Where Are We When We’re Online?

As technology enters evermore spheres of our lives, we spend more and more time in virtual space.

By Frida Oskarsdottir

While we humans have always looked to whatever forms of entertainment were available as escapism, smart devices have taken our ability to escape full circle, allowing us to participate in an alternate virtual space. I’m not talking about VR, I’m talking about group chats, work emails, status updates, and online dating. In science fiction, cyberspace is depicted as an infinite stream of 1s and 0s, zooming past each other against the inky black universe. We now reside in this mysterious void: “talking” to loved ones, “laughing” through emojis, “experiencing,” “being” “online”.

Even before the release of the first iPhone, it was clear that our actions in the virtual realm didn’t always mirror those outside of it. Psychologist John Suler describes this as “online disinhibition effect,” or more plainly put, why people act insane online. According to Suler, six factors comprise the phenomenon: dissociative anonymity, invisibility, asynchronicity, solipsistic introjection, dissociative imagination, and minimization of authority. Both violent trolling (toxic disinhibition) and surprising acts of kindness (benign disinhibition) can result from this volatile cocktail of factors, much like the varying results of any type of cocktail consumption. To extend the metaphor, some people will (usually drunkenly) tell you that it is our “true selves” that come out after a few drinks. Can the same be said for who we are online?

As people become comfortable living part of their lives online, we begin to normalize behavior that deviates further from what we might accept in real life, even from ourselves. We can do this because there is always someone a little bit nuttier than you posting too much about their marital issues or 25 consecutive identical selfies; the bar gets pushed further away from reality. Sure, you interrupted a meal to take a picture of your food and share it to an audience that includes your third grade teacher and your coworker from 11 years ago, but it’s not like you’re arguing with a bot on Twitter, right? Right??

Over the past two years, the actress Busy Philipps has emerged as an Instagram story darling by sharing mundane aspects of her life with her ravenous viewers (author included). Much has been written about her success with this endeavor versus as an actress, but what is missing from the discourse is how bizarre it is for her to have an endless, real-time, one-sided conversation with hundreds of thousands of strangers about her medical history, small children, and job. In fact, we don’t think it’s weird at all; she is simply an early adopter of a new social media platform. And lo and behold, the rest of us followed: Instagram reported last summer that over 250 million of its 500 million users posted stories every day.

Philipps’ brand is authenticity; we are to believe only the narrowest sliver exists between the woman we see on our screens and the one we could run into on the streets of L.A. But the thing about virtual space is that we can be whoever we want. We don’t have to enter until we’re perfectly groomed; so we can plan out exactly what we say in just the right amount of characters. The more time we spend as this version of ourselves–snarkier, funnier, prettier, smarter– the more comfortable we become, but the differences between the screen and the person behind it remain.

Millions of people looking for love– one out of four straight couples and two out of three gay couples now meet online–have to contend with these discrepancies, which are more complicated than just lying about your height on your dating profile. Articles are devoted to exactly how much time should be spent flirting online before meeting up; too much time means the other person is probably married, too little time means it’s just sex. What is implicit but unstated in these guides is that who we are online is fundamentally different, otherwise we’d never have to meet. When you do agree to get together the opportunity for virtual space is far from diminished. Maybe you answer some emails while you wait at the bar, rather than anxiously wondering if your date will recognize your unfiltered face. If it goes well, you might text your friends about it on the way home, and then dive into everything your date has posted publicly on social media.

While online dating presumes that at a certain point you get together and see where it goes in the real world, virtual space still finds its way into more established relationships. I might say goodbye to my husband in the morning before work but as soon as I step outside of our door, I can instantly connect with him at any point throughout the day. There’s no need to wait until we occupy the same physical space to share my thoughts with him. Imperceptibly but undeniably there is a difference between seeing one another at the end of the day and having been in constant communication. So too is there a difference between a disagreement online or in person; one of us might wait to bring up some annoyance at a careless remark made until we’re chatting online, putting space between our feelings and reactions. On more than one occasion I’ve found it easier to resolve a squabble online than in person, only to realize when we are back in the same room I’m not quite over it. On the other side of the coin, you only have to Google “online flirting cheating?” to see that for a lot of people, virtual space can get a little crowded.

In the Black Mirror episode “The Entire History of You,” the focus is a society wherein a growing population of people implant devices into their brains that record everything they see, allowing for total recall and playback of memories and the ability to jump into the virtual past at any moment. There are obvious benefits to the technology; we’re shown examples of improved homeland security and child safety. But slowly, the ways the “grain” impacts the protagonist become more sinister, from preoccupation with a lackluster job interview or obsessing over his wife’s interactions with another man at a party, to watching an old memory of himself having great sex while having boring sex. The most unsettling part comes after the TV is off, when you think about how close we are to realizing a similar future of full integration between ourselves and technology. Maybe it won’t be so bad. Maybe before we travel to the end of the virtual universe we’ll come up for some fresh air, blinking in the sun. Our kids might eschew the iPhone 22S for a rotary or a telegraph, rolling their eyes at the infinite photos their parents used to take of themselves, floating in the cloud.

