Chatfilter in the Time of Coronavirus April 3, 2020 4:43 PM   Subscribe

I've noticed an increasing tendency of the Covid19 Metas to tend towards chatfilter.

While I think it's really valuable to have the Metafilter community as a support network for many of us, it can be jarring to see comments from those dealing with significant hardships and fallout from the current crisis followed by casual chatting about crafts and cooking projects, and I personally find those comments inappropriate for the context. I think the Covid19 check-in threads should be reserved for direct and serious impacts of the coronavirus and support of those experiencing those impacts, and that we can take our other, more pleasant chatty comments to one of the several Metas intended for them. If people feel that there aren't appropriate or sufficient chatty Metas, maybe we could create more frequent Meta Cocktail threads? What does the community think?
posted by arabidopsis to Etiquette/Policy at 4:43 PM (76 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

I was under the impression that chatfilter was only frowned upon in ask.
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:19 PM on April 3 [6 favorites]

I think inappropriate is a bit far but understand being a jarred with le creuset recipes when folks are searching for food.

I suggest being proactive, create a new meta with a note to try and keep discussion serious.
posted by clavdivs at 5:23 PM on April 3

I personally like the mix as it is now. I wouldn't want people to go overboard with cheer or obliviousness, but I don't think they have. I am in an area that is seriously impacted but I myself am not seriously affected, so I would defer to people who feel more directly affected, of course.

From my perspective, the threads serve as a good source of community in a time where many people's communities have been upended. If they were only for people to share significant hardships, I think they would be both more panic-inducing and sort of self-isolating. For example, in the existing thread I hope I have been able to offer support to Mefites sharing more serious concerns; if the thread were only serious concerns, I would feel out of place dropping in like that.
posted by ferret branca at 5:47 PM on April 3 [63 favorites]

The check-in threads are just to check-in, no barometer of how serious your status is can or should be applied. I understand that it can be jarring to see something heavy next to something light, but that's the nature of asynchronous text forums. The threads are places for people in the community to check-in, and trying to regulate what level of gravity a check-in needs before being posted is inappropriate.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:02 PM on April 3 [22 favorites]


It can get quiet at times so please don't leave after 10 seconds if no one is talking. It'll pick up
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 6:23 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]

I think we could benefit from having a space that is more focused on the direct and serious impacts, particularly as these impacts become even more direct and serious for the community. It also seems possible that this issue may resolve on its own, because as the pandemic continues, participants in the discussion may become more inclined to read the room and to consider how others may feel during this difficult and unprecedented time.

In the meantime, I think it is helpful to suggest focusing discussion on more direct and serious impacts, so the thread is a welcoming place to offer and obtain mutual support. There are other places on Metafilter to talk about more light-hearted topics, but there is only one forum designed to offer support for people who are "dealing with this virus in their daily lives."
posted by katra at 6:34 PM on April 3 [3 favorites]

I guess I fall under the category of “person dealing with significant hardship.” I’m older and in active cancer treatment, dealing with complications to that treatment because of the virus and my doctor warning me that the cancer center may shut down. If they are deciding who gets a ventilator, I will probably be the person who dies. I might also die from the blood shortage, as I’ve been dealing with severe anemia (but my hemoglobin was up today - yay!). I’ve gotten amazing support, which I’ve really appreciated. I’m giving this info for context.

Personally, I find that some of the less serious posts bring a much-needed smile to my face. They are a nice break from the awful suffering so many are going through. As a cancer patient, I’ve been very careful to let my friends know that they’re still allowed to talk about trivial things. The important thing to me is being able to get the support for heavy things, and the check-in threads have given me that again and again. I keep them open on my computer. They’ve been a real lifeline for me -recipes and all.

Just my thoughts. YMMV.
posted by FencingGal at 6:34 PM on April 3 [101 favorites]

...trying to regulate what level of gravity a check-in needs before being posted is inappropriate.

I don't think there's anything about this post that is inappropriate. The check-in posts have the description "Again, please no idle speculation, catastrophizing, or chat. Let's stick to actual news, updates, personal experiences, and more mutual support from and to people dealing with this virus in their daily lives," and I think it's difficult for a lot of us to suss out what is "chat" and what isn't, what are "personal experiences" in this case, etc. I think it's good to ask for feedback, and I also think it would be good to have a thread for serious, focused discussion about this situation, especially when people are dealing with loss, dire economic straits, etc...
posted by primalux at 6:38 PM on April 3 [5 favorites]

I don't think that this post is inappropriate at all, and apologies that my phrasing was vague. I meant to say that I think taking the action of regulating the level of gravity needed before a comment in the check-in threads can be posted is inappropriate. Having a discussion about the topic in general is exactly what the grey is for, and I have no beef with this post. I just strongly disagree with what the recommendation in this post.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:42 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]

I would stop reading and posting in the check-in thread if only significant hardships could be talked about, even if I wanted to post about my hardship. This is affecting people on many different levels. People talk about food and crafts because that is part of how they are dealing with it. That's absolutely valid and I think should stay in. I haven't seen anything that doesn't fit "here's how I'm coping with COVID" which absolutely fits the description of the thread IMHO.

