The Problem With Online Allyship – How Leaving Social Media Makes Us Better Accomplices

Season 2, Episode 5

by Ashia R.
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In this episode:

Why you don’t need to be on social media to be a good ally

…and how following a billion activists is probably doing more harm than help.

This week, we’re talking about:

  • What is social media dependency and why we need to cut it out to raise kind & courageous humans
  • How we inadvertently weaponize our online ‘allyship’ to drag targeted people onto real-life danger
  • How to transform the way we show up for each other – without getting caught on a dumpster fire feed that sucks us dry and prevents us from actually helping each other.
  • Assignment: Be Detectives and find out how our people prefer we show up
Ashia Ray
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Guest Speakers

Bellamy (they/them) is the owner of a wealth of marginalized identities and founder of Revolutionary Humans.

As an essayist and community builder, they pull from years of experience with family services to help parents and educators become everyday advocates and activists.

 Support Revolutionary Humans

Visit their website at RevolutionaryHumans.com to learn more and connect with them.

Bonus Resources & References

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Episode Transcript

Ashia
Hello friends! Welcome to the Raising Luminaries podcast with Revolutionary Humans, again! We’re doing Season Two focused on spring collaborations. This is Ashia Ray, today we are in continued cahoots with my partner do-goodery, Bellamy Shoffner. Yeaah!

Bellamy
Woo. Yeah. woo.

Ashia
You sound so enthusiastic! [laughter] Noon on a Saturday. Okay!

Last week’s episode, we focused on collecting minority friends. And we talked about, you know, maybe don’t invade affinity spaces for your own edification. And also the difference between using someone to create your community versus actually being in community with them.

So in this episode, we’re going to continue that conversation and tease it out to point out why we stay on social media to stay connected, despite the harm that it does, and how that’s connected to the last episode. And then – the HOWEVER, the invisible ways that our social media dependency does far more harm to the people that we’re trying to connect with, than helps. Usually. Most of the time.

And then of course, we’re going to try to get to Good Ideas to Avoid. [laughter] Bellamy got anything to add? Something brilliant?

[laughter] No. On my goodness. I didn’t expect you to ask me that. I just was listening. I was like, what are we talking about today? I was in the intro [laughter] and I was in the zone getting ready. I have nothing brilliant. So sorry.

Two more times! I’m gonna put you on the spot two more times.

Bellamy
[laughter]

Ashia
Just kidding.

Today we’re gonna cover the triumvirate of mobility, the things that we need to do to actually get off our butts and do some things!. Or stay on our butts and do some things! If that’s more accessible to you.

We’re gonna cover ‘what is social media dependency,’ and why we need to cut it out to raise kind and courageous humans. Along with one tip on how not to talk about your social media dependency, so you’re not being… kind of rude.

And then how we inadvertently weaponize our allyship to drag targeted people into social media to be consumed by the social media industry. And then, of course, left to be picked apart by scavengers and trolls, and in real life, very dangerous people.

Then we’re going to talk about how to transform the way we show up for each other, without getting caught up on a dumpster fire feed that sucks us dry and prevents us from actually helping each other while also feeling like we’re completely drained. And then we’re going to send you out into the world with an assignment. Let’s see if we can do that on less than an hour. Probably not. But we’ll try.

Okay, so as always, we are here to raise kind and courageous humans and lead the next revolution. Why do we need to talk about this in order to be the parents and educators and caregivers that we need to be? I mean, we often talk about especially in books for littles and Raising Luminaries – We need to listen and follow the lead of #OwnVoices, first voices, people with lived experience. Obviously, first step.

And then we need to contribute and support the collective action initiatives, like we have to actually engage. And most importantly, we need to model the difference between performance and action, the difference between sharing and liking and thoughts and prayers, and actually changing policy and systems and cultural norms. So let’s talk about social media, what support looks like?

What I’m noticing when I think of a lot of people who consider themselves supporters, they keep up with current events, right? And I do the same thing I’m like, “I’m reading the news! I’m keeping aware! And don’t forget – Autism Awareness Month, it’s very important to beware of us!

Bellamy
Right, beware!

Ashia
[laughter] It’s also Velociraptor Awareness Month. Gotta watch out!

Bellamy
[laughter]

Ashia
[laughter] So keeping up with current events – that sense that because we’re aware of what’s going on, we’re actually helping. It feels like we’re helping, it’s draining our energy. But what it’s actually doing is using the pain of targeted people and people going through tough experiences as a spectacle.

It’s more of like consuming news as entertainment rather than to stay informed so you can take action. We talked about that a little bit earlier this season about making targeted people into a spectacle – following someone, right?

Like everyone’s like, “Like and subscribe! And also follow me!” and that is helpful because then they stay in your feed and you stay connected. But if that’s all we’re doing, that’s not actually changing anything or helping at all. All that’s doing is making a passive consumption us a product. Our experience, our labor, we became we become something that you consume. And again, it’s more about entertainment and the performance, even the sharing, right? When you share something it’s performing that you’re supporting us, but not actually doing it.

Bellamy
Right. right.

Ashia
Which isn’t to say that boosts aren’t helpful – direct, one on one, and direct boost to say, “Here’s why you should follow this and support.” Awesome. It’s not the same as just sharing a post about your privilege.

So anything, where you’re doing something to kind of shallowly engage with someone to form the illusion of relationship – where you’re liking posts, and you’re sharing things – that creates a dopamine hit for the person on the other side, which actually seems like a nice thing. But it’s actually keeping us connected and tethered to social media platforms that I don’t think any of us actually want to be on.

Bellamy
None of us want to be there. No, no.

