On triggers

content warning: This is my response to someone who is offended by the idea that anyone could possibly be triggered by rickrolling



kind of curious as of to why you’re not sure rickrolling is ok in any case, if you don’t mind talking about it without being sure about it
realsocialskills said:
You never know what’s triggering to other people.

ohfuckimadeablog said:

Holy fucking shit people

Poe’s Law in action

Rickrolling is a trigger

realsocialskills said:

That post wasn’t really specifically about rickrolling. There’s nothing specifically awful about that song. 

The thing is, there doesn’t need to be something specifically awful about something for it to be triggering. Triggers aren’t reasonable, and they’re not always things like rape or violence.

Sometimes, a trigger is something like: a harmless rock song you used to listen to after abuse to calm yourself down. Sometimes hearing that song can take you back to that state of panic and fear. Not because there’s anything at all wrong with the song, just because you have that association. That’s a common kind of trigger.

For most people, rickrolling is harmless. But for people who are triggered by that particular song, being tricked, unexpected music, unexpected human voices, or sounds coming out of their computer they didn’t play on purpose, rickrolling is not harmless.

Rickrolling friends is one thing. That’s often totally fine, although it depends on the friend. But if you put a public rickroll bait on the internet where it’s likely to be seen by a lot of people, you run the risk of tricking someone into clicking it who really, really shouldn’t click it.

Depending on which corner of the internet you’re posting on, the risk might not be very high, since it’s not a particularly common trigger. But the value of rickrolling isn’t very high either. I don’t think much is lost by avoiding it.

Basically, I don’t think it’s right to trick people for fun unless you can be reasonably sure that they will also think it’s fun. And one reason it’s better to err on the side of not tricking people is that for some people, there’s more at stake than avoiding a brief moment of annoyance.

When you realize that it's wrong...

I’m asking you because you are a good person. My brother has dyslexia and all his life he was bullied to think he was worthless, a mistake of our mother. I admit I have my parcel of blame in this, but I too was raised to think of him of a lesser being by our grandmother. These days he’s being bullied by his teachers, expecting him to get higher grades, again, like mine. He asked me the other day what he would do with his life, because he really thinks he is unskilled and is  a big waste of time and space. He asked me what he is good with, because from his eyes, he can’t do anything right.

I honestly don’t know what to say to him and I know this is pretty much because I was born resembling my grandmother with my father’s memory while he resembles mother in almost everything, whom grandmother hated until she died.

I don’t know what to do, please help us.

I don’t know your brother and I don’t know what he’s good at, so I can’t address that directly, but, here’s what I can suggest:

Talk to him about the abuse

  • Tell him that what you and your grandmother did to him was wrong
  • Tell him that what his teachers are doing is wrong and disgusting
  • Tell him that he shouldn’t be treated like that and that it isn’t his fault
  • It’s not because of his grades, or anything about him. It’s because of prejudice and hate
Be honest about your part in it, and do what you can to treat him right from now on
  • Tell him that you’re sorry for your part in it, but don’t make it about you trying to feel better or get him to reassure you
  • Be specific about things you’ve done to him that you think were wrong
  • Don’t do those things
  • When he points out that you’re still doing those things, apologize and stop
  • Don’t expect him to trust you just because you’ve realized it was wrong – you have to stop doing it, over a long period of time, before it’s likely that you will seem safe
  • Listen if he wants to talk, but don’t push the issue
And here are some things I’d say to him directly, if I was talking to him rather than you:

It’s ok not to know what you want to do or are good at:

  • Doing stuff is awesome, and life gets better when you find good stuff to do
  • Everyone has worthwhile things they can do
  • It takes time and work and exploration to figure out what they are and get good at them
  • School isn’t conducive to this kind of growth for everyone
  • School is actively harmful to some people. 
  • Having school and an unsupportive family undermine your ability to find things to do is really, really common for people with learning disabilities
  • It isn’t your fault that this happened to you, and struggling in that environment doesn’t suggest anything bad about you
  • You don’t have to be a super accomplished superhero to have worth as a person. Don’t hold yourself to that standard.

