Taking pills when it’s difficult to do so

arrowhearts said to realsocialskills:
I was wondering if you knew of any tips or resources for taking (pill-based) medications daily when for a variety of reasons (anxiety, forgetfulness, bad taste, fear, etc) it is difficult to do so? Also thank you so much for the time and thought you have put into this blog! It has been very useful and informative to me!

realsocialskills said:

There are some potentially useful reminder/tracking apps for iOS, Android, and Apple Watch:

  • Mango Health, which is gamification-based and offers rewards/badges for taking your pills every day. (It’s not very flexible.) It also has notifications and reminders.
  • (If you like gamification, HabitRPG may also be helpful).
  • Medisafe, which is in no way gamified and isn’t trying to make you have fun or like anything. It’s just an app that tracks medications, gives reminders, and has a few other features. 

Getting help remembering from someone else:

  • Some people find it helpful to have someone remind them to take pills.
  • Or ask them whether they’ve taken a pill.
  • Or to bring them the pills.
  • (Both medication apps allow you to link another person to your pill-taking records, if you want to.)
  • This can also backfire, and isn’t the right option for everyone.
  • (One way it can backfire is that if you ask people for help remembering, they may think that it’s their job to *make* you take it, whether you want to or not.)
  • (Needing help with the logistics of pill-taking doesn’t mean that you need someone else to take over your medical decisions, but a lot of people think it does).
  • Some people also find that their anxiety skyrockets when others pay attention to their pill-taking.
  • Sometimes this is less of a problem if it’s mutual (where you remind someone about their pills, and they remind you about yours.)

Help can also be more occasional:

  • Some people need occasional help figuring out the logistics, or overcoming anxiety or other barriers. It can help to have people you can ask for occasional help, along the lines of:
  • “I need to take my pill, but I need to eat before I can take it, and I have no food. Can you help me figure out how to eat?”
  • “I can’t make myself take my pill, can you tell me to go do it?”
  • “Can you remind me that it’s ok to take pills and that I’m not being lazy or something?”
  • “I’m having trouble with the pharmacy’s online refill system, do you know how it works?” 
  • tl;dr: Needing help doesn’t mean needing others to take over, and it doesn’t necessarily mean needing supervision or ongoing daily assistance. 

If the problem is that the pills taste disgusting or are hard to swallow:

  • Sometimes this is a problem that goes away over time.
  • Sometimes if you keep tasting a particular taste regularly, it become less disgusting.
  • Similarly, many people who initially find swallowing pills difficult find it much easier as they get more practice.
  • You can also put the pill in a spoon of something like applesauce, yogurt, or pudding. That can mean that you taste and feel the pudding and not the pill, which can make swallowing easier for some people.
  • Some people find it helpful to chase pills with a liquid they like.
  • (A caveat about that:
  • If  the taste/sensation makes you feel sick to your stomach or like you’re going to throw up, it may not be a good idea to drink/eat something you really like right after. 
  • Because you can end up associating that feeling with the thing you like, and then develop an aversion to that too.
  • But if the nasty-tasty pills *don’t* make you feel sick, washing the taste away with something you do like can work really well.)

If the problem is irrational or mostly-irrational anxiety:

  • Reminding yourself that the anxiety is irrational can help.
  • Reminding yourself what the pill does and why you want to take it can also help.
  • And once you get used to taking the pills regularly, the anxiety may go away.
  • Some people find it helpful to think things like “This is scary, but I can do it, and it won’t always be this scary.”
  • One reason that taking pills can be scary is that it can be an unpleasant reminder that you need the pills. 
  • If that’s a barrier, it might help to remind yourself that you need the pills whether you take them or not. 
  • Or you might know that it causes side effects you hate.
  • It also might help to complain about this to yourself, along the lines of “I really !#$!$# hate having to take this pill”.
  • (Having to take pills can suck, and it’s ok to have feelings about it.)

If the issue is reluctance or reservations about the pills:

