Discover more from At The End Of The Day
Being better ppl online (it's possible!)
And a call-out for my Holiday Reading List
Welcome to At The End Of the Day! I’m Hannah Sung and I write this newsletter for a people-first perspective on the news.
Learning to internet
When I first signed up for Twitter in 2009, I was reluctant. A magazine editor urged me to write about it for a column. I tried to say no. I didn’t want one more password in my life.
Looking back, Twitter is where I learned how to internet. Over the years, I slid into the language of GIFs, emojis, hashtags, links, replies and quote Tweets. I learned about the currency of hot takes. Of course, all that glitters is not gold.
I’ll never forget the time I was pulled into a vicious Twitter fight in 2016. Because my @ was included, I watched as two people went back and forth, ultimately ending in an all-caps, flying F. The rage was real.
One of them turned their anger toward me. “I see you, Hannah Sung,” they tapped out in a Tweet. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
I felt a prickly energy, the way you get when you watch a fistfight unfold on the playground. “No,” I laughed nervously, staring into my phone. “Can’t you tell?”
Learning when, where and how to respond isn’t about a social media code of conduct. They’re daily decisions about me – who I am, how I’m evolving and who I want to be.
I was reminded of this in one of my favourite reads of this year, “Breaking the Social Media Prism, How to Make Our Platforms Less Polarizing,” by Chris Bail. The author is an academic and his book outlines research into troll behaviour.
I started reading because I’m curious about what drives people to become completely toxic online. The further I read, the more it made me reflect upon myself.
“One of the most common things I observed after studying extremists on social media is that they often lack status in their off-line lives.”
It makes so much sense when you see it on the page. Trolls are human, whether we want to admit it or not.
What helps us be more human online?
Reading the above quote, which I bookmarked, made me consider my own status in life. I know I have lots of it. I’m a mom to kids who adore me (being the lenient one about candy helps). I have a really great partner in a world that is biased towards couples. I have friends who are warm, funny and kind, who invite me into their lives even though our social worlds have shrunk in recent years. I have a job that aligns with my values and to top it all off, pays the bills. There’s a long, lucky list of factors that help me extinguish urges, subconscious or not, to wield power and chase clout on socials.
I know I’m not a troll (insert giant laugh here because I would truly be so bad at it).
However, I’ve actually worried over the years that I have the opposite problem. Am I too moderate? Too comfortable and silent? Shouldn’t I be more outspoken and flash a few hot takes for attention and advocacy?
I bet I’m not alone.
In so many ways, there is pressure to display our values. But in 2020, a huge year of reckoning for all of us, I made a conscious decision to slice that pressure like a cake and set a big piece aside for later. That cake is a dopamine hit. Our values are only one ingredient. There’s so much more in that slice – clout, self-promotion, cookies (thank you, Black Twitter, for this way of describing a pat on the head).
So I try to set aside that imaginary cake and focus on daily, offline actions. Social justice? There are ways to bring it into every interaction with friends, family and work colleagues. But in order to do this, we need community and by “we,” I mean all of us, troll-type folks included.
Offline + online = better community
As exhausted as you are, we have to keep fighting to create community. Community isn’t something that just happens to us. It’s something we build.
I recently went to hear Naheed Nenshi, former mayor of Calgary, speak at an event here in Toronto. I put this quote in my phone notes because it is a potent reminder.
We can build communities online (look at us right now!). And I strongly believe in the power of words and social media and advocacy. But we have to keep building out our lives offline, too. Headlines about democracy, climate and labour rights loom dramatically large. But our quiet, anonymous, daily actions are not small or invisible. They’re the building blocks of life. Our actions build trust and feed relationships and in turn, build up the lives of others, too.
Here is what I took away from Chris Bail’s book, “Breaking The Social Media Prism”:
Your social media isn’t your identity. Don’t fall into that trap. Extremists find a sense of purpose, community and self-worth through destructive online behaviour. Recognize that we all need purpose, community and self-worth. Find it offline
Social media isn’t your only voice. Our online world “mutes moderates,” says Bail, which in his view is the most profound distortion of social media. Find the spaces in your life where there’s enough trust to talk
You better believe that I think every Tweet can have power. I’m also very, very aware of the harassment and abuse that women journalists face online. I understand what it means to recuse yourself from a toxic place, reluctantly, knowing it’s the very same place where strong advocacy and learning can occur.
But in case this reads like an ode to (or screed against) Twitter, it’s not. Whatever happens to Twitter itself, we all still need to live with each other.
This is why I feel so strongly about power in numbers, power in community and the power of your voice, whether it’s on a social media stage or not.
It’s why I write
All of the above add up to why I write this newsletter. It’s not about the word count or the platform, it’s about connecting with you. I get ongoing reminders from readers and friends that this newsletter was a source of connection over the first few years of the pandemic. Thank you so much for being the same thing for me.
As I wrote to my Patreon subscribers a few weeks ago, my newsletter is evolving.
I’m going to be writing less frequently in 2023 and my goal is to write a monthly essay, as I’ve been doing this fall. I’m also migrating my newsletter from Substack to my own site, which I’m doing just for fun as well as reasons that are too boring to list here. But don’t worry — my newsletter will still come to your inbox. You don’t have to change a thing.
And finally, the finances of this project shape its sustainability. I decided to turn off my Patreon for now. That’s because, for the first time, I don’t have a road map for At The End Of the Day. It has always had an experimental element but an exchange of money represents a contract to me, one I take very seriously. So I’d rather switch off reader subscriptions for now and while I assess where things go.
And the podcast? I loved making it. A second season would depend on landing a sponsor to cover the costs. My work plate is super full right now (more on that below). But if you have a marketing budget and you want to team up with me, by all means — hit me up!
Next up is a ✨Holiday Reading List✨
Last year, I wrote a Gift Guide, filled with consumable little luxuries from businesses I love. This year, what I look forward to most over the holidays is finding time to read.
My next newsletter will be a Holiday Reading List!
To be a part of it, I want to hear from you in one of two ways:
Tell me about the book you wrote this year. I know that many of you are writers. Hit reply to this email and send me a link to your book. I’d love to share what you’re writing, reading and what’s opening up your mind.
Do you miss someone? Let’s send them a surprise package of books. Maybe it’s an old friend or a family member across the country. Hit reply to this email to tell me how great they are in 150 words or less. You have to have their mailing address so I can ship the books. Must be based in Canada. Send me your blurb by December 7th, 2022 @ 8 pm ET.
What’s new with Media Girlfriends
Work life has been filled to overflowing in 2022, which is a wonderful thing for co-founders of a small business. And I’m so proud of everything we’re doing.
We produce Between Us with Wes Hall, and the second season is here! Listen for conversations with Cameron Bailey of the Toronto International Film Festival, Mohamad Fakih of Paramount Foods, Emily Mills, founder of How She Hustles, and more. On Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and your fave podcast app.
And if you happen to be flying Air Canada, all our Media Girlfriends podcasts are being featured on their in-flight entertainment, starting with Strong and Free and Fort et Libre, our podcasts on Black history for Historica Canada. Tune in while in the sky!
Signing off with a shout out to At The End Of the Day editor Laura Hensley, who is away on a work vacation in the sun (I didn’t mess it up too badly on my own, did I?) 😉
Big thanks for reading,
Thank you to writer Kate Carraway for featuring me in her newsletter, The Feeling. Subscribe!