Personal posts


I have been off Facebook for a few months now. I have thought about it for a long time. I am friends with a lot of people on the site. There are a few people who I 1) care enough about to follow their lives and 2) can only connect with them through Facebook.

Some people have blogs. Others I can keep up with on Twitter or Instagram. For the rest, I do miss keeping up with them and their hijinks with their kids.

And I haven’t found a good solution for them.

I want to reopen my Facebook account so connect with those few people. If I do, I am going to go through my list and unfriend most of the people there. (Unfriend is such a harsh word. And they use it purposely.) We are not Facebook Friends™.

My biggest problem with Facebook is the endless striving for more! More people, more connections, MORE FRIENDS!

When I deactivated my account, its first solution was to suggest that I connect with more people. As if that was the problem… Not enough friends.

If I reactivate my account, I am going to pair the list down to those few people. I know Facebook will continue to show me friends of friends and people they think I might like. And people who commented on a post they made one time.

I don’t care about their family members.
I don’t care about their friends.
I don’t care about their co-workers.
I don’t care about…

I care about the people I care about enough to friend. The End.

And that’s the problem with Facebook. There’s no money in it for them for me to keep my social network small. And that’s where we disagree.

Facebook is not important enough for me to fight that fight. It’s not worth my time to keep fighting Facebook’s interests.

Most importantly, I haven’t missed it. I haven’t opened the browser or downloaded the Android app since I deleted it back in October. It’s not a part of life I find missing.

Do I want to reopen that door?


My anger was a cage and the cage had no door.
Strangeness by Alex Armstrong

This should be how I describe my teen years. I was an angry guy with a lot of emotions and thankfully I found poetry and industrial music as a way to process them.

I often think about how close I could have come to really ruining my life with the fuel of rage. I am a big guy and I was then. At 6’5″ and north of 260 pounds in high school, I could have channeled my anger into something far darker than Trent Reznor, black lights and filling notebooks with words.

One day I found myself out of the cage, unsure sure of how I’d got there. Only one explanation accounts for all the facts. I had invented a door, and the key that fit in its lock, and let myself out.

That door had a name. It happens to be the same name as my wife. The key took longer to forge, but it was a fire my wife started and the perspective she provided allowed me to work the forge and smith a key that fit the lock of my anger.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my wife, Annie. I am thankful for the perspective she brought me then and the love, support, affection and humor she continues to bring me now.

I do not know where I would be without her, but I’m sure glad she’s here.

Looking Glass

This is not a world I can ever understand. This is a world I can only look in from the outside. Wearing the same skin as the perpetrators of these crimes against man and family.

I can read their words. I can try to put myself in their place but I can never truly understand. I can boost their signal and get their words in front of more people.

I don’t know how people are coping today with the news of not one, but two murders at the hands of police yesterday. My friend Patrick Rhone lives near the shooting in Minnesota.

He is rightfully scared for his family and young daughter.

“Her grandmother has an arrest record. Her great-grandmother has an arrest record as long as my arm.”

His daughter put things more simply than I ever could today:

Erica Joy writes from the sanctuary of her work library since it’s the closest place she has to home on a day like this. Armed with only pain and headphones, she writes in Processing:

Though many black folks joke about it, there is no such thing as “calling in black.” To call in black would be a radical act of self care, were it available to most black people. On the day after we have watched yet another black body be destroyed by modern day slave patrols, it would be helpful for us to be able to take a day away to process. To grieve. To hurt. To be angry. To try to once again come to grips with the fact that many people in this country, especially those in power, consider us disposable at best.

I can’t know their pain. I can only mourn for the loss of people who had no idea yesterday would be their last. They were no more in the wrong than I was going to work and driving home.

I know what happened is wrong. It continues to be wrong and it continues to be about race. This does not happen to white people. It doesn’t take long to look for a story about a white person acting violently towards police officers and living.

White people aren’t gunned down for existing.

I leave you today with an anecdote from a friend of my wife. They are both art therapists in the Washington DC area. Her friend is a woman of color and was talking to my wife recently about moving out of DC.

She was looking to moving into Montgomery County, in Maryland which borders DC. She wanted to get out of the district because it was getting too expensive and she could get her kids into a better school system. But she was worried about school violence.

She said something I had never thought about before.

School shootings is a white person problem. School shooters are predominantly white. According to 82/133 shooters were white.

