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Gen Z takes control of its future

2023-03-19 06:21:07

Gen Z takes control of its future

Seventy years ago, in November 1952, the Peanuts comic strip debuted a new gag: Lucy holds a football for Charlie Brown to kick, then pulls it away at the last minute. 

Gen Z takes control of its future(图1)

Fifty years ago, in November 1972, the Democratic Party began its own Lucy-and-the-football ritual. The youth vote — empowered by the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 — meant there were 25 million potential new voters. Surely those kids protesting Vietnam would swing the election to antiwar Democrat George McGovern? Nope: Richard Nixon won in a landslide. Most young voters hadn't even registered to vote(Opens in a new tab), and the ones that did were more Republican than anyone expected. 

Democrats have been taking runs at the youth vote football ever since. I'm old enough to remember 2004, when another war president was supposed to be ousted by an Eminem protest song(Opens in a new tab), and 2016, when Hillary Clinton wanted young voters to "Pokémon Go to the polls(Opens in a new tab)." Barack Obama brought a surge of young voters in his 2008 landslide, but it may not have been decisive and definitely didn't stick; youth turnout cratered in Obama's disastrous 2010 midterms.  

But November 2022 saw the third straight U.S. election with an unusually high turnout of 18 to 29 year olds, and the first with Joe Biden in the White House. This time, a Democratic president's low approval ratings didn't matter. Gen Z is showing up in large enough numbers to swing tight races. They're pushing Democrats in a progressive direction. Their concerns (climate change, abortion rights, LGBTQ rights, gun safety) are massive, generational problems that won't be fixed in one election cycle. They're in it for the long haul.  

Even before enough votes were counted to determine control of Congress, the GOP was in full-scale meltdown about Gen Z's role in future elections. Senator Ted Cruz feared Democrats "governing as whacked-out lefty nut jobs" had "excited young voters who came out in massive numbers." A podcast host for right-wing youth group TPUSA warned "Gen Z is willing to vote and it's not going to be for us."(Opens in a new tab) One far-right advocacy group founder tweeted that "Gen Z is destroying this country at the ballot box,"(Opens in a new tab) then suggested repealing the 26th Amendment: "raise the voting age to 21."(Opens in a new tab)  

The right is right to be worried. Around 27 percent of eligible 18-29 year olds showed up at the polls, according to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). In swing states, the number was 31 percent. That may not sound like much, but it's the second highest midterm youth vote turnout ever after 2018, when Trump was president. 

And yes, Gen Z definitely leans Democratic: 63 percent voted for Democrats in House races in '22, according to a nationwide exit poll from Edison Research; roughly the same as the 65 percent support for Biden in 2020(Opens in a new tab) among 18-24 year olds. 

Without the youth vote, there's no way John Fetterman would have seen off Dr. Oz in the Democrats' only Senate seat flip of 2022. The 18-29 year old vote in Pennsylvania was lopsided in Fetterman's favor by 42 percent, more than enough to cancel out Oz's Boomer supporters. CIRCLE points to that race, the Georgia Senate vote now heading to a runoff, and the Wisconsin governor's race as three crucial Democratic elections where young voters tipped the balance(Opens in a new tab).  

Three national elections make a trend that no politician, pundit, or party dare ignore – especially as more than half of Gen Z is currently under 18. In 2024, according to the nonpartisan States of Change project, the massive post-1945 Baby Boom generation will drop to just 25 percent of the electorate. Generation X, my people, will hold steady at 25 percent. Meanwhile, Gen Z and their millennial elders (who started turning 40 last year) will take the lion's share of the electorate at 45 percent. 

What does that mean? Well, it's entirely possible that no U.S. president will be elected again without majority support from this younger, wiser, more activist cohort. It means that Democrats have learned to keep the youth vote on board with popular policies like Biden's student loan forgiveness, rather than patronizing Pokémon talk. Expect more of the former from this administration. 

We can also expect more legislators like Maxwell Alejandro Frost, 25, who will become the first Gen Z member of Congress in January. Frost ran on an unapologetically progressive platform: Medicare for all, affordable housing, environmental justice, and creating a "national taskforce" to end the gun violence that has become the leading cause of death for children.  

That suggests we can expect more primary fights for obstructionist Democrats, like Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema, who defy the will of younger voters. As for Republicans, they're likely to be destroyed at a national level if they keep pursuing populist distractions. You can't keep claiming that crime is higher in blue cities than it is in red states; the kids know how to use Google. You can't raise race-baiting issues like the supposed "border crisis" with the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history(Opens in a new tab)

You certainly can't keep associating your brand with the election-denying nightmare that is Donald Trump. Even the next most likely candidate, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, will go down in flames if he keeps denying climate change(Opens in a new tab) in the face of hurricanes drowning his state, or signing abortion bans(Opens in a new tab). All of the misinformation tactics that drove "low-information voters"(Opens in a new tab) to the polls won't work on a generation that is constantly having to correct their parents' Facebook posts. This is a high-information voting bloc, and it has learned how to fact-check on the fly. 

Will Republicans listen? That's a great question. Decades of success with older voters have made the GOP uniquely vulnerable to the future. The party has stood on the sidelines and laughed at the Democrats' relentless pursuit of young voters ever since 1972. It keeps edging further to the right, thanks to its own activists launching and supporting primary challenges. They haven't just been ignoring the top concerns of younger voters; they have been actively mocking and legislating against them.

So unless something radically changes inside the GOP in this election cycle, the 2024 race – and everything beyond – will look very different. Then it may be Republicans running up to the youth vote football like Charlie Brown, with progressive Gen Z activists playing Lucy. 

Indeed, it's not outside the realm of reason to suggest that U.S. politics in the future may be a battle between two (or more) very different parties – centrists versus progressives, perhaps. Political parties have died out in American politics before (anyone remember the Whigs?), and you'd be hard pressed to find Gen Z support for 82-year-old Nancy Pelosi's claim that the country needs a strong Republican party(Opens in a new tab)

The ball's on your side of the field, GOP. And Lucy is waiting.   


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    Demonstrators kneel in front of law enforcement during a protest in downtown Washington, DC. Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

    Protests have broken out in dozens of cities across the country this week following the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody after an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly 9 minutes in Minneapolis. While many protests have been peaceful, some have turned violent and led to looting and destruction. Thousands of people have been arrested.

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    Donald Trump Jr. tweet bunker Credit: Mashable screenshot

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    US President Donald Trump holds up a bible in front of St John's Episcopal church after walking across Lafayette Park from the White House in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) / ALTERNATE CROP (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images) Credit: AFP via Getty Images
    US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images) Credit: AFP via Getty Images

    If you'd like to help support protesters fighting for justice for George Floyd, here is a helpful resource.

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    1. LA ’92(Opens in a new tab)

    Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin’s 2017 documentary would be chilling enough without its 2020 context. It recounts the stories of Rodney King, who was brutally beaten by police officers, and Latasha Harlins, a teenager who was fatally shot in a convenience store. King’s attackers were found not guilty despite damning video evidence, and in the days after, fires, riots, and looting ravaged Los Angeles. The film frames the 1992 unrest with footage of the 1965 Watts riots, highlighting the disturbing parallels.

    Where to watch: Netflix(Opens in a new tab)

    2. 13th(Opens in a new tab)

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    Where to watch: Netflix(Opens in a new tab) or YouTube(Opens in a new tab)

    3. 3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets(Opens in a new tab)

    Marc Silver’s 2015 documentary recounts the 2012 death of teenager Jordan Davis, who was shot multiple times in a parking lot while listening to music with friends. His attacker was found guilty of first-degree murder, but only after a mistrial and extensive media coverage, which the film follows along with Davis’ friends, family, and trial proceedings.

    Where to watch: HBO(Opens in a new tab)

    4. I Am Not Your Negro(Opens in a new tab)

    From the civil rights movement to Black Lives Matter to representation in Hollywood, I Am Not Your Negro examines the modern Black experience in America through the last writings of James Baldwin and his correspondences with Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers.

    Where to watch: Amazon(Opens in a new tab)

    5. Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland(Opens in a new tab)

    When 28-year-old Sandra Bland was arrested for a traffic violation and subsequently found hanged in her jail cell days later, a two-year legal ordeal began. Filmmakers Kate Davis and David Heilbroner document the family’s battle with law enforcement while sharing Bland’s own video blogs and history of activism. Though her death was ruled a suicide, it remains surrounded by questions and the undeniable fact that it can’t be undone.

    Where to watch: HBO(Opens in a new tab)

    6. Baltimore Rising(Opens in a new tab)

    The Wire’s Sonja Sohn documents protests and unrest in Baltimore after Freddie Gray died due to injuries sustained after an arrest. While the six officers who arrested Gray await a verdict, the eyes of the nation fall on Baltimore, where lines of division become clearer than ever.

    Where to watch: HBO(Opens in a new tab)

    7. Whose Streets?(Opens in a new tab)

    Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis direct this 2017 documentary about the death of Michael Brown and subsequent uprising in Ferguson, Missouri. The officer who shot Brown was not indicted, and eventually cleared of all charges and ruled to have been acting in self defense.

    Where to watch: Hulu(Opens in a new tab)

    8. True Justice: Bryan Stevenson's Fight for Equality(Opens in a new tab)

    Director Peter Kunhardt spotlights Alabama attorney Bryan Stevenson (also the subject of Warner Bros.’ Just Mercy, streaming for free(Opens in a new tab) for the month of June), who has made it his life’s mission to highlight and combat racial inequality in the U.S. justice system. Stevenson regularly advocates for clients who are socially or economically disadvantaged or already unfairly affected by incarceration. In interviews, he himself outlines the United States’ history of racist legal inequality and his own efforts to challenge it.

    Where to watch: HBO(Opens in a new tab)

    9. Time: The Kalief Browder Story(Opens in a new tab)

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    10. Teach Us All(Opens in a new tab)

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  • Wyatt Cenacs police-focused Problem Areas is now streaming for free on YouTube

    Wyatt Cenacs police-focused Problem Areas is now streaming for free on YouTube

    The first season of the HBO show Wyatt Cenac's Problem Areas is now available to watch for free on YouTube(Opens in a new tab).


    While Cenac brings a healthy dose of his comedic talents to this show, it's still a very serious series talking about very serious topics. The ten-episode season primarily tackles policing in America, from murders of people of color by law enforcement officers, to the infrastructures that facilitate these oft-repeated heartbreaking and rage-inducing instances of police brutality and abuse of power.

