Stop With the "You Need to Be Freaking Out / Be Afraid" Messaging July 1, 2022 8:23 AM   Subscribe

I am seeing a recurring message on Metafilter, and I'd like to make a general call to my fellow Mefites to stop it, because I'm concerned that it is both unkind and going to achieve the opposite effect from its intent. That is: "Be afraid. Be freaking out. You are not scared enough. You are not frightened enough.

I am a survivor of peer physical abuse and general emotional abuse. Let's put aside the issue of how unkind to abuse survivors - of which Metafilter has many - it is to tell them that they need to activate and rev up their hyperarousal mechanisms because however scared they're feeling, it's not enough.

Because I'm an abuse survivor, and because in prior years I was an absolute pain in the ass to Metafilter admins because I was constantly fighting in words because of said fight-flight-freeze mechanism, I have tried to study what fight-flight-freeze does to you.

It does a lot. The pituitary gland releases ACTH; the adrenal gland releases epinephrine.
You breathe quicker and your heart starts pumping harder. Cortisol increases blood pressure and blood sugar and suppresses the immune system. The heart and lung accelerate, digestion stops, blood vessels constrict.

Contrary to what the presumed intended result is, you don't start thinking rationally. You start thinking less rationally. Telling people that you're not frightened enough — if they listen to you, and become more scared, then higher-order thinking is suppressed, not activated.

The neocortex is your 'thinking brain'. The amygdala is your 'emotional brain'. The thalamus is what first gets your sensory information from the world. If your brain thinks you're under threat, the thalamus sends info both to the amygdala and the neocortex, and the amygdala "hijacks" things before the neocortex can do anything or overrule it.

In short, stop telling people they're not scared enough. Aside from it being tremendously unkind to the many abuse victims who have made their home here in Mefi, making people scared stops them thinking.

Above all, strategy, not blind rage, is going to be most effective in the problems we find ourselves in. Telling people to fear does not foster strategy. Both for their own health and for better chances of success, people have to play this smart, not scared.
posted by MollyRealized to MetaFilter-Related at 8:23 AM (102 comments total)

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

I'm with you Molly. I'd love to join in discussions that are more thoughtful and less centered on emotion, while still honoring and understanding that emotions are at the core of why we bother trying to solve problems in the first place. I wonder if an awareness of the need for this kind of balance might be brought slightly more forward.
posted by amtho at 9:08 AM on July 1, 2022 [10 favorites]

stop telling people they're not scared enough.

I can totally get behind this. (I was thinking about this recently - about how in the political realm both the left and the right drum up fears (Trump's coming back! They is gunna take your gunz!) and I fucking hate it. The environmental reporting is often just as bad - and I get the impulse behind both: but it's manipulative at best and I fucking hate that with the hatred of a thousand suns. Gimme the facts and let me figure it out for myself. Please.

That said, if I happen to be in a haunted house and my friends, with whom I booked the house thinking it was our Air BnB in 'The Back Country' but turns out (according to the old creepy, one-eyed pirate at the service station) is really the old Hapsten Mansion and we all know what happened there! If my friends decide to go down into the dark, gloomy basement whistling some jaunty tune - well, it's gonna be hard.
posted by From Bklyn at 9:48 AM on July 1, 2022 [4 favorites]

May I also add my own note that "there's nothing we can do, we're screwed" comments are ALSO not helpful?

You're absolutely right that telling people "we need to be freaked out" doesn't foster strategy. Stuff like "I'm sad that Biden will be the last U.S. President" doesn't foster strategy either.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:58 AM on July 1, 2022 [54 favorites]

This seems to be headed in a "nobody express fear, anger, or despair" sort of direction, which seems bad if taken to extremes.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:05 AM on July 1, 2022 [28 favorites]

This is actually something I was thinking of making a MeTa post about myself. I have longer thoughts about this that I can't set down while I'm at work, but certain topics (usually political, environmental, social) bring out a sense of fatalism and hopelessness from commenters, and while their feelings may be genuine, the comments begin to accumulate a message of:

It's hopeless, this country is turning fascist, there's nothing you can do
The temperature will rise 5 degrees, massive environmental catastrophe, there's nothing you can do
U.S. and Russia will start a global war leading to nuclear exchange, there's nothing you can do
and so on

And what I want to tell these people is that EVEN IF YOU ARE BEING HONEST and genuine and not just trolling and EVEN IF YOU ARE CORRECT (for whatever value "correct" has when making armchair prognostications about immensely complex topics), I don't think you understand the effect those comments have on other people. It makes me check out of threads, it makes me hesitant to read other posts because I worry about how that sort of negativity and hopelessness spreads, it makes me engage less with this site. Especially when it becomes a debate battle between people who believe that things can be salvaged and improved vs. people who don't.

Since this is a MeTa post and not a comment in the Blue, I'd ask for a mod opinion, ideally from new owner Jessamyn:

Is despair a valid rhetorical position for comments in the Blue?
Is there a threshold of "it's hopeless" comments beyond which a thread has no more value and should be closed?
Does the site have an official position on the question of "Yes these problems are solvable" vs. "No they aren't, prepare for the worst"?
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 10:17 AM on July 1, 2022 [18 favorites]

I agree with you Molly. There does need to be nuance of course, but I think mefi is capable of that.

In the recent US political posts there has been a whole lot of this kind of scaremongering and I’ve had to once again disengage from some of the most thorough and considered pseudo reporting because the subsequent ways people come in to verbally freak out sets me up for a terrible day, when I really just wanted to feel informed. However, sometimes there is an AskMe that is about the same or similar stuff and I feel like some of the doom and gloom stuff there is more warranted. Why? Because it’s much more defined and controlled. A person asking the question is already in a place looking for peer opinion and ideas. The people clicking the question either have a similar mindset or are concerned about the same things. The answers themselves don’t veer nearly so much into all the realms of horror like an FPP, or if they do the ability to flag them feels more straightforward because you can just indicate they aren’t answering the question. For me, at least, these askmes are a helpful occasional barometer.

When I’m able, when my mental health allows, I’m gonna start flagging some of those scaremongering comments on FPPs. I feel like there are ways to bemoan the state of things without metaphorically grabbing people by the shoulders and shaking them. I also feel like that, if people still aren’t caring, they are never going to care, and these comments are akin to trying to bodyslam your way through a concrete wall. It makes me feel bad for you, it makes me feel bad for myself, it makes me feel bad for everyone.

I do NOT think every comment needs to contain helpful ideas or positivity. I am by nature a misanthropic, acerbic person. But there is a difference between expressing hopelessness and concern and yelling fire in a crowded theater that crucially, is already on fire.
posted by Mizu at 10:20 AM on July 1, 2022 [21 favorites]

Thank you, MollyRealized. I have been avoiding a lot of the recent threads precisely because so many of the comments distress me, and it's so helpful to hear from you about how this affects others on the site.

It can seem to be a tricky balancing act, indeed, to find the balance between giving people space to share how they're feeling, on one hand, and preventing harm to other people whose reserves of energy and optimism have been eroded to nothing just at the time when we need them most.

I find defeatist pronouncements and doomsaying highly problematic in the way they affect other people.

It is one thing to say "I am really afraid." or "I can't see any hope." It is entirely another to say "There IS no hope," and another still to say "You should be more afraid than you are."

I think it's essential that we all, always, consider the effects of our words here on the rest of the community.

I might be justified in feeling anything I feel, but there are plenty of things I feel that would hurt someone else if I said them, or if I phrased them carelessly.

While Metafilter is a wonderful, welcoming, caring community, not everyone here has the desire or the capacity to serve as either therapist or dumping ground for those of us who deal with their fear and despair by spreading it to others.

If we are to respect each other, as the guidelines say, we need to own our own reactions and our own responses to them, and be as mindful as we can be of how our actions - including our words - affect the rest of the community.

Thank you again for posting this, MollyRealized. Like you, I want us all to be as strong as we can be to try to make things better, and I want MetaFilter to have care for all its members, and for the ways our words affect each other.
posted by kristi at 10:25 AM on July 1, 2022 [46 favorites]

If you think reading pessimistic comments on the internet is bad for your nervous system, try being a person who can bear children in oh, almost half the country these days. I would prefer we not police how people are expressing their extremely valid fear right now.
posted by cakelite at 10:26 AM on July 1, 2022 [38 favorites]

Problem: Ger feels a sense of hopeless fear and needs to express that fear to others to feel at least a sense of connection.

Solution 1: Ger tells everyone that it's hopeless.

Solution 2: Ger tells everyone that they feel hopeless.
posted by amtho at 10:49 AM on July 1, 2022 [8 favorites]

If you think reading pessimistic comments on the internet is bad for your nervous system, try being a person who can bear children in oh, almost half the country these days. I would prefer we not police how people are expressing their extremely valid fear right now.

I guess I could be wrong, but I see the OP's request of "Stop telling other people how to feel, here is why, including some detailed context about how it's triggering" to be very different than "policing how other people express their feelings."

Also in general, I try to never trivialize something that another human has identified as traumatizing. It's... not kind.
posted by Jarcat at 10:55 AM on July 1, 2022 [71 favorites]

It's probably worth considering that the people on this site are far more likely to be wounded optimists than actual pessimists. If they type 12-50 words to express that sense of being wounded in a place where they know other people will understand, those few sentences are unlikely to represent a full picture of their entire perspective.

These are internet comments we leave here. They're fragmentary by nature. I'm not going to assume that someone who says, "We should be freaking out/afraid" here is literally just here to make sure I'm panicking or frightened, has no hope, sees no options, and is taking no action.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:58 AM on July 1, 2022 [13 favorites]

And also:

Jat reads about Ger's feelings of hopelessness.

Problem: Jat doesn't want to focus on hopelessness, because, logically, that's far less likely to lead to actual improvements in the situation than thinking logically, or thinking slightly more positively/neutrally, since stress impairs problem solving. Focusing exclusively on a sense of hopelessness is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Jat also knows that people who feel hopeless are probably incapable of seeing solutions even if solutions exist, much like when one is so overcome with anxiety at taking a test that one does poorly on the test even if one has actually studied the answers.