Ashia
You know what I do my life? More screens! [sarcasm]

Bellamy
Right. Right. [laughter] No one among us is like Instagram is my home.

Ashia
[laughter]

Bellamy
It’s where I belong. It’s done only good things for me. [laughter]

It brings me joy. [laughter] It’s truly my best friend, none of us.

Ashia
[laughter]

Bellamy
Yet we all get sucked in.

Ashia
And maybe it is but these are not our people. So

Bellamy
[laughter] Right the the people who that is true for have not yet figured themselves out.

Ashia
And just like going to a march can be impactful, but it can also be performative. The question is, how is me showing up actually doing anything to change the rules to prevent more harm?

Am I using this to slowly engage myself and steep myself into more and more courageous action? Or am I using it to show up and take selfies, right? So how can we connect with people and make policy change and raise kind of courageous humans if we are so damn busy and drained from scrolling to our feeds?

Okay. [laughter] Let’s see. First, a quick note on scaffolding. Please do not ever anyone – and I have done this myself. We’re not going to do this anymore. Use the word ‘addiction’ as a flippant way to refer to dependencies, especially on things like social media.

There is such thing as social media addiction. But that’s not what we’re talking about right now. We’re talking about dependency where you get the dopamine hits, you really need to stick around for social reasons, that kind of thing.

So my friend Rebecca S – and I will link to it in the show notes if I get their consent – for a post. But this is a quote from Rebecca S. who who has personally educated me on this, and I thank them.

“We really need to stop using addiction incorrectly. An overuse of something isn’t an addiction. Addiction is a response to trauma, which makes it a disorder more than a disease (which is real and valid) and causes people to be consumed and overly fixated on the euphoric high, something gives them consumed to the point where nothing and no one matters.”

So when people are like, “I’m so addicted to social media,” it’s like no, nope. [laughter] Please don’t dismiss like the actual real life harm and struggle and challenge and journey of someone who has addictive disorders or uses – something that their life hinges on it.

Bellamy
Okay. Oh, got that.

Ashia
So when we ended our last episode, Bellamy said some delightfully insightful things about why we have chosen to leave social media. I think I left about a year, year and a half ago? And also what it means to have to rebuild and create new spaces to still engage with people when so many people are used to social media.

Because the pull, constantly, every day, I’m like, “Maybe I should just go on to social media and I’d be able to find some people, and then I’d be able to engage with them and it would be better!” and then I forget all of the risky, dangerous hard parts and the fact that it keeps me from actually making things that need to happen in the world. But for Bellamy, you were pointing out that it’s not just toxic, it’s not draining. It’s actually physically dangerous.

Bellamy
Yeah, so I noticed as I was building my freelance writing… career, if we can call it that – a lot of the, specifically Black, women who were sort of in the same line of work… were being intensely harassed online and on Twitter.

There were always DMs. And still, there are always screenshots of DMs of some men or whoever, somewhere, saying horrific things or threatening horrific things.

And then there are documented cases of black women whose houses were swatted, and who have been doxxed, and who have just had their actual real-life, in-person lives threatened. It’s not just online harassment, which is bad enough.

But there’s also this extra step of people going through the trouble to find out where you live, and find out where your kids go to school and figure out how they can actually harm you.

And for me, a few years ago, I realized that nothing I have to say is worth my safety. There’s no points that I need to make so badly on social media that I’m willing to risk having the FBI come to my house because they think I’m a terrorist or something like that.

It’s just not worth it to me. My cause is worth it, and my feelings are worth it. But the part where I have to sacrifice myself – or my family and our safety, to make those points, just doesn’t work for me.

And maybe that means I’m not radical enough or brave enough. And that’s fine. I’m not. I’m unwilling to do it. And I’m also, as I was learning more about this also, as I was becoming a single parent – so you have that heightened fear of being the only adult in the house.

And it just, it’s just, it’s just too much. And I think, when we think, “Oh, well, if you’re not on social media, you’re not doing anything, the…”

Ashia
[laughter]

Bellamy
[laughter] then we are forgetting all of the all of the many people before us who made radical change without social media. And also we’re forgetting that no one is entitled to a daily tracker of my every thought. No one is entitled to 10 tweets day day about what I’m mad about, or current events, or this or that. Like, I still have those thoughts, but no one is entitled to it. I don’t owe it to anyone.

And at the same time, I still want to do my work and figure out how to do my work and influence people without being an ‘influencer.’

Ashia
[laughter] [breath] Oh, yeah. For me, I’ve only been seriously, seriously scared where I actually, under normal circumstances, don’t call the cops – I had no other choice. I was like, “I need to let you know that. If someone calls me in to be swatted. My house is not dangerous. This is an evil person on Reddit.”

But I can’t imagine… you know, we all get being feminine or anyway aligned with non white men on the internet means you’re gonna get rape threats. You’re gonna get threats to be doxxed. You’re gonna get – [sigh] especially if you’re doing anything with children, because then people are like “We have to protect the children from you people!” I don’t know. What is it like… we’re recruiting? Right?

Right

[laughter] Recruiting into our lifestyle!

Bellamy
[laughter] Building a tiny little army. [laughter]

Ashia
[laughter] Organizing a pile of children. They’d be everywhere!

Bellamy
There’s nothing more able to be controlled than a pile of children.

Ashia
[laughter]

Bellamy
Nothing less wily than a pile of children.

An army of.. [laughter]. So I’m thinking [laughter]

I’m sorry, what do you say?

Ashia
Oh, it’s just a mosh pit. Right? So we’re thinking about – It’s not like you’re like “Okay, on Tuesday, I’m going to prepare to be threatened. And I’m going to set some time aside.” like you don’t plan for that!

