Category Archives: On Life

Why Twitter Account Suspension is Not Cool

Last year, my Twitter account was suspended for a week. Yes, this gives me a certain bias in writing about why this action is stupid, but bear with me.

Twitter claims they suspend users who engage in behavior that degrades the overall Twitter experience for everyone.  My first issue with this idea is that Twitter only allows 140 characters at a time, so “degrading” it any further is kind of hard to do. 🙂

Twitter JailMy second issue is that they allow things that actually do degrade it.  For example, when I follow someone, they can send me an auto-direct message (DM).  I’m following over 23,000 people now and and have probably received over 5,000 of these DMs that were  impersonal spam.  I can only block all DMs, preventing DMs I want to receive.  I used to look through DMs for the latter, an act which degrades my experience, but now I ignore all DMs, so don’t be surprised if you send me one and never get a response – which likely degrades your experience.

My third issue is that they say those who follow and unfollow many people (i.e., follower churn) are degrading Twitter.  This is BS.  I receive notification when someone follows me (unless I turn that off), but I have no idea when someone unfollows me – unless I use a third party app to find out.  If I have to go out of my way like that, how does it hurt my or anyone else’s experience on Twitter itself?  It doesn’t.

I’ll Follow You If You Follow Me (IFYIYFM)

Why am I following so many people?  Because many people practice reciprocal follow backs, so much so that Twitter blocked the ability to auto-followback sometime in 2013. Many people follow me just so I’ll follow them back.  I initially refused this and wondered why I kept gaining, then losing followers.  I had around 50 at the time, then 51, then 49, then 52, then 50, then 53, then 52, etc.

I wondered if I was posting things that attracted some people but offended others or something, but no, it was IFYIYFM, except I wasn’t doing my part of it.  Those people weren’t “really” following me, so I thought “no loss”.

Why do IFYIYFM?  Because having tens of thousands of followers looks good.  It’s all appearance.  It is shallow.  You could condemn that, but we’re talking about a service that is inherently shallow because few people can say anything meaningful in 140 characters or less, so being shallow on Twitter comes with the territory.

People ignorant of IFYIYFM can’t tell that’s how you have so many followers.  You have the appearance of credibility you sought.  However, you can tell, because anyone with nearly the same number of followers as they are following is doing this.  For example, I’m currently following roughly 23,000 people and have nearly the same number of followers.  I started doing IFYIYFM when I had 50 genuine followers and decided to see if IFYIYFM worked.  It does.  Given that only some Twitter users are aware of this, I’ve achieved (for everyone else) the appearance I sought.

Is there more to it than appearance? In theory, yes.  That’s 23,000 people who could potentially see my tweets, including ones of a promotional nature, whether for this blog or a free mp3, for example.  Visibility creates brand awareness.  It’s even better if someone actually clicks on a blog or mp3 and gets more interested in my other, similar items.  Or if they retweet me to their followers, which could be another few thousand.  Whether that actually works is another subject.

Why I Was Suspended

So why was I suspended?  Because not everyone does IFYIYFM.  The result is that I sometimes accumulated thousands of people who weren’t following me back.  I wanted to unfollow them.  Why?  Revenge?  Etiquette?  No.  Because Twitter has imposed limits on how many people you can follow.  That limit is about 10%.  Let’s look at an example:

imagesIf I’m following exactly 10,000 people and have 10,000 followers, I can only follow another 1,000. When I try to follow Mr. 1001, Twitter tells me I’ve reached my follow limit and makes the action fail. To follow more people, I have to unfollow people.  Who do you think I’m going to unfollow?  People who haven’t reciprocated IFYIYFM.  Why?  Because I’m not benefiting from following them.  You’d be right to say that this “benefit” is not what Twitter is for, but this is how many people use Twitter, which means this is also what Twitter is for.  Just because Twitter didn’t intend it to be used that way doesn’t mean it’s an invalid use of it.  That’s like saying I can only use a screwdriver on screws when I can also use it to pry open a paint can lid, and if I try to do the latter, my screwdriver is taken away from me.  Twitter may have created the tool, but other people are using it.

I gave people a while to reciprocate IFYIYFM, but if they didn’t do it, I eventually unfollowed them (using a third party tool that shows me that sort of info, because Twitter won’t so that people cannot manage their followers; this is sort of anti-user).  One day, I unfollowed 600-700 of them, then made the apparent mistake of following several hundred right after, triggering Twitter’s anti-churn algorithm.  They auto-suspended my account.

