This is not an okay way to talk about depression and suicide

Warning – I’m about to break the hive mind and disagree with a fellow blogger.

Chris Clarke has a post up at Pharyngula “On using suicide as a rhetorical strategy.” His post is in response to Hugo Schwyzer admitting that he had just spent a week at a psych ward after he committed himself. Chris refers to this as a “passive aggressive” reference to suicide, and paints Schwyzer as an attention seeking faker. Why?

“And as a consequence, anyone who’s been subject to that kind of emotional abuse is likely to find new examples of rhetorical suicide threats like the one above supremely triggering, even if they’re made in, say, overly dramatic “I feel sorry for myself” blog posts or what have you.

[...] But if the statements are made where more than one or two people can see them, in a NYMag article or on Facebook or Tumblr or LiveJournal, the safe bet is on “abusive manipulation.

Public suicide threats, whether direct or oblique, should be presumed at first glance to be forms of emotional abuse. If they’re direct threatening statements, the best helpful response, if you can use it safely, is “do you need a ride to the hospital?” If the person’s really suffering — and again, I have personal experience with both sides of this interaction — it may either get them the help they need or put things in perspective.”

As someone who just spent months working up the courage to write what could probably be described as an overly dramatic “I feel sorry for myself” public blog post about my severe depression, this punched me right in the gut. Who are you to judge how people who are “actually” depressed or suicidal really act? Who are you to judge whose depression or suicidal tendencies are legitimate or fraud? Do you really think you can figure that out through the internet and with no psychological expertise?

I don’t defend Schwyzer’s previous actions. But policing the behavior of depressed people, trollish assholes or not, makes it harder for those with depression to be open about our illness. The stereotype of “depressed people as fakers” is a horrendously common one. No amount of qualifiers about how this doesn’t apply to people who are “actually” depressed helps, because you’re still perpetuating that stereotype.

It’s the reason it took me years to admit my depression to any of my friends, because I was terrified no one would take me seriously and would just think I was an attention whore. And you know why I had that fear? Because some of my “friends” did just that.

It’s the reason it took me another decade to seek professional help from a therapist, because they convinced me I was actually a faker who didn’t need help.

It’s the reason why I didn’t ever talk about my chronic depression when I first started blogging, because I was afraid Christians would use it as a weapon against me.

It’s the reason why it took me months of courage to talk about my depression now, because I feared my internet haters would scour my blog and twitter feed for any comment that could be interpreted as “happy” so they could label me a liar. If Chris had published this post a week ago, I may have never opened up about what has been happening to me out of fear that’s how people would view me. And I would never have experienced the relief I felt from releasing that pent up emotion and hearing all of your wonderful support.

I know Chris has experienced depression himself, but that doesn’t make his comments okay. Even though Schwyzer may be despicable for what he’s done, despicable people can also succumb to depression. Depression is soul sucking, and I wouldn’t wish it on even the worst of my enemies. So when someone admits they just came out of a psych ward – which is reflecting on something that already happened, not making a threat about the future – my instinct is to give them at least a little bit of empathy. Not to question their motives.

Abusers threatening self-harm as manipulation certainly happens, and it’s a serious issue. No one should have to just suck it up when they hear “if you leave me I’ll kill myself” or something similar. I hope someone with more training in that area (Miri?) will comment on how to deal with it, since I do not want to give uneducated advice about it. I want to be able to have that discussion without perpetuating stereotypes. So at the very least, can we not dictate what’s proper social media behavior for those with depression?

Flickr helps scientists discover a new species

This story on NPR is great. An entomologist was browsing insect photos on Flickr when he saw one he didn’t recognize. After talking to his colleagues, they confirmed that this was probably a new species:

A full year later, Winterton received an email from the photographer; Guek had returned to the region of the original sighting and found another lacewing with the same wing pattern.

“He told me, ‘I’ve got one in a container on my kitchen table — what should I do with it?’ ” Winterton says.

The specimen was sent to Steve Brooks, an entomologist at the Natural History Museum in London. Brooks confirmed that the lacewing was new to science. He also found a matching specimen that had been sitting in the museum’s collection, unclassified, for decades.

The new species was dubbed Semachrysa jade — not after its pale green color, but after Winterton’s daughter.

It’s pretty awesome that we live in a time where information is spread so rapidly that a random photographer and a bored scientist browsing Flickr can make a new discovery. What other scientific discoveries do you think social media can contribute to?