Bellamy
Right? [laughter] You don’t plan for it. And it’s like, yeah.

Ashia
And just that the mental and emotional labor of having to constantly search for your own name and find out like, “Oh, the Federalist is linking to me. Ho ho! What fresh hells is this going to be bringing?”

Bellamy
[laughter] Fresh hells. So many fresh hells!

Ashia
[laughter] It’s not even from the far right all the time. Sometimes it’s just from some white lady who sees herself as progressive who just doesn’t like the way you’re doing things and she gets angry about it, right? So it’s not even like it’s the most extreme neo Nazis who are coming for us.

Sometimes it’s the people who are like, “Well, you said it wrong…” or…

Bellamy
Right.

Ashia
But there’s there’s real life threats. And there’s emotional threats. And this isn’t to dismiss the emotional and mental labor of the exhaustion of having to search for yourself on the internet to make sure that your private information is gone and constantly having to contact people and be like, “Take that down, please.”

And then there’s just the basic, like annoying things like DMCA takedowns, or like “You gave my book a negative review, we’re going to sue you!” And then like, how much – how many times am I going to have to google “Can they do that?” Like, can I afford a lawyer?

Bellamy
Right.

Ashia
It’s just, it’s a lot. And I don’t think people see that. they just see the snappy posts, and they don’t see the stuff that we’re not posting, because it’s like… what’s gonna happen to me if I share this?

Bellamy
Right, exactly. There’s even some understanding that there’s labor involved. But there’s very little understanding of the threats and things like that, that are involved. The extra labor like this.

Ashia
It’s just fuckin’ scary, right? If it’s not tedious and draining, it’s terrifying.

Bellamy
Yeah.

Ashia
So we’ll talk about it who this hurts, right? We’re we’re talking about a system. This is a system we have established in our culture, actually, throughout the world. And we’re talking about ‘who does it hurt’ because I think when we talk about social media dependency, we’re picturing like, someone for whom social media is a choice, but it doesn’t feel like a choice.

And we think they’re like, “Oh, that’s really like exhausting me.” Or it’s busywork, and I’m not paying attention with my kids. And no, we’re not talking about that. You can figure that out on your own. Scrolling through Facebook, and Instagram is taking time away from your children.

Bellamy
Right We all know that. [laughter]

Ashia
So what we’re really talking about is who is the most vulnerable to be exploited and endangered on social media? And this isn’t just autism warrior parents posting their kid’s meltdowns on social media without their consent. And it’s not just about privacy and naked photos.

But the way that we use social media to fuel what we call our ‘activism’ actually puts the targeted people that we’re trying to be allies and accomplices with at disproportionate risk.

Because the only way to connect with people with privilege and get them to see us as human is to expose ourselves and make ourselves vulnerable on the internet.

Like, me saying “racism exists,” does not connect. Me pointing out an actual traumatic experience, or my background of racism, or what it looks like on a day to day basis – that’s what connects with people.

But that also exposes me to be vulnerable. Like, I can’t talk about the actual real life impact of daily being afraid of what the allistics are going to do without talking about my fear of someone taking away my kids based on my disability.

So we, again, we become the spectacle, right? It’s about making ourselves into a spectacle and then constantly having to balance how much of myself to make a spectacle so they’ll see me as human before they don’t see me as human, they just see me as the spectacle. And it’s just an impossible decision and an impossible balance.

And this, in a way kind of trains us to be consumed by an audience. Anyone who’s anyone who has been born after like, 1990 has been kind of indoctrinated into this idea.

Like you said Bellamy, this sense that we feel obligated to post our every thoughts 10 times a day on Twitter. Which, on the surface a little bit self-involved, but also – that sense of, what happens if I disappear from social media? Do I disappear from real life? Am I relevant? Are people going to care if someone murders me if I’m not on social media?

So that idea that we have an obligation to share, so that way people care, so that we when we’re like, “Hey, can you show up? Can you write a letter to your Senator?” we need to be topical. We can’t just pop up after a year and ask for that.

And because the way that social media 0 we’ll get into this more, we are kind of the cattle that social media churns out – we have this idea that we’re doing it to ourselves.

We’re choosing to register for these apps. We’re choosing to do the likes and make the posts. So it feels like an intentional choice, not a manipulation. But once we get into it, we end up terrified to leave. While at the same time, terrified to make a mistake, right?

So this is not the same thing as like, “I’m bored.” [laughter] This this is an impossible line that people are bouncing on and it’s a constant struggle. Where people like “I’m gonna leave social media. Oh, wait… I lose my income.” And I’ve lost my income – has gone down by like a third to a half? since I left social? And it was not high to start out with!

Bellamy
[laughter]

Ashia
I’m still creating stuff! Creating more, better stuff, but – a lot of people don’t want to go to that second location.

Bellamy
Bellamy

Ashia
So, if we’re talking about the problem and how this upholds the kyriarchy, and feeds into systemic injustice, like – it’s called a ‘feed’ for a reason. Because social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, whatever – they’re designed to benefit their paying customers. They’re not designed to benefit the user. At all. Not at all designed to benefit us.

There might be creators who are trying to tell us how great we are, and trying to create stuff and give it to us. But the actual companies themselves have no interest in our well being.

What they do have an interest in is selling ads to companies, right? We are the livestock. We are the product. Our attention is the the product in the attention economy. And that false connection is the gruel that they’re feeding us – the salt lick to keep us coming back.

So that shallow imitation of relationship building – the likes, and the shares, and that feeling like you’re seen without actually being seen, it actually keeps us coming back to the salt lick, right? And we become dependent on it.