Jat also craves human connection. Jat also believes that difficult solutions call for collaboration between people (who are not despairing), and channels for such thinking are rare. It's logical to try to share ideas on Metafilter.

Possible action 1: swallow any positive impulse out of a reluctance to upset people who are venting their despair, and who will find any attempt at positivity invalidating.

Possible action 2: post information about promising avenues to explore, strategies that have been at least partly successful in the past, or ideas about ways to reframe the current problem or at least not despair so there's a chance of thinking clearly and creatively.

Possible action 3: same as action 2, but prefaced with seven paragraphs acknowledging others' feelings, reassuring them that these are reasonable, and affirming the difficulty of the current situation.

Possible action 4: same as action 3 (so this is becoming some lengthy text), but also including information that strengthens and gives background information on every single point raised so that it is more difficult to dismiss by those who just want affirmation that yes, things are bad. Estimated time to write (and research) all this is non-negligible.

Possible action 5: eat ice cream and wonder if anyone wants to actually try.
posted by amtho at 11:01 AM on July 1, 2022 [10 favorites]

I have not gone through every single comment in every single thread, but as far as I can tell only one commenter has been using the phrase "you are not nearly afraid enough." I have not seen any comments telling people to "be afraid" or "be freaking out." The only place I've seen those instructions is a comment you left in one of the recent US politics posts, which you reposted verbatim as this post on MeTa.

It's my understanding that "you are not nearly afraid enough" is a rhetorical phrase which means that one is not giving a situation due consideration or concern, especially at one's own peril.

It is, in my understanding, synonymous with telling someone to "wake up," which is not a literal phrase meant to rouse someone from sleep but a rhetorical phrase meant to indicate one is not aware of or sufficiently acknowledging a problem.

I have not ever interpreted the phrase to mean "please now activate your adrenal response and begin dumping cortisol into your blood stream while you literally experience the emotion of fear."

I don't think there is any harm in telling people "I think you are wildly underestimating the implications and ramifications of what is happening, to your detriment."

I would very much prefer if we refrained from tone policing calls to not underestimate the actions of fascists.

That said, I agree with kristi on this bit:
It is one thing to say "I am really afraid." or "I can't see any hope." It is entirely another to say "There IS no hope,"

I have tried to make an effort, and will be making more of an effort still, to see that my comments of jaded hopelessness specifically reflect that it is a feeling I have, not a declaration of the way things are or will be.
posted by rustybullrake at 11:02 AM on July 1, 2022 [20 favorites]

I think there's a danger of conflating two different things here.

Molly seems to be addressing specifically #1, which is a sort of prescriptive "you should be freaking out and terrified" directive aimed at others.

I don't believe she is addressing #2, which is the more personal sharing of interior subjective feelings ("I'm freaking out, guys. This is terrifying.")

Re: #1, I agree that we could stand to do with less telling other people how they should feel about any given thing. Notably, conservatives are quite skilled at manipulating their voter base by telling them that they should be scared, frightened, terrified of XYZ. It breeds xenophobia, racism, classism, closed borders, closed minds, othering, selfishness, dismissal. On the far end it leads to things like QAnon, Proud Boys, the Jan. 6 insurrection, etc. We're better than this sort of play to fear, it's one of the things that defines us (or should define us) on the left as different. Have the respect for your peers to allow them to think and feel for themselves without shoving your own interiority onto them. If you have to resort to such tactics, the impression I get is that you might not have enough compelling ammunition in other, less directly manipulative rhetorical pathways, because if you did you might lead with them first.
posted by naju at 11:03 AM on July 1, 2022 [14 favorites]

… possible action 6:
Make a Tarte Tatin.
(This is not meant as a derail it is simply that I do dearly love me a Tarte Tatin and they are easy to make and, finally, delicious.)
posted by From Bklyn at 11:04 AM on July 1, 2022 [5 favorites]

I'm not trivializing anything, but I do privilege people being able to express their distress and anguish over what is going on right now over the discomfort it can cause someone reading it, even if that person has perfectly valid reasons for finding it triggering. These are very emotional topics, and basically worst-case scenario shit is going down right now. It's ok to feel a little hopeless these days, and I don't think it helps anyone to take it personally when someone expresses their pain, even if they phrase it in a way you don't like.
posted by cakelite at 11:07 AM on July 1, 2022 [15 favorites]

Any idea we have is a belief, because it lacks certainty on some level, but that's where it diverges into an emotion-based belief, or a developed mental belief with valid reasons to believe in them. Emotional beliefs can be fears or panic, or lean towards a hope and confidence supported by our firmer mental beliefs. When we have negative emotional beliefs we could use outside support from others who aren't in crisis. Whether or not fifty people in crisis are in the same room or thread is irrelevant, so long as those not in crisis aren't unjustly blamed. Importantly, the internet is a dangerous place for context, because we never know if we're talking to an adversary, but solutions can be evaluated as bona fides, not our emotions in common.
posted by Brian B. at 11:09 AM on July 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'm not trivializing anything, but I do privilege people being able to express their distress and anguish over what is going on right now over the discomfort it can cause someone reading it, even if that person has perfectly valid reasons for finding it triggering.

That reads pretty heavily as trivializing, to me. Might I suggest considering that your intentions aren't matching the results.
posted by Jarcat at 11:11 AM on July 1, 2022 [18 favorites]

I can't control how you intepret it, jarcat. But I would suggest extending some grace to the many people on this site who are panicking right now.
posted by cakelite at 11:14 AM on July 1, 2022 [5 favorites]

For myself the issue is the difference between -
"We should all panic! It's all fucking going down!"
"I feel like not enough people are panicking because I feel like it's all going down!"

I was listening to the Lawfare "Rational Security" Podcast today and they took apart the SCOTUS' recent EPA decision and ... it's bad but not all that - when you get into the weeds, it is definitely bad but not as insane as the media portrayed it.

Which is why when people start getting all breathless saying (for example) SCOTUS/ and their Republican Paymasters want us all to die from climate change! That's not, in fact true.

It's not easy, dealing with all *waves arms around* this, but it is 100% worth the effort of acknowledging what you are responding to emotionally and what intellectually. It makes the path all the easier.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:46 AM on July 1, 2022 [4 favorites]

I mean, you all can log off at any time.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 12:35 PM on July 1, 2022 [5 favorites]

I think people should be allowed to express their anxiety over the current moment. It's a bad moment! But it's so patronizing to be told you're not afraid enough. What's the difference between that and someone telling you you're too afraid? WHY ARE YOU NOT EXPRESSING EXACTLY THE RIGHT PERCENTAGE OF FEAR?
posted by mittens at 12:39 PM on July 1, 2022 [33 favorites]

These comments actually really upset me, some of them have ruined days for me. I know that's my problem to deal with in therapy, not Metafilter's problem, but I don't think I can continue to engage with the site when the comments are so upsetting and scary.
posted by all about eevee at 12:39 PM on July 1, 2022 [12 favorites]

This is how I felt in 2019 and it is how I feel now. I'm gonna go ahead and button now. Much love to you all.
posted by all about eevee at 12:47 PM on July 1, 2022 [26 favorites]

Didn't MetaTalk have threads, back when Trump was in power, for people to scream and get upset in? I think it's time for another Fuckity Fuck or whatever they were called. People need to vent and commiserate, but it's bleeding into everywhere on the Blue.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:21 PM on July 1, 2022 [23 favorites]

Those were the Fucking Fuck threads, which restless_nomad explained about.

I particularly want to draw attention to what they said in 2019 -- it partially answers my previous question about Metafilter's policy:
we had enough people telling us it made those threads unreadable, and enough experience as people who had to read those threads, that we decided there was no real way to make it fair to both the people who wanted to express that particular emotion and all the other folks who found that emotion, in aggregate, seriously harmful to their own mental health. This wasn't a judgement of the validity of the feeling or even really of the effectiveness of the rhetorical choices being made - it was making people, including the mods, miserable, and that is not good for the site or the people being harmed. (emphasis mine)
I think it may be time -- for the good of the site as well as the significantly reduced moderator staff -- to reinstate this idea.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 1:36 PM on July 1, 2022 [11 favorites]

I have not gone through every single comment in every single thread, but as far as I can tell only one commenter has been using the phrase "you are not nearly afraid enough." I have not seen any comments telling people to "be afraid" or "be freaking out."

I think you may be being too literal here. There have been a lot of posts lately of the nature “this really frightening thing is happening in the world and I’m going to tell you about it presumably because I believe it’s important for you to know”. Personally I just skip them but I could live without them being here at all.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:22 PM on July 1, 2022 [4 favorites]

I'm glad this thread exists. I woke up in the middle of the night last night to pee and when I went back to bed I scrolled through the FPP on the Supreme Court and federal elections instead of going right to sleep. Whoo boy. I did not get ANY more sleep. I was awake, alert and on edge. Phrases like "burn it down"... "the fascists will just shoot you..." etc. etc.

Because I was wired, upset and got no sleep, I... didn't perform as well at work. I drank coffee because i was tired. That's gonna make me tired and out of it tomorrow, bc coffee ruins my sleep. I didn't eat a healthy breakfast or lunch (world's burning, who cares about eating healthy). The overall situation of the world was not improved, but my physical and mental health got worse. Also I'm helping to organize a reproductive rights fundraiser but I don't feel the energy to work on it tonight because I'm so out of energy due to the panic.

