Liked who cheats and why

Students don’t cheat because they’re lazy; they cheat because they’re incredibly anxious, terrified of failure, and haven’t been taught to come up with original arguments (or trust themselves when they do). They’re the students who got into a desired college through sheer determination. They’re not dumb or stupid or anything close to it. But they’ve become convinced that any sort of failure (on an assignment, in a class) is tantamount to total life failure, and accumulate anxiety about each assignment accordingly.

Bookmarked How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Peterson (BuzzFeed News)

I couldn’t figure out why small, straightforward tasks on my to-do list felt so impossible. The answer is both more complex and far simpler than I expected.

Anne Helen Peterson discusses the anxieties associated with childhood optimisation and the pressures to find a good job. She highlights the changes in education, social media, personal branding and rise in debt. This subsequent cognitive load is one of the reasons that we struggle with creative solutions and deep work. The concern Peterson raises is that there is no clear solution to this system malaise. This has me thinking about the rise in staff well-being programs. Pushing back on Peterson’s fatalism, Kimberly Hirsh argues that we have to “perceive ourselves and others, and by extension others, as creatures of inherent worth, not merely parties to transactions, in spite of existing within an economic system that views us exactly as such.” Hirsh also curates a number of other responses to the article too.


If anything, our commitment to work, no matter how exploitative, has simply encouraged and facilitated our exploitation.

We’ve exchanged sit-down casual dining (Applebee’s, TGI Fridays) for fast casual (Chipotle et al.) because if we’re gonna pay for something, it should either be an experience worth waiting in line for (Cronuts! World-famous BBQ! Momofuku!) or efficient as hell.

Even the trends millennials have popularized — like athleisure — speak to our self-optimization. Yoga pants might look sloppy to your mom, but they’re efficient: You can transition seamlessly from an exercise class to a Skype meeting to child pickup. We use Fresh Direct and Amazon because the time they save allows us to do more work.

That’s one of the most ineffable and frustrating expressions of burnout: It takes things that should be enjoyable and flattens them into a list of tasks, intermingled with other obligations that should either be easily or dutifully completed. The end result is that everything, from wedding celebrations to registering to vote, becomes tinged with resentment and anxiety and avoidance.

Pundits spend a lot of time saying “This is not normal,” but the only way for us to survive, day to day, is to normalize the events, the threats, the barrage of information, the costs, the expectations of us. Burnout isn’t a place to visit and come back from; it’s our permanent residence.

The problem with holistic, all-consuming burnout is that there’s no solution to it. You can’t optimize it to make it end faster. You can’t see it coming like a cold and start taking the burnout-prevention version of Airborne. The best way to treat it is to first acknowledge it for what it is — not a passing ailment, but a chronic disease — and to understand its roots and its parameters. That’s why people I talked to felt such relief reading the “mental load” cartoon, and why reading Harris’s book felt so cathartic for me: They don’t excuse why we behave and feel the way we do. They just describe those feelings and behaviors — and the larger systems of capitalism and patriarchy that contribute to them — accurately.

Bookmarked The Rise, Lean, And Fall Of Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg by an author (BuzzFeed News)

The reality of Silicon Valley is that it’s commerce by any means necessary. And the reality of Sandberg is that she’s excellent at it.

Anne Helen Petersen looks at the legacy of Sheryl Sandberg. From her movement that encourages women to ‘lean in’ to her ability to make things happen, Peterson highlights the power and position held by Sandberg. What is becoming more clear though is the flaws in her armour of invincability and the limit to her aerobic instructor’s smile.


In Silicon Valley, the term “unicorn” is used to describe privately held startups that reach a valuation of over $1 billion. When the term was first popularized in 2013 by venture capitalist Aileen Lee, there were just 39 such companies, representing a vanishingly small fraction of all startups: 0.07%. At the time, Facebook was the only “super-unicorn” (worth more than $100 billion) to emerge from the preceding decade. It’s fitting, then, that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg — the person largely responsible for the revenue behind that huge valuation — had been figured as a kind of super-unicorn herself: the rare woman capable of wielding power while preserving her likability.

