In 2009, Alex Payne wrote an article about the proliferation of Everything buckets, at least in the Mac universe. Software like Yojimbo, Bento, Eaglefiler, Devonthink, etc. Virtual scrapbooks with all sorts of information that does not necessarily belong together. Part of the complaint was about having applications that do everything poorly, instead of dealing with different types of data in separate programs.

In real life, when we are off-line, we rely on contexts. If I meet with friends or acquaintances of a social or sports club I tend to talk about whatever social or sport activity is behind the meeting. I can talk about other things, but people could be less interested or even prefer not to talk about that. I may know a few people I am willing to talk about anything with them, but I can count them with my fingers.

My gut feeling is that well-known social media completely ignores context and they are big social everything buckets. You throw any topic in and the expectation is that people should take it. Some sites develop filters, block lists, folksonomies for which one can opt-in or opt-out, but that still leaves open a good part of the bucket. In the Fediverse there is also another bucket restriction: Content Warnings, which reveal only part of the post and hide the rest. Depending on the instance, there is more or less enforcement of content warnings, with highly variable rules about what, if anything, should be behind a warning.

Some communities, say victims of sex abuse, prefer CW. Others, say people affected by racism, prefer not to have warnings. I think there is no technical solution, because it is not a technical problem. It is a social problem coming from sharing a context-less everything bucket. Communities are not identical to instances; some instances (especially the large ones) host many communities. There are instances, usually small, that host a single community.

There is an element of intersectionality/commonality behind (some) of the problems for which we use content warnings. There also are different ways of coping/grieving with those problems. Someone may have been affected by sex abuse and be OK to discuss the abuse. Someone else may be often exposed to racism but prefer not to talk about that. We also have variability within communities for each of these issues.

Personally, speaking as the brown immigrant with a non-native English accent, I have faced racism and xenophobia quite a few times*. Sometimes I like to share a few of those experiences, but I find it tiring to speak of them too often. I would prefer not to read about it al the time, because I’m already affected by it in real life. But that’s me, others prefer to share it all the time, which is another option. Personally, I have no way forward to “solve” this problem, except to acknowledge that there is no single way to make everyone happy while sharing in a place where context is absent.

*I almost wrote the typical “my fair share of” but the only fair share is zero.