I could just log off, and/or hide political threads, but I really value MetaFilter political threads as a source for analysis from likeminded folks. And there are great nuggets there. But yikes, I don't think this is good for my health.
posted by rogerroger at 2:28 PM on July 1, 2022 [25 favorites]

Tell Me No Lies, I'm afraid I don't understand how your comment relates to what I wrote.
posted by rustybullrake at 2:31 PM on July 1, 2022

I have come to accept that USpoliticsfilter posts are basically not for me. It's not worth the energy it takes to fight past the spiralling and the backbiting these threads generate to read the kinds of contributions I personally am looking to engage with. And you know what, I roll with that, because I don't own all of Metafilter and this site does not exist specifically to fulfill my personal needs--but that's true of everyone on this site, and I therefore have to disagree strongly with the assertion that one user or group of users' needs (for emotional catharsis, for reasoned and goal-oriented debate, whatever) should automatically outweigh others.

As I touched on in a similar thread 6 months (?!) ago, I think these endless debates boil down to the fact that there seem to be a couple, irreconcilable ways people want to use the Blue when it comes to high-stakes shit:

1) As a sort of open-access, more-or-less collaborative micro(?)blog wherein to express thoughts, emotions, ruminations on the topic at hand with or without regard to what others may be saying in the thread; a lot of people clearly find MeFi to be an extremely important emotional outlet, especially after the last 5 years, and this kind of self expression in a relatively (relatively) welcoming space takes precedence over whatever other priorities they, or other users, may have.

2) As a forum for intense but respectful dialogue that takes into account as much as possible the (good-faith) views and potential sore spots of other users, with a goal of keeping things more or less constructive by staying away from catastrophizing. People in this camp seem, to me, to be the ones who most frequently express frustration with doomy/defeatist/whatever comments.

Again, god knows I didn't found MeFi or step up to run it or anything, so I have no real way of knowing and no legitimacy to say which of these approaches should be preferred or if either one should be. However, it seems to me that "category 1" posts will by default have a stronger influence on the tenor of FPP discussion, since they can make these threads unusable for "category 2" users due to their (for them) overwhelming emotional intensity, whereas the opposite is in my experience rarely true.

Furthermore, since Mefi lacks the option to mute/hide/collapse certain users/terms/side discussions, politics threads also usually enter a spiral of Cat 1 / Cat 2 slapfighting, wherein each camp, sick of reading the other's obviously clueless bullshit, I mean come on, eventually winds up accusing the other of not actually giving a shit about $topic, because if they did they'd be expressing themselves Differently, that is to say the way the poster in question would prefer them to do.

Personally I still think that we are all expecting WAY too much in the way of emotional heavy lifting from a tool which is not at all designed for that, and that this is going to inevitably lead to fights over Who's Doing It Wrong and who is cruelly stepping on whose toes, probably until the end of time.

My personal rule is basically to treat threads like a group chat with friends or the living room in a shared apartment: I think it's normal and important to talk frankly about shit, and how that shit affects me, but I try to do so in a way that doesn't dump all my emotional distress on people who are already carrying a load of their own, because...that's not a great thing to ask my friends to take on! But that's just my own relationship to Mefi, and can't necessarily guide anyone else. I dunno.
posted by peakes at 2:50 PM on July 1, 2022 [22 favorites]

all about eevee, I absolutely hear you and hope you'll come back someday.
posted by mochapickle at 2:55 PM on July 1, 2022 [9 favorites]

Furthermore, since Mefi lacks the option to mute/hide/collapse certain users/terms/side discussions, politics threads also usually enter a spiral of Cat 1 / Cat 2 slapfighting,

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it is beyond my comprehension why there’s no tool on Metafilter to either block users, filter content, or hide threads. I actually can’t think of a single other major system where users have no ability to block other users, mute certain terms, and so on. The utility of such a feature seems self evident to me, and the only explanation I’ve ever heard for why it doesn’t exist here is something along the lines of “We’re not doing that, end of discussion,” which is of course not an explanation at all, but just a decision by fiat. The owners of this site have every right to make decisions by fiat, but I’d be interested to hear why it has apparently been rejected out of hand.
posted by holborne at 3:32 PM on July 1, 2022 [23 favorites]

Re: fuckity-fuck threads. I thought about suggesting one MANY TIMES in recent days. But my recollection is they were very hard on the mods, and maybe some other problems, because surely we would have had some if it made sense to do that.

MollyRealized, so sorry to hear about your job.

I do read a majority of my news here. And I really really don’t like the kinds of comments this Meta was written about. I try to skip past them as much as possible. But, they are only some of the comments. And if I read along I see the other kinds of comments, which are the reason I am here.

I just hope people can try not to let a very small minority of comments keep them from the benefits of all the knowledge and wisdom of the majority of the community. That is where I am at. I accept the terrible comments as the price of admission to this forum in these ugly times. I don’t have many other communities to fall back on, for one thing. Maybe that is true of others as well.
posted by Glinn at 4:05 PM on July 1, 2022 [4 favorites]

it is beyond my comprehension why there’s no tool on Metafilter to either block users, filter content, or hide threads.

I think there are a couple of user-created extensions you can add onto your browser that will let you do this...I had one I was using a while. (Then the person buttoned and I didn't need it any more.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:18 PM on July 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

It took me halfway through the comments here to maybe come to the conclusion that people are being told not to publicly despair in political threads - a very specific and smaller component of this website that seems to eat a lot of the culture of the rest of the site.

I think it's pretty unreasonable to insist that answers in AskMe to questions that are very often "am I allowed to be upset about-", "how do I squash down my feelings-", "how do I make this abuse not painful-" should stick to "don't be afraid/concerned/upset." While I understand that it may be triggering to hear about other people's trauma, the solution to that problem is not to limit answers to pollyanna platitudes. (And frankly, a number of people in Ask aren't scared enough, whether it's of the chicken that sat out on the counter all night or unsafe workplaces or abusive partners.)

If you want to address content in politicsfilter - something that many of us avoid - at least SAY you're talking about politicsfilter.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:21 PM on July 1, 2022 [7 favorites]

Like rogerroger, I found the thread yesterday draining and thought of writing off MF for good.

It made me think back to a few/couple years ago when the politics threads were a lifeline rather than a drain on my mental health. I think the difference is that (really simplifying here) I could go to the Blue to learn, find out about well-cited sources and links and possible actions to take, hear reflections from experienced activist members like receiving wisdom from mentors/friends I never had; and then go to the Gray to scream.

I wish for both, but not jumbled up together. It's like we need both a bathroom and a kitchen, but there has to be a wall between them so those who want to eat aren't wading through sewage first. (clumsy analogy, I know)

So, yes, please bring back the Fucking Fuck threads.
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 4:24 PM on July 1, 2022 [8 favorites]

The sort of comment we're talking about has the "guest walks into a party with a megaphone" quality. Once a few people pipe in with those comments, that's what that post's comments are going to be about. There's not room for discussing other stuff.

Sure, people can and do add more substantive comments occasionally, but the post is not about those; it's dominated by the messages of doom and fear and responses to them. Basically we can use the comments thread to discuss the topic, or vent about it, but not both. And no decision is the same as deciding in favor of venting.

I have definitely vented, but I'd prefer the site etiquette was in favor of discussion. Obviously opinions differ.

the solution to that problem is not to limit answers to pollyanna platitudes.

This is no way the request being made.
posted by mark k at 4:32 PM on July 1, 2022 [24 favorites]

But my recollection is they were very hard on the mods, and maybe some other problems, because surely we would have had some if it made sense to do that.

They were very hard on the mods, yes. Partly this is because even though MeTa is lightly moderated it's not UNmoderated and there were often comments about self harm or other serious "this person is in crisis" stuff that then required mod responses and attention. As much as some people might say "Mods don't have to be in those threads, the community can take care of itself," if this is a site with a Content Policy and Guidelines, mods have to be at least somewhat around. I'm sorry, because I know they were helpful for some people.

I'd ask for a mod opinion, ideally from new owner Jessamyn:

Is despair a valid rhetorical position for comments in the Blue?
Is there a threshold of "it's hopeless" comments beyond which a thread has no more value and should be closed?
Does the site have an official position on the question of "Yes these problems are solvable" vs. "No they aren't, prepare for the worst"?

Very specifically: I am not the person in charge of moderation decisions except to say what my thinking is; loup is the one in charge. Once we move to a more-finalized Steering Committee model, they will be able to look at this issue and discuss it if folks want that.

My personal "this is not policy" set of feelings about this is that it's fine for people to despair, it's less fine for them to tell other people that despair is the only rational position for them to have (not saying this is happening, saying this is how I view the issue). I do not, at all, believe that we're talking about telling people not to be upset when they've asked for that sort of advice in AskMe. But, as an example, if someone asks a dental question and says they're very afraid of the dentist, telling them in detail about a really bad/scary/painful dental appointment may not be the right tack compared to, say, telling them to watch out for XYZ thing that could lead to bad outcomes.

Also, threads don't close except in MeTa (and maybe one exception that I can think of) so this is unlikely to be a new feature (again, refer to the SC once it exists). Me, personally, I have to maintain some level of hope so that I can get out of bed every day. I, personally, subscribe to the "hope is a radical act" ethos. It's fine if you don't, but unless we're looking at the imminent end of the world, we all have to find a way forward and there are different ways to do that and different emotional valences that we bring to that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:36 PM on July 1, 2022 [28 favorites]

At some point during Trump's time in office, when some new terrible thing was happening yet again, a wise (queer, trans, POC) person I follow on Twitter* said: "Remember: panic makes bad decisions. Panic gets people killed. It is never the right time to panic. It is completely understandable to be afraid and angry and traumatized, but panic cannot be allowed to drive. Deep breaths, everyone."

I particularly like this framing because it kinda acknowledges both sides.

*her account is locked and she doesn't use her name on her Twitter so I will not name her here
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:05 PM on July 1, 2022 [28 favorites]

I don't comment a lot on MeTa or the blue, but I read both extensively. I'm really grateful this concern was raised. I too have been really concerned about seeing this in some of the recent SCOTUS posts. I do some climate change related work, and the "we're fucked!!!!!!!!" energy that frequently comes up in these spaces is something that leads a lot of people to nihilism and that makes the work of those of us in the trenches even harder than it already is. There is a whole emerging field of climate psychology that is precisely looking at how to support people through a situation we KNOW will be awful, without also consigning people such abject levels of emotions that they completely disengage from climate action.

