Sunday, February 23, 2020

Social Media is Poison

I mean, I think we all know that. But often it's productive to take a few minutes to go into the "why" that explains the "what." Saying social media is poison is not to say it's bad or worthless. Alcohol is also poison, a poison I'm quite fond of. But you need to know what you're dealing with, what your limits should be, what proper, responsible use looks like.

I live for that feeling when someone says something and you realize, "OH, that thing that I've been thinking/feeling about very vaguely, THAT'S what it is.

This time the trigger for that feeling was this thing that Ezra Klein said while having a discussion with Ta-Nehisi Coates (the whole discussion, of course, is well worth your time):

"Right now there is a weird way in which social media weaponizes the worst or dumbest thing happening at any given moment, anywhere...dumb shit happened in college all the time, including by me, but it didn't have a mechanism to go national, like it does now...

I have to applaud Fox News, they are a national news outfit but they do a lot of local coverage. It's just a really bad kind of it. They are trolling the country looking for something that happened in a town somewhere that is going to activate the demographic threat of their audience. But this kind of stuff happens all the time, and everywhere. So there is this huge capacity to blow up something somebody said in a movement...These things were harder to do before because there wasn't this ability to make them definitional; you still had to deal with the mainstream of most movements, at most times...

I think about this when I listen to people talk about anything--are people focusing on the mainstream of a movement, or are they looking for the parts of it that are discrediting? There isn't a movement, including the ones that I myself are a part of, that don't have things that happen that you don't want to be on the hook for. You can tell a lot about where somebody stands as to whether or not they are engaging with the bulk of what is happening in something, or they're just looking for the parts of it that they can use to discredit it. That will tell you more than almost everything else in the conversation."

I would just add that I'm not trying to be inflammatory or political here. I think the above description is an objective explanation about how much of Fox News operates (and as a person who spent many years mainlining conservative talk radio for many hours a day, this is the exact format of those shows, which Fox News opinion shows have adopted). It's not hard to find many outrageous things that happen every day in a country of 330 million people. But think about how many times in a day you see or experience first hand one of those outrageous things. Mostly never. Strange things happen--we used to treat them like strange things. Now we treat them as representative, when they happen by people we don't like. We have amazing schizophrenic vision--we can see all kinds of nuance and extenuating circumstances in the people that we identify with--we see in stunning black and white the circumstances of the "other" that we don't like. It doesn't have to be this way, but the outrage triggers a dopamine response in our brain. The outrage puts money in tech company coffers when the clicks pour in. The incentive structures are overwhelmingly aligned against understanding, context, and nuance.

I share this because I think if we could recognize how our attention gets harnessed, weaponized and monetized...maybe we would get indignant. Maybe we would feel used. If enough of us don't like the status quo, maybe things could change.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Relating to People Advice

For many years, when I wanted to put people at ease, I was overly polite and smiley.

Lately I just try to treat them like I would a friend. I automatically assume some familiarity, I make a lot of jokes (preferably some that are "edgy" without risking being offensive).

Not only does this seem to work a lot better for them, but I get to feel more like myself and less like a fake tool. Always a bonus.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Following Policy vs Doing What Needs to be Done

Oh my God the volumes I could write on this topic.

No time to discuss now, but I'm flagging this for later. But I'm curious—does that title resonate with you? Do you have immediate thoughts on the supposed conflict I have put on the table?

There are lots of things I don't write about because I don't want to endanger my I'll have to be careful with this one.

But I'm also tired of being careful.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Aspiring Productivity Nerd

I don't think I've earned the right to call myself a nerd on any subject, but if I was to some day earn the honorable title of Nerd (as in knowing significantly more than the general public about a specific subject), it would be general productivity. I'm obsessed with doing more, doing it faster, and doing it better than you, and everyone else.

The main things to do in order to increase your productivity are to eat right, exercise, get plenty of sleep and don't drink. 

I'm not able to check any of those boxes. 

BUT, to try to offset those self-control factors working against me, I specialize in keyboard shortcuts, organization, and quick decision making. I'm learning to delegate. I'm learning I need to turn my phone off, or keep it out of sight.

I found this post on productivity and I found it highly valuable. Like a lot of people I'm always googling for wisdom, and so much of the internet is such garbage, so I want to remember to repost here when I find something really worth your time. These are deep, thoughtful recommendations on improving your productivity. And you know they are good because they are challenging—there's not a get rich quick scheme when it comes to improving yourself. You've got to put in the work.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Self Awareness is the Best Trait—Get More of That!

Of course I'm biased--just because I highly value self awareness doesn't mean you need to. Self-awareness, is it nature or is it nurture? I dunno, see my last post for that.

I'm reading a collection of essays put out by the Harvard Business Review on Emotional Intelligence, and I found this nugget I liked, so I'm passing it along:

 "Such self-knowledge often shows itself in the hiring process. Ask a candidate to describe a time he got carried away by his feelings and did something he later regretted. Self-aware candidates will be frank in admitting to failure—and will often tell their tales with a smile. One of the hallmarks of self-awareness is a self-deprecating sense of humor." —Daniel Goleman

Self-deprecating sense of humor? I'm afraid I'm not smart enough for that...

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Why Are We the Way That We Are? Answer

Passing this info along as it might be helpful--especially if you're like me and can't stop thinking about what shapes us more--nature or nurture?

I had no idea there is a nature vs nurture debate until my psychology class my senior year of high school.

In my early 20s I assumed it was mostly nurture--we are the way we are because of how our parents raised us, the environment we were raised in, etc.

These last several years I've been leaning towards nature--we are the way we are because of our genes, basically.

It goes without saying it's a both/and...but what's the breakdown, what's the percentage of each?

I've been trying to get insight on this question for almost 20 years--and this last year I finally read a book that went further than anything else I've ever discovered to give me peace on the answer to the question of what makes us who we are. Here were my takeaways--

  • Our personalities are shaped 50/50 by nature/nurture--BUT, it seems that nature is more of a driver (i.e. we were "born this way"), and while nurture does seem to play a part in shaping us, it's still pretty mysterious/unclear how exactly that works.
    • We know this in large part to twin studies--put identical twins in two very different families and they'll turn out largely the same (that's rough, I'm going from 6 months old memory, but it was something very close to that).
  • This has caused me to be more compassionate for people--the way they are is largely beyond their control, their genes did it to them, they're probably not going to change, so I need to appreciate their strengths, and minimize their weaknesses. This has made for a happier marriage. And I manage people for a living, so it helps a lot there, too.
  • There is a positive and a negative to EVERY trait--I myself am nice to a fault and very low in neuroticism (negative thoughts/feelings). It seems to me that that is ideal--but neuroticism has strengths...can't exactly remember them right now, but they're in the book. Read the book.