... but the problem you were having is that all the things that you could think of and wanted to say were minimizing the issue being discussed, and you felt that wouldn't be welcome in conversation, but you didn't feel like it was worth hanging around a conversation if you couldn't say the things that you wanted to?

I hear your feelings, but I confess that I have a hard time mustering much sympathy for them.
posted by sciatrix at 3:04 PM on May 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


Or rather--because I don't particularly want to hurt your feelings, either--I think that there's then a problem of response. It seems to me that most of the aborted comments that you wanted to make started with something like "no, but..." in that particular discussion. Is that correct?

If it is... is there any way you could reframe yourself to think in terms of "Yes, and" instead? Or "I hear that, that must suck. What do you even do to deal with that?" as things to use to be part of the conversation? Because, and I say this as someone who also has a hard time feeling welcome if I'm not comfortable talking, there are ways to chime in as a non-expert on a topic without killing the conversation or making everyone else upset.
posted by sciatrix at 3:11 PM on May 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't think he was looking for sympathy?
posted by ODiV at 3:11 PM on May 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


Yeah, but I'm not very happy about that sentiment and it's been repeated numerous times in this thread. It's basically that someone in the privileged position in a discussion feels constrained in what they are "allowed" to say and this feels unfamiliar and uncomfortable for them and they conclude, in so many words, that things have gone too far. Most of us have been in that position and have felt that discomfort, but the whole damn point is to interrogate that discomfort and ask oneself if that sense that one ought to be able to say whatever one thinks, because one is well-intended or even self-identifies as an ally, is mistaken.

Furthermore, the whole notion that healthy discourse is "free" in this sense -- that one oughtn't be too worried about someone getting upset and criticizing what you say -- is a notion totally borne of privilege. People who lack relative privilege in any given context, and especially people who lack relative privilege on multiple axes most of the time in social situations in our culture, spend much of their lives with these concerns about carefully calibrating what they say, and how, and when.

I'm deeply and intensely unsympathetic when someone who is accustomed to almost never worrying about such consequences suddenly finds that an environment is uncomfortable because they're forced to do so. It's somehow even worse when the lament comes from people who identify as allies because they're missing the whole point, they're not learning what is in some sense the most important lesson. And when they just decide to refuse to do so, to avoid those environments because it's just too uncomfortable, well, I think they've revealed themselves to be allies only insofar as it doesn't really require them to recognize and deal with their own privilege. Which isn't much of an ally.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:18 PM on May 2, 2016 [13 favorites]


Last night I dreamed that MetaFilter not only did not add any new subsites or categories on the Blue, but instead consolidated all the subsites back into one page and got rid of categories and tags entirely. It was a literal nightmare. Dream!Me buttoned in horror.

So I guess my unconscious mind likes the idea of adding post categories to the Blue and that was how it chose to share its opinion with me...?
posted by Jacqueline at 4:23 PM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


The following questions are rhetorical, no need to answer --

not so much systemic but just inconsiderate

How do you decide what's systemic and what's simply inconsiderate, when you're not in the affected group?

less horrible and more just annoying

How do you decide what's annoying and what's horrible, when you're not in the affected group?

unwarranted negativity

Why do you get to decide what is "warranted" or not on behalf of an affected group you're not a part of? How did you decide that some things warrant a certain tone, but others don't?

as a member of the group being criticized but who isn't part of the problem

What made you confident you're not part of the problem, especially in light of your apparent willingness to decide for affected groups what is important and what isn't?
posted by naju at 4:29 PM on May 2, 2016 [18 favorites]


A dead Quaker, I really don't see why you can't just skip threads that you don't like.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:37 PM on May 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


Oh, and while we're talking about dreams: I dreamed that I was in a game show called Jeøppardï (yes, the spelling makes no sense) in which the answers had to be delivered in the form of a riddle. I lost because my answer wasn't alliterative.

I know this isn't relevant but I think it's the wittiest dream I have ever had and I wanted to share it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:45 PM on May 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Isn't it a bit unrealistic to ask people not only to not comment in difficult social justice threads, but also to not make personal decisions and have personal opinions about them that they may later voice at a more opportune time? Is the intent really for there to be no dialog at any time about these difficult issues and concerns people may have? And if that's the case, does that really seem realistic? And how is voicing a concern a "willingness to decide for affected groups"?

I had assumed that an ideal Metafilter thread would be one in which everyone would feel, if not welcome to post, at least welcome to engage the content. But lately people seem to say that if they feel uncomfortable in a Metafilter thread, if they're not a member of a privileged group, their discomfort doesn't matter and they're not welcome to discuss it elsewhere here. Certainly some people some of the time ought to feel a little discomfort, because we all have blindspots and some things are uncomfortable to come to terms with. But I don't think a white person expressing discomfort automatically speaks to privilege, and I think phrasing arguments in that way is ultimately prejudicial and harmful.
posted by Phyltre at 4:54 PM on May 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


I don't think he was looking for sympathy?

I think 'sympathy' as expressed by sciatrix is more along the lines of "I don't think your argument has much merit", and less "your suffering is meaningless to me".
posted by um at 4:57 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is the intent really for there to be no dialog at any time about these difficult issues and concerns people may have?

it looks like dialogue is exactly what's happening here. as certain folks are so fond of reminding everyone, dialogue doesn't mean agreement.
posted by Krom Tatman at 5:00 PM on May 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


And how is voicing a concern a "willingness to decide for affected groups"?

But jumping into a thread and saying "this thing people in my group are doing - that you have experience with and I don't - is really not a big deal and doesn't warrant all this discussion" is deciding for affected groups what they're allowed to talk about in threads, and what they're allowed to be mad or "negative" about. Isn't it?
posted by naju at 5:01 PM on May 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


Naju, I think that's an example of subordination right there: the privileged group is the one which decides what's important, especially when talking about privilege. And it's a Catch-22: if the affected group keeps on complaining it just reflects badly on them and shows how out of step they are, so they mostly shut up, which means it can't have been very important in the first place.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:26 PM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


>But jumping into a thread and saying "this thing people in my group are doing - that you have experience with and I don't - is really not a big deal and doesn't warrant all this discussion" is deciding for affected groups what they're allowed to talk about in threads, and what they're allowed to be mad or "negative" about. Isn't it?

The entire point of that comment was that A dead Quaker did not, in fact, post in that thread to say that, if I read it correctly. Obviously not every opinion is relevant for every thread. The point was that no experience that A dead Quaker could have had, due to demographic limitation, could possibly have been deemed relevant, no matter how similar. So you have someone who feels as though they have something to share, and want to do what Metafilter is for--discussing and sharing things--but feel more and more often that their good-faith contributions would be ridiculed, no matter how politically phrased.

I think when you ask "what made you confident you're not part of the problem," you got to the heart of it. Nobody knows that. Personal experiences don't have to be statistically supported by systemic repetition to somehow be more or less legitimate. There is a massive gulf between saying something clueless like "Obama was President so racism is dead" versus "I think retail customers at the service counter are negative to everyone, I've been called names based on my hair color before and I'm not visibly a minority, if that helps."

It's nobody's job and it's emotional labor, but I think that in Metafilter at least, assuming good faith in the majority of cases is a baseline of engagement and not doing that means threads won't be healthy. As A dead Quaker has shared, maintaining assumptions of good faith does not leave all of the emotional labor on one side.
posted by Phyltre at 5:32 PM on May 2, 2016 [15 favorites]


No, practicing good faith shares the emotional labor around. The assumption of good faith is something that emerges from that practice, not something that is given for free.
posted by Krom Tatman at 5:38 PM on May 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


I am not 100% sure that I think that good faith is the issue here. I think that someone can be acting in total good faith when they challenge my understanding of my experience and educate me about how I am getting it wrong. I think they often sincerely think they are imparting their superior wisdom on silly little me, who needs correction and instruction from someone wiser and smarter and more neutral. It's still extremely annoying, though, not to mention condescending and insulting and all that good stuff.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:41 PM on May 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


And I guess I'm just not sure what to do about this. I get that it is not fun to feel like your contributions won't be valued. It's also not fun to feel insulted or condescended to. So is there a way to make this fun for everyone? Or do we just have to decide for whom this place is supposed to be enjoyable?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:44 PM on May 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think they often sincerely think they are imparting their superior wisdom on silly little me, who needs correction and instruction from someone wiser and smarter and more neutral.

See, at least for me I think that is actually an issue of having good faith. It's about trusting that people won't always have that kind of negative attitude. I'm really bad at that, because I'm never 100% sure that someone won't actually know more than me. I never know if someone just doesn't care about what I have to say. It's hard enough navigate that kind of social dynamic in person, let alone through text comments like this. Most of the time I have no idea what motivates someone, and it really doesn't take much for me to assume it's nasty snark or snide superiority - in my case because I'm sort of constantly on guard for it.

I want to make it clear that I'm talking about myself here because I don't want my comments to be read as a condemnation of anything or anyone. That's not to say that I don't think people can be nasty, and I know it because I think I can be nasty, or snarky, or feel superior sometimes. It's human, and it's frustrating, but when I do it I at least get the broader context. The worst part is that I always think I'm sensitive, but I'm sure there are people out there who think of me, first and foremost, as that jerk who says jerky things. And they may not be wrong! I could go into every conversation meaning nothing but the very best, and people still might think of me that way.

I know people who are super nice in person, and condescending jerks online. Is it some kind of inner jerk being let out when they don't have to be face-to-face? I don't know, maybe. To a degree, I think people have different expectations of what's acceptable and what crosses the line. I think some people just don't think they're being pushy when they are, and I think some people (like me) will see a lot of pushy behavior that isn't really there.

Like I said, it's a tough dynamic to navigate anywhere, let alone in a place like this.
posted by teponaztli at 5:55 PM on May 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Oh, but I left out my last point which was that - to a degree I think people have different expectations, but I also think I can be harsh without realizing it. I'm so used to being sensitive that I never stop to consider if someone is actually being nasty, or if I'm just judging them harshly and unfairly because of my own expectations and sensitivities. There have been times when I've seen a comment and thought someone was being really cruel and awful. Then I'll show it to my partner and she says "it sounds like that person is really unhappy about..." or something like that. I'll be all prepared to call them out for whatever, and then I'm getting what they were actually saying.

That's not to say it always plays out like that, and sometimes people really do say bad things. But... well, I hope this makes sense, anyway.
posted by teponaztli at 6:02 PM on May 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


And how is voicing a concern a "willingness to decide for affected groups"?

I mean, if you read any of the threads dealing with cultural appropriation that cropped up in the last few months, you'd see plenty of that.

But I don't think a white person expressing discomfort automatically speaks to privilege, and I think phrasing arguments in that way is ultimately prejudicial and harmful.

I know it must suck to suddenly find yourself prejudged when you're not used to it. Believe me, being prejudged is harmful. I find it ironic, though, that this sort of prejudice suddenly becomes an overriding concern only when a privileged, often majority, group finds itself stumbling around and "discovering" well-explored ground.

It's nobody's job and it's emotional labor, but I think that in Metafilter at least, assuming good faith in the majority of cases is a baseline of engagement and not doing that means threads won't be healthy.

Here's the thing about good faith. You're not wrong that it should be present. And in theory, that's how things should shake out. But in practice?

In my experience, it's hard to give everyone that benefit of doubt, particularly in certain types of threads. If anything, I've found granting people the benefit of doubt, particularly when discussing things that are specifically related to non-American cultures or minority groups, it leads to bad actors JAQing off or Schroedinger actors emitting comments that are hard to tell if they're noxious or not.

If anything, I lost that faith in the vast bulk of the commenting population here witnessing the shit that kept going down in the CA threads, and being snidely taunted as supporting the NK regime when I tried pointing out that botching names was really problematic in a different thread.

After that, why should I presume good faith from most people here, particularly those who are so dismissive or unconsciously prejudiced against issues for people of other cultures, of other colors? Why should I have to be the first to extend good faith when I cannot be confident the favor's going to be returned?