    As people are coming together to voice their dissent against countless injustices perpetrated by police forces of the United States and police forces around the world, Problem Areas is a great source of information about the realities of what's going on.

    Cenac talks to all kinds of sources across this poignant season of television, from community activists to politicians to police themselves. It gives a well-rounded look not only at specific issues like the murder of Philando Castile by a police officer in Minnesota, but also shows how these different perspectives feed into the conversations around these broader topics.

    The first episode of the show is a great entry point into the conversation, beginning with conversations around the murder of Castile and how police are trained.

    This is a moment in history where information and context are paramount to understanding these huge demonstrations and the systems that these demonstrators are up against. For those privileged enough to not experience these issues firsthand, or to feel like they don't need to give it their attention, this show may be a great, easily digestible starting point.

    You cannot watch Problem Areas and feel like you can ignore what's going on in the world. It begins with a list of headlines about police murdering black people for absolutely no reason other than a false perception of threat. Cenac points out that these things keep happening over and over and over.

    That first episode aired over two years ago. To see that we're still seeing this time and time again, that people continue to fear for their lives and lose their lives to police officers, that the streets are packed with people right now who won't let the police get away with their abuses, is to understand how these discussions about and illumination of these detrimental systems is still so important.

    The cliché would be to say that Problem Areas is more relevant than ever. The sad thing is it's not. It was just as relevant at the time it first aired. Its points were relevant long before it ever aired, long before Cenac was born. It continues to be relevant and will likely continue to be relevant long after we're all dead, unless the systems in place are ripped out from their roots and replaced with something else entirely that doesn't rely on violence, oppression, and racism to impact its communities.

  • How to blur peoples faces in protest photos — and why you should do it

    How to blur peoples faces in protest photos — and why you should do it

    With mass protests taking place across the United States and abroad, social media safety is more important than ever.


    Enormous crowds of people are gathering in cities around the country to protest racism and police brutality in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last week. Photos and videos of these protests serve the very important purpose of documenting these actions as well as exposing police mistreatment of protestors. Posting them publicly, however, comes with its own risks.

    For the safety of those involved, if you're going to take photos at protests, you should consider blurring or pixelating the faces of those protesting before sharing them with the world.

    Thankfully, there are some easy ways to make this happen.

    Why you should blur photos

    In a word: Retaliation. It's no secret that the federal government likes to surveil anti-racism protests through social media. The Intercept(Opens in a new tab) and Vice(Opens in a new tab) both reported on government monitoring of protest movements through social media after the killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, respectively.

    Buzzfeed News(Opens in a new tab) reported Tuesday that the DEA has been granted authority to collect intelligence on protestors during this current wave of uprisings, too. This is all to say that anyone who shows up to a protest and has their face photographed is at risk of being tracked down by authorities if they feel so inclined.

    Since the entire point of these protests is to end the unjust treatment of minorities by police, and end systemic racism more generally, it stands to reason that you should do what you can to protect those you photograph. You can still demonstrate the enormity of the moment without putting people exercising their First Amendment rights in harm's way.

    How to blur photos

    The good news is this isn't so tough to do on your own, even if you aren't a Photoshop wizard. A cursory Google search reveals plenty of free websites that can do it automatically or give you the tools to do it manually in a hurry. Facepixelizer(Opens in a new tab) is just one I found that seems to work pretty well. Encrypted messaging app Signal is also adding a blur tool.

    The fine folks over at Motherboard(Opens in a new tab) recommended Image Scrubber(Opens in a new tab), developed by Everest Pipkin, for covering up faces in protest photos. Image Scrubber is great because, aside from letting you easily and manually blur out faces on either a computer or a phone, it scrubs metadata from photos, too. Photos you take contain hidden data such as the date, time, and potentially even location in which they were snapped. It's possible(Opens in a new tab) for someone to get that information if they really want it.

    Load a photo into Image Scrubber and the first thing it does is list this data in plain text form. It also gives you the option to nuke it from your scrubbed photo. To test it out, I put a photo of my family's cat Max into the tool. Here is Max staring blankly into the distance, generally unaware of the world around him, as usual.

    Max, unscrubbed. Credit: barb perry

    After about two seconds of painting over Max's face with Image Scrubber's Microsoft Paint-like tools, the cat can no longer be recognized. It doesn't look professional, but it doesn't have to.

    Max, scrubbed. Credit: alex perry / mashable

    It only takes a few seconds to rid a photo of valuable metadata and blur out a face. Given the intensity of police response to these protests after less than a week, it can't hurt to do this with any photos you plan on sharing on your social feeds.

    Even if everyone at a protest is acting well within their rights, they can still face retaliation. We've seen peaceful protestors get tear gassed(Opens in a new tab) for the sake of a presidential photo op just this week. It can't hurt to go the extra mile to protect strangers you photograph.

  • The Iraqi man who threw his shoes at George W. Bush is a Twitter hero for todays protesters

    The Iraqi man who threw his shoes at George W. Bush is a Twitter hero for todays protesters

    "Hope you know you're an actual icon and we love you," wrote Twitter user @StreaamLightsup to Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi. "This video is my daily dose of serotonin."


    The video was one many Americans know on sight — when al-Zaidi threw his shoes at former President Bush in 2008.

    @StreaamLightsup's tweet is just one of many praising al-Zaidi, who often issues charming responses of support. He's using the platform, where he has more than 56,000 followers, to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and the protesters calling out police brutality in the wake of George Floyd's killing.

    The shoeing incident(Opens in a new tab), as it's referred to on Wikipedia, occurred at a press conference at Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's palace. The Iraq War had dragged on for five years at that point and ravaged the country. As al-Zaidi later explained in an op-ed in The Guardian(Opens in a new tab), his duties as a journalist required him to report on daily tragedies. He would enter ruined homes, hear the screams of orphans — and he pledged to seek vengeance.

    When he saw his opportunity to do so that day, he took it.

    "This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog," al-Zaidi yelled as he threw the first show. "This is from the widows, the orphans, and those who were killed in Iraq," he added as he threw the second.

    Al-Zaidi spent nine months(Opens in a new tab) in jail for the act, where he said he was tortured. In his Guardian essay, al-Zaidi explained that he threw the shoe to defend his country. "When I threw the shoe in the face of the criminal, George Bush, I wanted to express my rejection of his lies, his occupation of my country, my rejection of his killing my people," al-Zaidi wrote.

    In the piece, al-Zaidi denied being a hero — but over a decade after "the shoe," his legacy as a hero has blossomed on social media. "Dude who threw the shoe at George W. Bush has done more for the betterment of America than most of its politicians and a huge segment of its actual populace," wrote another user on Twitter, @thankfulreact69(Opens in a new tab). "Absolute king shit."

    It's a sentiment many on social media share, especially after al-Zaidi publicly threw his support towards the current protests. Additionally, al-Zaidi has dedicated his freedom watch to Floyd.

    "We stand in solidarity with these protest[ers] because they are oppressed," said al-Zaidi in an interview with Mashable. He said he'd been aware of the protests since George Floyd's death, and knew they would escalate. "We in Iraq have suffered from American power and authority since the occupation of the US military in 2003 so all the support, sympathy, and solidarity with them."

    Not only are police inciting violence(Opens in a new tab) on peaceful protesters, but they're also targeting journalists(Opens in a new tab). As a journalist himself, al-Zaidi said he stands in solidarity with them, and that the police are violating their rights.

    He also said he knew from the beginning of Trump's presidency that he was spiteful of journalists. "Who[ever] hates journalists hates the truth," he said. "And Trump is the most untruthful person, so he is hostile to journalists because they convey the truth and he wants… the journalists to convey his lies."

    SEE ALSO: Facebook engineer resigns in protest of Zuckerberg's bankrupt morality

    Al-Zaidi pointed out that when protests erupted in Iraq(Opens in a new tab) last year, it didn't get nearly the same attention as the current U.S. protests. "In Iraq seven months ago we had demonstrations and more than 700 demonstrators were martyred by the Iraqi police without the world moving," he said.

    Regardless, al-Zaidi isn't hesitant to show his solidarity with demonstrators in the US and around the world. In fact, he sees his fame as a responsibility to do so. "Since people listen to your words," he said, "you must [show] solidarity with the people and the oppressed wherever they are. When there were demonstrations in America, solidarity with them [is] everywhere in the world."

    Al-Zaidi's advice to young protestors and activists is to keep peaceful demonstrations. "The peaceful weapon does not belong to the arrogant, dictatorial, and oppressive states of freedom," he said. "Instead, it has weapons, prisons, police, and media."

    Peaceful "weapons," al-Zaidi continued, are the best and longest-lasting weapons. "The authorities do not possess and do not want" these peaceful methods, he said, "so keep the peace as much as possible until your revolution triumphs."

  • K-pop fans are flooding QAnon hashtags with memes and fancams

    K-pop fans are flooding QAnon hashtags with memes and fancams

    K-pop stans are legion and cannot be stopped.


    Just about a week after overwhelming a Dallas police "snitch" app with memes and fancams, K-pop fans are now flooding QAnon hashtags with fancams, videos, and memes. It's beautiful.

    After the hacker group Anonymous called for spamming QAnon hashtags, K-pop stans rushed in to do their part.

    If you don't know anything about K-pop — Korean pop bands — just know they have massive amounts of fans who hold the power to make literally everything go viral. The most notable band is BTS, whom you must have heard of.

    But, in the wake of mass protests against racism and police brutality, those fans have channeled their power for good. They've done the nearly unthinkable: stopped tweeting about their faves to ensure Black Lives Matter hashtags rose to the top of trending. And again, they also spammed a Dallas police department app aimed at identifying protesters with such force that it took down the app.

    And if you don't know anything about QAnon. Well, bless your good fortune. But basically, it's a very (Opens in a new tab)powerful, pro-Trump(Opens in a new tab), absolutely bonkers, winding conspiracy theory — the seeds of which were planted by a Reddit user nicknamed Q — that the president is actually in control of a plan to up-end the so-called "deep state" and expose(Opens in a new tab) countless powerful pedophiles.

    If you search common QAnon hashtags on Twitter, like #qanon and #WWG1WGA — which stands for "where we go one, we go all" — there is some typical conspiracy nonsense but also lots and lots of K-pop stuff.