What’s Height Got to do With It?

When where you stand becomes a deterrent in dating.

By Sara Afzal

Height is likely one of the most basic observations you make when meeting someone for the first time. During the initial pursuits of online dating, however, it can be a lingering question mark. Some people choose to list how tall or short they are on their profiles, but many don’t. As a woman who is 5’9”, I stand at the average male height in the United States (the average female height is around 5’4”). For me, this means inevitably asking a prospective date the dreaded question: “How tall are you?”

It’s superficial, but I admit I care about height. Everyone has a preference as to what he or she finds physically attractive, and for me, the taller, the better. I’m certainly not the tallest woman to walk the streets of New York City, but I’m tall enough that height (or lack thereof) is a factor in my dating encounters. I’m also not alone in wanting to date a man who’s taller than I am. In an essay for Esquire, Ann Friedman discusses the ingrained female preference for taller men. “Women have internalized the message that it’s better for us to be smaller. This is essential to know—it’s not just about shortness, but also skinniness. To be bigger than men is to worry that you’ll turn them off,” she writes. According to her, this is boiled down to a “sweeping prejudice masquerading as sexual preference.”

I know it’s shallow to be a heightist, so on dating apps, I prefer to be blunt: I ask men how tall they are if they haven’t already mentioned it in their profile. Some men are polite about it, either saying that they don’t mind my height or admitting that they prefer shorter women. One 5”6” man even wished me luck, joking, “I wish I was a little bit taller and a baller.” Clearly, the idea of an appropriate height disparity in a straight dating scenario is ingrained on both ends.

That doesn’t mean some men haven’t gotten defensive. One such gentleman lashed out after he told me he was 5’7’’. “Is that going to work for you?” he asked, before telling me I didn’t exactly have an ideal body, and my nose was “pretty busted, too.” Now we’re married! Just kidding.

Carly Stipek, 29, a fellow tall woman who dates men, said she is exhausted by the focus on her height when getting to know someone online. Stipek has heard it all, both negative and positive, ranging from “I love tall women, please be the big spoon to my little” to “You should play basketball. How’s the weather up there?”

At just over 5’11”, Stipek regularly is approached by men on the street or the train who gawk at her stature. Sometimes it isn’t much better on dates, where her height has been interpreted as a personal affront on masculinity. She remembers, “During one first date the guy immediately got angry because I’d put 5’11” on my profile, and that was misleading. Apparently a quarter of an inch really makes a difference and I should have rounded up to 6 feet.”

Stipek doesn’t feel she has the same luxury of weeding out men based on their height. “My dating pool would be ridiculously small if I limit only to men who are as tall as or taller than me,” she said. “I also know it’s not my job to apologize to a man who feels emasculated by my height. It’s a red flag when a guy makes more than a jab or two at how tall I am because that tells me this will likely be an ongoing insecurity that he feels the need to punish me for.”

For her, it’s about confidence. “Mostly I just want to be with someone who is comfortable enough with themselves that their masculine identity won’t crumble just because I happen to have the better view,” she added.

Not all shorter men see taller women as intimidating. At 5’3, Peter D’Amato, who is 30 and married, says he has never felt that his height was an issue in his dating life. His wife is 5’7″, and D’Amato says it doesn’t bother him that she usually wears heels. When he was online dating, he would usually stop talking to women who brought up height in the first few exchanges because he knew it would be important to them. Some women would tell him they were impressed that he didn’t let being short bother him.  

“People put so much emphasis on height in the sense that they worry that, socially, it’s hard for short men to date. It’s really not. Obviously, there’s a lot of emphasis placed on the attractiveness of tall men, and some women and men don’t find themselves attracted to shorter men,” he said. “But the times I went out with a woman who was taller who wasn’t interested or who I talked to online who wouldn’t date someone shorter are so unmemorable. Not everyone is attracted to you, and making height the reason is silly,” D’Amato added.

Ira Gamerman, who is 35 and 5’8”, disagrees. When women react to his height it makes him feel emasculated, he says. “I feel sad that the patriarchy forces women to feel so insecure about arbitrary bodily attributes they have no control over while simultaneously peer pressuring them into high heels to boot.”

Gamerman goes on to question if women’s preference for taller men is more about human biology. “In the time of Neanderthals or the Middle ages, I could see where physical stature might dictate one’s potential for survival. But I doubt this is still a factor for the ever image conscious post-millennial female.”

