Dive deep

The information universe tempts you with mildly pleasant but ultimately numbing diversions. The only way to stay fully alive is to dive down to your obsessions six fathoms deep. Down there it’s possible to make progress toward fulfilling your terrifying longing, which is the experience that produces the joy.

~ David Brooks from, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/03/opinion/brooks-the-art-of-focus.html

I’m not sure I’d call the longing I seek, “terrifying.” But “longing” certainly fits. This idea of finding something that pulls you so strongly as a way to brush away attempted distraction fits closely with the old platitude to, “have a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside you.”

I used to think of my attention as a flashlight; as a thing I needed to narrow by focusing—narrow to illuminate a smaller area with increased brightness. I’ve always found, though I spent years in denial—you know that river in Africa?—that the more I tried to force my attention onto things, the more I felt anxious and uncomfortable. Somewhere around episodes 8, 9 or 10 of John Vervaeke’s Awakening from the Meaning Crisis there’s a discussion of what exactly is your attention. Hint: It’s not like a flashlight that you can intentionally point, and then having pointed it your mind will focus on that target.

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Not spinning out of control

Because, like you, like seemingly everybody, I have also felt as though the world is spinning out of control and there’s nothing we can do about it. I’m exhausted from all the stories of shootings and attacks and bombs and the constant stream of awful stuff that is happening out there. I, too, feel desensitized and dejected from the seemingly constant carnage raging across the planet.

~ Mark Manson from, https://markmanson.net/crazy-world

There was a period of time when I felt that the world was spinning out of control. It is not.

Over a couple decades, as I spent less time on dysfunctional social networks, less time on instant gratification, less time on consuming mindless media, less time on bite-sized tripe posing as information, less time on pre-digested opinions… Well, over a couple decades I’ve come to realize that humanity is awesome. Sure, we progress in fits and starts, with setbacks small and large scattered about. But progress we do none the less!

If you see an issue that you think needs addressing, then please do set about affecting change. But do so sans hysteria, sans hyperbole, sans click-baity mindless louder-just-to-get-attention fluff.

The way you make the whole world better is to make one piece of it better; Then repeat.

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Wherein I continue my perennial rant against social networks

His friends, however, were aghast at his decision to leave the social network and argued strongly against the action. Their airtight case? Certain activities, such as finding out about parties, would become less convenient. The convenience principle is so ingrained in our culture that Daniel’s friends believed that their argument that something would become less convenient was unimpeachable. Daniel, for his part, ignored them. He missed a few invitations, but not many.

~ Cal Newport from, https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2012/01/21/distraction-is-a-symptom-of-a-deeper-problem-the-convenience-principle-and-the-destruction-of-american-productivity/

I spent time writing about social networks for this post—but deleted it all because I’ve nothing nice to say. Instead I’ll smirk, and point at what someone else has written.

Great article though from Newport. As usual for his 2012 epoch, it’s specific to college students but contains deep wisdom for all.

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Are you part of the solution?

If you’re not the customer, you’re the product.

~ Seth Godin, from https://seths.blog/2017/02/nextstep/

This rant from Seth is a couple years old, but it remains as important as ever.

I talk often about the problems with social networks. But what I’m particularly interested in is what, (if anything,) actually works to change people’s minds. I bet you can guess what works: Basically, nothing works.

I wasted a lot of time trying to explain the problems with social networks using facts and rational arguments. You know how far I got with that. One day, I stopped trying to educate and explain, and started trying to plant seeds. Little seeds of inquisition. Little seeds of self-awareness.

How do you feel when you are not on that social network?

And how do you feel after it ate your face for 2 hours?

Do you like the way you look, all hunched over with spine twisted and your face completely facing the ground?

Could you make progress on your dream if you could just find 10 hours of time a week? (As if you only spent 10 hours on social networks this week.)