I mean, if you want to believe that it doesn't leave the emotional labor to one side, feel free, but in my experience, in my observation of this community, particularly when it comes to POC threads, it most certainly does.
posted by qcubed at 6:08 PM on May 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


Ok, but my point is that they often really aren't being nasty. They really think that people say things about men's appearances, too, so it's probably not a gender thing when I get references to my clothes or makeup in my teaching evaluations. They sincerely are just being helpful! They sincerely think I should consider that maybe I'm just not dressing appropriately! But I'm never going to find that kind of comment helpful, probably even in the unlikely event that they're actually right.

(Totally fictitious example based on the fact that I'm filling out a teaching evaluation right now for a female prof who has some bullshit reviews on ratemyprofessor.com.)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:09 PM on May 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


ArbitraryAndCapricious, I think it kind of gets back to the audience problem. Which is to say that in almost any nuanced social justice topic, the people who MOST need to read and understand the content--the more or less openly sexist/racist/generist/what-have-you--are the people least likely to read it. So there is a lot of preaching to the choir. And because in these discussions "the problem"--the people who need to hear what's being said--isn't really getting connected with, the people who are present sometimes feel as though it's directed as them, even when they themselves are as good an ally as you could reasonably expect. So some of the more casual allies feel set upon, despite the thread not being hostile to them, just due to the dynamic of most of the truly transgressive people not being in the audience.

And it leads lots of otherwise-good allies to get skin-crawlies and say, many decibels too loudly, "But what do you want me to DO, I'm not part of the problem here, see?" in a way that hurts the discussion. But from their perspective they really fucking do want to make things better, if only to prove to themselves that they aren't the people making the group's lives worse, and this is more or less the only place they're hearing about the problem, so where else are they going to go? (And maybe there are lots of places, but they're not going to know that innately and just googling it doesn't exactly bring you to the most charitable of places.)

And ultimately, while it is far from a desirable reaction, it is a positive one. It is the reaction that the people who really need to hear the message aren't present to hear. But it's still hard to hear that reaction over and over again.

I don't think there's really a solution to the audience problem, because content engagement in 2016 is fantastically fragmented and there really is no forcing horses to drink. But I do think it's helpful to be mindful of the dynamic that open expression of minority and disadvantaged groups creates--not because there is anything even slightly undesirable about it, but because powerful things have powerful effects on people and not everybody will be able to pole-vault past Issue 101 without an awkward phase.
posted by Phyltre at 6:09 PM on May 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


There is a massive gulf between saying something clueless like "Obama was President so racism is dead" versus "I think retail customers at the service counter are negative to everyone, I've been called names based on my hair color before and I'm not visibly a minority, if that helps."

See, this is just illustrative of the problem. People - my own friends, actually - have said things like that to dismiss racism in just about every instance of racism I've ever faced, no matter how big or small. "I think there's a reasonable, non-racist explanation for this" is really the go-to for denying that racism is a problem in minority's lives, and it OFTEN comes from a place of innocence and good faith. But the effect is incredibly dismissive, makes you feel like shit, doubt your own experiences even if they're valid, and makes you not want to participate. So even if the speaker has all the good faith in the world, if it's indistinguishable from actual garden-variety bigotry - the effort of the privileged to deny the experiences of the non-privileged - that we experience everyday, and it ends up silencing us and making us regret posting, why should it be tolerated? If someone makes you feel that way about your contributions, why should you accept it with welcoming arms and say "yes, my friend, please, more of this"?
posted by naju at 6:13 PM on May 2, 2016 [13 favorites]


I would also note that this sort of good faith questioning - "why is this a big deal? Isn't it just a minor annoyance?" or "this has happened to me, it seems like it happens to all kinds of people", etc. - was a big problem in the "whatcha readin'?" thread that turned into multiple boyzone megathreads. So we've already turned this over time and time again, dating back to around 2007. Most of us recognize that it's a problem. So I don't know why we're relitigating this over, and over, and over, with what seems like the same few people who don't seem to understand what the basic rules of respect and meaningful contribution are on this site.
posted by naju at 6:20 PM on May 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


So even if the speaker has all the good faith in the world, if it's indistinguishable from actual garden-variety bigotry - the effort of the privileged to deny the experiences of the non-privileged - that we experience everyday, and it ends up silencing us and making us regret posting, why should it be tolerated?

If it's your friends and it's often coming from a place of innocence and good faith, how can it be indistinguishable from actual garden-variety bigotry? Don't we agree that you can't really understand racism if you don't face it every day? The alternative seems to be not saying anything at all, which for A dead Quaker felt like not the best idea and I'd assume wouldn't be something you would want from people you would consider to be your friends. I mean, we both really just want everybody to be 100% understanding of the way they're making you feel, but they aren't.
posted by Phyltre at 6:21 PM on May 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


If it's your friends and it's often coming from a place of innocence and good faith, how can it be indistinguishable from actual garden-variety bigotry? Don't we agree that you can't really understand racism if you don't face it every day?

if someone condescended to me like this to my face it would be a real struggle not to punch them.
posted by Krom Tatman at 6:28 PM on May 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Maybe I could answer your questions by telling you more about my experiences! I could post a comment several paragraphs long that goes into detail about the anguish, minimizing, decades of self-questioning and self-hatred, etc. caused by my "good faith" friends. It would be really insightful. Do you think I'm going to do that? Should I open myself up to you?
posted by naju at 6:30 PM on May 2, 2016 [12 favorites]


If it's your friends and it's often coming from a place of innocence and good faith, how can it be indistinguishable from actual garden-variety bigotry?

It's not, not really.

This is me, assuming good faith in your comments. I hope I'm not wrong to extend it.
posted by qcubed at 6:31 PM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


naju, that sounds like emotional labor you don't want to do and it's certainly not anything I feel entitled to.
posted by Phyltre at 6:36 PM on May 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm gonna suggest that maybe we take a step away from the pros-and-cons of specifically "I want to be able to comment freely in a thread about a social problem that doesn't affect me." This thread doesn't need to focus on that specific type of participation, which a lot of people have said is a big problem.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:37 PM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


naju, that sounds like emotional labor you don't want to do and it's certainly not anything I feel entitled to.

Well, to spell it out - question what kind of environment is being created in threads, then. Because the current environment is one where I sure as shit am not going to discuss anything personal.
posted by naju at 6:37 PM on May 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


"I think it kind of gets back to the audience problem. Which is to say that in almost any nuanced social justice topic, the people who MOST need to read and understand the content--the more or less openly sexist/racist/generist/what-have-you--are the people least likely to read it."

This is where you are fundamentally wrong. So wrong, so deeply wrong, that everything else that you're getting wrong follows from this.

Those openly x-ist folk are not the people who most need to read and understand the content. It's the people who think none of this criticism could apply to them, because they mean well and they're sure they're not x-ist and, especially, they think of themselves as allies. The openly x-ist people are (in many, but not all) cases a small minority, they're only important in that they are the tip of the iceberg we can see -- it's all the rest of us who are less obviously biased, but still biased and still behaving with unthinking privilege, who do the majority of the work maintaining the institutionalized injustice. It's not those other people, it's us. It's us who need to learn these lessons in these threads and it's us who need to learn to stop expecting to be coddled.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:37 PM on May 2, 2016 [13 favorites]


"This thread doesn't need to focus on that specific type of participation, which a lot of people have said is a big problem."

Yes, but there are a bunch of comments in this thread where people explain that they find MeFi depressing because they aren't able to freely participate without anxiety for basically the same reasons that are involved in this specific exchange. A thread that's specifically involving social justice issues and is specifically about a group of people that doesn't include an anxious commenter is just the most extreme version of the lament that's more generally presented in this thread.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:43 PM on May 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I really don't think that's fair. I'm not sure what you mean by "basically the same reasons," unless I completely misrepresented myself or overlooked other people's comments. If you want to argue against the extreme, fine, but then there's nothing I can say.

This is why I find this site depressing. The one thread where people can say "this place is depressing," and apparently people are just seeing "I don't get to say whatever I want whenever I want."
posted by teponaztli at 6:47 PM on May 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


It seems to me like there are a bunch of different things people have identified as being possibly depressing and the "privileged person sticking their nose in to a discussion about something where they have a blind spot" is only one of those things. I'm saying, we've been around that particular block many times.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:49 PM on May 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


naju, that sounds like emotional labor

On a side note, I'm sick to death of this term being misused and turned around to slyly dig at people. It feels like a conscious thing and I fucking hate it. Just putting that out there.
posted by naju at 6:50 PM on May 2, 2016 [14 favorites]


I hope it's not rehashing the topic you're steering us away from, LobsterMitten, but I think this hasn't been said yet. When people with privilege complain about how depressing it is that they can't comment in threads about some oppression without being accused of minimizing or perpetuating that oppression, they are doing a serious disservice to people without privilege who have told us time and again how depressing it is that they can't comment in threads about some oppression without their experiences being dismissed and minimized.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 7:01 PM on May 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


This thread is immensely depressing because I was really hoping this could be a thread about, I don't know, how to learn to detach, or honestly anything that might address what it's like to use this site if you're anxious or depressed or otherwise unable to interact here without feeling bad. And instead it's become yet another permutation of the back-and-forth about how to talk about racism, and I now I have to wonder if people are coming away thinking that's what my anxiety was all about? Like, did a bunch of people see me saying this site depresses me, in this thread, and assume it was because I have to be careful not to be racist sometimes?

This turned into "I'm depressed when I comment in threads about oppression" rather than "I'm depressed when I leave a comment here," and it's so disappointing. I just wish we could acknowledge that some people find this place depressing for different reasons and try to make that easier for them. I'm willing to talk about that, but now I'm left wondering if my comments just looked like dismissals of something more important, you know?
posted by teponaztli at 7:03 PM on May 2, 2016 [12 favorites]


For what it's worth, teponaztli, I think the most valuable product of this thread has been the "dead goat" concept, and I think we've made a lot of progress in dealing with that and acknowledging that it's not always very productive to take the dark, cynical approach to absolutely everything.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 7:08 PM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


... this is a human thing, not a MeFi thing. Learning to see your own biases and trying to equalize your tolerance levels (being as intolerant of yourself as you are of others, and being as tolerant of others as you are of yourself) is one of the hardest things we can try to do as human beings, and it takes a lifetime. I find MeFi an excellent environment in which to practice it, and I've gotten less eager to participate in pile-ons as a result ...
I think this is a much more accurate and balanced way to look at this issue than to simply point out the negatives of MeFi as if it exists in a vacuum. Obviously, behaviour happens here that negatively impacts on various people. Obviously, some people act in shitty ways sometimes. Even worse, sometimes people act in shitty ways deliberately and with the intent of hurting others. Short of declaring MeFi an explicitly safe space for people with specific characteristics and enforcing that ruthlessly, I don't see any way of ensuring those things never occur here.

I'm certainly not suggesting that the way people behave on MeFi should reflect wider society or that the level of discrimination and othering that exists 'out there' should in any way be accepted here. But I think it's important to remember that the people here come from 'out there' and don't always have an awareness of how much the various behaviours that are not only accepted but encouraged by everything around us in daily life negatively impact on so many people. I'm definitely not suggesting it be the responsibility of anyone to educate us in this area - it is the responsibility of everyone to develop that awareness themselves. But expecting that every person involved in a conversation is fully aware of their in-built bias and unconscious wrong perceptions and understandings is simply unrealistic, in my view and inevitably leads to disappointment.

There has been a lot of talk about making MeFi better than the outside world at having these conversations and better about leaving assumptions and preconceptions behind during those conversations. Overall, I think this does happen to a very large degree. For a lot of people, it clearly doesn't happen enough and there's a gap between expectation and reality. As unattractive as it may be, it's not inconceivable that both of these things need to change to some extent.
posted by dg at 7:20 PM on May 2, 2016


Hmm, several hours elapsed between typing my comment above and clicking 'post'. Might have been better to just not do that, on now reading subsequent comments. Or, just at all.
posted by dg at 7:33 PM on May 2, 2016


"This turned into 'I'm depressed when I comment in threads about oppression' rather than 'I'm depressed when I leave a comment here,' and it's so disappointing. I just wish we could acknowledge that some people find this place depressing for different reasons and try to make that easier for them. I'm willing to talk about that, but now I'm left wondering if my comments just looked like dismissals of something more important, you know?"