I absolutely get despair, I get feeling terrorized and panicked, I get the feeling of doom. I think people should be able to express these feelings. But I also think expressing "we're fucked!!!" sentiments is kinda the opposite of acting from a place of solidarity. If dealing with rampant fascism and climate change is going to be the ultimate act of collective organizing, then what actual purpose does yelling "We're fucked!!!" do??? The comment that all about eevee linked above really resonates me for this reason.

I just finished reading Daniel Sherrell's Warmth, which is basically about navigating the emotional landscape of whether to bring a kid into the world with climate change. I want to quote a particularly relevant part of it:

"There are those who insist they've already found the answer to the Problem; that their words have no limits, and they can therefore disengage. This surety takes many forms, all of them hollow. On the right they simply deny the facts: the answer to the Problem is that it is not happening. In some corners of the left, the response can be equally cynical: the answer to the Problem is that we're already done for. But though the temptation remains (for what could be more soothing than manufactured certainty?), I am not going to offer you this sort of easy, summative stance. "We're fine" and "we're fucked" are not answers, they're expressions of fear, walls we put up to avoid having to look at the Problem ourselves."
posted by mostly vowels at 5:34 PM on July 1, 2022 [33 favorites]

holborne, I've been here pretty long. I'm also a seasoned long veteran big university computer person. I've also been the back-end developer for smaller sites. MetaFilter doesn't have the money, programmers, to do those things even if they wanted to. MetaFilter runs on a circa 2000 bit of Content Management System software. The servers wouldn't take the load. The browser plugin EmpressCallipygos mentioned (or other browser extensions) are the best hope.... do it client side.

I am one of the Engineer's Disease folk who possibly pollute Pony Request threads. Sometimes things might just be simple "done by tomorrow!" things. But I have a decent sense of "that's going to take lots of effort", "more server power to pull it off" with all the "associated monetary costs".

It would be easier if MetaFilter wasn't old, if they had the money for the people and equipment. Regardless of the "site mission" bits of the equation.

(End Of Derail)
posted by zengargoyle at 5:45 PM on July 1, 2022 [5 favorites]

seeing this in some of the recent SCOTUS posts

In addition to being cynical and pugnacious, I'm a public interest lawyer, and I have barely glanced at these posts, because the black-and-white thinking that predictably pops up is just incompatible with getting anything done, but, at the same time, I don't feel like punching the already staggered.
posted by praemunire at 6:05 PM on July 1, 2022 [26 favorites]

I fully support this MeTa. I think, for a lot of people, one way to soothe anxiety is to broadcast that anxiety to others, which I get, but which is cruel and damaging. So I urge people to consider why they are doing this. Is it necessary information, or does it make you feel momentarily better to unload? Because, if it’s the latter, I feel your pain, but you need to understand what you are doing to others.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:32 PM on July 1, 2022 [29 favorites]

for a lot of people, one way to soothe anxiety is to broadcast that anxiety to others, which I get, but which is cruel and damaging

This. I do understand that some people need to vent, though, so I support the suggestions above for designated spaces like the "fucking fuck" threads for them to do so.

Many thanks to the OP for starting this useful discussion.
posted by rpfields at 7:40 PM on July 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

(Want to mention an extension that helps me a lot in "graying out" comments from users I am less than thrilled with, in the hopes it helps others - Mute A Filter for FireFox. It is not a solution for everyone and I wish the site had this internal ability. Maybe someday.)
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:24 PM on July 1, 2022

I wasn't present for the era of "Fucking Fuck" threads, so perhaps I am missing necessary context. The number of comments here that amount to "I don't even bother with these threads anymore" is giving me pause.

I don't comment very often, and most of the threads I choose to participate in are heavy topics. The comments I write are usually disaffected and sometimes fatalist, but hopefully more nuanced than simply "we're fucked" (which to me sounds like a thought-terminating threadshitting problem with an anxiety wrapper).

Are the comments I'm making part of the problem? Would they be relegated to these "Fucking Fuck" threads? Should I stop writing these comments? I would hate to think I'm stifling a discussion with my lack of optimism.

Is it necessary information

If I may, I don't know that most of the comments I read on MeFi could be construed as necessary information. "Do they contribute to a discussion" might be the more relevant question, in my opinion.
posted by rustybullrake at 8:32 PM on July 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

For people who are reading this as tone policing, or a way to prevent people from expressing themselves.

There is no practical way for metafilter to enforce such a request. Even if we agreed it should be done, (which won't happen) there aren't enough moderators to enforce this.

So we have the usual pattern of discussion that happens if someone calls someone else out.

Person 1:"please don't say x, it hurts me. "

Person 2: "don't silence me!"
Person 3: "well, you can always log out. "
Person 4: "maybe your feelings are less important than my right to say what I want. "

Person 1 has no power to silence anyone. Being asked to consider others isn't tone policing or bright siding. You can totally just go ahead and ignore their request, if you feel it's unfair. But at least acknowledge that while you might have the right to step on our toes, we also have the right to let you know how that feels.
posted by Zumbador at 9:21 PM on July 1, 2022 [41 favorites]

Are the comments I'm making part of the problem? Would they be relegated to these "Fucking Fuck" threads? Should I stop writing these comments? I would hate to think I'm stifling a discussion with my lack of optimism.

Rustybullrake, since you asked this I perused your comment history. I would say, yeah, you’ve definitely been part of the problem sometimes. Some other times you’ve been totally fine and most of your more stress-inducing comments have had parts that are good. Please don’t take this as me attacking you or picking on you specifically. Clearly you are a mefite engaging with good intentions and thoughtfulness the majority of the time and I really appreciate the empathy in your comment here so I thought you might appreciate another’s opinion.

For example, in the roe v wade thread, you said “American government is officially, inarguably broken” and then made a list of things you were (justifiably) worried about but were not so much the topic of the thread. But after that you had some relatively neutral back and forth, then clarified your sentiment and shared personal experience. Admittedly that is a particularly doleful thread and I think expressing grief and dismay was appropriate.

You seem to kind of pepper things with these inclusive dreadful statements though. “We're going to end up with our version of The Troubles.”; “How the fuck are you and I supposed to compete with that extreme concentration of wealth? (That's a rhetorical device, we cannot hope to compete at all).”

On the other hand, in the Uvalde thread, you made a wonderfully striking comment about your personal experiences with emotional trauma and numbness about living with the constant horror of school shootings. It was a chilling and totally positivity-free comment, but it was personal and didn’t project any experiences onto others, while being something a lot of us identify with. See the difference?

Anyway, I have now perused a bunch of your site history and I think you are cool. You know when to step away, and you know what to share when you want to share parts of yourself. You leave good links when you do leave links and don’t pick on other people. It’s just those “we” statements that make my anxiety flare up.
posted by Mizu at 9:49 PM on July 1, 2022 [17 favorites]

Above all, strategy, not blind rage, is going to be most effective in the problems we find ourselves in
posted by MollyRealized to MetaFilter-Related at 5:23 PM

OP, the phrase "blind rage" is ableist -- perhaps "unthinking rage" is an alternative you can use next time.

Mods, it would be better to catch stuff like this before the post goes live, since we have a queue in MeTa, but I understand it can be tough to catch them all.
Today, many outmoded and stereotyped words and phrases are still commonly used. Some of the most egregious are “blind drunk”, “blind rage”, “blind as a bat”, “putting blind faith in leaders”, “made a blind stab at answering the question”, “flying blind through the fog”, “blind to a lover's faults”, “rob someone blind”, “prejudice that blinded them to the merits of the proposal”, “a blind item in a military budget”, “blind leading the blind”, and “seeing is believing”.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:52 AM on July 2, 2022 [5 favorites]

Mizu, I really appreciate the feedback and you taking the time.

inclusive dreadful statements

I think this is a very handy way to sum it up, and will give me a better tool in the editing process than just "aim for more 'I' statements," which has allowed these "inclusive dreadful statements" to slip through. Thank you very much for that.

I would like to quibble that my statement about dark money is plainly factual (and I think my senator would agree with me), but I absolutely see your point.
posted by rustybullrake at 6:33 AM on July 2, 2022 [13 favorites]

In the recent US political posts there has been a whole lot of this kind of scaremongering

I think the difficulty here is: what is the difference between scaremongering and predictive statements, some of which may or may not come true?

For example: if someone five years ago had posted "We're going to lose Roe v Wade, abortions will become illegal in a third of the country", would that have been scaremongering or very effective and as we now see, accurate, prediction?

Similarly, statements like "I think we're going to start seeing stochaistic violence in America; I think we're going to lose more rights; I think we may lose our democratic functioning and I worry about civil war". Are those scaremongering, or are those predictive assessments of where we may wind up?

I think personally I find those perspectives and predictions very helpful, because it lets me prepare for the worst case scenario. I'm not always great at predicting the worst case scenario; I knew Trump's election would be really, really bad: I didn't predict getting here. Current predictions other people are making are making me want to get dual citizenship in another country, because I want to be ready just in case. That's helpful to me.

At the same time I do get - as someone else with PTSD - how this can be anxiety inducing and just kind of overwhelming with fear - what if everything good is suddenly going to become bad is pretty much what people with PTSD often experience all the time. And the thing about everyone suddenly predicting this stuff is that it eliminates the usual coping method which is to remind yourself that you have PTSD and are likely being over pessimistic.

But I don't know how to keep one without the other.
posted by corb at 7:57 AM on July 2, 2022 [13 favorites]

Are those scaremongering, or are those predictive assessments of where we may wind up?

I think personally I find those perspectives and predictions very helpful, because it lets me prepare for the worst case scenario.

Again just speaking as a user: I think they are both. If the comment ends with just the negative predictions without some sort of "Here's how I am preparing... Here's what I am doing about this...." sort of information then I feel it's just kind of dumped there as a conversational dead end, or one that just becomes a eddy of similar negative predictions. It's simple to look back at past predictions and see which came true, but there are a LOT of "We're fucked!!!" sorts of predictions out there and a subset of them turn out to be things that actually happened.

