Time to Step Back

Just after I posted , I began another note about how, yet , I’ve found Twitter, YouTube and HN to be quite the time sinks during the pandemic and how I was trying to phase them out.

With , that became even more important for my sanity and even though I spent a hefty chunk of Thursday doomscrolling, I’m actively trying to avoid getting caught up in successive days’ worth of reading crackpot speculation, armchair tacticians and various kinds of disinformation.

Things were bad enough when we were dealing with scientific facts, and are going to be orders of magnitude worse as information warfare, propaganda, and high-ranking political drama kick in, and I just want it all to go away.

Just Disconnect

In my experience, the only way to really deal with hype and disinformation is to unplug from them, either wholesale or by simply unfollowing or blocking various crackpots.

I have more “social” time sinks (like the Slack instance where myself and my close friends have been alternately driving each other nuts and maintaining a modicum of sanity over the past two years), but they’re either (arguably) more useful or less prone to distractions.

On the other hand, mass social media is just something I’m going to have to tune out.

Instagram, for instance, is something I’ve actually left once but gone back to because of my friends. I now dip into it in occasion but close it as soon as I see an ad (which is the best way to drive me off their platform), and yesterday I cleaned it up a tad by unfollowing a few longtime (Portuguese) friends whose timelines are now a psychedelic mix of crystal therapies, anti-vax propaganda and recycled horror stories from Ukraine.

In comparison, my Romanian and Polish acquaintances’ timelines are much more factual and restrained, which is interesting but besides the point – which is just ditch the loonies. It doesn’t matter that they were your childhood besties if they’ve fallen prey to dissociative, harmful memetics.

Avoid Parallel Dimensions

I removed Telegram from my phone yesterday since it seems equally crowded with nutcases, but kept Signal and WhatsApp, which are still fighting it out for mindshare among various sets of friends but seldom impinge on my attention even though they’ve seen renewed activity this week.

I also ditched the Facebook app again, which I haven’t (thankfully) used in any real way for years but re-installed over the holidays on my iPad for some family reminders.

In fact, I’ve been putting off deleting my account solely because of my , and am looking forward to being able to use an Oculus without a Facebook account again simply because I feel like Spengler, Stanz, Venkman and Zeddemore opening the gates to the temple of Gozer every time I even come near a Meta property.

Twitter, YouTube and HN

I still rather enjoy Twitter and YouTube even though they are constantly swinging between toxic, mesmerizing and barely informative, so I’ve started unfollowing or moving people to themed lists, trimming my YouTube subscriptions and considering stopping submitting or commenting on HackerNews altogether.

As a first step, I turned on noprocrast last week so that I didn’t feel tempted to visit mid-morning1, and in the meantime, I also changed my password and logged off HN on Thursday, which has been quite effective since I can now only submit and comment from my iPad (which usually happens over breakfast).

Keeping Sane

The ideal outcome here would be for me to go back to a point where instead of zoning out doomscrolling and catching up on news for two hours after working and suddenly finding myself nearly asleep on the couch at 11PM, I can cut that down to a few minutes and find the energy to actually create something.

But the funny thing is that until Thursday I couldn’t really blame the pandemic, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to blame war either.

I blamed work, really, not so much for the long hours syncing with folk on the East Coast but mostly because it’s become a dreary landscape of meetings, budgeting and loads of (literally) Office work with little to no room for creativity or inspiration. Given I’ve always seen my free time as an extension of whatever creative drive I picked up during work hours, I’ve been feeling an increased need to unwind and just blank out both work and news.

A Dose of Perspective

Watching a major geopolitical incident unfold because someone preserved the Cold War mindset in a glacier, is juggling a pocket full of tactical nukes and has apparently no qualms about starting World War Three makes the above seem egotistical and petty, I know, but, then again, so did having a virulent disease potentially wiping out billions of people (a la Golgafrincham Ark B).

The upshot of the whole thing is that two years’ worth of putting up with the pandemic (on top of the unmitigated mess that were the Trump years) have desensitized me to the war, and that is a dangerous enough situation on its own, especially if it’s become widespread–a concern I found echoes of in this week’s edition of The Economist.

The Forever Times

But, on a personal basis, it only compounds the need to spend whatever time I have doing something I actually enjoy.

Like I quipped on Twitter the other day, this feels like forever:

2019: “Can’t keep my mind on work with Trump tweeting nuclear launch codes.”

2020: “Can’t keep my mind on work with this damn pandemic.”

2021: “Can’t keep my mind on work with those damn variants.”

2022: “Can’t keep my mind on work with the tanks rolling across Europe.”

However, I can’t really blame the world for stuff I got into willingly – I guess that’s just the flip side of living for doing the stuff you love, because when you don’t love what you’re working on everything else turns into escapism, and having that become even harder to attain is just circumstantial.

And I can’t really fix any of it.

  1. I currently have something like 12500 karma, which likely represents too much time spent there… ↩︎

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