I didn't think this and my previous comment wasn't directed at you. I admit that I have some trouble understanding what you're getting at in your comments and so maybe your own assumption that I was responding to you indicates that you wrote something that went in that direction? But I didn't really see it.

What I've seen, though, is that A dead Quaker's comment was only the most specific example of a general lament repeated in numerous prior comments that all basically reflect the position that Phyltre is arguing -- that the sense in which for this group of people that MeFi is "depressing" is the sense that threads are "fraught" because people get in trouble, usually in contexts that involve social justice issues, for saying the wrong thing. That position is found scattered throughout this entire thread and so, in my opinion, it's not at all the case that this recent turn in the discussion was some aberration and was very narrow and mostly not relevant -- it's been right here in this thread almost from the beginning. This is what many people think is "depressing" about MeFi.

I understand that this is contentious and we've gone around on this over and over. I mean, okay, some of the folks saying this are the ones who usually say this. But I feel that there's a significantly greater constituency within MeFi for this whole notion that somehow things have gone too far on MeFi and that this very much is involved in how MeFi can be "depressing" for those people. It's not what I find depressing and it's not what you're saying you find depressing about MeFi, but it's certainly what a fair number of other people are finding depressing about MeFi and I'm not willing to just let the expression of this sentiment pass unchallenged.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:45 PM on May 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Ivan Fyodorovich, I hear what you're saying, but I'm just going to say that focusing on those people's comments focuses attention on them, and takes away from the fact that a lot of the first people talking about this were talking about how the depressing stuff is hitting on their actual real problems that they personally experience in real life.
posted by corb at 8:18 PM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


As I said earlier in this thread, I frequently burn out on the always-on internet of justice, oppression, direness, etc. It can get to be a bit too much! It can take a toll on you mentally after a while if you're not focused on self-care. What I really want is a MeFi that is filled with weirdness, hilarity, debate, wide-ranging discussion, and unpredictability, BUT is ALSO free of people shitting up threads in that one particular way that they seem insistent on, that ends up silencing and diminishing voices I want to hear from, and adds very little of value and instead holds back serious, highly personal discussions from happening. It is really a very specific, small ask. I hate to be the one pushing back on the idea that mefi is depressing if you can't shit up threads in that way. I especially hate that it makes me "the social justice type" who is dour and fighty, when believe me, all I really want is a happier, funnier, weirder, more welcoming mefi that doesn't tolerate assholish behavior. And yet here we are...
posted by naju at 9:06 PM on May 2, 2016 [17 favorites]


(I also don't think we can still hold claim to the idea that "at least we're way better than other places." That may have been true in the 00s, but I don't think it's been true for several years now. People are fairly educated about a lot of this stuff, in all sorts of places now. The conversation is changing and there are less excuses.)
posted by naju at 9:11 PM on May 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


On a side note, I'm sick to death of this term being misused and turned around to slyly dig at people. It feels like a conscious thing and I fucking hate it. Just putting that out there.

An idea is powerful because it's true. You don't get to control how people use truth.
posted by Sebmojo at 10:15 PM on May 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


An idea is powerful because it's true. You don't get to control how people use truth.

It's only powerful if it conveys its original, powerful meaning and context. The term has been invoked at least once in this thread to suggest that people in privileged groups are performing emotional labor when they ask questions or express doubts in good faith. It's been twisted however people want to suit their given argument.

I think there's a project, conscious or not, to dilute the term so that it loses its meaning, and that bums me out. But this is outside of the scope of this meta.
posted by naju at 10:28 PM on May 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


>For what it's worth, teponaztli, I think the most valuable product of this thread has been the "dead goat" concept, and I think we've made a lot of progress in dealing with that and acknowledging that it's not always very productive to take the dark, cynical approach to absolutely everything.

Have we, though?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:31 PM on May 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


On second thought, that's a drive by. What I mean to say (and didn't say, stupidly), is that one user's insightful critique is another user's dead goat, and that there's no bright line. The comment I linked is a good one, but it definitely splashes cold, depressing water on an interesting topic and sends the thread veering into another direction with some backs-and-forth about whether or not it's accurate.

Maybe what I really mean is that I think the "dead goat" problem is insoluble, and I'm not even completely sure its insolubility bothers me.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:35 PM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


A couple of comments deleted. 1) again, let's skip the personal attacks, 2) if you are popping in to drop the big truth bomb that people challenging antivax or republican talking points is the same as privileged people challenging the personal experiences of marginalized groups, please don't.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:08 AM on May 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


This particular time just crystallized how I felt--pretty much all the reactions I had to the comments were things that, if expressed, would not have helped the thread and probably would have gone badly unless I were super careful.

Pretty sure the response has proved that being super careful doesn't help. That I mentally scoffed at the thought that there was a level of care that would not get a pile on - and then had that pretty well proven - is part of the problem that's making the site depressing, because being able to see a thread and know how it would go means even scrolling past it gives that sharp sensation of negativity.
Hell, the user-based reinforcement of an increasing number of threads where you either only express one specific thing or you get considered an enemy that is driving MetaFilter into the ground is depressing, especially when you remember exactly how few negative voices it takes.

If the only takeaway from this thread ends up being that a few users try not to Dead Goat as much, there's at least something - not much, but something. But some threads come with a Dead Goat attached, and this thread has reinforced for me that there's always going to be users - a rotating cast, sure, but with some mainstays - who have determined that they know best what really needs to be said. They're certainly not being advised to skip topics, after all.
posted by gadge emeritus at 12:17 AM on May 3, 2016 [10 favorites]


What I've seen, though, is that A dead Quaker's comment was only the most specific example of a general lament repeated in numerous prior comments that all basically reflect the position that Phyltre is arguing -- that the sense in which for this group of people that MeFi is "depressing" is the sense that threads are "fraught" because people get in trouble, usually in contexts that involve social justice issues, for saying the wrong thing.

Look, I was the one who used up the word "fraught," and I most certainly did not mean it that way. Even if people were saying exactly what you say they were, the conversation about them has now drowned out anything else that could be said so we can stop and take care of a bunch of spot fires. And it sucks, because we need to take care of spot fires. It would be shitty for me to say "well, and this shows why we shouldn't dwell on social issues all the time." I'm not saying that at all, and I'm not saying things need to go unaddressed. I'm just saying that it's hard not to feel like people's viewpoints are being collapsed and misrepresented when my own words are being used as evidence of how some people just wish they could get away with saying racist stuff.

What I read was a few comments about how social issues depress them and that it can be emotionally draining to see posts about things that may or may not affect you personally - with some people, at least, saying that either one can be demoralizing for whatever reason. Maybe I was just missing the obvious subtext, or maybe I was just projecting my own feelings. I understand that there's an element on this site, as there is everywhere, that wants to grab the "why can't I say whatever I want" ball and run with it, but that's not what I read from those comments at all. But either way, now the conversation is about those people.

It's exasperating when everything comes back to the same thing, and it becomes a conversation that needs to happen yet again. I'm definitely not saying that people are somehow in the wrong for saying "don't try to dictate how minorities should speak about things that affect them personally." No, what I mean is that it's frustrating that we have to tread this ground yet again, and it's frustrating that it's railroaded over the conversation we could have been happening. That's not any one person's fault, and it's the same shit that drives other MeTa threads into the ground, but it's frustrating because now I feel like the well has been poisoned and "depressing" means something different than it did when the thread opened.
posted by teponaztli at 1:04 AM on May 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


yeah really it's a case of "this is why we can't have nice things," complete with an entirely predictable roster of users who want to tell us how the real censorship is wanting not to have to rehash the same conversations over and over
posted by Krom Tatman at 1:16 AM on May 3, 2016 [7 favorites]


(where "nice things" = "a thread to talk about different reasons why someone can find mefi depressing and what to do" and the same conversation is How The SJWs Ruined Everything)
posted by Krom Tatman at 1:20 AM on May 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


Also, sorry, it's the end of my semester and I'm under loads of stress and pressure. I'm hypersensitive enough already without all that. And the thing that sucks is that it's really hard to know where to draw the line between being reasonably upset, and when to just feel embarrassed for being so overly sensitive all the time. And it's hard not to think that other people are just minimizing what your problems are for whatever reason, and that you've got to just suck it up and deal so they can talk about stuff that actually matters. It's an uncharitable point of view towards everyone involved, but it's defensive, and sometimes I think I'm seeing people touch on that when they talk about why this site is depressing to them. I'm not even saying it's always justified to feel that way, but this is as honest as I can be about the agenda I'm operating with. That's what every comment I've written here has been motivated by, which may or may not change how I'm read.
posted by teponaztli at 1:29 AM on May 3, 2016


I think Eyebrows' comment in that thread is the opposite of "dead Goats." Aside from the fact that what she was pointing out about the article really was a weird omission given its context, it also deepened the discussion instead of cutting it off and telling people they were wrong for finding it interesting. There's no implication that previous comments are wrong... It is definitely snarky about the original article, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:15 AM on May 3, 2016 [10 favorites]


Commented deleted. five fresh fish, I don't know why you are trying to amp up the hostility and aggression as much as possible here, but please just give this thread a pass.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:21 AM on May 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm with Chura, totally selfishly--I really enjoyed that conversation, and I liked having the chance to nerd out about cool stuff abut pregnancy somewhere where people won't just go "yeah, I knew that, why are you going on about it?" At least one comment suggests that other people enjoyed it, and I definitely preferred that comment thread to another iteration of "Oh gross, botflies! D: D: D:" as someone who thinks parasites are interesting. Without Eyebrows' comment, I could easily see that thread becoming the same depressing chorus of people reiterating how grossed out they are by the topic of the thread. That's not exactly fun conversation either, which I think we've talked about here previously in the context of spiders.

So you know, a dead goat is in the eye of the beholder--you could just as easily see it as a perfect new environment to house a pleasantly diverse collection of adorable maggot larvae!

I also just really love it when Biology Metafilter comes out to play because look! I'm not the only one here goofing off when I should be drafting papers! And that discussion spurred a whole lot of Biology Metafilter.
posted by sciatrix at 7:46 AM on May 3, 2016 [11 favorites]


aight, I'm back from a few days of self-imposed away-ness from mefi.

The reason, this thread depressed me.

So I thought about it.

Here's what I think: It's not worth anyone's time or consternation to know why I felt the way I did about this thread and why I said "I gotta go for a minute". It's just not gonna make this community a better space to try to pick it apart and explain it. I'm okay with that. What I think is the "picking things apart" is what I find most depressing about all online spaces, not just this one.

Here's what I am gonna do: Post more about things I am interested in (skateboarding, music, the future of technology, all the weird ass art I like) and less things related to what pisses me off and angers me. I'm trying to be more invested in life actions IRL than in thought actions online.

I think, that the way I engage metafilter (and every other online space) has to fundamentally change if I'm going to keep contributing online in any meaningful fashion.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:51 AM on May 3, 2016 [11 favorites]


one thing that does bum me out is comments to the effect of "ugh, this is so OBVIOUS" (and, implicitly: why would someone spend time thinking about it or posting or commenting about it.) To beat a dead metaphor, it's like if someone posted "New Microbiology Study Reveals Secrets of Goat Decomposition" and the first comment was "lol did we really need a study to tell us dead goats rot? thanks obama."
posted by Krom Tatman at 4:45 PM on May 3, 2016 [7 favorites]


Don't we agree that you can't really understand racism if you don't face it every day?

I wouldn't say it's fast, but I would say that listening to people of various races discuss their experiences of racism and their theories on why and how it works has made it significantly easier for me to spot it in the wild (and in myself). It's also helped to take my experiences as a woman and a feminist, identify what has bugged me when men did it in regards to both, and tried to look for that pattern in my own behavior so I can be different.

I've also learned a lot about self-care from these self-same people. One of the nicer things percolating on Tumblr is the focus on self-care and balancing activism with positivity. The whole "my favs are problematic" is another way in which I've been able to reclaim and re-connect with things I love that I disconnected with due to being slapped in the face by the sexism and racism inherent to them. To be able to acknowledge and move on, to recognize but not get bogged down into, to hold the enjoyment and the critique simultaneously has been central to me.