So if we – let’s look at ourselves as followers, not creators. If we refuse to move to that second location… if someone says, “I want to get off social media. So I’m making a little private group” – if we refuse to move to that second location, it forces the targeted person who still needs to be heard, and who is still educating you – usually for free – to stay on an open network where anyone can attack them, from any angle, at any time.

Bellamy
Anyone.

Ashia
Right? And it’s terrifying. Creating something for the masses – where you don’t know who’s going to see it, how they’re going to construe it, how much background knowledge they have… the number of times I have explained to people why I identify as autistic and not a person with autism? How they can’t tell me how to identify? Is ridiculous! And the most mild… right?

Bellamy
Right.

Ashia
It’s exhausting. So what happens if we as followers refuse to pay for our news, right? Think about the paywall, or support NPR, pay for the actual local news sources – we’re` actually just forcing these people to create more crappy, shallow content on social media. They have to stay there. They have to expose themselves to… who knows what kind of dangers

Bellamy
And they have to be outraged, openly outraged, all of the time. You don’t get a break from being very, very mad about anything that happens – just constantly. It can’t even be healthy for for them. Even if nothing else mattered.

Just the idea that when we go to social media, we expect that activist advocates or anything will always be outraged, will always have something clever and pithy to say about what someone else did wrong. Like, expecting someone to stay in that negative space and be the fuel for you to not actually have to get mad, but just have to click like on their anger. It just can’t be right. It can’t be healthy for anyone.

Ashia
Yeah, I don’t need people to have vicarious feelings about my thoughts on waterfalls. (I HATE THEM!)

Bellamy
Right [laughter] So sad. Waterfalls!

Ashia
They just sit there and don’t do anything. Everyone loves them, but

Bellamy
Everyone loves them. It’s just water doing what water does. It goes where there’s places to go.

Ashia
Gravity is the real hero here!

Bellamy
Gravity. [laughter] Gravity might always be the hero. Where would we be without it?

Ashia
[laughter] Except when it’s the villain! [laughter]

So if we think about how our complicity and social media – our following people we genuinely like – we want to boost them, we want to share them, we want to [unintelligible] with them and how that actually further isolates targeted folks who need social media. And they need a bare minimum of followers and donations to survive because if you have – I don’t know, a conversion rate of some number of people are going to be donating. And if you’re not on social media, you’re going to have that churn it’s – we have to stay. And it sucks.

So I think if it like a lot of people are like “Well ugh, social media is so awful. I go there to make friends. I go there to stay connected. To keep up with my family.”

And basically it’s like visiting a dumpster to meet people and you’re like “Everyone I met is trash!”

Why are you surprised?!

Bellamy
[laughter] Everyone I met is trash. [laughter] Oh that’s good. That’s a good one.

Ashia
Take away – TL;DL: It’s just don’t be trash. Don’t force your friends to become trash, right?

Bellamy
Yep. Yeah. Don’t be trash.

Ashia
Drag someone to the trash can. They’re going to become trash. [laughter]

Bellamy
[laughter] Sorry to offend anyone here. You’re not trash. [laughter]

Ashia
I mean, it’s okay. If you’re trash, you’re still okay. You can still do great things even when you’re trash! Like, even from the trash can.

Even great parties and delicious meals spoil if they last too long. And a lot of these things have lasted too long, right? Yeah. Time to demolish.

So remember, last episode, we talked about how collectors collect folks, here’s the examples of what that might look like. And that same exact thing can really apply to social media when you’re following as allies and followers and whatever.

Think about luring your vulnerable friend into a space where they will be at risk re-traumatized or just feel unsafe, and like ‘the other.’ I didn’t have to update my notes!

Same notes!

Dehumanizing them by showing them off and placing them on a pedestal. “Oh, look at all these amazing people I follow. I follow Ibram Kendi! Look how woke I am!” [laughter]

Bellamy
[laughter] I am the wokest.

Ashia
[laughter] “I’m reading it today!” Tsk, you’re never gonna read that book, it’s too long.

Bellamy
[laughter] So long!! Can I just say, I worked at the Virginia Center for the Book. And when I got there, they were planning the book festival. And Ibram Kendi was going to be there. And everybody was so excited about this book. And somebody handed me that book. And I was like “No, never.” [laughter]

Ashia
[laughter]

Bellamy
“Will not ever.” I did see him speak. It was great. But no. [laughter]

Ashia
He’s a very smart man.

Bellamy
Yes. With a very long book. [laughter]

Ashia
Maybe if it was aseries of three books. Maybe? You’d be like, “I can tackle that!”

Bellamy
Right.

Ashia
But the one…no! But he does have one for kids now or something? Yes. And I have to say I love the illustrator. And I think that Kendi is a great activist, but the board book for babies… That’s not for babies. That’s for grownups. What is it? Anti-Racist baby?

Bellamy
Yes.

Ashia
You bought this to show off to your friends.

Bellamy
I mean, well, Ted Cruz says that it proves that we clearly think that babies are racist because of that book. [laughter]

Ashia
[Laughter]

Bellamy
So I think that you’re wrong. And Ted Cruz is right. [laughter] Babies are racist. And the book is for babies.

Ashia
[laughter] It’s not for babies! That is too many words!!! Like, have you met a toddler? I know he has a daughter. So like, I use a lot of words with my kids. I do not talk to my kids with baby talk. But like, that’s just too many words. They’re not going to comprehend it.

Okay! These are my very, I need you to feel vicariously my strong feelings on this. [laughter]

Bellamy
Yes, you’re very passionate about it.