My wife’s friend was afraid to move her children to the suburbs of DC because she was afraid of school shootings. This is a white problem. And it opened my eyes because I had never thought about it before.

I miss a lot being a straight white male. I try to open my eyes and see the world around me for what it is, but there are things I can never know. I can only open my eyes, my ears and listen.

Avoiding Empathy Burnout

I used to volunteer at a web site for teens looking for help. Some of them needed help with dating or sex questions. Others were looking for relief from abuse from parents, bullies or siblings. Some just needed a friendly ear to talk to and they didn’t have one in their life.

I was there during my last year of high school and first year of college. It was a good place to me since I was a lost, shy person as well. I often noticed the people I volunteered with, other teens/early 20s folks from around the world were also looking for something. We needed the site as much as those who wrote in for help.

We would answer emails, some times as many as 50 per week. And there was a chat room on the site where I would live in the evening hours until the early morning. I was the night owl. I was a mainstay in that room and I loved being there to talk with people. I would hang out in the open chat, but if someone wanted to talk privately, we could easily move our session into a private room.

I helped a lot of people who way and often thought perhaps I had missed my calling as I studied Creative Advertising by day. But I would get so burned out from internalizing people’s problems. I didn’t know how to turn it off. I was burning out, which is why I eventually left.

How to Avoid Empathy Burnout explains the situation well.

Many helpers feel that they face a double bind. They can preserve themselves by growing emotional callouses and blunting their responses to those in need. Or they can throw themselves into building connections with their patients and risk being crushed by the weight of caring.

I was employing emotion contagion. I became overwhelmed quickly and burnout. I needed to use empathic concern.

Emotion Contagion vs. Empathic Concern

I didn’t know there were different types of empathy. How to Avoid Empathy Burnout explains two types of empathy with my emphasis added:

Caregivers need to be empathetic, but empathy is not one thing. Both neuroscience and psychology have uncovered an important distinction between two aspects of empathy: Emotion contagion, which is vicariously sharing another person’s feeling, and empathic concern, which entails forming a goal to alleviate that person’s suffering. Whereas contagion involves blurring the boundary between self and other, concern requires retaining or even strengthening such boundaries.

I consider myself to be a highly empathetic person. I’ve described it as my greatest gift and curse. And I had no idea there was another way to channel that empathy. If I had known that sooner, perhaps I would have followed a different path.

In the end, I work in customer support where I unknowingly learned and implemented empathic concern. I form goals to alleviate suffering through technology rather than through physical or emotional violence.

Forming goals to alleviate suffering is a perfect way to describe any sort of support work. There’s some level of suffering and we’re trying to remove it. It’s hard work and it takes investing part of yourself to connect with people since we’re their digital Sherpas. Our ability to empathize can make a huge difference in how we serve our customers.

Keep Writing


Potatowire writes:

I worry about this site. I spend an average of two hours a night writing, and I’m not sure why. I am more introspective now, for sure, and I think my writing is improving, but this two-hour block represents all of my available free time. I have some other projects I would like to begin, but I don’t know how to fit them into my schedule.

Goals, Doubt, & Success

Linus writes:

We are both just flinging words into the air and hoping that maybe something happens, some stroke of luck occurs that will somehow transform our projects into something amazing. But probably not. Our blogs might just quickly fade away, these words lost to time. Maybe it’s all a learning process though, all our failures building up to finally give us enough height to see over the wall into enlightenment.

I understand all too well where both of them are coming from. We’re all flinging words into the world in hopes they’ll stick with someone. When I write, I hope someone sees my words and it touches them. Makes them laugh. Makes them cry. Makes them feel.

But it’s a struggle. We’re not big and famous bloggers. We can’t trace the lineage of our sites back across the decades. Even though my own domain reaches back 15 years, I was young and not trying to make anything out of it. It was a fun place to write and experiment.

I posted at over at The Arctic Palace from 2004-2011. Then abandoned the site, and Textpattern, for WordPress. I moved into the trenches here and have been hunkered down ever since.

I don’t have a large audience either but it doesn’t bother me. I write for myself. I write because it feels good. I write because every now and then someone else likes my words and tells me. And that feels so good.

James Gowans tweeted a good reminder. All you need is 1 I’ve got a few more than 1. And I write for them and for me.

So I say to Linus and Potatowire: Keep Writing! I read you. I value your voices. That goes for the rest of you who feel the same way. We’re out here. We’re reading you. Your voice would be missed if you stopped. So please don’t stop.