Today I got suspended from a secret Facebook group for two weeks.

A self-described secret group, it proposes to be “a resource for all writers—with the exception of cis men—of all backgrounds and experience levels, to connect, network, ask questions, and learn from one another,” and states it “is okay to tell people about the existence of the group…without directly linking to it.”

I wanted to put that right up front, least I be accused to violating some blood oath, secret handshake, or gang hand sign.

Every member of this group was required to read an updated group policy–and agree with it–to be allowed to stay part of the super secret writers group.

I didn’t like everything I read.

I wanted to think about it, some of it bothered me. Some of it ruffled my feathers. Some of it was repressive and proscriptive and controlling and I needed to think about whether I could abide by it. I needed to think about whether I could live with some of those rules.

It said I had to “be willing to accept criticism and critique of ideas or articles posted” to that group. I had no problem with that.

The part that stated “critiques of power imbalances are important” and “provocative debate” is valued–I liked that a lot.

It enforced strictly gender neutral language. I get that maybe the gender binary may be considered an out-dated idea, and I balk at the forced use of gender neutral language, but I’ve been around long enough to pick my battles and this one’s not a battle worth fighting. I can live with it.

Then this:

“The group prohibits the removal or deletion of posts or comments by members…it is silencing and disrespectful to delete your own post or comment thread (taking others) words along with it. DELETION OF POSTS AND COMMENTS WILL RESULT IN AN IMMEDIATE TWO-WEEK REMOVAL SUSPENSION. Subsequent deletions will result in a permanent ban from the group.”

Wait, what? I can’t take down my own words, posts, or commentary?

That I have a problem with. I wanted to think about that. For my hesitation and questioning of the all-mighty mods, I was suspended.

“…we are suspending you for two weeks. Your negative comments toward the policy and purpose of the group indicate that this is not the group for you. If after two weeks you wish to indicate a change of heart/mindset, you can return.”

Apparently “provocative debate” is okay, unless it challenges The Policy.

The Policy goes full frontal George Orwell doublethink, saying suspensions are regarded as a step towards a members reconciliation with the policy. A chance for a member to “step back, take a break, rethink, and then talk about rejoining…”

Guilty of crimethink, there is a two-week opportunity to crimestop.

Big Brother is watching. 

By the end of the day, I’m banned, forever.

“Collectively, the mod team will not expend anymore energy or time engaging you.”

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Removing my offending posts would violate The Policy, but I can’t access them anymore to offer them up verbatim. In the world of this one Facebook group, I’ve become an Unperson.

I’m aware this post may have a ripple effect, since so many people are members of multiple groups, and I may be made to disappear from the ranks of other linked groups. But, I hope the ripple extends in an entirely other direction, sparking others to speak up and not tow a line that excludes men and yet still manages to regulate the speech of women , especially those questioning authority.


not so great expectations

I recently found myself trying to talk an Executive team into allowing their employees the use of Facebook and Twitter. There’s a ton of already written about using social media for brandingbuilding community, fund raising, etc. I’m not inventing the wheel here. But they are afraid people will waste time on Facebook and Twitter.

Of course they will, especially if you expect them to. Especially if you tell them NOT to waste time on Facebook or Twitter or Bebo.

In my experience, everything flows downstream. People act the way you treat them, the way you expect them to.

There’s also a ton of documentation already written about that as well – particularly in educational settings. If you expect the child to fail, to be disruptive, etc. there’s a good chance s/he will. And vice versa. If you expect them to shine, that’s probably going to happen as well.

The thing is, nine times out of ten, you get what you expect.

Growing up, I worked in restaurants. The Jolly Swagman was an Australian restaurant on Long Island.  It was a family run business and they treated all of us like part of the family. Staff meals were delicious, the same fine food that was served to the customers.  Nothing was off limits, we could eat or drink anything we wanted. I worked as a prep cook, spending a lot of time shelling cooked lobsters and crab into two giant sinks. One for the delicious cooled cooked meats and one for shells. The first night, as I worked, I ate my fill of chilled lobster, well within eye-sight of the manager.

