#069 Digital Safe Spaces
Common Discourse is a project designed to help others (and ourselves) think through creativity, focus, and intentional work—from Alex Tan & Alice Otieno.
Every Tuesday we share words from a journal, a few ideas, a quote from somebody else, and links worth sharing. On Fridays we invite a guest to share images from their camera roll and a sound that resonates with them.
90% of what we talk about on Common Discourse circles around the idea of the internet as a living & breathing thing that is responsible for nearly everything in my life up unto this point: My friends, my career, my relationships, fashion choices, new music finds, restaurants to try, and recipes to make.
There was a time where the internet supported true connection to strangers that you were nowhere near geographically but were very near to them in their taste, interests, and thoughts. It was also a time where tastemakers could tell you what was good versus being told by a numbers and algorithm-driven software what to think and when to think of it.
But like almost everything, it can only be great for a short amount of time.
When social giants caught wind that contributors began identifying themselves as Creators, platforms aggressively sold the idea of their platforms as the vehicle for self-discovery and self-expression. TikTok has cleverly put power in the hands of their users by using campaign copy such as “Make your day.”
The creator narrative is a stroke of the ego of course, but more realistically it is a narrowing of the self to the reductive, defensive aim of getting recognition. It’s both a reassurance of one’s own existence and question of belonging. Social today is hardly anything but a landscape for cruel commentary, lifeless tapping, and cleverly (or not so cleverly) disguised sales tactics.
The internet, which could then be identified as a place of refuge, could now be characterized as the opposite.
One of the reasons we see people make big announcements about leaving social media then crawling back to it quietly is because it’s just not that simple. In some ways, leaving the internet is like leaving society. The internet isn’t an individual pursuit, it’s something we do together. It’s where people are, which is why abandoning it doesn’t enhance our sense of freedom or selfhood.
When I started Common Discourse, it was merely an attempt to reclaim space on the Internet that felt like it once did. I figured long ago that publicly complaining to Zuckerberg or Elon about the ways they should steer their billion dollar enterprises would be a heroic effort, and instead wanted to take accountability to create a different reality.
Alice and I view this project as a slowly but graciously growing garden: connection over virality, the right people over more people, and value over volume.
Our number one priority is to build something that people look forward to and feel lucky to know about. A quiet corner of the Internet that feels both safe and connected. Like a dinner party with close friends as opposed to a house party with strangers.
Safety has never been about the absence of threat, but rather the presence of connection.
💬 Substack Chat
On the topic of furthering connection, we quite like the product developments that Substack has released in recent weeks. The newest feature, Substack Chat, can allow for us to create more frequent and casual conversations with the network of people who subscribe to Common Discourse.
Imagine Twitter, but just us and the people who also subscribe to this newsletter. 🥺 👉👈
Alice and I want to start to using this feature to start discussions, gather feedback, or just drop an update on day to day life.
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A few ideas
Desire only exists because you have the ability to achieve it.
II. LET IT DECIDE
We don’t necessarily have to define what we’re doing before we get started, we just have to keep doing it until it decides what it is all on its own.
The perfect name, business plan, or purpose will find its way but only if we take action first.
III. A QUIET ROOM
When everyone is staring at each other thinking “What should we do?” we should think of it as an opportunity as opposed to a roadblock.
One positive result of uncertainty is that it can mark the beginning of change.
A quiet room is an invitation to speak up.
A quote from somebody else
“Chekhov advised, ‘If you want to work on your art, work on your life.’ That's another way of saying that in order to have self-expression, we must first have a self to express.”
— Michel Ortega
Links worth sharing
🌆 Last week, the band SAULT released an album which they shared via a wetransfer link. In order to access it, listeners had to guess the password which was embedded within the announcement message. The link has expired now, but I managed to grab a copy before it was too late. You can listen to the album here.
🐦 Twitter Is Already a Hellscape, via The New Yorker
🔄 Alternatives to Times New Roman, provides five affordable fonts to use in place of Times New Roman.
🫂 Calling and Wholeness by Krista Tippett explores the variation between “work” and “vocation”, and how much of what we are called to do lies in how we relate and take care of those around us in the world.
😣 Burned Out on Your Personal Brand, via The New York Times
🌊 Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson is an award winning novel about identity, masculinity, love and loss. I read this book around this same time last year, but there’s something about listening to it being read to you that makes the story all the more poignant. Along with the book release, Caleb also released the official playlist that inspired his writing.
Thanks for consuming!
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