New isn’t always improved

The new Google Reader sucks ass. I know, First World Problems. But Google Reader is a staple to a blogger. I keep up to date with current events and commentary (and lolcats) by subscribing to 154 different blogs, and that list is growing every day. I also read those blogs on a netbook. Now that Google Reader devoted a huge part of the page to search bars, buttons, and useless white space, I can barely see the posts I’m trying to read.

But worse, they’ve destroyed the Sharing option. That’s where I’d always get my best reading material from. I had a little network of friends who would work to filter out the gems from blogs I don’t follow. Instead, the replacement forces you to +1 something, and then select which circles you want to share it with.

This would be theoretically fine if 1. the user interface actually worked well and 2. shared posts appeared in Google Reader. But neither of these things are true. When you +1 something, you have to hover your cursor around and/or reclick with the hopes that you’ll get the option to share. And if you’re on a laptop with a tiny screen, this pop up will take up the whole page, have half of its options hidden, and awkwardly scroll away as you try to read it. And your shared items will just show up as a link in your Google+ stream. You actually have to click to see the article in question, instead of conveniently reading and commenting on it while you’re reading all of your other blogs. The whole point of sharing in Google Reader is so you don’t have to click anything else. So it’s really no different than a “Share on facebook” button, which is what I would prefer to click because no one I know uses Google+ anyway.

Google can save this by:

1. Reducing all the useless white space, or at least making it permanently minimizable for those of us with tiny screens.

2. Having a link on left sidebar that lets you see all posts from a circle of people you want to follow, or from people who have shared with circles that contain you.

Also, it’s ugly.

Boo, hiss, change is scary, etc.

Reddit’s jailbait problem

God, Rebecca Watson, why must you castrate men because they act upon their evolutionarily formed biological desires? I mean, it’s a fact that men are attracted to signs of youth in women. How dare you calmly suggest that spreading oversexualized or naked private photos of 14 year old girls is wrong.

…Ouch, that amount of sarcasm was painful to write.

In all seriousness, go read the article over at Skepchick that documents the child porn controversy that’s erupted at reddit thanks to its contentious r/jailbait subreddit. It makes me feel dirty for liking the site at all, with the piss poor way the Powers That Be are handling it. Of course, this is the same site that is notorious for it’s MRAs and allows an entire subreddit devoted to sharing photos of beaten women, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

I just want to look at stupid rage comics and drool at food porn and keep up with Seattle shenanigans and laugh at period jokes without associating with this filth. Is that too much to ask?

“People are terrible.”

Rebecca Watson summarizes the daily harassment and stalking she’s been experiencing ever since the stupid “elevatorgate” kerfuffle broke. I don’t care how you feel about the original issue – this response is excessively vile and misogynist. And downright disappointing, since these are actual members of the atheist and skeptical community, not random trolls or bipolar substance abusing Montrealers or 12-year-olds with an internet connection. And this is the exactly the reason why we’re going to keep talking about stuff like this.

I sympathize. I’ve had my share of internet drama, though not to this extent. But even though I haven’t exploded the internet recently, I still get the occasional email about how I’m pathetic and stupid for supporting Rebecca, or how I need to get off my high horse because I haven’t been called a Nazi and that’s so much worse. Or how I’m “too ugly for sex.”

It’s easy to laugh them off when it’s a slow trickle of inane insults, but even the thickest skin takes a beating when they come in a flood – a flood that’s been constant for Rebecca for months. So like her, while I want to keep fighting the good fight, sometimes I need to take a break from the internet and play some video games, go to a bar with friends, or watch Game of Thrones while cuddling with a cute guy. My sanity can’t handle being a feminist warrior 24/7.

Are high school reunions a thing of the past?

This question comes from my mom, who spent last night at her high school reunion (I’ll be nice and not say what year the reunion was for). Will social media like Facebook take away from the “surprise” of seeing everyone at reunions? How many people go just to see if someone went bald, or got fat, or got super rich, or married someone hot, or had ten million children?
It seems like some sort of vindictiveness is the motivation behind going to most reunions, since you theoretically keep in contact with most of the people you like. But now you keep in contact with everyone. You know exactly what that old bully is up to, if the captain of the football team came out of the closet, or whatever.

So, has Facebook killed the concept of the reunion? Or will us humans keep gathering in person, even with the people we don’t really like?