Ashia
I am passionate about performative board books. Okay.

Bellamy
[laughter] I think that’s valid. Yeah.

Ashia
Okay, so when we think about more signs that you’re collecting people: “Sharing or talking about a friend’s experience to gain sympathy, reputation or profit,” Boom!

Bellamy
Same!

Ashia
Right? Same. “Not listening to them, ignoring their cues, and barging through their boundaries” Think of how many times have you slid into someone’s DMs, expected personal responses on a comment, not read the group guidelines? Like… No. [laughter]

Bellamy
No thank you.

Ashia
I do have some people who have read all the guidelines. They’re like, “You don’t have to respond. I have this question.” You can do it correctly, but most people don’t. Right?

And then of course, using your token minority, whatever, friend to reassure you when you’ve done something problematic. [laughter] Like in the comments on a person who’s talking about their personal experience being like, “Oh, but I do that. Do you think I’m like that?” Or “Well, I don’t do that. I’m not like them.” And like, “That’s why I always support Black women!” Just [gagging sound]

Bellamy
Right. [laughter] Am I good enough yet?

Ashia
Ah, okay. So we’ll take a brief segue doo doo doo doo doo doo. Music !

Bellamy
Da da duum!

Ashia
Good Ideas to Avoid! Okay. There’s two. There’s two ideas. I couldn’t pick one. Should we talk about the terrible advice podcast? Or should we talk about me pretending that I’m a white woman named Catherine?

Bellamy
So [laughter] these are both two of my favorite things. I think that maybe Catherine wins. Because I also think if we did an advice podcast, it wouldn’t be bad advice. I don’t think it would be bad advice. I think it would be just advice from people two people that are not trained to give advice, but it wouldn’t be bad.

Ashia
We’ll talk about that one later. Right now – let me, let me, let me tell you guys, so I took a business class. And the business class is like “If you want to make money doing the things that you do,” and I’m like “I don’t WANT to but I kind of have to eat..”

And they’re like, “Then you have to design a client avatar! You have to design the one person who’s the perfect person who’s willing to give you money for the things that you make.” And I’m like “Oh, that is a nice person.”

And they’re like, “So you have to design this person.” I’m like, “Okay.”

But – I designed that person. Her name is Nika. She is a lovely person. However, I also stumbled upon Catherine, my anti-client [laughter] avatar!

Bellamy
[laughter] An anti-avatar?!

Ashia
Anti-avatar. [laughter] Antivar!

Antivar. [laughter]

Something about my brain is really hooked on Catherine. It all started with this really basic super boring website, I’m sure designed by a lovely, lovely person named Catherine. But it was so fucking basic. And it’s just a lot of pictures of her staring out the window and drinking tea and I was like, “Man, I want that life. I want that life SO HARD.” That woman has no responsibilities. That woman makes it passive income. That woman is like, “Oh.. the news. Nah.” [laughter]

Bellamy
[laughter] I’ll pass. [laughter]

Ashia
And I just sort of think about like, what if… what if I had that life? What would life be like if I was a white woman named Catherine, right? Because someone named Catherine…. Her parents, Catherine’s parents were nervous about like, ‘What if people mispronounce her name or not?’ Right? So they’re like, “Let’s just name her Catherine to be safe. Let’s not named her after a continent, but like, just stick a random fucking H in there.” Right?

Bellamy
Or in the case of my parents, let’s not name her after a second cousin that was born two months before her. Let’s give her a new name! [laughter] My own new name.

Ashia
Yeah. Okay, so white woman named Catherine has parents who might… care. And be be thinking about the future. Parents who plan. A little bit, right? Catherine.

Mildly invested parents.

Which isn’t to knock my parents, but they’re not planners. That’s all I’m saying. “What happens when this baby is one?”

Bellamy
I’m knocking parents.

Ashia
So Catherine gets invited to the party as a guest, right? She’s never gotten like, “Hey, can you come to this party?” And it turns out, she’s invited to be the caterer. And she’s never the guest speaker. She’s just like, she’s just someone who shows up and has a good time.

Bellamy
She doesn’t have to be the diversity?

Ashia
No! She’s not the Diversity!

Bellamy
Wow.

Ashia
This particular Catherine – there’s a lot of Catherines, I actually know a lot of really great Catherines who do take personal responsibility and change in the world. But this one particular Catherine – who does like, a lot of drinking tea, and she has a lot of very expensive throw pillows. She has no responsibility to change the world, right? She’s just like, “Oh, that’s so sad for them. Oh, no.” [laughter] “My heart. Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers.”

Bellamy
Thoughts and prayers. And a like! A little like. Oh. A little heart.

Ashia
A little like. One like. One like to say “I am aware. I’m aware of things going in the world. I’m smart.”

So – and Catherine is a novelist who doesn’t write novels, right? She’s just like, when folks ask “What do you do?” and she’s like “I’m a novelist.” [laughter] Because you can get away with being a novelist who doesn’t write novels, because like – it’s in production. No one’s ever gonna know you’re not writing your novel! Oh, so good.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time thinking “What would my life be like if I was Catherine? A white woman named Catherine?” Catherine owns an espresso machine. So [laughter]

Bellamy
She’s so fancy! [laughter]

Ashia
She can afford all this because her parents are rich. And then I realized – I’m walking, and I’m telling Bellamy about this – and it just hits me. “Oh, no, I have just become the plot to American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang”

Who… Spoilers! Skip ahead. 30 seconds. He is an Asian kid who gets bullied by a white kid. But it turns out the whole time he’s the white kid! He’s an Asian kid who’s just imagining himself as a blonde kid!”

