J.D. Moyer

sci-fi writer, beat maker, self-experimenter

Month: January 2014

Facebook’s Not For Feelings

Defriended!

Defriended!

Many of my friends and acquaintances have either quit Facebook altogether, or are taking a month or two off, citing various reasons:

  • Facebook’s complete disregard for privacy
  • the addictive nature of the medium
  • bad for mood/mental health (everyone else seems to be having a better time)
  • waste of time
  • just not fun

Personally I don’t have any major issues with Facebook. It’s a useful free service for sharing information. I share interesting articles, the occasional picture, blog posts, and my music releases. I like to see what my friends and acquaintances are up to, and what they find interesting, and what they want to promote to me (their show, music release, new book, restaurant, etc). Recently my friend used Facebook to sell a mattress, which I think is an appropriate use of the medium (she didn’t want to deal with creepers on craigslist).

In general I try to abide by the following:

  • Don’t share anything I’m not comfortable with the entire world seeing.
  • If someone is wrong on the internet, that’s OK (I don’t need to intervene).
  • Don’t use Facebook to express my deepest feelings.

Last night I watched a thread between friends go bad. Feelings hurt, accusations, defriending. Ouch! It was the kind of interaction that could put a person off of social media altogether. Face to face, or even on the phone, the interaction wouldn’t have deteriorated. We can’t read other people’s feelings — only their words. If you reach out for sympathy on social media, you might find some. But it’s a crapshoot. It’s more reliable to call a friend. Facebook just doesn’t work as a medium to emotionally connect. More often, it leaves people feeling more isolated and lonely. Facebook’s founders would like you believe that it’s a tool for social connection, but Facebook doesn’t work for emotional expression. At its best, Facebook is a shared clipboard. Facebook’s not for feelings.

Maybe that’s why teens, who need to express their feelings constantly, are leaving in droves. They’re right to. Leave the shared clipboard for the grown-ups.

Is “Wealth Addiction” an Illness?

Crazy money.

Crazy money.

Sam Polk’s piece in Sunday’s New York Times chronicles his journey from greedy derivatives trader to nonprofit founder. It brings the concept of “wealth addiction” into the mainstream.

Is “wealth addiction” really an illness? Left untreated, the accumulation of wealth generally doesn’t lead to ruined life, or death. But Polk claims that this malady tears apart the social fabric, and hurts us collectively. Polk writes: “Wealth addicts are responsible for the vast and toxic disparity between the rich and the poor and the annihilation of the middle class.”

I think it’s valuable to consider the psychology of the ultrarich. What drives their behavior? Maybe it’s important to call out extreme asset accumulation for what it is: pathological fear-based hoarding, a scarcity mindset in the midst of abundance.

But even more important is to examine the system that enables such behavior. How do the ultrarich accumulate so much wealth, and hang on to it? Corporatism enables such behavior, with four simple methods:

  • a corporate charter that criminalizes putting any priority ahead of shareholder profit
  • an upper income tax rate of less than 40% (the upper rate averaged around 75% between 1932 and 1981)
  • corporate lobbyists influencing lawmakers to loosen regulation on Wall St.
  • media corporations that glorify extreme wealth

We aren’t going to address extreme income inequality by rehabilitating Wall Street traders one-by-one (or by waiting for them to become moderately enlightened and drop out of the rat race). We’re going to fix radical income inequality with a return to historical, more sensible progressive taxation, intelligent reform of the corporate charter (California’s “Flexible Purpose” and “Benefit” corporate structures are a good start), restricting corporate access to lawmakers, and support for independent media.

Four causes, four solutions. Questions? Difference of opinion? Please comment below.

Misogynistic “Manblogs”, and Feminism

Let's get ripped! And also cherish women.

Let’s get ripped! And also cherish women.

Recently a bot (or a link-commenter-for-hire) left a comment on this site linking to an e-book by a popular “manblogger.” I deleted it.

“Manblogs” typically include:

  • tips on steroid use
  • workout tips
  • diet tips
  • tips on how to pick up women
  • tips on how to be aggressive, macho, and a “winner”

10% of “manblog” content is useful, good advice for becoming an empowered, healthy, confident man. 80% is entertaining nonsense.

But the last 10% is hatred, and that’s why I deleted the link. I don’t tolerate links to sexist (or racist) content on this site (unless it’s for educational purposes).