For me, similar to what GenjiandProust mentions above, I've really had to curb my "soothe my anxiety by seeking reassurance and/or discussing worst case scenarios" tendencies because while they offered short term relief they were not a long term strategy and, as above, became an eddy of bad feelings.

I think for different users that "where to draw the line between doomsaying and just rational preparation" point is in a vastly different place. To me it feels really binary and obvious. I'm sure for other people it may feel binary and obvious but with a completely different location for the line. For other users it may be less clear, or they may care less about making that assessment.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:54 AM on July 2, 2022 [16 favorites]

For me, the biggest problems with the doomsaying comments are context and quantity.

So I would ask that people consider:

(1) Am I actually on topic here, or spiraling off into general despair? (I.e. am I describing the possible mechanism by which a national abortion ban could be implemented in a thread on Roe v Wade because people are talking about how at least blue states are safe? Or am I popping in with "well civil war is inevitable now, better flee the country while you can" when people are discussing ways to contribute to abortion funds?)

(2) Quantity. It can be so validating to hear your fears echoed back at you, but please resist the urge to "yes, and..." catastrophizing. If there's a comment that really captures your rage/grief/despair, consider favoriting it and moving on instead of using it as a diving board into the deep end of the abyss.

But agreed that ultimately the level of negativity that is alienating is going to vary. Some days I can stomach more than others, and I have to keep that in mind when I choose how to engage.

Just be aware that if you have a useful resource or interesting analysis, if you stick it in the middle of a comment that starts "this is why we're doomed already," a bunch of us are going to have tuned you out before we get to it.
posted by the primroses were over at 8:55 AM on July 2, 2022 [12 favorites]

I think a good guideline for where to draw the line would be impact. I don't think the individuals I've hear who asked for less prescriptions of doomsaying want a utopia type solution where there is no badnews ever. Perhaps as a middle ground we as a group could try to avoid the criticism of such a desire?

I've seen in this thread, and the one all about evee linked above, what I can only describe as "f*ck your feelings, I have mine" types of sentiment. I guess what I'm saying is we could listen to each other more and try to say things as we'd want them said to us.

As a neuro-diverse human I definitely would prefer a clear line (in literally all things); but I've learned for myself that when there isn't clarity, I need to err on the side of kindness. This is a work in progress, of course.
posted by Jarcat at 9:10 AM on July 2, 2022 [7 favorites]

We did already have a more specific version of this discussion earlier this year. Link

And I mean, the problem here is that folks have different needs. I think it's WAY easier for the default to cater to "those who need to say something", because that's an action, and isn't asking anyone for anything. Right? the sort of statements we're talking about are now just out there and the person who needed that sort of venting got their need met. The flip side, where that first group has to try and keep their responses about their personal feelings rather than general declarations, that's harder. The expectation has to be set beforehand and then people have to stop and do some self reflection in the middle of a crisis, and that's legitimately a really really tough thing to do. At the same time, I think it's a huge misread of that ask to take it as "nobody be negative ever!" or "only think of MY needs", I think the OP here has been doing a great job of making it explicate that that's not their goal. So maybe a little compassion and generosity can continue to be extended in both directions. It's a big ask, but it's not an unreasonable one.

The others, possibly more practical, thing that's sort of stuck in my head is this feeling I have that Metafilter sort of selects for folks who think of themselves as good at writing, and often that was re-enforced by lots of academic writing. The thing I remember most about "good" academic writing is that there are no "I think" statements. I bet that's true for other formalized genres of persuasive writing. So I wonder how much of that is being carried over here from totally different contexts, with totally different goals. Learning to express things as "my opinion\needs" vs "a fact I've proven" might actually be a really key part to making these conversations work.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:25 AM on July 2, 2022 [12 favorites]

posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 11:55 AM on July 2, 2022

Another thing that may be helpful to keep in mind about anxiety: If you're anxious, and you cope with that anxiety by sharing all the catastrophizing your brain is doing, and then either because people share that their brains are doing the same thing or because someone shows you how the catastrophizing isn't likely, and then you feel better, what you're actually doing is training your brain that when you're anxious, you get soothed if you catastrophize, so you're reinforcing the coping mechanism of "catastrophizing," which is likely to increase anxiety over time.

This isn't a value judgment. Anxiety's just tricky that way. There's lot of stuff we do in the moment to calm it that actually ends up feeding it long-term.
posted by lapis at 11:56 AM on July 2, 2022 [55 favorites]

Pseudonymous Cognomen, can you explain a bit more about how you think that thread applies here? Because I think it would be reductive to lump everyone on one side of this discussion into "real talk", regardless of what side that is - and I can't even tell which side is the one that's meant to be reflected in the thread!
posted by sagc at 12:10 PM on July 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

... this feeling I have that Metafilter sort of selects for folks who think of themselves as good at writing, and often that was re-enforced by lots of academic writing. The thing I remember most about "good" academic writing is that there are no "I think" statements. I bet that's true for other formalized genres of persuasive writing.

Oh, that's interesting! I remember (many years ago!) a "test" about whether you were male or female, based on multi-paragraph examples of your writing, and mine always said I was male ... probably because I didn't add much "I feel" or "I think" in things, mostly because I was used to (professionally) pruning away stuff that doesn't directly move the text / narrative forward.

But it wasn't academic scaffolding that led me to that (I'm a drop-out!), just a little bit of my own, repurposed "Coco Chanel said, 'Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory'" wisdom applied to articles, etc. Now though, whenever speaking for myself, I'm exactly the opposite, and always strive to say this is my opinion / reaction / feeling, this is the way I do it," etc., because I feel like this is the only respectful way to communicate with a roomful people who are not present solely to absorb my personal judgments or preferences. There's such a huge difference between "this is how I feel," and "this is how you should feel."
posted by taz (staff) at 12:20 PM on July 2, 2022 [16 favorites]

I've tried to write a response/participatory comment about the topic here, but I'm finding it too challenging. I'd ask in the future that we please be careful with post titles so that they are easy to understand as conversation starters, not demands, even when we are feeling very raw or passionate about a topic.

One thing I'd ask the community to start seriously thinking about is this:

If we had rules for How To Participate With Difficult Topics, what might those look like?

MetaFilter's scope has changed a lot in 20+ years, its population has changed, and the world is changing fast. I don't think it's reasonable to ask the mods to handle extreme emotional fallout as a routine duty, which means we need to do a better job self-regulating our interactions here. We've got the guidelines which are great, but they're not really specific and I don't think they're cited enough in cases like this. Maybe we also need "here's what to do in a situation like x." Maybe we need some scripted lines we can refer to when it seems like someone is spiraling or venting in a harmful way or a space that's not appropriate. And, likewise, something for people to follow when they want to participate but are having a hard time grappling with the magnitude of the challenges that we are facing. I would 100% use this myself.

This is the kind of thing I imagine being a mainstay of Steering Committee work, but it'd be great if we had a draft we could hand them.
posted by curious nu at 12:24 PM on July 2, 2022 [14 favorites]

lapis, your comment on anxiety is fascinating. I've been chewing on that for the last few hours. It's making me look at some of my coping strategies in a new way.
posted by rogerroger at 4:06 PM on July 2, 2022 [5 favorites]

Is despair a valid rhetorical position for comments in the Blue?

if Metafilter was a Christian website (it obviously isn't), the answer to this would be an emphatic NO.

What is the Unforgivable Sin That Our Lord Warned Us About?

I do feel that despair works like an infectious disease, with panic one of its main symptoms. Obviously I can't tell you to just NOT panic, just like I can't tell you not to be infected with Covid or whatever. But I can request that you not enter the room, or at least wear a mask. In fact, you may have noticed that many of us in this room are already wearing masks.

A tactic I've found effective when dealing with expressions of despair from friends, family etc is to say something along the lines of, "Dude, you need to reel that in. You're having a Denethor moment and it's upsetting the children and the pets." Which may not always land as intended but at least it deflects things a bit.

"A what moment!?!" -- "Denethor, man. From Lord of the Rings, Steward of Gondor. Loses his shit with the enemy at the gate. Gandalf finally has to bonk him with his staff."

Which brings to mind an idea that I've seen pop up in a few places recently (it may even be a meme):

As long as we all don't lose it on the same day, we'll get through this.

Because losing one's shit is all too easy of late, an honest reflection of how things genuinely seem to be. The key is to have friends, family, neighbours, co-workers (you name it) that we can trust to look us in the eye and basically say, "Well, that's not how I'm seeing things."
posted by philip-random at 9:39 AM on July 3, 2022 [13 favorites]

How interesting.
Not to derail, but Denethor had a very particular flavour of despair that might not fit a lot of the expressions of pain and fear on Metafilter.
He was a powerful man, who chose the certainty of self righteous despair over giving up his power and joining others in an uncertain hope.
He found comfort in retaining control of his life by taking his own life and attempting to take the life of his son. Now that I think of it, a very accurate portrayal of a threatened man who buys into the lies of the patriarchy, that his family is his property.

So maybe not Denethor.

Theoden might be a better fit.
Or actually, Eowyn. She also despaired, even after she killed the Nazgul.
posted by Zumbador at 9:56 AM on July 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

but Denethor has "the scene"
posted by philip-random at 10:15 AM on July 3, 2022

Lot of people feel helpless, which is a lot like hopeless except maybe they do/did have hope, but don't see that anything they do will have any positive effect, and maybe they try something and something else and keep trying different things but shit just keeps getting worse, and so the helplessness seeps in and pollutes their thinking, it becomes learned helplessness, which is a very real psychological affliction, and these people are miserable, and they don't want to be helpless or hopeless but they just don't believe that anything they do will make any difference and it's either turn into a grey rock and become less human and put up with it, or try to maintain some shred of humanity and feeling and the only feeling you can muster is despair, and so that's what you share because some kind of, any kind of, connection with another human might give you a reason to keep going through the pain.

