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Hi there, and welcome back to the Monthly Missive. You can save anything in here to read later in Pocket, and email me by replying to this email. You can also see what I'm listening to here, and see what books I am reading here.

Criticism vs abuse

I've been on Twitter since 2008. It helped me kickstart my career and make friends, but it has become a fetid swamp - particularly over the past five years. I used to moderate website comments and social media for a living, and having to spend hours wading through the swamp of opinions online was partially why I did a slight career pivot. If your inbox or @-reply tab is a constant stream of other people's opinions, it can be hard to tell genuine criticism apart from outright abuse - and a number of musicians and journalists are crying foul. 

So, what's the problem here? Are celebs becoming more glass-jawed? Should media figures just suck up the online aggression as the price they pay for fame and influence? Maybe the solution is a three-parter: take regular breaks from social media scraps, learn how to criticize things properly and get better at accepting well-formulated criticism

Seduction and scamming

Speaking of criticism: I was listening to one of one of my favourite podcasts the other day when host Robert Evans mused that the rise of fake news and the evergreen popularity of multi-level marketing scams is at least partially due to the fact that critical thinking isn't taught very well in schools. How do you spot someone taking you for a ride, and then, what do you do about it? It is a skill, for sure.

I was gripped by this story of a Melbourne catfisher who stole the identities of actors in TV soaps in Australia and the UK and lured multiple young women into relationships that ended up in stalking and sadly, the death of of one of the victims. 

Another woman in the US has written a book about her experience of being catfished out of $1 million during the course of a romantic relationship with an online scammer in the hopes that being open about what happened to her will help other victims come forward and make everyone more aware of the warning signs of potential online dating scams. 

Now, modern dentistry is not a scam, but it is a relatively unregulated industry compared to medicine. I've sought second opinions from doctors before, but never a dentist. This article from The Atlantic explains how the paradox of modern dentistry allowed a dodgy dentist to ruin people's teeth for profit, and it's similar to this old episode of Background Briefing about similar things happening in Australia. Let me just say - if your dentist recommends a shitload of expensive work on your teeth, get a second opinion. 

Articles that back up my strongly-held opinions regarding things about "desk job" workplaces in 2019

If I must work in an open plan office, please give me one of these signs

The best workspace I ever had was when I was a radio newsreader in regional Queensland. It was a soundproof windowless room where I could flick the switch on an "ON AIR" sign to keep people from distracting me (even when I was not, in fact, on air). I hate open plan workplaces, and I will send this article to anyone who gets mad at me wearing (wired, over-ear) headphones in the workplace. Gimme some walls and I'll give you my headphones. On the same tack, here's why you should be suspicious of any workplace that touts free food as a perk, and why "workism" and the status symbol of working long hours in corporate jobs actually holds back gender equality

Better ideas for treating mental illness effectively

Warning: some of the following articles (particularly the first link) are heavy going and mention methods used to attempt suicide. Please skip these links if your state of mind right now is not robust. 

If suicide is so "preventable", then why are suicide rates rising? Well, as the author of this New York Times op-ed points out, a large proportion of suicides are spur-of-the-moment decisions which couldn't have been foreseeable prevented and a lot of people have problems that need more than a little extra serotonin to fix - problems like trauma, homelessness, family breakdown and unstable employment. 

Making sure that people have happier and more secure material conditions seems to be a no-brainer (pardon the pun), but for more complicated forms of mental illness, we need to get real about where current pharmaceuticals are letting us down and look at solutions. I found this podcast on the use of psychedelics (namely magic mushrooms) to treat depression fascinating, particularly given the stigma researchers are coming up against. I also read this interview with Heather B Armstrong (aka the original mommyblogger Dooce) where she explains her participation in a clinical trial where she was put under the anesthetic propofol ten times, flatlining her brain activity for 15 minutes at a time to see if it would help with a particularly horrible depressive episode.


Copyright © 2019 Sophie Benjamin, All rights reserved.

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