  • I’m somewhat uneasy about mentioning this, because logistical difficulty is often dismissed as unwillingness to take pills.
  • That said — sometimes the problem really is that someone is trying to force themself to take pills that they don’t really want to take.
  • Everything is harder when you don’t want to do it.
  • There are all kinds of reasons that people might not want to take medication. (Some good reasons, some bad reasons).
  • Eg: Some people feel ashamed of needing medication, or feel like they should be able to somehow will themselves to not need it.
  • Eg: Sometimes the side effects really suck. Sometimes side effects mean that a given treatment needs to be reconsidered.
  • Eg: Sometimes people take pills that don’t seem to be working, and that can be demoralizing.
  • Eg: Sometimes people are misdiagnosed, and prescribed medication that isn’t appropriate, (or suspect that they were misdiagnosed).
  • Eg: Sometimes things that seem like a good idea in the doctor’s office don’t seem like a good idea in day-to-day life.
  • Eg: Sometimes when people have been taking a pill for a while, they forget what it was like without the pill — but keep noticing the side effects. This can make it hard to feel that the pill is still worthwhile.
  • Eg: Sometimes people come under intense pressure from others to believe that a particular pill will fix things. This can get complicated if the pill isn’t actually the right solution.
  • (And there are any number of other reasons).
  • Sometimes the solution to this is changing your attitude towards your medication, and sometimes the solution to this is changing your treatment plan. (And sometimes it’s a combination of both). 
  • So it might be worth asking yourself: How do you feel about taking this medication, Is this a pill you want to take?
  • Why are you taking it? Why was it prescribed? Do you agree with the reasons?
  • Are you having side effects that suck? Are you questioning whether the side effects are worth it? 
  • Is there another option you want to consider, or does this seem like the best choice for now?
  • If you really are reluctant, err on the side of taking that seriously. You may have a good reason, and it may lead to needed changes.
  • If you think about it and decide that your reluctance is irrational, that can also be very helpful.
  • Either way, if the problem is reluctance, thinking through things and getting to a point where you feel confident that you’re making the right choice can help a lot.
  • *All that said*, it’s important to remember that taking pills can be hard for all kinds of different reasons.
  • Some reasons it can be hard to take pills have absolutely nothing to do with how you feel about them. 
  • Wanting to take pills doesn’t always make it possible to take pills.

Sometimes pills are easier to take if you associate them with an action you do every day rather than with a time. Eg:

  • If “take nighttime pill at 11pm” doesn’t work, “take nighttime pill when I brush my teeth” might.
  • If “take morning pill at 8am” doesn’t work, “take morning pill after I eat breakfast” or “take morning pill when I get into my car/bus to go to work/school” might work.
  • Or “I’ll take my pills when my kids come home from school and I’ve given them theirs”.

Sometimes changing where/how your pills are stored can make a big difference, for instance:

  • Keeping pills in the medicine cabinet can make it easier to take them when you brush your teeth
  • Keeping pills next to your bed can make it easier to take them when you get up and/or when you go to bed
  • If you frequently forget to take your medication, keeping some in your purse/ backpack/etc can make it easier to take it once you realize you forgot.
  • If you need to take medication when you eat, keeping the pills near your food might help.
  • Some people find pill sorters really helpful. They’re clear box-things with a box for each day, and at the beginning of each week you put a week’s worth of pills in them. This can also be a way to tell whether you’ve taken a given dose or not.
  • Sometimes you can get pills packed in blister packs, with a compartment for each day. 
  • (Birth controls are usually packed this way, and some pharmacies can pack any kind of pill this way).

If part of the issue is privacy:

  • Sometimes not wanting other people to know can complicate taking medication.
  • This is a common issue for birth control pills — and there are cases you can get for birth control packs that look like little makeup cases. (So you could keep it in your purse and it would just look like you have makeup).
  • (If you’re in a situation in which it’s unsafe for others to know that you’re using contraception, birth control pills may not be the best option. An IUD or Depo-Provera shots might be better. Planned Parenthood can help you consider options.). 
  • Similarly, it might help to keep pill bottles inside little containers that don’t look like pill things (eg: Claire’s has coin purses that are a good size for this).
  • Or to get a lockable toolbox and keep the key on your keychain.
  • Or to keep pills in your gym back if you have one — most people are going to assume there are gross sweaty clothes in there and be reluctant to look.
  • If you’re in college and don’t want your roommate to know about your pills, it might work to keep your pills with your shower stuff, and take them when you shower.
  • Or to keep pills in your backpack, go to the bathroom after class, and then take the pills there

If part of the issue is that they’re hard to afford:

  • If you’re taking a name-brand drug, look online for a coupon. A lot of companies offer them.
  • If you’re taking something insurance isn’t covering, GoodRx can often save you a LOT of money. (It tells you about coupons, and shows you which pharmacy near you has the lowest price.)

Anyone else want to weigh in? What are some strategies you know of for dealing with pills?