I've also shifted to trying to find things I enjoy and focusing primarily on them - and I've experienced the effect of that, which is to be largely ignored. Culturally speaking, we're primed to respond to torment; changing that will take many more generations but I'm trying to do my piece. Almost every week I identify something I love on Sunday and post about it on my blog. Sometimes this includes some "my favs are problematic" marking, but it's always something I love. Normalizing this has helped shift my view somewhat, I think.

I've also begun giving more value to things which bring me peace and pleasure. For a long time I accepted the dismissive view of things like cat videos; increasingly I'm recognizing that engaging in pleasant things, in stories where the good guys win, in competence porn, is all things I want and need in my life and they are valuable. Liking and engaging with these things is something worth my time, not a distraction from "the real world". They are part of the real world.

Another thing I do is that when people are focused on a way a community or person has been wronged, I try to find and post things relevant to what they are trying to accomplish. Most of the time, there is wonderful stuff going on in the edges of horrible things - people being awesome, or insightful, or making important things. I try to look for that and highlight it.
posted by Deoridhe at 5:21 PM on May 3, 2016 [19 favorites]


Oh man, yes, Krom! There's a huge difference between "this article did not contain something I felt should have been there" and "this article is dumb [and you are dumb for posting it]," which is how a lot of the "lol didn't you know that" comments have always come across to me. I've also found its cousin, "look, this minor thing that one article said WAS WRONG/the entire premise of your article is wrong!" to suck all the joy out of posting for me.

Hell, you can see at least two examples of those comments in the past 24 hours. I've commented in opposition to those comments as an expert in the field they were on before. In at least one case the OP actually MeMailed me to thank me for that--she'd posted an article she thought was cool as a nonspecialist, someone went "uh, no the premise of this article is totally wrong and scientists do not think that," and as it happened I was able to say, with confidence, that the original article was fine and the naysayer was missing huge swathes of context. But before I was able to come in and do that, the OP's confidence wilted and she said she'd been completely doubting her competence to post again in the future--a shame, since that was maybe her fifth fpp ever.

Even for me, now that I'm confident posting to the blue and letting minor criticisms roll off my back... well, I still get upset about those little one-off snide "no, you're wrong" comments. I once got so angry and resentful about one of those comments that I misremembered who the commenter was and went off about it at someone over a month later. They don't further the conversation, they certainly don't encourage anyone else to post, and I can only assume that they happen so much in order to fuel a sense of warm, smug superiority on behalf of the people who leave them.
posted by sciatrix at 5:26 PM on May 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


Hell, you can see at least two examples of those comments in the past 24 hours.

I noticed one of those showed up as a followed link for me and sure enough! And the great thing about that thread is that there is actually an overwhelming majority of women in the thread so that one doofish comment by a guy doing That Thing again doesn't kill it (though it may have made you feel bad sciatrix and I am sorry about that) but in many cases when someone shows up with a NO U comment there may not be a resounding ignoring of it (as happened in that thread) and there's otherwise sort of a co-scab-picking which is always terrible and does kill a thread dead.

Which is too bad because otherwise I think scitatrix's thread is a marvelous thread where there are enough female-identified posters that it becomes a space for talking about stuff, from that perspective, that would have been impossible here ten years ago. And when I think about that, I think about wanting to find the ways for other users who may never be able to get a thread that is all "people like them" but who can nonetheless have a thread where their experience is the experience that matters, for that topic or that discussion.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 5:35 PM on May 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


"Hell, you can see at least two examples of those comments in the past 24 hours."

Your first example involves some minor pedantry that could have been derailing -- it's a good example of the kind of dispiriting and pointless commenting you're complaining about. But how can you argue that there's anything wrong with your second example? Andrew Gelman is one of the most respected statisticians in the US, his evaluation of that paper is more than relevant.

This is how people who aren't specialists in a topic evaluate claims. There's an enormous amount of shitty science journalism and, behind that, there's a whole bunch of genuinely shoddy science, especially on provocative social topics (which then is disproportionately publicized in the popular media). Only in a minority of cases do posters post on topics within their expertise; most of the time it's on topics that are outside their expertise and where they are, at best, informed laypeople. Because posters are usually not themselves authoritative, not only does this necessarily mean that they are more likely to post to very questionable things, it's also the case that they shouldn't feel personally criticized when the subject of their post is criticized. Likewise, as commenters within the community, we are usually outside our expertise and so, sometimes, we are going to make fallacious arguments or link to fallacious arguments. Yes, we will also sometimes speak within our genuine expertise -- but, usually, other mefites have no truly reliable way to evaluate that expertise, so the simple fact of being an authoritative voice is not sufficient for everyone else deciding a priori whose critical comments are informed and helpful and whose comments are uninformed and destructive. And, bottom line, especially on science topics reported in the popular media, a bias against critical comments to spare the poster's feelings places that generalized poster's feelings above that of their very purpose, presumably, of posting a science link -- people learning stuff.

I see a fair amount here of what I think is bothering you -- a kind of lazy and not-as-informed-as-they-believe cliched criticism that is really just a pedantic display of cultural capital. The offhand "correlation is not causation" quip comes to mind. But I don't see a way to eliminate that, it's human nature, and more to the point, for most people who aren't experts, it's very difficult to distinguish between those criticisms and ones which are very informed and valid. That leaves us with just disliking negative criticism of the topic of a post -- which may be appropriate and productive with some kinds of posts, but certainly is neither appropriate nor productive with regard to posts that, for example, involve published research reported in the popular media.

The whole argument against Dead Goat comments has bothered me. I do completely see where the complaint is coming from -- I think there's no question that some people, sometimes, post just completely gratuitous and irrelevant negative comments. So there are those extreme examples we can all agree upon. But then there is that vast territory where there are comments we can't agree are gratuitous Dead Goat comments, where many people will see them as valuable contributions while others believe they are just stupidly negative. I am unhappy with generalizing about these in ways that seem to lump all critical comments into this category because there's a whole bunch of things that are posted here, a whole bunch of topics where what's true or false matters.

I'm pretty happy with MeFi's current balance about this -- on the rest of the web, it's more typical to find places that are more toward one extreme or another. Places that enforce postivity and a ban on disagreement even when people are making value-loaded arguments about stuff that matters. And places where drive-by, trivial or vicious disagreement and criticism are the norm. MeFi's dictum about just not being a jerk is a pretty good standard and a better one than lumping all critical or negative comments together. And, ultimately, while I understand and share some of the sentiment, I think that it's problematic to encourage or validate the proprietary sensitivity that posters feel about the threads that result from their posts.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:05 PM on May 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's a generalized attitude of "everything is shit, we all live in hell, that's the truth and you might as well get used to it" - that even permeates posts I would have never expected.

This is 100% why I only come to Metafilter every couple months at this point. It's not the "Outragefilter" that bothers me-- I'm a woman who is alive, I've learned how to deal with justified outrage, sometimes it's straight up cathartic to hear smart women respond to things that are genuinely outrageous-- it's the "You are deluded for ever thinking that kittens don't cause cancer, of course they do, don't you see... if you're not getting pet, you're just the human doing the petting" type comments that make me go... whyyy am I choosing to spend my limited time here again? I cannot stand the aggro/macho "I'm more cynical than you" oneupsmanship.

And actually, I get quite depressed just by the ambient, endemic sexism on the site. I'm not making a claim that the site is still a boyzone or anything, just that there are a lot of "innocuous" comments from well-meaning people that reflect sexism that I deal with every day, and I'm just tired of it, and don't want to internet-socialize with strangers anymore.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:30 PM on May 3, 2016 [15 favorites]


for me what prompted my last comment was a (now-deleted) comment in this thread to the effect of "wow, so something in our modern society is a holdover of racism? Next you'll tell me the sky is blue", which, like, yeah, in broad strokes I think the poster and I probably agree that there are lots of examples of that, but what does a comment like that add to the thread? What does it have to do with the link, which is an exploration of how one particular word has changed in its usage over time? I want people to say something when they think a post or a thread is missing some kind of context or to express opinions, positive and negative, but you have to actually add the context or express the opinion or else it's just noise. And I see it from many different posters (many of whom I like!) on all kinds of topics.

Cynical oneupsmanship is a good term for it. Another comment from a while back that I liked.
posted by Krom Tatman at 11:30 PM on May 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yeah I posted an article a while back and the writer mentioned that energy drinks tasted kinda gross and instantly someone pounced to crow how she was super-classist complaining about poor people and their gross energy drinks and wasn't that super-classist of her and whatever at that point I was done.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:55 AM on May 4, 2016


I decided to be more participatory and did the 'post something that you find interesting and valuable!' thing. I won't be repeating the mistake any time soon.
posted by Fantods at 6:00 AM on May 4, 2016


Oh my god Fantods I saw that thread and I left in a hurry after I saw the direction it was taking.

:(

For what it's worth, I found your post really interesting, and something I am learning about now as part of my masters is the conflict in assessing the value unquantifiable work where the product is intangible, like "beauty" or "peace of mind". People who do city planning have this conflict when they have to defend budgets that fund parks, for example, because how do you present the investment return of a green area?

And I think the reaction in that thread is very telling of how we as a society don't see that some work takes life-commitment, while other work (like mine) is more nine to five and thus more structured and easier to separate from hobbies and passions.
posted by Tarumba at 6:30 AM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry to hear that. I liked the article just fine, and thought the discussion was interesting too, but of course your point of view may differ and will still be valid.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:31 AM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


but of course your point of view may differ and will still be valid

MADNESS.
posted by Fantods at 7:53 AM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I know, but sometimes the bloody obvious just needs to be stated.
Sorry, this is not my first language, so I have a bit of a handicap here.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:59 AM on May 4, 2016


... I'm assuming sarcasm, but I may be wrong.
posted by Too-Ticky at 8:00 AM on May 4, 2016


> I decided to be more participatory and did the 'post something that you find interesting and valuable!' thing. I won't be repeating the mistake any time soon.

That was a great post! Thanks for calling it to my attention; I finally read the link (after noping out of the thread earlier because of the dumb comments). Please continue posting, and if I see derailing dumbness I will FLAG IT TO WITHIN AN INCH OF ITS LIFE!
posted by languagehat at 8:56 AM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


instantly someone pounced to crow how she was super-classist complaining about poor people and their gross energy drinks and wasn't that super-classist of her

I remember that, and my impression was that 1) it was not immediate, 2) it was not that aggressive, and 3) that part of the article was in fact written in a racist, classist way. I think there was a reference to "purple drink." When people read that, it hurts. In my opinion, that's not the kind of "noise" that needs to be reduced here.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:59 AM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've gotten pretty good at identifying topics that are going to be fighty and I'm perfectly content to steer clear of those, but lately it does feel like it's only a matter of time before discussion about even the most seemingly innocuous subject gets steered into dead goat and/or cynical one-upsmanship territory.* And then there's the occasional post that I think is compelling/interesting/funny, but results in a really alienating two minutes hate pile-on by the rest of the community that makes me feel like I missed a seemingly arbitrary "This is a Thing We Hate" memo.

I have ideas for FPPs pretty regularly, but I rarely feel like I can thread the needle to find the magic combination of uncontroversial/interesting/unique/engaging that will avoid the above pitfalls... and even if do there's still almost always going to be at least one drive-by hurf-durf comment that makes me wonder why I bothered in the first place.

* I agree that pointing out truly problematic aspects of a topic under discussion is appropriate... but it does tend to be a downer, which is the original question under discussion. I will say that FanFare threads, at least the few I've participated in, are refreshingly unfraught compared to stuff on the blue. And even when social justice topics come up, they're well-grounded in the specific content of the episode or show being discussed.
posted by usonian at 9:11 AM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


I agree that pointing out truly problematic aspects of a topic under discussion is appropriate... but it does tend to be a downer

I think this really varies by how much you're personally affected by the problematic thing. If something cool is posted but has a glaring sexist blindspot, that is, for me, the downer. Seeing that someone else already pointed it out in the thread, so I know that 1) I'm not insane, 2) I don't have to debate with myself whether it's worth bringing up or not, and 3) I get some perspective and validation on the sexist thing that maybe was annoying or maybe ruined my afternoon is not a downer. It's kind of a relief.