Hold your phone facing you at arms length. Look just to one side and notice the actual amount of your immediate world which it occupies. How do you feel about only living within that small fraction of your world?

Visualize your death bed. (Go ahead. I’ll wait.) Now begin to list your imagined regrets as you lay dying. (Seriously. I’ll wait.) Which items on your list were related, in any way, to online social networks?

You have Seth’s thoughts. You now have my thoughts. Do you have any thoughts of your own?

Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution?

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The emperor has no clothes

These contrived notifications were the “Emperor wears no clothes” moment for me. It became obvious then that Facebook knows its users have better things to do, and quietly hopes they don’t notice how little they get out of it. It knows that most of the value it delivers is on the level of lab-rat food pellets: small, scheduled hits of gratification we’ve learned to expect many times a day.

~ David Cain, from http://www.raptitude.com/2017/06/want-more-time-get-rid-of-the-easiest-way-to-spend-it/

I can tell you now there has been no change in the amount of human interaction since I left the last of the social networks.

Want to see how addicted you really are? Clear you home screen.

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In real life

Yet many modern-day Westerners — who will live their whole lives with freedom of speech and the means to talk to almost anyone about anything — remain convinced they are essentially powerless to improve human life around the world, and use their internet access primarily to share pictures of cats.

~ David Cain, from http://www.raptitude.com/2014/11/the-gift/

I recently deleted my Facebook account; Not, “deleted the app from my phone,” but deleted my account so I am no longer on Facebook. That was the last of the social networks I was on.

My life is measurably better now without social networks. I still have this inconceivably amazing tool in my pocket which I use regularly to leverage the hard-won advantages of the human race in 2019. I still use that tool, (and other tools, including my feet and a bicycle,) to collapse the distance between me and those I want to communicate with.

I look forward to seeing you in the big room with the ceiling that’s sometimes blue and sometimes black!

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Unfollowing everyone

No matter what we think of each other, maybe it isn’t at all important that I follow you, or that you follow me. We are both elsewhere, in more complete forms. Let’s find each other there.

~ David Cain, from https://www.raptitude.com/2019/04/the-life-changing-magic-of-unfollowing-almost-everybody/

Having recently completed the last step of a complete exodus from my personal participation in social networks, I can now say: I have no idea wether I’m interacting more or less with other humans, and I do not care. I’m less stressed and I don’t miss it. I feel so much better just never going to those spaces.

But, wow did I used to spend time there.

It’s almost as if the multi-billion-dollar companies know so much about manipulating human behavior that I was literally unable derive benefit. It’s almost as if I was simply a battery plugged into their matrix.

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Social network or social media?

The Lesson: This first insight is in truly learning that social media is much more of a mindless habit — and a very strongly ingrained one — than a pleasurable or fulfilling activity. We do it out of compulsion rather than intention.

~ Brett McKay, from https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/4-lessons-from-a-4-week-social-media-fast/

Back when we invented all this online bru-ha-ha, they were called “social networks.” I think we should still be using the word network rather than media, because then it would remain clear: A healthy community necessarily has a network of people, but a network of people is not sufficient to create a healthy community.

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Don’t believe the hype

https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/d-b-t-h-dont-believe-the-hype/

I’ve read far too many stories put out by “prestige” news organizations that merely amount to: “This prominent person tweeted this. These random people responded with these tweets. This person made a meme out of it.” This is literally the entire content of the article. It is paragraphs of text devoid of meaning and significance. Just hype masquerading as journalism. But consume enough of it and it can shape your world view, where you feel like something is happening, but nothing actually is.

~ Brett McKay

A large part of my personal change has been driven by my changing what information I consume. There are very few things, people, or places which are able to “insert” information in front of me. The vast majority of information sources—and I’m using information here in the broadest sense—are all set up so that I access them. I access them the way I get water from the sink tap. I go to it. I act to begin the flow. I choose how much and at what rate it flows.

There’s no longer any hype coming out of my sink taps.

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