Charlie's Blog

11.12.2019

SOC 88

Marry, and you will regret it; don’t marry, you will also regret it; marry or don’t marry, you will regret it either way. Laugh at the world’s foolishness, you will regret it; weep over it, you will regret that too; laugh at the world’s foolishness or weep over it, you will regret both. Believe a woman, you will regret it; believe her not, you will also regret it… Hang yourself, you will regret it; do not hang yourself, and you will regret that too; hang yourself or don’t hang yourself, you’ll regret it either way; whether you hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret both. This, gentlemen, is the essence of all philosophy.
SOREN KIERKEGAARD

That is a great quotation and applies to what I now call my "information issues." I want to use this SOC post to go into where I am currently with those issues. I have made some progress on them since I've written on them before.

1. SOCIAL MEDIA ISSUES

Everyone knows I have quit social media and consider it to be a bad thing which other people need to eschew. But that's where the Kierkegaardian double regret thing rears its head. I regretted being on social media. Now, I regret not being on social media. Yet, if I go back to social media again, I will regret that again. Consequently, I have resolved to stay off social media forever. I just have to find ways to deal with the regret of missing out.

The first regret people experience is FOMO or "fear of missing out." By not being on social media, you may not know what is going on in the world. This has not been a problem for me as I use Feedly, Google News, and email to keep up with things. Those three tools work splendidly for me. In fact, I find that I am better informed than my peers on social media.

The second regret is the limited reach. Bloggers and other content creators feel a desperate need to use social media for self-promotion in order to reach their audiences. But I discovered something very interesting on that point. One lady who does digital marketing says that she actually started making more money with her content when she stopped using social media. She had more time to produce content, and she simply pays for advertising on Facebook. I think that is a viable option because time is money.

The other person who quit social media was Instapundit Glenn Reynolds who said that traffic to his blog increased when he deleted his Twitter account. This actually makes sense because he can create more content with the time he saves not being on social media, but it also forces people to go to his website instead of relying on social media to keep them up to date with Instapundit. Social media is a form of cannibalism in that regard. You try to promote your website on social media, but no one visits your website because they get your content on social media now.

The bottom line is that it all comes back to content creation. Just create meaningful content. Other people will share it for you. Or, you can just pay money to advertise it on Facebook or Twitter if you think social media exposure is vital. But you don't need to open and maintain a time wasting social media account.

2. MEDIUM ISSUES

A lot of people forget that Stephen King the author has tried his hand at directing. Fed up with how Hollywood bungled his material over and over, King thought he could do better. The world found out he couldn't. Maximum Overdrive ranks as the worst Stephen King movie ever made, and King can blame no one for it but himself. But at least he knows his limitations. King is a novelist and not a director.

I have the same sort of issues as King. I've tried my hand at running a Drudge/Instapundit style aggregation site with my Internet Apostolate project. It was tiring with little payoff. It isn't my thing. But like King, I know my limitations now. I am a writer, and I get the most bang for my buck from writing.

The internet offers other mediums like YouTube and podcasting. I see guys like Taylor Marshall who write books and produce podcasts and videos. Marshall seems to do it all on top of being a teacher of philosophy and theology. Mark Levin is similar by writing books and being on both radio and television. But I know that audio/visual mediums are not my thing.

I am used to being a jack of all trades in my real life eschewing specialization at all costs. Part of me thinks I can and should do the same thing with my creative endeavors. But the reality is that I am good at writing and not very good at anything else that is creative. When I focus on what I am truly good at doing, I am able to do awesome things.

I have been using the Tumblr blog for bits and pieces of creativity which amounts to aphorisms, poems, bad photography, and bad art. Tumblr is a weird platform. It should be the most popular platform on the internet because of its versatility. It's like a hybrid of Twitter, Instagram, and a blog. But it ended up being a porn site before they cleaned it up to its present state. When they did that, the traffic to Tumblr vanished. I just use it as a sort of junk drawer for my creativity. It is also the lifeboat if Google ever goes Mao on me.

My specialization is being a writer. I work with words on a page or screen. I am not a painter or a musician or an actor or a tv/radio personality. I certainly can't dance or sing. Anything other than writing is a distraction and a waste of time for me.

3. FEEDLY ISSUES

I love Feedly. It is my favorite online tool. I highly recommend it to people who are deep readers. I could never grasp why people liked using social media as a way to keep up with content, but it should be obvious to me. I read a lot of stuff while most people prefer not to read. This is why the movie theater does more business than the library.

My Feedly issues come down to the fact that I have the ability to follow more things than I will ever have time to read. This requires me to make decisions about what to follow and read and what to ignore. This leads back to that regret thing Kierkegaard is talking about.

I know that I will always follow news and information on the three C's--conservatism, capitalism, and Catholicism. One of the things I learned to do was to edit out contrary sources of information. I don't follow progressive or libertarian sources on politics. I don't read Marxist or Keynesian economics bloggers. I don't read atheist, Protestant, or Eastern Orthodox blogs. Basically, I follow those things that reinforce my worldview. I don't have time or energy to waste on contrary opinions and different points of view.

The big criticism to this approach is that it is close minded and creates an echo chamber. I am potentially cutting myself off from valuable information. I am approaching 50, and I left those open minded considerations back on my college campus. I've spent the bulk of my life exploring differing viewpoints. Those three C's are the ones that have stuck. Those are the things I will take to the grave. All my study has brought me to the conclusion that there is really nothing new under the sun.

The rest of my Feedly has feeds for subjects of practical benefit. For instance, I have a self-defense feed that has information on weapons and Krav Maga. I have another for blue collar subjects like plumbing, truck driving, woodworking, auto repair, etc. Then, there is the one for homesteading where I learn things like gardening and living off the grid. The three C's and the practical feeds are not an issue for me. I have issues with things beyond those essential subjects.