I do think it can go to a weird, excessively morbid place here, but I tend to see that problem being tacked on to "SJW's" all the time, when it happens in all kinds of discussions. And if we have an atmosphere of "dwelling on sexism is kind of a downer, guys" then it becomes a sort of contest with yourself to assiduously avoid discussing the big open sore on the topic that is bothering you, and you're trying to be a Cool Girl by sucking it up, etc. If this is a place that centers on discussions, it's weird to prevent yourself from starting certain kinds of discussions that are important to you (when there are other likeminded people around to have them with you!) because they're not "general" enough, i.e. straight white cis male enough, or what have you. Like, it sucks to "make things political" all the time, but if you're affected by other people's microaggressions/straight up aggressions, you're not the one who gets to make the choice.

I tend to notice the really grating/cynical stuff when it comes to other causes that don't directly affect the members of the conversation at hand. Like, we're having a conversation about playing with squirt guns as kids, and then it goes to a "but did you know that squirt guns are wiping out the ladybug population, which will eventually destroy our ecosystem" place that I'm just... siiiiiiiiiigggghhhhhhh.

but results in a really alienating two minutes hate pile-on by the rest of the community that makes me feel like I missed a seemingly arbitrary "This is a Thing We Hate" memo

Yes, this exactly. There are some moments of culture shock where I go from somewhere else on the internet where I've had more ability to curate my social group to here and I remember "oh yeah, forgot we all hate Kanye here" or whatever. It's really a very white, nerdy, liberal, middle-age, middle-to-upper class milieu here. And that's fine, but if that's not your milieu, you're reminded that this place is not just about discussions, as if those can exist in some objective space-- it's also cultural.

That's why the thing about sexism/racism/etc. being a downer is kind of depressing in itself-- I mean, yes it's a downer, but it's a downer for me every day, all the time, I don't get to just Metafilter it out of my daily experience.

I guess the internet is just growing up and trading in its thrift store cardigans for Madewell pullovers and there's not as much crusty weird stuff to surface here. And as long as it's less about offbeat things and people and more about "content," whether that's news content or other curated web content, Metafilter will just be different. But even in the good ol' days, this place might not have been as fighty, but it definitely had a "boys' locker room for nerds" vibe.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:03 AM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Too-Ticky you're good. but of course your point of view may differ and will still be valid might be one of those things where everyone thinks is implicit when they write a comment, but never thinks it is when they read other people's comments. Or that might just be me.

Thanks for the kind feedback, folks. On one hand, responses here can be really eye-opening and attitude-changing, in profound real-world-positive ways. But other times, I'm just this. And it's hard sometimes to tell which is which: if I should take some hint, or if it's just mefi being weird.

And then there's the occasional post that I think is compelling/interesting/funny, but results in a really alienating two minutes hate pile-on by the rest of the community

It's really hard to distinguish between 'the users who bothered to reply' and 'the rest of the community' - a handful of people can certainly feel like 'everyone' sometimes. Ivan Fyodorovitch above mentions the proprietary sensitivity that posters feel about the threads that result from their posts above and maybe that sensitivity is optional for some people? I guess it's a bit of a catch-22 for me because if I didn't give a damn, I wouldn't be moved to participate. Maybe more participation makes it less fraught, but you see the problem about getting there.
posted by Fantods at 10:13 AM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


I disengaged from Metafilter because I did not care for the direction it was going.

In my opinion, the strength of Metafilter is/was AskMe. But it seemed most of the time/resources was spent on other concerns. If AskMe would have just been left alone, then it might have still been okay. But the community became so...literary?...that answers had to be crouched in a long-winded format. Otherwise, they risked deletion or being devalued in favor of more literary restatements of the same answer. I mean, I never "fished" for favorites, but I felt downright...well, shit on...when I would provide a perfectly good answer that got 3 favorites and someone an hour later would write a verbose, heavily stylized version of precisely the same answer and get 18 favorites. Don't get me wrong -- this is a written medium, so I understand that's how it goes. But it is also why I disengaged. My involvement was unnecessary and redundant. It is arguable if I possess the writing "chops" to duplicate the preferred style, but I did not want to expend the time and energy in order to do so.

The literary preference is reinforced by Metafilter's employees (several of whom are writers or aspiring writers themselves). As an example specific to AskMe (IIRC), there was a question to the effect "hey, I have some old hard drives, what's the easiest way to do a pretty good job at making sure my personal info is wiped off, thanks". Here are some answers that received many favorites: (1) Several paragraphs about not putting e-waste in the landfill. (2) Several paragraphs about how nothing is ever truly deleted, and new techniques can potentially recover the data. (3) Several paragraphs about where someone might look to "remove" information -- such as, "don't forget to delete bookmarks" and other advice. What answer was deleted? A one-liner saying "you should consider using DBAN". When replies I consider to potentially be the "best answer" are ignored and/or deleted, that's when I realized I was at the wrong place.

I can understand a preference for complete sentences and using standard punctuation, but the burden of communicating ideas became too high for too little reward. I still stop by to ask a question but my involvement is intermittent. Honestly, I just wanted a good Q&A site...but that's not what Metafilter was meant to be.
posted by 99percentfake at 10:24 AM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Weird, I thought MeFi's preferred style was that breathless bullshit ALL CAPS with IRONIC lolspeak and no punctuation BRO
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:28 AM on May 4, 2016


There are some moments of culture shock where I go from somewhere else on the internet where I've had more ability to curate my social group to here and I remember "oh yeah, forgot we all hate Kanye here" or whatever.

I always thought of MeFi as being pretty big on Kanye. Then again I find I sometimes get really inaccurate memories of threads, so you're probably right. I'll often think back on a thread where I felt that the prevailing attitude was X and then when I read it again I'll see something like 10-20% of the comments max were saying X and I'll be like, "How did I come away with such a skewed perspective?"

I don't really have a point here, I guess. Just more of a notion that maybe the MetaFilter I experience is quite a bit different than the actual one and I should try to keep that in mind going forward.

God, I sound like I'm high or something. I'm really not.

Have you ever really looked at your hands?
posted by ODiV at 10:34 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Fantods, my ver first FPP was deleted. I think you did fine.

The conversation might have gone differently with a different pull quote. You get better at framing by getting experience. I know it sometimes feels super personal, and I think sometimes people genuinely are being personal in an icky way that gives them plausible deniability, but, for me, learning to frame things more effectively really helped.

If you never want to do it again, you do not have to. I am only tossing out my 2 cents because talking with more experienced people a tiny bit in some other forum really helped me enormously. The outsider viewpoint was that everything they touched turned to gold. That wasn't how they experienced it at all. Knowing a thimbleful about how they experienced it was very enlightening and empowering.
posted by Michele in California at 10:38 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I always thought of MeFi as being pretty big on Kanye. Then again I find I sometimes get really inaccurate memories of threads, so you're probably right. I'll often think back on a thread where I felt that the prevailing attitude was X and then when I read it again I'll see something like 10-20% of the comments max were saying X and I'll be like, "How did I come away with such a skewed perspective?"

I think it's weirdly exaggerated love for Kanye and weirdly exaggerated hate for Amanda Palmer.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:42 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


> I mean, I never "fished" for favorites, but I felt downright...well, shit on...when I would provide a perfectly good answer that got 3 favorites and someone an hour later would write a verbose, heavily stylized version of precisely the same answer and get 18 favorites.

You need to turn off favorites. This is an unhealthy way to interact with them.
posted by languagehat at 10:42 AM on May 4, 2016 [13 favorites]


Weird, I thought MeFi's preferred style was that breathless bullshit ALL CAPS with IRONIC lolspeak and no punctuation BRO

MeFi's preferred style is whichever stylistic tic you personally hate.
posted by beerperson at 10:43 AM on May 4, 2016 [11 favorites]


stoneandstar: It's really a very white, nerdy, liberal, middle-age, middle-to-upper class milieu here.
Don't forget 'US-based'.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:51 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


But the community became so...literary?...that answers had to be crouched in a long-winded format. Otherwise, they risked deletion or being devalued in favor of more literary restatements of the same answer.

I'm not going to comment on the literariness of AskMe answers and the community's preferences and faving habits around them, but, from experience, I don't think short answers actually answering the question posed are inherently a deletion risk.
posted by griphus at 10:52 AM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yeah, that's definitely not the sort of thing we'd delete, typically. A lot of times though, folks will miss something in the question (or occasionally in a follow-up from the OP) where the OP says, "I don't want to try DBAN yet" or "I've already tried DBAN."
posted by taz (staff) at 11:10 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I love Metafilter and don't find it depressing at all. I am so grateful to have it. I find it to be the only place I know of on the Internet to find intelligent, socially aware discussions of not only the Best of the Web but also the issues of the day. It is *so much* less snarky, hostile, and sexist/racist than any other serious-topic forum that I have found.

Still, I don't feel the need to read threads that don't interest me or feel like they will get completely bogged down (ahem, elections. I avoid election threads anywhere). As with everywhere on the Web, maybe just ignore the idiots and skim for the interesting/useful, whatever that means for you.

And I really appreciate that comments here tend overall to be well written, thoughtful, and "literary" (as mentioned above).
posted by mkuhnell at 11:11 AM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


MeFi's preferred style is whichever stylistic tic you personally hate.

Simple declarative sentences, for example. Hate 'em. Syntax shaming.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:07 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


But other times, I'm just this.

Hosted on the world's slowest website? :-)
posted by effbot at 12:10 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sorry, this is not my first language, so I have a bit of a handicap here.


The internet is nobody's first language.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 12:45 PM on May 4, 2016


Well then.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:18 PM on May 4, 2016


You need to turn off favorites. This is an unhealthy way to interact with them.

Seconding and thirding this. Sincerely.
posted by zarq at 1:35 PM on May 4, 2016


Not to mention, 3 favorites is good! That's three tiny hits of serotonin. Don't look the serotonin horse in the mouth.
posted by naju at 1:51 PM on May 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


Hosted on the world's slowest website? :-)

Oops, I figured it was just my bread-bag-twist-ties-joined-together internet connection to blame for that. I'll play it off as deliberate though, because head-tilting pugs are extra better with stately gravitas.
posted by Fantods at 1:52 PM on May 4, 2016


serotonin.horse
posted by griphus at 1:54 PM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


serotonin_ebooks
posted by Krom Tatman at 2:32 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


something something mr hands joke
posted by beerperson at 2:41 PM on May 4, 2016


Re: dead goats, it would be awesome if rad posts about wasps and the like didn't always immediately degenerate into a shitshow about how much entire orders of animals are evil and deserve to die and hey here's some cool ways to kill them. Consider this a request to both the community and the mods.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:06 PM on May 4, 2016 [12 favorites]


Maybe I'm wrong about Kanye, and maybe I'm just thinking of "rap/hip hop in general," which MeFi has historically been super dismissive and dumb about. As for exaggerated love for Kanye, it's not possible, he is a god among men
posted by stoneandstar at 6:00 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, yeah, and my pet peeve is people harping on their pet peeves, which is... unfortunate...
posted by stoneandstar at 6:01 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


What answer was deleted? A one-liner saying "you should consider using DBAN"

If they don't elaborate, then frankly it's not a very good answer. It doesn't have to be literary, just... helpful. If I ask that question and you throw a one liner at me without an explanation on why it's a best practice, then I'm in the same place I was before-- just Googling things, without needed context. AskMetfilter is useful because it provides context and, sometimes, expertise.

Metafilter does skew toward the literate, for obvious reasons.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:05 PM on May 4, 2016


This thread was another one that felt a bit "dead goat" to me. The photos are lovely, the post and the linked site both frame it in terms of the success of the Schengen area. True to form, the comment thread opens with someone visualising corpses in a river and is quickly followed by comment on the more noxious elements of European right-wing politics. One of those "sigh and close the tab" moments for me. Like a lot of dead goat comments, it's not that I disagree with the commenters - there's a lot of sadness in the history of this, and some reasons for current concern. Just, yeah... dead goats.
posted by langtonsant at 6:09 PM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


I wasn't going to say anything because talking about this is depressing, but it makes me sick that we can't talk about antisemitism without someone finding it vitally important to give us their views on Israel.

