Categories
Political Commentary

Distortion and distraction

Replied to Tennessee House votes to expel 2 of 3 Democratic members over gun protest (npr.org)

House Speaker Cameron Sexton compared the incident to Jan. 6: “What they did today was equivalent, at least equivalent, maybe worse depending on how you look at it, to doing an insurrection in the State Capitol,” he said.

Misconstruing words and intentions is an integral tool for fascists, reflected in the importance of ‘doublethink’ in Orwell’s 1984. Here, a powerful politician pretends not to be aware of the difference between a peaceful protest and an insurrection. With his comparison, he equates using a megaphone and peacefully occupying a space (potentially on recess?) with showing up at the nation’s capital with weapons and zipties while calling for the head of the politician charged with peacefully transferring power from one elected leader to the next. The silenced, disenfranchised populace making themselves heard by the politicians theoretically representing them (but not due to horrendous gerrymandering) are equivalent to a lynch mob seeking to subvert the will of the people by blocking execution of electoral results. At once, he is dismissing the validity of protest and making protest out to be more dangerous than it is. Casting protest as something alarming rather than a very American exercise of First Amendment rights — particularly when led by two young Black men.

(This is the perspective that makes Feedly’s new AI tool lumping together protests and riots alarming.)

Having conflated a minor rules violation with a treasonous attack, he could justify subverting democratic representation by casting out the troublemakers under the guise of decorum. He can claim to be on the side of democracy by dismissing the democratic tactic of protest as disruptive to the legislative process of “representative” democracy, and may righteously return to ignoring gun control now that he has invalidated the protestors and distracted from the purpose of their protest.

Categories
Self Care Technology

Grayscale

Replied to Grayscale by James (jamesg.blog)

The display shows only grey colours. I decided to give this a go last night to see how I would feel about having non-grey colours disabled. My phone now feels different. Applications are no longer as vibrant as they once were. The features that would draw me into an application, such as the coloured ring around a profile on Instagram Stories indicative of a new post, are no longer prominent to the same degree.

I have grayscale set up as an accessibility shortcut on my phone so if I’m looking at something that does need color, like photos, I can turn it on for a few minutes. Just gotta remember to turn it back off! 😅

Categories
Getting Shit Done Lifestyle Self Care

Read How to Calm Your Mind

Read How to Calm Your Mind by Chris Bailey

How to Calm Your Mind is a treasure trove of practical, science-backed strategies that reveal how the key to a less anxious life, and even greater productivity, is a calm state of mind.

I took my time reading this over the past three months to let it really soak in. It’s great and totally aligns with my own shift in thinking over the years.

I’ve followed Bailey’s work for many years, and enjoyed his previous two books, but also struggled with anxiety, stress and burnout. Culturally it feels like many Millennials are going through this transition at the same pace, throwing ourselves into work and burning out through our twenties, then rethinking priorities in our thirties and recognizing the societal factors pushing us to work so hard and yet ineffectively. We see decades of our careers remaining ahead of us and are acknowledging that we can’t keep brute forcing ourselves till we’re eighty.

I appreciate this comprehensive recentering of the value and importance of rest and calm to let us live the lives we want to. Stress and anxiety have physical consequences to the way our bodies and minds function, and make it harder to be intentional. He covers the scientific backing behind burnout and stress as well as offering a whole host of practical steps to try calming your body and mind, while reminding readers not to overdo it by trying to change everything at once. Even as someone who’s practiced meditation and mindful breathing and such, I found new ideas.

I appreciated the deeper grounding in root causes, especially the framing of looking at activities in terms of stimulation. I was reading The Shallows by Nicholas Carr at the same time as this,  which provided a perfect complement of messages on the impacts of digital spaces and the value of analog. I don’t 100% agree with Bailey — like his assertion that hanging out virtually “doesn’t count” as social time — but overall agree that I’d like to use my digital devices less and more thoughtfully, and replace digital with analog where viable.