    It just goes to show you: QAnon might be a powerful online conspiracy, but K-pop stans are a powerful online force with the ability to overwhelm conversations and change the dialogue.

    Of course in the wrong hands, this sort of power can be really dangerous, considering it's the sort of tactic employed by Russian bots(Opens in a new tab) during the 2016 election cycle.

  • These moments from CNNs Sesame Street town hall on racism will give you hope

    These moments from CNNs Sesame Street town hall on racism will give you hope

    On Saturday morning, CNN hosted a joint town hall for kids and families with Sesame Street, called Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism(Opens in a new tab).


    Racism and police brutality are difficult subjects to broach with adults, let alone children. But given the global protests, these issues are — and should be — impossible to ignore. This goes for children, who see what's going on either through media or their parents. In order to adequately explain these complex issues, it's necessary to talk about them even if it's uncomfortable.

    But how do you talk to children about something as ugly as racism without ruining their innocence? Guests like Beverly Daniel Tatum, author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?(Opens in a new tab), fielded questions like these from children, parents, and Sesame Street characters. Here are some of the highlights:

    Children may be wondering why people are out in the streets at all. Elmo's dad Louie explained that it's an effort to end racism:

    Eight-year-old Xavier said that his nana marched in the 1960s, and asked why we still need to "do this again and again." A lot of us adults wonder the same thing. Sesame Street cast members Roscoe Orman (as Gordon Robinson) and Sonia Manzano (as Maria) discussed the importance of protesting:

    Keedron Bryant, the 12-year-old who went viral for his powerful song "I Just Want to Live,"(Opens in a new tab) visited Sesame Street to discuss the song:

    Some moments of the special were heartbreaking, like 9-year-old Saniya asking what to do when she encountered racism:

    The finale was especially touching. CNN hosts Van Jones and Erica Hill along with Sesame Street characters pledged to do better. "We can do better, we must do better, we will do better," Jones, Hill, Big Bird, and Elmo said in union:

    The town hall didn't dive deep into these issues; there's only so much that can be said in an hour. Hopefully, though, there will be more town halls like this one — and more importantly, hopefully this encourages parents to have these difficult conversations with their children.

Random articles


  • TikTok announces 10-minute videos. But will it pay creators for their time?

    TikTok announces 10-minute videos. But will it pay creators for their time?

    After teasing their interest(Opens in a new tab) in longer-form videos last week, TikTok confirmed today(Opens in a new tab) (Feb. 28) that it will allow users to upload videos up to 10 minutes long. That's a major bump up from both the three-minute maximum previously available to users and the five-minute(Opens in a new tab) videos the platform had been beta testing.


    Sentiment in the Mashable newsroom Slack is "why?" and "who asked for this?" — and the general consensus is that even a three-minute video is already too long. There's a kind of infectious rhythm to flipping through TikTok that is thrown off by longer form content. As Deputy Entertainment Editor Kristy Puchko put it, "I get (arguably) irrationally angry when I get hit with a 3-min TikTok." Based on a quick search for related tweets, Twitter users seem(Opens in a new tab) to agree(Opens in a new tab).

    If TikTok was built on addictive, snappy, and snackable videos, why does it need to compete in long form content, too? The answer, as always, is money. As Wired(Opens in a new tab) reported last week, "TikTok has ridden the wave of popularity [but] to sustainably grow its revenue, it needs longer videos, which gain more attention, and allow them to sell more ads."

    YouTube has prioritized "watch time"(Opens in a new tab) as a metric since 2012, claiming it would phase out the prevalence of clickbaity thumbnails and reward "videos that actually kept viewers engaged." That might be true, but the change also multiplied the amount of available ad real estate, and may have led to higher rates of burnout amongst creators(Opens in a new tab) trying to keep up with producing more content.

    But there is still a huge difference in how the two platforms pay creators for their content. YouTube's industry-leading revenue split is far more equitable than TikTok's current monetization program and highly publicized but finite Creator Fund(Opens in a new tab), which endemic video creator Hank Green recently opined was "dramatically under-paying creators." Other star creators, like MrBeast(Opens in a new tab), agreed.

    As of now, it doesn't look like longer-form content will be monetized any differently than the bite-sized videos that make up the majority of the platform.

  • Sisyphus puns are on a roll on Twitter

    Sisyphus puns are on a roll on Twitter

    Making puns about Sisyphus is an everlasting task, set to be rolled out again and again for eternity.


    Folks on Twitter have been turning to Greek mythology and epic tales of late for some truly Olympic puns, mainly about the ill-fated Sisyphus, but also featuring every other goddess, god, titan, hero, and doomed human you could think of from the legends and stories of ancient Greece.

    In case you slept through the class or Stephen Fry's audiobook of Mythos (how could you!?), Sisyphus was a king of Corinth whose cunning deception of Death led to an eternal daily punishment(Opens in a new tab) of rolling a great stone up a hill in the afterlife, only to have it roll down again every time.

    This classic tale and the rest of the legendary gang all get their moment in — or way too close to — the sun in this wonderfully nerdy online trend, including the likes of Prometheus (titan who created humans, then stole fire and gave it to said humans, punished for eternity by a Zeus-y eagle who pecks out his liver daily, fun!), Odysseus (king of Ithaca, hero of Homer's The Odyssey, takes ages to get home).

    The trend seems to have stemmed from an account called Classical Studies Memes for Hellenistic Teens(Opens in a new tab), which has been posting memes related to Classical Studies(Opens in a new tab) (Ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt etc.) for three years.

    SEE ALSO: 'Assassin's Creed Odyssey' review: a stunning, mythic adventure of Olympic proportions

    The account dropped this great Orpheus and Eurydice joke in July 2020, which seems to be at the core of the recent wave of quote retweets. (For reference, in a deal with Hades, Orpheus played his lyre to pull his love Eurydice from the underworld on the condition he didn't look back at her — folks, he did the damn thing).

    For the past 24 hours, the stream of nerdy classical jokes has been as neverending as having one of your internal organs pulverised daily by a bird of prey. Too soon, Prometheus?

    Some jokes flew extremely close to the sun.

    Others took all of their strength.

    Some were too good to be true.

    And on and on it went...

    Notably, the originator of the wave, @CSMFHT, also dropped some superb new jokes of their own.

    And...this absolute show-stopper.

    Long live Classics jokes!

  • Taco Bell is bringing back potatoes, rejoice! And theyre testing Beyond Meat, too.

    Taco Bell is bringing back potatoes, rejoice! And theyre testing Beyond Meat, too.

    The long national nightmare is over: Taco Bell is bringing back potatoes.


    The hit menu item got axed earlier in the pandemic, but the beloved fast food chain announced on Thursday that they were coming back in March.

    The potatoes — favorites like cheesy fiesta potatoes and the spicy potato soft taco — will officially return on March 11. And there's more: Taco Bell will also begin a test-run with Beyond Meat to offer a plant-based protein on its menu. It's all part of a push from the fast food chain to expand its vegetarian options.

    "The return of our beloved potatoes is just the first step in showing our fans the strong continued commitment to vegetarian we are making this year,” said Liz Matthews, Taco Bell’s global chief food innovation officer, in a statement. "We have long been a leader in the vegetarian space, but this year, we have more meatless options in store that vegetarians, veggie-curious and even meat-eaters will love."

    Taco Bell even put out a silly video where the CEO announced the changes through a potato filter.

    "It's a new year with new possibilities," CEO Mark King said in the video.

    The chain didn't announce a firm date when Beyond Meat would be available. It also didn't announce what the Beyond menu items would look like, only that it planned to test it out this year.

    Taco Bell announced over the summer that it would be cutting potatoes from its menu, along with other favorites like the Quesarito, Loaded Grillers, and 7-layer burrito. Folks weren't happy.

    "Taco Bell is in fact simplifying its menu to streamline operations and make ordering faster, safer and easier than ever for customers and team members, especially while the pandemic has shifted priorities to the drive-thru and digital," a spokesperson said at the time.

    With the pandemic still raging some five months later, Taco Bell has at least reversed course on the potatoes. And for that, let us rejoice.

  • What is MeWe? Everything you need to know about the social network competing with Parler.

    What is MeWe? Everything you need to know about the social network competing with Parler.

    You're probably already familiar with the pro-Trump social network Parler. And it's likely you've heard of Rumble, the video service that conservatives are using as an alternative to YouTube.


    But, are you familiar with MeWe?

    The social media platform known as MeWe was actually the second most popular free app in Apple's App Store – right behind Parler – in the days following the 2020 Presidential election. While it hasn't reached that peak in some time, it's still being used by conservatives as an alternative to mainstream platforms like Facebook.

    Here’s everything you need to know about MeWe, the site competing with platforms like Parler and Gettr(Opens in a new tab) for conservatives looking for a new online home.

    What is MeWe?

    MeWe is an alternative social networking site that's currently experiencing a surge in new users as Trump supporters search for new platforms in order to avoid Facebook and Twitter. It bills itself as the “next-gen social network” and centers its sales pitch to new users around data privacy and providing an ad-free experience.

    MeWe is owned by a company called Sgrouples(Opens in a new tab), which was actually also the name of the platform early on. It was founded by internet entrepreneur Mark Weinstein. In an interview with Rolling Stone(Opens in a new tab) in 2019, Weinstein called himself “one of the guys who invented social media.” While that’s giving himself a bit too much credit, Weinstein was in the space early on. In 1998, he created a very early social network type site called SuperGroups(Opens in a new tab), which was shut down by its investors in 2001.

    In 2011, Weinstein started a new online business venture which eventually resulted(Opens in a new tab) in the creation of MeWe.

    In his interview with Rolling Stone, Weinstein explained where the name MeWe came from.

    “My life is composed of ‘me’ and then my ‘we,’ which is everybody that’s part of my life,” he said.

    Who is using MeWe?

    Almost everyone is using MeWe! Let me explain…

    There are accounts for a number of major news outlets and personalities on MeWe. For example, here’s President Donald Trump’s account.

    Credit: MeWE

    However, it’s not really Trump’s account. Neither he nor his team set the account up. MeWe did. The account can be followed by MeWe’s real users. It displays a feed of Trump’s tweets on Twitter in real time.

    Credit: mewe

    There are unofficial MeWe accounts like this for the New York Times, the NFL, Fox News, HuffPost, and even the Onion.

    On one hand, it’s good that any random user can’t set up an account on this social network and pretend to be these official outlets. On the other hand, it’s also beneficial to MeWe to fill up its site with content from platforms it's trying to take on to make it seem like there’s more activity on the site than there really is.