Not saying it's healthy for anyone involved. And pushing crushingly desperate folks away for your own health and safety is certainly a valid reaction. Not everyone can handle the crisis hotlines. But there have to be people to reach out to from that place of despair.

I guess my point is that someone saying "it's hopeless" is could be saying "I feel helpless and I would like some connection and reassurance that there is something to look forward to despite all this."

You are not my crisis counsellor and I am not yours, but everyone needs a hug now and then.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:25 AM on July 4, 2022 [9 favorites]

This is more micro-focused on Supreme Court despair, rather than Metafilter-specific, but thought I'd share here in case it was helpful to others. Last week when reeling from the Supreme Court news on abortion specifically, I was scrolling, clicking, searching for Practical Next Steps - I wanted to hear from some experts to say, "We have a plan, here's how you can help, it's not over yet," but instead most of what I was reading in the media and online was shock, pain, anger, chaos and despair. Which was making me feel even more shocked, pained, angry and despairing.

Well, a week later, I AM hearing from experts. I just heard a good interview on Pod Save America with the head of Whole Women's Health who had totally practical ways her organization is protecting reproductive rights, from moving abortion clinics across state lines to supporting doctors who will be performing abortions, to suing legislatures. She was not throwing up her hands! There are tangible things we can do! She was asking for others to help! There is resistance f'ing happening! And I wish I could go back and tell rogerroger a week ago, Hey, this sucks, but there are tons of super-smart, super-savvy people who are devoting their ENTIRE CAREERS to abortion rights, and some of those people will have a plan, but they're regrouping and analyzing the decision now so I will give them a little while to respond before throwing up my hands. I'm going to try to remember this moving forward.
posted by rogerroger at 10:52 AM on July 4, 2022 [32 favorites]

As time goes by, I have come to believe that MeFi's single biggest challenge is this:

On other sites, you can curate your experience by choosing who to follow or what forums to read. On MeFi, the only way you can curate your own experience is to tell other people to stop posting stuff you don't want to see.

That leads to conflicts like this thread, where some people want a site where they can vent freely, and some people want a site where they can escape venting, and both are reasonable things to desire, and there is literally no way for both groups to be satisfied.

I understand that a technical solution to this is very improbable, given the site's age and lack of resources.

I do feel there's a cultural solution, though. I would love for OPs to explicitly designate the tone of each thread right in their original post. EG, "Feel free to vent however intensely you want in this thread" versus "Please keep expressions of hopelessness and despair out of this thread." Or on another axis, "Please feel free to ask any questions no matter how naive they are" versus "If you aren't well-informed on this topic already, please do your homework elsewhere and leave this thread for people who already have some understanding of the issue."

Mods could then moderate those threads to remove comments that violate the tone of that particular thread.

This happens sometimes (as in the above-noted Fucking Fuck threads) but I would love to see it be the rule rather than the exception. If it did become standard, I think it might be accompanied by a relaxing of the no doubles rule. Indeed, on certain topics, we might deliberately have two different threads, one of which would welcome venting, and the other of which would not.
posted by yankeefog at 3:39 AM on July 5, 2022 [14 favorites]

I would love for OPs to explicitly designate the tone of each thread right in their original post.

though I appreciate where this is coming from, I can't agree with it. Certainly not to the degree that

Mods could then moderate those threads to remove comments that violate the tone of that particular thread.

In my experience, Metafilter doesn't work when OP's effectively own their posts. I guess I feel that gives people too much power. Or more to the point, it can't help but throw an imbalance of power into what amounts to a community situation. Because in my experience, communities tend not to function very well when certain individuals* have more overt power than others.

I do feel there's a cultural solution, though.

I have zero concern with an OP requesting a certain tone for their thread and (to a degree) reminding folks of this as things play out.

* the exception being mods, of course. I don't mind if a mod steps into a difficult thread and lays down a few restrictions.
posted by philip-random at 7:48 AM on July 5, 2022 [9 favorites]

Tone-designation is a nice idea for most people who post, but I think it could be vulnerable to bad actors. "Here's an incredibly inflammatory post, nobody get angry" could happen for instance. Or "Everybody pile on angrily about this issue where a fraction of the people here have the contrary view and will feel attacked".
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:08 AM on July 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the thread, 0P. I don’t have a fix, I just wanted to say thank you for all the thoughtful comments.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:34 PM on July 5, 2022 [6 favorites]

Philip-random and TheophileEscargot, those are both very fair points. To respond to them individually:

In my experience, Metafilter doesn't work when OP's effectively own their posts.

Very true. And I could see how giving people unlimited freedom to define the terms of the discussion would lead to an unproductive sense of ownership.

That said, when threads fall apart into people bickering about what the thread should be, it seems to fall into one of three categories:
• "Please don't try to make me feel things are hopeless" vs "Please don't stop me from venting"
• "This issue doesn't personally affect me but I have opinions" vs "Please don't lecture me about my own experience"
• "I don't know anything about this but I want to learn" vs "I know lots about this and I want to discuss it with other knowledgeable people"

I think OPs could make broad requests in those three categories at the very beginning of a thread without unduly restricting where it goes from there. And perhaps we'd have the understanding that once the request was made, the OP would have no particular right to police the discussion. The "flag and move on" principle would apply.

Tone-designation is a nice idea for most people who post, but I think it could be vulnerable to bad actors.

Again, very true.

As with any rule, I think we'd need to allow a certain level of discretion from the mods to deal with the messiness of human expression. Currently, the mods delete FPPs on subjects MeFi doesn't handle well, even if the FPP isn't self-promotion or some other direct violation of the rules. I trust them to spot troublesome attempts to define the terms of conversation.

In theory, this might seem to be more labor for the mods, because it's one more thing for them to moderate. In practice, clear guidelines on the tone of a thread might result in fewer derails and, in the long run, less pressure on moderator's time. And even if mods end up making the same number of deletions, they might end up doing less emotional labor, because "This comment doesn't fit the terms of this specific thread" is much less fraught then "This comment doesn't belong on Metafilter."

(All that said, I would love to hear from a mod on whether they think this would make their job easier or harder.)
posted by yankeefog at 3:26 AM on July 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

I also want to say thanks for bring this up.
posted by freakazoid at 9:28 AM on July 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Perhaps this piece may be helpful to some? ("One, two, three.")
posted by praemunire at 9:54 AM on July 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

Are the comments I'm making part of the problem?

If we accept that the problem as framed here actually describes the problem, then yes. Probably some of mine too. But there are imo worse offenders who tend to jump into such threads with both feet and pepper every few comments with another rage howl of angst and despair. To me that’s far more exhausting and I don’t know if it’s adequately captured by this framing.
posted by aspersioncast at 3:40 PM on July 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

This is hitting close to home, and thank you for this post.

I'm a transman, living in Seattle. I work for a company that has branches in Canada. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote to a couple of people in the company, asking if I could get transfered to Canada, because what is happening here in terms of LGBTQ rights is scaring the shit out of me sometimes. And even though they are supportive of the idea, I've been having crying bouts sometimes, and it feels like my anxiety is going haywire with all of this. The next step is to talk to their Immigration dept., next week.

It got to the point where I put in a call with the Psychiatrist - and that reassured me. He basically confirmed that yes - things in the USA are really bad right now. But also yes - your anxiety is indeed going haywire; he perscribed a social media break. Which I did, partially; I deleted TikTok off of the phone. (I have a carefully curated Twitter feed, and reading about dooms and glooms doesn't make me as anxious as seeing short clips about it.)

Since I made that call, and deleted TikTok? I was able to take time to actually ponder, think, and meditate over what's going on, how to best react to it, and what is missing that would help me. It turns out that yeah - moving to Canada would probably help me a lot. However, I'm old, disabled, have chronic illnesses, and am crap at foreign languages - thus, I have a very high chance of getting rejected for Perminant Residency. Also, if I do make it up there? I'd still be alone, and in a foreign country where it'd be harder to do things. On top of that, I'm a Notary Public - and I would not be able to transfer that to Canada.

What I am, genuinely missing? Community. So - I wrote to a couple of housing cooperatives in Chicago, to see if they have any openings. If shit goes down? I'd rather have a crew to weather it out with, instead of being alone, and watching it from across the border.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:46 PM on July 7, 2022 [11 favorites]

I agree aspersioncast, and if this is helpful, i've found the path being forged in the Ukraine-related threads to be extremely useful in terms of norms to adopt. For me especially I liked:

- the amount of commentary and discussions that have citations and real world experience

- this was long and tough, but eventually a cultural norm around not escalating every Ukraine thread into cold war catastrophizing especially if it's not based on current understanding of the region, discipline, or political sector. so, just because one had nuclear preparation drills growing up in the west during the cold war is not sufficient experiential threshold to keep talking about nukes being inevitable in this invasion.

- basic questions in good faith do get responses, but heel-digging (and this is a very "i know porn when i see it," admittedly) do get strong community responses to corrall them.

Something similar is happening with the UK political threads but the cumulative effect doesn't feel so self-regulated as with the Ukraine ones.
posted by cendawanita at 10:49 PM on July 7, 2022 [8 favorites]

I stopped reading the news. Is the problem me — or the product?
I’ve spent the past year trying to figure out what news designed for 21st-century humans might look like — interviewing physicians who specialize in communicating bad news to patients, behavioral scientists who understand what humans need to live full, informed lives and psychologists who have been treating patients for “headline stress disorder.” (Yes, this is a thing.)

When I distilled everything they told me, I found that there are three simple ingredients that are missing from the news as we know it.

First, we need hope to get up in the morning. Researchers have found that hope is associated with lower levels of depression, chronic pain, sleeplessness and cancer, among many other things. Hopelessness, by contrast, is linked to anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and … death.