Some signs that a place might be an institution

Lack of accomodation for disability:

  • An organization workign with disabled or elderly or sick people ought to have a clue about access and adaptability
  • If they don’t, it’s a major red flag
  • Some examples:
  • If there are a lot of people who need wheelchairs, and none of them have personally-fitted chairs, that’s a red flag. If everyone is using an institutional wheelchair, it’s probably an institution
  • If there are a lot of residents who have limited use of their hands, and no one has any adaptive equipment for doing things like changing TV channels, it’s probably an institution

People conflate patient/client opinions with family opinions

  • For instance, if they claim that everyone there wants to be, but then they only talk about what family members say about it
  • If it’s a place people can be put into by their family members without any attempt made to see if they consent
  • If all the information on a website is for family members or social workers, and none of it is directed at people who might live in or get services from a place, it’s probably an institution

If people need staff assistance or permission to contact the outside world

  • If people who can use phones independently don’t have access to phones without asking first, it’s probably an institution
  • If there are no computers available, or all the computers are in public places, it’s probably an institution
  • If you need a password for the wifi and the residents don’t have the password, it’s probably an institution
  • If nobody has a personal cell phone, landline, or computer, it’s probably an institution

Concepts of functioning levels

  • If a place claims to be a last resort for people who can’t function in a normal setting, it’s probably an institution and it’s probably doing horrible things

Bragging about mundane things as evidence of being wonderful places:

  • It’s very common for institutions to loudly proclaim that they have a pool, TVs, a barber shop, a charity shop people can work in, or other such things
  • If they think this is deeply impressive, something is wrong
  • Things that wouldn’t be particularly notable in an apartment building or neighborhood shouldn’t be particularly notable just because elderly or disabled people are involved
  • If people think they are, it’s probably an institution, and it’s probably intentionally confusing clients about what it means to be free and in the community

If people involved are required to regularly praise it

  • Everyone is disgruntled with workplaces or other aspects of their life sometimes
  • Free people express this sometimes
  • If everyone involved in an organization says it’s wonderful, and you can’t find anything people it serves are willing to complain about, something is wrong
  • This is particularly the case if the wall or website is full of testimonials about how great it is
  • And also particularly the case if people are regularly required to sing songs praising the place

If there isn’t serious regard for the privacy of people the organization serves

  • For instance, if there is a description of every single resident and their activities available on a public website, something is wrong
  • If you are brought into someone’s room without their freely given consent just so you can see what the rooms look like, it’s probably an institution

Your role is not permision

Being a disability expert of some kind doesn’t give you the right to violate boundaries. People with disabilities are people. Being an expert of some kind doesn’t mean you have a relationship to them. It doesn’t mean you have any authority over them, either.

Being a parent of a disabled kid isn’t permission to take on a parental role with every disabled person you encounter.

Being a nurse doesn’t make it ok to ask people with disabilities invasive medical questions.

Being disabled doesn’t make it ok to tell other disabled people how to live their lives.

Being a special educator doesn’t give you the right to tell disabled people how their minds work. Or what they can and can’t do. Or to force them to make eye contact.

Being a therapist doesn’t make it ok to take on a therapeutic role with every disabled person you encounter. Treatment requires consent; being a therapist doesn’t make you an authority on anyone else’s life.

Being a researcher doesn’t give you the right to tell people with disabilities what they can or can’t do, or how they should live their lives.

Being disability staff doesn’t mean that random disabled people you encounter in public places need your help, or that you know how to help them, or that you have the right to tell them what to do (actually, that applies even when you *are* someone’s staff).

People with disabilities have the same rights to privacy and autonomy as anyone else. No matter what kind of expertise you have or think you have.

keeping your privacy in the aftermath of a suicide attempt

said to :

I’m visibly disabled as the result of a suicide attempt. Do you have any advice on how to respond when people ask what happened?

I think it’d be uncomfortable to tell casual acquaintances or strangers etc that I attempted suicide, but I don’t really know what else to say other than a flat-out lie.

(It was an overdose, so saying the cause without mentioning suicide would also make people uncomfortable and they might think less of me)

realsocialskills said:

I think there are three basic approaches that allow you to keep your privacy without lying:

  • Tell a partial truth
  • Use humor to deflect the question
  • Say that you don’t like to talk about it

Telling a partial truth works by saying something that is true or true-ish, doesn’t cause their mind to jump to suicide, and (ideally) doesn’t invite further questioning. Some possible phrases along these lines:

  • “It’s an old injury”.
  • “I’m used to it.“

If you want to use humor to deflect it, one way to do it is to tell an absurdly obvious lie, eg:

  • “I lost a fight with a penguin”.
  • “You know how they say not to look directly at the sun? They’re right.”
  • “Alien abduction.“

Absurdly obvious lies mean (and are at least sometimes understood to mean) “I don’t want to talk about this, and I’m giving you a way to drop the subject without having to state explicitly that you asked an inappropriately personal question.” There’s an affective piece of how to pull this off that I’m not sure how to describe. It requires a certain tone of voice and body language.

You can also say explicitly that you don’t like to talk about it.

