Some Actual Proper Good Advice

Not to say ours isn’t “actual” or “proper good”, but maybe you’re like me and you can’t get enough raw, steaming advice in your life. No fear! Here are some of my top picks from around this ol’ internet.

Straight-up pragmatic advice

Now, this is probably my all-time favourite category of advice. I don’t need anything too fancy – just, y’know, someone to tell me how to deal with my many problems in extremely practical terms.

Ask a Manager

Alison Green has been running Ask a Manager since 2007 and it is a fucking treasure trove, both for rock-solid work- and career-related advice and for drive-by “I can’t believe some actually did that at work” gawking (some of the stories, my god). The advice tends to be kind and human-centric but also zero-nonsense, which is exactly how I like it – she wants to help people make the best of their weird work/boss/employee situation but she also has extremely low tolerance for bullshit (more on the philosophy behind the site here).

She’s also really good at squeezing updates out of people; something which doesn’t always happen on advice sites, but which is very nice for generating that all-important sense of closure that I have been told humans find reassuring. The site updates multiple times each weekday and has a well-populated and broadly right-on community of commenters; there are also open threads every Friday and Saturday in case you decide you like those people and want to make friends with them. It’s often US-centric but she takes international questions and I guess I like staring slack-jawed at all the dreadful ways American employers are allowed to treat the people who work for them.

Captain Awkward

Queen of my heart, the first, the only. The one who got me onto this whole business in the first place. Captain Awkward is the advice-giving stage name of Jennifer Peepas, who also directs movies and teaches people about film-making. The site has been running since 2011, and in that time she’s fielded nearly 1000 questions.

Captain Awkward is particularly strong on scripts and boundaries, so if you need to be told whether or not something someone wants to do to you is okay, or you need some wording for how to tell someone that actually something is not okay, CA is your gal. A strong believer in the Five Geek Social Fallacies that have made so many nerd friendships unhappy, her site also tends to attract a bunch of questions about how to negotiate people and feelings in the context of non-traditional relationships, so if poly etc. is your jam you’ll find plenty to think about in the archives.

This is another site with a strong community (and even its own glossary) and a really strong moderation policy – one of the few places online where it’s definitely worth reading the comments (not least because they will usually give you even more spot-on advice).

Dear Prudence

Incumbent Prudence is Mallory Ortberg, formerly of The Toast (RIP), and she’s GREAT! Again with the good, practical people-centric advice, also strong on boundaries and plenty to offer on queer issues. This is another advice column with a strong comment section, and she’ll often pull out relevant advice from the commenters to augment her own in areas she knows less about.

Be warned if you’re sloshing around in the archives: Previous Prudence was not really to my tastes at all, and could lean a little too hard into mean-and-judgy (which is usually the opposite of helping people). So if you read something and clutch your face and gasp “dear Mallory would never say such a thing!”, check the byline first.

Let’s crowdsource this, yo

Ask Metafilter

Ask Metafilter is the community-advice-giving arm of Metafilter, which is a website about websites sort of (originally made by that guy who’s at Slack now). It’s a place where people will ask and give advice about pretty much anything, from personal problems and unpleasant health shit to “what’s this mystery object”, “can anyone read this old handwriting”, travel stuff, legal stuff, oh gosh, stuff!

Questions are helpfully archived by category and you can also search by word or tag. Infinite amounts of lurking are 100% free – just dive into the archives for whatever problem you’ve got (assuming your problems are usefully keywordable and not stuff like “nameless screaming” or “the universe is eating me from within”) and see what other people have recommended to folks in situations similar to yours (note: they will almost certainly recommend therapy for whatever is wrong with you, and they might have a point). It’s $5 to make an account (to prevent new account spamming) and you can ask one question each week once you’re a member.

The good people of Metafilter also maintain a list of international resources for people who are really struggling. Which leads us to the next section…

Shit’s real bad, son

Let’s say you’re feeling pretty terrible. You don’t want to be relying on us idiots as your primary mental health support (doctors in fact recommend the opposite). And I’m guessing since you’re here staring at words on the internet you don’t want to phone anyone, because ewww who wants to phone anyone, phones and people are the worst.

Here are some people who will listen to your shit even when your shit is hard and depressing:

Samaritans

The Samaritans run an email service – just email jo@samaritans.org and you should get a reply within a day or so. The people who do the emailing are specially trained to do the emailing and often focus primarily on that rather than on the phone lines. It’s a good option if you have a lot of stuff you want to say but you don’t know who to say it to and you don’t want to say it out loud.

(Yes, I know you can phone them too. Or call into one of their local centres.)

7 cups

7 cups offer free online chat-based support. After signing up, you can connect instantly to a listener (someone trained in active listening) and go “blaaaargh my feelings” at them and they’ll listen supportively and be nice about it. ‘Cause sometimes just saying stuff is helpful.

Therapist finder (UK)

This tool lets you plug in where you are in the country and broadly what’s wrong with you and matches you with a selection of therapists who might be able to help. Many of them have profiles with more about their specialisms & interests, and you can choose someone who looks like they might be a good fit to connect with and begin a therapeutic relationship. In my case “looks like a good fit” = “I can email them rather than phoning and they don’t look actively frightening”, so no need to overthink this one too much.

So there you go! Just don’t go getting too fixed, otherwise we will have nothing to do a podcast about.