When you’re an immigrant coming from another country where you may be middle class or upper-middle class and privileged in many ways, you lose that status when you move to the US. All of that social capital that you and your family may have accumulated over the years, and that opened doors for you in your home country, that was your safety net — that no longer exists. No one in your new country knows what your background is. The new culture doesn’t know what to make of you. Back in India, my family was by no means wealthy, but we had a high social status because of education, because my parents had been to some of India’s top schools and colleges. That carried with it a real weight but was not acknowledged or known in the US.
They also missed their humming rituals. As the meetings moved online, two-thirds of the respondents said they wanted to explore new ways to create rough consensus. “We need to figure out how to ‘hum’ online,” said one member. So the IETF organisers experimented with holding online polls. But members complained that virtual polls were too crude and one-dimensional; they crave a more nuanced, three-dimensional way to judge the mood of their tribe. “The most important thing to me about a hum is some idea of how many people present hummed at all, or how loudly. Exact numbers don’t matter, proportionality does,” said one.
We are all guilty of this. Powerful forces are at work.
As Bittman notes, the calories have to go somewhere, and—thanks in no small part to the advertising industry, which attached itself to the food industry like a remora to a shark—they went inside us; we look the way we do because of the need for the Krafts and Heinzes of the world to keep their profit margins growing by finding new ways to get us to consume their limited line of basic commodities. “Global sugar consumption has nearly tripled in the past half-century,” he writes, and so has obesity; the number of people worldwide living with diabetes has quadrupled since 1980. “Two thirds of the world’s population,” Bittman tells us, “lives in countries where more people die from diseases linked to being overweight than ones linked to being underweight.”
Despite how colloquial the term burnout has become, the concept originated in a strictly clinical setting. Coined in the 1970s by American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, it referred to the consequences of severe stress and “high ideals” within the “helping professions” like medicine and social work. Among the medical community, however, burnout never quite became a serious issue, perhaps because there was no consensus as to how it should be measured, much less diagnosed. The Maslach Burnout Inventory, developed in 1981, was the most commonly used scale, but even then, it became the subject of considerable infighting among academics. In 2003, the researchers Philip Liu and David Van Liew complained that “the term burnout is used so frequently that it has lost much of its original meaning [and] now seems to have become an alternative word for depression but with a less serious significance.”
Technology has allowed us to become easily accessible. The problem is, more often than not, people feel entitled to our time and expect an immediate response. The key thing to remember is to maintain boundaries around your time. Just because you are accessible does not make you available. Don’t feel rushed to reply to the email or text, even if you have the read receipt option on. Minimize stress and anxiety by practicing mindfulness and enjoy whatever you were doing before that call, text, or email came through; especially if it is after work hours and the weekend. Do this often enough and others will learn to adjust accordingly.
I spent just 4 days in office in last 12 months before the lock-down again kicked in India. I miss the casual conversations.
And it’s not just work small talk that we’re missing out on. Chatting with strangers out in public can also prove valuable—though it’s now increasingly rare. Gillian Sandstrom, a psychologist at the University of Essex, conducted one study that found that, when people engaged more with a barista—smiling, making eye contact, conversing—they felt a greater sense of community belonging. In another, her data showed that, the more people mingled with acquaintances or strangers in a day, the better their mood and sense of connection. Sandstrom observed that, in a normal prepandemic day, people interacted with an average of eleven acquaintances; university students interacted with sixteen. But, now, talking with more than two or three people a day seems inconceivable.
Here, in other words, was Occupy Wall Street in action, but maybe a hundred times more effective: ordinary people protesting against the financialization of the U.S. economy by taking collective action to squeeze the short-sellers, saving companies they cared about and saving thousands of jobs belonging to the people who work at those companies, while forcing the suits to disgorge some part of the money they were making by treating the market like a giant video game and squeezing the life out of companies for profit. Give the money back to the people! And hats off to them boyz and girlz willing to show their faith in collective action by putting their measly day-trading accounts on the line. What a perfectly American act. What a demonstration of collective solidarity in action at a time of increasing social atomization and economic suffering, in the dead of winter, in the middle of a pandemic—why, I could just go on and on and on. …
My best-case scenario for what’s going on now is—assuming that within the next half year, we do deal successfully with the COVID crisis—that it will become a model for people all around the world recognizing common problems, rallying together to deal with a common problem. My best-case scenario is that, having defeated COVID, we will go on to attempt to defeat and succeed in defeating climate change. For that reason, I see a potential silver lining, and that’s my best-case scenario for what’s going on now.
Each of these men, like all Black father figures, fights against the still pervasive stereotype of the absent Black father. It’s a notion that gained currency in the 1960s as the political advancements of the civil rights movement failed to translate into economic and social progress for everyday Black Americans, and social science research turned away from structural explanations for inequality toward a search for behavioral causes. In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then an assistant secretary of labor, delivered a report to the Johnson White House, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, arguing that the plight of Black American communities was in decline due to a simple factor: the crumbling of the family unit and, in particular, children being raised in fatherless homes.
What Snapchat unlocked was a desperate desire for users to not have their digital actions follow them around. Whether it was shitposts or thirst traps, the idea was that it didn’t need to live in your, or anyone’s, feed forever. That ephemerality, combined with the lack of gratification that typically comes with a main feed post, gave users the opportunity to have more fun and enjoy the internet without any of its traditional consequences. Why should we have to cling on to the minutiae of what we were posting? It treated the internet like a tool, not a catalogue. And through this it unlocked a new era: the Snapchat-cum-Stories framework of disappearing content that now exists on most mainstream platforms.