Category Archives: mental health

The Net (work) With No Center

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

As the pandemic grinds on (and grinds back) my hope for any kind of “normal” fades. We’ll find a new normal, new ways to carry on. Some of the old normal was so fragile it would break anyway. But things will – must – change.

That includes our social relations. I’ve been trying to understand what social ties that I can build in this time. The answer is the ties can’t focus on me, and that answer came from a video game named Slipways.

Slipways is a streamlined strategy game of interstellar colonization. One colonizes worlds and builds trade routes (the FTL slipways) between them. Worlds have needs and goods, and you set up slipways that benefit multiple planets. Complex relations among these planets develop, a vast, complex network of support that hopefully helps all.

(If you don’t keep the benefits in mind, the people throw you out of office. Center on one area of the galaxy and it all falls apart.)

One night, trying to sleep, I realized Slipways is an excellent metaphor for the social structures we should build. We should seek social ties where people benefit each other and use our unique needs and inclinations. Equally as important, the web of social relations we try to forge in these troubled times can’t be centered on one person. Put too much weight on one part of the web, and it snaps.

This realization came as a great relief. I had been trying to juggle social ties and commitments, help others but had missed the whole. I might center on my social needs or the needs of a lonely friend, but that was wrong. I wanted to build a network.

The funny thing is, I build networks anyway – “Social Butterfly Effect,” as one friend put it. I just missed that in my desire to fix things and keep them running as we meander through the second year of the Dumb Apocalypse. I knew more and did more than I expected – once I stopped worrying about myself, what I did, etc.

Amazing what can inspire us. Equally impressive is how we miss the obvious.

So if you want to network, ping me . . .

Steven Savage

Surviving on Projects

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

I regularly complain about how the Pandemic has affected my projects -writing, coding, etc. You, my readers, get a front-row seat to that more than you or I would like. But I must note that having projects kept me sane during the Pandemic.

The Pandemic disrupted everything in our lives. We could not do anything as we once did without the threat of infection. We watched many of our fellow citizens fail us, and we watch them continue to fail us. Nothing is the same, and humans like at least a little sameness.

But having projects – a book, a website, a podcast – gives one structure and stability. These at least act as an anchor for one’s sense of self, a place that reminds you of who you are. Writing, art, charity, and other deep passionate activities can be expressions of who you are. Projects help us survive by letting us actively be who we are.

Every time you write, or draw or phone bank, about something that matters, that’s you being you. Maintaining these projects throughout the chaos of the Pandemic keeps you from losing who you are.

I recently realized how important this was when I assessed the impact of the Pandemic on people. In discussions with friends and family, I saw how having any project kept people mentally healthy. People without projects often faired worse.

There are lessons here for us to learn about ourselves, but for others as well. As we try to move forward in the changing Pandemic, we can maintain our projects. We can also involve others who need a focus to join our projects – or start their own.

The Pandemic has a ways to go in the US, and farther to go in the world. Socializing and society is changing. Having something that matters is going to be critical for the well-being of many.

Steven Savage