Generous Reading On The Internet

There is this idea in literary criticism (also writing education and peer-to-peer creative writing) frequently called “generous reading.” The basic idea is that you assumed the best as you read something. You don’t ignore flaws or pass over opportunities to provide the writer with suggestions on how to improve, you just lead with the assumption that the writer is being satirical rather than an idiot. That someone writing about a topic that is typically deeply personal has knowledge of that topic in their own lives. The basic idea has started to creep into some of the more positive social media spheres I’m in, and I think there’s a lot to be said by reading the things people post and say on social media in a generous way.

I won’t deny that generous reading can be abused. It absolutely can and a lot of the worst elements of the internet rely on at least a fragment of it as a tool to bludgeon people who called them out for their clearly shitty opinions. As a result, practicing generous reading on social media can be dangerous if you’re not caught up on all the latest dogwhistles and trolling techniques. Even at my most hopeful, I always suggest taking the time to review a social media user’s history to make sure they don’t have a track record of awful behavior before extending the such generosity if you’re unsure whether or not they’re being an asshole while trying to pretend they’re not an asshole.

Most of the time I think it should be more liberally applied is in the lengthier writings of people on the internet. Blog posts, super long twitter threads, articles, and the various other places media is shared should all get a bit more generosity than most social media, since posting those places requires a good deal more effort. Which isn’t to say people don’t abuse those platforms to hide their dogwhistles and assholery, just that it’s usually easier to tell when they’re actually being awful and someone is less likely to build a whole website around the idea of being able to dogwhistle while flying under the radar.

There’s no hard and fast rule on whether or not you should read something generously, unfortunately. It is difficult to detect satire when it is done well and the longer the internet survives, the more it seems like the people being satirized are just taking the satire as a challenge. I’ve seen articles from The Onion that have passed from “clear satire” into “barely scraping the surface of the awful things we’ve seen in reality” in just the last decade. I spend a lot of time trying to decide if I’m willing to be generous in a reading on social media and I frequently find myself deciding against it. After all, it has been abundantly clear for years now how any attention is good attention on social media, so sharing things in order to dunk on them only helps the thing or person you’re trying to dunk on.

In longer-form media, though, I find it a lot easier. So often, readers know almost nothing about the writer of a work they’re enjoying. Only in recent decades has information about an author become readily available, and that looks like it might not last much longer as more and more writers turn toward anonymity and pen names in order to protect their identities from trolls and the various mobs of the internet. I feel like it is worth giving people the benefit of the doubt by default and only changing my mind when I find a reason they don’t deserve it rather than making them earn it in the first place. After all, we’ve seen countless examples on the internet of people being hunted down and castigated for something a group of people decided was inappropriate only to eventually learn that this person had every right to say what they said. Or that maybe they were right the entire time and people shouldn’t have been so quick to cast judgment.

I just think that trying to feel superior to other people is not a great way to use the internet, even though it seems to be the way most poeple use the internet. I prefer a bit of empathy and extending everyone the grace and generosity I hope they’d extend to me in turn. I just think that maybe most people trying to share something they thought important enough to make a specific statement about should maybe be given the benefit of the doubt about what they’ve said. I know I mess up and stick my foot in my mouth sometimes so I generally like to assume that other people do it as well.

Echoes of the Past Resonating in the Present

One quiet afternoon in my twenty-fist year of life, I decided to figure out what type of disposable cutlery I had used the most. I was a senior in college, enjoying some time in a study room in the library with my friends, and I had finished all of the actual work I had to do. I didn’t want to leave the group since they were my dearest friends and pretty much the only social contact I had at the time, so I invented a problem to research. I spent some time reflecting on the situations I had used disposable cutlery, how often those situations came up, and what type of cutlery was involved. After an hour’s worth of work, I determined that, by a significant margin (using estimated numbers), that the answer was spoons. As I reflected on this, reviewing my data and checking my math against the journal of events I had made, I realized that this was the reason one of my oldest and strongest mixes of obsession and compulsion (in fact, the main lingering component of my OCD) was about spoons.

Continue reading

If You Bite Your Cheek And No One Sees It, Are You Really Injured?

