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The Whippet #43: Smash the glass and fall in among the snakes

McKinley Valentine — 11 min read

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Good morning my glowing wheat sheafs,

Leaving Facebook was easier than I expected

So - I quit Facebook 3 weeks ago. The rest of this intro is about that so scroll to the next subhead if that's boring to you (UNDERSTANDABLE).

I'd been agonising about it for literally years so I had this plan where I was going to do it and then write to you about the Experience but it was frankly such a non-event that I don't have much to say. I don't feel liberated, which I was hoping for, I just feel normal except I have an extra hour or something each day. (Except when I was on FB a lot, I didn't feel normal, I felt wound up and stressed. They say you get addicted to the dopamine hit of seeing new notifications, but I usually felt a ping of nerves like "oh no, who has said what, how will I have to manage my response" (this is partly because I posted a lot of feminist stuff on facebook and partly because of this nonsense:

What I'm saying is: it's surprisingly not a big deal, you can just do it and see what happens.

- Deactivating your account (rather than deleting) lets you keep Messenger and all your contacts, so overseas friends can still message you if they're visiting your country, and you can always reactivate your account if you're travelling or whatever.

- It's really easy to invite a non-FB person to a Facebook event if they have your email or phone number. It's just an option on the drop-down Invite menu. I recommend posting both on your wall and PMing some specific friends (the ones who usually host events) to explicitly ask them to please invite you to stuff.

- Try not to feel too worried if you miss an event. I got a lot of FOMO on facebook because I could never go to all the stuff that was on. If you're feeling like you miss your friends, the problem isn't that you didn't hear about some party, the problem is that you miss your friends, and the solution is "message your friends and organise to meet up". It doesn't actually matter if you missed any one specific event.

- Before you leave, note down a bunch of people's birthdays so you can text them on their birthday (if, like me, you relied on FB to be your memory for this). Also download all your photos etc obviously (how to).

- You are probably going to do a bunch of opening up Facebook automatically in new tabs.

- When you really want to share something, send an email or remember it for next time you see them (or start a newsletter). Do you remember the long LONG thoughtful emails we used to send?

- Some friends who quit at the same time as me have reported spending time thinking about creative projects like boardgame design for the first time in over a year.

- (If you're a performer/artist this probably not an option for you because you need it to tell people about events, I get it)

Anyway, if it feels like some momentous decision, then that's the best reason I can think of to at least try it. Why does it feel so big? Again, you can reactivate anytime, it's a minuscule, no-consequence decision to make. I cannot really reconnect with what a big deal it felt like it would be - but it definitely did. Beforehand I was trying to come up with all these "but what will I do for...?" replacement solutions and I didn't succeed but it has turned out (so far) not to matter because Facebook doesn't actually need replacing with anything. I'm still contactable on 3 different messaging apps, SMS, email and twitter; it is hardly going off the grid.

Plus, most people vaguely feel like they shouldn't be on Facebook, so when you quit, they try to support you.

One thing is that a Facebook invite is way less intense than a personal message invite. That's good and bad. But it did mean having to give some disclaimers around an invite I gave that "I'm going anyway so come along if you want but no obligation, imagine this is a Facebook invite, that's the level of intensity you should read into this".

That image is from Facebook's employee handbook and it pretty much sums up the whole thing.

Your stuff vs my stuff (our one fight)

If you're the kind of person who eavesdrops shamelessly when you hear a couple having an argument at the table next to you, you will love Slate's regular feature 'Our One Fight' where couples hash out their core, recurring argument on paper.

This is one of my favourites: about whose taste gets to dominate when you furnish a shared house, and about all the stuff that stuff sometimes stands in for.

"Baird: At the end of the day, this fight to me is about control on your end, and feeling valued and heard on my end. In typical me fashion, this argument really makes me spin out and start imagining us 20 years from now living in a house full of statues of saints whose names I don’t know surrounded by zero pictures of our children and/or cats because you decided our children and/or cats do not match the aesthetic that you are currently going for. And even though I try to explain what is (to me) a very clear connection between you hating our coasters and hating our unborn children, as of yet you don’t seem to see it." (Read the full fight)

Also just reading these is basically a short course in EQ and seeing how two people can see the same issue totally differently. (One thing that comes up a lot: who gets to be the 'fun' one? And what responsibilities is the un-fun one shouldering in order to make that sustainable?)

The colour fuchsia (twisty etymology)

The colour fuchsia was named after the flower (above), which was named after the 16th century German botanist Leonhart Fuchs. (Fuchs means 'fox' in German but it's just a surname.)

A fuchsia-coloured dye was invented by a French chemist in 1859, but re-named 'magenta' a year later to celebrate the French victory at the Battle of Magenta (a town in Italy).

Lastly, the fuchsia/magenta dye was manufactured by a company called Renard frères et Franc - Renard being French for 'fox'. (Wikipedia)

Why former cops can't be on juries

(Obviously this depends where you are, live but:) It's not because of bias, which I would have assumed - it's because if you have an ex-cop on the jury, other jurors will tend to defer to them, and assume they know what they're talking about and are probably right and they shouldn't question them (not because they're cops per se but because they're the person most experienced with crimes - coroners can't serve either).

There were times in England (sorry, can't track down where I read this, but probably 16-18th century) that slaughterhouse workers and surgeons couldn't serve on juries because they were thought to be too desensitised to death to be fair to the victim.