Bellamy
[laughter]

Ashia
Like, oh no. Oh, no. But it just, it makes my life feel better. Because ‘What Would Catherine Do?’ right? And so a good idea to avoid is – actually moving through the world like a white woman named Catherine. Because I would get myself murdered so fucking fast [laughter]

Bellamy
[laughter]

Ashia
But also, I started a journal [laughter]

Bellamy
[laughter ] Catherine has a journal?

Ashia
Catherine has a journal! It’s more of a tracker. So every morning I wake up and I do my routine where I’m like, “Don’t forget to put on pants” and I go “What would Catherine do today?” and then I write a few lines.

For instance, today Catherine would meet up with friends for an unmasked brunch. She found them a little boring and feels she has outgrown them but hanging out with them makes her feel superior. And then she’d go home and passively watch a Margaret Atwood masterclass for the next novel she has been working on for six years while eating a butternut squash Lean Cuisine. She will not apply anything she listens to in the master class to her novel.

Bellamy
[laughter]

Ashia
And it always sounds a little sad, because then I’m like, “Oh my life is a choice. I choose to do this.” Because as much as my physical body over the next 24 hours very much wants to just go do that – my life is better because I choose it. Because I’m doing stuff, and I’m not an asshole.

Bellamy
Right?

Ashia
So that’s how I’m getting through the world. Anyway, Good Ideas Not to Do: move through the world, like Catherine

Bellamy
Catherine…

Ashia
[laughter] Or do it, whatever if you can. Ahh. Okay. Beep bee ba deep doo! End of the segment!

Bellamy
[laughter]

Ashia
Okay, so back to social media and not dragging people into it.

How do we hold space for each other? How do we protect each other? If we’re not on social media?

Do we still exist if we’re not on social media? Can we still be friends with people? (Yes, we can.)

So doing the bare minimum – meeting us in a safer space. Like, I have a lot of friends on social media, I would like to actually talk with them, or connect with them, but they’re not willing to go to a second location, right?

And it can be digital. It can be a zoom chat, it could be texting, it could be emails or, I’ve had lovely relationships on a shared Google document. My friends are nerds!

Bellamy
[laughter] That’s clever.

Ashia
But just going to that second location, making a little bit of an effort, right. And it’s scary, because a lot of people are like, “Well, how do I stay connected to 400 People that way?!” Don’t.

Bellamy
Yeah, yeah. Most of them you don’t want to be connected with. And you’re not actually connected on social media? That’s not a real connection. You’re aware. You know, the highlight reels of what they’re doing, but you’re not actually connected.

Ashia
Yeah. And don’t forget 396 of those 400 people are trash.

Bellamy
Trash.

Ashia
Everyone is lovely, and everyone deserves basic human rights, but also trash.

Bellamy
We love people! [laughter]

Ashia
[laughter] We’re kind! That’s my tagline! Kind…but also trash. Be kind and courageous and trash.

So… meeting up in that safe space, and just narrowing it down. That forces you to prioritize. And be like, “Oh no, now, I have to prioritize my time with my friends?!” And like, yes. That’s what makes them friends. [laughter]

Bellamy
[laughter] It’s funny how that works.

Ashia
I know right? Eeeh. And then there’s also like, “Oh, no, what if I leave social media? Everyone will notice and be angry at me!” No, no one cares. No one need immediate, like, no one’s gonna get angry. They’re just gonna assume you will have a much cooler life. Everyone I know who’s not on social media. I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, this person’s really, really cool!”

Yeah, super awesome.

Right? All the coolest people you know don’t have social media accounts. Okay, so making the effort to go to a second location – also respecting affinity spaces.

Like making it so that way you can have an affinity space. We talked about this. Creating an affinity space. And people in the dominant group are like, “How dare you create a space where I’m not invited?!” But dude, in real life, you’re not invited to my party. Right? [laughter]

Bellamy
Right. Not everyone is invited everywhere. And social media has given us the illusion that we are all invited to every place and everyone’s thoughts all the time.

Ashia
Yes, it is not the kindergarten birthday party, where you have to invite everyone including the kid who his pants. So if we can just…if we can just remember that we’re humans, and we cannot actually invite the whole world into our space and be like, “Oh, that’s why I’m so exhausted. I’m hosting a party for the entire world, in my mind.”

Bellamy
[laughter] Very good way to put it.

Ashia
Right. So like normalizing and revisiting and reworking how we show up in a space because a lot of us have, I don’t know, this has probably been for the dawn of humanity. But we’re elder millennials, we don’t know what it’s like to not be in a digital space with people. But can you be in a space and just passively sit and watch?

That is so disturbingl. As a person who gives presentations and talks and webinars, people who are just sitting there, just with a passive look just… sitting… Oh, it’s so unnerving. Like look engaged. Lean forward a little bit. Come on.

[laughter]

I don’t mind if you’re running around. If you’re flapping, but don’t just sit there just…

Pep up.

Are you angry at me? Am I saying something wrong? I don’t know!

[laughter]

What does it mean to passively engage in social media? Like if someone has to actually take the thing and put it in front of you so all you have to do is scroll – there has to be more reciprocity to that. If someone is worth following and learning from, they’re worth more than just a twitch of your thumb, right? It has to be… that has to be not transactional, but it has to be a little bit more reciprocal.

Bellamy
Right. I just want to say that, when I was at my worst time, I found social media just made me feel worse. Because it was like, “Oh, thank you for the 15 likes.” turns out still alone, nothing is solved.

There’s this hollow feeling. The best feeling is when I write something or do something and someone sends me an actual email, or a personal message that doesn’t require anything from me. But it’s actually like, “Thank you for writing this. Thank you for saying this.”

