Things that Shape Us, Part 2

The last week was just too busy to even separate life into the dual life goals: posting blog entries and earning-money from employment.

And I think that’s part of my frustration with getting back into blogging. I do not make money off of blogging, and I refuse to make money off of blogging, because the moment you start doing something you enjoy to make money you risk compromising your values to continue to make money.

And now – it’s just too possible for my thoughts to be misinterpreted or edited and turned against me.

Because it seems like there’s this looming, invisible threat out there that will cancel me should I say the wrong thing.

And I’m unsure on how to proceed past this block.

So, instead of just swallowing my words, I figured I’d put out there a stream-of-consciousness series of blog posts where I work through it. Partially as an aid to others who feel intimidated by the loud voices online who want to shut down ideas that don’t fit their sensibilities, but also as a way to get through fear, self-imposed imprisonment in our own minds, to avoid catastrophe.

Words of warning – I have been working from home since COVID started, and I’ve been socially unengaged the entire time. I’m also working back towards social behavior while working through the difficulties in blogging. Apologies on the rough edges, including but not limited to drifting voice and moving focus.

I’m always worried about being canceled for something misinterpreted or clipped outside of context. I think the first step towards making sure one is “uncancelable” is to be cognizant of one’s audience, and their sensibilities.

But that’s too vague. Suitable for memes or other short-form writing, but not for delving into what the unholy fuck is happening online, and why it’s scaring people all over the place.

So, let’s look a little deeper into why we need to be cognizant of the audience, and what their sensibilities are – and how that matters.

We need to look for the most-applicable scope for a concept that exists.

When we’re looking to understand what our audience is, we need to think about who we want to read our words.

If you break it down, you can either write for a small group of people or you can write for as many people as possible. If I were writing a newsletter for a club, I’d focus on the former. But here, I’m writing a general blog, so that audience would be everyone I can possibly reach.

But we know that groups and cliques of people exist, and they have pre-loaded expectations of attitudes and ideologies they want to consume. They are part of “everyone” that might be reached by trying to reach everyone.

So, we have to accept the possibility that people we do not want to interact with will initiation interaction with us. And they will. I have deleted comments in the past that have been just disgusting, so anyone who has read this site before won’t even see them, but they still come in.

Do we let that stop us from going on?

I write this more for myself, but I hope it helps others: we shouldn’t. Not if we care about idea exchange.

In light of my previous post about ending my blogging, I control this website and am the horizontal and vertical for this website, yet I’ve stepped back from that ability and let shit win.

I need to step up to that ideology behind the drive to blog – to put my words out there and see who comes in for tea. Or coffee. Or lemonade.

But there’s the second part – to mind their sensibilities.

That’s the tricky part.

It seems like most people out there get tired of minding others’ sensibilities, and just draw lines. “This is where I end my accountancy of your sensibilities.”

Can that be accurate?

Previously, I tried to adhere to minding peoples’ sensibilities, and tried to engage.

And I got exhausted by the persistent arguments. By people that weren’t interested in idea exchange, just in changing my ideas to match theirs. Their desire to “win” the argument overwhelmed the discussion. The moment they felt they lost the advantage, they changed topic. Or they changed the conditions. And then they adhered to the changed topic or conditions, and wouldn’t talk about what lead them there.

They behaved like people are out there to aid them understand something, learn something, advance.

And when they discovered that there is another person out there on the other end, they just tried to adhere to the idea that they were owed understanding, learning, advancement.

This assumption was most of what drove me away.

But there was a subset of people who just sought to categorize me, label me, and prove me wrong.

They changed the topic and conditions of the discussion as well, but only when they didn’t have the upper hand.

And they usually started with “Oh, so you’re a liberal” or “This is so typical of Democrat rants out there” or something that placed me in a box and allowed them to implement some preplanned discussion where they would win and I would lose and they’d have the equivalent of another notch in their bedpost.

Just for context: I’m not fond of Democrats – some of the worst “Just shut up and do what I say” attitude I’ve ever gotten has been from self-professed Democrats. I’m also leery of associating with liberals, because the ones that leap beyond “the patriarchy is evil” to “men are inherently evil” have poisoned that well for me.

