blog / presence / Natalie / empathy


that thing where nice aunties say “sending good vibes your way”

which I half dislike because wtf is a “vibe” and the phrase is worn and trite and for what little it is worth it must keep being written for the warm fuzzies to remain in effect

but at the same time there’s few good ways to tell friends (and acquaintances) that you’re still there, you’re still glad they’re there, in the same low-overhead way that you can in person: a smile and a nod, a hello, fetching two coffees from the breakroom instead of one, just being quietly comfortable around one another while doing your own thing.

the occasional e-mail “hope you’re well” feels nice at first but it invites a “haven’t heard from you in a while, tell me all about your life and family” and then feels bad when you can’t make time for a thoughtful reply

back in the day i had something like this in the presence indicators in AIM and later XMPP. i gradually abandoned those because all contacts were considered equal; it was difficult to control when and with whom i was sharing my ‘status’. It also invites conversation when I don’t necessarily want to. that plus Google’s embrace-extend-abandon tactic to kill of XMPP broke me of that habit.

some of my friends “hang out” in IRC, but I have always been terrible at that. it’s hard to stay connected (even with a bouncer) and feels like I’m constantly missing something important.

i want a little system tray indicator that occasionally blinks a warm reassuring color at me that tells me my acquantainces are doing well, my comrades are successful in their endeavors, my friend is having a hard day and i should blink warm colors at them, or someone has noticed my sour mood and hopes i feel better. without it being a big thing. click to display a big pixel-dashboard of how everybody is doing, that sort of thing.

maybe this is a garbage idea? just a tech bro trying to solve social problems with code? but if someone admonishes me “just keep up with your friends the normal way” i think about how i avoid making new acquaintences (e.g. following people on social media) because of the overhead of keeping up with the firehose. some people i care a lot about rarely toot, some i don’t know well but still feel friendly toward toot tens of times per day.

i guess the no-conversation mood blinkies part of the idea is maybe silly or useless and what I really want is the “organizing and filtering my contacts and who I share with” to cope with information overload, and partition my personal stuff from public or professional.

i’ve written about this feeling before and thought, maybe i am just being lonely or experiencing symptoms of not getting out enough. but i look around at social media and it really feels like we generally nice like-minded individuals are becoming more and more disconnected from each other, while money- or ideologically-motivated groups are becoming more organized and coalesced against us (with varying levels of malevolence). without having some highly motivating shared experience in common, gentle reader, i still hope you are doing well and i expect that your adversaries are likely mine as well.

i didn’t know Natalie Nguyen, i didn’t even follow her, i think i rarely (never?) even saw an rt of her posts, i don’t know anyone who did follow her and maybe followed only a few of them, i (being an old white cis bro) have very few shared interests or experiences, and yet i still want to offer my little bit of empathy to the people that miss her, and my little bit of resistance to anyone who contributed to her or her friends’ suffering.

is this fake empathy? thoughts and prayers? am i just trying to make myself feel better with no real action to help people in need? hmm.

end ramble