    Credit: mewe

    When it comes to MeWe’s real users, it may sound a lot like Parler, but it is a bit different.

    For one, MeWe wasn’t founded as a social network for conservatives. It just became one and welcomed them with open arms. The right-wing surge on the platform was first noticed in 2019 after Facebook started cracking down(Opens in a new tab) on vaccine misinformation. Many different types of conspiracy theorists, such as the anti-vaxxers, started joining the site, likely due to the strong anti-Facebook rhetoric pushed by the site.

    Now, MeWe is experiencing a boom just like Parler as pro-Trump supporters boycott Facebook and Twitter over their anti-misinformation policies in the aftermath of Trump’s defeat in the election.

    It should also be noted that unlike Parler, MeWe does have users who aren’t conservative. It’s not even all about politics like it is with Parler. There are MeWe groups for supporters of the Green Party, groups for dog and cat lovers, and arts and music groups, to name a few. However, the most active users on the site seem to be there to discuss conservative politics.

    Does MeWe "censor" users?

    Users joining MeWe over the past few days are met with a message by its founder, Mark Weinstein, promoting the site's rules.

    “No Ads, No Targeting, No Political Bias, No Newsfeed Manipulation, and No BS!” reads Weinstein’s post.

    Credit: mewe

    But, again, just like Parler, MeWe is no “free speech” paradise. Obviously, there’s the usual ban on unlawful conduct and content. But, the social network’s policies(Opens in a new tab) also ban “obscene or pornographic content” as well as impersonating someone.

    “If you’re just a regular person from around the world who has a political point of view and you’re abiding by our terms of service, that’s none of our business…[but] if you’re a conservative or a liberal and you’re spewing hate, you’re gonna be out,” Weinstein told Rolling Stone(Opens in a new tab) in 2019.

    Weinstein also told the magazine that there were no policies banning misinformation or fake news, which he categorizes as just “opinion.” There’s lots of QAnon content on MeWe, for example.

    Yet, Weinstein also stressed to Rolling Stone that MeWe does not allow the promotion of groups on its platform, meaning users have to actually seek out the content. Ironically, this is exactly how Facebook deals with many types of groups spreading misinformation concerning topics like health. Mark Zuckerberg’s network allows the content to exist, but it does not promote it.

    However, last November, a MeWe spokesperson reached out to Mashable to share a blog post(Opens in a new tab) by Weinstein where he demands Rolling Stone retract its piece on MeWe. At the heart of the matter is Weinstein's disagreement that his platform has become an online home for the far right.

    How is MeWe different from Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit?

    Unlike Parler, MeWe isn’t trying to replicate every other social media site. Weinstein’s intent seems pretty clear in the marketing of the site and in his interviews: MeWe wants to be the alternative to Facebook.

    This probably explains why the site tries to replicate Facebook’s user interface. Users can give thumbs up, hearts, and smiley faces to posts. They can share posts to their various feeds. There are user profiles and separate pages, as well as a groups feature for people to congregate around a specific topic.

    This is all set up very similar to how it is on Facebook, down to the messiness of the UI. However, MeWe’s design does make it feel like the whole platform was bought off one of those sites that sell turnkey website solutions so you too can be the next Mark Zuckerberg!

    What's the future of MeWe?

    While MeWe has dropped out of the spotlight a bit since it's post-election bump, the company is still touting its success thanks to its new conservative user base.

    Prior to 2020, MeWe was trudging along as a fairly small alternative social platform.

    For example, in 2019, Weinstein said that MeWe had 5 million users(Opens in a new tab).

    Then the election happened.

    In the days following the 2020 Presidential election, a spokesperson for MeWe told Mashable that the platform had 10 million users, with one million of those users signing up for a MeWe account during a 72 hour stretch.

    Mobile analytics firm Sensor Tower(Opens in a new tab) shared with Mashable that MeWe received more than 200,000 new installs on Google Play and the App Store in the U.S. during that period as well.

    Fast forward to present day. In a July 2021 interview with Axios(Opens in a new tab), Weinstein said that MeWe now had 20 million users. However, 20-30 percent of them are "considered monthly active users."

    Obviously, MeWe still pales in comparison to Facebook’s 2.7 billion users or even Twitter’s 330 million users, but the site's growth has attracted interest from investors.

    When the company reached out to Mashable in the days after the 2020 election, a MeWe spokesperson said it had raised over $18 million to date since its inception. At the time, MeWe had backing from celebrity investors such as fashion designer Rachel Roy and founder Lynda Weinman. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who is considered the father of the world wide web, even has an advisor role(Opens in a new tab) with MeWe.

    Since then, MeWe has raised additional funding. In his interview with Axios, Weinstein says the company has now raised a total of $23 million. New investors in the social network include pro surfer Kelly Slater and Earth Wind and Fire bass guitarist Verdine White.

    Aside from it's funding, Weinstein told Axios that the company has made over $3 million in revenue over the first four months of 2021 by selling premium subscriptions to the service. As a comparison, Weinstein said the company broke even in 2020 when it brought in just over $1 million.

    Still, MeWe faces many of the same challenges any startup social media company faces today: keeping users engaged on the site when everyone they know is on the more popular platforms.

    But, as MeWe’s platform fills with Trump supporters, MeWe’s success may rest on one man: President Trump.

    Aside from the video platform Rumble, Trump has yet to join MeWe, Parler or any other of these alternative social networks. The former President of the United States has been suspended or banned from major platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube following the events of January 6 when Trump supporters violently stormed the Capitol building in an attempt to overturn the election results.

    Related Video: How to recognize and avoid fake news

    This story was originally published in January 2021 and updated in July 2021.

  • Our year in grief

    Our year in grief

    None of us were prepared for the loss of life as we knew it — practically overnight — back in March. But some of us who'd experienced it before knew what to call the impenetrable fog of surreality that suddenly fell, that void of absence — the hollow stasis severing you from the world just right outside your window.


    It was grief.

    To those fortunate enough to have avoided profound grief prior to the pandemic, it brings me no joy to welcome you to this most solemn of clubs(Opens in a new tab), as universal as it is alienating.

    Grief is the type of thing you cannot know until you yourself suffer a loss so cataclysmic that it takes a part of you with it. Grief is an isolation so deep it separates your very being from the realm of reality, leaving you unreachable even when not technically alone. Grief knows no rules, defying the laws of physics itself, warping time-space so moments of distress last lifetimes while events from only days prior to your loss feel as though they happened in a different timeline, to a different person altogether. Grief comes in waves, the bouts of raw, skin-crawling agony interspersed with a deathly unfeeling, both jarringly juxtaposed against the unavoidable normalities of everyday life.

    In mourning, the world stops. But it also shambles on like it always has. Everything has changed. Nothing has changed.

    In mourning, the world stops. But it also shambles on like it always has.

    You still wake up each morning, clock into work, pay the bills, feed the kids, buy the groceries. As your body navigates existence on autopilot, you pretend the salivating gargoyle of mortality is not breathing down your neck every waking moment of every day everywhere you go. You get so good at pretending you start believing the lie yourself — until it all catches up, denial caves in, and you’re back in that festering agony. The cycle restarts.

    No one on Earth escaped the incalculable, ever-mounting toll of losses that defined 2020. If you’re unsure what you’ve been experiencing is grief, though, there are some telltale signs for identifying the singular state of unreality that only bereaved minds comprehend.

    In The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion’s acclaimed memoir on the death of her husband, she describes the bouts of irrational “disordered thinking” that accompany grief, as a brain struggles to process an unfathomable truth. She panics after reading her husband’s obituaries, because it means, “I had allowed other people to think he was dead. I had allowed him to be buried alive.” She finds herself incapable of getting rid of his shoes because, “how could he come back if he had no shoes?"

    The role of magical thinking in processing grief helps explain so much of the absurdly illogical behaviors we’ve seen in ourselves, others, and even government leaders in the highest offices.

    In part, magical thinking was why you didn’t really listen to the increasingly urgent warnings from epidemiologists about the devastating outbreak of a novel coronavirus in China back in December 2019 — why you still refused to take its inevitable arrival on our shores seriously, despite the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic(Opens in a new tab) in March.

    "This is fine. This is good." Credit: bob al-greene / mashable

    It’s why you continued traveling the world(Opens in a new tab), calling everyone else suckers for not taking advantage of cheap flights. It’s why, even after America’s borders closed and quarantine orders began, you told yourself this was a good thing, actually, because you’d finally have time to garden or write that novel. (Did you know Shakespeare wrote King Lear in quarantine(Opens in a new tab)?) It’s why you stock-piled on everything from canned food to toilet paper, because if you had access to 30 to 40 rolls of Charmin at all times, then you’d be safe, the virus couldn’t get you. It’s why you kept attending weekly Zoom happy hours and lackluster drive-thru holiday celebrations, forcing a smile onto your face to convince yourself as much as others that this was enough, that these poor approximations didn’t just make things worse(Opens in a new tab) by reminding you of all the basic human needs we could no longer fulfill.

    It’s why you wanted to believe people (like the president of the United States(Opens in a new tab)) who said these fears were overblown, that COVID-19 would magically go away by the end of April(Opens in a new tab). It’s why, despite knowing better than to trust Trump, you still needed to believe hydroxychloroquine was effective(Opens in a new tab), if only to justify the bigger risks you were taking as lockdown fatigue settled in(Opens in a new tab). It’s why, despite pleas from experts, you went on spring break(Opens in a new tab) or home for the holidays(Opens in a new tab) anyway, because family was “worth the risk” and if we stop celebrating traditions then doesn’t the virus win?

    It’s why you fell for at least one of the endless pieces of viral misinformation on social media, more willing to believe false conspiracy theories claiming rampant false-positive tests(Opens in a new tab), a mass-orchestrated ”plandemic” tied to 5G(Opens in a new tab), or Bill Gates’ master plan to inject us with microchips(Opens in a new tab) — because that was less terrifying than the equally unbelievable reality of America’s astronomical death toll(Opens in a new tab). It’s why you still worry about getting the vaccine, even though you know you need to. It’s why you exploded in rage, needing to blame it all on China, or the WHO, or Dr. Fauci, or your governor, clueless celebrities(Opens in a new tab), idiotic influencers(Opens in a new tab), an unmasked family minding their own business at a lake(Opens in a new tab), innocent grocery store clerks politely asking you to wear a mask.

