It’s Tuesday meaning it’s time for the anonymous mailbag to rescue you from your quarantined life doldrums.
As always you can send your anonymous mailbag question to firstname.lastname@example.org, anonymity guaranteed.
Okay, here we go:
“You seem adept at handling “trolls” better than most I have seen or follow on social media.
A few years ago, I was the head coach at private school in Los Angeles and a troll account sprouted up specifically to take shots at me – over and over and over again. I did not confront it or handle it well – the account actually gained some traction and created a false narrative with parents. Obviously, these were the parents of kids who weren’t playing and obviously, they weren’t playing because, according to the account, I played favorites. The account has gained some traction in our little LA high school basketball world and still likes to take shots at me from time to time even though I left that school years ago – partially because of the climate created by the parents.
Sorry to have rambled, my question is how do you deal with the trolls? Not just publicly, but how do you deal with them internally? The false narrative really bothers me. I am not too proud to admit it hurts me. It nearly drove me from the profession. Any advice would be appreciated.”
This is a difficult question and the answer from me, a public figure, may be different than it is for most of you reading this right now who are private figures.
People talk about me all day long, every day on social media. They love me, they hate me, I’m smart, I’m dumb, basically every adjective you can think of is applied to my name all day every day and most of the people doing so are in some way doing so anonymously.
That’s quite a bit different than how it was for most of my life.
Prior to the age of 25 years old, when I started writing online, the only people who talked about me knew me in some way. And I would venture to say that 95% of what people who knew me said — friends, family, teachers, classmates — was positive.
But sixteen years ago when I started writing online that all changed. Gradually, as my audience grew, lots of people started to have opinions about me. I still remember how jarring it was one day to get on VolQuest — the Tennessee Vols fan message board — and see a thread about me. I’m going online to check and see how the Tennessee recruiting class is stacking up and then, boom, there’s a big thread of people talking about me anonymously on a message board.
I remember how odd it felt to read what strangers online were saying about me, particularly the negative comments. The haters, as it were. You don’t really know how you’re going to respond to hate until you have haters. Most people are bothered by it immensely, fortunately for me, I’m not.
My wife has always marveled at the fact that if ten people say negative things and one person says a positive thing I remember the positive thing. I think most people are the opposite and that’s why most people would struggle to have my job. I just really don’t care, and never have really cared as an adult, what people I don’t know say about me. They don’t know me so whatever they are saying is based on a relatively uninformed opinion. Furthermore, if you ever read any of those threads you realize something — they quickly devolve into arguments between the posters. Eventually whatever the original topic, no matter what it is on a message board, vanishes and turns into an argument.
Conflict is the root of all stories and having conflicting opinions about people in public life is why people in public life are famous. (I’m not saying I’m famous famous, by the way, but I’m pretty comfortably one of the 25 most popular people in sports media. So I’m “famous” within my field of work.)
My circle that I truly care about is pretty small. I care what my wife and kids think about me, what my parents think, what my friends think, and what my co-workers think. I want them to consider me to be a good dad, a good son, a good friend, and a good co-worker.
Otherwise, I truly don’t care what others think and, significantly, I can’t control what anyone else thinks or does.
But one thing I have noticed is no matter who you are and what you do, you rarely get criticized by people more successful than you are. And I suspect that would hold true for your anonymous critic as well.
The way I would have handled your situation is by responding to the anonymous poster in the thread in which he’s replying. I would have said something simple like, “I have an open door policy for all parents and players to discuss any complaints or issues they may have with the team or my coaching of the team. But I don’t engage with anonymous trolls online. So I’m going to block you now because this isn’t productive. Should you be willing to make the same complaints in person, my door is open. Hope to see you.”
Then move on.
Some people argue about whether blocking is productive on social media, but I think it is. Why allow someone to consistently show up in your mentions and devolve the conversation there? To me the comments beneath my posts are like my social media front yard. If I happen to notice that you’re trolling everyone there, I block you. I don’t really have time now to respond to many people so I try to toss out favorites to funny or smart comments I see at the top of a thread response because I think that encourages smart or funny people to continue to engage, but otherwise it’s not a very productive use of time to worry about what people are saying on social media.