At Harvard, she took a class from Larry Summers, which yielded a foundational story of the Sandberg myth: The entire semester, she didn’t say a word. Didn’t raise her hand, didn’t come to office hours, never outed herself as a know-it-all. But she turned in the best midterm exam in class, and the best final. Summers agreed to oversee her thesis; after graduation, he hired her to come work for him at the World Bank. “She always had … the ability to lead people down any path, and always for good,” one of her former professors told the Harvard Crimson. She was superwoman.

Many, many feminists begged to differ. Dozens of critics and researchers have underlined the flaws in Lean In, focusing especially on its narrow focus on women who are heterosexual and/or already occupy the upper echelons of the class hierarchy. But the overarching feminist critique of the text is straightforward: It doesn’t actually challenge the status quo, or patriarchal control of it. It just tells women how to better manipulate the existing system

By asking nicely, with an aerobic instructor’s smile on her face, for the mere semblance of equal treatment, Sandberg became a global celebrity — what cultural theorist Leo Lowenthal calls an “idol of production.” Zuckerberg was seen as an innovator, as was Steve Jobs — men who slotted into the long history of celebrated male entrepreneurs and inventors. But Sandberg’s primary skill was leadership. Getting things done. “For all her success, she’s nothing like a man,” Time magazine declared in 2013. “She may currently have thousands of people saying ‘Right!’ to her, but she’s refined her technique since elementary school. Now it blends an overwhelming amount of data with a weapons-grade ability to nurture and an exquisite organizational acumen.” If she couldn’t complete a task, she’d poach someone who could. She was “ruthlessly prioritizing,” as she likes to say, but not busting any balls along the way.

in blaming, or even hating, her — without situating her within the larger context of Silicon Valley, the demands of venture capital, and the logic of the stock market — she becomes something just as mythical as she was before: a supervillain.

Liked selfishness or survival (TinyLetter)

People make parenthood and full-time employment work all the time, I realize that. My friends in Seattle make it work. But it’s not a coincidence that I’m the only one of those friends who incurred substantial debt from post-grad education, and I don’t mean that as a commentary on intelligence. Like many late-mid-and-young millenials, my decisions about having children are the result of many factors — the (very slowly) growing acceptance of non-parenthood as a viable lifestyle choice, observation of the ways in which parenthood stunted my own mothers’ professional life and fulfillment, but, above all else, a clear-eyed look at the costs of parenthood. To suggest that it’s just a matter of wanting more leisure time — laying by the pool! watching ESPN! — is to fundamentally misunderstand the ways in which millenials have come to conceive of labor.

Bookmarked that doesn’t mean dumbing it down (TinyLetter)

My advice to the group of academics, then, was two-fold. First: recognize that both sides need to be more flexible. Understand that journalists have to have somewhat reductive headlines, and that they operate on deadlines. But also assert, at the beginning, that you are unwilling to provide a soundbite — and want, above all else, to insert nuance, instead of a flat argument, and if they can’t deal with that (even if it’s just three sentences of complication, instead of one declarative sentence) then you will not do the interview. It’s not that academics should request quote approval, it’s more that they should be able to reach an agreement with the journalist about the sort of argument to which they’re affixing their good name.

Anne Helen Petersen explains how to work with and in journalism to extend the reach of academic ideas.
Bookmarked The cost of reporting while female (Columbia Journalism Review)

Over the course of nearly 200 years, female journalists have been under threat because of their gender, race, beat, views, and coverage.

Anne Helen Petersen documents a number of examples where women have been threatened while working as journalists. This includes a series of historical cases. This reminded me of Lindy West’s confrontation of troll and why he chose to do what he did. I am always left wondering what the answer is, sometimes fearing that such thinking creates more problems than solutions. Maybe there is something in Sherri Spelic’s suggestion to ‘think small’:

Sometimes it pays off to think small. Think next door, down the hall, at the next meeting. Act large in small spaces. Notice who’s speaking and who isn’t. Practice not knowing and being curious. Be kind. Welcome warmly and mean it.

via Audrey Watters newsletter