  • Bodies are personal and you have no obligation to answer questions about yours
  • If you say that you don’t like to talk about it, it’s best to follow that up with an immediate subject change
  • (If you follow it with a pause, some people will reflexively try to fill the pause by asking why you don’t like to talk about it)
  • It might work best to keep your tone polite and friendly at first, and then get more firm if they push the issue


  • Them: So, how did your face get to be like that?
  • You: I don’t really like to talk about that. How about that local sports team we both like? Can you believe they lost to that team we all hate?

Other things that mean “I don’t want to talk about it”:

  • “That’s a long story.” (plus immediate subject change)
  • “That’s kind of private.” (plus immediate subject change)

None of these are foolproof, but they all work at least some of the time.

tl;dr If you don’t want to talk about something, telling a boring truth, an absurd obvious lie, or saying you don’t want to talk about it are all sometimes effective methods.

Maintaining privacy when people ask about a memorial object

Anonymous said to :

I have a rather specific social problem I was hoping you might help me with. One of my best friends committed suicide very recently, and I have a necklace with his name on it that I wear to remember him. Normally I wear it with the blank side facing out, but it does flip around, & people (who didn’t know him) have asked about it. I don’t want to outright lie, but this isn’t something a stranger needs to know.

Additional complication: this is still really raw, so sometimes the question hits wrong and I become visibly upset, which just makes the person more curious. How can I brush these well-intended remarks off as politely and quickly as I can, making it clear that I don’t want to talk about it?

realsocialskills said:

I wonder if it would work for you to say that it’s in memory of a friend without talking about the suicide?

Like, along these lines:

  • Them: That’s not your name, is it? Who is that?
  • You: Actually, it’s in memory of a close friend who died recently.

It might help to be explicit about how you want them to react. Most people are uncomfortable talking about death. Some people will be very worried about saying the wrong thing and will want to take cues from you.

If you want them to drop it, changing the subject helps. One way to change the subject is to talk about the reason you’re interacting with that person to begin with.

Eg: Say you’re at a conference.

  • Them: What does your necklace mean?
  • You: It’s kind of personal. It’s in memory of a friend who died recently. I’m trying to stay busy. I’m excited to be at this conference. What brings you here?

If that’s too much sharing, maybe you could say something like more vague like: “It’s a friendship necklace”, or “It’s to remember someone”, or “I’ve had that for a while”, “It’s in honor of someone”, and then follow it with an immediate subject change.

This sometimes takes a couple of repetitions of the subject change. Some people think that they’re supposed to find ways of getting you to talk about it, and some people are just nosey. If people are particularly persistent, you might need to say very bluntly that you don’t want to talk about it. (Some people might get annoyed at having their persistence rebuffed. If that happens, that’s their fault, not yours.)

Alternatively, what about making the necklace less visible? For instance, by wearing it under your clothes, or by putting your friend’s name in a locket instead of on the outside of a pendant? (I’m not assuming that this is a good idea — it may well not be; symbolism is complicated).

Tell students whether they will be expected to share writing

Students write very differently based on different expectations about whether they will have to share it. For instance, these are all different kinds of writing:

  • Writing that is just for their own processing
  • Writing that only the instructor will read
  • Writing that will be shared with peers, but not seen by the instructor
  • Writing that will be shared with both the instructor and peers
  • Writing that will be graded
  • Writing that will not be graded

When students have to show work to people they weren’t expecting to show it to, that can be embarassing. It can be embarassing because it contains information they’d rather not share widely, or because it isn’t yet polished to an extent that makes them comfortable showing it to others.

To give an example:

  • Teacher: Ok, everyone, take 40 minutes and write a short story about a childhood pet.
  • (40 minutes later)
  • Teacher: Ok, pass your story to the person sitting next to you. Everyone check everyone else’s grammar. 
  • This makes several students very uncomfortable, for these reasons:
  • Bob is terrible at grammar and insecure about it. He focused on getting a draft of the story first, not expecting that someone would be taking a red pen to his grammar mistakes. He would have focused on grammar if he’d known it would be a grammar exercise. 
  • Susan’s story is about a time her dog ripped up her favorite doll and made her cry. She doesn’t want all of her peers to know that story because some of them will tease her about it. She would have written something less private if she’d known peers would see it.
  • James couldn’t think of a story about his pets and spent the whole time writing how frustrated he was that he couldn’t do the assignment. He doesn’t want his classmate to see that he failed at the assignment.
  • Val didn’t have a real pet and so she wrote about an imaginary robot. She doesn’t know if that counts or not, and is afraid that another student will think she did it wrong.
  • Bruce decided to write a story in a style he’d never tried before, and isn’t happy with the result. He doesn’t want to show his first attempt to a peer. He would have done something he was more familiar with if he’d known.

tl;dr: When you assign writing assignments to your students, tell them who will be reading them. In particular, if students will be expected to show their work to peers, warn them ahead of time so that they can make an informed choice about what to write.

more on facebook



Friending people on Facebook


In a work or college class setting, after how many days/convos is it considered socially acceptable to ask for someone’s Facebook?
realsocailskills said:
I think that in most situations, you shouldn’t be asking someone for…

cocksucking-accent said:

Re privacy: you could also have two Facebooks! For example: I’m trans and autistic, but stealth about both at work. (Openly queer, though.)