I do think it's polite to acknowledge people who are posting about significant hardship before talking about other things. But hearing how people are coping is just as important to hearing how they're suffering, to me. I'm not going to outline specifics about whether or not I count as a person with "significant hardship" but I'm one of the people who will be left to die if I need a ventilator, so I'll let people extrapolate from there.
posted by brook horse at 6:44 PM on April 3 [44 favorites]

And just to add - part of the reason I think there should be a specific thread for more serious stuff is that aside from my own personal shitty stuff that is mostly just being poor, unemployed, getting dicked around by social services, etc... I know several people who have it/have had it, including family members, and a close friend's father just died from it and he can't even go to the funeral because it's in a different state. I don't want to talk about that in a thread full of people who are having light-hearted chats about what they're baking, etc. Obviously, this is just my opinion, but it makes me too uncomfortable.
posted by primalux at 7:01 PM on April 3 [8 favorites]

There are two main Covid19 threads ongoing in Metatalk right now, the check-in thread and the Fuck! Fucking Fuck, Fuck. Pandemic edition one. To me, that one seems to be the place for the most serious stuff. I agree with brook horse on leaving the check-in thread as is (and I'm speaking as a person who would probably not get a ventilator, if choices had to be made).
posted by gudrun at 7:16 PM on April 3 [7 favorites]

Ok, I guess that's my bad, I didn't realize that thread even existed. I don't check Metatalk (or Metafilter) much these days and must have missed that, thought I don't know if I would have realized that it was meant for that kind of discussion either.
posted by primalux at 7:20 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]

Hi - I sent a contact form message to the mods earlier about this subject (the following is drawn from that).

I visit the covid19 check-in thread (current one is here) perhaps once or twice a day to catch up on what the community is facing and if people are all right. I want to emphasize, I see the value in sharing chatty updates especially living in isolation, just as a human connection within our community.

In the current check-in thread, the original post has guidelines (on preview, primalux quoted them already!)

Maybe I'm not defining the post's guidelines the same way as other folks. So it'd be helpful to have them clarified. I interpret them as being akin to prior check-in threads when there's a natural disaster. I'm personally fine with varying levels of comments, whether they're "heavy" or not; I was thinking more of the check-ins as being a focused space for people to let us know if they are safe, or maybe are need of assistance/support in some way... whether it's moral support or help with resources or answers to questions about this crisis and the effects it's having on pretty much all aspects of life.

I want to be super clear here that I'm not at all saying that humor or lightheartedness etc shouldn't be allowed in check-in threads, nor am I suggesting that comments answering/replying in support of other commenters should be off the table (I'd dread that restriction), because that IMO that would be in opposition to having a helpful/supportive check-in thread!

I consider Metatalktails threads as themed "check-in" threads, in that they often invite people to answer a themed question, and also pop in to share what's new in general. I used to visit the Metatalktails threads all the time, but I haven't had as much time to read MeFi these days, so there have been many I have missed unfortunately.

For me, I would appreciate it if something like the Metatalktails threads could continue being a place for that sort of general open "how things are going" (even if covid-19 related, because at this point pretty much everything is affected by covid-19), while the covid-19 check-in threads have a narrower focus on people to let us know if they are okay, or not okay or need support/help in some way because of the crisis.

I really do think it would help a LOT to clarify the scope of these various threads: check-in, metatalktails, Fucking Fuck threads (I considered FF threads as venting threads to allow folks to share frustrations in a space away from existing threads -- again maybe that's an incorrect assessment? I visit that one maybe once every few days). I realize there will be a lot of overlap but from a reading perspective, it's becoming harder to distinguish them.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 7:37 PM on April 3 [4 favorites]

(mods, I tried editing my comment and it double posted, oops)
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 7:42 PM on April 3

Generally, there are also a bunch of COVID threads in MetaTalk right now, and I think folks may be having difficulty working out what goes where. For example, there's two separate mutual aid ones. And at the same time, I keep seeing people helpfully requesting mutual aid efforts...

Or on the Blue there are two posts about the federal administration's failed handling of COVID, for example. It's hard to figure out what COVID information goes where! Perhaps what we need is an indexed list of threads that perhaps mods can signal boost without having to maintain, with defined topics of each conversation so that folks can more easily self-segregate. I don't have the bandwidth to build one right now, but this seems like a great task for the wiki.
posted by sciatrix at 7:47 PM on April 3 [9 favorites]

magic going on in the meta check-in thread; wouldn't change it a bit. reading with interest, except when something gets in my eye. the mefi truthiness thread has good solid information. reading with interest, and tryna keep most of my jokes and social-isolation bloggery in check-in, 'cept when they're germane to the discussion. can't seem to keep track of the fucking fuck thread. too many tabs: i'll open another tab, now and then, to range around metafilter and see what's going on, but those mefi and meta tabs stay open.
posted by 20 year lurk at 7:49 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]

This post is a good reminder. I agree that it’s jarring to go from a MeFite describing a tragedy to something more lighthearted, but global crises do not owe us a coherent narrative, and I’m not necessarily upset or disturbed by the dichotomy as much as I am jolted from place to place and time zone to time zone. I think for many of us, Covid-19 is happening around us but not to us, and people have always described their surroundings. I’ll try to be a little more considerate when I post.

I also post some less-essential bits in my HK updates not because I think HK MeFites need to know, but because I want to add some texture to what life is like here and how life can continue even in a crisis. Hope everyone’s doing OK today.
posted by mdonley at 9:38 PM on April 3 [22 favorites]

I feel like the “no idle chat” warning made sense in the first check-in thread to remind people outside of the affected areas not to talk over those who were directly impacted:
Catch-all thread for mefites living in the virus in Asia or directly affected. No idle speculation or “it hasn’t come here yet but I think...” chat, but actual news, updates and more from people dealing with the virus affecting daily life.
Now that it’s everywhere, there are no such “unaffected” people, and I’m happy to hear what everyone is feeling and doing, as long as we each speak to our own experiences and don’t wander into speculation or generalizations.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:30 PM on April 3 [20 favorites]

Here’s the guidelines from the current check-in thread: “A third catch-all thread for mefites living in areas directly affected by novel coronavirus (aka SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19) picking up from the last one. Again, please no idle speculation, catastrophizing, or chat. Let's stick to actual news, updates, personal experiences, and more mutual support from and to people dealing with this virus in their daily lives. How you all doing?”