When Gamerman comes across a woman’s dating profile with height listed and not much other personal information, he says it makes him feel like he should keep swiping. The emphasis on height, he says, leads him to believe these women are ‘high strung, no fun, superficial, insecure, closed off, have out of whack priorities, and are lacking compassion.”

In some relationships, a height difference can affect the nature of physical intimacy. Pete MacAskill, 30, is 5’9’’. Given his average height, he’s dated men taller and shorter than he is. His preference is more focused on mental and emotional compatibility. “Height isn’t necessarily a limiting factor for me but it does affect the energy I bring to the relationship. When a guy is taller than me I tend to take a more submissive role, while a shorter guy will make me feel more dominant.”

On the taller side of the spectrum, Eric Erskins, at 6’6’’, feels that his height gives him an edge while dating women. “I think it’s an asset. I’m still discovering its impact,” Erskins said. He notes his shorter male friends “tend to be more extroverted in general due to their desire to be noticed.”

Being noticed isn’t an issue for Amy Gail Brown, 32, who stands at 5’11” even without the heels she usually wears. She said she likes being tall now, but it’s created some issues during her interactions with men throughout her life. A boy in college called her “the biggest girl he has ever seen,” and even now, her male friends tell her her height is intimidating. “They tell me that’s probably why I am still single. I do get a lot of non-responses from men online.”

Brown attributes some of this to the many options people in New York City have when it comes to dating. “Men in the city have too many choices, so why should they choose the tall girl when they could go out with the girl that makes them feel like a big manly man?” she said.

In the end, everyone has certain preferences when it comes to dating. I am free to say no to shorter men and they are free to say no to me. It’s human to focus on the physical as an essential aspect of attraction. As long as everyone is polite, I really can’t begrudge anyone’s individual standards and taste. But it is helpful to know you don’t stand alone with your tallest-kid-in-class struggles, and you can occasionally lament your extra inches with your fellow vertically-advantaged humans. As Stipek notes, “Sometimes you can’t help but check out the other floating heads above the crowd in silent acknowledgment.”

Let’s Have a Realistic Sex Talk

A fictional “birds and bees” talk from an extremely honest parent.

By Gabrielle Sierra

Hello daughter,

Yep, it is me, your parent. Here I am, perched on the side of your bed. You look angry and mildly uncomfortable and I totally understand. It is because you know what is coming.

Don’t be disappointed in yourself, you put up a valiant effort to avoid me all week, knowing this conversation was bound to happen. But I got you good. Because I when I knocked I said I had your laundry and you still refuse to do your own laundry so you had no choice. A lesson learned for the future, perhaps?

Anyway, here we are, me holding your laundry hostage, and you staring out of your window wondering how easily you could toss yourself through it. (Not easily, your sister tried the whole defenestration thing years ago and I am lightning quick, so don’t bother.)

It is time we had THE TALK. You know the one, the talk about sex. S-E-X.

“Now, when two people love one another very much they have probably already had a lot of sex.”

I know you like to whine and complain that you already know all about this stuff, that your friends talk about it or you read it in a magazine or had a class at school. But I just wanted to make sure you had the truth down pat from an expert. A sexpert if you will. Get it?! Why are you covering your face with your hands?

Now, when two people love one another very much they have probably already had a lot of sex. With each other and with other people. Sometimes in groups or in a public bathroom or in a car while waiting for their kid’s indoor soccer game to end. This also goes for most people getting married, unless it is against their beliefs or religion. Personally, I had a ton of sex before I met the love of my life, Mitch. Yes, I know your father’s name is Bill. I meant to say Bill.

Anyway, you can wait until you are in college to have sex if you want to, but I would get it over with on the earlier side. Mid-way through high school is a good time, but, of course, you do what makes you comfortable.

Pick someone you trust or like or even love for your first time just so you can be open and honest about how awkward it is. Avoid cars or couches or waterbeds; the first time is hard enough without worrying about space issues or making waves or deflating cushions. Spoiler alert: men will orgasm, women won’t.

“Sex is great, but it isn’t always pretty.”

There is really no way to know if there will be any blood, but it won’t be a river, so don’t really worry about that. Why do you look grossed out? Sex is great, but it isn’t always pretty, my child.

Once you get through your first time you will feel better. The pressure will be off, and hopefully you will have a funny story to tell. Don’t worry, you will most likely have a lot more sex with a lot of people and have a lot more stories. And anyway, funny sex stories are the best ones to tell at parties.

College is a good time to experiment, and, as a woman, you will learn how to use sex as a weapon. This will be fun.