This may be a long answer, but I think it’s probably an important one.
The real challenge I think with social media is if you’re a kid in high school, for instance, and the people harassing you online are people you know from school. That has to sting in a way that’s totally different from what we’re talking about, because you may know those people. Fortunately I grew up in an age before social media existed, but I do worry about that for my own kids. Because by the time people started taking shots at me online I was 25 years old, which is still young, but it’s old enough to have developed some maturity in life. That’s why I don’t think it’s very healthy for teenagers to spend a lot of time on social media. And that’s also why I marvel that any 18 or 19 year old, for instance, who is playing sports would want to be able to have the public reach out to them online.
I mean, Kevin Durant is one of the greatest basketball players of all time and he felt the need to make a burner account to respond to critics. That’s wild to me. I may be too much of a narcissist to do this, but the idea of creating a social media account and wasting brilliant comebacks that no one saw is crushing to me. For better or worse the only social media accounts I’ve ever had are my own.
“Why are so many sports reporters (particularly on the college football side) relishing the role of 2020 season pessimist and scolding us for entertaining any thoughts that a season could happen in various forms? They could end up being right, but most of these leagues and colleges have at least two months before they have to make real decisions. Nobody knows much right now and a lot can change as more data starts to come in.”
If sports media members were voting on whether sports should return in 2020 I think they would overwhelmingly vote no.
That’s because as a group the sports media has bought into doom and gloom far more than the general sports fan has. It’s why guys like Dana White and Vince McMahon, who I think should be praised as heroes,
One of the things that I think social media has exposed is the profound difference between the politics of most sportswriters and the people who read their work. I think that gulf is exponentially large when it comes to college football, where the vast majority of the fans, especially in the SEC, the Big 12, and the southern ACC schools, are huge Donald Trump supporters and where the reporters in the press box are overwhelmingly Hillary voters.
I’ve had conversations with people in college football where I’ve said straight up, “Look, the sports media isn’t going to support your decision to bring sports back. You might think they will, but they aren’t going to.”
It’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality.
I think their hate for Donald Trump is impacting their own analysis of the reality on the ground.
College football needs to, and should, play this fall. And college kids need to, and should, be back on campus this fall as well.
“Love your stuff. Especially as of late with all the crazies out in the world. My wedding is scheduled for mid-August, I live in the suburbs from one of the largest US cities. The venue is also in the suburbs. We are expecting 200 or so guests for the big day. Given we’re less than 4 months out, what is the likelihood an event such as a wedding will take place with that many people?
Many family and friends are incredibly negative and even “jokingly” say that it will be canceled. As you can imagine, this drives my fiancée nuts and I find myself having to talk her off a ledge daily.
In my belief and in the data/projections were seeing, I think a wedding in August can occur. Especially if restaurants/bars along a popular strip in a city are fully operating by then. Therefore, way more than 200 people will be bar hopping on a Saturday night in August. I understand some guests will decline the invite in fear (which for some we hope that happens), but do you see our date staying as is and do you expect the bulk of our guests attending?”
I have no idea what your guests will do.
Personally, I wouldn’t travel for a big wedding in August unless I really cared about the couple getting married. But that would be the case no matter what the coronavirus situation was.
We just hit a monthly low in deaths and the IHME model forecasts there will be virtually no deaths from the coronavirus during the summer. To the extent that model is reliable, I think your wedding will be able to happen. As to whether people will show up or not, who knows? I wouldn’t worry about it, you can’t control the crowd. I’d plan on getting married, which is all you can control, and forget about worrying about who shows up and who doesn’t.
“I live in Brooklyn and work in a creative industry, so I live in a certain kind bubble in real life and certainly on Facebook/Instagram. Twitter only amplifies this because it attracts…a certain kind of person.