    Unacknowledged grief can make monsters of us all. Loss refuses to be ignored. One way or another, regardless of whether you even know it’s what’s happening, grief always finds a way to escape despite being buried deep inside your mind.

    Related Video: How people around the world are dealing with coronavirus lockdown

    The endless stages of grief in 2020

    In 2020, we were not “together alone,” like all those sentimental COVID ads insisted. We were alone, even when together.

    Because the incontrovertible truth is that, over the past year, on both personal and collective scales, we all suffered varying degrees of almost every category of grief defined by psychology experts(Opens in a new tab):

    • The collective grief of an ongoing global tragedy (and its undetermined but inevitable onslaught of repercussions that will outlast the virus(Opens in a new tab)) with no certain end in sight

    • The absent, masked, delayed, or inhibited grief of those still insisting it’s all a hoax — even on their deathbeds(Opens in a new tab)

    • The anticipatory grief of the pandemic’s unpredictable losses, exemplified by the anxiety-ridden 10 to 14 days that follow a loved one’s positive diagnosis

    • The disenfranchised grief of a daily death toll equivalent to one 9/11 a day(Opens in a new tab), which continues to go all but ignored by our own president(Opens in a new tab)

    • The so-called “exaggerated” grief leading to surges in substance abuse and/or exacerbated mental health struggles and disorders

    • The misplaced rage of distorted grief that’s further endangered victims of domestic violence

    • The dysfunctional nature of complicated grief making even basic mundane tasks like cleaning the house feel insurmountable

    • The chronic grief of an unending litany of losses you can’t process properly(Opens in a new tab) because COVID-19 deprives us of even the mourning rituals(Opens in a new tab) that are essential to healing

    • And, of course, the cumulative grief of suffering devastating blow after devastating blow, one after the other, without stop — encapsulated most viscerally by the cruelty of a virus that leaves behind lone survivors(Opens in a new tab) of entire families ravaged by it(Opens in a new tab)

    As of this writing, the virus has robbed around 313,000 Americans(Opens in a new tab) — along with an average of nine people from each “kinship network”(Opens in a new tab) suffering long-term emotional trauma(Opens in a new tab) — of life itself. But acute experiences of grief are by no means limited to death alone. The multiplicity of the interconnected losses we suffered in 2020 are often just as painful as the passing of a loved one.

    In COVID times, you are denied even mourning. Credit: bob al-greene / MASHABLE

    The unprecedented and unparalleled nexus of so-called “ambiguous losses” caused by the pandemic led Robert Neimeyer, director of the Portland Institute for Loss and Transition, to describe grief in the era of coronavirus as a category all its own. “We’re talking about grieving a living loss — one that keeps going and going,” he told the Associated Press(Opens in a new tab).

    Aside from the more clear-cut loss of lives, the ever-ballooning crises of unemployment and eviction rates during the pandemic(Opens in a new tab) tell of the untold losses that millions of other Americans are suffering from different kinds of debilitating casualties. The loss of identity, safety, autonomy, expectation, and dignity that often follow joblessness and homelessness can be equally shattering, made only worse by the fact that they’re lesser-discussed and more stigmatized forms of bereavement(Opens in a new tab).

    You don’t need to have been a victim of the recession(Opens in a new tab) to share in the ubiquity of trauma from 2020’s all-encompassing loss of normalcy, predictability, control, justice, or trust either. Kids were deprived of childhoods, a whole generation of youth robbed of milestones like prom or going to college or graduating, the elderly fortunate enough to have survived apocalyptic nursing homes(Opens in a new tab) were denied their last years of life.

    You could be one of the thousands of survivors with “long haul” COVID, grieving the unexpected loss of your health for the foreseeable future with an unknowable variety of long-term complications(Opens in a new tab). Perhaps you are on the other side of the bereavement coin(Opens in a new tab), a healthcare worker(Opens in a new tab) or the loved one of someone dying of the virus who can’t even properly care for them. You are left in the impossible circumstance of grieving the impending loss of your loved one who might be on just the other side of a hospital door. But your only responsible choice is to leave them to die alone so you can protect yourself and other loved ones from exposure.

    Or maybe your grief is more maddeningly internalized, that masochistic form of bereavement rendering lockdown more unlivable than it already is: a loss of belief in yourself. Because you never wrote your King Lear. Your pandemic garden is now rotted and weed-infested. You mourn the person you thought you were, someone who’d be strong enough to persevere in the face of adversity with productivity.

    But it turns out you’re not that special. You’re like everyone else, just as incapacitated by a globe-crushing pandemic. For some reason this feels like a personal failure, rather than a comforting universality of simply being human.

    The grief of diseases no vaccine can cure

    Incredulously, the losses of 2020 were not contained to the coronavirus’ immediate after effects, either. Nothing was immune to the boundless scope of our year in grief. From playing wholesome video games to the mere enjoyment of celebrity(Opens in a new tab), the pandemic of grief(Opens in a new tab) that was 2020 infected everything else the virus itself didn't directly touch.

    There were also the communal losses of so many titanic legends, their deaths (unrelated to COVID-19) devastating in a normal year but unthinkable in one so dark that we could spare the extinguishing of their lights: Kobe and Gianna Bryant, John Lewis, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Chadwick Boseman, Little Richard, Alex Trebek.

    That's not to mention the irreplaceable lives senselessly stolen by such a cacophony of injustices that the entire world joined America’s chorus in saying their names on the streets.

    That’s not to mention the irreplaceable lives senselessly stolen by such a cacophony of injustices that the entire world joined America’s chorus in saying their names on the streets: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile — and the ever-expanding list of others whose(Opens in a new tab) names we can’t stop chanting.

    Meanwhile, no matter which side of the political chasm you’re on, most of us experienced an irreparable loss of faith in our government as it failed at every possible turn to protect its citizens in our greatest time of need. Somehow, our dear leaders found a way to disabuse us of every last remaining vestiges of hope we’d clung onto that the richest nation in the world could not possibly leave its people to languish in death, decay, and poverty. But they did, struggling to provide anything more than an insulting grand total of about $1,800(Opens in a new tab) to survive a year-long pandemic and greatest economic recession since the Great Depression.

    I’m by no means surprised, but sometimes the sheer horror of it sinks in. We’ve all been left to fend for ourselves in a global pandemic, as the people we voted for on both the federal(Opens in a new tab) and state level wash their hands of caring to instead plan indoor soirées celebrating(Opens in a new tab) all that hard work they didn't complete to save us. It’s a loss of faith in not only our current system, but the very foundation of those truths we allegedly held to be self-evident.

    This profound grief is more than a loss of faith in just our country, leaders, and institutions, though. You can’t come out of 2020 without at least questioning your trust in literally each and every single fucking pillar of modern human society. It’s a grief that mostly manifests as red hot rage, as you think of all the spectacular failures of our technological marvel of a digital age.

    Far from delivering on its promises of utopian advancements, the tech industry punished us in 2020 instead. From infecting essential workers(Opens in a new tab) in their warehouses to infecting people’s minds(Opens in a new tab) from the comfort and isolation of their own homes, we paid for the privilege of this technocratic death state by making tech billionaires richer during the pandemic than they were before(Opens in a new tab). Despite knowing for years of the real-life consequences of misinformation’s viral spread on social media, companies like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter only started making mealy-mouthed attempts to stop it in 2020(Opens in a new tab), when it was already far too late. Tech monopolies, so busy innovating their awesome future filled with “disruptive” innovations like unstoppable robotic delivery dogs(Opens in a new tab) and self-driving homicidal cars(Opens in a new tab), never bothered to safeguard humanity against the worst impulses that their inventions exacerbate (maybe because it’s embedded into their whole business model(Opens in a new tab)).

    Tech did not save us in 2020. It killed us. Credit: bob al-greene / mashable

    Grieving the nauseating false idealism of the tech industry is only the top layer of that especially pus-filled 2020 wound. Beneath the rotting flesh of our loss of faith in tech is the bone-deep loss of faith in people themselves.

    How many of us grieved loved ones — fathers, mothers, grandparents, brothers, sisters, lifelong friends — lost to the global pandemic of misinformation(Opens in a new tab)? The number of people swallowed by the black hole of social media-fueled conspiracy was so large this year that the worst of it was voted into goddamn Congress. In 2020, we gave not one but two(Opens in a new tab) Qanon believers(Opens in a new tab)(Opens in a new tab) the power to influence our governmental policies for determining the survival of our democracy, recovery from the pandemic, and larger issues of catastrophic climate change.

    Watching a loved one succumb to the alternate dimensions of collective delusions(Opens in a new tab) is that living loss Neimeyer talked about, a grief for something both gone but still ongoing. Obviously, loved ones lost to 2020 misinformation are not dead. But the people you thought you knew all those years don’t feel very alive anymore. You’ve effectively lost them, but are not allowed to grieve them. Instead, you must face the desire to try and help them escape the noxious tangle of lies they’ve been ensnared in. When you reach out a hand to help, though, it only ever seems to come back empty. You yearn for the love you shared before this labyrinthian hellscape of a year. Yet you know that, like so many other losses from 2020, even if you can pull them back, it won’t ever really be the same.

    If you survived 2020 without losing or severely damaging a significant relationship, one way or another, then consider yourself lucky. It’s not just a loss of individual people, either. The crippling toll of separation, even for introverts(Opens in a new tab), escalated social anxiety and disorders for some folks so much that they’re left unsure of whether they’ll be able to be around people up close like in the before times.

    We have been drowning in a world so subsumed by omnipresent grief that we didn’t know to call it anything other than a “new normal.”

    Like fish who don’t know they’re swimming in water(Opens in a new tab), we have been drowning in a world so subsumed by omnipresent grief that we didn’t know to call it anything other than a “new normal.” Nothing about this is normal. Failing to name grief only gives it more power, alienating us from not only each other but our own selves, denying us the awareness and collective mourning that helps us cope.

    One of the hardest parts of grief is reconciling with the permanence of your loss. That might sound contradictory to the hope we now feel after finally seeing the first people in the world get vaccinated(Opens in a new tab). At last, a glimmer of light at the end of the ever-darkening tunnel.

    But sometimes, that glimmer looks so far out in the distance that it only serves as a reminder of how far away the outside world still remains. It makes you wonder what kind of world even awaits us on the other side, if it’ll be at all recognizable, or something we want to live in.