I guess there is a range of how you might define “dealing with this virus in their daily lives.”

Luckily, I don’t yet know anyone with the virus. Am I disqualified from the thread? Or shall we recognize that the virus is probably affecting at least most of our lives in various ways by now?

To the best of my knowledge, all the comments have been relevant to the context.

What’s different between a pandemic and most disasters is that it’s not a singular event. It’s not as if there was maybe a build-up, a bad thing happened in one area, and then began a period of relief, recovery and rebuilding.

This has been going on for a few months, and it could go on for a year and half more.

Even though there have been only seven deaths in my state so far, we’re all in this together.

In a regular disaster that hits X area, it would make sense to just have people from X area say they are safe or not or what they need. But this is hitting the world. And it’s hitting us each differently at different times.

On a tangent, I would like more organization or something between the different Covid-related threads, especially on the Blue.
posted by NotLost at 10:35 PM on April 3 [4 favorites]

I'm not checking/reading metafilter as much because I can't find where all the threads are (on the blue or otherwise). The links on the right panel are old/closed. Spending more time on twitter, though!
posted by armacy at 5:07 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]

My take is that there is two types of what might be considered "chat" in the No.3 thread:

1) This is where I'm at; personal observations of what's happening where I am; posting/discussion of resources. These seem fine.

2) "How about them Yankees?" - This should obviously be verboten.

I don't think we've had anything in No.3 that clearly approached type 2.

If thread No.4 was restricted to who's got the virus, who is experiencing virus related hardship and who died from the virus (and it's likely that some regularly contributing Metafite will die from the pandemic) I wouldn't participate. There is way to much heavy stuff happening to subject myself to that sort of thing.
posted by Mitheral at 7:39 AM on April 4 [11 favorites]

I think the check-in threads have just the right mix of heavy and light. The chat has actually been coping-with-Covid related. I would hate to lose it. I stopped reading the other Covid-19 threads because I couldn't take the constant, unrelenting bad news and doom and gloom of them anymore.
posted by cooker girl at 8:42 AM on April 4 [15 favorites]

The world is going to hell and everyone is shut off from each other. Who cares if something is a little "chatty"?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:50 AM on April 4 [41 favorites]

I've been struggling a lot with depression and anxiety. In the past month, I've left the house only to take occasional walks around my neighborhood. I miss my job. On good days, I can focus on baking and it calms me down. On bad, I can't bring myself to stop reading in the couch and do anything else. Which is part of why I've been sharing what I'm baking as what I'm proud of.

I also want to hear from everyone else, what's good, what's bad, what are you struggling with. I do hope everyone feels like they can share in the check-in thread. It's what it's for.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:32 AM on April 4 [18 favorites]

Me either. And the fuckety fuck threads are all very well and I guess people find them useful but they are not something I can tolerate.

I have worried a little about what gets posted in the latest check-in thread by me as much as by anyone else, but in the end, and especially after reading some comments here, I think the randomness and the slice-of-life-ness is actually valuable and gives a picture of the pandemic from several perspectives. That it's coming from several different countries with different rules and conditions is part of its value.

(me either refers to ceasing to participate if the thread lost it's chattiness and became full of serious news)
posted by glasseyes at 9:40 AM on April 4 [9 favorites]

I feel like the thread on the blue - the current one being the truthiness thread - is for purely serious information and facts and the check in thread - which I also check several times daily - is for talking about how all this is affecting us directly: chat, if you will. I really like it and I want to hear how everyone is doing; if that includes recipes, well, bonus!
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:42 AM on April 4 [10 favorites]

I've stayed out of most of the Blue COVID threads for a while now, even the ones where I'm very sympathetic to the political framing of the post, but I find the mixed-nature, slice-of-life tone of the Check-in thread to be comforting. I'm sitting in the epicenter, part of my job (not as large a part as I'd like at the moment) is ameliorating the financial impact on vulnerable people, I just found out an extended family member has it, but I'm still interested (both in the sense of human interest and in the sense of practical tips) in other people's quotidian experiences of quarantine life and I still have to eat something.

I hesitate to suggest any more threads because the mods must already be losing their minds, but as this progresses and as more people begin losing people directly to the virus, and Mefi itself may lose someone, there may need to be an in memoriam/mourning thread where the expectations are very explicit as to the limited, serious, supportive nature of posts. I don't think we're quite there yet, though.
posted by praemunire at 10:48 AM on April 4 [5 favorites]

Count me as one who likes the thread as it is. I'm lonely and depressed and sometimes okay, and it's nice to feel connected through all of that and both mourn and celebrate as needed. I quite respect that that particular post might move to be wholly serious things, but that's also the point at which I will go find another place to feel some sense of connection. There is an ongoing making art post that cortex made that's been really warm and comforting.
posted by kalimac at 12:26 PM on April 4 [11 favorites]

I have specifically been trying these last few days, not just on Metafilter but elsewhere, to take a different tone when and where I can, at least when it doesn't seem absolutely inappropriate. This is because to be quite honest I am despondent and looking for any respite I can find. I would like to think a little lightheartedness, or at least something other than here-is-my-slice-of-doom-for-today, might be helpful to at least a few of us.