Spending more time on things you like helps:

  • People who struggle with school are often taught that anything they like is a waste of time, and that they should stop doing it and spend more time banging their head against impossible or barely-possible assignments
  • That’s really bad advice; you can’t develop your interests and abilities by renouncing everything you like
  • Finding stuff you like and are good at is more important than faking normal at school.
  • If you like video games, play them
  • If you like TV shows, watch them
  • If you like cooking, cook things
  • If you like talking to people online, find people to talk to
  • Etc etc. These are just some examples of things some people like, not necessarily things you do or should like. Do things that *you* like.
  • Doing things you like is important. Even if they’re activities other people don’t value very much. You have to explore to find out what you like and can do well. And you need space to do that in. So, take some space.

Acknowledging limitations creates abilities

  • People with disabilities are often taught that if we don’t acknowledge limitations, we won’t have any
  • And then we are forced to spend lots and lots of time and effort pretending that this is true
  • We spend so much time pretending that we can do things and forcing ourselves to do things that are barely possible, that we don’t have much available for anything else
  • If we acknowledge limitations and stop doing that, then all that time and energy becomes available for doing other things
  • And then we can actually start doing things well and succeed at things
  • Acknowledging and understanding disability is one of the most important life skills anyone with a disability can develop.

Connect with other people with similar issues:

  • Special ed teachers and other alleged experts often don’t know what they’re talking about
  • They will often advise you to do actively harmful things
  • Peer support from other people with related disabilities helps, because they often know what they’re talking about and have strategies for dealing with it.
  • In any case, judge for yourself and do what you think will help you. No one else gets to tell you what your coping strategies have to be.

About friendship







If someone doesn’t like you, they aren’t your friend, and you shouldn’t be hanging out with them.

If someone is always telling you why you’re not good enough, they don’t like you.

If someone is always telling you how special it is that they like someone as flawed as you, then they don’t like you.

If someone consistently expresses contempt about you to mutual friends, they don’t like you.

Life is better when you spend your time with nice people who like you.

shit i wish i knew this at school

also i wish my school had even the slightest bit of provision for allowing me to avoid/stop hanging out with people that didn’t like me

Me too. School often actively prevents people from learning this, especially people who are considered socially incompetent.

That’s one of the reasons my blog is called realsocialskills.

yeah that’s very true, they keep trying to force this ‘you are going to have to get along with everyone’ thing onto vulnerable people which is fucked when half of your classmates are abusing you.

Right and also - there’s a fundamental difference between getting along with people professionally, vs considering people friends and spending time with them socially.

…And for the extra special fucked-up-ness: while the trying/pretending-to-be-friends kind of getting along is what they drill into you at school (especially if you are female), they never tell you that in actual work environments it can often be given as a reason not to promote someone (especially female someones) because they “just don’t have the necessary competitiveness.”

Huh. I didn’t know about that. 

Food as small talk


Time, Wasted: some things I think I know about small talk


Regarding professions and names:

  • If you are in a college or university setting, asking someone what their major is is considered an acceptable small talk question, and it can lead to actual conversation.
  • Asking someone what they do (for work) is socially acceptable in…

I’ve found food/cooking to be almost ALWAYS safe as small talk.  Unless you’re talking about butchering/hunting in front of a vegan, I suppose. 

Also in college I used to offer candy to break the ice.  If I bought a bar of dark chocolate and offered to share with classmates, they either wanted to talk about how much they love dark chocolate, or how much they hated it.  But either way you got a conversation.  And they always ended up being better conversations than the other favorite… ‘whining about the class/teacher/assignment’ which I think just sets you a bad precedent for small talk.  I still know people who are constantly complaining…not because they’re actually upset, but that’s how they’ve learned to start conversations.

Wow, that’s a really good idea.