This is post 46 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Guerrila skepticism on Wikipedia

One of the paper presentations I really enjoyed at TAM9 was Susan Gerbic-Forsyth’s talk on guerilla skepticism on Wikipedia. Not everyone has the time or motivation or talent to organize events, give talks, write blogs, etc – but people frequently ask how they can help the skeptical movement. Susan’s main suggestion was for people to edit Wikipedia.


It seems simple at first, but it really is important. One, Wikipedia is one of the first places people look when they run into a new term or name. It looks terrible if someone’s Googling a famous skeptic or skeptical organization and their Wikipedia page is sparse or nonexistent. Two, many articles often have a very paranormal and supernatural bias. It would be great if all false claims also had information from trusted sources on why they’re false. Otherwise they go unchallenged.


If this seems like something you’d be interested in, Susan has lots of practical information over at her blog. And these methods usually apply to atheist articles too.


This also seems like a good time to mention that I have a redirect, but not an article. Cough cough. And my friend Jason claims he’s cooler than me because he has an article and I don’t. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.


Er, I mean, it’s totally about increasing accurate representations of human knowledge, not a popularity contest. Right.


This is post 45 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

And these are the same people who hate burkas?

tl;dr Sexism is my fault because I don’t hide that I’m female. From here and here:

“STOP TAKING EVERYTHING PERSONALLY. If you don’t want people to make fun of your looks take your picture off your blog. No one would ever know you were a woman if you didn’t constantly try to draw attention to your vagina. Grow up.”

“Let’s see. You don’t want any comments about your breasts. One way to reduce the chance of that happening would be to have a picture that does not prominently feature your breasts.”

“You have a picture of yourself on the side. The title of your blog is “Blag Hag”. You have an icon of a girl beside your header. It’s not a fair comparison. “

“Ok so heres your problem. Reddit for the most part still has a large view that women dont exist on the internet. The second problem is that reddit also has the strange notion that when women present something or an image or information they some how try to tie in a picture of themselves…. I came here looking for a good article and right off the bat… Theres your photo… I didn’t have to click on an about you page or images. ITS RIGHT THERE trying to show something off. What is that, that your a woman? That you have a nice smile? What do you want me to think of how this is setup? Do I stop from the visual que to continue reading or do I get drawn to the pretty colors of the photo?”

“But what’s really bizarre is that your blog is deliberately gender branded (titled “Hag” and featuring a picture of a cutesy girl at the keyboard), yet you complain when people notice your gender. But hey, it gives you something to blame other that yourself when you fail at something right?”

“This won’t be popular, but you may want to reconsider complaining about sexist comments when immediately below your photo, you describe yourself (among others) as a pervert, and anyone who Googles you instantly finds “boobquake” attributed to you. You have every right to say what you want, but cannot be shocked when the idiots respond to a woman who brags about being a pervert. Probably confusing for the youngsters, making it more difficult to take you seriously.”

“There is a simple solution to be not treated this way. Dont put up your photo in your blog. Dont tell your gender. Is it really necessary? Or on a second thought the comments like “nice boobs” are the better option? And you know this fact too, thus this post makes you an attention whore. (Or simply stupid for pointing out the obvious) “

“Don’t post pics with tits hanging out and expect no reaction- NOT FUCKING ROCKET SCIENCE”

Wow, I forgot I needed to be totally neutered on the internet! Just how Hemant Mehta and PZ Myers don’t show pictures of themselves and obsessively remove any mentions of them being male. …Oh, wait.

Thanks for proving my point, guys!

Man, sometimes I revel in the power of feminism to bring out the trolls. How dare you criticize the in group!

What stereotypical response should I highlight next? Women claiming things aren’t sexist because they don’t think it’s sexist? Comments about me being fat? You can’t get rid of sexism so you should just shut up about it? Learn to take a joke? That I’m just an attention whore desperate for blog traffic*. The possibilities are endless!

*Did I mention I don’t give a damn how many people read my blog, and I’ve gained basically no regular readers via reddit? Weeeee!

Vote for Blag Hag for Best Religion Blog in the Bloggies!

Holy crap! My blog was nominated for the Best Religion Blog in the 2011 Weblog Awards! I didn’t even realize it until Hemant started smack talking me over twitter because Friendly Atheist was also nominated. I must defeat Hemant! Vote for me!

Though really, if Hemant won, I’d be happy too. I love his blog, and it would be awesome for an atheist blog to win the Religion category. It’s great that two are nominated.

Wait…that just means we’re going to split the atheist vote! Noooooo! Clever, Bloggies, very clever.