One area has to do with geek issues. This would be computers, electronics, programming, IT, and all things tech. For some reason, people think I am well informed on those topics, but I am not. They assume I know these things because of my blogging. I can't code beyond making a few changes in HTML when I need to do it. I could probably create a website but only by copying and pasting code from a website that I like. Beyond that, I am not a computer geek. But the field does tempt me.

I recently learned that Linus Torvalds, the inventor of Linux, is no longer a programmer. He has given it up. I know why he gave it up. Coding is the only field where you practically have to relearn your field every 12 months. Tech is constantly changing, and today's skills will be obsolete tomorrow. To be a coder is to commit to a lifetime of continuous learning of skills that are doomed to be obsolete awhile later. Or, you burn out and become a former programmer like Torvalds or Bill Gates.

As tempting as that field might be, I don't care to be in it. I want to learn things that have a longer shelf life than a carton of milk. I'd rather learn Latin or French than C++ or Python or Java. Even math is better because math never changes on you. My only reason to ever learn coding was for the sake of a career in that field, but I have already settled on being a blue collar worker with ambitions of self-employment and entrepreneurship.

There are plenty of other subject areas that potentially interest me, and I have a feed just for miscellaneous type stuff. I think I would love to become deep in history or to finish what amounts to an autodidact master's degree in philosophy. But these things would neither change my worldview nor make any practical benefit in my life. They amount to owning a second car that you never drive. They have value but not enough to warrant a significant investment of my time.

Then, there are the frivolous wastes of time like sports and entertainment news and celebrity gossip. I don't waste anytime on those things except for whatever headlines I see on Google News. When I cut sports and ESPN from my life, my IQ and knowledge level shot up. I have no regrets on that.

The regret with my Feedly issues is that I am potentially missing out on some vital information and knowledge that could make a big difference in my life. But this is a false regret. I think I have effectively eliminated the trivial from my information diet while embracing the essential things that I know are worthwhile. Additional subject areas can only offer diminishing value to me. I have to make my peace with being ignorant on a great many things.

4. LOW INFORMATION DIET

The low information diet was a concept popularized by Tim Ferrriss over a decade ago in the 4HWW. That advice is dated now, and I don't think Ferriss actually follows it. This is because Tim has a Twitter account and a page on Facebook where he actually follows other people. His presence on the web is larger than my own, and he probably takes in more information than I do on a daily basis. Basically, I think Tim is a hypocrite on this. But I will focus on the advice and not the person behind the advice.

It is easy to adopt a low information diet. The first step is to cut your cable and just get rid of your television set. The second step is to delete all of your social media accounts. The third step is to delete your Feedly account if you have one and delete all of your bookmarks. You just want to pare everything down to a single email account. Make sure you have unsubscribed to all newsletters and non-essential information. Never pick up a magazine or newspaper. Never listen to the radio as they sometimes have news reports. Finally, do not read books. If you do it right, the only information you should receive will be a few daily emails, some junk mail in your snail mail, and whatever phone calls come your way or what you overhear at the water cooler at work. You will be a total ignoramus on everything.

Tim Ferriss is not this extreme in the advice he gave back then, but there is no mystery in how to achieve a low information diet. The real question is why. Why adopt a low information diet?

The obvious answer would be to free up time for personal projects. But what are these projects? I can't think of a single project that doesn't entail some level of information consumption. Obviously, the no information diet is not an option. Let's be straight here. The low information diet is just one where you stop following the news especially news about politics. I know people who do this.

The first guy I know who follows the low information diet reads nothing and views nothing but porn on his smartphone. He candidly told me that anything beyond this was a waste of time and life. His only other pleasure in life is watching UFC on pay-per-view at the bar.

The second guy I know is a professor in a STEM field where he is hyperspecialized and deep on his one subject. He comes up for air by watching sports on television. On virtually everything else, he is underinformed and almost completely in the dark. It is maddening having conversations with him because he doesn't know anything while promptly forgetting the things told to him. He isn't a geek with Asperger's syndrome but more of an absentminded professor. I think 90% of his mental space is occupied with his work.

Those two individuals are polar opposites on a spectrum, but they share one trait in common. They both practice selective ignorance. They don't concern themselves with anything beyond their worlds. Is this a good thing? In the Aristotelian sense, no, it isn't. But in a practical sense, if you can't keep up with everything, why not be an information minimalist?

I know that I can't do the low information diet thing. It goes against my worldview and sense of civic responsibility. Your knowledge of the world might disappear, but the world doesn't disappear with it. One day, you wake up to find yourself in some sort of totalitarian nightmare and wonder how that came to be. As they say, you may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.

5. EMAIL ISSUES

Email accumulates in my inbox. I've done all sorts of things to curtail the flow like unsubscribing to things, using filters, and on and on. The bottom line is that email is the same as snail mail. You have to process that box to empty on a daily basis. When I fail to do this, the inbox fills up. There is no substitute for processing your email.

6. DEEP READING ISSUES

Deep reading is where I read an actual book with pages and a cover. I follow a rotation with the letters NFP. N is for non-fiction. F is for fiction. P is for practical. Right now, I am at F as I try and finish Lord of the Rings.

My only real deep reading issue is that I will start the next book before finishing the last one. I always want to read the book I am not reading at the moment. It is aggravating. I know this comes from being online where I can't focus but skip from one thing to another thing. This is a horrible habit which has carried over to my deep reading. I need to attack it at the source by being more focused with my web surfing instead of opening multiple windows and skipping around.

That's it for my information issues.