Those are the things that matter. We’re not stuck because we can get out of it. But we are stuck in a society where the ‘like’ is supposed to be good enough and it’s supposed to make you feel like your work is valued. And that is so very shallow.

I’m sorry to offend anyone, it’s just so shallow. [laughter] When you really think about it.

Ashia
I mean, they don’t have anything they can give other than a thumb twitch. In which case, reduce the number of people you are thumb-twitching for, right? Just reduce it, you’ll have twice the thumb twitches, and maybe an email twitch.

And this is also another thing where we talked about, ask: not the golden rule. Don’t treat people the way you want to be treated. Treat people the way they’re telling you they’d like to be treated. So for Bellamy – wants a direct email. For me, dear god, don’t fucking email me ever.

[laughter]

I’m like, follow the podcast! Donate the money… make a comment on my website! That would be awesome. That is helpful to me. I get those Google points. Okay. [laughter]

Bellamy
[laughter] Yeah, you don’t like emails, because you don’t like inboxes. But I’m a person who currently has 2000 unread emails, I don’t care. I don’t think about it. I don’t care. I scrolled past all my red dots on my phone. I just don’t care at all.

And I was laughing at myself yesterday about this. I was like, “This doesn’t affect me.” The only one that bothers me is like the app where I actually speak to people that I want to hear from, and then I’m like, “Oh, I gotta get to that person.”

Otherwise, I don’t care. But when you write an essay that is heart and soul, and you’ve cried your way through it. It’s not hard for me to write the essays, but it’s just nice to have that more personal way. And it could be a DM, but you can’t find me on… where on social media can you DM me? Nowhere! So an email.. [laughter]

Ashia
On Revolutionary Humans, it’s very easy to contact you, right?

Bellamy
Yes.

Ashia
You can tell. Ff someone has their contact information on their website – contact them!, right? Right? That’s not hard. If they don’t… don’t search for it. [laughter]

Bellamy
[laughter] Do not search for Ashia’s email. Not interested.

Ashia
That’s what I mean by like, believe us. Bellamy has her email, she has contact forms and stuff. So contact her! That’s what they’re for! Right? [laughter] And it feels like we shouldn’t have to say this all out loud. But like, if you have a giant sign on your back that says “Follow me.” Follow me.

And if they don’t… don’t follow them, geez!

Bellamy
Yeah, that’s so interesting, though. People tend to think that they know what you need or know what you want more than you do. And maybe not all people. There’s definitely like a subset of people that that believe that. But if you don’t have your email address and your contact information out for the world to see, you’re clearly telling the world to not contact you that way.

Ashia
Right? It’s like earbuds. It’s like earbuds on a train and I’m reading a book. That doesn’t mean I want to talk to you, right? Yeah, take the hit. Anyway. [laughter]

So I actually have a new newsletter, on the books for littles website where if you want to follow, if you want updates, when you get the podcast, you can put in your email, you can sign up for a newsletter, I’ll send you a thing once a week.

However, if you want to stay on that newsletter, you have to do one of three things. Either click the thing that said, “did you find this email helpful?” Yes, or no – click either like I don’t give a shit. But click one of them just to let me know that you’re actually reading it.

And… or! Comment on the website, or something, or reply and just be like, “Here’s how to make this awesomer!” Or “I couldn’t read this,” or “You have a typo.” Let me help you out, right?

Or! pay me money. Right? Those three.

Bellamy
[laughter]

Ashia
Just getting the emails, letting them pile up in your inbox, never opening them, which by the way actually hurts people because then you go to spam more often.

I don’t think people realize how damaging it is when we’re shouting into the void and getting nothing back. And it’s actually mentally disturbing.

Bellamy
Yeah.

Ashia
In addition to just hurting our ability to reach the people who need us, right?

So the other thing we’re talking about: how to hold space for people and protect each others also- take a break. Social media, because it’s always on, we feel like we need to make posts every day. And we need to follow it every day. We don’t want to miss anything. But it’s actually really important that we take a break.

Because imagine going on a four month vacation with your best friend and being together 24 hours a day. Like, no! We’re not going to be friends anymore!

Bellamy
[laughter] I’m sorry, I just… my brain went down a path and… no. Yeah [laughter] It just sounds so bad!

Ashia
You’re having a fun time without us. It’s all happening inside your brain.

It is. [laughter] I’m so sorry [laughter]

Unknown Speaker
[laughter] your best friend, you’re like NO!

Bellamy
[laughter] Oh goodness. But also, I have been traveling with my children for at least four months. And I think that I was thinking… with another adult. No. Just no. I’m sorry,

Ashia
But the other adult would would have to take your children away from you sometimes. Right? Like, you need a break. We need a break.

Bellamy
Right.

Ashia
And that’s it. Same toxic thing of – to be a parent doesn’t mean to be holding your child 24 hours a day.

No

Unfortunately, I took those attachment parenting books literally? Because I’m autistic? And I was like, “You can’t put the baby down!” No! My god!

Bellamy
[laughter]

Ashia
I’m so tired.

Bellamy
[laughter] Hold, hold the baby forever.

Ashia
Can’t touch the ground! [laughter]

Bellamy
[laughter]

Ashia
Let the baby get a flat head. It’s okay. [laughter] Put the baby down.

Bellamy
It worked out. You’re not holding the baby currently. So I think it worked out.

Ashia
I mean, yeah, after a while. I put the second one down. He’s much better developed. [laughter] Sorry, you guys when you’re listening to this later.

Okay. Call to Action assignment. How we’re gonna transform the things we talked about into being in the real world.

