The Cult of Enthusiasm

We live in age of overwhelming optimism.  Everyone’s life is maical, and every experience awesome. You can’t buy cereal without being promised a soul uplifting and life affirming spiritual experience of purest joy. And yet, people are unhappy. Why is this?

Optimists are right in being wary of negativity. Most negativity simply hides fear, it creates barriers where there are none, making sure we don’t try something because it can’t be done or because what would people think? Negativity is a sneaky way for us to make ourselves victims. Pessimism is useless, we should never be victims.

But at the other end of the spectrum is the almost maniacal optimist. The person who’s so enthusiastic at all times it’s is simply beyond reason.  Well, what’s wrong with that?

Forcing enthusiasm has two major issues, as the journalist Oliver Burkeman outlines in his excellent best seller The Antidote.

Fail at Life

Firstly it sets you up to fail. How we talk to ourselves about things has a very real influence on how we feel. It sets expectations on the situations we find ourselves in, and life will simply never be a barrage of awesome and amazing experiences. It can not be, because the human mind isn’t made to handle that. It would simply stop registering the good things. How many times have you been reminded to count your blessings, only to realize life isn’t so bad? By expecting daily life to be amazing, we’ll constantly face being let down or surrounded by haters. Not because the world is actually like that, but because we‘ve created an impossible expectation. 

Use it or lose it

Secondly it seems we actually lose the ability to experience real joy and happiness when we’re constantly forcing the simulacrum of those emotions. According to burkeman “fake it til you make it” is not just incorrect, but is actually the opposite of how your mind is built to work.  Counter-intuitively looking at things from a negative point of view, a bit sceptically or even critically, you’ll set yourself up to be positively surprised often. And prepared for the situations when you’re not. 

We should never limit ourselves with artificial barriers of negativity and fear. But if we want to experience real happiness, we also shouldn’t buy into the cult of enthusiasm. Don’t force enthusiasm, look critically at the world and enjoy the ride. 

I wonder if engagement killed social media?

There’s no way to miss the frustration about social media all around us. Algorithmic feeds, allegations of Facebook manipulating the media. It never seems to end.

in the middle of this storm Andy Baio, the former CTO at Kickstarter, put up a link that shows you what your twitter feed was like ten years ago. It went viral.

Today were bombarded by snide comments and jokes at everyone’s expense, but ten years ago people mostly observed and shared things. 

I wonder why?

What happened that made the social landscape change this drastically? Was is the influx of new people that swamped the established culture? Possible, but I believe in humanity way more than that. was is the hardening social climate all around us? Doubtful, the only place it seems to get rougher is in the the media.

I think there’s a piece of evidence right there in what social posts look like today.

It’s a megaphone.

All these posts are broadcasts. They’re mostly snide, satirical or cynical posts at someone’s expense. 

There’s  another sort of content that’s experiencing the same development in parallel. News is growing worse and more snide by the minute in the race for faster and cheaper clickbait. 

Can it be that social media turned bad because we all strive for short term engagement? We know that measuring engagement shortsightedly has left Facebook with the massive undertaking to redesign their feed. So it’s not a big leap of the imagination to think that perhaps social media was killed by the like button. And twitter by the heart icon.

An entire form of media. Possibly killed because of a bad design choice. 

...or am I reading to much into this? 

A collection of buttons and dials on instagram

I've always loved buttons and dials. When I was a kid, the flashing consoles of Star Trek and Star Wars were the height of sci fi cool. Stereos and electrical panels were exciting, I kept wondering "what do these do?"

 

Giving ideas a second chance

Last year I read a book that seemingly everyone was raving about. I made it about 60% through it when the author took a sudden turn from logically progressing an argument to stating a badly formed rhetoric idea as truth. I put the book down and in a sigh resigned myself to reevaluate everything I had just read.

A few weeks ago, I was inspired to give the book a second chance. And I'm glad I did.

It turns our the rhetoric idea was a several pages long example of fuzzy logic, that the author deconstructed, without judging the idea. Just logically laid out. If it hadn't been for my automatic revulsion to the idea itself, I would've noticed that a year ago.

Skeptically questioning everything is essential to progress. But cynicism has a tendency to creep in. I'm glad I let go of this cynicism and explored more.

Stories are taking over, as a media format

I loved when Snapchat introduced the Stories format. It suited the platform perfectly and became a sort of passive social channel that I used to enjoy when social media was new. But I haven't given much thought to what the rise of Stories means, both as a platform, and as a media format.

Thankfully, better people have:

Stories is not a technology, nor is it a feature. It is a media format, or even a genre, in the way that a magazine or a murder mystery or a 30-minute television program is.

Twitter reinvents the web comment

If you’ve read my posts before you’ve probably heard me complain about Twitter before, and I’ve thought about it some more: 

I loved Twitter when it was in its infancy, the distributed social asynchronous communication let me learn from and get into contact with people who shared my interests from all over the world. It was empowering.

But Twitter is changing. It's no longer designed as a platform for discussion, but as one for publication.

This new Twitter feels way-to familiar. It looks like Twitter have reinvented the web comment. Same format, same bad tone, same bad social grace. Good job Twitter.

The only real difference between a blog, twitter, and a news site is interface. That's how powerful design is in informing behaviour.

