Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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Don't Be Ashamed of Joy

Lauren R. O’Connor talks about a childhood lesson about pleasure:

When I was eight years old, I saw the movie Back to the Future for the first time, and I fell in love. All I wanted to think and talk about was Back to the Future. I dreamt about Back to the Future at night. I rode my bike down the steepest hill in my neighborhood and pretended I was flying, approaching 88 mph, about to zap myself back in time. I was ecstatic.

And then my mother told me to stop talking about Back to the Future. โ€œOther people are going to think itโ€™s weird,โ€ she said.

I learned three things from this interaction: one, it is bad to be really interested in things; two, if I was really interested in something, I should therefore hide it; and three, my mother cared more about me being normal than about me being happy.

It’s hard to blame the parent for this sort of interaction, as most likely they grew up in the sort of society that routinely punished noncomformity (or weirdness). Luckily, in today’s modern society, there’s less pressure to be ashamed of the things that give us joy, since the online communities make it easier to connect with people who share similar interests.

The linked post above goes on to talking about how as an adult, she learned to find joy through her fandom of the South Korean group BTS. I have no interest in such things myself, but I follow a few people on Twitter who are unashamedly fans and they will sometimes Tweet something like “sorry to my followers for all the spam”, etc.

In my view, such apologies shouldn’t be necessary. Social media is a public platform where you’re free to follow and unfollow as you wish. If you choose to follow someone, obviously you think some percentage of what they say will be of interest to you, but you should also accept that they aren’t the exact same person you are and they may have other interests and they will talk about what they want to talk about. If the volume is unsatisfactory to you, feel free to unfollow.

For this same reason, I dislike it when people complain to other people on Twitter in the vein of “I followed you for $TOPIC, please stop talking $OTHERTOPIC”. (Usually $OTHERTOPIC is something like politics.) Basically “stay in your lane.” People are complete people and not just whatever aspect you happen to enjoy. Let them enjoy what they enjoy and talk about what they want to talk about, and just unfollow if it’s too much for you.

Don’t be ashamed to talk about things you enjoy.

(Obviously, as long as you’re not hurting other people. Be excellent to each other.)

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