Featured Technology The Internet

What makes RSS better than social timelines?

Replied to The Fail Whale Cascade by Luke Harris (

I’m bored of what I call “the timeline era”. Scanning an unending stream of disconnected posts for topics of interest is no longer fun, I prefer deciding what to read based on titles, or topic-based discussion.

I am a huge fan of RSS and have never stopped using it to follow blogs and webcomics. But lately as I’ve read lots of people talking about timelines, a question has been niggling at me: what does make an RSS feed* feel better to use than “the timeline” of social media? They are both streams of information, but I prefer RSS.

*by RSS feed, I mean the stream composed of multiple individual feeds — it is a little confusing that the singular and plural/collective of feed are the same.

Continuing in the vein of exploring what makes a blog a blog, I’m curious why an RSS feed feels better than social media timelines. Are we conflating our like of blogs with a like of RSS, or is there something about RSS feeds inherently that we really do prefer to other timelines?

I think it’s useful to dig into what elements of the experience make a substantive difference, so we can make better design choices with new tools in the future. I’m interested not in the technical details here (yay RSS is open and not owned by a corporation, boo it’s kind of a pain to explain and set up) — I’m interested in how we use the technology, and how we feel about using it.


Learning as vibes

Liked You’ll forget most of what you learn. What should you do about that? by Adam Mastroianni (Experimental History)

Knowledge fades fast, especially when you don’t use it. In the words of the late, great psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, “All sorts of ideas, if left to themselves, are gradually forgotten”

Feelings, or vibes, on the other hand, seem to stick around a lot longer.

Connection here to facts not convincing people; feelings shape people’s opinions.

Activism Environment Lifestyle Reflection Reuse

Selling a lifestyle

Replied to On Selling a Lifestyle by Alicia Kennedy (From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy)

I’ve been attempting to separate myself from my own “content creation” for social media, because I am increasingly confused about what I or anyone else gets out of it.

A question I’ve been grappling with is whether to show a life is to sell a lifestyle.

While she’s talking about the food industry, I feel like this is true of many fields, including a lot of sustainability. Would zero waste have taken off if Bea Johnson didn’t have a beautiful home? If her zero waste looked like my zero waste: reusing shoe boxes and random cardboard boxes for storage, mismatched bulk food storage jars, and hand-me-down furnishings?

A lot of the zero waste lifestyle feels performative — the jar of trash ffs! — and competitive, with questionable ROI for the environment when it comes to time and money. It’s become a bougie class signal, that you have time to swim against broken systems, using affluence of money or time to claim moral superiority.

But we can’t escape wanting to look at nice things, fancy things, extravagant things. We want our lives, lived and depicted, to be desirable. The question of the late-capitalist climate change age is, can we tame these desires? Can we make what is sustainable and real desirable instead?

Zero waste should be about making do with what you have and what you can get secondhand. I hosted a zero waste workshop through my old work, and I wanted to interrupt the speaker when she started down the rabbit hole of things you could buy so you don’t have plastic in your house. No! Keeping what you already have is the best for the environment, not replacing it when it still works! That’s the zero waste / minimalist aesthetic, not the practice. It makes people feel good about themselves while having little impact. It becomes absorbed into their identity so they feel obligated to, for example, recycle everything they personally can, even if it doesn’t make a real difference.

I went through the Taco Bell drive-thru the other day, and they had a promotion for TerraCycle, a dubiously effective program that lets people mail in their trash “recyclable” sauce packets and other commercial packaging not viable to recycle curbside — passing the responsibility from the producer to the consumer, and letting Taco Bell greenwash their single-use waste.

This focus on minutiae and individual action / personal choices has siphoned off a lot of energy from more productive environmental efforts. There is no sense in shaming people for using a straw in their cocktail — or, lauding them for skipping one if they got to the restaurant in an SUV. People want cookies for making these visible choices, then decline to consider the individual changes that would really make a difference: switching from a car to a bike or the bus, moving closer to work and into a smaller home, installing insulation and swapping gas appliances for electric, and buying less stuff period. Yes, those kinds of changes are hard and expensive — which is why most people’s energy would be put to better use pursuing advocacy for systemic change and holding corporations accountable.

This is a tough topic because I too want to live sustainably, and in accordance with my values. I work on environmental behavior change programs! (More feelings there but that’s for another day.)

I’m getting better about not feeling guilt for waste that isn’t my fault. This weekend I threw away a ton of single use utensils that have been cluttering up a precious kitchen drawer. I didn’t ask for them, I don’t have a use for them, and we have no system for reusing or redistributing unused single-use items. Better to instead support enforcement of Washington’s law that businesses are supposed to ask if you want a utensil before giving it to you. My individual item is much less important than the scale of the utensils the restaurant distributes to every one of their customers, every day.

Mental Health Reflection

Feelings Posts

Liked A Feelings Post by Anne Helen Petersen (Culture Study)

But turns out, I do not have the wherewithal for that piece. At least not right now — my mind feels resistant to organization, to anything requiring real clarity or concision. These moments are when I usually end up writing what I’ve come to understand as a feelings post.

I often feel embarrassed about feelings posts. I wonder how much this embarrassment has to do with the fact that they’re the part of the work that most resembles the blogging and personal essays we wrote for free, back in the heyday of blogspot and LiveJournal and Tumblr, and have thus internalized that no matter how much personal value accumulated in those corners of the internet, they are worthless to others. It is also, of course, because feelings are generally feminized (and, as such, devalued) whereas analysis is masculinized (and, as such, invaluable).

Lifestyle Self Care

Putting Pleasure First

Bookmarked 7 Reasons to Prioritize Your Pleasure (

Fully leaning into your pleasure means stripping away the stories and the shoulds
It means divesting from the falsehoods that capitalism and the various forms of oppression. It means letting go of the lies you been told about goodness and godliness and sin and temptation. It means, finding freedom in pleasure rather than shame.

What could shift if you made pleasure the lens through which you viewed the world?

I hate living in such a puritanical culture that this question feels almost revolutionary.

I’ve been trying to pay closer attention to my preferences during the pandemic. I’ve realized I don’t really like board games or puzzles. I’ve finally admitted I’m just not that into cooking. I tried to get into candles but they’re not for me. I hated starting the dishwasher because I didn’t like to touch the packets, so I bought special tongs that live in the bag so I don’t need to stress about it. Biking always stressed me out and pissed me off so I’m over bike commuting for now.

On the positive side, I love brunch so I’ve been trying to make it more. Walking with my friends makes me happy so I’ve figured out how to do it twice a week. Lounging in bed for a lazy start to the day or to wind down after work, even though it’s bad for my sleep, is like the best feeling so I’m doing it anyway.

How else could I work more pleasurable activities into my daily life?