Sharing Is Caring?
On May 15, I received a message from someone I’d never met. Let’s call her Jane because that’s not her name. I’d sent her my blog’s about page. She replied that she found my statement, “Hot girls excite me!” to be off-putting. I asked her why.
She said that statement could make women feel objectified. And that she thought it’d be useful for me to know she had that reaction.
I thanked her for the feedback. And I told her, “I didn't mean to objectify women. All that statement meant was that I find some girls attractive. It was part of a larger point meant to explain that I'm human, but I spend a lot of time trying to make a positive impact.”
Jane replied, “That makes sense. It just sort of sounded like ogling women was a particular hobby or something.” I briefly tried to come up with a way to say something along the lines of, “As I said, I’m not a creepy pervert. I hope things go well.” But I couldn’t figure out a way to phrase that well. And it seemed like she understood my point. So I didn’t respond. Our conversation ended.
Afterward, I thought about removing “Hot girls excite me!” The other two reactions I’d received to that line were mild laughter and “I’m glad you’re not gay.” I assumed mild laughter or indifference would be the most common reactions.
So while I meant it when I told Jane I was thankful for her feedback, and I believed she was trying to be helpful, I thought her interpretation was a stretch. I felt that the only lesson I learned was that people I interact with are more politically correct than I realized. And they’ll look for ways to misinterpret a statement I meant literally.
I decided I didn’t think it was worthwhile to cater my blog to overly sensitive people. I kept, “Hot girls excite me!”
Then as I was lying in bed that night, I had a revelation. When I asked myself “Who is Utility Monster?” I tried to summarize myself as accurately as possible. Well, that’s not entirely true. I didn’t say something like I’m a collection of cells. But it’s not normal to list finding girls attractive like it’s a hobby. Only someone who writes their first three blog posts about their struggles with taking words too literally would do that!
So I think it’s reasonable for someone to assume I meant something more than what I literally said. Especially someone I’ve never met.
But I wasn’t especially worried by “Hot girls excite me!” I was more concerned about my next post.
(After publishing this post, I received more negative feedback about the phrase “Hot girls excite me!” The statement has been interpreted in ways I didn’t intend, more often than I expected. So I decided to cross out the line.)
My Next Post
Next week I plan to publish a post titled “My Effective Altruism Story.” It summarizes how the effective altruism (EA) movement has changed my life. It’s the type of post that’s most likely to be read by people already in the EA community. And most people in the EA community don’t know me.
As I drafted the post, I decided to look back at summaries I wrote of my diary entries. I wanted to authentically illustrate my feelings on the date I first read about effective altruism and the day before the first effective altruism conference I attended (EA Global SF 2018).
I was surprised by what I found. My memory wasn’t perfect.
Here’s the screenshot of my diary summary from the night before I went to EA Global.
I assumed I'd see something like, “I’m excited to meet people in the effective altruism community. I hope they’ll help me be more effective.” Before searching for the diary summary, I hadn’t remembered that I was so hormonal and/or love-sick that night. I hadn’t thought about the one-week crush I had on Freya four years ago either.
I originally decided to leave this entire note in the post. I hoped it would show or remind readers that my emotions at the time were more complex than what I could summarize in a few paragraphs.
Largely because of Jane’s comment, I’ve decided to blackout the line about having a crush on Freya. I may be being overly cautious. I doubt Freya would care if she saw that. While I decided the next day, per my June 8, 2018 diary summary, that she wasn’t a good romantic fit for me, I did like her for other reasons besides that I found her physically attractive. I don’t think she’d feel objectified anyway. I assume we’re on good terms.
So I don’t think that line is a big deal. But I don’t think it adds much to the post either.
I was more surprised by what I saw when I searched for my diary summary from the first day I read about effective altruism. It’s weirder.
Yes, the line that I’m going to blackout in that post is the last one. Not only is it weird. It’s kind of nonsensical.
So to clarify, the Hungary delegate from 2005 refers to a girl I met at a Model UN conference. We'd planned to meet at the end of the conference delegate dance. But my school trip chaperone decided we wouldn’t go to the dance. And I'd never gotten her contact info.
If anyone wants to find a blonde, white girl whose name I think is Sarah, is from Annapolis, Maryland, went to the Washington Area Model UN Conference in 2005 and was in the committee that pretended it was a NATO / Warsaw Pact meeting in the 1960s, go for it. Ask her to meet me in San Francisco sometime. I’m sure she’ll be thrilled.
And that line from my diary reveals that I don’t masturbate. At the time I wrote that diary entry, I’d only been doing that for 3 months. It was hard for me. I don’t jerk off because I think it helps me be productive. That’s based on my own gut. I’m not under the impression that any studies validate that intuition.
Anyway, I originally planned to leave that line in the post because I thought it’d be weird enough that it was mildly funny.
I figured that if anyone tried to shame me for that, I shouldn’t let myself care. I still feel that way. I want to be shameless.
Why Am I Publishing This Post?
I’m not entirely sure. As I just said, I want to feel more shameless. If I don’t let people’s judgments about harmless things I do hurt my feelings, that benefits me. I guess the person putting me down won’t get satisfaction from hurting my feelings. But I'm confident there’s a way for people to find happiness without putting others down.
And I think it’s often beneficial for me to show my vulnerability. I think sharing more about myself allows me to get more useful feedback.
Granted, I don't think telling people that I once spent an hour trying to search online for a girl I knew for 2-3 days in 2005 accomplishes much.
Plus, I had no desire to share that information. I hadn’t even remembered it until I decided to look up my old diary summaries. And I have no plans to share any other diary summaries with people. I don’t think I have the mental strength to do that regularly and write honestly to myself.1
So maybe shamelessness is only a minor reason I’m publishing this post? There’s also a part of me that wants to be authentic and share the full story I originally intended to write before I worried about my image.
But maybe I don’t care about authenticity either? Or it’s a minor desire. When I was a teenager, I had a self-deprecating sense of humor. My guess is that it didn’t help my life. Maybe whatever’s left of my inner teenager is subtly convincing me to embarrass myself. The rest of me hopes that’s not the case.
Maybe I’m just leaning towards publishing this to make sure I continue to publish a blog post every Sunday?
So I don’t think any of my reasons for publishing this post are great. I could unpack them more. However, I doubt it’s worth the time. Maybe I’ll do that if I plan to write more stuff like this. But that won’t happen for at least two weeks.
And I doubt this post will cause much harm either. If it harms anyone, it’ll be me.
I hope I can feel comfortable sharing all my feelings someday.