Listening to Cal Newport interviewed on a recent podcast, something he said resonated. I’m probably paraphrasing, but a key piece of advice was: “Delete any app that makes money off your attention." Seems like really good advice. A smartphone is a collection of tools embedded in a tool. Use it like a tool and not an entertainment device and you’ll be find. For a while, in an effort to pry myself loose from the psychic hold of the smartphone I went back to using some kind of old flip phone.
That “reality bubbles” contribute heavily to increasing political polarization is well-known. Customized media diets at scale and social media feeds that are tailored to individual proclivities progressively narrow our understanding of perspectives other than our own. Yet, the cures are difficult and uncertain. Often, though, we’re advised to consume media from the other side of the political divide. A sentence from a recent piece in The Atlantic encapsulates why I think this is such a fraught idea:
Dear Governor Brown, By now you are aware of Nicholas Kirstof’s piece^[Was Kevin Cooper Framed for Murder: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/17/opinion/sunday/kevin-cooper-california-death-row.html] in The New York Times in which he presents abundant evidence that investigators and prosecutors framed Kevin Cooper for the murder of four people in Chino. Advanced DNA testing could produce potentially exculpatory evidence. Or not. But the truth must be pursued. You have rejected calls to exercise the authority of your office to order such testing.
Великий Сталин — знамя дружбы народов СССР! Great Stalin - banner of friendship of the peoples of the Soviet Union! After reading about U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Number 1 fan”, Gene Huber, I was struck by the similarities between the adoration of Trump and that of Soviet leader, Josef Stalin. Throughout his tenure as General Secretary of the Communist Part of the Soviet Union, a cult of personality developed around Stalin.
Спасибо любимому Сталину - за счастливое детство! “Спасибо любимому Сталину - за счастливое детство!" (Thank you dear Stalin for a happy childhood.)
In an effort to strip protesters of their legitimacy, Trump and Fox News claim that protesters are simply there because they’re paid by powerful oppositional interests. Never mind that Trump has no evidence for his claim; he has no evidence for practically anything that emerges from his loud mouth. What is more interesting to me is that if money delegitimizes authenticity then presumably we can use this effect to come to additional conclusions.
“The unexamined life is not worth living." - Socrates This year I decided to take a different approach to making New Year’s resolutions. Although many people make resolutions, less than 10% regard themselves as successful at achieving them. I decided to overhaul the idea of New Year’s resolutions. Rather than committing to an entire year of change, I set up a schedule of 12 mini-resolutions in the form of experiments.
Since the election in the U.S., my wife and I have supported the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. So should you.
The U.S. has become well-rehearsed in its response to mass shootings. An event. The pondering over terrorism vs. generalized craziness. The outpouring of prayers and support. Then the internet outrage. And more internet outrage. More meme pictures about guns and love. More color-your-profile picture trends. Empty scripted responses from pious politicians. A week or two, then back to our regularly scheduled programming. News flash: this isn’t getting better.
Although I understand Facebook’s business model and I (basically) understand how money is made on the internet, I have no compunction about blocking ads, trackers, beacons and all manner of scripts. The current system creates layers upon layers of networks that exist to track one’s activities on the internet and market products and services more specifically. The problem is that unless I take specific action, I don’t get to choose what I reveal to companies that want to track me.