Every so often I run into a book or essay about how we would be happier if we stopped consuming social media and the news. The authors tend to looks like me. Clay Johnson wrote the first one I encountered, The Information Diet (2012). The most recent ones I stumbled on are The Digital Vegan (2021) by Andy Farnell and Five Things You Notice When You Quit the News (2016) by David Cain.
I agree with some of these authors’ ideas. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are cannibals whose excrement sometimes fertilizes flowers. Most news reporting is numbingly formulaic, poorly researched, intentionally deceptive, and deliberately triggering. If you have the privilege not to use social media or follow the news, you’re already well off. Abstaining from these opiates will make you feel even better. Especially when the news is dominated even more than usual by atrocity.
You might also be happier if you avoid facts that cause you to consider your advantages. Sure, I’m talking about the Critical Race Theory moral panic. I’m also talking about our liberal parents who raised us in “safe neighborhoods” with “good schools”.
It feels like a catch-22, at least if you have the means to insulate yourself and an inclination toward moral courage. Your options are smug denial or Sisyphean trauma.
I don’t have answers. The best I can offer is a few of my personal experiments.
- Get comfortable not knowing, and give up on coolness.
- If you need income, find a job that does the least possible harm and the most possible good. If you work in an industry that does more harm than good and you can’t leave it, change it from the inside.
- Find other ways to make friends and nurture relationships. I rely on email, texts, and voice and video calls. I wish I used them, and postal mail, more often.
- Find other ways to learn about tragedies and successes. Select books with your friends and discuss them together. Ask friends who follow current events to share their ideas.
- Subscribe to podcasts and writers that help you find causes to support, behaviors to develop, and references to thoughtful essays on current topics (see Roll, below).
- If you have the resources, donate as much money and time as you can to fighting bigotry and corruption, and to helping its victims. If you bend the arc of history toward justice, is it evil not to keep tabs on people you’re incapable of assisting?
- Donating as much as you can to fighting bigotry and corruption includes supporting journalism. Investigative journalists and some local and regional publications probably do more to foster equity than undermine it.
Welcome to February 2022’s Disappearing Moment, an inventory of my experiences. I hope you enjoy it.
Asian Americana (I Liked It): Quincy Surasmith takes his time (19 episodes in 6 years) and follows his muse. The misses are worthwhile and the hits are unforgettable.
I sign up for two-factor authentication if a service I use offers it. Rather than text or email, I use Authenticator on my phone to generate passcodes.
I bought my Hario manual coffee grinder almost 9 years ago. I still love using it in my daily coffee ritual.
Personal Finance and Investing
Jonathan Ping gives clear, useful advice on personal finance. For instance, earlier this month, he helped me understand Social Security.
- Taz Ahmed is a political strategist, storyteller, and artist.
- Maggie Appleton makes visual essays about programming, design, and anthropology.
- Heather Armstrong is the mother of all mommy bloggers.
- Edna Bonhomme is a historian of science.
- Mandy Brown writes about books.
- Stacia Brown is a journalist and diarist.
- Maciej Ceglowski is an activist, adventurer, and technologist.
- Frank Chimero writes about design.
- Caroline Crampton writes about all sorts of things.
- Drew DeVault writes about open source technology.
- Nadia Eghbal is an essayist and public intellectual.
- Caitlin Flanagan is a social critic.
- John Gruber writes about Apple.
- Michael Hobbes writes about the media.
- Harmony Holiday writes about jazz.
- Peishan Huang is an essayist’s essayist.
- Alex Hutchinson writes about endurance training.
- Matthew Inman is a cartoonist.
- Katelyn Jatelina writes about COVID.
- Molly Knight writes about sports, with a focus on baseball.
- Rohan Kumar is an undergraduate who writes about open source technology.
- Vu Le writes about nonprofits.
- Matt Levine writes about finance.
- Kyle Merber writes about competitive runners.
- Greg Nuckols and Eric Trexler write about weightlifting and physique training.
- Laura Olin writes about whatever strikes her fancy.
- Lauren Passell writes about podcasts.
- Leon Paternoster works in libraries and writes about web design and politics and....
- Jonathan Ping writes about personal finance.
- Nicholas Quah writes about podcasts and the podcast industry.
- Kate Ray writes about plant-based cooking.
- Susan Rigetti writes about writing, and also about learning new things.
- George Saunders provides writing instruction.
- Karen Schneider is a librarian who writes about libraries and gardening and....
- Brent Simmons writes about software development.
- Leah Sottile writes about investigative journalism.
- Sara Soueidan writes about user interfaces and accessibility.
- Elizabeth Spiers is a journalist who writes about her experiences.
- Becky Tuch writes about literary journals.
- Zeynep Tufekci is library school faculty member and public intellectual.
- Ana Ulin is a technologist who writes about books and other interests.
- Lea Verou writes about technology.
- Cecily Walker is a librarian who writes about love, values, living in Vancouver....
- Sam Wang writes about elections and gerrymandering.
- Molly White writes about ethics in technology.
- Kevin Xu writes about finance, with a focus on China.
- Steve Yegge rants about technology.
- Devon Zuegel writes about incentive design, tools for thought, and cities.
Thanks for spending a few moments with me. I look forward to corresponding again next month.