What Suspension Means

Suspension meant that I could not follow or unfollow people, but the real issue was that I could no longer use Twitter.  No tweeting.  More amazing was that I could not see any tweets by all the people I followed.  I was effectively banned from the site altogether.  Why would Twitter stop people from using the service as intended (tweeting and seeing tweets)?  Shouldn’t they stop you from using their service in ways they did not intend, if they’re going to do anything at all?  They can easily institute an unfollow limit just like they did with the follow limit.  They have admitted an unfollow/follow limit exists but not what it is, meaning they let you exceed that unknown limit and then punish you instead of telling you what it is so you can avoid it.  This is anti-user.

IFYIYFM is not Twitter abuse when it’s become etiquette to follow people back, you slowly amass people who aren’t doing it, and you unfollow many of them on the same day you follow more people.  That’s fairly acceptable use.  Instead, Twitter determines you’re a spammer and suspends you.  That’s anti-user.  They actually say that trying to gain followers is against their terms of service, which leads me to believe they genuinely don’t understand their own tool or how it is used, even by non-spammers.  Just gaining followers doesn’t mean you’re spamming them.

What Twitter is For

There appears to be a disagreement between Twitter and its users regarding what Twitter is for. Twitter designed it with certain things in mind (related to tweeting), and yet “the world” has found other uses for it (such as self-promotion).  Twitter doesn’t like those other uses and has tried to clamp down on them. Who is right?  Millions of users or the software creator?

Some will say that users are in Twitter’s house and must abide by its rules (terms of agreement), and to some extent, they are correct.  But a social construct has arisen on Twitter over the years, that following back is etiquette, and failure to do it warrants being unfollowed.  This social expectation is not under Twitter’s control, whether they like it or not.

Coda

After Twitter released me from Twitter jail, I stopped pursuing followers, not from fear of punishment, but from boredom with doing so and feeling it’s largely pointless. More on that another time, but what are your experiences with followers, churn, and jail?

My Experience with Tendonitis

After playing electric and acoustic guitar for years, I took up classical guitar in college. The only problem was having two years of music school left, and now four years of playing requirements to catch up on. I managed to graduate on time anyway, but the result of so much practice wasn’t pretty.

A year later, the tendinitis (also spelled “tendonitis”) silently building in both arms suddenly came to life in August 1996. Within months, I lost my job, all guitar playing, classical composition, typing and the fiction, every career and postgraduate plan, friends, savings, hobbies, pretty much everything. Temporarily crippled and unable to use my arms, I was unemployed for a year, sinking slowly into debt, and only partially able to take care of myself. Having lost the music and fiction were the least of my problems. I lost 2 1/2 years of my life to it.

Six months into it, I bought a dictation program that allowed me to dictate text and control the computer by voice (a foot mouse helped). Restricted in the rest of life but free through the dictation program, I spent all day on the computer learning every kind of program available and working on fiction. I also found a private physical therapist who, with her assistant, began successfully treating the injury and establishing at-home treatment. My HMO, which had been unable to help, refused to pay for a thing.

After a year, I met a photographer in need of a part-time assistant. She was a great employer for the disabled, allowing impromptu breaks when the injury flared and whatever hours I could manage (less than 20 a week). Even this caused acute pain and prevented any other activities…or healing. Working to pay unavoidable bills hurt my arms more, requiring more physical therapy that cost more money, which I had to work still more hours to acquire. It was a bad cycle.

My arms needed rest, which meant never using them again on a job at even a normal activity level, but realistically, how many jobs did that leave? The prospects weren’t good, and watching friends move on with their lives while mine had ground to a halt wasn’t pleasant.

Fortunately, me and the photographer stumbled into the solution when we realized she needed a database to track her photographs. Being somewhat hyper-creative, I jumped in to do it without realizing what I was getting myself into, but the classical training had prepared me for all that disciplined thinking. I did the design work with a regular mouse, which I put on the floor and used with my feet. Any writing of text was done with the dictation program. My physical therapist learned of this and asked me to design one for her, bartering hours worked against free physical therapy appointments. That’s when I realized this was it: the career that didn’t use my arms was programming.

