• Gabriella Garcia

RoY week 5: Psychic Protection as a Constant

This week's topic of "Talking to the Elephant" is a deeply personal one for me. It's hard to know where to start here as someone who has tea with "the elephant" on a daily basis. It's hard to come to terms with the fact that we are highly susceptible to the influence of others, and even harder to believe that we can be an "other" to ourselves. Accepting those two items has turned that susceptibility to outside influence (sometimes "I" as my own outsider) into a constant sport, maybe even a religion, for me. in That vulnerability is my most intimate entry point.

There's a reason why the current model of authority seeks access—whether by permission, coercion, or violation—to that entry point. But accepting that vulnerability feels like having a guest list, where I'm constantly inviting that and those which inspire me, and I'm just grateful they came to my party. I have a very strict door policy.

But for those who don't...

I could write a book about my decade's-worth of "elephant-speak" and how training toward this awareness has been, I believe, the major driver behind the strange human I am today. But I think I'll contain it to a list of resources and ideas that I regularly employ at the end of this post, as it's the "Talking to Us" part of this conversation that concerns me more currently.

What if a constant breach of that entry is causing a pandemic public health crisis? I fell into a little bit of a hole this week reading about Facebook/Twitter/Google content moderator factories. Often called "the worst job in tech," content moderators sift through thousands of videos a day with the task of protecting platform users from wildly violent, inflammatory, and obscene posts; in contractual isolation they are forced to digest a constant stream of beheadings, child porn, and incendiary conspiracy theories with little to no mental health support. Employees (both former and current) report developing PTSD, or cope with their jobs via on-site drug use and sex. They learn to laugh at some of the most twisted memes they discover, with their humor reshaped toward offensive/disturbing even in their social encounters outside of the factory. Some become conspiracy theorists. In a small gesture of awareness of the terror experienced by employees, employers allot nine minutes of "wellness time" a day so moderators can step away from their desk when particularly traumatized.

In a twisted way, it's an acknowledgement by the platforms of just how vulnerable our elephants are, and how much psychological damage can be delivered to their users. In the meantime, tens of thousands (going into the hundreds, I'm sure, given the high turnover rates) of individuals are psychologically martyred for the rest of us to... what? Feel safe while having our data mined surreptitiously?

What do we do?

Is there a way to counter the trauma? I have a browser extension that limit my online social media time to 15 minutes a day to maintain that "strict door policy" I noted earlier to keep myself from being inflicted by poisonous content. Obviously hired moderators don't have the luxury. One article mentions how law enforcement can usually tolerate brutal content because they can find meaning by reframing the experience as a piece of evidence toward punishing a perpetrator. Where does meaning come from when there is no possibility of solving the horrible crime you just bore witness to, 7,000 a day? I assume these factories are a stepping stone toward ML automation of the task, but that brings a whole slew of other problems (its violation algorithm is being trained on a system of well-documented double standards). Some note that they find meaning in cleaning the platform for users... but that just brings me back to the question above... toward what cause? Or more clearly, toward whose benefit?

My elephant practices

Before I fall into complete despair due to the topic above (an exercise in talking to the elephant in and of itself), here's a list of my elephant-speak techniques as promised... I'm stopping at my five most utilized practices so I don't write that book I mentioned earlier...

- Gratitude Journaling Based on the Five Minute Journal, I spend the first few minutes of my waking time reflecting on three items I'm grateful for, three goals that would make my day feel complete, and one affirmation to be written every day until I internalize it (these have included "be bold," "ask for help," "go for it," and now "trust yourself" is my current affirmation).

-Memento Mori "Remember you will die" a reflection of mortality with a long and rich history to enforce the importance of each day in this fleeting lifetime. Mine lives as my cell phone background image, which is a photo of a fortune cookie I once received that reads "It is what you haven't done that will torment you."

- Affirmation "groking" Probably my most "woo-woo" of practices, this one mixes theories of Jodorowsky's shamanic psychotherapy healing practice with Dr. Masaru Emoto's theory that human consciousness can change the molecular structure of water. Every morning I whisper a prayer of sorts into my coffee before drinking it, a ritual of literally ingesting a belief I want to be filled with.

-The "Average of Five" Attributed to Jim Rohn, who said that "you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." I adhere to this loosely, by consciously considering those I spend most of my time with and seeking those who inspire, challenge, and often scare me in order to try to curate into myself what I admire in them. ITP is a great place for this.

-Devil's advocating Probably my most innate quality, I've been walking in other people's shoes for as long as I could stand. I've come to the conclusion that most people are really trying their best and are often just scared shitless, thusly retreating to the "safety" of otherism. Self-evaluation and accountability are missing pieces of the puzzle that can help create social confluence where divisions currently reside.