That was the first and only time I abused their generosity.

Years later, I found myself working at an Italian restuarant and piano bar on 52nd Street and 2nd Avenue. I was in desperate need of a job, food, help. It was a bad time in my life, a time I should have been grateful for any hand up. Also a small family business, but here, staff meals were restricted to pasta dishes and on the very first day, I was told I’d be fired if I was caught eating a single shrimp.

We were all reminded of that with regularity.

And so, I stole pounds of shrimp and bottle after bottle of wine. Not that I couldn’t afford the wine. I could, I made pretty good money there. And of course, I was a much bigger drunk by the time I got to 52nd Street than I was on Long Island,  but I got so much pleasure out of stealing something from someone who expected me to, who was waiting to catch me before they even met me and was ready to punish me the minute they did. If they already thought I was stealing and were just waiting to catch me, well, if the shoe fits, I might as well wear it, no?

Social media is a well designed time-suck but the point is, the time-wasting part is an administrative issue. People act the way you expect them to. I’m convinced that’s why I’ve never been in a Radio Shack, anywhere, where the staff is helpful or happy. Or why I’ve never been in an Old Navy where they weren’t.

Everything flows downstream.

1 funeral, 8 days & no napkins

jodi sh doff : onlythejodi : Results : my tree
room with a view by me

The Results of the No Impact Experiment Week

Day 1: Sunday: Consumption : Live a fuller happier life by buying less
Carrying a personal trash bag around at my uncle’s wake for one day, just one day, helped me realize how much I use and discard without even thinking. We’re talking things, not people. My days of using and discarding people mindlessly are pretty much behind me and now I miss them when they leave.

Day 2: Monday: Trash : Find out if wasting less improves your life
Baristas are used to the personal hot cup, but try asking for a muffin with no bag, no plate and no napkin, thank you. Terminally hip servers get struck flummoxed, Starbuckeroos need it repeated. And then repeated again for clarification. The family thinks you’re nuts when you pull out your own plate and cup at the after funeral brunch. But, it did get me extra good do-bee discounts in a few places. The downside? The extra weight, bulk & clutter of carrying my own water (no more plastic bottles of designer water), hot cup, utensils, tupperware and napkin is a bit annoying. I wonder if I can trade the good karma for a chiropractic adjustment.

Day 3: Tuesday: Transportation : Burn calories, not fossil fuels
Luckily, the funeral and all that family stuff is over. When it comes to days that only include the five boroughs, I generally leave the car in the garage anyway, using public transportation or my own two left feets.  Unless I oversleep. Or it rains. Or I have to go to Brooklyn, because, really, there is no good way to get to Brooklyn from the borough of Q. Okay, not as many good do-bee points on this one as I thought I’d get.

Day 4: Wednesday: Food : Healthy eating can also lessen your foodprint
A few months ago I started on the eating locally/shopping seasonally kick, so should have been a breeze. Except I’ve been cheating by using up what was already in the house and allowing myself to keep special treats like canned smoked trout from Trader Joes, and basic necessities like Trident Sugarless Bubble Gum. That’s not going to change. The way a chicken will run around with its head cut off, I will still be chewing Trident Sugarless Bubblegum when they find my cold, dead body somewhere, whenever that happens to be.

Day 5: Thursday: Energy : Replace kilowatts with ingenuity, explore no-energy alternatives
My bedroom faces east and I don’t have curtains, so I get up with the sun. Breakfast by natural, rather than artificial, light was, well, gentle is the only word I can come up with. I’ve been “ghost energy” busting by unplugging appliances like toasters & blenders instead of simply turning them off. Today’s initiative took stock of the rest of the apartment. I gave up real TV, aka cable, years ago and if I watch one DVD a week, it’s a lot. The stereo, DVD/VCR and TV are all plugged into a powerstrip, which I turned off.