This is not to say at all -- not even a little bit -- that people in sadness and hardship should not be talking about the things they need to talk about, I am absolutely here for that. I read your comments, I see you, I hear you, and my heart aches for those of us suffering right now. I also am lonely and venting and mourning and sharing my fears and concerns, when and where I need to. But remembering that we're part of a community where we support each other as best we can, that life in all its complexity and absurdity is still happening, and that all this too shall pass -- that's important, I think.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 12:42 PM on April 4 [9 favorites]

I'm another who values the variety of experiences in the thread. I had already noted the "no chat" directive in the original post, was being fairly careful to be brief when I posted and probably would not post if there were a more rigorous definition of what people should include (especially if it was along the lines of "is this serious enough?").

The length of the thread is making it intermittently hang for me though. Wanted to post to it about 4am last night and couldn't get it to load - probably for the best as my small hour obsessing about how my life needs to change after "all this" is over would have been a bit random.
posted by paduasoy at 1:37 PM on April 4 [2 favorites]

There has been a discussion about mask-making that maybe would be great in the FPP about mask-making, but if it is otherwise bringing comfort to people, then I am glad for that. I have very much appreciated updates like little lurk learning to ride their bicycle, which clearly seem like a check-in in terms of how I had understood the thread, and I'm glad this MeTa has helped clarify what participants want and appreciate from the thread so the expectations are more clear.

On a tangent, I would like more organization or something between the different Covid-related threads, especially on the Blue.

fwiw, I'm always running behind, but I am trying to keep up with Covid-related FPPs and AskMes on the Disaster Planning & Recovery wiki page.
posted by katra at 10:26 PM on April 4 [11 favorites]

TBH my issue is much more that threads on the blue seem to end up as a ton of news which makes it impossible for me to see what mefites themselves are saying. Also, I hate the fucking fuck thread; rage is not equal to serious, and it's honestly a bit depressing to me that there's one kind of floofy thread and then one thread where people are I guess screaming into the void and those are supposed to be compliments.

Living in NYC in the middle of all this in the US, IDK, I wish people would be more mindful of taking up a ton of community space in all aspects of this thing.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:58 AM on April 5 [8 favorites]

also if you like the fucking fuck thread or participate, no worries, you do you. I just personally hate it. So if that's where the serious covid stuff goes...I don't like that fact.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:04 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I absolutely get you on that -- I would never want to give up knowing everyone's sorrows too, you know? (I 100% avoid the fucking fuck thread for my own mental health.) Or the other more serious stuff, the fears and the anxiety and frustrations. I want to be there for all of it.

I think what I like about the extant thread the best is that it's a range of human experience, sorrows and fears and little joys alike. Yes, it can be whiplash-y, and I respect that that's hard to deal with, but it's also like...when you put your hand in a stream, and the water is traveling at different different velocities at different depths, and you can feel that. I like that Metafilter is my stream.
posted by kalimac at 8:21 AM on April 5 [4 favorites]

I think we need the check-in threads as they are, with a mix of light and serious topics and and with some back-and-forth allowed to let people know they're being seen and heard.

If we need a line in the sand, I would suggest "obviously COVID-related" would be a better bar for commenting in the check-in thread than trying to measure comments for appropriate impact or seriousness - which can only ever be subjective and impossible to police effectively.

For most of us, there's literally nothing in our lives not somehow affected by COVID. Everything I do every day is about COVID, every thought is somehow impacted by COVID. Things I never had to think about before, I now have to consciously think about and adjust my thinking on, because of COVID. I move my body differently through space, even in the privacy of my own home, because COVID. I don't feel 100% safe in my own home, because fucking COVID. I have moments when I'm afraid of my own bedroom door knob; is that a direct impact? Is that serious enough? What makes something serious enough?

It's all impactful, it's all serious, even when we're able to momentarily be light-hearted about it.
posted by invincible summer at 9:11 AM on April 5 [13 favorites]

> Count me as someone else who thought the check-in threads were intended for people personally, seriously, and negatively affected by coronavirus.

That group has increased to just about all of us since the threads started.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:23 AM on April 5 [13 favorites]

Yeah I feel like these threads started when "Directly affected by the virus" was a little more narrowly defined and now, especially on a site that skews US, it's basically everyone in the US is in some way affected to various degrees. I have seen a few people popping in to the long check-in threads with reminders that "all of us" are having in some ways similar and in some ways radically different experiences and to make sure to be thoughtful about that when checking in.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:26 AM on April 5 [8 favorites]

look, I don't really care what any one person does, but the fact that something is happening to everyone means that when you're less affected you're now in the position to give vs. take. That is not to say that posting or commenting in threads like that is always taking, but sometimes it is. This is a mushy etiquette thing and I don't want people feeling bad for asking for support or talking about a minor thing that is upsetting them a lot. But at the same time it's worth considering that being part of a group at a time like this means considering the give/take balance and giving what you can when you can, even if you're also in the shit.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:13 AM on April 5 [4 favorites]

Also, I'll just be really specific, I have a super hard time getting groceries right now, particularly anything "specialty" or more than basic staples like pasta (which is also actually pretty hard to get).