Sometimes someone may seem like a great person before sex and then be a jerk after. This does not reflect poorly on you, in fact it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

Anyone who ever calls you a slut or a tease isn’t a human you should care about. Also if you give me their name and address I can go egg their house.

No always means no. And never, ever, even for one second, be afraid to be honest about this.

“Foreplay is important.”

Casual sex is great and you should have it as often as you want. Be honest about your level of interest and commitment. Use protection and don’t be shy about discussing your sexual past. This isn’t something to be ashamed of, so if anyone ever gives you a hard time about it just tell them to fuck off. Or just give me their address and… well you know.

Foreplay is important. Why are you rolling your eyes? Also you should get some sort of vibrator, you can order one on Amazon. You could also just go to a sex shop in the city but why pay up when we have Prime?

If someone tells you you are “really good” at something sexual, it means they just want you to do it again. Avoid sex when you are really full or have to pee. Sometimes quickies are not that quick and someone will be late for work. Oral stimulation doesn’t always work for everyone, but sometimes it is the only thing that works for someone. Learn what works for you and be honest about it. Pets will watch you have sex, they just do. Don’t worry about it.

Well, I guess that is it. I hope you learned from this and that you will someday crawl out from under your desk and thank me for sharing my wisdom. Don’t forget we love you no matter who you choose to love, and anyone who doesn’t isn’t worth a moment of your anger or sadness.

And remember that the most important thing in the whole world is to love yourself for who you are.

Here are your clean clothes. Alright, I’m going I’m going.

Oh! I forgot to mention it, but most people you meet already have HPV.

See you at dinner.

How People Are Using Gifs to Get Off

On swapping sex gifs as party favors in participatory online porn culture.

By Monica Torres

 

Welcome to the new frontier of anonymized intimacy. Older generations had anonymous AOL chatrooms and Yahoo! Group Mailing lists to explore kinks; younger generations are using gifs, or looping animated images. With the rise of gifs being used on social networks, fans on Tumblr are engaging in a participatory porn culture, swapping erotic gifs with each other in a 21st century gif(t) exchange. The pleasurable goal on- and off-screen is to arouse but rather than the proof of a physical cum shot, online fans see release with an endorsing reblog tagged: #hot or #Icametothis. Media theorists call these fans who mediate their own desires “prosumers”: people who inhabit the “simultaneous role of being a producer of what one consumes.”

These porn gifs are usually ripped from porn sites, so they are de-contextualized from their original meaning. But for porn gif makers, that’s the whole point. They are less concerned with plot and more concerned with zeroing in on fucking. Compressing scenes of desire into the seconds that were most personally affecting allows these “prosumers” to re-center frames of desire towards moments that aroused them, not whatever an ass-man director wanted from a film.

“Passing facial expressions of pleasure get magnified. Penetration is obsessed and lingered over. Orgasms last forever. Surprise is repeated. In a sex gif, it’s always the first time.”

The porn scholars behind “Giffing a fuck: Non-narrative pleasures in participatory porn cultures and female fandom” argue that gifs are uniquely suited for this affective engagement: “microporn facilitates a tighter focus on those gestures or movements most sexually affecting. This affective experience is furthered by the loop aesthetic of GIFs in which a single privileged moment is replayed repeatedly (and perhaps obsessively).” Passing facial expressions of pleasure get magnified. Penetration is obsessed and lingered over. Orgasms last forever. Surprise is repeated. In a sex gif, it’s always the first time.

These sex gif loops create feedback loops. There’s no better example of fandom-facilitated engagement than orgasmictipsforgirls, a Tumblr for “horny girls everywhere” that has over 154,000 followers. The blog orgasmictipsforgirls is run by Holly, a self-described “twenty-something not-entirely-straight girl who loves to gossip about sex stuff.” It’s my favorite sex blog on Tumblr, because it represents my favorite part of fandoms: community.

Holly doesn’t want to call her blog’s goals #sexspo (sex inspiration), but she does see links between fitness blogs and her sex Tumblr. Both promote narratives of self-improvement for readers. One is just doing it through explicit step-by-step gifs on how to give blow jobs: “It’s like when you read about someone who went from not fit at all to running a marathon and you’re like ‘I could totally do that! I COULD TOTALLY DO THAT!’” she wrote in an email to me. “But with the advantage that training for a marathon is hugely exhausting whereas being a bit more sexually confident can be enjoyable all along! (Oh, and that reading about other people’s marathon training doesn’t make you fit, but reading other people’s sex stories can get you off.)”

Holly has created highly-detailed guides on how to help women masturbate filled with supplemental gifs that act as useful, nonjudgmental visual aids. If I had known about all these ways I could hump myself to completion when I was a sexually frustrated teenager, I would’ve had my sexual awakening a lot sooner. And many other fans have been in that same boat based on the frequency readers ask Holly, “what’s an orgasm?”