“Hope is like water,” says David Bornstein, co-founder of the nonprofit Solutions Journalism Network. “You need to have something to believe in. If you’re in the restaurant business, you’re gonna give people water. Because you understand human biology. It’s weird that journalism has such a hard time understanding this. People need to have a sense of possibility.”

Last December, the New York Times published an ambitious multimedia project called “Postcards from a World on Fire,” chronicling how climate change has altered life in 193 countries. It led with a graphic of the Earth in flames, spinning in space, and the words, “Cities swallowed by dust. Human history drowned by the sea.” I kid you not. This was a well-intentioned effort, but it was simply not designed for humans. I don’t know what species it would work for, but it’s not one I’m familiar with.

By contrast, consider another recent New York Times article, this one about a different problem — homelessness. That piece detailed how the city of Houston moved 25,000 people experiencing homelessness into their own homes. It was not credulous; it featured extensive reporting and plenty of caveats. But reading it, you feel a space open up in your chest — like unlocking a trap door out of a dungeon.

Second, humans need a sense of agency. “Agency” is not something most reporters think about, probably because, in their jobs, they have it. But feeling like you and your fellow humans can do something — even something small — is how we convert anger into action, frustration into invention. That self-efficacy is essential to any functioning democracy.

[...] There is a way to communicate news — including very bad news — that leaves us better off as a result. A way to spark anger and action. Empathy alongside dignity. Hope alongside fear. There is another way, and it doesn’t lead to bankruptcy or puffery. But right now, these examples I’ve listed remain far too rare.

It’s hard to generalize about the news media. The category includes hard-working beat reporters, dedicated fact-checkers and producers, as well as shameless propagandists, dupes and conflict entrepreneurs. It’s almost too big a category to talk about with any clarity. But it’s fair to say that if news sites were people, most would be diagnosed as clinically depressed right now.

Changing that may require journalists to accept that some of their own core beliefs are outdated. “The journalist’s theory of change is that the best way to avert catastrophe is to keep people focused on the potential for catastrophe 24/7,” Bornstein says. That used to work — kind of. Reporters could rigorously chronicle threats and corruption, and then sit back and let the accountability rain down. But that dynamic only works if the public is more unified and journalists are widely trusted. These days, it doesn’t matter how many of former president Donald Trump’s lies reliable fact-checkers count; it won’t change anyone’s mind. A lot of journalists, perhaps frustrated by their impotence, have responded by getting louder and more shrill. Which only causes more people to (yes, you guessed it) avoid the news.

A better theory of change, Bornstein suggests, might be something like: “The world will get better when people understand problems, threats and challenges, and what their best options are to make progress.” He and his colleagues have now trained over 25,000 journalists to do high-quality solutions stories all over the world.

Finally, and this is closely related: The people producing the news themselves are struggling, and while they aren’t likely to admit it, it is warping the coverage. News junkies tend to drink deeply from the darkness, mistakenly thinking it will make them sharper. All that angst has nowhere to go — and it leaks into our stories.
posted by lapis at 5:07 PM on July 9, 2022 [15 favorites]

And shared by Rebecca Solnit today:

Dallas Goldtooth on the liberation of laughter and the power of joy in organizing
Q. Why is bringing a measure of joy and fun to this work so important to you?

A. It’s so easy for us to get stuck in the pits and fully submerge ourselves with climate anxiety. In order for us to radically imagine a different future, we have to imagine and allow ourselves to experience the joys of this world and see ourselves being happy in the future. That can only manifest if you start now, if you find joy in the moment, and you use love for the land, love for our lives, and love for our people to drive us forward — as opposed to anxiety, anger, and frustration driving that.

I say that, but I also [know that] nothing drives people more than anger. The [idea] that we are pushing ourselves over the edge on this planet is motivating people, but I don’t think we’re going to see lasting change until we find the joy in the future.

Q. That seems so simple, yet so powerful.

A. The key challenge for all of us on this planet, but especially for marginalized communities — whether Black, brown, Indigenous, other communities of color, or poor white communities — is that one of our biggest obstacles is that we have been disenfranchised and not allowed to imagine a future in which we thrive and exist and are satisfied. When we talk about a just transition toward a sustainable society in a new world, what we’re really talking about is allowing ourselves to radically imagine a future in which we exist on our terms. This means that we have to allow ourselves to imagine joy in the future, we have to allow ourselves to imagine that we are happy, that we are fulfilled, and that we are living in a space that is equitable and just. That’s what we work toward, and every aspect of our organizing and artistry should speak to that future that we want to build. That’s what drives me. That’s the core of my work.
(Note: I fully believe in anger as a constructive force for good, an emotion that teaches us what's important to us and worth fighting for. That type of anger is completely compatible with joy, in ways that destructive anger and anxiety are not so much.)
posted by lapis at 9:16 AM on July 10, 2022 [6 favorites]

Honestly, any discussion of our current events, especially political current events, is invariably going to contain something (comment, topic, example, etc) that is going prove triggering to someone, and I’m not sure there is any equitable or effective way to avoid or moderate it. One simply cannot avoid eventually saying something, no matter how seemingly benign to yourself or how closely you believe you’ve curated your words, that doesn’t have the potential to be read by someone for whom it is extremely troubling.

This is especially true under the big tent of MeFi, where so many varied and beautiful people gather. MeFi’s strength has always been its deep diverse nature. Conversely, though, that can sometimes be revealed as a weakness, as that diversity of thought and expression comes with a lot of possible pitfalls. And, I don’t know if there’s an equitable solution to any of this. You can’t police people’s expressions down to the point of not risking anyone’s peace. That’s a bottomless rabbit hole of proscription.

Personally, there are many things that come up in discussions here that can, and do, foster thoughts and emotions in me that I then have to take time to internally address. Maybe it’s just a function of age, and all the years I’ve spent dealing with such things, that I’ve just come to accept that, at times, I’m going to get triggered by something (literally) out of the blue. But, I also understand that no one here intends to hurt anyone.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:49 AM on July 10, 2022 [7 favorites]

I think that, at various times, there have been people saying that they do, in fact, want to invoke those feelings in others, especially as a spur to action, or as a moral obligation.
posted by sagc at 9:56 AM on July 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

I would love for OPs to explicitly designate the tone of each thread right in their original post.

One problem would be the differences between a moral tone, an emotional sympathy tone, and an intellectual tone (e.g. "only experts please"). I interpreted the original post to contain a caution about abusing moral tone, which taps emotional manipulation, whereas an emotional tone only matches emotions. Some tones are pretty obvious to start with, like humor, but if we go down the moral tone path, by insinuation, then it would create a scarecrow because moral elitism has a lot of hidden childhood baggage learned in churches or from corporeally abusive parents. Trumpism is moral tonality, for example, but so is political correctness, which is how they conflict each other on a linear scale of opposition.
posted by Brian B. at 10:39 AM on July 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Honestly, any discussion of our current events, especially political current events, is invariably going to contain something (comment, topic, example, etc) that is going prove triggering to someone, and I’m not sure there is any equitable or effective way to avoid or moderate it.

Speaking for myself at least, I think this is a case where people are not worried about a single comment being triggering but about entire threads becoming depressing/stressful/useless when the tone becomes dominated by messages that are basically venting. A cry of despair are something most of us can understand and register while moving on. Not being able to move on because that's what the next 10 comments are too is my issue.

Moderators will absolutely pop into a thread and clean up repetitive comments. I find it easy to imagine, say, a dozen lengthy comments in a row arcana around Congress legislating the Supreme Court's jurisdiction might getting trimmed with a "you've had your say, let's give space for other topics" note.

My sense is that when people are just venting we're more likely to let things stand, on the principle that lots of MeFites want to vent. (I could be wrong, obviously I don't see lots of deleted stuff, but that's my feeling.) I don't see a problem in principle with mods starting to delete pure venting stuff after a couple comments that do that, just like they'll trim the other stuff.

In practice a lot of people probably wouldn't like being deleted because they were the tenth person to say "RIP American democracy" instead of the second. Understandably. But maybe more people end up reading and participating in threads?
posted by mark k at 12:36 PM on July 11, 2022 [5 favorites]

You can’t police people’s expressions down to the point of not risking anyone’s peace. That’s a bottomless rabbit hole of proscription.

When we get upset, we can attempt to control our feelings or we can attempt to control the people who wrote words that we have let upset us.
posted by y2karl at 9:11 AM on July 12, 2022

When we get upset, we can attempt to control our feelings or we can attempt to control the people who wrote words that we have let upset us.

So it's our fault that we're just too sensitive?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:21 AM on July 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

Are our feelings someone else's responsibility?
posted by y2karl at 10:13 AM on July 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

Are our feelings someone else's responsibility?

Honestly? Some of them are.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:38 AM on July 12, 2022 [3 favorites]

When we get upset, we can attempt to control our feelings or we can attempt to control the people who wrote words that we have let upset us.

About 80% of the argument for allowing repetitive, content free "OMG there's no coming back from this" to dominate a thread is that people writing them don't want to "control" their own feelings and it's unfair to ask.

Throwing shade at people who are basically asking for a more productive or substantive discussion on MeFi as being too easily triggered is an interesting perspective.
posted by mark k at 10:50 AM on July 12, 2022 [12 favorites]

Are our feelings someone else's responsibility?

To a certain extent, if you are part of a community, yes they are.

Which is to say that in this community part of the general agreement people make by being here is that our words matter and how we use them matters. It's acceptable, in the larger world, in many places, to not have that be a social contract you are bound by. However, in this community, with our social contract, then yes, being somewhat mindful of the feelings of others is part of the agreement here.

Part of what we discuss as a community is how much and in what circumstances it makes sense to try to control your feelings (i.e. setting expectations around what is going to be moderated and what is not) and how much it's appropriate to say "this is not okay here so we are going to either moderate those expressions or support the community in pushing back against certain expressions." This is why we have guidelines and a content policy and an entire page about microaggressions.

