Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: The scourge of Instagram therapyspeak

Have you noticed formerly normal people now seem intent on telling you they’re living their best life? I can remember when that would’ve been followed immediately by, “And you can, too, if you sell Amway!”

But those were simpler times, when your friends just wanted to coerce you into selling laundry detergent for them in a suspected pyramid scheme. It almost makes me nostalgic!

Today, if someone tells you they’re living their best life, it might mean they’ve succumbed to “Therapy-Speak” or what others derisively call “Instagram Therapy.”

Tara Isabelle Burton, writing in The New York Times, puts it simply in a wonderful essay that questions “the current pursuit of private happiness as the ultimate goal.”

Indeed. What could go wrong?

You may have noticed this Instagram Therapy creeping into your own life but didn’t exactly have a name for it. I’ve been observing it as a weird kind of sanctioned selfishness, permission to wiggle out of anything that might be even the least bit unpleasant by, oddly, claiming a higher, moral ground.

Here’s an example from real life. A friend agrees to go with you to a party where you really need a pal because you won’t know anyone else there. She calls you just a few hours before you’ve planned to meet up and, empowered by some silly quiz she took in a magazine, says she’s not going because she needs “me time.”

I have been thinking something was amiss, but it took Burton’s article to drive home the point: “It’s not self-care when you hurt your friend’s feelings.”

Amen, sister.

We all know the friend who, brimming with Instagram Therapyspeak, can’t join you for trivia night because he has decided to embrace his “authentic self.” Which more likely means he is tired of being the only one at the table who can’t answer a single question about  ‘80s metal bands. Fine. Don’t let the door…

Or the friend who bails on a night out to cheer up another friend who has just been dumped and is devastated. Ugh. So needy. Better to not be around that toxic energy, amiright? Especially when the “Love is Blind” finale is tonight. A simple, earnest text tells the group you can’t join because “Sometimes I get overwhelmed, and I just need to remember to look in the mirror and say I am enough.”

Which is great except now the bar bill must be split 4 ways instead of 5 out here in the real world.

Recently, a friend canceled plans to host brunch, which was absolutely fine. The not so fine part was she felt compelled to share it was because she found the thought of hosting to be “just too much,” and she had decided she needed to “prioritize self-care” and hoped we would respect her need to listen to her “inner dialogue.”

Do what? Well, who’s going to make my eggs now? Kidding! I’m Southern. I can sniff out the nearest Waffle House like a DEA dog at the airport.

While I was mildly irritated at the change of plans, I was extremely irritated at the lack of two lil words: “I’m sorry.” Instead, we, the guests, were made to feel we were the cause of her angst. And now I must journal.

Obviously, anyone should be able to cancel when feeling overwhelmed. It’s not an uncommon emotion these days. Just own it. Don’t coat it in a bunch of New Age mumbo jumbo. A Southerner might put it like this: “I bit off more than I could chew and I’m sorry.”

We’re living in a “You Are Enough” culture, Burton writes. But the truth is, we need each other. If you recognize yourself in any of this, get your head out of your Instagram Therapy and rejoin the group. Because it’s mighty lonely talking to the mirror.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write to her at [email protected].    

Veteran democracy advocate: Latest North Carolina voter stats reveal some worrisome trends

Photo by Hill Street Studios/Getty Images.

Overall numbers are up, but we know less about the state’s voters than before

Before offering a profile of voter turnout in 2022 [check back in this space next week], it’s sobering to look at the changes in voter registration since the last mid-term election.

As readers can see by clicking here, I’ve prepared a spreadsheet that compares voter registration statewide and by county for 2018 and 2022 after officials add/subtract new registrants, deaths, moves, and list maintenance removals. Each county has two rows – the white row is 2022, the blue row is 2018.

Here are some observations:

** The current total of 7.4 million registered voters is an increase of 327,000 from 2018, but the number of self-identified Black voters has decreased by 50,000 in four years. White voters also declined (by 35,000) while the number of self-identified Asian and Hispanic voters increased significantly by 25% and 34% respectively.