I'm told by legal friends that teachers rarely serve on juries - they're 100% allowed to, but the prosecution or defence will almost always dismiss them (assumed to be left-leaning? Biased in favour of children? Unsure, but I've heard it from a few different sources). The NYTimes did a cool lil test to see if you would get selected for a jury or dismissed by lawyers who are worried you'll be biased against their client.

Will you be seated on a jury?

One of the questions is about whether you do crosswords (means you'll pay attention to the precise legal definitions involved) and a lot are about whether you're chatty, whether you work in management - in other words, whether you're likely to have influence over other jurors.

The French king who believed he was made of glass

"King Charles VI, ruler of France from 1380 to 1422, held a strange conviction: he believed he was made of glass. To protect his fragile body, he dressed in special reinforced clothing. Terrified that he would shatter at their touch, he forbade his courtiers to come near him.

"King Charles was far from alone in his glass delusion. He was only the most exalted representative of a rash of Glass Men that appeared throughout Europe between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. Tales of people afflicted with glass bones, glass heads, glass arms, and glass hearts abound in the medical and literary texts of the time.

"Another Glass Man travelled to Murano, an Italian island famous for its beautiful glass, hoping to fling himself into a kiln and be transformed into a goblet. Yet another case tells of a scholar who believed that the surface of the world was made of glass, beneath which lurked a tangle of serpents. He did not dare to leave his bed, for fear that he would smash the glass and fall in among the snakes."

Read the full article at JSTOR

It does feel like a kind of heightened imposter syndrome though - a fear that despite how confidently you present, you are fundamentally weak and unsafe, and the discovery of this could happen in an instant and destroy you. But I'm projecting modern psychology backwards, which is very un-anthropological of me.

Tornado (1938)

by US outsider artist Marian Spore Bush, self-taught painter who believed she communicated with dead artists. (She was also a skilled dentist.)

Harry Houdini, who was famously scathing of fake mediums and went around debunking them, said "I am certain of Miss Spore's honesty. I have never excluded the possibility of supernatural intervention from my belief. I have been engaged in the exposure of criminal fakers… there is no question of that here. Miss Spore has something beautiful and is conveying it to her fellow men."

via #WomensArt on twitter

Unsolicited Advice

Optimisers are always late

There are probably a lot of reasons why people who are always late are always late, but here's one I haven't heard talked about much.

Being an optimiser is one of those things that sounds braggy but actually has downsides. An optimiser does all the research and gets the very best vacuum cleaner available within her budget, a satisficer finds the first one that will do a decent job for a reasonable price and moves on with their life. Their vacuum cleaner isn't as good but they also don't care and they have a lot more free time.

Optimisers break stuff because they tried to carry everything down to the car in one go instead of making multiple trips. They save all their errands up for one day and then do an optimally plotted out trip that hits the post office, the hairdresser and the hardware store in one circuit - if they have to double-back for something, there's a good chance they'll just abandon that errand for another day, where it can be fit into another optimal circuit. They will never go out of their way to cross at the lights. It can border on pathological.

An optimiser's perfect trip (to work, to the airport, to the doctor) is one where they hit each connection and arrive at exactly 9 AM on the dot, with no waiting around whatsoever. They will do the research to make sure this can happen with precision. They will probably plan to take the trash out on the way for optimum efficiency.

People who are not late all the time often actually do way less planning than people who are late. They just say "it usually takes 45 minutes so call it an hour" and they get there early and wait around.

The basic problem is that optimisers don't leave a margin of error, so if anything goes wrong they end up late. This is kind of obvious but people don't get the heart of it, it's not stupidity (well, kind of) or laziness or disrespect for others' time - it's just such an intrinsic motivation to try and optimise the journey and make it as efficient and neat as possible they often don't even realise leaving a margin of error is something other people do (I had to be told, now I'm telling you) because doing things "efficiently" (not a wasted minute) seems so obviously the only way anyone would do anything.

(If I seem like I'm being too harsh, it's because the benefits of optimising are self-explanatory - I couldn't be an editor if I was happy to leave 20% of issues in a document and move on to the next one.)

Anyway, for people who struggle with lateness, I think you will have more luck if you recognise that you're going against not just a bunch of ingrained habits and probably a terrible sense of time, but also the wrongness you feel when you try and do something in a way that feels inefficient.

Other reasons non-obvious:
- Anxiety about leaving the house, anxiety about how you look or present (getting dressed can be stressful if your clothes don't feel comfortable / make you look like who you feel you are / general appearance dysphoria and wish to not be seen - it can help to think of it as putting on a costume rather than dressing yourself. Like office drag or brunch drag. You still feel alien but at least you feel like you're succeeding at being an alien instead of failing at being a human.)

- The sudden burst of productivity you get as a deadline approaches can make you want to clean your house or whatever when you should be getting ready.

- More disorganised in general so getting ready does actually take you longer because you won't be able to find one of your shoes and you'll have to run back to get your glasses, etc. If you're already anxious you'll make more mistakes and your brain won't work properly to tell you where you are

- generally being overwhelmed by the 18 little different things you have to remember and freezing up instead of doing the first of the 18 things

There's a lot more to this - not being late all the time is a bundle of related skills you can teach yourself, along with some emotional management; it is a surprisingly complicated knot for something that's so basic to everyday functioning, but it is a finite set of things that you can actually learn and substantially improve at.

If you want solicited advice, send questions to or just reply to this email.

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