When people post complicated recipes or whatever it's, okay, but maybe there can be a COVID recipe thread so I don't have to read a bunch of stuff about food I can't get? IDK, like I said, I don't want people to feel bad about anything but it kinda sucks to have a checkin thread include a ton of comments about people enjoying things that a huge chunk of people can't get.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:28 AM on April 5 [4 favorites]

It really is a mushy etiquette thing, that's true. I think part of the mush is the question of what is giving and what is taking. I feel like - and this is just me - sharing some of the experiences that aren't horrible, sharing advice or suggestions, or even just being visibly present "in the shit" with each other is a way of giving.

It sounds like some people are viewing that as somehow taking away from the people who come in to share grief or pain or fear, or an attempt to shove them aside. But I would submit that we've all got grief and pain and fear right now, and we all need to share right now, and not everyone does it the same way; not everyone meets these needs by saying directly "this is where it hurts".

The check-in thread is one of the few places in the world right now I can go and not feel completely alone in all this, so if that's taking, well, I guess I'm a taker. That said, I'm feeling a little put off right now by the idea that anyone comes to these threads to "take" from anyone else, unless it's to take the very real comfort that we're all offering and all entitled to during this crisis.

I also think if the standard we're aiming for right now is "go away unless you're currently abjectly miserable", well. That's going to be one relentlessly grim thread, and I'm not going to be spending a lot of time there.
posted by invincible summer at 10:50 AM on April 5 [19 favorites]

internet fraud detective, I get where you're coming from with your last comment. That's a different thing, I think, from a general ban on sharing non-misery in the check-in thread.

I do wholly agree that we should stay aware of differing levels of privilege and access when posting, and I'm sorry for contributing to your stress in that way.
posted by invincible summer at 11:09 AM on April 5

Also, there is probably at least one person reading Mefi from an ancient phone or their kid's NYC-issued iPad from a shelter, getting all their meals from one of the distribution centers (NB to anyone who doesn't know: anyone of any age or status can pick up three meals a day from one of the NYC public school distribution sites), so...I'm just saying we'd need to think very carefully about how serious a bar of suffering we set.
posted by praemunire at 11:12 AM on April 5

I guess from a mental health perspective I assumed everyone is being seriously affected. I mean, there’s the general anxiety for everyone. And then on top of that, you’re in one of two camps: you’re either still at work and thus risking your life every day, or you’re at home and you’re pretty close to housebound. The first case has serious mental health ramifications, but so does the second. As a disabled person who was housebound for years, I consider anyone under (voluntary or state-enforced) shelter in place to be seriously affected. My read of comments about cooking and crafting were that this is how people are coping with those mental health ramifications of this serious situation. But I could be wrong?

There are definitely people who are more and less affected. But unless you’re not following/paying attention to social distancing guidelines, you’re seriously affected in my view. I mean again, I could be wrong about that. But that’s the assumption I was working under. That said it’s still important to share space with everyone affected. What changes could we make to encourage that? The way I view threads and flow, I don’t mind posting something serious right after a cooking recipe or whatever (I just generally don’t because it’s personally easier and more productive for me to talk about how I’m coping or some of the more minor problems than the existential dread of either me or my partner being left to die and the panic I have every time I have to leave the house for groceries that may not even be there—but that has nothing to do with how the thread is going), but I’m also autistic and bad at reading a room. Obviously that’s different for others; what could make it a more welcoming space?
posted by brook horse at 11:41 AM on April 5 [9 favorites]

Also, there is probably at least one person reading Mefi from an ancient phone or their kid's NYC-issued iPad from a shelter, getting all their meals from one of the distribution centers (NB to anyone who doesn't know: anyone of any age or status can pick up three meals a day from one of the NYC public school distribution sites), so...I'm just saying we'd need to think very carefully about how serious a bar of suffering we set.

Right, and those people are having to wade through a bunch of rando op-eds and stuff like that. IDK that anyone is setting bar of suffering or whatever.

The check-in thread is one of the few places in the world right now I can go and not feel completely alone in all this, so if that's taking, well, I guess I'm a taker. That said, I'm feeling a little put off right now by the idea that anyone comes to these threads to "take" from anyone else, unless it's to take the very real comfort that we're all offering and all entitled to during this crisis.

Taking up space is a real thing. I'm sorry if that's offputting. I don't want people to feel like they can't get support, but as a general honor system thing, I do think it would be good for people to think about what's that vs. what's them basically just faffing around because they're bored or whatever. If everyone is already doing that, cool.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:42 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]

Taking up space is a real thing. I'm sorry if that's offputting.

All right then. I'll try to stop doing that. I guess I didn't realize I was in the way.
posted by invincible summer at 11:46 AM on April 5 [2 favorites]

You absolutely are not in the way, invincible summer. Please, everyone, keep sharing. There are no standard rules for any of this.
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:48 AM on April 5 [12 favorites]

That sounded a lot more passive aggressive than I meant it to. I really didn't realize posting in that thread was taking anything away from people, and I'm going to try not to do that anymore.
posted by invincible summer at 11:49 AM on April 5

All right then. I'll try to stop doing that. I guess I didn't realize I was in the way.

Look, invincible summer, I'm sorry I'm sounding like a dick here. I personally like having you around and hearing from you. It's hard to navigate having community spaces where people's needs conflict. What I am asking is for people to be slightly more mindful about how what they say might affect the ability of other people to have a "turn," so to speak. If you're already doing that this isn't even directed at you. If everyone is doing that, then great. I think this kind of community stuff is necessarily difficult.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:49 AM on April 5 [2 favorites]

lots of comments don't seem to be left by people who are all three: personally, seriously, and negatively affected

Since there is no way of telling how badly someone is affected by reading a comment they have left on that thread (you seriously can't) , and no way to agree on how to measure what degree of suffering justifies participation in the thread , I'm trying to extend people the benefit of the doubt, and have compassion.