There's an open FPP about antisemitism in the UK Labour Party. It's a big story in the UK and among Jews because Jewish support for Labour has basically collapsed and the UK's local elections are today/tomorrow. Among the links I posted was one from The Atlantic, which extensively quotes from a moving article by a Jewish adherent of Labour in which he explains why so many Jews feel that they're being pushed out. A big part of that, and the part The Atlantic chose to quote, is BDS - boycotting Israel and Israelis, divesting from Israeli businesses, and sanctions against Israel. He's not making a political argument per se; he's noting that the relatively small Jewish community in the UK is interlinked with and effectively depends on its ties with Israel:
Our institutions almost by necessity revolve round it. Our kosher products are made there, our Rabbis are trained there, our Hebrew textbooks are printed there.

Many of us have mothers, fathers, siblings and children there. For many families BDS makes it a moral offense to take a grandchild to see their grandparent. For all of those items and activities to be liable to pickets is intolerable. Many who wish to live a full Jewish communal life – or more crucially help organise one – at some point will decide that it’s not worth the hassle of living in a country where BDS is in full swing. The fact that it is the Left that has incubated it, is even more tortuous for those who share my faith and my political values.
I think the article adds a lot to understanding the collapse in the Jewish vote for Labour, it's a well-written article from a major publication that was selected for quotation in another major publication. But the link and quotation got deleted because "We really do not need a detour through BDS."

I totally understand that these things are very hard on the mods, but here's someone talking about their own experiences and the impact that UK Labour's policies have on them. And it has to be censored, presumably because someone cannot hear the word "Israel" without going off on a tirade. Maybe next time the mods could tell the person disrupting the thread to fsck off, rather than silence someone who's being marginalised? I mean, if you had someone that kept going off about compulsory busing, would the mods delete references to education when people are talking about race and discrimination? Surely there's a better way.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:15 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


You're the one who brought up BDS, when it hadn't been mentioned previously in the thread -- this is exactly "bringing in people's opinions about Israel." You post an article against BDS, someone comes back with some pro-BDS arguments, and now we're arguing about Israel.

That thread was already a handful, to put it politely, and bringing up an inflammatory connection -- guaranteed to draw in people who want to argue about exactly the thing you think they shouldn't argue about -- wasn't going to help it any.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:38 PM on May 4, 2016 [8 favorites]


I will put that another way. I don't see how to allow discussion of that article while forbidding people to talk about whether BDS is justified. And I don't see a way to have that discussion without it turning into the same old argument about I/P issues.

That's what I mean by a detour through BDS -- it's not a thing that can just get a quick negative mention and then the thread moves on, it's something that opens a new heated derailing topic in an already fraught thread. If we want the thread to stay remotely on the subject of antisemitism in Labour, we're more likely to achieve that if we skip the BDS-discussion quagmire.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:55 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


I can't see how that link, with that ending quote, wouldn't make that thread all about Israel. I want to respond to that quote. There is good stuff in the rest of the piece that would enhance the discussion in the thread, but that single quote would take over everything, and in a bad way.

And, yeah, it shouldn't be the case that the thread would be a disaster because of this. And, yeah, I'm very much in the camp that prefers that bad actors be punished and disruptive comments deleted as opposed to just declaring that topics are (partly) off-limits, as we mostly have with I/P -- but we do have that policy and, anyway, that thread has been shitty enough, with people being very clueless about defending antisemitism, and that article with that quote would just make it so, so much worse. All those clueless people in that thread would find some vindication implicit in that quote. It would be a huge mess.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:11 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I hear you. and that's why I didn't say anything at the time. It's just ... there always seems to be a good reason for Jews to shut up about things that affect them and it is literally making me sick.

The article is specifically on point. It's not some random "Oh, and this too" piece. It's not dredged up from the recesses of the Internet. How much more relevant could an article be and what better credentials could it have? But it has to be silenced, because there are people here who specifically want to go on about how BDS is justified and blah blah blah. Justification isn't even what he's talking about: he's saying that UK Labour is the party that wants to (largely and effectively) ban the import of kosher food, Jewish publications, stop Jews visiting their relatives and so forth. It provides a reason for the massive fall in Labour's support among Jews, which was once a majority and is now eight percent. It's a lot more illuminating than yet another Labour councillor talking about how Jews are the new Nazis. But it has to be silenced, because I/P is all.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:12 PM on May 4, 2016


I'm also going to say, pre-emptively: we are absolutely not arguing about BDS in this thread.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:16 PM on May 4, 2016 [8 favorites]


As much as I am pained by this, I have to follow it: If we're all gonna play nicely together in the sandbox then sometimes we're gonna have to know when a subject is best left alone. I can do that, it just makes me feel isolated away from the rest of the people here when it's something that participates in my marginalization. I feel like, "oh yeah I'm different and the world can't handle this". All those reminders add up over time and it's like lead, they never leave the system really.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:04 AM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


You need to turn off favorites. This is an unhealthy way to interact with them.

It's human nature, favorites look like a score, and I am sure it's not small number of MeFites who see them this way, and even if you turn them off, they are still there in a more subtle way.

I didn't think about it until I read one of the comments above, but I really think that even when you turn off favorites, there is a definite influence in the flow of the conversation when other MeFites do see or care about them.

You don't get points in real life when you say something witty, but with favorites you do get not-really-but-sort-of points. I mean I had to make a conscious effort to not feel like favorites = people like me. It took me a long time. Still, I know for sure that I favorite comments when I agree with people and not just to "bookmark", because it feels like the natural thing to do when I love a comment or I want to signal my support.

With this in mind, users who value the approval of other MeFites (why wouldn't you?) face the temptation to be snarky, disruptive, to hijack the conversation, etc. When several people want favorites, then there is a multiplied pull on the conversation that normally wouldn't be there.

Don't get me wrong, I love that I can bookmark comments because they are interesting, funny or even because I really disagree but they make me think. I just don't see the use of everyone seeing how many people have bookmarked a comment.

It would be really interesting if the site as whole stopped showing favorites for a week as an experiment, just to see if things would get a little more cordial.
posted by Tarumba at 10:57 AM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Tarumba: "It would be really interesting if the site as whole stopped showing favorites for a week as an experiment, just to see if things would get a little more cordial."

We did that for the month of November in 2009. It's a different MeFi and a different world, so maybe it's worth repeating the experiment?
posted by Rock Steady at 11:06 AM on May 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


It is sort of remarkable to me to realize just how strong my reaction on multiple fronts to that suggestion is, even if I sort of get where its coming from. I think it is unlikely that we will make a similar experimental change to the basic display of favorites in the future. It'd definitely require some incentive stronger than just the good-faith spirit of inquiry that brought it about last time.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:12 AM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


It'd definitely require some incentive stronger than just the good-faith spirit of inquiry that brought it about last time.

*rubs $5 bill with thumb and fingers, waggles eyebrows*
posted by Rock Steady at 11:34 AM on May 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Actually that 2009 thread is exactly what I wanted!

It's like when a video recipe skips the boring parts and you get to see the beautiful cake without suffering through mixing or the waiting.

Re: favorites, I stand corrected. They do seem to serve a purpose and after skimming that thread I found several very compelling arguments for how things work now. The most compelling argument was me realizing that I was using favorite counts to skim efficiently so yeah.
posted by Tarumba at 11:36 AM on May 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


We did that for the month of November in 2009. It's a different MeFi and a different world, so maybe it's worth repeating the experiment?

Were you active back then? Many, many people objected to the experiment. The initial change didn't include an opt-out option -- that was added later. It was also applied to AskMe, which threw users for a loop.

IIRC, that metatalk thread was one of, if not the longest and most contentious we'd ever experienced at the time. The mods had an unpleasant time because of it.
posted by zarq at 11:43 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh, I remember it, and personally I don't think the current system needs any changing, but I think the Internet and people's expectations of likes/favs/hearts/whuffie are pretty different now to what they might have been back then. It also seems like there is more "favorites are hurting the conversation" talk then there has ever been. I don't want to ruin anyone's MeFi experience, and I certainly don't want to make life hard on the mods, but I don't think we have to be all "Never speak of the Favorites Experiment" about it.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:04 PM on May 5, 2016


Using favourite counts to skim a MetaTalk thread about favourites seems like it would give you an extremely skewed view on the userbase's opinion of them.
posted by ODiV at 12:17 PM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


That sounds way judgier written out than I intended! Sorry about that.
posted by ODiV at 12:23 PM on May 5, 2016


when is hate-favoriting going to catch on
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:26 PM on May 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


i mostly favorite ironically
posted by Rock Steady at 12:31 PM on May 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


Seriously, from the bottom of my heart -- regardless of how you intend it, this kind of thing is likely to lead to actual bad feelings for people you don't intend.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:34 PM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I certainly don't mean to cause any bad feelings. My sincere apologies.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:40 PM on May 5, 2016


Yeah, no I totally realize that, may have phrased that too strongly - not meaning to question your intentions at all.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:43 PM on May 5, 2016


LobsterMitten is too nice to just say "don't nobody take those two chuckleheads seriously"
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:47 PM on May 5, 2016


The mods had an unpleasant time because of it.

MetaFilter used to be different. Rolling out features (or experiments) was done in a very different way with a lot less forethought and much poorer communication. While I continue to be surprised at the vehemently negative response from some quarters at the time, it also taught some of us some things about how to work with community inquiry, user testing, and a bunch of other things.

Matt rolled out favorites while MeFi was basically a monarchy. We made one attempt to adjust them in 2009. Mods are unlikely to attempt another.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 2:16 PM on May 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


It also seems like there is more "favorites are hurting the conversation" talk then there has ever been.

It is just talk though. Some of us remember what the conversation was like before favorites. It was worse. Whenever I find myself reading threads from the "golden days" of MeFi, I find it shocking how shitty people were to each other then.

Matt rolled out favorites while MeFi was basically a monarchy. We made one attempt to adjust them in 2009. Mods are unlikely to attempt another.

Favorites are an integral part of how some people interact with the site and we like them. The mistake in 2009 was seeing a small number people grinding an anti-favorite axe repeatedly and thinking that that point of view had widespread support. But it didn't.
posted by grouse at 2:51 PM on May 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


You don't get points in real life when you say something witty, but with favorites you do get not-really-but-sort-of points.

I have to disagree with this - people get appreciation from others in a more tangible and less numerical manner offline, but the basic interaction is similar.

I tend to use favorites as a temperature gauge in fraught situations where I can hurt people. For example, recently I screwed up in a thread about a population I wasn't a part of. I apologized, gave some context, then tracked the favorites to see what happened. At a later point I felt comfortable stepping in again, but I tried to be more careful about my language; if the people I had apologized to hadn't favorite the apology, I probably wouldn't have. In other threads where I'm trying to be an ally, I'll track whether the people I'm trying to be an ally to are favoriting. It's a way to self-check without demanding other people educate me, and I really appreciate them in those terms.

I also use them to see where what I said resonated with a lot of people and have been considering riffing on the ideas on some of my most popular posts here for posts on my blog.

...and I took a screen shot when my favorites were 666 and 1337 because NERD.

There are a lot of ways to use favorites, is what I'm saying.
posted by Deoridhe at 6:08 PM on May 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


I tend to use favorites as a temperature gauge in fraught situations where I can hurt people. For example, recently I screwed up in a thread about a population I wasn't a part of. I apologized, gave some context, then tracked the favorites to see what happened. At a later point I felt comfortable stepping in again, but I tried to be more careful about my language; if the people I had apologized to hadn't favorite the apology, I probably wouldn't have. In other threads where I'm trying to be an ally, I'll track whether the people I'm trying to be an ally to are favoriting. It's a way to self-check without demanding other people educate me, and I really appreciate them in those terms.