I have my old FB all set to private, with a nickname as my name and a drawing as my photo. Once you friend me on that, you have access to pre-transition photos of me and pretty political stuff, but I post rarely.

My work FB (since my industry is all short-term jobs gotten through word of mouth, so networking is Important) has my full name, just a couple of photos and some info, and I make most posts public. I post often because networking, but the public-ness of it makes me think twice about everything I post. Really, there’s no difference between “public” and not for me because I will friend back anyone from work. Kinda like LinkedIn. So my posts are less involved than my personal ones - for example, I’ve posted a couple of trans news articles but without any comments that would out me as anything other than a ~trans activist~. It IS professionally important for me to work with people who at the very least aren’t openly bigoted, so I’m okay being public with some of my “social consciousness.”

wisdomengine said:

A word of warning: having two Facebook accounts is a violation of their ToS. Same with LinkedIn, btw. This means if somebody who wants to do you dirt finds out you have two, they can get you in trouble, and get one of your accounts shut down — or maybe get you banned from the service for good. Not saying you shouldn’t do it — I do it in LinkedIn — but it’s not no big thing, and you should know the risk you’re running.

I think this is a serious social justice problem with both FB and LinkedIn, for exactly the sort of use case you describe: people have legit reasons of self-protection that they might want to have two accounts. Identities in transition are one such; separating the personal and the professional is another; having the old one your stalker knows about and a completely different one you actually use is another. Services that force consolidation of identity under a real name are doing evil in the world, largely to already marginalized people.

It also impacts artists, or anybody managing multiple careers. I’m someone with more than one career, so having more than one LinkedIn makes sense; trying to have all the info from both careers just makes me look like a light-weight, and halves the number of skills I can list for each. This is a common problem for, e.g. performing artists who have “day jobs”. They might reasonably want to have a LinkedIn resume detailing their acting/directing/stage managing/set design/pit orchestra/etc work history, but they don’t want all that in there if they’re trying to land a tech support job to pay the bills.

I’ve already complained directly to LinkedIn about this. (FB I consider a moral lost cause.) If this bugs you too, please consider complaining to the relevant parties.

And be careful if you do have multiple accounts.



Sort of random, but are nail clippings considered gross? I’ve never thought twice about nail clippings before, but I just recently found out some people consider them on the same level as boogers. One of my friends was clipping his nails in a shared housing area and another person told him that was gross and to do it in the bathroom. I personally don’t find it gross, but am I just missing out on some common social cue here?
realsocialskills said:
I think nail clippings are generally considered gross. What do y’all think?

alwaysfaithfulterriblelizard said:

there are three factors at play here:

1) yes, many people consider nail clippings to be gross. For one thing, the underside of your nails is pretty dirty, and also there’s just an underlying ick-factor that I can’t describe
2) often people don’t like when you do an act of personal grooming in a public space. Personal grooming acts that I don’t consider gross (tweezing your eyebrows, applying acne cream) are often considered sort of taboo to do in public, especially in shared spaces. For example, I don’t think anyone would be grossed out if they walked into the bathroom and saw me applying acne cream to my face, but it takes on a very different vibe if I were to wander into the kitchen and start using the microwave as a mirror. In fact, I was once sharing a hotel room with a friend and we were carrying on a conversation as I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom, and at one point I popped my head out to continue the conversation and she was VERY grossed out by the fact that she could see me brushing my teeth. And it’s not like I was foaming at the mouth or anything, she just found it very distasteful to see even that level of personal grooming. I don’t think that’s a generally accepted norm, but seeing grooming they consider personal really bothers a lot of people.
3) clipping your nails takes a very short amount of time, and tends to send nail clippings flying everywhere. Clipping your nails in the bathroom over a trash bin takes like 2 minutes at the very max for me, and because of the nature of bathrooms (floor rarely has junk on it, usually tiled so sweeping is easy) clean up is very easy there. So it’s one of those activities where it seems a little odd not to do in the bathroom. Whereas if you do it in a shared living room, the noise might bother people, and it will probably take you longer to clean up your nail clippings than if you’d just done it over the trash can.

I’m autistic, and my mom outs me against my will to anyone she has known for more than 5 minutes. How do I get her to stop?
realsocialskills said:
Unfortunately, I can’t think of any way to get her to stop that seems likely to work. I’m posting this in hopes that someone else has ideas.
Have any of y'all succeeded at getting a parent to stop outing you?