Honestly if we're talking about taking up space and shoving people aside, it's comments like this one that qualifies.
I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who read that remark, and immediately worried that maybe my situation doesn't justify participating in that thread.
It is peculiar to read people chatting about food deliveries when I don't have access to those, but then again, maybe there are people who find my ability to skip rope and use a sewing machine to be absurdly luxurious.
posted by Zumbador at 12:00 PM on April 5 [16 favorites]

So like just trying to tackle a few things that make navigating this difficult:

1. MetaFilter is where a lot of folks go as an online home to sublimate some of the worry and anger and anxiety and fear and sadness they're feeling about all this stuff, whether on any given day by sharing their feelings about that stuff or talking out their experiences or by looking for comfort in community chatter and silver linings and distractions.

2. Different people want and need different things, and on different days, and it's very difficult to try and specifically accommodate all those different wants and needs in broadly shared spaces. It's a case of everybody having basically good intent and still running into tension around that.

3. Almost none of that is reducible to simple binaries or sorting. Generally folks expressing a desire to nudge the balance on the current check-in thread aren't taking an extreme tack on what that would look like; generally folks saying they appreciate the current balance aren't saying "my way or the highway". This is tricky shared community stuff to navigate.

And I think one of the dangers of a discussion like this is that as it goes on, what can start as folks generally having a good instinctive sense of those three points can get lost as the conversation takes on some edges, starts to ossify and binarize and feel like a fight instead of an open-ended community discussion. And I'd like to ask anybody who feels like they're getting more into that territory to take a step back and try to aim more for "how can we make this work well for everybody" as a focus of discussion. Because getting in each other's faces, even obliquely or figuratively, isn't going to help things.

I think continuing to consider the balance of the check-in thread type stuff is important for everyone to do; if you find yourself commenting a lot or if you find yourself sort of just talking about whatever rather than the context of life and experiences under the specific current circumstances, probably a good idea to stop and self-assess a little and figure out if you're overdoing it. If there's a specific subtangent you're excited about, that's fine but also might be worth spinning up a new dedicated thread for in addition to whatever normal peppering of a sidebar discussion is likely to happen on any given day. (And those are likely to happen on any given day, and I agree with the general sense that that's a strength.)

One thing we are lucky to have on MetaFilter as a virtualized discussion space is plenty of real estate. As a constructive thing, I think kicking off a new thread that feels like it might house some focused discussion is great. I don't want to try and work out some hard sort of where x and y and z goes, I'd rather people sort of ease into spinoff threads and just metering the discussion in a natural way (which I think folks have largely been doing a pretty good job of), but I'll go ahead and underscore as a mod position that there's no problem with making additional metatalks as relief valves on the bigger threads.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:07 PM on April 5 [24 favorites]

It is difficult, and that's why I need to take a step back here. I'm having a really hard time not reading this part of this discussion as an explicit judgment that some people are welcome to share, and some people are not, and I'm apparently not up to taking it anything but personally today, so I'll leave it to more rational minds. I shouldn't have gotten involved in the first place, I'm in no state for it.
posted by invincible summer at 12:17 PM on April 5 [6 favorites]

I wasn't going to wade into this because I've been trying to cut back on Metafilter time and was doing so well until I became stuck at home with extremely minimal human contact starting three weeks ago.

I like the chattiness of the current check-in thread, frankly; my anxieties were exacerbated to pretty miserable levels by the blue thread (where, to my anxious eyes people seemed almost morbidly cheerful about the rising death rates--I was offended by all the "we're #1" jokes, frankly) and by questions on the green where, to my anxious eyes, people who are understandably anxious and confused and torn about what to do are practically being called mass murderers if they consider leaving their current location right now.

All of that kind of rhetoric and tone in the other kinds of posts is a really heavy burden for me and, I'd venture, others with similar anxieties and exhausted reserves. I like that the chat filter offers some hope if the form of a recipe I can try myself, or stories about other people sharing my fears, or just a sense of what it's like in other parts of the country and the world as we all experience together but with different timing.
posted by TwoStride at 1:28 PM on April 5 [14 favorites]

I think it’s hilarious that people don’t stop picking pedantic internet fights on here during a pandemic. Don’t start fights, demand apologies; take time and listen to other people, be kind. I don’t know how anyone else is handling it but that is how I’m going about it.
posted by Drumhellz at 1:45 PM on April 5 [10 favorites]

I wonder if it would help, in the metatalk, to redirect foodie people to the food threads on the blue. There have been two, lately, where people have been sharing recipes and talking food, and it seems like could help the food stressed a wee bit. (Is there something we can actually do to help though, those of you who need food? I'm in West Seattle, if anyone's here and needs food.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:43 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]

Some people, in severe distress say about the sickness of a loved one, might go to the thread and post a recipe, just in order to have the relief of imagining something pleasurable. Readers do not know what state of mind someone makes a post in. I think it would be good to have some charity about the motives of people posting in that thread.

Not everybody who is stressed is going to say "Woah guys, I'm really stressed" or "My back aches and I have a really sore throat, I think I have the Rona and it's probably going to kill me." No, they are going to try and post something nice because they are desperately trying to regulate their own emotions, trying not to be miserable or scared, and also maybe trying not to alarm or depress others reading.