Holly believes gifs can titillate women in ways that porn videos can’t: “[I]deas often fail at being good or believable or non-skeevy the whole way through (especially for women!) but most anything can be sexy for 2.2 seconds.”

Appreciative fans send Holly audio recordings of themselves masturbating, nude selfies, their sex stories, and the gifs and videos that got them off. Holly curates them all into Tumblr packages to be reblogged. She says opening up her blog to submissions made it possible for everyone to “have the opportunity to be a ‘sex blogger’ for a Warhol-sized fifteen minutes.” Her blog is considered so helpful that a sex therapist once directed a patient towards her site because, according to Holly, the therapist said, “there are pictures that will show you EXACTLY what to do.”

Orgasmictipsforgirls is an example of how the power of porn fandom comes not only from the loops of sex themselves, but also from the loops of feedback created between “prosumers.” It’s this intense, intimate community that fandom is actively fostering through curated loops of desire exchanged between Tumblrs. Citing academic Karen Hellekson’s previous work on fan economies, “Giffing a fuck” says that fandom gifs rely on “giving, receiving and reciprocating” works that reinforce bonds between users: “the gift of artwork or text is repetitively exchanged for the gift of reaction, which is itself exchanged, with the goal of creating and maintaining social solidarity.” Seeing hundreds of notes and reblogs to your gifs isolating that one ass slap is a confirmation that you weren’t the only person to find this hot.

“Reading about other people’s marathon training doesn’t make you fit, but reading other people’s sex stories can get you off.”

But Holly recognizes the limits to using porn gifs is their source material: “The huge weakness is that it’s still made out of ‘Porn From The Porn Industry’ so visually the blog is way, WAY whiter, skinnier, hairless etc. than I’d ever choose it to be.” The all-inclusive, celebratory messages of “Anyone Can Fuck!” and “’People Don’t Give A Shit What You Look Like, Trust Me” that Holly wants to give followers clashes with the limiting spectrum of bodies she’s curating from. It’s a reminder that even when gifs are purposefully taken out of contexts, they are still subject to them through the kinds of bodies the images use.

Gifs create ephemeral moments of pleasure that impact people far beyond their second-long loops. Scrolling through these explicit dashboards, I will sometimes pause between gifs of explicit body-slapping fucking, arrested by a woman’s captured, open expression of lust. On photography, literary theorist Roland Barthes called these arresting moments the “element which rises from the scene, shoots out of it like an arrow, and pierces [you].” What pierced this one gif curator and compelled them to make this gif is now, in turn, piercing me. ‘Do I look like that?’ I’ll wonder. It’s still rare enough for me to see women’s pleasure on screens that gifs like these do feel like gifts. In porn, I’d have to rewind. In sex, there’s no replay button. But here I can linger freely.

We Asked, You Answered: Social Media Confessions

We asked you to share your deepest, darkest social media confessions with us; things that you have done and things that have been done to you. Here is a selection of some of the entries we received.

By the Editors

 

We asked you to share your deepest, darkest social media confessions with us; things that you have done and things that have been done to you. Here is a selection of some of the entries we received. Our biggest takeaway? We are not alone.

I allowed an ex boyfriend’s social media to make me doubt my career choices.


I found an old high school friend who made significantly different life choices than I did on Facebook and even though I knew I didn’t want what she had – husband and two kids before age 28, born-again Christian, I’d obsess over every photo, every update for some clear proof that she was doing it wrong and I was doing it right, to the point where I had to unfriend her because of the habit.


I once became obsessed with a Tinder fling looking at my mundane Instagram stories from selfies to NYC architecture to food porn. He would look every day but not like at any of my actual Instagram posts. I would sometimes post Instagram stories knowing that he would look. He was one of those guys that would barely text, and I was trying to get his attention. I still don’t get why he wanted to lurk on my Instagram, but not engage me more than that?


After a great first date with a man I had just met, he had mentioned he had a very recent, long-term ex-girlfriend. Naturally, I went looking for her Facebook profile. I did the standard perusal: Check out photos of her to verify that she is indeed more beautiful than I am, see where she worked or what grad program she was in, and, then things took a weird turn. I saw her tagged in a photo with her dad, who was from an Eastern European country. Soon, I was on the Facebook page of a woman I had never mets dad. I was looking at black and white childhood photos of his life in Europe, feeling oddly sad and wistful. It was 1 am and I was getting teary-eyed wondering what kind of life he led. Then I closed the window because I realized things had gotten real weird.


The first thing I do in the morning before I roll over and look at my partner is slide my phone over with half-open eyes and check social media. Sometimes when I do look over he’s doing the same thing. Also sometimes we’ll put on a movie and after a while I’ll look up from my phone and see that neither of us have watched it for 30 minutes.