On google risks

totallyacomputer said: Can you elaborate on this part? (of this post) “If Google knows that you are autistic”

realsocialskills replied:

Employers and schools often google the names of applicants.

If googling your name turns up a reference to you being autistic on the first couple of pages, then some schools and employers will find out that you are autistic.

And whatever prejudices they have about autism will affect your chances of being selected.

One example is: If you talk about being autistic in the school paper, that will likely make that information show up on Google where prospective employers can see it.

That doesn’t mean being open about autism is necessarily a mistake. There are major advantages to being open about it. The point is that it’s worth paying attention to how open you’re being (which might be more open than you think), and take the risk into account.

Borrowing computers



Hi… I have a suggestion I’d really like to see: a post with more about people asking to borrow your computer and similar issues and why this can be a problem. Thanks for the blog! :)
realsocialskills answered: 
Here’s how I’d explain it to people who are inclined to expect to have the use of other people’s computers:
Some people experience their computer/iPad/phone/etc as part of their body and find losing control over these things intensely distressing. Asking to borrow a computer can be like asking to borrow part of someone’s body.
Even for people who do not feel that way - Computers and things are expensive. Some people don’t like to share them, because they depend on them heavily and wouldn’t be able to afford to replace them.
Don’t put people in the position of having to tell you they don’t trust you not to break their computer. There’s no polite way to say that.
It can be ok to ask, but it’s important not to assume that the answer will be yes. And if you’re anticipating the need for a computer during the day, plan ahead rather than putting others on the spot.
For instance:
  • If you know you’ll need to look things up during the day, and you also know that Bob always carries an iPad, don’t just assume that you’ll be able to use his. 
  • Either ask in advance, or bring your own
  • If you’re going to need a computer for a presentation or to show a video or something, it’s very important not to assume you’ll be able to use someone else’s.
  • Ask ahead of time, and take no for an answer if someone says no
  • Putting people on the spot pressures them to say yes even if it’s not really ok with them
  • Because it’s likely that everyone will think it’s their fault for ruining your presentation if they don’t agree to share their computer
  • Don’t do this to people.
Some people are happy to occasionally allow friends and coworkers to use their computers. Other people aren’t. It’s ok to be unwilling to share, and the reasons why are no one else’s business. Don’t pressure people into doing things with their computer that they’re not really ok with.

darziel said

It’s also worth mentioning that computers can store a lot of data about a person. Some examples are stored searches, or autocorrect suggestion, or a browser displaying frequently visited websites. These things can be cleared usually and/or turned off, but some people like having these features and if they need to clear those things they will need advance notice.

Is it okay not to tell someone something because you think they’ll disapprove? Assume it’s something that doesn’t affect their life, only yours, but you know they like hearing about your life and you know their feelings will be hurt if you don’t tell them. Do you have an obligation to tell them?
realsocialskills said:
There are very few things you have an obligation to tell other people about when they’re not personally affected. In fact, off hand, I can’t think of any. (Although, it’s not always 100% straightforward what does and doesn’t directly affect someone. Some things that seem like they don’t actually do.)
That said, outright lying about something the other person is likely to find out about tends to backfire, because it can have a corrosive effect on you. It can make you feel like you must be doing something wrong if you have to lie about it, and it can make you anxious about what will happen when they inevitably find out about it. Sometimes it’s a good idea anyway, but often it is not.
If someone is personally offended that you keep some parts of your life private, that’s a major red flag. It’s a sign that this relationship has bad boundaries.
No friends tell each other everything; no one approves of everything their friend does. There are always at least a few things that it’s better not to discuss. 
In mutually respectful friendships, both people understand this and respect one another’s privacy. If someone expect you to tell them everything and gets upset when you don’t, they’re being controlling. They’re not treating you as an equal.
And it usually gets worse over time. If someone can convince you that you’re not allowed to have any boundaries or privacy, they usually keep pushing.
Some people who do this start acting right if you assert boundaries and refuse to tolerate it when they’re breached. That doesn’t always work, though. Sometimes you can assert boundaries enough to make the relationship work even if they never really respect them willingly. Sometimes that doesn’t work and the friendship can’t be safe even if you really, really like them in other ways.


Social skills for autonomous people: Borrowing computers


Hi… I have a suggestion I’d really like to see: a post with more about people asking to borrow your computer and similar issues and why this can be a problem. Thanks for the blog! :)
realsocialskills answered:
Here’s how I’d explain…

Hedgeclippers said:

I think it’s worth noting that some people are willing to look things up for you, or send a link or something, as long as they’re the one in control of the computer/tablet/whatever. So if someone asks to borrow your computer, you could suggest looking it up yourself (if you’re willing to). If you’re the one asking, instead of asking to use their computer, maybe ask them to look something up for you (or send a link, or go to a website. Or whatever it is).