I think it is reasonable to expect anyone posting to be mindful of others, and mindful of making space for others, and also receptive to different perspectives, contexts and points of view, particularly as this is an international forum. I also think, in that thread, it is reasonable to assume that everyone is incredibly worried, if not downright terrified, and to have a bit of tolerance for the different ways people express this, which is often not overt at all.
posted by glasseyes at 6:38 PM on April 5 [21 favorites]

In other words, what cortex just said above
posted by glasseyes at 6:40 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]

I love baking and food and cooking, and I have a reasonable pantry with access to food.

I still find it really off-putting to have threads about serious stuff end up recipe swapping. There are other spaces to drop that kind of comment in, spaces where 'my daughter's best friend was racially abused over covid' is just as jarring and inappropriate. Because imagining something pleasurable and sharing that with the community is an action that does affect others, in a way that does make some of us reluctant to share other happenings because right now it's four people debating best sourdough.

Recipe and crafting filter is great right now in an appropriate space and sometimes that isn't in the thread that is most active.
posted by geek anachronism at 12:25 AM on April 6 [3 favorites]

I'm spending more and more time on Reddit because the threaded discussions make it so much easier to talk about an aspect of a topic rather than being made to feel that you are taking up space (really?) because you fail to pass someone else's arbitrary misery test.
posted by kimberussell at 6:27 AM on April 6 [15 favorites]

I just found out that my oldest friend, who I have known since we were maybe 3, just got her sense of smell back. I had no idea that she'd had COVID-19, and the enormity of it hit me very hard. Tell everyone you love that you love them, today. Right now.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:37 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]

someone else's arbitrary misery test.

You know, as someone who has loved ones and family members who are currently sick and already said I was uncomfortable commenting in those threads when they get lighthearted, this seriously just sealed the deal. Yep, it's all just arbitrary. People aren't coming here with actual concerns borne out of their feelings and what they're going through, we're all just trying to police your comments. Jesus christ.
posted by primalux at 8:54 AM on April 6 [2 favorites]

It is clear that some people want a mix and that some people want a thread with just "heavy" posts.

The current check-in thread is that mix. The scope that was laid out when the thread was opened did not limit posts to "heavy" topics.

Anyone is open to start a new thread with any scope of gravity they please.
posted by NotLost at 9:11 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]

And people have probably seen this but there's a chatty "What are you up to at home?" thread (thanks invincible summer) that people might enjoy. Which is not to say that other threads need to not have that content, but that's one place where going on at length about cooking and crafting is the central topic of the thread.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:15 AM on April 6 [6 favorites]

A friend of mine pointed out on twitter today that in a sense, people with homemaking skills are among the heroes of this moment, because they ease our way to staying indoors, which is the most helpful thing most of us can do. (As someone whose husband was exposed and whose whole household was subsequently sick, it is definitely the most helpful thing I have done.) So I guess that’s me coming down on the side that says the mundanities belong. My two cents.
posted by eirias at 12:08 PM on April 6 [5 favorites]

I am one of those homemakers. I've explained recipes and cooking to folk, helped stock pantries, baked my way through my flour stock, developed homeschool curriculum, sewed masks, planned gardens, talked my friends down from suicidal ideation, fretted from afar as my folks got it, wrangled custody arrangements, and...

Fuck, I don't feel like a hero? I feel exhausted. I feel like all that labour is elided when talking about the racism - my housemate is Chinese so y'know, it's a concern even beyond my kid - or the risks for my family, or what it means for my work (because I flipped over half of my course fully online within a week for a four person teaching team), or what it means for my students, is a terrible interjection if people are swapping sourdough starters.

The interjection of tonally dissonant elements is not evenly weighted. A quick recipe, or link to something neat, is a welcome mundane moment amid tragedy. Talking about how your kid has been triggered into misery because she is afraid her grandparents with die like her aunty and great-grandpa did, when everyone else is swapping recipes? A massive tonal shift downwards. With a very very different set of emotional risks, community impact, and expectation.

The two 'sides' aren't even, the emotional vulnerability and exposure between shifting the tone is not the same. It is unkind to expect that someone sharing something painful and difficult in a thread drift about which baking powder is best be as comfortable with that as someone mentioning a recipe they've perpetually returned to. The risks are not the same.

And it's not about some 'you must be this miserable to post' arbitrary guideline, it's realising that your desire to engage in the mundane or light-hearted is actively creating bigger barriers for people engaging with the broader aspects of the pandemic. And that there are already several places to engage in that mundane or light conversation, and ways to do it that don't dominate a thread and raise the barrier higher.

It feels like those attempts to have a real conversation about something, but the person you talk to just cannot help making a dumb joke, and when you say 'hey that kinda sucked' they cannot help but continue because by saying something in response (rather than letting them dominate the tone) you've triggered a defensive reaction that tries to appear reasonable because 'its funny, what don't you have a sense of humour'.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:12 PM on April 6 [5 favorites]

I dunno I feel there have been some very supportive moments in this thread that I'm extremely grateful for. And some real conversations. Side by side with the recipes and maskmaking. To me these things go together because they are both part of the fabric of everyday life, they are experienced together in real space in a way noone can actually separate out while going through it.

And for the more mundane conversations, I read them as heaving with subtext. People posting them may, or may not, be as in need of succour and solidarity as someone in more obvious distress. May, or may not: it's a general forum. I am obviously not going to find resonance in every other post to a thread in a general forum. But this fucking lockdown, man, it's lonely. And I'm in a family, how much worse for people on their own? Where's the human contact? Where's the connection to a receding normality? Can't we do that here?