What words did you use to offer the candy? Like “hey, I have chocolate, do you want some?” Or something else?

some things I think I know about small talk



Regarding professions and names:

  • If you are in a college or university setting, asking someone what their major is is considered an acceptable small talk question, and it can lead to actual conversation.
  • Asking someone what they do (for work) is socially acceptable in some crowds, but not others. It’s acceptable if it’s perceived as similar to asking about a major, and rude if it’s perceived as an attempt to determine how much money someone has or how much social status they have
  • Making jokes or disparaging comments about someone’s job or major is considered boorish unless you have the same job/major and it is also self-mockery. It’s not nice to insult people you just met.
  • Similarly, don’t make jokes about people’s names upon being introduced. They’ve heard them all before.
Regarding sports:
  • A lot of people like to talk about sports as a primary form of small talk. I don’t really understand this. Maybe some of y’all can chime in?
  • In the US, outside of New York, people are likely to dislike the Yankees, and some people find Yankees fans annoying, and some get really angry about Yankees fans. (This is especially true in Boston).
  • Many areas, particularly college towns, have intense and scary sports fandoms. If you don’t understand the sports fandom in your area, it’s probably better to avoid wearing sports logo clothing, and this is especially true if there is a game on.

I’m pretty sure the sports-as-small-talk thing is because it’s a fairly common interest, and you can at least guess some of the other person’s opinions by the region they live in and how the local teams are commonly seen.  Popular TV shows are sort of similar, but less common, because it can get awkward if you express enthusiasm or distaste for a show the other person turns out to feel the opposite about.  The current weather is an even more universal topic, and thus the most stereotypical subject of small talk.

The stuff about professions and names is all totally spot-on, so far as my experience goes.

With shows it can work to say “hey, did you see last night’s/last week’s episode of x?”, and then judge from their reaction whether this is a good line of conversation to continue.

It doesn’t commit you to the extent that saying a show is awesome/horrible does; you can find out what they think before saying anything emphatically.

For further reading

keelypizzapilgrim asked realsocialskills
2012-10-13 02:28
Do you have any suggestions for books about social skills?

I don’t know of so many good books on social skills.

The one I’d recommend first and foremost is Power Tools by Dave Hingsberger. The most important social skill anyone can have is to be aware of one’s own power and mindful of not misusing it. This book is the best introduction I’ve ever seen to developing the habits of mind that lead to acknowledging and using power without abuse. Everyone should read it.

For that matter, his blog is also a really good resource for learning this, and also for learning social skills related to accessibility. 

Ballastexistenz is also a good blog to read for learning about abuses of power that are not often understood or acknowledged, and some ways of dealing with life in a world in which they are common.

I think this is a good article, too: Five Geek Social Fallacies 

And I’ve heard good things about this college book by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, but I have not read it:

I’m not sure what else to suggest, but I bet a lot of people who follow this blog know of things. Suggestions, anyone?

Touch vs touchy-feely

teatimewithheyes replied to your post: Keeping your touchy-feely off others.

For some people, touching is part of normative cultural communication. I know this because I am a Yankee and I don’t like to be touched by or to touch strangers who happens to have met enough people who feel as I have described above.

That is true. I’m not talking about normative touch (for example, in some places shaking hands is socially expected). That has its own issues, but that’s not what I’m trying to address here.

I’m talking about people who go *beyond* socially normative touch in order to be more intimate with others than is socially normative.

That’s a bad thing to do even when it does not have any sexual overtones whatsoever.

Some thoughts on internet safety.

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

Here are some things I think I know about Internet safety:

Regarding making friends:
  • Social interaction on the internet is a legitimate and life-enchancing form of social interaction
  • People on the internet don’t exist in isolation; they are real people and shouldn’t be treated as fictional characters (even if you think they’re lying about who they are. Lying is different from not existing)
  • Since they are real people and real relationships, it’s possible to get hurt by toxic relationships or even just mistakes. Relationships have consequences.
Regarding meeting people in person
  • Meeting people from the internet isn’t exceptionally dangerous. It’s presented in the media and by scaremongering organizations as likely to get you killed, but that’s not remotely accurate.
  • Making mistakes about who to trust, and going off to secluded locations with people who aren’t trustworthy *is* dangerous. But that’s not a unique internet problem; people do that in bars all the time.
  • That said, if you’ve been talking to someone very intensely or for an extended period, it’s easy to get a misleading impression of how trustworthy they are in person. You don’t know what someone is like in person until you have spent a significant amount of time interacting with them in person.
  • For that reason, it’s important to go slowly - trust built in online interactions shouldn’t automatically transfer to in-person interactions. 
  • Online interactions are real, but they’re not interchangeable with in-person interactions. A lot of people are better online than they are in person; a lot of people learn to have good interactions online before they learn how in person. And that’s ok, but important to be aware of.
Regarding predators:
  • There are a lot of predatory people on the internet, and other places.
  • The difference on the internet is that people don’t need as much accumulated reputation in order to meet people.
  • In person, people mostly meet through friends. Online, people can interact directly. Which means you have to rely on your own judgement more, and if you want to rely on your friends’ judgement in the way you would in an offline social circle, you have to tell them about the people you’re talking to.
  • For that reason, it’s usually best if you don’t talk to someone in complete isolation, it’s safer if other people know who you are talking to.
  • Some people will try to trick and manipulate you and lie about who they are in order to hurt you. This is not a problem specific to the internet; people do that all the time in person too. But it’s important to know that it happens online too – and you have to learn different skills for detecting it, if in person you rely heavily on affect to tell who to trust (which isn’t actually as reliable as people tend to think it is anyway)
Regarding toxicity:
  • There are huge numbers of all kinds of people on the internet, including really toxic people
  • Sooner or later, you will attract aggressively toxic people
  • If you feel an obligation to interact with them, their toxicity will hurt you
  • It’s important to learn who is and is not good to talk to, and to learn how to disengage with people who are harmful
  • Spending all of your time arguing with toxic people probably won’t make the world better, but it probably will make your life worse.
  • The block button is important. Learn how and when to use it.
Regarding potentially dangerous personal information
  • Don’t give anyone your credit card number. If you need to give someone money for some reason, use PayPal. However, PayPal will reveal your legal name, so don’t use that if you need to remain anonymous. You can use gift certificates (or maybe bitcoin, but that’s not usually very useful).
  • If you’re violating serious taboos with things you post, people might go to great lengths to find out who you are and create problems for you. Don’t make it easy for them, and don’t assume that you’re safe just because you’re not in the same room.
  • Putting pictures of your children online doesn’t endanger them in any way, but it’s likely to embarrass them later. So it’s often not such a nice thing to do. A litmus test: if it was a picture of you, and you’d object to your mother showing it to your boyfriend, don’t post it to Facebook if it’s a picture of your kid.

Response to an ask about money talk

 Why is asking about money rude?

I get why asking someone randomly is rude, but why is it rude if it’s got to do with the conversation? On a tv show someone wanted to buy something really expensive and someone else asked how they could afford it, and another person said it was rude.

I don’t get why it’s so personal. Other times it’s acceptable to talk about how someone made their money, but only really if they’re rich.

I get that some people feel ashamed that they don’t make as much money as some people, but why wasn’t it acceptable in the first situation?

It’s hard to say without knowing the full context. I’m going to arbitrarily use an iPad as an example. Here’s some reasons it could be rude to ask someone how they could afford an iPad:

It could be (or be seen as) an indirect way of asking how much money someone makes. The perceived question could be “I didn’t think you had that kind of income! So how much *do* you make, anyway?”

It could be seen as a judgement about someone’s priorities. Eg, the implied question could be (or perceived as) “why are you going around buying *that* when your house is a dump and you keep complaining about how you can’t afford to get the roof fixed?”

It could be seen as contempt for the particular category of purchase. Eg, implied question “Why would you spend all that money on a stupid expensive toy?”

It can be (or be perceived as) a class dynamic. Eg “Who do you think you are buying an iPad? That’s for rich people. Do you think you’re a rich person who deserves that kind of thing?!”

It could also just be (or perceived as) someone trying to assert that they have the right to demand that you justify your spending decisions to them. The less money people have, the more they tend to be treated as owing people an explanation, and it’s draining. Even if you don’t mean that, it’s likely to be perceived that way.