So favorites are a barometer of how good a person you're being? Okay.

Anybody else divide favorites by comments to get a "batting average" of sorts? Anyone else figure the "batting averages" of people that spend a lot of time on the site "educating" others? Just me? Cool.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 8:17 PM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you're saying you think people who argue against offensive behavior here are doing it for the favorites, no, you're not the only one. We get to hear from them every time there is a big messy discussion.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:29 PM on May 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


You don't get points in real life when you say something witty,

You kind of do, though? I mean, when you say something witty in real life, people respond instantaneously. There's a big laugh or an "omg" or opprobrium and shame if it's perceived as rude or whatever. I've never really understood the backlash against favorites. They signal 1) wittiness or 2) popularity or 3) saying something that resonates with a lot of people. Which are all normal elements of human communication.

I mean, it's depressing to me when somebody around here says something cruel and it gets a billion favorites, but that is really not a very frequent occurrence for me.

There are legit reasons to turn them off, but I do think that they are a valid way to express appreciation and a good barometer of how people feel.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:32 PM on May 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


If it weren't for favorites, I'd think people like my comments a lot more than they actually do.

It's good for me to know that, and good for the site too.
posted by jamjam at 9:44 PM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you're saying you think people who argue against offensive behavior here are doing it for the favorites, no, you're not the only one. We get to hear from them every time there is a big messy discussion.


Nah. I'm saying something much more cynical.

I'm saying that the mods are a lot like umpires. The call strike, balls, who's out and who's safe. And that is based on a knowledge of parameters, but is so heavily based on perception that it's very possible for them to "get it wrong." But what the ump says is what stands. People can get rowdy when they think the umpire is wrong, or, more to the point, has perceived something incorrectly. Because people want their team to win. Because of tribalism and the psychological usefulness of abstractions of high-stakes conflict.

I proposed a quick and dirty system of favrometrics because I think I might need a new way to interact with the site. Because baseball is sometimes pretty boring. And, in reality, is a repetition of a process that can yield wildly similar results. The Yankees always seem to win. Or at the very, least threaten it a lot. But along the course of all those pitches and swings and misses there is the potential for outrageous and spectacular conflagrations of skill and circumstance. But waiting for those moments is becoming much too time consuming. Summer is short.

It's also kind of weird that, more than occasionally, the umpires with their very human and flawed perception get up to bat sometimes. Yet, they never strike out. They're playing something more like Tee ball, I think. Maybe that doesn't help the game.

But, much like baseball, Metafilter is both a passtime and a business. Got to protect that bottom line. Keep the fans coming in. Cheering wildly for moments of significance when they happen. Cheering for moments of insignificance when they get bored.

Or maybe we need some kind of replay challenge system. Something better than this. Because this has gone on long enough. Maybe it's time to watch something more like UFC. At least it's honest. Relatively.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 5:22 AM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I do not understand your metaphor at all. Perhaps you could just tell us what's bothering you in words?
posted by hydropsyche at 5:43 AM on May 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


Your problem isn't with favorites. Your problem, judging from that baseball metaphor, is that you see conversations as a contest in which there is a winning team and a losing team. You see conversations like a fucking cagefight.

Jesus. I like favorites and I use them as a way to say "I hear you" or "I'm glad you said that," sure. But if you think that a conversation needs to have winners and losers because there's a mechanism for silent people to signal "I liked that you said that," the problem isn't with the favorites. The problem is how you view connecting with other human beings.
posted by sciatrix at 5:45 AM on May 6, 2016 [16 favorites]


(My favorite on their comment does the fave thing like sciatrix does)
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:48 AM on May 6, 2016


And for the record I would love to see debate culture go away entirely. It's tiresome and bums me out when I see it.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:51 AM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


I do not understand your metaphor at all. Perhaps you could just tell us what's bothering you in words?

Maybe it's not about you.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 5:57 AM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Epony-fucking-sterical.
posted by sciatrix at 5:58 AM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Is sciatrix's interpretation correct, SinisterPurpose? If so, I agree, you are looking at conversations in a way that may not be helpful to you and your interaction with MeFi. I promise that some of us just come here to have interesting conversations with interesting people and we are not trying to score points in doing so. And I don't think there are teams. And the mods mostly are more like custodians than umpires.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:58 AM on May 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


I usually drop my thoughts and leave. My blood is up or something today. So, okay.

Epony-fucking-sterical.

Always.

Is sciatrix's interpretation correct, SinisterPurpose? If so, I agree, you are looking at conversations in a way that may not be helpful to you and your interaction with MeFi. I promise that some of us just come here to have interesting conversations with interesting people and we are not trying to score points in doing so. And I don't think there are teams. And the mods mostly are more like custodians than umpires.

That interpretation is...I want to say wildly inaccurate. I didn't say conversations were like baseball. I said METAFILTER is like baseball. Here, I'll break it down.

You see conversations like a fucking cagefight.

Because I mentioned UFC? Also, the vitriol is just FUCKING palpable at this point. I see UFC as a convenient metaphor for the dynamics I might be looking for. Maybe there's a place out there on the internet where I can just talk to one person, one at a time, about the state of the world. Maybe that feels more useful. Or maybe it's the real world.

Your problem isn't with favorites. Your problem, judging from that baseball metaphor, is that you see conversations as a contest in which there is a winning team and a losing team.


First off, you telling me "what my problem is" is my problem. This is an example of the site dynamics that I was alluding to with my metaphor. The SITE DYNAMICS remind me of a contest, but one that supposes itself less violent and competitive than other "sports." But it is just as competitive. Maybe more. And if psyches could bleed, they'd bleed here.

Is sciatrix's interpretation correct, SinisterPurpose? If so, I agree, you are looking at conversations in a way that may not be helpful to you and your interaction with MeFi.

So you're taking a moment to agree, albeit more gently (you know, like baseball), with a bad faith interpretation and vitriolic retort. See, that's how even the well-meaning double down on the SITE DYNAMICS I take issue with because it can be AS CONDESCENDING as its more aggressive predecessor. I could turn that into a baseball metaphor, but that doesn't seem to be working overly well.

So in summation the SITE DYNAMICS are a problem. The mods and the favorites contribute to that. It IS clearly a competition in my perception. <--Note the self awareness. That was condescending and I actually feel bad about it. But it's become the lingua franca of this place.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 6:32 AM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Okay. Like I said, I come here to have interesting conversations with interesting people, and I don't feel like it's a competition. Maybe we just participate in different threads? It's a really big site.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:42 AM on May 6, 2016


jessamyn: While I continue to be surprised at the vehemently negative response from some quarters at the time...

Been there.
posted by zarq at 7:00 AM on May 6, 2016


So in summation the SITE DYNAMICS are a problem. The mods and the favorites contribute to that. It IS clearly a competition in my perception. --Note the self awareness. That was condescending and I actually feel bad about it. But it's become the lingua franca of this place.

MetaFilter is renowned across the Internet as having the some of the best moderation and some of the most civilized discussion on the web. That's not to say it couldn't be better, but perhaps your expectations for site dynamics are not realistic?
posted by Rock Steady at 7:17 AM on May 6, 2016


SinisterPurpose, it's clear you're frustrated with the site and I'm sympathetic on that front because it sucks to feel frustrated with a place you're otherwise inclined to spend time. But the way you've been expressing that in here with a stack of metaphors instead of plain description has been needlessly cryptic and feels more like you're taking a deferred shot at some unmentioned thing than trying to have a productive conversation with the people in here right now about what's already been discussed.

I feel like continuing down that road's just gonna produce further frustration for you and for everybody else; maybe give this a pass at this point, or at least take a break to reorganize what it is you want to talk about so it's more of a plainly stated "these specific, literal things concern me" sort of contribution that doesn't require folks to guess at your figurative meaning and then have you argue with them about their guesses.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:20 AM on May 6, 2016 [6 favorites]



SinisterPurpose, it's clear you're frustrated with the site and I'm sympathetic on that front because it sucks to feel frustrated with a place you're otherwise inclined to spend time. But the way you've been expressing that in here with a stack of metaphors instead of plain description has been needlessly cryptic and feels more like you're taking a deferred shot at some unmentioned thing than trying to have a productive conversation with the people in here right now about what's already been discussed.


Uhm. The metaphors stopped after people expressed their confusion and then I explained it in very plain language. And I have not engaged after I explained it in very plain language. This talking to and soft time out feels a lot like over-moderation.

I assure you. I will respond no further.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 7:32 AM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I feel like the globalized conversations that online world has localized into our private spaces ignites a state of permanent antagonism that probably has to be accepted.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:51 AM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


So favorites are a barometer of how good a person you're being? Okay.

No. This isn't about being a good person. This is about tracking whether my intent and my actions are lining up. It is stunningly difficult to know how we actually come off to other people; people are actively discouraged societally from being honest, especially when they are at their most vulnerable. Favorites are voluntary and largely unpressured, and so offer up a barometer of how I'm coming off to other people in various contexts.

At this point, I honestly have no idea if I'm a good person or not. I don't even know what that means. I try to do good in the world, but I am all too aware of my failings.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:14 PM on May 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


So in summation the SITE DYNAMICS are a problem.

This sounds to me like "People: Can't live with 'em, can't have a conversation without 'em." Which is essentially unrelated to how MeFi gets moderated. That is true of any human social dynamic, anywhere, online or off.

There are moderation things here I have argued for or against or whatever, but, the reality is, any time you interact with a bunch of people, there is going to be a certain amount of friction. One of the good things about doing this dance online is that it generally makes it easier for you to step in and out at will. To some extent, we all need to decide what we hope to get out of the site and then figure out how to best get that.

I am more cynical than I used to be. I expect less of other people. Some of that comes from interacting with folks online and seeing how awful they can be. But, ultimately, if you keep coming back, you need to assume the space has some value for you and make your peace with figuring how to interact with it effectively.

I am sincerely not trying to pile onto you. I am guilty of being one of those idiots who just likes talking to people. Worse, I like being helpful. It is still on my bucket list to find a cure for that bad habit.

Take care.
posted by Michele in California at 1:42 PM on May 6, 2016


SinisterPurpose's first comment was not at all cryptic to me. Yesterday, I had a 5-sentence paragraph prepared that said some similar things, without using metaphors, but I deleted it. Here it is:

We can make all the face-value justifications for favorites, but at the same time It's hard to deny the structurality of favorites. Psychology since Skinner has taught us that such devices have nontrivial social ramifications, often which are not intuitive. So one thing we are doing is voicing our subjective experience of what favorites are good for. But surely such devices are already a topic of social media research, and what's noticeably absent is any of that in informing the discourse here. Which in turn highlights the crux of issue: the more users can be made aware of what a structure does under any given system, i.e. understanding its good points as well as its bad points, then they can make an informed decision as to how they want to participate. (Example: perhaps the 2009 experiment had something to offer in that regard, perhaps it didn't.) Understanding enables cognizance and consent, and I think this has broad intuitive appeal because it is the ethical thing.

(SIninsterPurpose's comment essentially says all of this, too.)
posted by polymodus at 4:40 PM on May 6, 2016


when is hate-favoriting going to catch on
i mostly favorite ironically

Not telling you what to do, but it makes it much more likely someone's going to misread the purpose of your favoriting.

I do pay attention to those things, particularly in certain types of threads. I notice that some people tend to favorite toxic comments and then act 'proper' when actually commenting. It makes it extraordinarily difficult to presume good faith in those discussions, and it leads to unpleasantness.

Just saying. You might lead to people forming an opinion on you that you may not want.
posted by qcubed at 5:10 PM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


It seems obvious to me that for those who see discussion here as a competition, then favorites will exacerbate all the bad effects of seeing the discussion as a competition. And not only that, those bad effects will also accrue onto those of us who don't see it as a competition, or try to not see it as a competition. Even people who are otherwise not so inclined to this way of thinking will find themselves pushed in that direction in a competitive, combative environment and then their behavior is part of what they dislike. Favorites do have some effect of turning up the knob on this.

And there's also just the simple fact that social approval or disapproval is more emotionally fraught for some people than others, and for them, the way that favorites amplify this is unpleasant and difficult.

