I had a conversation with a friend the other day about social media. One of the things I struggle with is the fact that I have a platform (such as it is) but rarely make use of it for anything beyond sarcastic comments and the occasional chat about TV or Film. I go back and forth on whether this is “ok”. Should I be doing more to speak out about certain things? Maybe. But also, does the world really need my uneducated thoughts on Afghanistan? Probably not.
It’s prompted me to think a bit more about what I comment on. I’ll weigh in with thoughts about Matt Hancock because I have an education in Politics and a stake in mental health support, or I’ll comment about a Rockefeller Foundation report on technology because I work in tech in the social sector. Those things are “safe” for me to talk about, because I believe I have credibility in those areas.
But is that a dangerous slope to be on? Does this limit me from stepping out of my comfort zone in public. I’ve been called out recently for being a bad ally to a particular group, and it’s hard to argue against that. Failing to comment on something just because it’s out of my wheelhouse leaves a very limited number of things I’ll provide public support on.
The other reason it makes me uneasy though, is that it’s a very short logical leap from “I don’t want to opine on that because I don’t have all the information.” to “You over there - why are you chatting about things you don’t understand?” I’ve been on the other end of the second one, while trying to articulate my thoughts and pick my way through learning. I’m sure I’ve done it myself, but I don’t want to be the kind of person that shuts someone else down for trying to understand.
In any case, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what exactly is best way to publicly learn something?
I had an interesting experience over the last couple of weeks developing a new Chrome extension (I wrote more about it in my last post). The extension itself does nothing more than store 10 items, so that when you open a new tab they are there for you to tick off. The whole thing took maybe an afternoon to code, but I spent the better part of two weeks going back and forth with the Google Dev team to get it put onto the Chrome Web Store.
I understand why, and these days more than ever we’ve got to be careful about the software we install on our devices. But it’s got me thinking about barriers to learning for something like web development. Was the work I had to do to get it on the store useful learning, or was it a hindrance that someone less stubborn than myself would have taken to mean they weren’t “good enough” to be a coder?
There are a million and one apps to track wellbeing. Recently my wife put me onto Journify. The selling point of this one is that you record yourself speaking your thoughts, rather than writing / typing them out. Alongside that feature is a “burnout test”. It asks you ten questions, and then gives you a burnout score of 1-4, with 4 being the most burnt out one can be.
I took this test the other day and scored a 4. But I don’t feel burnt out. Tired, yes. Stressed, yes. Overwhelmed, often. But I know burnout, and I’m not there yet. It seems to me that most of the questions are trying to ascertain your mood at that given time, and using that as a proxy for burnout. A lot of the questions it asks are similar to the ones used to identify depression and low moods.
It’s left me wondering about how people learn of wellbeing. If an app tells me I’m burnt out, but actually I’m depressed, what does that mean for my understanding of my moods and how to manage them? Of course, I’m not suggesting people are blindly taking the word of an app on their own mental health, but as access to more apps and unchecked knowledge grows, and access to actual mental health support stays staggeringly out of reach for many, what happens as that gap widens?