    The trauma of everything we lost in 2020 cannot be cured by a vaccine.

    Like the grief I felt after my sister died suddenly four years ago, I know that eventually the rawness of this gaping wound will scab over and heal. Still, the scars of absence always remain. Mourning is not forever, but the loss of life, livelihood, normalcy, safety, dignity, certainly, and sanity we just experienced on such a massive scale is uncharted territory. It’s hard to not feel even more prolonged, anticipatory grief over the countless crises we can already see on the horizon of the post-pandemic world.

    The thing about grief people often fail to understand is how, eventually, you start to mourn the loss of grief itself. As time passes, as you settle more into stages of acceptance, the shape of your loss — of your loved one or missing part of you that’s gone forever — erodes too. Memories of them, of the way it was, start to fade along with the pain.

    You are shocked to realize you fear losing the grief itself — the visceral, tangible, living agony — most of all. Because once that’s gone, there will be nothing left but an empty hole where the people and things you loved used to be. You are terrified of rupturing the magical thinking that kept the permanence of loss at bay.

    We can’t go back to something that’s gone forever

    As the promise of a return to the world as it used to be rises, a new kind of grief comes with it. In the back of your mind, you worry that maybe you’ve been too successful at adapting to pandemic life, dreading the expectation that we can resume normal life as if nothing ever happened. Are the new selves we’ve had to become over this past year equipped to handle “normal” anymore? Do we even want to be?

    What if I can't go back? What if I don't want to? Credit: bob al-greene / mashable

    At this moment, as I only scratch the surface of all our losses and grievances in 2020, I am too angry to accept any pressure to just move on. I want justice, repercussions for the people and systems who failed us when we needed them most. I need retribution, recognition of everything that cannot be recovered. I seek revolution, because all those things 2020 robbed me of made me lose every ounce of trust in the “normal” world that got us here in the first place.

    But I know we won’t get any of that. Just like surviving the pandemic, learning to live with the aftermath of its innumerable traumas will be our individual burden to bear too.

    Personally and intellectually, I know we will recover from this. Human beings have been surviving collective grief throughout history. Most applicable to our current situation, the world did indeed come back from the 1918 Spanish Flu, though the public’s desire to forget rather than address the trauma of such losses made the residual experience of grief that much worse, according to STAT(Opens in a new tab). On the more drastic side of wide-scale historic grieving, Jewish people survived century after century of persecution, and it’s by no coincidence that their traditions are often grounded in reconciling with those traumas, honoring their collective losses. Black people around the world from the African diaspora also continue to transform the incalculable losses of all that was stolen from them in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade into a culture of art so powerful (from music to poetry to dance) that its impact often far surpasses anything from people in the white-dominated societies that still oppress them.

    I am done pretending that we can put a neat little bow on this ever-expanding monstrosity of loss that is 2020.

    Yet, despite knowing all that — the implacability of the human spirit in overcoming even the most severe cases of collective grief — I’m still not ready to concede to optimism yet. I am done pretending that we can put a neat little bow on this ever-expanding monstrosity of loss that is 2020.

    At the height of my grief after my sister died, I resented nothing more than the false platitudes people like to say to comfort themselves more than the bereaved. So I won’t do that. Psychology and grief counseling experts say that one of the best things you can do is try to make meaning out of grief. I found that one to actually be true in my previous experience.

    For now, I will sit here with my grief in the same room I’ve inhabited for almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week, over the past nine months. I will continue to let my grief reveal its shape to me, teach me the language for naming its every contour. Hopefully one day I will learn how to befriend my grief. Then maybe after that, I’ll know how to let go of the strange comforts found in mourning.

    Like all mortal things, grief dies too. Our only choice now is in how we lay it to rest.

    If you want to talk to someone or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, text the Crisis Text Line(Opens in a new tab) at 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline(Opens in a new tab) at 1-800-273-8255. For international resources, this list(Opens in a new tab) is a good place to start.

  • How to set an alarm on Apple Watch

    How to set an alarm on Apple Watch

    The Apple Watch can be used for many things — tracking your health and fitness, keeping your schedule up to date, sending texts, and more. But it can also be used as your own personal alarm.


    Whether you're a light sleeper who rises with the sun, or a heavy sleeper who continuously hits snooze, it never hurts to have a backup alarm, especially if it's already on your wrist.

    Here's how to set an alarm on your Apple Watch.

    1) Open the Alarm app

    If you're on "List View," you'll see the Alarm app towards the top. Credit: screenshot / apple
    On "Grid View," search for the orange icon. Credit: SCREENSHOT / APPLE

    Using your Apple Watch, navigate to the Alarm app.

    If your App View is set to List mode, then you'll find the app is listed towards the top as everything appears in alphabetical order. If it's on Grid mode, then look for the app icon with the alarm clock.

    2) Tap "Add Alarm" and choose your preferred time

    Once you open the app, tap the option to "Add Alarm." Credit: SCREENSHOT / APPLE
    Set your specific alarm time with the Digital Crown. Credit: SCREENSHOT / APPLE

    Once the Alarm app is open, tap on "Add Alarm" and you'll see a clock. To set the hour, tap on the left square and make sure it's highlighted in green. Then, use the Digital Crown to set the exact hour you need. Once that's done, tap on the left square to set the exact minutes.

    Depending on whether you need the alarm for the morning or night, you'll also want to double check if it's set to a.m. or p.m. You'll know what the alarm is set to depending on which one is highlighted in orange. But if you want to manually change it, you can also tap on either one.

    Then, tap on the green checkmark in the lower right-hand corner to set and save the alarm.

    3) Edit the alarm

    You can toggle alarms on and off, depending on when you need each one. Credit: SCREENSHOT / APPLE
    You can edit each alarm by adding labels, choosing when you want it to repeat, and more. Credit: SCREENSHOT / APPLE

    You can also use your Apple Watch to edit the alarm whenever you'd like. When you open the Alarm app, you'll see a list of your saved alarms. From here, you can toggle the alarms on and off.

    When you tap on an alarm, you'll also be presented with a list of things you can alter. This includes:

    • Changing the alarm

    • Choosing when you'd like for it to repeat

    • Labeling it

    • Toggling Snooze on or off

    • Deleting the alarm

    4) Use Siri

    Siri might be frustrating to use at times, but at least it's good at setting alarms. Credit: SCREENSHOT / APPLE
    You can also toggle it on or off right from the display. Credit: SCREENSHOT / APPLE

    If you don't want to manually set an alarm by tapping on the display, you can also use Siri and your voice. You can say something like, "Hey Siri, set an alarm for 8:30 a.m. tomorrow" and the Apple Watch will automatically set and save it.

    You can then go into the Alarm app and edit it, using the steps above, however you'd like.

  • How to connect your AirPods to a Peloton

    How to connect your AirPods to a Peloton

    If you’re lucky enough to have a Peloton bike, you know they come with all sorts of high-end frills. But what about connecting your Peloton bike to wireless headphones?


    While it’s not as easy to pair them as it would be on an Apple device (AirPods automatically pair with Apple devices when the case is opened), you can still connect your Apple AirPods to your Peloton. Here’s how:

    Making the connection

    Maybe your Peloton is set up in a community space that can get noisy, or you just want to get lost in the music. Whatever your reason, it’s easy to pair your AirPods to your Peloton and groove your way through cardio.

    According to Peloton(Opens in a new tab), you can connect in a few simple steps:

    1. Make sure your AirPods aren’t connected to any other device and that their Bluetooth option is enabled. They should be disconnected from everything, even your phone, for this to work.

    2. With the AirPods in the case and the lid open, hold the button on the back of the case until the amber light starts blinking — about three to five seconds. This will reset your AirPods, which you need to do in order for them to pair with a non-Apple device. Once they’re reset, you can put them back into pairing mode and try to pair them with your Peloton’s touchscreen.

    3. Close the lid to your AirPods case. On your Peloton’s touchscreen, you should see a list of available Bluetooth devices to pair with in the Bluetooth menu (get there by going to Settings, then Bluetooth).

    4. Find "AirPod" or the custom name you’ve given your AirPods, in the list of available Bluetooth devices and click on it. After a few seconds, you should see the status change to "paired."

    5. Go back to the Featured page by tapping on the Peloton logo in the lower center of the touchscreen.

    6. Choose a ride to test the connection and make sure your AirPods are connected and working. Adjust the volume to a good level.

    After that you should be good to go. If you’re still having trouble connecting, you can try resetting the connection and pairing your AirPods again.

    Credit: apple

    Keep in mind that since your Peloton isn’t an Apple device, you won’t be able to use features like Siri while your AirPods are paired to your bike. You will be able to listen to Peloton’s audio through your wireless headphones, though. Also, you’ll need to use the volume controls on the Peloton to change the volume in your AirPods.

    One last thing: Make sure you disconnect your AirPods when you’re finished! If someone else is using the Peloton with their AirPods and you open your AirPod case within pairing range, the Peloton will connect with your AirPods instead and kick the person on the bike off the connection.

  • The 11 best tweets from Twitters worst week

    The 11 best tweets from Twitters worst week

    It's been a weird week for Twitter. Elon Musk, now officially at the helm of the social platform, carried out mass layoffs that will forever change the site.


    Point blank: Twitter will never be the same. Not only has Musk has promised changes that will upend the way it operates — paywalled video, verification purchases, etc. — but now the company is a shell of its former self. Whatever Twitter was (good and bad) cannot survive.

    SEE ALSO: Twitter's mass layoffs have come. The social platform will never be the same.

    Anyway. For now we have some good tweets during Twitter's weirdest, worst week. These tweets include some good ones from former Twitter employees, because through it all, they kept posting memes. Just as Twitter should be.

    1. An obligatory dril tweet about Twitter news to start us off.

    2. Just a quite interesting thought from a former Twitter employee.

    3. Swifties across the country are getting to work fundraising for the new tour.

    4. Cannot believe this mad genius really figured it out.

    5. Yes, this is how I live. No living being can stop me from posting. Delete Twitter? I will simply post in my head.

    6. Just so many curios in my spot, my bad.

    7. "And also a house" got me.

    8. This goes without saying...

    9. And a good tweet from a former social employee at Twitter.

    10. This poor genius can't go anywhere without being recognized.

    11. And finally, this darkly funny commentary on the way we talk online.

  • KinkTok is rife with misinformation. Heres why thats dangerous.