To avoid the exhaustion, I just stopped engaging. So, in essence, they did “win” – in a fight that they started, I never intended, but I accepted and acceded to.

We have direction from that idea – that some are just always going to be antagonistic.

But why do people do that? Why do they go out of their way to engage with people they disagree with? Why do they try to destroy ideas that don’t agree with their preconceived notions?

Because it feels good to win.

But I don’t blog to start arguments that I can win. I blog to put out words that others can engage in, they might benefit from, or they may take from and evolve the contained ideas further.

I’m not in this for the end-game. I’m in this for the journey.

So, multiple parts of my hesitancy to blog have already been resolved – I changed my rules to play their game, and I didn’t recognize their game as the “get something for free/beat the other person game” – so I didn’t play properly and thus, I didn’t win, and I was left feeling like shit.

I skipped over an important second part – minding other people’s sensibilities.

I feel this is a lost skill and art, and it’s easy to lose because it’s a fundamental skill people learn before learning MANY other things, so it gets blended and blurred in the mind until it’s just an automatic thing. Or it’s not learned at all, because someone rejects it as weakness to allow others’ ideas into their head and entertain them for any length of time.

But, to sum up, it is “treat others as you would like to be treated.”

And that summary sucks.

Because it gives no direction on how to do that.

So, let’s think of the ways someone can have their sensibilities be not minded. (And I mean “not minded” to include the extremes of trampling someone’s ideas, as well as insulting them, or even just discounting them.)

This is hard, because we have to find boundaries of how we find respect and what things we do not respect. Previously, we described people who just reject all ideas that aren’t their own, or just seek to win arguments, can we respect those ideologies?

Let’s back up and look at this another way – respect for people allows them to be who they are, and engages them even with the differences.

We cut off people who trespass values repeatedly and do so purposefully.

I’ve cut ties with at least four people who treated me more like an object than a person. As a means to something.

It’s not easy to accept cutting someone off. It’s easy to do, and then to back out of, and then do again, and then doubt.

Two of the recent people I’ve cut off I allowed back in, and both told me (in subtler ways) that I was wrong for cutting them off and I was wrong for being sensitive in the first place.

It’s a matter of being strong. And actually risking oneself a little to prove that someone is crossing those lines.

So, that’s great and all, but how does that help us mind others’ sensibilities?

Don’t tell people who they are. Don’t tell people what they think. Don’t tell people you know them better than they know themselves.

You don’t.

You think you do. You may really think you do. But, chances are, you’re missing something and that means you don’t.

So don’t round-up your partial understanding of someone to mean you fully understand them. Don’t tell them who they are, what they are, why they do things, based off of your incomplete understandings.

Even if you are mostly right, say you’re a 60 year old talking to a 5 year old, just don’t cut them down to a base description and remove their feelings of being a person.

Just the same, also don’t assume the best about them. This ties more into the first issue – that of allowing yourself to be run over by others – but also assuming ideologies that fit some preconception of someone that you have little proof that they espouse.

It’s hard to accept, but tone isn’t carried in the written word.

We, as a species, have struggled with this for at least 3,000 years, since the first words were written down. We have markers for tone, and word orders that help establish tone, but they’re subtle and prone to misuse. And we don’t have a sarcasm font – we just assume something is or isn’t sarcasm on the Internet. Not sure what they did when the Gutenbergs were still cranking out their bibles, but I’m pretty sure it was not much to identify sarcasm alone, never mind the myriad of other tones in texts.

Oof, this post has gotten really long and I only touched on two of the things that I wanted to. And it’s already technically Monday on the clock.

So, I’m going to leave this post here and hope I can pick it back up soon.

Thanks, readers. I appreciate it.



Hi! I'm Nate. I run this site. I'm just rebuilding things slowly, so thanks for your patience.

By Nate

Hi! I'm Nate. I run this site. I'm just rebuilding things slowly, so thanks for your patience.