This realization, in May of 1998, led to a programming course and self-study. Things were looking up, too, as my playing improved more and therapy appointments went from weekly to every two weeks, then three over the summer. The constant pain was gone, as was the ease with which a flare up could be caused. In fact, only one consistent pain remained, but the unthinkable cause wasn’t learned until early September 1998: the therapist found an entirely new case of tendinitis in each arm, this time on the inside of both instead of the outside. Incredibly, there were now four cases of tendinitis.

How could this happen? I still used my arms far less than a normal person, but still developed an overuse injury. How? My weakened arms, which came close to atrophying from disuse at one point, could handle so little that even a fraction of normal use was too much and amounted to overuse. And there’s no way to distinguish the forearm pain of an existing case from an approaching one. They’re both forearm pain in the same general area. The very subtle warning signs were masked by the pre-existing case.

Shocked, I realized there was a permanent danger of new injuries, a sobering fact that forced long term adaptations like finally buying the foot mouse, which my finances couldn’t afford but for which my arms could no longer wait. For the second time, the guitar playing disappeared when it hadn’t even fully recovered.

The professional job search started immediately to move away from freelancing, and within six months, I succeeded in March of 1999. I was quite literally saved. Using the foot mouse and dictation program at work, my arms got the rest they needed and started recovering rapidly. By 2000, regular physical therapy appointments ended. The financial situation improved dramatically, making it easy to change the life I’d had over 2 years to think about. Like many who’ve had their life taken from them and get another chance, I was determined to live it better. By May 2001, I was recording instrumentals again, and in early 2002, built a new home studio in which I recorded the debut album.

"Moshkill" Video

My video for “Moshkill” from NOW WEAPONIZED!

As of 2010, I no longer use a special mouse, the dictation program, or do any treatment for my arms.  This means no ice, heat, exercises, or even stretching except once in a while, and my playing time restrictions are pretty small. I’ve also been able to play softball (as a pitcher no less) and started playing drums, albeit lightly! With enough time and rest, anything is possible.

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Why Santa Claus is White

This week a reporter said on TV that “Santa Claus is white” and this caused an uproar.  As a white guy, I was initially puzzled how that could be.  In reading about it, I had a few thoughts.

Santa Claus is not a historical figure, but a mythical one that comes from a white culture, namely European (Britain, Germany, to name a few), which was predominantly white, just as African countries were, as a general rule, predominantly black, and Asian cultures predominantly Asian, etc.  It’s only in the relatively recent history that the “melting pot” effect has caused increasing numbers of other races to be in so many societies.

English: Photo of Jonathan G. Meath portraying...

English: Photo of Jonathan G. Meath portraying Santa Claus. Date approximate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does that mean that a society must change all of its mythical or other figures, and failure to do so is a rejection of those other races, who should feel shame about their race?  I don’t think so.  Why does a child have to see every mythic figure as being the same as themselves or feel bad?  It shows great insecurity not only in the child but perhaps their race in that society, which is indicative of far bigger problems and should be bolstered by more substantive means.  Changing mythical figures to be every race is a bandaid on a bigger wound.

In this article, a black woman named Zirlina Maxwell says “sometimes we have to take a step back and wonder why most of these historical figures are portrayed as white. I think that it’s very, very important for people of color.”  Since Britain settled the United States, we obviously have tons of cultural ideas that originated there.  That’s why Santa is white.  There’s your reason. Her comment shows a lack of historical perspective for an educated adult.  She actually asserts that he’s shown as white “simply because advertisers have portrayed him this way in America”.

Do black people think white Santa is actually racism instead of nothing more than having originated from a culture that was predominantly white?

It seems so.  The article that started all of this says Santa is white because that’s the default for all figures as a part of racism in the U.S. That black author, Aisha Harris, doesn’t understand history either, apparently. While her article is tongue-in-cheek, the I’m-not-worthy-unless-mythical-figures-look-like-me angle is genuine, sad, and the impetus for it.

Both articles say that most black families have black Santa, black Jesus and black angels, etc. The reason appears to be so that black children see these figures as being just like them, which initially appears to make sense for being inclusive.  The alternative is apparently that the black children will question why their skin color is different and feel ashamed and inferior, like Aisha says she did.  Rather than explain (to children who might not understand anyway) the historical context of white depictions (if that context is even understood by the parents, which it is apparently not), parents try to avoid it.