No one’s going to be like, “You have to leave social media right away.” Maybe that’s not accessible or possible. Especially for people with disabilities. This is the only way we can connect with other people sometimes.

But I mean, like, if you’re on social media, because you feel an obligation to be on social media as an accomplice or an ally. This is that specific scenario, where you’re like, “Oh, no, I won’t be able to follow the disability community and know what’s going on.”

A lot of people have websites that you can bookmark and visit. A lot of people have newsletters you can follow. A lot of people actually have phone numbers you can call even.

But the key is to ask where people would actually prefer to engage. Regularly I’m like, what if we didn’t do Facebook? How do we get off Facebook? And there’s no easy way.

But a lot of people just assume that because you’re on Facebook or because you’re on Instagram, that’s where you want to be right?

Bellamy
Yeah.

Ashia
And like you said, no one’s like “Instagram is my my home”

Where I belong.

We’re only there ’cause that’s where YOU are.

Right. [laughter]

I thought you wanted to go to this restaurant! No, I thought YOU wanted to!

Bellamy
You wanted to go!

Ashia
And now we both have food poisoning.

[laughter] Dammit. And now we’re stuck together for four months. The worst! [laughter]

I thought you wanted to go to Phoenix! I thought YOU wanted to go to Phoenix. Aaahhh! [laughter]

Bellamy
[laughter]

Ashia
And now we have sunburns and we are food poisoned.

Okay. If you need guidance on this, we’re constantly, constantly experimenting with ways to make community off of social media.

So Bellamy has a new collective, called ‘When We Gather’ that is at revolutionaryhumans.com

Bellamy
Doo do doo

Ashia
And it is very easy to find. That’s gonna have so many cool things. And I am going to be joining. I’m a member.

And then also I have two things. One is the Luminary Brain Trust, which right now is a Facebook group. Because again, I don’t want to be on Facebook, but that’s where the people are. And I’m going to be moving it over to my website this year. So you don’t have to go to the group and then get stuck on an endless feed because it is designed to stick you there.

If you want to join that the best way is to go to patreon.com/books for littles and it’s the luminary tier gets into that.

And then we also have our incubators, right? So, this winter, we worked on an incubator, about what does it mean to take a break? We actually have helpful resources on – how do you identify if your space, whether it’s on social media, digital or in real life, is becoming toxic? What are the red flags that it’s becoming toxic? And what can you do to either distance yourself or transform that space and take responsibility?

So that’s what the the incubator works on. Right? In spring, we work on relationships and summer we work on what does effective action mean?

Okay, so that’s your call to action go to revolutionaryhumans.com. That’s the main thing. Go do that and come join us.

Bellamy
Join us there. It’s great.

Ashia
Yeah. What are you going to do? What are we doing?

Bellamy
Oh, yeah. So when we gather, the idea is maybe I don’t know, once or twice a week, dedicate a few minutes to go into the ‘when we gather’ membership portal, and find an activity or two, or journal prompt, or something that interests you – or figure out what what book we’re reading, and then get back offline and back off your screen and go do the thing.

There are art prompts, there are things you can do with your kids. It’s still based on the idea of like social justice and working toward a generally better world and community.

But I do it a little, a little differently. And on top of the different prompts and things that you’ll find there that are updated monthly, there will also be three virtual live gatherings per month that are completely optional.

One is a guided themed discussion based on the theme for the month. One will be sort of an open chat. And then we’ll also do a book club, which I think to start with, we’re just going to do chapters of All About Love from bell hooks. While we kind of get things going and get more people to join.

I like the idea of committing to reading a chapter and doing a deep dive of a chapter. I think that might be really cool.

Ashia
Nice. That is awesome. Okay, so we’re gonna join for that. Over in the luminary brand trust, which when it is over on the website, we’re going to focus on sabotage this year,

I’ve decided! Previous years, we focused on trauma stewardship, and activism burnout, all those posts are actually still on the Facebook group if you want to just DIY your own little course there.

And then for the last two years or so we focused on white supremacy culture, or just supremacy culture and how we’re complicit in it in these little ways.

But this year, we’re going to do sabotage! Both learning how to sabotage the kyriarchy from within, if you have access to privilege and power in systems, right?

But then also, how are you accidentally sabotaging in the initiatives that usually want to succeed? Because most of us are doing that all the time! So it’s gonna be fun. It just seems like a fun topic. And then I think we’re probably gonna get together for for live hangouts, or maybe like a Marco Polo group. I’m not sure something asynchronous, preferably. But yeah, so we’re going to figure it out.

And then we’re going to figure out a way to combine and bundle? So you don’t have to pick between one or the other. You can join both of us. It’s gonna be awesome!

Bellamy
Gonna be great!

Ashia
Yeah, and this is not to say it’s all like a hard sell. You can get this, like, we’re not inventing anything. This is just a framework where we can join our people, right? All of the stuff that you need to connect with other people exist in other places. Doesn’t necessarily have to be with us.

But it doesn’t have to be on social media. That is the point.

Bellamy
Right? [laughter] If you if you walk away with one thing today, it is that life happens off of social media, and cool connections can happen off of social media.

And we hope that you will join us off of social media for some of those cool connections. [laughter]

Ashia
[laughter] and we won’t give you food poisoning.

Bellamy
And that

Ashia
Right? We’ll wrap this up and then we will be back next week with… I dunno, something. I’ll figure it out. And resources will be on the website. For now, it’s on booksforlittles.com/podcasts.

Bellamy
[laughter] Sounds good!

Ashia
Thanks. Okay. Bye, everybody!

Bellamy
Bye!

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