Day 6: Friday: Water : Soak up the personal benefits of using less water
I knew going in that water was going to be my personal Waterloo. I dream about long hot showers, crave long hot baths, even when I’m in them. It’s all about crawling back into the womb, I’m sure, but if I’m not willing to give that up (and I’m not), where can I make changes?

Well, there’s what I was already doing to justify the long hot showers: The whole “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” movement and not running the water while I brush my teeth. That stuff is easy when you live alone.

I grew up letting dishes soak in soapy water and not running the water while I scrubbed them. I can do that again, it’s just a habit I’d lost along the way. That’s easy. What surprised me was that while I’m rabid about the businesses hosing down the sidewalks rather than sweeping, I do the same thing.  After I finish the dishes, instead of scooping it all up with a sponge, I use the sprayer to clean the sink.  Used, past tense. I became aware and stopped that. It’s just a matter of being mindful.

Day 7: Saturday: Giving Back : Pay it forward!
Unfortunately the financial crunch has forced me to cut back on my volunteer work at the farm. That said, I was already riding the service bandwagon. No convincing needed. The road to happiness is paved with service to others.

Day 8: Sunday: Eco Sabbath : Take a break from everything! Don’t use any of your appliances, electronics, motorized transport, or money.
I didn’t get enough sleep last night, got up late, drove into the city & back, had breakfast out and I’m busily typing away by artificial light when I should be asleep. This was not a relaxing sabbath, although while I wasn’t able to shut anything else down, I was finally able to shut myself down with a long bath and a longer, much needed nap.

If this week was a test, I would’ve failed miserably. But good education is about learning, rather than test results and I learned things this week that I think’ll stick. I’ve reduced my household water and energy usage, converted to cloth napkins both in home and out, switched to 100% recycled tissue, stopped buying water in bottles or tea in disposable cups and became more aware of my reliance on fossil fueled transportation.

I’m not changing the whole world or saving an entire forest, but not unlike the starfish story, what I do will make a difference to at least one tree.

No IE log : Day 2 : Trash

No Impact Living is going to mean being conscious all the time. This is not at all like the 1960s, which trumpeted altered consciousness. And the absolute opposite of my 20s & 30s, when I made a personal choice to be as un-conscious as possible, as often as possible.

Monday’s instructions : Stop making TRASH. Reduce it. Reuse it. Recycle it. Keep a special bag at home or the office to collect trash you make by mistake or necessity throughout the week.

No Impact travel kit assembled: cloth napkin rolled around knife, fork, spoon, travel mug for hot & cold liquids, small Tupperware container in case anyone offers me food to go this week. It feels slightly batty and just a touch like I should be pushing around a shopping cart with the rest of my possessions and have plastic bags wrapped around my feet, secured with rubber bands around my ankles.

Somehow I managed to miss the last sentence in the instructions. The one that says I should still be collecting my trash in a special bag. I didn’t do that. Granted there would be very little in there. Two tea bags. A few Splenda packets. Some gum wrappers. The paper napkin I grabbed without thinking when I spilled hot tea on my nephew’s fiancee’s foot.  In my defense, the tea was in my reusable travel mug.

Back at the cousins house after the burial for the usual spread. I piled deliciousness onto the plastic bowl I’d brought (double points for reusing a Chinese take out container) and grabbed the fork I’d brought from home as well.

The bowl started conversations with people I’d never met. One woman assumed it was for portion control. I assumed she meant I was fat and promptly moved to another part of the room. My seven year old niece came up to me, head cocked, quizzical look on her face and said, “Are you taking leftovers home with you?” A reasonable question since my family is particularly fond of their “good Tupperware™”, so I bring my own containers to major holidays.

By the time coffee and cake came out I’d answered most of the questions, explained what I could about the experiment and most of the family just ascribed it to my general wackiness. In a family that includes goth boys and girls skulking around the periphery, a Pastor leading a parish of Bikers for Christ, where Ashton has two Daddies, where lies pass for love and teeth are frequently optional, I am the wacky one because I don’t want to make trash.

Okey dokey.