Newsletters are the new Blog

We’ve come full circle. The 2000 era internet is back! Newsletters are now The way people publish content online. They’ve replaced blogs almost perfectly after the short blip of social media became a garbage pile of algorithmic ads. 

Just like blogs they’re trending each other’s content, intermittently updated, and completely distributed. There no one newsletter service. 

Why?

Because the Pull Behavior (go out and find information, spread it by creating more information, making it easier for others to find when they search) we so loved about the web is over. It’s been replaced through lazy social media with Push Behavior (I want something now, just keep gushing everything to me and I will “curate” what I want.

It’s a brave new world. 

Why social media is dying

I’ve witnessed and anguished over the decline of my favorite social media, Twitter, for years. Now it seems everyone is talking about the implosion of Facebook and all the algorithmic feed platforms like Instagram.

Today I realized just how much people crave chronological feeds of what people wish to say. I’m sure you’ve seen stories like this:

 It’s the traditional social media feed. The chronological text update from someone.  reinvented in the “disappearing story’s” popularized by Snapchat.

It’s the traditional social media feed. The chronological text update from someone.  reinvented in the “disappearing story’s” popularized by Snapchat.

It turns out that while social media is dying. The reason it exists in the first place is still just as valid:

 “Ultimately the bond of all companionship, whether in marriage or in friendship, is conversation...” — Oscar Wilde

Whatever made these companies think it was ever about anything else?

 

Wake up and stop wasting time

Sometimes you just need a swift kick in the ass. Sometimes, you need some brutal truth:

You need to have one of those moments where you stop justifying time-wasters. Where you stop justifying playing small. Where you stop justifying spending time with the wrong people. Where you stop doing business with the wrong people. Where you stop being immature with your money and your relationships.

So how to we do this? This is how:

Research has clearly shown that the avoidance of failure undermines intrinsic motivation. Put bluntly, if you’re trying to avoid failure, you’re focused on the wrong things. And you can’t win long-term in life this way.

Stop avoiding failure. Stop focusing on the outcomes, but instead focus on the work itself. If you're interested, this is the research referenced.

How to achieving something

You have dreams right? Things you want to do, stuff you want to create or complete? We all do. But then life gets in the way. Maybe we're finding it hard to find the time? Maybe we keep getting interrupted? Maybe we're just to afraid to act.

The truth is that's all bullshit. The reason you haven't achieved what you're dreaming about is that is requires growth, and growth hurts. Specifically it hurts your ego. In this fantastic article, Amy Hoy pokes you right in the ego and tells it like it is.

If you want to make something of your skills, yourself, your life…the worst truth is better than the best lie. Reality is your friend. Your ego, on the other hand, is your worst enemy. When you fail to give your ego what it wants, it throws a tantrum and makes you hurt. That’s the only way the ego knows to communicate: caresses…and punches.
— Amy Hoy

...So what's your dream again?

Why minimalism is a meta skill

Cultivating a selective focus is the only way to make real progress towards your goals in life. This is an excellent article by James Clear based around investment advice by Warren Buffet. Advice doesn't get much better than this.

The key point is this:
Your odds of success improve when you are forced to direct all of your energy and attention to fewer tasks.
— James Clear

Staying awake to life

Call it mindfulness, call it happiness. Staying awake to the world is crucial to live a full life. Here are 5 excellent life tips by Sara Hendren.

Here is the hardest thing for many people about adulthood: Staying awake. That is, resisting the somnambulance that will grow like weeds over any state of habitual life, excepting acute crises. You have to actively invite experiences into your life that will interrupt the smallness of your story and the calcifying generalizations you make about the world based on your own private universe.
— Sara Hendren

Magazines are coming back in a big way

I noticed this trend for the first time while visiting Berlin a few years ago. Hipsters love print, and are growing bored with short form "journalism" and blogs. So magazines are coming back.

I love Monocle for their magazine, but I'll keep spending time in Soda Books and Under The Cover to find new things to read. Truthfully though, even in these sublimely designed magazines, most of the articles are just filler. Just like in "journalism" in general.

 

Notebooks and bullet journals

I've had a love for notebooks since I was a kid. I've always doodled, sketched and written on paper with relish. But since collage the habit has waned because it's just not efficient enough.

Bullet Journaling is a trendy todo list idea that is getting people back on paper. And I love it. Check out this amazing journal, and my current favourite notebooks.

Now I just need to figure out if writing on paper is worth the lack of search and tags and get journaling, or if I'll just build a digital tool for the same.

Reading news is pointless and you shouldn't do it.

I've seen studies on this before. But never heard the argument quite so coherently stated as in this post from Farnam Street.

Being well informed isn’t regurgitating the opinion of some twenty-two-year-old with no life experience telling me what to think or how outraged to be. Your first thought on something is usually not yours but someone else’s. When all you do is consume, you are not only letting someone else hijack and direct your attention; you are also letting them think for you.
— Farnam Street

Poetry tips from the late Christopher Hitchens

I'm currently reading Hitch22, the amazing writer Christopher Hitchens self biography. And when such a great write refers to W.H Auden as the best writer of his generation, I had to read him. Well Auden touched my like little poetry ever has. Simply amazing prose.

I recommend you grab some tea and read Autumn Song, and if you can live with the bittersweet sadness of loss, take a look at Stop all the Clocks.