This is also assuming that the computer borrowing is for something simple and that won’t take long. I think it’s probably best to assume that unless you’re very close to someone that you can’t borrow their computer for more than 10 minutes or so.

It’s ok to say no without giving an explanation

outcasticonoclast asked realsocialskills:
RE:- boundaries without anger. Obviously there are exemptions to the following statement where “no” would be enough; but I think the reason a lot of people have problems with personal boundaries in this way is that when someone says no, they are reluctant to provide the reason. If denying/refusing a gift, offer or invitation, answering why is only polite, yet people get frustrated when people ask.

realsocialskills said:

Here are several reasons that folks get annoyed when you ask why:

  • They might not know a clear reason, but know that they don’t want to do the thing. That’s ok. You don’t have to know your reason in order to decide to say no.
  • The reason for saying no might be rude to say. For instance, if you ask someone out and they find you physically unattractive, it would be considered very rude to say so. But it’s an entirely legitimate, and common, reason not to want to date someone.
  • If they’re rejecting a job offer, it might be because they’ve received another offer from someone they think it would be much more pleasant to work with. It can be very difficult to say this politely, and it’s not a good idea to offend people in your network by implying that you think it wouldn’t be nice to work with them.
  • The particular gift might be something they’re upset by the idea of possessing (eg: if you give them an itchy sweater), but it’s never considered polite to say that.
  • The reason might also be complicated to say. For instance, if they like a particular activity, but they find it overloading, so they only do the activity with people they know really well and who know how to react appropriately if the overload gets too bad. Most people don’t even understand that explanation on any level. More people say “of course I can handle that!” and then get offended if they don’t immediately accept that as true and agree to do the activity.
  • They might think that accepting your gift/offer/invitation will create a kind of relationship they don’t want, and not feel comfortable explaining that. Especially if they’re not quite sure why they feel that way.
  • The reason might be private. For instance, if you’re a man and you ask out a closeted lesbian, she has every right not to want to come out to you.
  • Or, if someone finds a particular kind of movie triggering because of past abuse, they might not want to tell people about this. They might rather just quietly say no.
  • They might think that if they give a reason, you’ll just argue about the reason. Given that you didn’t just take no for an answer to begin with, this is a legitimate concern

At bottom, people don’t owe you an explanation. When you ask for one, you’re implying that people need your permission to have boundaries. Further, you’re implying that you will only give this permission if you think they have a good reason.

Even if you don’t mean it that way, that’s how it comes off. It puts pressure on people that no one likes to experience. If they wanted to give you a reason, they would have done so when they said no to begin with.

Things I think I know about Facebook

Facebook is difficult to do right because it’s a new form of interaction, and it keeps changing. it’s a weird new ambiguous social space. There aren’t clear rules for it, and it’s messing up some social rules that used to exist. 

So there isn’t really one right approach. But here are some principles that I think have merit:

Post things that you feel like saying which your friends might want to hear about, or which your friends might leave comments you want to hear:

  • For instance, pictures of your trip to Chicago
  • A status saying that the flowers are awesome today
  • Or a link to an interesting news article
  • Or a joke
  • Or life things like getting a new job, or a relationship, or things of that nature
  • Or a crowd-sourcing question. For instance “does anyone know of a good place in Some Town to entertain two 10 year olds for a couple of hours?” or “What are some books about hamsters?”

The thing you’re posting about doesn’t have to be important.  

Don’t post things you don’t want others to see:

  • For instance, venting on Facebook tends to backfire. If you aren’t going to want something to be visible once you’re not mad anymore, don’t post it.
  • Don’t post anything that’s seriously private, either, no matter what your privacy settings are. If something is on Facebook, other people will treat it as public information
  • If you took pictures of people while you were drunk, or while they were drunk, think twice about posting those pictures to Facebook. At minimum, wait and see if you still think it is a good idea to post the pictures after everyone sobers up
  • It’s generally a bad idea to post anything sexually explicit. Too many people who it’d be better not to discuss sex with will see it.