Sometimes I make up funny stories as status updates that I know will get a lot of likes, but are completely untrue.


I have posted pictures pretending to be doing things I wasn’t doing at the moment, or pretending to be at a certain place that I wasn’t at the moment, because I wanted a certain someone to see them. I’ve done this many, many times.


I do interpretive dance on video and post it on social media. Usually because I’m bored and also because I want people to think I’m cool.


Definitely have stalked an ex…10 years after the breakup. It was just his wedding photos which I sadly judged very harshly instead of being happy for them.


This wasn’t done by me, but rather, something that was done TO me. I was casually, openly seeing a man and knew that most likely he was seeing other people. That didn’t bother me. What did horrify me was when one of the other women apparently found out my name, stalked me on Facebook, and then tagged herself in picture of me and my baby niece. The tag was on the baby. I got the request for the tag, saw who our mutual friend was, eventually figured out what happened, and began to feel sick. It felt like someone maliciously marking their territory, peeing on my sex tree, as it were. We live in a world where we all know we secretly stalk others, but to have irrefutable evidence that someone was stalking you in jealousy… Man, creepy.


On Venmo a few months back, I saw that my ex-boyfriend (who I haven’t spoken to or communicated with in any way since we broke up almost 2 years ago) had paid one of his roommates for the rent and while scrolling away, my fat thumb accidentally LIKED the exchange. I caught it right away and undid the like, but the moment of panic over that tiny thing isn’t something I’ll forget for a while!


If Instagram explore is any indication of the type of person I am, then I am not as cultured, well-read, or deep as I’ve managed to convince myself. Evidently, the majority of what I click on, and thus what is populated, is nail art videos (they’re mesmerizing), before and after weight loss photos (there goes any credibility for my body positivity), and the Kardashians’ varying butts/hair vitamin ads (I don’t follow them but it doesn’t matter, I click. On. Everything.)


I obsessively watch those pimple popping videos on Instagram. Literally, I watch them every night before I can go to sleep. It’s super gross, but there’s something so peaceful and cleansing about them. As a fun bonus, I also know a lot of key dermatology terms now too.


A few years ago, I became obsessed with a girl my boyfriend at the time was dating. I was insanely jealous of her for no reason except that she’s really hot. I stalked all of her Instagram photos and would check her accounts every day. My boyfriend and I broke up three years ago and don’t talk to each other anymore but you can bet I still look at her account every fucking day. She has two kids now and lives in Manhattan. She set her Instagram account to private recently and I still feel kinda sad about it.


In the first two years after a breakup, I posted things mostly to exact revenge on my ex. It wasn’t the best tactic, especially after he decided to become a priest.


I don’t look at Instagram stories because I don’t want to give people the satisfaction.


Towards the end of college I started dating this girl I met while waiting tables at a sushi restaurant. We dated for a few years and eventually moved in together. During the course of our relationship I would let her take photos of me dressing, undressing, in the shower. Not playboy aesthetic more someone following me around in my morning routine. I didn’t honestly think too much about them until after we broke up and I found bathtub pictures of me plastered all over her Flickr account. I felt so betrayed and humiliated, we had a difficult break up but i never thought she would post such vulnerable and intimate moments. I immediately called her and asked her to remove them, she said I was overreacting, they were artistic and they “really did not show anything”. Her cavalier response felt so emotionally manipulative. She did remove them that evening and I have not really spoken to her since. Our relationship was not terrible but my memory of her has been ruined.


I once “liked” an ex-boyfriend’s old photo of us on Facebook in a moment of drunken nostalgia. When I was called on it by a friend I lied and said I did it accidentally while scrolling.


I have pretended to be shocked by news I already knew, haircuts I already saw, and reunions I already knew took place so that I wouldn’t be acknowledging that I spend time on social media.


I’ve stopped following someone on Instagram but then compulsively looked at their account by entering their name manually. I pretend I have no idea what this person is doing when other friends ask.


I have an ex that I parted amicably with some time ago. I moved and moved and moved again so I’m now three cities away from them and this is long in the past. But for some reason a few months back, Facebook decided to randomly show me a photo of them showing off with their new KNIFE COLLECTION. Yes, that’s right. Knife collection. As in they collect rare and dangerous-looking knives and most of their social media activity is now just photos of them posing with their knives in increasingly more-threatening positions. So every now and then I silently visit their Facebook and Instagram and watch the knife show and wonder how I never saw this side of them and if maybe it’s because of something I did and if I should be concerned.


Sometimes, I’ll check Tinder to see if a guy, who I met through the app, is in town or if he is ignoring me. The app has a location feature that tells you how many miles away someone is.