1914 Santa Claus in japan

1914 Santa Claus in japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But they are only postponing the inevitable.  Why inevitable?  Because the US is still dominated by the culture of the majority race that founded it: whites.  This is unlikely to change anytime soon, as such things take time.  And whites will continue to depict Santa as white for the same reason blacks want him black (identity).  In addition, Santa originates from whites, who naturally feel possessive of this depiction.  And resentful of attempts to change it.  Whereas blacks can see white Santa as a rejection of them, whites can see black Santa as an attack on heritage, tradition, and themselves (and their own ideas of him), not to mention political correctness that many despise.

“Get your own mythic figures and leave mine alone,” I hear whites calling out.

When the black children eventually and inevitably see white Santa, they’re apparently upset and confused, having come to expect black Santa just like white people expect white Santa.  Partly for that reason, I’m not sure that the whole “black everything” approach is healthy.  It seems to imply or validate the idea that they are indeed inferior unless a fictional character is the same race.  Why can’t we just be honest and tell them Santa comes from a society that was once mostly white, is more diverse now, and that he loves everyone regardless of race (just like we adults; as long as we’re lying to them about Santa’s existence, we can include that lie, too, right?)?  There’s a conflict-free solution.

Even simpler – Santa’s parents were white.  Do we need more explanation than that?

Why do kids need an explanation at all, for that matter?  Just because they ask a question doesn’t mean they should get an answer.  “Why is Santa Claus white?”  It’s kind of a stupid question.  I mean, did black kids ask why President Bush was white?  Do white kids ask why President Obama is black?  Don’t we validate the whole thing by even giving an answer?  Do kids expect every figure in the world to be their own race?  It seems so.  We validate that by showing them only depictions that match them.  Is that healthy?

If we’re going the “black everything” route, and if white or black parents want their kids to see a different depiction and not even blink, early exposure to those depictions is the only way to resolve this.  Expect resistance from older people, not because they’re racist, but because they’re human, just like your kids – i.e., they’re used to what they’re used to and don’t care much for seeing it different.  Is that “right”?  In this case, yes.  I’m all for being inclusive, but you can’t have both black Santa and white Santa, and if only one wins, it’s the original, and that’s white.

Why can’t you have both?  Verisimilitude.  The willing suspension of disbelief.  Having both rubs it in our face that it’s all fake.  If we’re inconsistent like that, kids will catch on even quicker to the lie that is Santa Claus.  And if we keep going that route, it leads to the ridiculous.  After all, what’s next, black Alice in Wonderland?  Black Peter Pan?  Do we have to have two sets of every book ever written, with the character races switched so no one feels bad (that reminds me of the push in grade school to say no team lost a game in a sport, because they both won for showing up – good grief)?  What about other races?  Are Latinos and Asians ticked off, too?  Where do we draw the line?

Santa Claus is white.  Accept it.

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The Washington Redskins Name Should Change

The Washington Redskins football team has a name that is considered racist by Native Americans, who, coincidentally, have the highest rate of suicide in the United States. While I’m not a Native American, I hear their complaints and agree it should be changed because it offends them. I also recognize that my opinion doesn’t mean a thing – because I’m not one of them.  Only their opinion matters.

They’ve desired a change for decades while the team, under different owners, has always refused. The excuses the team and fans are using seldom stand up to scrutiny.  I’ve picked apart a few here.

It’s Not Racist

Chief Sitting Bull

Chief Sitting Bull (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People who aren’t Native American keep saying “redskin” isn’t racist.  Here’s the way this really works: black people, and only black people, decide if the “n-word” is racist – because the word is directed at them. Latinos, and only latinos, decide “wet back” is racist for the same reason. And Native Americans, and only Native Americans, decide if “redskin” is racist.

If you’re not one of those groups, your opinion means nothing. You don’t have a say in the matter.  You are a listener.  Hopefully a respectful one.

We can’t make something not be racist just because we keep telling ourselves it isn’t. The only person we’re fooling is ourselves and people just like us.

Ignorance

Ignorance that it’s racist is not an excuse for continuing it (neither is complacency). The law doesn’t allow ignorance as an excuse for breaking it.  The same applies here.  If you didn’t know the n-word is racist, would it be okay to say it?  Of course not.