I'm much more sympathetic to the complaints of the latter group than the former, but I think the former group's complains have some merit, too. It's my observational that there's a really, really high correlation between personality types who are self-evidently debate-club and adversarial in their discursive style and those who make those sorts of complaints but, even so. Like I said, there's a middle ground of people who can sometimes be that way, but try to avoid it, and the favorite and pile-on dynamic makes it more difficult to avoid it.

All that said, my experience is very much like Deoridhe's. Getting lots of favorites is not so important to me as it is when I get far fewer than I expect to. Which comes out weird, but the idea is that sometimes I'll write what I think is a really good comment and so I expect that it would get favorites, and then it doesn't. And that makes me think self-critically about the comment and about the differing perception I had about it than the community's. Often, I realize that my comment wasn't as helpful as I thought it would be, wasn't as focused. I want to contribute to the discussion, I want my participation to be constructive and relevant, and favorites are for me a useful measure for when I'm failing at that. Not so much succeeding, because you can get many favorites for other reasons. And, sure, you can also not get favorites just because people don't agree, it's a minority opinion, but I usually know that going in. It's when I expect that I'll get favorites but I don't that tells me something relevant. I don't chase favorites, but I can see how other people might do so and that doing so would be distorting.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:51 PM on May 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


Are we arguing about favorites now? Is that what we're doing now?

I like favorites. I feel a little guilty about it, but I like 'em. When I want some MeFi in my day but I don't have enough time to really engage with anything, I check my recent favorites. We're talking micro-interactions here, like when I'm taking a pee-break at work. (Don't try to tell me you never bring your phone into the bathroom, you filthy animal.) If I see that a recent comment of mine has picked up a couple of new favorites, I get a nice little warm fuzzy. Somebody on the internet liked what I said! That's nice. Time to wash my hands and put together that AWO.

I even use them to skim threads, sometimes. When I don't have time to actually read three hundred comments on the social politics of dipteran taxonomy, I might just scroll casually down through the thread and read the half dozen or so comments that have high favorite counts. Am I getting a complete and unbiased precis of what is no doubt a complex and nuanced conversation? Nope. Am I missing out on some great comments? Probably. Am I getting to read some really awesome comments that I would have missed had I just given the entire thread a pass? You betcha. That's OK though, I'm not a completionist.

Now, I get the criticisms. I hate gamification! Echo chambers are just the worst! Some people sure seem to get a lot more favorites than others, huh? Maybe some people like getting favorites so much that they actually try to get them! It probably does change people's commenting behavior a little bit, in aggregate, when they see that some types of comments frequently get lots of favorites and other types get almost none. Comments in popular threads garner more favorites just because more people are looking at 'em, even.

But hey, here they are. They're a fait accompli. I dimly remember a mod once saying that if mathowie could travel back in time he would probably go back and convince himself never to make that feature, but now they're here and they're deeply ingrained in site culture. Jessamyn pointed out that last time the mods tried messing with them, it ignited a shitstorm of biblical proportions, and she's right. I remember that shitstorm! It was violent and vehement and it just went on and on and on all month long. So they won't Favorites ain't going anywhere, except that you can make 'em invisible to yourself if you want.

Anyway, what I'm saying is that if you wanna be on MeFi, you should learn to love favorites. What's the point of letting them be a perpetual thorn in your side? Why go around being constantly grumpy about them? Enjoy the favorites that you get, make what use you can of them, don't waste time worrying about other people's "scores" or indeed whether other people might be trying to score points on purpose. You can't make them go away, but you can control your reaction. It's really not worth arguing over, because we're stuck with 'em for better or for worse. They're part of the furniture now.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:52 PM on May 6, 2016 [11 favorites]


Wait a minute.

I thought favorites were bookmarks.
posted by futz at 5:56 PM on May 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


When was the last time you bookmarked something you disliked, though, so that you could go back and read it again?

Wait, don't answer that.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:01 PM on May 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


naju: and instead holds back serious, highly personal discussions from happening

The fact that a public forum on the Internet can feel like a place where highly personal discussions can take place, if only occasionally, is a minor miracle.

I've only recently started to realize/been made aware of that feeling about Metafilter, partly because of things that you and others have said in cultural appropriation threads, naju. Anything that's open to the Internet has never felt like that kind of safe space to me, so that's something exceptional (to me) about Metafilter.
posted by clawsoon at 6:14 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I thought favorites were bookmarks.

Furniture dude, are you not following along? Furniture that some people use as bookmarks. Like when you flip a book upside down on the chair arm to mark your place. Why is this so difficult?
posted by bongo_x at 6:45 PM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I kinda find re-arguing about how people use bookmarks even more boring than re-arguing bookmarks. Some minority of mefites use them in a way that is entirely judgment-free. Others use them that way occasionally. Many use them as, well, favorites. And even when they are used as "favorites", what that means and how people use them as approbation varies and can be very idiosyncratic. Painting with a broad brush is not helpful.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:53 PM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


People are arguing about favorites? I thought they were making jokes about favorites.

That's depressing. :-(
posted by clawsoon at 6:58 PM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Favorites are the laugh track, and there is nothing wrong with that.
posted by michaelh at 9:21 PM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


The laugh track. Or maybe the applause track. I love that metaphor. I hate laugh tracks. Maybe I'll try invisibilating favorites for a while and see how I like Metafilter when nobody is telling me when to laugh and clap.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:30 PM on May 6, 2016


Huh. Shortly after I posted this, I decided that yes, MeFi is depressing for me, even if I don't completely understand the reasoning. I came back tonight, read comments here for about an hour, saw stuff devolving into arguments yet again, and ended up feeling like crap. Definitely time to take a longer break. Thanks everyone for the discussion. Sorry I haven't been more participative in my own post, but I just can't deal....
posted by primethyme at 10:29 PM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Sorry, primethyme. I've been going through cycles of that myself. I don't know how to put it into words, but yeah, every time I use this site I end up coming across something that just makes me feel lousy.

If you see this, it might also just help to read stuff without commenting at all (which is what I do when I disable my account). Something about not being able to participate makes it easier for me to avoid feeling bad when things go south, but that might just work for me. And even then, it's not like it solves the problem.

Maybe we're all just sensitive people... with so much to give (I realized I was inadvertently paraphrasing Marvin Gaye). Anyway, take care, and thanks for posting this. On a site that's at least partly about the personal connections, it's worth mentioning that I, for one, really appreciated that you posted this when you did.
posted by teponaztli at 10:48 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


MetaTalk is the most depressing part of MeFi. If you want to take a break, try not reading MetaTalk for a month or so. If you still find MeFi depressing, bigger steps may be necessary, but eliminating MetaTalk from your diet can reduce your depression intake significantly.
posted by Bugbread at 5:10 AM on May 7, 2016


One thing I hadn't considered before Metafilter is that maybe public shaming and exclusion are the most effective way to create a safe space. The public pile-on chases away incorrigible bad actors, and those who might be tempted to act badly learn to keep their mouths shut.

It may look like bullying, and feel like bullying, but it's in the service of a good cause. And, besides, it's done to prevent the kinds of bullying that happen everywhere else on the Internet.

There's something depressing to me about all that, though perhaps that feeling will go away with time.
posted by clawsoon at 6:01 AM on May 7, 2016


You might be interested in this FPP I made a couple of years ago:

If we exclude no one explicitly, we are just excluding a lot of people implicitly. Including people like me.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:21 AM on May 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think I have also had problems with favorites on comments that seem like they're attacking other users - it seems like multiplying the bullying. However, I think the problem is less the favorites, and more the comments that are attacking other users.
posted by corb at 7:24 AM on May 7, 2016


My wife and I make our own favorites at home so I do not have to deal with this issue.
posted by languagehat at 7:50 AM on May 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


But hey, here they are. They're a fait accompli. I dimly remember a mod once saying that if mathowie could travel back in time he would probably go back and convince himself never to make that feature

Not saying definitively that no mod has ever said that, but I don't remember it offhand. I do remember saying at least once or twice that given a time machine we'd sure as heck name it something else because just sheer allergy to the name of the feature was a problem for a long time, something that has seemed to get a little less intense over the years but not gone away entirely. The fact that he named it after an IE convention is just salt in the aesthetic wound.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:07 AM on May 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Thanks, hydropsyche. That was interesting.
posted by clawsoon at 8:25 AM on May 7, 2016


It may look like bullying, and feel like bullying, but it's in the service of a good cause.

It often actually is bullying and the "in service of a good cause" angle is often merely the justification for being ugly to someone. It is possible to tell someone "that thing you are doing does not work well" or even "that thing you are doing needs to stop" without being both personal and ugly. The fact that it is uncommon does not mean it cannot be done.

It makes me very concerned to see a comment saying "Hey, it may look like bullying, but it is actually a good thing." No, it isn't actually a good thing. It may be a lesser evil than the thing it is trying to stop, but lesser evil and good thing are not identical things.
posted by Michele in California at 10:45 AM on May 7, 2016 [16 favorites]


What Michele said. Plus, there are already people explicitly excluded, because there's things that will get deleted and get you banned if you write them here. Which is the system running as intended, and is why this place will never be as bad as, say, newspaper comments sections.

Bad behaviour is too easily, and frequently, justified by saying, 'But I'm right,' or, "They deserve it." That doesn't really matter if it just means you're being an arsehole too, especially when that's so hardly ever the only way to deal with things.
posted by gadge emeritus at 11:01 AM on May 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


Thirding MiC. I rarely post in Metatalk and have been afraid to speak up in this thread, mostly bcs site dynamics tend to devolve toward behavior that is indistinguishable from bullying. And I don't care who the target is -- even if it's a cishet white guy (and I'm not a cishet white guy, fwiw) -- I hate to see it. Moreover, it seems that the mods often (not always, but often) encourage this by telling the target to pipe down, rather than making it a more general "hey all of you, take it to memail," which gives one the impression that they're taking sides. Maybe this is bcs the person being shamed/bullied gets flagged when they try to respond, and the mod is seeing the flags and thinking "that guy is the problem, gotta tell them to quiet down." And the sidedness of the resulting mod note gives the (perhaps unintended) impression that the mods endorse this sort of behavior.
posted by phoenix_rising at 11:53 AM on May 7, 2016 [12 favorites]


Someone upthread talked about taking note of who's favouriting comments that they find abhorrent. (I forget the exact words they used, so I'm having trouble finding the comment.) FWIW, I often find myself favouriting comments on both sides in contentious threads, whether or not I agree with them, so long as they're presenting a perspective I hadn't considered before.
posted by clawsoon at 11:56 AM on May 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Clawsoon, I do the same. It doesn't mean "I'm on your side" it means "interesting comment". Maybe totally wrong, but still interesting.
posted by bongo_x at 12:45 PM on May 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


It may look like bullying, and feel like bullying, but it's in the service of a good cause.

Evil always starts with "Well, I know this is a bad thing, but they deserve it." Every single time.
posted by Etrigan at 1:56 PM on May 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


To be fair, it's sometimes "It's not a bad thing because those people deserve it", so there is variety.

As I said much earlier, I go further in that I don't believe it's people wanting to do good and getting carried away, I think it's people wanting to bully and finding a way that's socially acceptable.
posted by bongo_x at 2:09 PM on May 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Can someone give an example of bullying that they have seen on Metafilter? I'm still not sure what is being discussed here.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:16 PM on May 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is a huge can of worms and I don't think anything is going to be improved by litigating specific examples.

My observation about discussions of bullying here is they are a real perspective-dependent thing, where very often, person x says they are being bullied, where person y feels that person x IS the bully, and the accusation of bullying is itself part of the bullying, and now we're going around in circles. (Note: My point is, in general, litigating particular examples of "who was the real bully" in MetaTalk is gonna produce more heat than light. Come talk to us privately if you want us to take a look at something.)

Community members here should be decent to each other, it's part of trying to have a community. We're working out the bounds of what that means as a site. I think in general we're coming along at that. I appreciate everyone's contributions to this thread but I think it's probably time to close it before it gets into the more-harm-than-good stage.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:25 PM on May 7, 2016 [12 favorites]


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