** The number of voters who give no racial information when they register has soared to a total of 644,000 voters. That’s why Black and white voters are dropping. As others have said, not knowing who and where Black voters are in North Carolina is a huge problem for everything from planning voter ed/GOTV strategy to litigating voting rights claims to evaluating voter turnout by race. Some of the problem relates to DMV registrations, but major attention should be given to staff and volunteers asking registrants to fill out the whole registration form. (Lack of a complete Mailing Address on the form is also creating registration problems, especially for youth and voters of color.)

** Voters with an undesignated race are now more than 10% of the voters in Anson, Chatham, Cumberland, Durham, Harnett, Johnston, Onslow, Orange and Wake counties.

** Just as new people are not identifying their race, so too they are not choosing a party affiliation.The number of Unaffiliated voters has jumped by almost 400,000 in four years – ‘No Party’ is now the largest group of voters in North Carolina and in about 20 counties of all sizes, from Wake and Buncombe to Franklin and Perquimans. Meanwhile, the number of Democrats in the state has decreased by nearly 200,000 while Republicans have increased by more than 100,000.

** The Big 8 counties now have 42% or 2 out of 5 of North Carolina’s registered voters – Wake, Mecklenburg, Guilford, Forsyth, Durham, Cumberland, Buncombe and New Hanover. But the next 40 counties in size have 44%; they are more rural, suburban and Republican – and while some of the 40 counties are losing voters, overall they are growing about as fast as the Big 8, so they are maintaining their important vote share and political clout in the state; they range in vote size from Union (170,000), Gaston, Cabarrus and Johnston to Granville, Lee and Sampson (38,000).

** More than one third of the counties have lost voters since 2018, particularly in the poor Sandhills region (Anson to Columbus), northeast Black Belt, other eastern counties hit by hurricanes and outmigration, military-dependent Cumberland, and even some university counties where quicker list maintenance Removals have reduced voter rolls (Orange, Pitt, Watauga).

** Looking at age groups, the number of seniors over 65 has by far increased the most since 2018, and a whopping 62% of registered voters are now over 40.  Elders are living longer; they lean conservative and turn out at the highest rates. But there are also 100,000 more young voters age 18-25 than there were in 2018; they are more diverse racially, more progressive and less sure of the value of voting. You can look through the spreadsheet and see where young voters are growing in numbers and as a share of the county’s total voters, e.g., in Alamance, Cabarrus, Catawba, Johnston, Union and Wake.

Note: The State Board of Elections provides weekly snapshots of registration by county here and also a much more detailed snapshot before each election on this page on the Board’s FTP site; by clicking on an election date, you can find files for voter registration data (voter_stats_xxxx.zip), provisional ballots, absentee/Early Voting ballots, details of election results, and the voter history/participation data for that election.

Bob Hall is the retired executive director of the advocacy group Democracy North Carolina and a veteran government and politics watchdog.

When it comes to prosecuting Trump, Merrick Garland needs to decide already

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during an event at the Justice Department in June of 2021. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

On Nov. 18, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed former Justice Department prosecutor Jack Smith as Special Counsel to oversee two Justice Department criminal investigations of former President Donald Trump: one concerning his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol and the other his possession of classified documents after leaving office.

Millions of Americans were delighted with this news, hoping eventually to see Trump in jail.

Millions of other Americans were outraged by what they consider another abuse of power by the Administration of President Joe Biden. They will be pressuring the new Republican leadership in the House to pursue investigations of the administration in response.

I am in neither camp. I view Trump as a unique threat to democracy, quite different from Republican governors such as Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott and Glenn Youngkin, who are mentioned as potential GOP candidates for president in 2024.

I don’t like their policies, but, unlike Trump, I don’t worry that their election might be the last presidential election in American history.

Despite all that, I have no particular interest in prosecuting Donald Trump. My earnest desire is something quite different—to end Trump’s influence in American national life.

It is true that a criminal prosecution might fully discredit Trump, at least in the eyes of the 80 percent or so of Americans open to hearing about it, if there were clear evidence of serious wrongdoing.