Categories
Society Technology

Hiding the harm

Liked Smoke screen by Mandy Brown (A Working Library)

…[F]ears about so-called AIs eventually exceeding their creators’ abilities and taking over the world function to obfuscate the very real harm these machines are doing right now, to people that are alive today.

Another way this story works is that it embeds a notion of a hierarchy of intelligence within it… embedded within the dominant notion of intelligence is the assertion that certain kinds of intelligence are gendered and racialized, and therefore inferior.

To expand on this, the fear that some people may lose their superior status to a machine is the same fear that they may lose it to people they already deem inferior. It’s part and parcel of a blowback against human rights being extended to Black people, to women, to trans folks, to the disabled, to everyone they long assumed was deservedly less worthy (of money, care, attention, or respect) than themselves.

Ooh pulling it all together 👀

Categories
Technology The Internet

Read The Shallows

Read The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

Nicholas Carr’s bestseller The Shallows has become a foundational book in one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the internet’s bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply? This 10th-anniversary edition includes a new afterword that brings the story up to date, with a deep examination of the cognitive and behavioral effects of smartphones and social media.

I didn’t expect a tech book more than ten years old to feel so relevant. There are a few dated passages, but on the whole it’s very aligned with our technological path, even if we’re a bit farther along. I’d say there’s a little too much detail on brain science, but overall this feels invaluable. I’m very glad to have read it.

I read the 10th anniversary edition and appreciated the new afterword.

Categories
Technology The Internet

Smartphones consume rest

Liked Out of time by Mandy Brown (newsletter.aworkinglibrary.com)

Phones (and, I’d argue, other digital technology, and social media in particular) have an abundant sense of restlessness—I feel as if I am scurrying from one notification to the next like a hunted animal, one item in the feed, after another, after another, never stopping or lingering. Never resting. The word says it: restless, as in, without rest. The technology consumes all the in-between moments, all the seconds where you might close your eyes, stare out a window, sigh loudly. Wonder if a timer is moving or stuck.

In this way, smartphones consume rest.

I got a Time Timer and did the exact same thing, except I thought it was broken 😂

Categories
Activism Environment Lifestyle Reflection Reuse

Selling a lifestyle

Replied to On Selling a Lifestyle by Alicia Kennedy (From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy)

I’ve been attempting to separate myself from my own “content creation” for social media, because I am increasingly confused about what I or anyone else gets out of it.

A question I’ve been grappling with is whether to show a life is to sell a lifestyle.

While she’s talking about the food industry, I feel like this is true of many fields, including a lot of sustainability. Would zero waste have taken off if Bea Johnson didn’t have a beautiful home? If her zero waste looked like my zero waste: reusing shoe boxes and random cardboard boxes for storage, mismatched bulk food storage jars, and hand-me-down furnishings?

A lot of the zero waste lifestyle feels performative — the jar of trash ffs! — and competitive, with questionable ROI for the environment when it comes to time and money. It’s become a bougie class signal, that you have time to swim against broken systems, using affluence of money or time to claim moral superiority.

But we can’t escape wanting to look at nice things, fancy things, extravagant things. We want our lives, lived and depicted, to be desirable. The question of the late-capitalist climate change age is, can we tame these desires? Can we make what is sustainable and real desirable instead?

Zero waste should be about making do with what you have and what you can get secondhand. I hosted a zero waste workshop through my old work, and I wanted to interrupt the speaker when she started down the rabbit hole of things you could buy so you don’t have plastic in your house. No! Keeping what you already have is the best for the environment, not replacing it when it still works! That’s the zero waste / minimalist aesthetic, not the practice. It makes people feel good about themselves while having little impact. It becomes absorbed into their identity so they feel obligated to, for example, recycle everything they personally can, even if it doesn’t make a real difference.

I went through the Taco Bell drive-thru the other day, and they had a promotion for TerraCycle, a dubiously effective program that lets people mail in their trash “recyclable” sauce packets and other commercial packaging not viable to recycle curbside — passing the responsibility from the producer to the consumer, and letting Taco Bell greenwash their single-use waste.