Protect other people’s safety and privacy:

  • Be careful to avoid outing people. Someone may be out in every context you know them in, but not out to everyone who can see them on Facebook.
  • For instance, someone who is absolutely flamingly gay and out to everyone you know might not be out to his parents, and mentioning on Facebook that he’s gay could cause him problems
  • Similarly, someone who is obviously and openly autistic in every context you’ve encountered them in might not have disclosed this to their school, and might be in danger of being discriminated against if their teachers see pictures of them at an autistic event.
  • If someone’s in a stigmatized group, don’t reference it on Facebook unless they themselves regularly reference it on Facebook or have told you it’s ok to do so

Keep in mind the limits of Facebook as a forum

  • When you post a status, any of your friends who can see it can comment on it
  • This means that anyone can jump in at any time
  • Which means that one guy who tends to ruin conversations is likely to jump in and do so
  • This becomes increasingly likely when you post more controversial things
  • This is especially true when you’re commenting on someone else’s posts. Your perfectly lovely friend may well have some friends who you’d never tolerate socially, but who can comment on their status in ways that bother you.
  • This means that Facebook tends not to be a good kind of forum for extended public discussion
  • Which doesn’t mean don’t ever discuss things on Facebook - doing so can be worthwhile. But you’ll be happier if you stay aware of the inherit limits and don’t expect more than is likely to be possible on Facebook

Facebook is useful for keeping track of events

  • If you want to invite people to something, it can be easier to make a Facebook event than to track down everyone’s contact information and keep track of who has said they are going
  • For this reason, if people want to invite you to something, they’re going to look for you on Facebook
  • This is a reason to have a Facebook account, and to be friends with people who you socialize with in contexts that Facebook events are useful for

Being on Facebook doesn’t mean you owe everyone in the world your attention:

  • You don’t have to check Facebook regularly
  • You don’t have to be friends with anyone you don’t want to be friends with
  • If you want to be someone’s friend (because of mutual events, or to avoid offending them, or some other reason), but you don’t want to pay attention to them, you can hide them from your news feed. Hiding people whose posts annoy you makes Facebook a lot more pleasant and useable.
  • Sooner or later, you’re probably going to have to block someone. There are always people in life who don’t respect boundaries, and you’re allowed to have them anyway and use technology to enforce them.

Some Facebook features that I don’t see the point of:

  • Walls. Walls used to matter before there was a news feed, but I don’t understand what they’re for anymore. It seems to me that they don’t really accomplish anything, but do create ways to make people feel uncomfortable
  • Pokes. They basically just don’t do anything anymore
  • Questions: I just don’t get what this is for.

Privacy on the Internet

Can you blog post on safety on internet, facebook and privacy, etc?


To an extent, no, I can’t. I don’t know very much about what to do about privacy and safety on the internet.  

I don’t know very much about that, because no one knows very much about that, yet.

What I do know is that some of the rules people say to follow are wrong, and aren’t actually followed by anyone. They’re complicated, and somewhat separate, so I’m going to talk about privacy first.

People will tell you that you things like this about privacy:

  • Never put anything personal on Facebook
  • Don’t have conversations on Twitter
  • You shouldn’t have a blog unless it’s professional and polished and uncontroversial.
  • Never write anything in an email that you wouldn’t want on the cover of the New York Times

And it’s true that if you don’t do any of these things, you probably won’t have internet-related privacy problems. But that doesn’t make this good advice – this advice mostly boils down to “never use the Internet for anything but reading things and sending trivial emails”. And that is isolating; it means cutting yourself off from conversations that happen on the internet. And, more and more, it means cutting yourself off from a good percentage of worthwhile conversations that happen *anywhere*. That’s not actually a good idea.

Advice that amounts to never use the internet is kind of like saying that if you want to avoid car crashes, you should never get into a car. That’s true, but useless.

I don’t know a good solution to this. No one does, not yet.

Here are some things I think I do know about privacy

  • Pseudonyms can provide a measure of privacy by preventing things from coming up when someone googles your name. This is good enough for many purposes.
  • Pseudonyms are risky because they can make you feel safer than you really are. They’re not very good protection for serious secrets.
  • Sometimes you have to rely on them to discuss things anyway, because sometimes there is just no other viable way to have a conversation that needs to happen. But it is a serious risk, and in the long term, it’s fairly likely that people will figure out who you are.
  • If you’re violating a serious taboo, use Tor. 
  • If you’re using a pseudonym for something, make sure you’re not also using that username for something publicly linked to your real name. (For instance: People get unmasked all the time because they use the same username for OkCupid or Twitter as for their anonymous writing).
  • It’s probably a bad idea to put a link to something you wrote anonymously on Facebook. People who know you are likely to be able to figure it out. Even if them knowing isn’t a problem, they might comment in ways that make it obvious to the people you need to conceal this from.
  • Not all email lists are created equal. Some post their archives publicly in ways that can be googled; others don’t. Make sure you know which kind of email list you’re on, and post accordingly.
  • Be aware that most chat programs keep records of conversations, and consider whether the person you are talking to can be trusted not to share them (whether intentionally or by accident).
  • Use good passwords for your accounts, and don’t tell them to anyone. This comic has a good explanation of how to select good memorable password.