A dialogue on language for a more inclusive society

Photo: SolStock/Getty Images

I grew up in Seattle — on traditional Coast Salish land — in the ’60s and ’70s. As a child, I didn’t truly understand the counterculture protests and the civil rights movement. Still, I saw that music, fashion, and hairstyles were changing — and with them, attitudes.

I was — and still am — a White, privileged middle-class kid who lived in a predominantly White, privileged middle-class neighborhood. My day-to-day adventures were relatively unrestricted, as my parents deemed it “safe” within the confines of our more massive arterial city block to visit any of my friends who lived within the…


A personal approach to protect your privacy online

Astrid Busch ”Post Privacy“ (Detail, 2014)

Recently, several friends asked my advice on how to improve their internet security when browsing the web, checking email, and scrolling through news feeds on their phones.

I confessed that while I was no expert, I was happy to share what I do to protect my own privacy online. Afterwards, each friend independently encouraged me to provide these tips to a wider audience — not as a self-help tutorial, but as an informal guide to internet security.

A proviso: I live in a Google universe. I use Chrome, Gmail, and a Pixel phone running Android 11. While most of these…


Why governments need to educate their communities on differences in lifestyles, customs, and heritage

False Creek Seawall, Vancouver. Photo Keekerbird

When the Fab Five launched the hit Netflix makeover series Queer Eye in 2018, they did so with a singular goal in mind: to normalize themselves to a broad swath of people in Georgia — a US state struggling with contentious issues around race, religion, and gay rights.

This goal was a profound shift from the original series in the early 2000s, which despite being in New York City contended with even less-friendly attitudes towards LGBTQ+ lifestyles. Tan France, the sartorial envoy for the reboot, stated, “The original show was fighting for tolerance. Our fight is for acceptance.”

In 1987…


In-app Instagram surveys catfish loyal customers

I am sure that it is not a surprise to anyone that Facebook.com generates 98.5% of its revenue from advertising, and that they own and operate sophisticated technology to tailor and target advertising to people with precision accuracy.

What you may not know is that Facebook impersonates other businesses to gather even more information.

Facebook tracks online purchases and uses in-app survey tools branded with the logo of the company from which you bought your goods to ask you further questions. …


How two simple changes can improve your understanding of our climate conversation

If you live in the United States, I have a proposal for you: make these two changes right now:

  1. Set your thermostats to Celsius
  2. Change your weather apps to Celsius

I have an American friend, and he does not understand Celsius. We recently had a brief conversation about climate change and the withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement, and he said, “It’s only a couple of degrees, so that’s hardly noticeable.”

That was the exact moment I realized that thinking in Fahrenheit minimizes the impact that…


Illustration: Wristwatches from the ‘History of Inventions’, Smithsonian Institution

How both enough and a scarcity of time makes for better writing

Our professor had just handed out a syllabus for the Fall Term. She seemed uncomfortable, fidgeting with a paper copy in her hands, and avoided eye contact with the class. Hesitantly, she said, “This is a three-page summary of what we will cover this semester. I apologize. I only completed it last night before I went to bed.”

I could see the confusion on my classmates’ faces. What was she upset about? It seemed like a perfectly good outline, and certainly not any different than the other ones…


Lamps from the ‘History of Inventions’, Smithsonian Institution
Lamps from the ‘History of Inventions’, Smithsonian Institution

One of the most cringeworthy memories of my teenage years is attributed to the untethered abuse of my hardcover Roget’s Thesaurus (this was before the Internet) as I enthusiastically cranked out yet another creative writing assignment on the day it was due.

You see, I was in the zone. I had a vision. My next masterpiece was almost complete — all it needed was a little spicing up, a little polish, and then perfection! My instructor would recognize my potential for greatness and place me at the top of the class for my individual achievement.

Here’s what I did. I…


23 fishhooks from the ‘History of Inventions’ at the Smithsonian Institution
23 fishhooks from the ‘History of Inventions’ at the Smithsonian Institution

Okay, I admit it. I used a linkbaited, listicle-promising title to attract your attention and tempt you to tap through to this partially disguised manifesto. It worked, and here you are with great expectations (perhaps) on how to avoid the very thing that brought you in.

I feel okay about doing it — using a fishhook device — because my goal is to persuade people to shy away from linkbait and listicles in both writing and reading. Before we begin, let’s be sure we are on the same page as to what the terms mean.

Linkbait — or ‘clickbait’, as

David Laulainen

I write about how small achievable changes to everyday habits can have bigger global impact.

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