This focus on minutiae and individual action / personal choices has siphoned off a lot of energy from more productive environmental efforts. There is no sense in shaming people for using a straw in their cocktail — or, lauding them for skipping one if they got to the restaurant in an SUV. People want cookies for making these visible choices, then decline to consider the individual changes that would really make a difference: switching from a car to a bike or the bus, moving closer to work and into a smaller home, installing insulation and swapping gas appliances for electric, and buying less stuff period. Yes, those kinds of changes are hard and expensive — which is why most people’s energy would be put to better use pursuing advocacy for systemic change and holding corporations accountable.

This is a tough topic because I too want to live sustainably, and in accordance with my values. I work on environmental behavior change programs! (More feelings there but that’s for another day.)

I’m getting better about not feeling guilt for waste that isn’t my fault. This weekend I threw away a ton of single use utensils that have been cluttering up a precious kitchen drawer. I didn’t ask for them, I don’t have a use for them, and we have no system for reusing or redistributing unused single-use items. Better to instead support enforcement of Washington’s law that businesses are supposed to ask if you want a utensil before giving it to you. My individual item is much less important than the scale of the utensils the restaurant distributes to every one of their customers, every day.

Categories
Mental Health Self Care Society The Internet

Read Notes on a Nervous Planet

Read Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

The societies we live in are increasingly making our minds ill, making it feel as though the way we live is engineered to make us unhappy. When Matt Haig developed panic disorder, anxiety, and depression as an adult, it took him a long time to work out the ways the external world could impact his mental health in both positive and negative ways. Notes on a Nervous Planet collects his observations, taking a look at how the various social, commercial and technological “advancements” that have created the world we now live in can actually hinder our happiness. Haig examines everything from broader phenomena like inequality, social media, and the news; to things closer to our daily lives, like how we sleep, how we exercise, and even the distinction we draw between our minds and our bodies.

Very casual writing style, like a collection of blog posts (even listicles 😂). I don’t have as much trouble as he does with phone use, but can relate to the overall overwhelming information intake of the internet and the constant marketing pressures. Enjoyed reading through this slowly. Complementary to Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks.

Categories
Self Care

Carry a book instead of your phone

Liked Daydreaming is better than doomscrolling (gilest.org)

Anna carries a book around the house the same way the rest of us carry our phones. She reads it in those same moments when the rest of us reach for the comfort of our black mirror.

I already read a lot, but like this idea of replacing the phone as my go-to distraction around the house with a book.

Categories
Getting Shit Done Lifestyle

Read Indistractable

Read Indistractable by Nir Eyal

You sit down at your desk to work on an important project, but a notification on your phone interrupts your morning. Later, as you’re about to get back to work, a colleague taps you on the shoulder to chat. At home, screens get in the way of quality time with your family. Another day goes by, and once again, your most important personal and professional goals are put on hold.

What would be possible if you followed through on your best intentions? What could you accomplish if you could stay focused and overcome distractions? What if you had the power to become “indistractable”?

International best-selling author, former Stanford lecturer, and behavioral design expert, Nir Eyal, wrote Silicon Valley’s handbook for making technology habit-forming. Five years after publishing Hooked, Eyal reveals distraction’s Achilles’ heel in his groundbreaking new book.

In Indistractable, Eyal reveals the hidden psychology driving us to distraction. He describes why solving the problem is not as simple as swearing off our devices: Abstinence is impractical and often makes us want more.

Eyal lays bare the secret of finally doing what you say you will do with a four-step, research-backed model. Indistractable reveals the key to getting the best out of technology, without letting it get the best of us.

A quick read with a useful approach to countering distraction. I agree with the author that we like to blame the thing that distracts us; to overcome distraction, we have to face the root of our distraction — basically, discomfort. He breaks his approach into four chunks:

  1. Internal triggers
  2. External triggers
  3. Make opportunities for traction
  4. Prevent distraction with pacts

This book is broken into parts composed of very short, focused chapters, each closing with a bulleted list of key takeaways. I think I liked the format? But sometimes the brevity of the chapters left them feeling hollow of content.

I skipped the section on kids and some of the work chapters.