Intention

No one likes admitting they’re ignorant of something.  I get it.  I doubt a single supporter of the name “Redskins” intends to be racist.  Most people have probably never heard the term except as associated with a football team.  But supporters seem very hostile of the idea it’s racist, calling opponents “haters”, etc.  Is this hostility caused by a feeling of outrage that they are suspected of doing something racist at all, or even worse, on purpose?  If so, denial is no solution.

It’s Tradition

The team has been called that since the 1930s.  Fans cite this as a good reason to continue. Using that logic, we should’ve continued using the n-word just because we’d been doing it before.  If there’s a difference, it’s that the n-word was associated with all sorts of civil rights issues like slavery and voting while the r-word is not.

Nobody likes change, but life is change.  And sometimes you must change something bad to get rid of it.  Continuing with something wrong just because you’re already doing it is ridiculous.  And immoral.

As for “tradition”, having a racist name is some tradition to desire upholding.  Isn’t 80+ years enough?  What better way to exemplify the tradition of racism in the United States than the team associated with the nation’s capitol having a racist name? There’s a great message to the world.

Two (or more) wrongs make a right

The team has said that other teams, including high school ones, use the name, so therefore it’s okay.  Since when is something bad being done by lots of people an excuse for still doing it?

If everyone starts calling black people the n-word again, would that make the n-word not racist anymore?  How many people doing it does it take to cause that?  Ten?  A thousand?  100 million?  Do 100 million wrongs make a right?

Oh wait, the team suggests this bevy of offenders as proof the name isn’t racist because all these other teams wouldn’t use the name if it was.  They can’t all be doing something racist and not knowing it, right?  Of course they can.  When countless people used the n-word, did that prove the name wasn’t offensive/racist to blacks?  I call BS.

Having a deep connection to being called Redskins

washington-redskins-authentic-pro-line-full-size-riddell-helmetOn this webpage, the team says they are proud to be called Redskins (that’s actually the headline). I doubt any team members are Native American.  Someone did tell me several people were when the team adopted the name, which is interesting, but since that was a long time ago and things change, it doesn’t matter much now.

They say they have a deep connection to the name, but I bet the Native Americans have an even deeper connection to not being insulted all the time over their race.  For a football team.

There’s no reason the team can’t be called “Indians” or something similar without a racist angle, and still feel it means pride and other traits that the team says it associates with “redskin”.  For example:

  • “Indian” – means pride and competitiveness
  • “Chiefs” – see above
  • “Braves” – see above
  • “Redskin” – see above, PLUS it’s racist

Not wanting to change apparel, etc.

Some people don’t want to buy new jerseys and other stuff if the name changes.  I understand the cost issue, but this is a lousy and even petty excuse for keeping a racist name.

If Dan Snyder, the team owner, thinks it’s too expensive to change the name everywhere, maybe he should think about how much money he’d make selling jerseys and other stuff all over again.  Everyone who has something that says “Redskin” on it would buy it with the new name.  Many fans would be mad, but they’ve got collectibles now.

Coda

If the team and fans want to disagree, that’s their right, but when they defend their position with nonsensical arguments, those seem to be backfiring on them, making more people disagree because the logic is awful. I doubt they’ll come up with a good excuse because they would’ve done it by now.  That by itself suggests they know the end is coming for this team moniker.

The Culture of Silence – Suicide Prevention

This suicide prevention article from the Associated Press brought the Live Through This project to my attention and I think they’re both a good read for everyone, whether you’re suicidal or not. There’s a lot of misinformation about suicide and this goes a long way to clearing these misunderstandings up.

Silence Kills

One of the most important reasons to read about this is that the stigma people have given suicide causes suicidal people to remain silent, when silence kills. They need help but often won’t seek it for fear of the reaction, which is why you should educate yourself so you don’t knowingly or unknowingly contribute to the culture of silence by spreading ideas that suicidal people hear – and which cause them to keep their mouth shut.

Certain acts should indeed be taboo or forbidden, but nothing should be taboo to discuss. Rape, child molestation, and suicide are just a few of the subjects our culture, and that of the world, have inhibited discussion of, adding a layer of difficulty to what people are going through.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Some Facts About Suicide (from the Live Through This site)

  • A suicide attempt is made every 40 seconds (over 2000 a day)
  • Someone dies from suicide every 15 minutes (nearly 100 a day)
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US and increasing
  • 90% of those who die from suicide have a treatable psychiatric condition at the time of their death

Useful Links

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