I have spent the past 48 hours in bed, off sick from my paying job, significantly depressed and wishing I were dead. It’s only this evening that I have crept back into Twitter, to figure out how exactly I got into this mess.
I’m really not sure that explaining is going to do me any good (especially given responses such as Kai’s, Jessicat’s, and Cherry Thompson’s, which I have screencapped below), but I am angry at how I have been treated, ridiculed and shamed. One commenter recommended I read a self-help book on surviving public shaming, and another said that I had been “cancelled”, which seems to me to be rather overstating the case. Whatever you choose to call what happened to me, it was (and still is) extremely painful, and not something I would wish on my worst enemy.
What I originally wrote in that now-infamous original blogpost of 25 people in social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse was this preample, which started the whole thing:
I’ve had an opportunity to meet and interact with many people over the three-and-a-half years I have been writing this blog, and I thought today that I would introduce you to some of them: notable people who are active in social virtual reality, virtual worlds, and the metaverse. You might wish to follow them on social media, as I do.
I will apologize in advance to anybody whom I have inadvertently left off my list. And while I might have crossed swords with a few of the people on this list in the past, that does not mean that I do not respect and appreciate the valuable work that they do. Remember, everybody brings something to the table, and it takes all kinds of people to make a world.
With that said, here is my (purely subjective) list of 25 people you should be following. I have tried to include people of all genders and sexual orientations in this list (although I will admit that I need to try harder to follow more BiPOC people who are working in social VR and virtual worlds).
Also, as well as very white, this list is extremely First World-centered, with everybody (except Adam Frisby, who is Australian) coming from either North America or Europe! I do believe that deliberately broadening the diversity of who you choose to follow is a good way to hear about things and ideas that you might not have at first considered! Please accept my apologies, and if you are aggrieved that I have left somebody off this list, please let me know in the comments, thank you!
I had read it over, and I had no idea that what I had written would offend anybody (if that makes me stupid, and naive, then so be it).
Kai Frazier, who is a Black VR developer and CEO of the educational VR program KaiXR, got out her red pen and respectfully responded:
Now I want to make to 100% clear that I believe that Kai had a legitimate complaint with what I had written, and she was right to say what she had to say, and that I was wrong. In that list of 25 people, only three of them (Wagner James Au, Strawberry Singh, and Casandrea Vuong) were white. In fact, I had been trying so hard to be inclusive of all genders and sexual orientations in my list that I had not tried to include one Black person (Wagner, Berry and Cas are all South and/or East Asian). In response to Kai, I wrote:
I wrote up the episode as a blogpost, with my invitiation to interview her on the topic of her work and her opinions on diversity was a way for me to make amends. It was one of several direct messages I sent to her on Twitter in response to this tweet:
My first thought that something was wrong is that I received no responses to these messages. Anyway, I wrote up my blogpost about diversity (which has since been deleted from my blog), and let the matter rest.
Only to find that when I went back onto Twitter that evening, that several of Kai’s contacts on Twitter were responding to her criticism. One that was particularly painful and triggering was the following:
And Kai responded:
Now, Jessicat and Kai did not know that I have been struggling with serious clinical depression for most of my adult life, and that the combination of a bitterly cold Winnipeg winter and a province-wide pandemic lockdown had already left me near the breaking point. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.
To have somebody (Jessicat), who actually lists “mental health advocacy” in her Twitter profile, suggest to me that I should kill myself by walking into the sea was profoundly hurtful, even if it was just meant as a joke. And to see Kai agree with it was even more painful. This was somebody to whom I had apologized, to whom I had offered my blog as a space to educate others, and this is how they talk about me with their friends afterwards?
Are you enjoying picking me to pieces and then laughing about it amongst yourselves? Small wonder I spent 48 hours in bed afterwards.
I also had the following edifying discussion with Cherry Thompson, who took issue with my words and the capitalization of some terms like BiPOC which I used in that original blogpost:
Now, I had been taught that BiPOC (with the lowercase i) stood for “Biracial People of Colour”, not BIPOC (with the uppercase I) “Biracial Indigenous People of Colour”, hence that particular capitalization I used, which she took exception too. I had learned that Indigenous was capitalized in the Indigienous Canada course I took at the University of Manitoba, which is why I listed it separately from BIPOC, since I did not know that BIPOC *included* Indigenous people. I apologize for these errors.
However, since I was already considerably upset, demoralized, and depressed, I did not appreciate having somebody tell me that I should “research genuine apologies” especially after I had already apologized as best I could to Kai and several other people for my mistakes. Labelling someone “defensive” when they were only trying to explain themselves is harmful, unproductive, and painful. Cherry has a good point, and she is not wrong, but she could look at how it comes across to someone who is already struggling with severe clinical depression.
The overall lack of understanding, kindness, and empathy I have received was astounding, particularly as I had offered my apologies and my platform as a place for Kai to talk about equity, diversity, and inclusion. I came away from this entire episode publicly shamed and feeling like absolute shit.
My hope is that all the people I have named in this blogpost will put themselves in my shoes, and understand why this triggered such an intense depressive episode. And the next time another somebody like me bumbles across your Twitter, and arouses your ire, please be kinder and have more empathy. You truly do no know who is on the other side of the keyboard, and assuming that you do hurts both sides.
I am very angry, and as you can see, I am naming names and showing receipts. (The original blogpost I wrote in response to Kai’s first message above I angrily trashed and then deleted permanently from WordPress after reading her agreeing with Jessicat.) I’m sure Kai, Jessicat, and Cherry are all fine people, but I am finding it difficult to be charitable about anyone involved at this point—including me.
The anger is what finally got me out of bed after 48 hours. Otherwise, I would still be lying there. Perhaps it is a sign that this depressive spiral will not last as long as the ones before them. I hope so. Regardless, I will be offline for the time being. Comments for this blogpost (and all the others) will remain turned off.