absolutely brilliant with information
Post created: 2020-06-07
There is a strong case to be made for disengaging from the news and wider media, e.g., arguments put forth by Swartz, Dobelli, Cain. I used to actively and consciously live a disengaged life up until the second-last year of high school, in which I consumed basically no movies, no ads, no news, and no politics. My thoughts were my own thoughts, and my biases were my own biases.
What led me to change? It was a combination of factors:
- Smartphone - I used a Nokia brick for most of high school. I was gifted a smartphone at some point.
- Data - Despite owning a smartphone, I actively chose to avoid subscribing to data. Practically speaking, this just meant that I was slower in responding to email and more careful in my trip-planning. I only got data when I first entered America for college.
- Coursework - I needed to make cogent arguments about current affairs, which generally requires knowing about current affairs to begin with. FYI, the current events portal on Wikipedia is one of the best places to get relatively neutral global news. Most news media is garbage in comparison, especially 24/7 news channels.
- "Civic duty" - You have no shortage of people telling you that it is your civic duty to get outraged and get active about their championed cause, whatever it may be and irrespective of the fact that they seem wholly ignorant of other people's championed causes around the world. This is the case everywhere, including here at CMU. Thought I should give it a serious try.
I think that choosing to engage, especially under my own name, has been an interesting personal experiment. It may be time for that experiment to come to an end.
What media do I consume today? Largely, I consume:
- Hacker News - Interesting technical topics, occasionally news.
- /r/all - The everyday person's take on the internet, which includes memes, mud-slinging, and the outrage of the day.
- SeriousEats - cooking.
- YouTube channels - cooking, baking.
- CMU Facebook groups and pages - being involved in the community.
- Academic twitter - interesting research readings, couple of good math puzzles, lots of retweets though.
- Specific subsets of the above - cooking channels, cooking subreddits, cute animal subreddits, etc.
As for messaging platforms, I am typically on Slack, Messenger, and Discord. But the world looks very different from MSN Messenger days.
- [KEEP] Hacker News: I think Hacker News can stay, though it doesn't have to. Once a day to keep up with interesting new technology seems reasonable, and the average level of discourse there is reasonably intelligent and civil. I've learned a lot of cool niche stuff from there in the past year.
- [KEEP] YouTube: The only content I engage with regularly is cooking channels: Kimagure Cook, Chinese Cooking Demystified, and more recently HidaMari Cooking. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that if you follow mostly cooking channels, algorithmic recommendations are also mostly other cooking channels. I think this is fun variety content that is not making me dumber.
- [MAYBE] SeriousEats: From a content perspective, I feel like it has declined a lot ever since Kenji went off to do the Bierhaus. The food lab was the main reason I started reading. It is alright, I guess. Strictly optional, on par with /r/askculinary below.
- [DROP] Reddit: The wider Reddit site probably has to go. I used to really enjoy reading AskReddit and tech/programming subreddits, but the content nowadays is either high-strung, bots, or blogspam. I can't think of anything that I've seen on /r/all that has significantly contributed to my personal growth in the past few years. Some subreddits like AskHistorians, AskCulinary, and the cute ones can probably stay, but those are strictly optional. I may consider remaining active on local subs like /r/pittsburghgooddeeds and /r/cmu, I do want to help people who actually need help.
- [DROP] Facebook: I will have exactly one more meeting as part of a formal "these are the undergrad concerns" group here at CMU. After June 24, I think I'm done with CMU Facebook, and more generally perhaps Facebook as a whole.
- [DROP] Twitter: I only started actively using it over the past month, but it seems like a ton of people with more words than actions. I'm already tired of the platform.
In replacement of the platforms I'm dropping, I will probably start reading Wikipedia's current events portal again.
On smartphones, data, and messaging platforms.
Part of my dissatisfaction is a global cultural shift in the nature of digital communication. I really miss having actual conversations with people over IM. The typical digital interactions of today would look like stark raving lunacy in-person - you say a few lines, they say a few lines, you both get context switched out to a completely different thread of thought, repeat ad nauseam. For the most part, I don't feel like I'm actually talking to people any more.
I can't really drop the smartphone or data thanks to modern expectations. I might start leaving my phone at home again whenever I go out though.
Might be time to move on to another digital identity. Slack is for work, that stays. Messenger to be switched to another account. Discord can probably stay the same for now, but we'll see.
A sense of motion without moving, and so a cautious step back from the centrifuge.