Monthly Archives: January 2021

The Writing on Your “Wall”

When I was still on Facebook, I used to post a video of Sean Parker admitting that the founders of that site and other popular social media applications used basic psychology to trap users. I didn’t post the video to announce how much smarter and in control I was compared to fellow Facebook users (I was part of the dimwitted masses), but as far as I know, Parker was one of the first to come out and say, “Here’s what we did, and why we did it, and now I think it wasn’t a good idea.”

I finally left Facebook for good about six months ago, and even though at that point it wasn’t really a major factor as far as daily time wasted, I just didn’t want it to be a part of my day at all. So now it isn’t.

I think people forget how much we used to get done before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all the shitty “look at me dance” video apps that I won’t mention by name. It’s laughable. And you’re an idiot if you’re an avid user. Be honest with yourself.

Unless you’re a teenager, there is a strong possibility you still remember the world before social media. Media manipulation and mass advertising came through television, print, and whatever websites you visited, but there was still a disconnect. An on/off button existed, because our phones weren’t yet super-computers. YouTube and Google and the rest of the apps weren’t constantly shaking hands to keep us connected and scrolling.

In my thirties, the apps were there, they just didn’t really do much. It was cool to see what some people were up to, but nothing really came of it. About a year ago, everyone became an epidemiologist. Then a political expert. I had already seen that movie a few times before, though. Every American election cycle gives voice to psychological bias and unchecked stupidity. This one was a little bit worse. So 2020 was the last gasp for me. I cannot believe the amount of idiocy propagated through media designed to exploit the masses. It’s a shame I was ever a part of it. Soon, I will retire from the other apps too.

No more people whining and not doing anything about their unhappiness, which was magnified by the app through which they are whining.

No more dipshit morons wringing their hands about “the state of things” in which they barely participate. Hunching over a keyboard with poorly-research “facts” doesn’t count, Username.

No more glamourous influencers jamming their piece-of-shit products down my throat. No more subpar music clogging my brainwaves while some hip waif styles the freshest drip in the latest colorway. Those shoes came out when I was a kid, my guy, and they were fifty dollars cheaper. But yeah, please let me get them in bright green or orange.

Unbelievable, how we let these apps run us.

This is a question I have asked for a few years, and I think I will continue to put it out there:

“In forty years, when your life is mostly behind you, how do you want to be defined? Do you want to look back and say, ‘I pissed away my best years being manipulated by a software application that was designed to keep me trapped through psychological weakness’?”

It’s not easy to admit how much time we’ve wasted on these things. I know. When work from home became the thing this year, I spent more than two full weeks in a Call of Duty game. As in 14 full days, 15 hours, and some change. Oh, sure, it was fun. We ran our mouths and made some pretty cool videos. The highlight was winning a match with two elementary students. First-graders, dude.

However, at some point near the end of the year, I just kept thinking, “Jesus, man, you’re 41. Forty-one. How much longer can you get online and be okay with spending even an hour a day mindlessly gripping a controller?” I couldn’t get the idea out of my head that out of 52 weeks in a year, I spent two full weeks on a single game. That doesn’t even include time spent in other games.

I started keeping informal track of my time spend digitally. What I found was unsettling: thirty hours a week between an Xbox and apps on a cell phone. But yeah, I “don’t have time.” Lies.

So, now that January–which is by far the shittiest month of the year–is more than half over, it’s time to become even more accountable. The software created by smarter people to keep me trapped and complacent have a chief design flaw: I have to turn them on before they can waste my time.

I hope that as the vaccine rollouts continue we will start to see reality become a little more real, as opposed to what the screens tell us, but it will take a while before that happens. In the meantime, try something: keep track of where the time goes, and see if you’re any happier. If not, make some changes.

A Single Step

36 days ago, I was melting into Matt and Natalie’s giant couch. I was slightly short of breath, with one leg propped up on the coffee table. It was Thanksgiving Day.

“I only had one plate, and it’s not like it was overflowing!” I wheezed in glossy disbelief. My confusion was somewhat justifiable. Matt has a rare turkey technique. Wielding a giant syringe, he channels dark magic to inject buffalo sauce into various pathways, then dusts the entire bird with a matching dry seasoning before deep-frying the turkey. No mortal stands a chance. Honestly, I went into the day with every intention of not overeating. One plate (honest!) later, I was semi-conscious and lounging in front of the TV, eyes rolling around while I daydreamed of an out-of-the-blue points surge from a WR or RB that I hoped nobody else had noticed. Naturally, I wasn’t winning anything in the DraftKings contests. My belly seemed to be growing larger by the minute. At that point, I wasn’t drinking anything, and I wasn’t snacking. I wasn’t doing anything at all.

That’s when it hit me. With Christmas right around the corner, and most of the shopping done, I was kind of in a state of cruise control toward the end of the year. I had a bizarre thought. What could I do that day to kick off a new era in life? What was missing? What action could I take that would begin a journey of a thousand miles?

My mild devotion to doomed DraftKings contests had encouraged superstitious behaviors. Horse betters had their weirdo routines, and athletes had their pregame rituals. Matt and I had “Pittsburgh pushups”–regular pushups that generated mystical energy to power the Black & Gold to a W. Nothing more than a drunken excuse to pretend that real activity on our part could influence the destiny of a football game. Anyway, X amount of pushups later (I’m sure I didn’t reach a hundred), I actually felt a little better. Was it possible that the smallest amount of activity on my part created a feeling of achievement? Was it real? It had been so long, I couldn’t even remember what real physical activity felt like.

The next morning, I went into the garage and got onto our nearly decade-old treadmill. Recalling the best motivational quote ever (thanks, reddit), I got started. Nothing extravagant. Just a run/walk combo to get started. Something to jar the gears and knock off some rust. A spark to ignite The Machine. Thirty-five days later, I feel better. Every morning I get up to exact revenge against what I might have become if had I continued to do the exact same thing for another year.

More movement led to better eating, and also to a real accountability to self. The goal is to be better than I was yesterday. I think I am on to something. This year I will be documenting the journey every day. It might be something cool I found, a thought I have had, or an idea I want to explore. It’s funny that it took a pandemic for me to finally do this, but here we are. If you’re reading this, I hope you’ll come along for the ride.