    KinkTok is rife with misinformation. Heres why thats dangerous.

    One day on TikTok, sex and kink educator Sunny Megatron(Opens in a new tab) kept hearing that in order to participate in a kink called CNC — consensual non-consent — one must give up having a safe word, a prearranged signal to interrupt a BDSM scene.

    "I was horrified," said Megatron. Not only is that not true about CNC, but giving up all consent is assault. Confused, she googled and found a Psychology Today(Opens in a new tab) article on CNC where the subheading is, "Giving up the ability to use a safe word in kinky encounters."

    "Word for word, that's what people [were] relaying on TikTok," Megatron said. 

    Megatron and the other kink educators have seen creators spread misinformation such as this on the app. False information is a widespread problem on the internet generally, but on KinkTok — the TikTok kink community — it holds a particularly dangerous weight, as it takes a lot more time than a minute-long video to properly teach hard skills (like bondage) and soft skills (like consent). 

    SEE ALSO: How to talk about kink with your vanilla partner

    Considering there are few spaces for aspiring kinksters to learn the figurative and literal ropes, KinkTok is a unique community — with several faults.

    How misinformation spreads on KinkTok

    "I look at KinkTok as sort of like when we had the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon," Megatron said, referring to the popular franchise that falsely represented some aspects of kink(Opens in a new tab)

    There is good in the comparison: KinkTok is normalizing talk about kink, and getting the conversation going. Beyond that, however, there's lots of room for misinformation, skewed representation, and danger — such as teaching skills that should be taught in a physical class. 

    "I look at KinkTok as sort of like when we had the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon."

    Part of this is due to who gets pushed to For You pages — and thus gets thousands upon millions of followers — according to the TikTok algorithm. 

    "Who's getting the followers…who has the very large accounts?" asked kink educator Phrygian Monk(Opens in a new tab). "Oftentimes it is white cis people, and that's partially the algorithm on TikTok, but also partially who people see as kinky."

    KinkTokkers Mashable spoke to agreed that the app pushes white, conventionally attractive creators who post, as Megatron put it, "hyper sexualized thirst traps, but just hyper sexualized in a way that's suitable for the terms of service." 

    "It's not necessarily the people who have the most helpful information that are pushed out to the algorithm," she continued. "It's the people with the popularity — and that gives the air of credibility." Those popular creators who may not be credible are seen side-by-side with experienced educators. 

    A spokesperson for TikTok pointed to the app's Community Guidelines(Opens in a new tab), which states that "overtly sexualized content" may not be eligible to be recommended for users' For You pages. "This would include content that depicts implied nudity, sexualizes body parts, or is blatantly erotic or sensual (e.g., strip teases)," the guidelines state. A blog post titled "Strengthening enforcement of sexually suggestive content,"(Opens in a new tab) states that "borderline" or "suggestive" content is ineligible to be pushed to For You pages. 

    SEE ALSO: The TikTok community making people with vaginismus feel less alone

    TikTok did not pass along comment specific to KinkTok. The app, however, has a history of removing educational content that is sexual in nature. "Vanilla" sex educators and pelvic floor physical therapists are among those to say TikTok removed their content.

    It's not just concepts, like consensual non-consent, that get muddled on the platform either. It's physical skills, too.

    "It's not actually ethical to teach physical technique on TikTok," said Veronika Kestrel(Opens in a new tab), a kink educator and dominatrix, due to safety concerns. "But people do it."

    "Some of this stuff is actually harmful. Some of it is physically dangerous," she said.

    An example she described is a trend of wrapping a belt around your wrists. "[This] can cause nerve-damage," Kestrel said. "But it's sexy, so it works" for those creators who pump out content for views. Indeed, "belt handcuff tutorial"(Opens in a new tab) videos have nearly 17 million views on TikTok.

    Kink educator DawnSparkles(Opens in a new tab) recalled seeing someone teach strappados(Opens in a new tab), an intense armbinding tie, in a one-minute video without any of the required safety measures. "Very dangerous stuff," they said. They joined the platform because they saw a lack of kink education that was helpful, informative, and safety-oriented. 

    There's also misinformation that stems from a place of not knowing the history of the queer community and kink specifically, said educator Pup Amp(Opens in a new tab). While not causing imminent physical danger like the belt "handcuffs," it can still cause harm.

    Amp described an instance of a young person wrongly explaining that the hanky code — an undercover way queer people displayed what kinks they were into — was no longer used, and so it should be a way for queer kids to find safe spaces. The former statement is false; considering the rising conservative backlash against the LGBTQ community, particularly calling LGBTQ people "groomers," the latter suggestion is not only misinformed, but it could be harmful.

    SEE ALSO: Why the 'groomer' smear is terrible for LGBTQ mental health

    Tied to the TikTok algorithm

    Another issue faced by KinkTokkers is the removal of content and sometimes accounts, especially if the creator is a person of color or a part of the LGBTQ community. "There's a reason why we have to use coded language for everything that we say," said Kestrel, referring to phrases like "seggs" as sex (used in KinkTok and beyond) and replacing letters with numbers or punctuation to avoid getting flagged.

    That chance of getting work taken down increases drastically if you're a marginalized person, according to creators. "They [TikTok] allow communities of racists and misogynists(Opens in a new tab) and bigots to use their reporting system to mass spike(Opens in a new tab) your content simply for existing," said Kestrel, who is trans. After her content was mass-reported, TikTok banned her account.

    SEE ALSO: The internet's 2022 horny dictionary

    "Because of mass flagging and specific targeting of my platform, [TikTok] now just deleted hundreds of hours of my work," she said. TikTok has since reinstated her account following a discussion with Mashable.

    Sexy content grabs people's attention, and attention is exactly what TikTok wants. But smaller creators, especially POC and queer ones, say they can't make even vaguely sexy content without it getting removed. Even if it's not removed, they said it's suppressed from FYPs.

    For years, Black creators have said the app is anti-Black(Opens in a new tab) for not recommending their content to For You Pages, and for fostering a system where non-Black creators profit from their work. They've also accused TikTok of suppressing their content(Opens in a new tab).

    "It can be a bit draining at times, especially if you're fighting the algorithm to make sure the people who follow you can see your content," said DawnSparkles, who is Black and nonbinary, "and then also dealing with trolls and other problematic behaviors because of the nature of social media."

    "My views are consistently very low for the amount of followers I have," said Phrygian Monk, who is Black and nonbinary, "and that's just something I've kind of come to accept." They've had a couple videos taken down by TikTok, but guessed that they've been spared more than other creators because of their academic approach. 

    Better diversity, better access

    Despite the bad, there are good things about KinkTok. Kestrel believes that the community doesn't get enough credit for the array of voices you can hear on the platform — if you can find them. When Kestrel first got on TikTok, she was horrified by the misinformation and ignorance. She wondered if anyone was pushing back — and there was. She came across Phrygian Monk, who was doing a series about how to approach race in kink ethically. 

    "I felt inspired," she said. "Here is a person who is putting their voice out there to have conversations about ethical kink." She started posting videos soon after.

    SEE ALSO: What is Shibari or Kinbaku? Everything you need to know about BDSM rope play.

    "The discourse exists, you just have to find it," she said. "There are people there who want to facilitate an actual learning environment on this platform. They're just not the biggest creators out there."

    Another positive is access. Kink information isn't widespread; pre-internet, you had to "know someone" to learn about the lifestyle. Even now, most recommended kink books were written in the 1990s (Megatron is writing a book of her own, called Customizable Kink). 

    While ethical education does exist on TikTok, all the creators agree that one's kink education can't start and end on the platform. Megatron advises to take advice with a grain of salt; what someone says may just be how they do things. 

    Red flags to look out for on KinkTok

    Learn to vet where your information is coming from, like vetting news sources. Does the kink educator have years of experience, teach courses IRL, or work at a sex club or dungeon?

    Here are some red flags you may see from creators, according to Megatron: If they speak in absolutes (always or nevers); if they don't ever recommend that you listen to other educators; if they can't admit when they're wrong or learned something new. Further, watch how they take criticism — how do they react? Are they lashing back or taking it in? Asking yourself these questions can help evaluate who you're listening to.

    Further, expand your education into the in-person realm. By taking classes, for instance, you can learn hard skills with an expert and spend time learning about anatomy and safety. If you're having trouble finding real-life events, try the kink platform FetLife — but, as with all social media sites, be cautious. 

    SEE ALSO: Top 5 NSFW sites to learn what porn didn't teach you

    "FetLife is great for finding out where events are in your area," Megatron said. "But don't put up a profile photo," she warned. "Don't put up any identifying information on your profile or pictures or whatever. Don't answer DMs, don't try to meet people off FetLife because odds are — especially if you are a submissive woman or femme or AFAB [assigned female at birth] person — you're gonna get a bunch of predators in your inbox."

    In terms of finding community events, however, FetLife could be a good resource to find a munch (a social event at a restaurant) or slosh (a social event at a bar). 

    Remember that education is ongoing.

    Other than FetLife, search for potential sex clubs where you live. They might conduct "vanilla" social events outside of their parties, or provide workshops for kinky education.

    SEE ALSO: Going to your first sex party? Here's a beginner's guide.

    For online education outside of TikTok, check out Zipper Magazine(Opens in a new tab), where Megatron is the editor-in-chief. There are also sites dedicated to NSFW educational videos, such Beducated or sex educator Kenneth Play's course.


    Remember that education is ongoing. You're not going to take one rope class and know everything you need to know, for example. Stay open and curious — about what you can learn and what you might be interested in.

    "This whole lifestyle is this long journey that you go through of self discovery, and you're gonna find out some crazy things about yourself," Kestrel said. "But it is worth knowing, even if only a few select people ever get to see you in that light, it is worth knowing."

  • Thomas Frank made hundreds of thousands of dollars off Notion. Heres how he did it.

    Thomas Frank made hundreds of thousands of dollars off Notion. Heres how he did it.

    Thomas Frank has always wanted to know more.

    He went to college in 2009, a year in which the U.S. was struggling to recover from a nation-wrecking stock market crash and recession. His dad lost his job; his friends lost their jobs. He and his college peers were faced with a huge task: Graduate in four years, into a world of economic insecurity, and succeed.  

    "I went to college thinking, 'OK, the world's on fire. I'm going to have to be as competitive as possible to get literally any job because I just watched everyone lose their jobs," Frank told Mashable. So he read every college prep book and blog, from LifeHacker(Opens in a new tab) to Hack College(Opens in a new tab). Eventually, he applied for a job to write at Hack College, but was rejected.