I bit my cheek the other day. It was a rather ordinary moment, by any measure. I was eating my afternoon apple and, in my genuine enthusiasm for the fine fruit, accidentally bit the inside of my cheek. It hurt, of course. It always does, no matter how frequently you bite yourself. But it didn’t bleed very much. After doing my best to examine the injury, I was able to determine it was quite deep, given the way I’d bitten it, even if there wasn’t much blood. Since there was nothing I could do about it, I rinsed my mouth out and returned to my apple. It was painful, but I was able to avoid worsening the injury by chewing carefully and finished my apple. Eventually, I also ate dinner and managed to avoid worsening the injury through another great deal of careful chewing. It required ignoring a decent amount of pain, of course, but I’m fairly used to ignoring pain so I was able to cope well enough. I couldn’t just avoid eating, after all. That would only make things worse in the end.

Continue reading

I’m Tired and Sad, So Let’s Talk About The Legend of Zelda: Episode 15

Things have been rough lately. I’ve made some personal gains, but it frequently feels like the world is crumbling around us as violence, hatred, and complicit indifference take center stage to the exclusion of mere decency and tolerance. I don’t have a quick answer to those problems, I don’t have the ability to make great change by myself, and I can barely get past my own anger and trauma enough to work on taking what are (in my opinion) the bare minimum steps a decent person can take in response to the world we find ourself in. What I can do, though, is provide a small escape. So today, when I’m tired and sad because of the world we find ourselves in, let’s talk about the power of the horizon in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Continue reading

Dungeons & Dragons Campaigns Can Last For Years Longer Than You Think They Would

As much as I love my big, ambitious Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, I have so many fun ideas that I want to try out that I’m confident I’ll never do them all. Even with a campaign for every day of the week, I’d probably die before I ran out of ideas. It can be a little frustrating to know I’ll never get to even a quarter of them, because so many of them just seem so interesting and fun to explore. As someone who has been running a weekly game at the same time for the better part of a decade (at least over five years, maybe six? Or seven? It is about six and a half years if I’m doing my math right), I can tell you that even a weekly game can take a long time to play out since very few weekly Tabletop Roleplaying Game campaign actually happen every week.

Continue reading

The New D&D Statblocks Dropped A Day Too Late To Save My Players

A week ago (the day I’m writing this), a much-discussed Dungeons and Dragons sourcebook was released. Monsters of the Multiverse doesn’t add much brand-new content, instead doing the heavy-lifting to update a bunch of older content that has been out-of-line with the design goals of modern D&D 5e. It made a bunch of changes to spellcaster “monsters” (prepared statblocks for various creatures/NPCs that a Dungeon Master might want to reference) in order to make them easier for DMs to reference in combat scenarios. I’m enjoying the changes so far, along with the way they’ve updated many of the various (older) playable races with new tidbits of lore and abilities to better reflect the general states of said races they’ve released in adventures over the last couple years. All-in-all, I think this represents an improvement to the game that is going to make my life easier and help shift away from depictions of these races as monstrous via thinly veiled racism.

Continue reading

Amazing What A Little Time, Some Energy, And Years of Effort/Therapy Can Do For You

I bought curtains today. And a curtain rod, of course. I’d need some way to put the curtains up if they were going to actually serve their intended purpose, you know? I also bought an oscillating fan and sundry cleaning items. Pretty normal stuff for a trip to the store at the start of summer. Nothing terribly exciting here. I also put the curtains up. Took a few minutes to find all the stuff I needed in my toolbox, given that most of it spilled out when I moved and I’ve only needed the stuff in the drawers over those past two years rather than the still incredibly messy main storage compartment, but I think the job took ten minutes total, from unpacking the curtain rod to fussing with the curtains to determine where I wanted to position them when they were open. They’re partially behind my front door, you see, so I wanted to make sure they wouldn’t get caught on the door in some strange twist of chance that would result in the curtains getting pulled down. And now I’ll be able to sleep past sunrise on clear days, since the window the curtains hang in front of allowed sunlight to bounce pretty much straight into my bedroom.

Continue reading