What is one boring fact about yourself?

Some days (weeks!) are like this. Things I have failed to write this week:

  • A review of Simone Browne’s super brilliant book on surveillance studies in relation to blackness, Dark Matters.
  • Some progress on the module on care, remote work, Covid-19, and beyond, that I am currently working on with an equally brilliant friend.
  • Some half-baked local scene political commentary, which I have always been careful to write and despite I would always put a disclaimer that I am always, always writing from a place of learning and not expertise, I decided I’d want to watch it form into a much more solid shape, or stash it into my personal journal after all.
  • The realisation that it took me four days to figure out why someone’s tone did not sit well with me. Which also explained how I remained in a friendship that made me feel unsafe and small for about 4 years until one day I sat in my car crying after an argument, muttering to myself, “enough”. That word itself is its own heartbeat, reviving me to “no more of this bullshit”.

There’s this whole essay I couldn’t stop thinking about this week, about confession and social media, when the certitude is everything posted online lives forever. Next week I want to give a try to write something more formed like this essay. Wish me luck.

Writing these tweets has surely helped me cope: in therapeutic terms, they are the canoe that helped me safely travel from one side of the river to the other. But now that I have reached the next shore, it might be time to build myself a better boat. In other words, I wonder if my over-sharing functions as a half-measure. I am worried that this is a way of pantomiming a level of comfort with vulnerability that I actually lack; that I am screaming into the void without having to receive any feedback. Or, put another way, I fear that to over-share is to seek out the rewards of being loved without submitting to the mortifying ideal of being known. Dropping a tweet thread but committing to not reading the replies. Posting anonymously on my throw-away so I can say everything.

I follow Rob Walker’s The Art of Noticing newsletter, where in every edition he would post an icebreaker prompt sent in by his subscribers. In one edition, the icebreaker was, “What is a boring fact about yourself?” The question, as opposed to the “Name one interesting thing about you” is used to “”help mitigate privilege inherent in ‘what is one interesting fact about you’ or ‘what did you do over the summer’” sorts of questions. […] Asking about boringness is more of an equaliser. Besides: “This gets kids talking, which is fun — real mundane stuff like ‘my favourite sandwich is club’ or ‘I prefer dogs to cats’ ends up being a nice way to make connections — and can be sometimes surprising, actually.””

What is a boring fact about yourself? I’ll start: I sleep with at least four pillows, and with one leg jutting out of my blanket.

Reading in my tabs:

  • How to talk to kids and teens about misinformation.
  • “These stories reveal that care is at the center of socio-technical systems. We often miss that real “innovation” isn’t all sleek technology, but rather found in the everyday, living processes of caregiving and collaboration. And we should see the work of caregivers in those terms.” On understanding that technology can’t provide care, just redistributes it — and it is often to the caregivers who have to learn to use, maintain, and even repair medical technologies for their ill and disabled loved ones.
  • The legacy of discrimination from the Indian caste system is rarely discussed as a factor in Silicon Valley’s persistent diversity problems. Decades of tech industry labour practices, such as recruiting candidates from a small cohort of top schools or relying on the H-1B visa system for highly skilled workers, have shaped the racial demographics of its technical workforce. Despite that fact, Dalit engineers and advocates say that tech companies don’t understand caste bias and have not explicitly prohibited caste-based discrimination.”
  • What is the point of teaching dystopian science fiction when actually living something just as terrifying? Nadya Sbaiti, an Assistant Professor in the Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies at the American University of Beirut designed a course where she and her students analyse fiction as multiple horrific events unfolded in Lebanon. In it, they found lessons in exploring utopias and dystopias, a place to project their “anxieties and worries in order to manage and make sense of the coming unknown.”
  • “Through such photos we too can be transported to the scene of the reader, but the experience of reading remains entirely theirs – always unknowable to those who look on.” This photo essay on the gratification of watching others absorbed in reading.
  • “Virginia Woolf kept one. So did Samuel Johnson. W. H. Auden published his, as did the poet J. D. McClatchy. E. M. Forster’s was issued after his death. The novelist David Markson wrote terse and enveloping novels that resembled commonplace books; they were bird’s nests of facts threaded with the author’s own subtle interjections.” When people asked how I came up with these interesting links I shared, I have to say it’s thanks to my ongoing and somewhat obsessive practice of journalling and keeping a commonplace book since 2009 that has partially contributed to me being such a hoarder of introspective materials.
  • TIL: Meitu-tify, the modification of one’s facial appearance before sharing it online. The word originates from the Chinese image editing software, Meitu.
  • “[…] but don’t kid yourself: government is not where it’s at: it’s only a good place to start.”

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