What we know now about these two investigations is not that, however, and prosecution on the facts we know would not remove Trump’s influence. Read more

Gritty, Elmo and Mayor McCheese for Congress — why do people throw their votes away on write-ins?

When choosing between two or more candidates for public office, some voters opt for none and write in a personal choice, like “my cat” or “anybody else.” (Photo by New Jersey Monitor)

Why would a voter write in “my butt” for Congress instead of choosing between Rep. Tom Malinowski and Tom Kean Jr. in the 7th District House race?

A variation on this question has bugged me since 2016, when I wrote about a surge of New Jersey voters casting write-in ballots for president rather than voting for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Write-ins that year ranged from obvious protest votes like Sen. Bernie Sanders to … less obvious ones like Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine. Or both: Someone in Kearny wrote in Evan McMullin for president and Dat boiiiiiiiiiii for vice president.

In 2020, the popularity of write-in votes took a dive. Something about the prior four years made people rethink casting a ballot just for the lulz maybe, I dunno.

This month’s election was a mid-term, so there were fewer voters and fewer write-ins. Still, we saw a vote for Homer Simpson in the 1st District House race, “Technical Difficulties” in the 2nd, and “Weird Al” Yankovic in the 11th. God was a write-in in the 5th and, yep, “Your Mom” in the 7th. A New Jersey tradition.

I’ve always thought of voting as being an important part of being a citizen, and if I don’t like either major candidate, I opt for the one I hate the least and hope for the best.

I get why people who feel our political system is broken would skip voting altogether — but why take the time to go to a polling place, or fill out a mail-in ballot, if you’re going to write in “Bozo” instead of voting for either Rep. Josh Gottheimer or challenger Frank Pallotta? That’s a real write-in, out of Vernon.

I asked Jon Krosnick about this — he’s a professor of communication, political science, and psychology at Stanford University. Read more

Your new Congress: Owning the libs, no matter the cost

Kevin McCarthy, possibly the next U.S. House Speaker, is shown during a 2019 news conference. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Are you excited about the 118th Congress? If not, you’re a communist.

True, the U.S. Senate is still in the hands of the godless Democrats who want to destroy America, but the House of Representatives now belongs to Republicans, the party of God, AK-47s, F-150s (and not the electric kind, either), manliness, Merry Christmas, and our lord and savior Donald Trump.

(Unless Ron DeSantis looks more electable, of course).

Kevin McCarthy will probably be House Speaker, taking over from the She-Devil of San Francisco. It’s not a guaran-damn-tee, mind. The man messed up when he said President Trump should “accept his share of responsibility” for that normal tourist visit to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and some of us in MAGA-world were not real happy.

Come on, what responsibility? Everyone knows that mixed in with normal tourists carrying Confederate battle flags and accidentally beating police officers were a bunch of Black Lives Matter radicals wearing whiteface.

However, Mr. McCarthy has since mended his ways, going down to Mar-a-Lago and prostrating himself before our Real President on one of those priceless all-acrylic carpets festooned with classified documents.

Come January, he’s going to do the right things, the very, very right things, including investigate “Dr.” Anthony Fauci. Even though Fauci will be 82 and retired by then, the man needs to be held accountable for secretly creating the COVID virus with the Red Chinese, Bill Gates, George Soros, and the makers of “Game of Thrones” to control us via our precious bodily fluids.

While they’re at it, the House will also investigate the FBI for not liking Donald Trump, though they haven’t quite figured out who will investigate people who usually do the investigating. Doesn’t matter: Rep. Wrasslin’ Jim “Take it like a Man” Jordan, soon to be chair of the House Judiciary Committee, will figure something out. Maybe Ron DeSantis’ Election Kriminalpolizei can help.

They’ll investigate Ukraine and that weirdo president of theirs who disrespected the United States by not wearing a suit in his Kyiv bunker to address Congress.

Anyway, why doesn’t Zelensky like that nice Mr. Putin? Doesn’t he support Christian nationalism? Read more