What I am constantly bombarded with are people with extreme amounts of disdain and contempt for anyone who is opposed to the national lockdown–particularly those who are out protesting it. Lots of “LOL look at these white hicks who are just mad they can’t go stuff their fat faces at applebees,” mixed in with many variations of “these people want to sacrifice our citizens for the stock market,” and, most cruelly, “doctors should refuse to treat anyone who gets sick at these protests.”
What they don’t really seem to be able to do is have any kind of empathy or see anything from a different perspective. No considerations that these protesters might be out out work, might be forced to wait on literal breadlines in their cars so their family doesn’t starve. It’s never about imagining what someone else might be going through–they are all instead just assuming people are evil, selfish, uneducated.
It’s really starting to do a number on me. I am trying to stay busy and avoid seeing these posts, but it can be unavoidable at times. Couple this with some recent polling that suggests Americans support the lockdown measures by a 3:1 or 4:1 margin, and it’s hard not to lose hope for my country.
I suppose what I am asking is what your take is on this? Do most people really feel this way, or is there a silent majority who want to get back to normal? What can I do to get away from all of the vitriol so I don’t lose respect for my coworkers, friends, and neighbors forever?”
A subtle alteration in perspective often changes your analysis of situations like these. Saying people are protesting so they can go back out to eat at a chain restaurant is one way to diminish the protesters, but how much different do things look if you merely change the wording here and say that the people are protesting so they can eat, period.
Many of the protesters are protesting because they want to go back to work so they can feed and provide for their families. They are protesting to say they are willing to take the risk of death to return to normalcy. Given that context the protesters don’t look cowardly and selfish, they look brave and selfless.
My advice would be for you to spend less time on social media or vary the people you follow there so you at least get a balanced view of the world. This is the same reason I read the print edition of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times every day. It’s two different ways of looking at the world. More often than not I tend to agree with the editorial decisions of the Wall Street Journal over the Times, but sometimes the Times surprises me and posts something that challenges my worldview.
The media fear porn is often overwhelming, however. And I think it’s unhealthy to wallow in that.
Similarly, there’s a huge percentage of far left wingers that enjoys tearing down anyone who supports Donald Trump. These far left wingers profess that they are the most tolerant people, but the reality is they are truly intolerant of anyone with different views or lifestyles than their own.
This week we are likely to hit over 30 million unemployed Americans. That’s truly staggering, a mass unemployment event the likes of which we have never seen before. At the same time roughly 50,000 people will have died of the coronavirus, which is a tiny portion of the 2.8 million people who will die this year of all causes.
If you live outside of the New York City area, there’s almost a 100% chance that you know far more people who have lost their jobs than people who have died of the coronavirus.
It’s easy for people who have jobs they can do from home to scream that everyone needs to stay home. But when your own livelihood is snatched away from you and your family, it’s likely that many of these same stay at home diehards would change their tune in a hurry.
“My baby’s mother and I are having a hard time agreeing on names for our child. We won’t know the gender until next week, but every time one of us pitches an idea it is met with, “I don’t hate it.” Currently, her top pick for a boy is Fox. How did you and Lara go about choosing names for your three boys that you both like? And how did you come up with the name Fox? Hers is from Fox Mulder from X-Files.”
It’s my mom’s maiden name and it was my suggestion.
My wife picked our second and third sons names. (We had a girl name picked out too, but had three boys so never needed it).
Ultimately the man can make suggestions, but tie goes to the person carrying the baby around in her belly for nine months.
“I am an attorney is a fairly major Midwest Metro Area that just extended its stay-at-home orders at least through mid-May. Attorneys are exempt and I have been in the office since the start of this. Haven’t gotten sick. The new orders state attorneys are still exempt, but now include that exempt employers must provide personal protective equipment and those who can work from home are supposed to work from home.