Most of the rest of the internet is less moderated than MetaFilter. MetaFilter is a moderated community.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:12 AM on July 12, 2022 [21 favorites]

This is a challenging time to be alive. I continue to struggle with not wanting to make things worse for people stressed out by hearing that while also desperately needing a safe place to say I feel that way where people will understand.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:11 PM on July 12, 2022 [8 favorites]

I feel ya, DOT, and I also think the Fucking Fuck threads should probably return.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 1:57 PM on July 12, 2022 [3 favorites]

From a moderator point of view, I don't think they are workable. Never were, really, and especially aren't now. During the Trump years, we tried to shape the site to be all things to all people. People wanted to talk politics all the time, or fight about politics all the time, and were annoyed by how other people wanted to talk or fight about politics, and other people didn't want to see all US politics posts all the time, and so many complaints and / or demands were made. People shouldn't be jokey; people shouldn't be fatalistic; or they could be fatalistic but not jokey about it; people should / shouldn't make new posts for individual actions or events. People should not relitigate X. People MUST relitigate X. People should be real leftists. People should stop complaining about other people not being real leftists. People should stop the violent imagery / fantasizing; people MUST make violent remarks if the topic is X. People should complain about The Dems all the time. People should stop complaining about The Dems all the time. Everyone was angry all the time, and always angry at us, because we couldn't moderate in a way that would satisfy all these issues.

Among the most repeated complaints was about people basically howling into the abyss, and that's when the Fucking Fuck threads began. "Okay for just 😱 this stuff, post over there." And those threads became not just howls of frustration and anger about the political situation but a constant running thread of all the worst things happening in everyone's lives, all the worst things happening in the world, and people's darkest feelings about that. All the dead pets and dead family members and catastrophic illnesses and worst events and every emotional pain ... and, yes, suicidal thoughts.

While I understand that misery loves company, it's one thing if you can dip in and out of it, but something else if you are required to soak in it 5 days a week, 8+ hours a day, and those threads were miserable for mods. Not even a fraction of that is sustainable. I couldn't do it. We eventually just said mods are not monitoring, but then this also caused a massive problem on the site, when someone posted a news report about a racist incident in the fucking fuck thread, and other people in the thread said they should post it to the blue. But on the blue, we had been saying please don't just post the worst things you find in the news here [BAD THING HAPPENED]. It's better to wait and get thoughtful critiques, essays, analyses, etc. So it was deleted, and this was perceived as mods being racist. If we had seen the discussion about it, we could have gently nudged about not posting the bare news story to the blue, about other ways to possibly do it. But we weren't reading the fucking fuck threads because they were just. overwhelming.

Now we have fewer mods and fewer mod hours. We partly wouldn't be able to monitor those because sometimes there is just no mod on duty. We partly wouldn't be able to monitor them because when you are on duty there are usually other things you need to be actively doing. We wholly couldn't monitor them because we are trying to massage things in a way that leads to less moderator burnout. I'm not sure how to do that, and I am burned out, but I think a combination of loup and thyme and advisory board can imagine new paradigms. I don't think any of them can encompass those threads, though.

There's a reason so many news or magazine sites no longer have comments enabled. We cannot absorb all the terribleness in a way that allows everyone to comment in exactly the way they wish without impacting others, and constant, excruciatingly minute and demanding moderation is no longer an option. We need to fold in as many clear, simple guidelines as possible that the most members agree with so that moderators aren't required to constantly make on-the-spot decisions in ever-shifting circumstances about splitting babies in order to be as fair as possible, which means, as Jessamyn mentions, "part of the general agreement people make by being here is that our words matter and how we use them matters. It's acceptable, in the larger world, in many places, to not have that be a social contract you are bound by. However, in this community, with our social contract, then yes, being somewhat mindful of the feelings of others is part of the agreement here."
posted by taz (staff) at 1:38 AM on July 13, 2022 [32 favorites]

Thank you taz. It is helpful to me to read what mods experience.
posted by 15L06 at 8:04 AM on July 13, 2022 [6 favorites]

Taz, thank you very much for your thoughtful comment. It really puts things into perspective and clarifies the cost to mods of those kinds of threads. Exposure to that kind of thing in your workplace is both dangerous to your mental health and an unfair burden.

While I am very sensitive to those who need a safe space to vent, I'm wondering if the bottom line is that Metafilter, with its current resources both human and otherwise, is just not able to provide that kind of space. Personally, I am very okay with that, as I can simply leave threads that get too dark, and I have access to other places where I can vent, but I am aware that not everyone is as privileged as I am.

It does seem that some Mefites are saying they are better able than others to hold space for venting and expressions of anguish, than others, though. I recall that there was some discussion a while ago of volunteer mods, and I wonder if perhaps something like the "fucking fuck" threads could be staffed that way? Are there enough people who could take on a thread like that to make it viable, even on a trial basis?
posted by rpfields at 9:00 AM on July 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

This is my own personal view:

I don't think it's a good idea to give volunteers the job of moderating 'venting' threads. I think making venting-only space encourages a way of thinking -- MetaFilter is here for moments of anguish -- that may create an unintended expectation across the whole site.

I understand the value of community that has space for venting, and I understand how that need created a habit here on the site. I think there is some limited space for here, because we are humans in the world. To be clear, I think it's kind of amazing that we collectively tried it. But I think having seen the results roll out it might be time to dial that aspect of online interaction here back a bit (not to zero, but back some.)

For me shifting the site from "thoughtful, empathetic discussion, with pathways to create community through meets ups, card exchanges, etc." to "site that tries to meet members' psychological needs while they are under stress" is really murky water.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:25 AM on July 13, 2022 [17 favorites]

I'm less in favor of bringing back venting threads than I am in trying to have grace and patience with one-off venting comments. I mean, if someone hangs out and makes a steady effort to bring the room down, not good. But if they drop in with a single variation of "Holy shit, friends, this is BAD" maybe we don't have to strike them down on sight and can just let that go.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:43 AM on July 16, 2022 [5 favorites]

Speaking only for myself, venting in any thread is fine as long as it's expressed as venting - as the individual's feelings. When someone says "I'm terrified about this" or "This event is directly threatening me and here's how" or "I can't see how this can ever get better," I can cope with that, and even respond with acknowledgement and, if it seems welcome, encouragement - one human being to another. What discourages and depresses me - and thus chases me away from too many threads - is expressions of doom presented as fact, with no indication that it's a personal feeling. When someone says just straight up "we're doomed" or "no one will ever face any consequences for this" or "nice country while it lasted" (or even the meme "surely this"), it lands, for me, with a really negative impact, implying:

* there's nothing at all that anyone can do to change things
* if you're trying to make things better, you're wasting your time, because it's hopeless
* if you don't see that we're all completely doomed, you're stupid, because, again, it's irrefutably hopeless

Comments like that are discouraging to me and have a measurable negative effect on my own personal efforts to fight the climate crisis and improve voting access and protect the rights of everybody, and it makes me feel hurt and devalued, and consumes my energy having to overcome those feelings and pull myself back up to the place where I can try to continue doing what I can to make things better. (Or even just going about my day.)

And to be clear, I FEEL THOSE THINGS TOO. I feel terrified that we can't come back from this (for way too many values of "this"). I feel threatened by so much of what's happened in the past weeks and months and years. I feel despair.

I try hard, in my face-to-face life and here on MetaFilter, to make sure that, if I am sharing the crushing load of those feelings, I am doing it with someone who's able to share that load, and in a way that doesn't crush them too.

Words matter. How we express things matters. I am not saying anyone should change the way they express themselves here. But I am saying that how people express themselves has an effect on those around them, and when people make those kinds of blanket statements, it affects me, shuts me down, and discourages my actions and my voice, both here and outside of MetaFilter.
posted by kristi at 11:39 AM on July 18, 2022 [15 favorites]

Some interesting points, and things I will consider in the future.

Does the site support being able to hide comments behind spoiler tags? I'd probably use them.
posted by Jacen at 11:05 PM on July 19, 2022

Yeah it can be done using the details html tag (and summary tag if you wanna specify the top level)

Spoilers Inside Like this

posted by lazaruslong at 2:22 AM on July 20, 2022

Let me try it.

my rant hidden below
Never gonna give you up...

How does this play with screen readers? Accessibility issue?

Instructions on how to do this
posted by Zumbador at 2:36 AM on July 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

I mean, if someone hangs out and makes a steady effort to bring the room down, not good. But if they drop in with a single variation of "Holy shit, friends, this is BAD" maybe we don't have to strike them down on sight and can just let that go.

The problem arises when something bad happens, and the dozens and dozens of people each drop in with their one-off messages that are variations on "This is bad / I'm freaking out / What's happening to this country? / What will happen to me?"

Then the second-order effect is those dozens and dozens of people using further comments as a way to communicate and share their fear/anger. Then the third-order effect is the reaction from anyone who's trying to comment in the thread on analysis, or strategy, or anything that isn't the raw exposure of (completely justified) anxiety. See all the comments above about how different people interact with the news in threads.

And thus we have the problem: Even though none of these people had intended to take over the thread, even though all of them are processing their real emotions in an entirely human way, the thread has become (a) dangerous for people whose anxieties trigger more easily when they read catastrophizing predictions, (b) useless for people who are trying to discuss the topic, rather than their feelings about the topic, and (c) combative between the disparate users of the site as described above.

TL;DR - Respectfully, you are mistaken, lots of people bringing their one-off takes still has an unintended aggregate effect.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 11:32 AM on July 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

I'm going to suggest that it's both possible to allow one-off pessimist comments and when needed to say that we've seen enough of them in a particular thread and can cut that out for a bit, just as moderation can head off any noisy POV that starts to dominate a thread. When a handful of one-off pessimist comments are hit hard by people responding based on a perceived need to enforce positivity, those folks are actually the derail and the force shifting the conversation to pessimism.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:18 AM on July 21, 2022

I thought the "europe on the boil" thread went surprisingly well for this. There were a couple of doomer comments but mostly the discussion seemed to go pretty well.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:58 AM on July 21, 2022

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