Well there is a thread now for lighter conversations about personal responses to being in this pandemic situation. However if none of the lightness made its way to the check-in threads, I would find them unbearable. Also, any member can make a new thread to Metatalk with a different set of posting guidelines.
posted by glasseyes at 4:14 AM on April 7 [5 favorites]

I wasn't very clear, apologies geek anachronism, and I do get your point. There should be a balance in the thread that leaves space for different sorts of contribution, not a wall of cheery housecraft. In my experience of the thread that balance was there, but I'm not there all the time so I guess it swings away from that balance from time to time. Hopefully this thread is something of a corrective.
posted by glasseyes at 4:44 AM on April 7

It does change: there's many more mefites/countries affected by the Rona now than there was in the first thread. The third thread is the first I've participated in because it is now affecting my country. As this goes on more and more of us are affected and we are all on an evolving path as to our responses to the conditions we are living under, which also keep changing.

I mean if I was going to complain about anything, there can be a kind of insularity going on in the thread, where comments that aren't kind of typical of the American experience* get much less response than those that are. Members from East Asian countries have also talked about this (with some annoyance, they have been through this first and they HAVE VALUABLE THINGS TO TELL US, often ignored) and this situation is generally true of Metafilter as a whole. But personally I am getting much appreciated conversation, fellow feeling, to-and-fro and insight into other contexts from people I feel I have a connection with, and I can let the rest go. The whole thread doesn't have to be for me, you know? And I'm not trying to deny anyone else's experiences here, just articulating my own.

* and a certain aspect of the American experience at that
posted by glasseyes at 12:25 PM on April 7

My impression was the the Covid fucking fuck thread was the darker side. (Don't read it much, too much of a downer for me.) Then the check in thread seemed to be more of a mix, some heavy things shared, but also some lighter moments of people trying to cope however they can. Then the new domestic edition thread seems entirely lighter.

I'm happy to adjust my participation (just a couple comments in the check-in thread), because I don't want to pile any extra pain on for anybody. I'm struggling (not at the level of having people I know die), but generally quite privileged even through this, so I'm trying to be mindful to not complain about my silly first world problems. (If I run out of dishwasher pods, will I have to wash dishes by hand? The horror.)

But I think we have to keep in mind that comments, no matter their intentions, will be read through the eyes of the viewer. For some, a little cooking anecdote is a tiny ray of sunshine when everything else is rough. For someone else, it may come off as insensitive. Or the example of announcing a new baby -- generally a joyful thing, but a dagger in the heart to someone who's just miscarried again after trying to get pregnant for years.

A reminder to keep some perspective and be conscious of taking up space is good, but I'll nth that I personally appreciate the current mix in the check-in thread and pop into it daily, even though I don't say much.
posted by ktkt at 12:32 AM on April 8 [6 favorites]

So someone on the check-in thread just shared a recipe and was told that there are requests not to share recipes because some people don't have enough food.

I get that some people don't have enough food - and that is a terrible thing - but then should we not share work from home stuff because some people lost their jobs? Should we not share things about children because some people are infertile? Should we not share about relationships because some people (me) are alone and not by choice?

I don't think there's really been a consensus on this, though I note that my post saying that I like the mix in the check-in thread has gotten more favorites than I've ever gotten on a post in my life.
posted by FencingGal at 6:28 AM on April 10 [12 favorites]

mixed-nature, slice-of-life tone of the Check-in thread

I like this aspect of that thread. Specifically, I especially appreciate the reports of what day-to-day life is like in different places around the country and around the world, both for people experiencing really difficult personal experiences and other people who are currently less dramatically affected.

Personally, I don't appreciate recipes; that's not what I am reading that thread for and it tends to feel out of place when juxtaposed with people talking about difficult and hard situations. I'd be strongly in favor of redirecting recipes to the thread Jessamyn linked just above or other discussions where that is a relevant and appreciated contribution.

It's also important (and I am sure that I, for one, could do much better) to "read the room" and consider how what you are saying is going to come across. That doesn't lend itself to hard and fast rules, but it does affect whether or not the thread is a conversation or a set of competing monologues, and whether it is a welcoming place or a place where one wouldn't want to contribute.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:01 AM on April 10

So I'm wondering how many recipes there have really been on these threads. If you were reading this thread without looking at the check-in threads, I think you'd get the impression that there's a constant stream. I can think of two, and in both cases I'm remembering, the recipe was presented in the context of meeting a real emotional need for the poster. It's possible I'm misremembering, but I think that "recipes" has become an indicator of something else here and is not a real reflection of their being tons of recipes appearing in the midst of people's suffering.

If there were a huge amount of recipes, I could see it being maybe a problem, but there are really very few. I'm vegan, so they've been no good to me as recipes, but I value them as a window into a little bit of happiness at a dark time.
posted by FencingGal at 8:36 AM on April 10 [9 favorites]

Also, in Check-in Thread No. 3, there were the text of two actual recipes posted. But in No. 4, a person was chastised for posting only a link to a recipe.
posted by NotLost at 9:41 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]

If there were a huge amount of recipes, I could see it being maybe a problem, but there are really very few.

Ok, that's interesting, and I appreciate the correction. I was "remembering" (obviously incorrectly) that there were a lot more. I must have been falsely conflating with other, past threads, but this doesn't seem to be an issue here.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:58 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]

But in No. 4, a person was chastised for posting only a link to a recipe.

Alternately, someone asked if that was the place to post recipes and in response was given links to several good places to post recipes as well as this thread.
posted by Margalo Epps at 3:40 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]

OK, "chastise" was too strong.
posted by NotLost at 9:52 PM on April 10

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