    "I was like, 'I know how to start WordPress sites, so let me just make my own instead,'" Frank said. "I just ran this little college success blog throughout all of my college career and eventually learned how to monetize it and then added a podcast and added YouTube and built up this whole business from what started off as a side project."

    It's been a decade since Frank enrolled at college, and his podcast has since been retired. He hasn't posted on his old YouTube channel(Opens in a new tab), which now boasts about three million subscribers, in nearly a year. 

    In 2018, he started playing around with Notion, a digital productivity app. In 2020, he launched a YouTube channel called Thomas Frank Explains(Opens in a new tab), which is dedicated entirely to teaching Notion. Now, he pretty much makes a living off Notion templates, explainers, and productivity tips.

    Eager to learn how he did it, I sat down with Frank over Zoom. He told me how he makes hundreds of thousands of dollars by selling Notion templates, how he battles burnout, and why he's getting back into Magic: The Gathering.

    Mashable: When did you start really making an income from your Notion templates and tips?

    When I first started the channel, I didn't know how I was going to monetize it. I figured maybe I could do courses in the future or something like that, maybe consulting. It just seemed like it would just be a cool thing to exist in the world; a place you could go to learn all this stuff. 

    Because I was getting so many questions from people and I was having fun building on my own templates. So I started that channel. It was kind of cathartic because I had been running my big channel for years and every single video was sponsored. So every single video felt like this very high pressure affair. It's like, 'It's gotta do well, it's gotta get lots of views, it's gotta perform well for my sponsors.' And over here on my little tiny side channel, I can just do a video about coding up a little automation to open up Notion in the browser instead of the desktop app or vice versa. I can do it in an hour or two and then put it out there. So it was fun; it was low pressure. And then I took this cohort-based course that was very ironic and meta; it was a course for course builders to learn how to facilitate cohorts and build a curriculum and all that kind of stuff. And I learned a ton from that thinking I was going to monetize by building a cohort-based course. But throughout the process, I kept getting these little realizations that I didn't wanna run that. I wanted to build tools. 

    So I got this idea like, well, I built this really great tool for our whole YouTube planning process, why not turn it into a template and sell it? And the funny thing about selling Notion templates is there's no real distribution and anti-piracy mechanism in Notion. You just turn on public, and [it] can be duplicated. What I sell is basically just a URL that I hope people don't share. But, as it turned out, it did really well the first month. I think we made like 15 grand or something on that tool, which is a bit more niche; it's a creator focused tool(Opens in a new tab). And then we followed that up with the Ultimate Brain(Opens in a new tab) template, which is my more personal productivity focused template for task management and note taking and goal tracking. And that's the template that has bumped us up to about $100,000 to $120,000 per month on average in sales. 

    Have you had a big problem with other people stealing your URLs? 


    What do you do? 

    Basically, I have a community on a platform called Circle(Opens in a new tab) and what people are really buying is an invitation to that community. Within the community, that's where I have my template links. So the reason I do that is less to protect the template links because once people have them, they can very easily share them. What I'm trying to protect is access to our active support because I have a wonderful head of support. His name is Alex, he's a rockstar and I really don't want to inundate him with support requests from people who did not buy our templates. 

    I've asked Notion to have some features down the line, but for now what I've noticed is the people who do this stealing are not really your customers. They were not gonna buy your template in the first place. So what I focus on is on distribution and accessible free content. If I make a tutorial that teaches people something, it gets a hundred thousand views, I'm going to get customers from that. I'm going to make more money than I would save by worrying about anti-piracy. But for the smaller seller, the piracy matters more. So I really want more anti-piracy tools.

    Was there a big learning curve with switching from other project management tools to Notion? 

    It was incredibly gradual. We were using Asana and we got really annoyed by Asana, and then we tried Click Up and my team was like, 'No, we don't like it. Get away.' We didn't switch all the way to Notion for project management at first. We were looking for a company software where we could have documentation for processes and we were trying at Google Docs for a while and it just didn't work very well. And then I found Notion, I was like, 'Oh, this is super easy to use.' We started there and then we were using Todoist for our task management alongside it. 

    There was this brain blast moment for me as a YouTuber where I made a database for the different shots and animations and b-roll items I wanted to put in a video. And one of my biggest workflow pet peeves for years has been the fact that when you construct a video, you have a chronological order of how a video's going to be. And in my style, there's a talking head layer. I might cut that down to 10 minutes and then I might go through and get ideas for all the pictures and animations and stuff. Well, the tension is when you're editing, you wanna go chronologically, but when you're gathering, you don't always wanna do that. You might have five or or six shots in location A and then some in location B, and they're all kind of interweaved. 

    So for years I would make my chronological shot list and then I would have to give them little symbols so I could know: OK, here's for these five shots. On Notion there's filters and I can just do another view of this database so I can have one for chronological; one for batching the shot; one for gathering. It was just a very gradual process from then on of adding more and more stuff into Notion until we got this system where literally from idea to publish everything is there. 

    Do you still mess around and make new templates? Or do you really stick to the two that you've created? 

    I make new templates. I have a few free ones that I gave away, and that's part of my marketing strategy. Some of them are almost like pieces of the paid ones for free, and some of them are just standalone. Then people can get on my email list and they can buy the premium ones that they want. 

    I love building stuff in Notion, even if I'm not personally gonna use it that much. Right now, the payment provider I use is called Gum Road. And they're increasing their prices to an insane degree. So we decided to build a template that has every single site or tool you could use for selling your own digital products. And we're adding every feature it has. And then you could put in how much monthly revenue you're earning and see what each platform would cost you. Because depending on what you're doing, the costs really differ from platform to platform. Some are good for beginners, some are good for high volume sellers, that kind of thing. 

    How do you make money off Notion? 

    For me, it's purely selling templates and purely selling them one time. I don't have any kind of subscriptions that I sell. 

    When I got started there weren't a lot of people selling templates and everyone who was selling templates was selling them for $5 at most. I think there was one exception: William Nutt's(Opens in a new tab) Bulletproof Notion Workspace(Opens in a new tab), which was a little more expensive. There was this sentiment I saw online of like, 'nobody is going to buy a Notion template.' But I was like, 'No, I think this process that we built legitimately helped us be more productive as a content creation business. This is almost bespoke software. This is a tool that doesn't exist anywhere else. Let's try selling it for $100, a couple $100, and see what happens.

    Number one, I wanted to do a pay once model and I figured I could additionally monetize through selling new products down the road. I also wanted to have active support. So one thing we do is we have a support forum where anybody who wants support can ask questions. When I launched the templates, I was spending like eight hours a day doing support just because that's what I wanted to exist. 

    I wanted people to never have to run into a roadblock they couldn't get past. Another thing we do, which is pretty uncommon, is we offer refunds. There's no way to return a template, but I never wanted to have anybody feel like they were out the money they spent and the thing's not gonna work for them. About 5 percent of our sales go to refunds every month, but I think that makes the customer experience better and it probably increases sales. 

    Did it just launch off in the beginning? What did you have to do to get people to start buying these templates? 

    It did kind of just launch off. 

    Well, that's good! 

    So, Creator's Companion is a more niche product and I also did a really, really bad job marketing it. I think I launched one email to a waitlist of like 300 people. What I really don't want to do is go super hard on launch marketing and get a ton of customers and then get buried in support. I want to make sure that the template is bulletproof before we really ramp up support. I stuck to that mindset for about eight months and never really marketed that template very well. 

    For Ultimate Brain, I did it a little bit differently. I pushed my waitlist a little bit better. I think we may have had a launch waitlist of about 450 people. We sent a launch email to those people and I considered that the beta period. 


    One thing to note about Notion templates is that I can't push over-the-air updates to someone's template. So that was definitely a concern. Any additional upgrades are going to be more like nice-to-haves rather than, 'oh there's a big bug, we need to fix this.' Because the only way to fix a bug is just to tell people, 'Hey, fix this bug.'

    So we did that and then I launched the template to my entire Notion Tips email list. I think at the time it was 35,000 subscribers; it's about 55,000 now. And then we made a YouTube video a month after that and that's what really kind of just exploded sales. 

    As someone who makes a living off tools to increase productivity, what do you make of the idea of toxic productivity?

    I've talked about it on my channel. I've talked about burnout(Opens in a new tab). I've talked about work-life balance(Opens in a new tab). Within the productivity realm, I'm friends with most of the big people like Ali Abdaal(Opens in a new tab) and Matt D'Avella(Opens in a new tab), and they've all talked about this as well. There definitely are some figures who I would consider to be maybe actually toxic in terms of the messages they put out there. There are people who will just say, 'hustle grind all the time, never rest.' But also you need to be balancing what you want in your life. 

    I think the big issue is that messages that are more extreme always get more distribution and are always more memorable. You might see one video from me or one video from GaryVee(Opens in a new tab) and the sound bite that just is like, 'Hey, never sleep, blah, blah, blah, whatever it is' is what gets spread out there. And people tend to see that kind of sound bite from everyone who does have a big platform in this space, right? And so it amalgamates into, 'Oh, there's this toxic productivity problem.' Whereas I think when you dig into the body of work of most of the people who I respect in this industry, sometimes they are like, 'Here's what you need to do if you need to get a lot of work done.' And then another video will be like, 'Here's how to balance your life,' or, 'Here's how to actually focus on the goals that matter to you and not chase the cloud or chase the numbers that you see other people getting.' That's the nuance that gets lost.

    What do you do, personally, to counter toxic productivity? 

    If I'm feeling burnt out, it means either I've been working too hard or I'm doing the wrong work. I've been through both of these. I've had times where it's like, 'OK, let me just actually take a vacation or actually take a few days off,' and that can definitely help. I went through many periods of burnout on my main channel, where I was basically failing to admit to myself that I'm not doing the right work anymore. And the reason I'm doing it is both ego and fear. 

    It sounds like you spend a considerable amount of time online, especially on YouTube, when you're working. What was the last YouTube rabbit hole you fell into? 

    The current one that I'm in right now is Magic: The Gathering, which I was very into 10 years ago and I'm starting to get back into it again. I'm just falling into YouTube rabbit holes of people's deck lists and how they synergize their cards and everything. The parallels between business and Magic — there's so much strategy, there's so much customization. I think every business person should play Magic.