I have the ability to work from home. I am fairly certain my boss is simply ignoring the new orders, or at least, assuming its just the same as the initial order and that we are exempt subject to the old provisions. Would it BAP move to bring the new provisions up to him? To be honest, I prefer to be in the office and am certainly more efficient here, but it seems odd to just fly in the face of the order, especially for a law firm. Also, I’d rather not wear a mask if I don’t have to but my wife is more concerned than I am I think and would prefer me to be home.
Further, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the freaked out staff called in an anonymous complaint leading to a fine for the firm. I would think it would be preferable to ensure the new order is understood before simply running aground with an avoidable penalty.”
Rather than getting bogged down in all these details, I’d just ask to work from home.
Honestly, what do you gain by being physically present in the office other than the fact that your office is quiet and there aren’t as many distractions?
It seems like to me every law firm should be giving their lawyers the ability to work from home right now. If you’d prefer to go into the office, that’s fine, but the default should be all attorneys are working from home.
I’d understand the potential need to meet in person if the courts were open, but they are all shut down as well. If you need to be somewhere in person, you can still drive in for that meeting, but I’d imagine most client interactions are taking place over the phone or via video conferencing apps.
Good luck with the conversation.
“In last week’s mailbag (4/21) you wrote that businesses will likely cut travel costs post-coronavirus. I agree, and since we are all doing Zoom meetings now you really don’t have to physically be there for a business meeting. Given the likelihood of more remote work meetings, wouldn’t now more than ever be the perfect time for the country to move to two time zones like you’ve suggested before?”
My two time zone idea is genius.
The Mississippi River would roughly divide the country, east of the Mississippi everyone would be on central time, west of the Mississippi everyone would be on Mountain time.
I would also eliminate the time change, we’d stay on the time we’re on right now forever.
(Yes, I really do spend a lot of time thinking about time zones).
“Huge fan and I really appreciate your positivity during this pandemic. I have a pretty straight forward question for you. My fiance and I live in the Kansas City area and were strongly looking at buying our first home before the government stay at home orders began.
We (thank goodness) have been fortunate enough to avoid getting furloughed thus far, but that could change if Kansas/Missouri don’t open up their economies soon. Assuming that we avoid getting furloughed, curious to hear what your thoughts are on buying a home right now during this weird time? Interest rates are super low, but at the same time we are a bit fearful of buying a home right before a potential recession hits our country.”
I get this question quite a bit so let me try to succinctly walk you through my own thought process.
You should only buy a home if you feel comfortable living in it for the next ten years and if you feel comfortable you can afford it for the next ten years as well. If you’re comfortable with that horizon then the chances of you ending up in a bad place with the home are very low. That’s because in any ten year window there are likely to be ebbs and flows, and potentially even peaks and valleys, in the value of that home.
Right now is the worst time to sell a home since the 2008 sub-prime mortgage crisis.
But that means if you’re a buyer — especially if you’re a buyer who is renting otherwise and doesn’t have to sell a home in order to buy a new one — there has never been a better time to buy in over a decade.
You should have quite a few pretty good options as long as you’re buying with that ten year plan in place.
The reason why I say buy with a ten year window in mind is because it protects you in the event you buy and the market suddenly tanks. There are probably a decent amount of you reading this right now who bought a home in the past couple of years. Well, you’ve now hit a big valley. That can be stressful if you have a short term horizon, but if you’ve bought with a ten year window in mind, it’s not very stressful at all.
Finally, buy a home you could afford on your last salary, the one before your most recent raise. Many of us are naturally optimistic about what our earnings potential is going to be in the years ahead, but rather than buy a home counting on where you’re going to be in five years, I’d buy a home based on where you were five years beforehand.
Yes, I know, that might mean you don’t get the home of your dreams, but stretching to maximize the home you can afford based on your present salary is a recipe for disaster. It’s always better to live five years behind where you presently are than five years in front of where you presently are.
That can be tough advice to follow, especially for people like me who bend towards optimism, but it’s better to be conservative in purchasing a home than being too aggressive.
Hope this advice helps.
As always please send your anonymous mailbag questions to email@example.com, anonymity always guaranteed.
And thanks for reading Outkick.