An Interview with the Woman Whose Protest Sign Led to the Resignation of a State Senator

Becky Haines shares her side to the story of how a retweeted photograph led to the resignation of Nebraska State Senator Bill Kintner.

 By Frida Oskarsdottir

Becky Haines headed home from the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st with a renewed sense of hope. Hours later, a photograph of her and her sisters carrying signs that read “Not this Pussy” and “Not Mine Either” was tweeted by conservative talk show host Larry Elder, with the caption “Ladies, I think you’re safe.” The tweet gained thousands of likes and was retweeted by Nebraska State Senator Bill Kintner. Many were incensed by Kintner’s endorsement of these remarks, and, amid the controversy, he resigned. Viral news of this nature often ignores the real people involved. We spoke to Becky to hear her side of the story.

How did you decide to attend the Women’s March?

My sister and I, I don’t know who said first, but we were like “Hey, we want to do this.” We invited our third sister to join us and we went together. We haven’t done anything together as sisters in a very long time, it was special in that context alone.

Had you ever marched before?

This was the first time I have ever taken a stand politically. I have never protested or marched or ever really cared about politics until now.

How did you decide on the signs?

My sister Nancy’s husband is an artist and he made us these beautiful hand-painted signs, one said ‘Treat Everyone with Respect. Period.’ and one said ‘United We Stand.’ And we flipped the signs over (laughing) and made our own signs because he refused to paint that for us.

So we actually had very beautiful politically correct signs on one side which we carried maybe 10% of the day and on the other side were more publicized signs that you’ve seen all over the place. And we are all very, we’re sort of reserved people and so that was big for us to carry these signs.

What was the reaction at the march? Did you see similar signs?

There were similar signs. Easily a hundred people asked if they could take our picture. We saw this wall behind one of the museums and said “Let’s get up on that wall.” So we’re above the crowd and not getting jostled but still can see everything that’s going on and be a part of everything. So we’re standing above everybody and people would stop and ask if they could stop and take our picture and yelled that they loved our signs.

How did you feel after the march?

I felt hopeful. I woke up Friday morning feeling depressed and afraid. Saturday after marching with my sisters I found my hope again. There are so many of us that are going to fight for each other. It was arm to arm people, no one shoved, no one said an unkind word. It was beautiful.

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Bill Kintner retweeted Larry Elder’s tweet after the Women’s March. Haines is pictured here, center, with her two sisters.

How did you find out about how your picture was circulating?

Originally a friend here (in PA) had posted it on my Facebook page but it was from a local conservative talk radio DJ and I could not figure out where he got the photo. At that point I had no idea that it had gone viral. And then my niece saw it on a blog and texted it to me in a panic because she didn’t know how to tell her mother. I said we had to tell them before it gets in the mainstream media and so we told both my sisters. I’m perfectly comfortable with it. It brought someone down that shouldn’t be in office. And even though it’s very indirect that I had any contribution to that I feel very proud that my photo helped to take him down. It made it worth the hateful comments.

The timeline was so immediate, he (Kintner) retweeted the photo, there was backlash, and a few days later he resigned. Were you following closely or just hoping the attention would go away?

I was following very closely. When it all came to light, my son posted on Facebook Mr. Kintner’s contact information and asked his friends to call and fax and write to ask for his resignation. He resigned that morning and my phone was blowing up.

I haven’t seen the video of his press conference but I read his response, he didn’t really take responsibility for his actions or ever apologize for what he did.

When you started hearing of the photos circulating were you surprised by the magnitude of it and the people who reached out to you?

Initially I was hearing only from people that I knew, and then I wrote a post to Pantsuit Nation that was published, and that was viewed over 33,000 times and over 2500 hundred comments, 99.9% were supportive and the people who expressed a negative comment were immediately challenged by someone else.

What would you say is the takeaway from this?

I feel like I made a difference. I feel like all of us becoming active, those of us who don’t stand with what the current administration is doing, we can make a difference. One little step at a time, but it gave me hope that we can turn the tide.

Are you going to go to any more protests in the near future?

I am! It’s funny I was just working on my sign, I’m going on Sunday in Harrisburg where I live at the Capitol, against the ban on immigration.

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Becky Haines

What does your sign say?

It’s a picture of the Statue of Liberty with the words at the base, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses who yearn to breathe free.”

We have to remain united, especially women, we have to take care of and support each other. I know that the news this week was that Trump is not going to take away LGBTQ rights. I have a gay son and that’s extremely important to me and my theory is that that’ll change down the road.

So this is personal for you in many ways?