Today’s resistance? Handkerchiefs. Sorry, but they totally gross me out. I have no problem with a nice reduction of toilet flushing in the tradition of if it’s yellow, let it mellow. 27% of all household water consumption is from flushing the toilet. Cutting that down to only flushing at bedtime or after a poop, well, that saves a lot of water. And I’ve switched to 100% recycled paper products including tissues and toilet paper. I’ve practically eliminated the need for paper towels and paper napkins by swapping in reusable sponges and cloth napkins. But, please, don’t make me carry around a swatch of cotton caked with dried boogers. Nopes. Not even a pretty swatch of cotton.

The day ended with more driving and while I’d eliminated the trip to Manhattan, it was still Queens, Nassau, Suffolk, Nassau, Queens. Still, too much. Luckily, the TRANSPORTATION part of the change is scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, when I have a little more control over my schedule.

I already have my bag packed for the day : cloth napkin & utensils, travel mug, reusable container for my snacks of carrots and apples (only compostable waste), a book to read on the subway and….my Metrocard!

The No Impact Experiment (No IE) log

Day One: Sunday : Consumption

When I decided to take this challenge, I thought This is gonna be a cakewalk. I’m already moving towards a low-impact, if not a no-impact, life. Then Life got busy being life. My uncle died. Instead of my usual day to day, there’d be a wake, a funeral, lots of family, driving and food and beverages I had little control over. I figured I’m still going to give it my best shot.

The No Impact weeks starts with Sunday, and awareness of just how much CONSUMPTION I’m responsible for.

Make a list of all the stuff you “need” to buy this week: I’d made the move to eating seasonally / shopping locally months ago so this weeks list consists only of eggs, spinach, cheese. Rather than throwing out the carton from last weeks eggs, I return it to the market when I go to buy this weeks dozen fresh eggs. When I drove to the market. Ack!  I have a class starting Tuesday and I ordered the book I needed online. I suppose I could have poured through the shelves at the Strand and tried to avoid the packaging and transit impact that mailing will create, but I feel okay about that fact that I purchased used, rather than new.

I gassed up the car. The wake was out in Suffolk county. I live in Queens county, the farmers market is in Manhattan, my mother and her boo in Nassau. Using a car was unavoidable, but with three of us in the car, at the very least we were HOV worthy. Unfortunately, the driving was going to be Queens, Manhattan, Nassau, Suffolk, Nassau, Queens. That’s a lot of driving for someone who is trying to reduce her carbon impact.

I probably could have taken a subway from Queens to Manhattan, followed by the LIRR to Nassau, driven from there to Suffolk and taken the LIRR back to Queens. I could have. I didn’t. And honestly, I didn’t even entertain the thought for more than a fleeting second.

Fill an empty re-usable bag with all of your trash, recyclables, and food waste: I felt a bit like some radical unshaven hippy bringing my personal little trash bag to the wake with me, rolled up inside my purse. Honestly, though, there is surprisingly little in it. An apple core. A used tea bag. Recyclable cat food cans.

Yes, well, there wasn’t very much in it because I’d totally forgotten to include the paper plate, plastic fork and plastic cup I used at the lunch break between viewings when everyone went back to the cousins for deli sandwiches. Somehow, my front brain didn’t consider that my trash because it was created in someone else’s house? Crazy talk. My trash is my trash.

Kitty litter gets a free pass in this experiment. It doesn’t say that anyplace in the manual, and no one online has mentioned it, but as far as I’m concerned until I get a house and the cats go back to using nature’s bathroom, aka the backyard, kitty litter is a non-negotiable item. In the meantime, I use Swheat Scoop 100% natural and call it even. And I don’t even want to know what Colin Beaven and his family did about toilet paper, which I understand they did not use. For an entire year. Nope. Don’t want to know that at all.

Apparently I do want to know : From the NYTimes 3/22/07: “Nothing is a substitute for toilet paper, by the way; think of bowls of water and lots of air drying.”

Just for this week, try not to shop for new items: Yeah, well, the last six months of unemployment had already made that decision for me….