Absolutely. I was in an abusive marriage; the verbal abuse of women is a huge point for me. I’ve had mental health issues which would preclude me, god forbid, from getting insurance if I ever switched employers. They are too numerous to mention the reasons why I’m willing to march out in the snow on Sunday.

Thank you, Becky.

Thank you and keep marching!

 

7 Media-Inspired Suggestions for Not Losing Your Mind in 2017

Advice from an amateur but avid media consumer struggling to stay informed with staying afloat.

By Fríða Óskarsdóttir

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You may have read in any of the 30,000 think pieces published in 2016 that the media landscape is changing. We – as readers, consumers, and citizens – have changed along with it. Compulsively trying keep up with current events in a tense climate can come at a cost. I wake up and refresh local and national news apps, listen to one of 20 or so podcasts in my rotation on the train to work, and receive  long-form recommendations daily from friends that I then plan to read later. By the time the weekend edition of the paper arrives I’m in a daze from tweetstorms and clapbacks, fake news and the people who fake it.

Being constantly plugged into the Matrix leaves me at times feeling like my brain is burnt and others that I remain woefully under-informed. As I’m sure is true for many who don’t work in journalism, social media was a prominent factor in spurring my interest in the news over the last few years. But in the current climate, the volatile mixture of online activism, fake news, and hostile comment threads makes me wary of what I share. In spite of this, I think that learning how to navigate the personal and political in a time of great divide should be at the forefront of our lives. It’s impossible to keep up with it all, but in a time of alternative facts, I hope to stay vigilant.

I decided to examine my relationship with the media and how I use it as a source of information, reflection, and connection. The following points are the ways I’ve found to try to keep myself awake, in check, and inspired.

1. Hold yourself accountable.

In uncertain times, I like to remind myself that I’m in control of the information I take in and put out. Sometimes it’s all too easy to paraphrase and misremember statistics and while acknowledging your sources is important, it isn’t always enough. Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow urged being a critical reader of the media on the post-election episode of their podcast “Call Your Girlfriend” (full episode here):

“Ask questions as you’re reading something. Even from [the most reputable] news sources, you can say ‘Who am I not hearing from in this article?’ ‘So this is ostensibly about how people are feeling after the election – but who’s really quoted here? What sorts of ‘experts’ am I hearing from? Is this news source trading access to give people anonymity?’ There is a whole skill set of being a critical reader and thinking about how the news that gets to you is constructed. A good tell is: did this writer call people? Did this writer go somewhere? Or is this piggy-backing off something else?”

2. Focus on lived experiences of others.

Studies and statistics are important, but they shouldn’t completely discount people’s varied personal experiences.  A recent New Inquiry piece from David A. Banks explores the tendency of some of the most popular podcasts to gloss over sociology for more abstract neurological phenomena, leading to “a sense of obnoxious explainerism.” This is particularly helpful to remember as someone who all too often responds to an anecdote with, “You know, I just heard on…”

3. Broaden your scope.

News and politics are so much more than the day to day, but the immediate often takes precedence over all else. Instead of sharing every breaking news item or those pieces that reinforce your point of view into the echo chamber, I find it’s helpful to reach out individually to the people close to you who may think differently than you do. Sharing art, movies, books, podcasts, or articles that you think they might like may lead to common ground in other areas. Not everything has to be political, and that makes it political.

4. Find the sweet spot.

The most powerful movements combine symbolism with action. This was embodied by the viral push to donate to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s name. As highlighted in this New York Magazine piece by Lisa Ryan, the campaign was both brilliant and effective: of the over 315,000 donations the organization has received since the election, 82,000 were made in Pence’s name.  

5. Listen.

One of the first pieces of media that brought me out of my post-election stupor was an episode of “This American Life” entitled The Sun Comes Up, which laid out conversations between people in the days after November 8th. The dialogue spanned mothers and children, recent and long-naturalized immigrants, police officers and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. To me these offered solace in the reminder that America will always be home to vastly different ideologies, regardless of how helpless I feel in mine at any given moment.

6. Do the damn thing.

While making your voice heard is vital to broad cultural shifts, sometimes just the smallest action is what it takes to chip away at the despair that crops up from one too many deep-dives on Google. I can rant as many times as I want about Betsy Devos’ terrifying lack of experience in public education, but it makes more sense to volunteer at READ 718 instead. There, I spend a few hours a week reading with one of my many fourth-grade friends, covertly indoctrinating him with feminism and witchcraft. Also, when you tell people you volunteer they automatically feel inferior to you, so, bonus!

7. Write your own story.

The first thing I did on November 9th was sit down with my friends and plan the revolution this newsletter. Meeting, organizing, scheming, and dreaming has absorbed so much of my dread and focused my rage into art, community, and laughter. No one else can create what you do, so get started. And don’t forget to sign your friends up for our newsletter!