Some of these manblogs rail against feminism as if it were an evil scourge corrupting the world. They worry about the “feminization” of culture and “girlymen.”

Now it may be true that modern life leaves most men testosterone-deficient. But if that’s true, the culprit isn’t feminism. It’s bisphenol-A, low protein diets, fructose, alcoholism, vitamin A & D deficiency, and porn addiction.

If you’re a young man who has stumbled across this site because you’re looking for health or diet tips, then welcome. While you’re here, let me tell you something about feminism to counterbalance the bullshit you might read elsewhere on the internet.

Feminism is a simple concept. Feminists advocate for equal rights and privileges for women. That’s it. Women have historically been oppressed (not being able to vote, for example), and feminists want to reverse the legacy of that historical oppression.

Men and women aren’t the same, but they mostly want the same things. Like men, women want to be happy, healthy, attractive, to have money in the bank, to be engaged with life, to have a stimulating career, to have loving relationships, to have a rich family life, to make the world a better place, and to enjoy hedonistic pleasures (delicious food, great sex, etc.).

Sure, there are some differences, both biological and neurological. But we’re part of the same species. Don’t overcomplicate things.

If you want to be a manly-man, that’s good! Lift heavy weights. Build something. Be confident. Decide what you want to do and make it happen. Feed your body well and make it strong. And don’t give your power away, to anyone.

But don’t hate women or resent them. Cherish them. Cherish your girlfriend or your wife (or the girl you want to date). Cherish your mother and your grandmothers. Cherish your daughters, if you have them. Cherish your female friends (it is possible to have an intellectual or emotional connection even when the physical vibe isn’t there).

Just trust me on this. Life is so much better when you cherish women, and accept them into your life with open arms. Women don’t want to steal your freedom, they want you to be strong and confident and powerful (and yes, also honest and true — but don’t you want the same?).

Women are not the enemy. They are the best source of joy in life.

Goals Should Provide (Not Require) Motivation

Goals should electrify the brain.

Goals should electrify the brain.

Over the last couple years I’ve been experimenting with different systems for setting and achieving goals. During that time I’ve hit some walls and changed my mind more than once. Here’s a summary of my current thinking:

One area that I haven’t discussed in detail is that motivational value of the goal itself. Several times, I have selected a goal that seemed to align with my life purpose, but then found myself swimming upstream when it came to taking action. The parameters I set around the goal (target date, reward) had no effect, because my core motivation was lacking.

If the goal itself doesn’t energize you, no trappings applied around the edges are going to light the fires of your motivational engine. Goal-setting doesn’t work as a hammer to pound yourself into something that you’re not. At the best, goal-setting adds structure to something you already want to do.

Steve Pavlina has a good post on this subject. I don’t agree with everything in the article, but Steve makes an excellent point in that the point of goal-setting is not to control the future. The point of goal-setting is to energize you in the present moment.

Energizing and Actionable

Steve’s post references SMART goals (a concept made popular by Peter Drucker), which stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound (Steve is not in favor of the SMART system). I think the SMART criteria are reasonable in the context of employee management (Drucker’s field), but they make less sense for individuals trying to “level up” in a particular life area.

My own criteria for goal-setting are that a goal should be:

  1. Energizing (providing motivation rather than requiring it)
  2. Actionable (the goal is such that you can immediately plan and take actions in pursuit of the goal, including setting up a task system and schedule that will in all likelihood lead to reaching your goal, as long as you do the work)

The goals I end up choosing for myself usually end up being SMART goals as well, but for me the SMART acronym isn’t that helpful. It misses the most important thing (that a goal should be energizing, providing motivation), and five criteria are just too many too remember (even with the help of the acronym).

“Today You” vs. “Tomorrow You”

The human brain is comprised of layers, with each layer relating to a different set of functionality. The inner layers are more primitive, and provide motivation and capability to eat, hunt, defend ourselves, claim territory, procreate, and otherwise pursue our reptilian and mammalian prerogatives.

The outermost and most recently evolved layer, the neocortex, enables conscious thought and the ability to understand and visualize time outside of the present moment.

Sometimes human motivation becomes a battle between primitive instincts to sleep, eat, and rest vs. more abstract/cerebral motivations (prepare for the future, work on a project that may offer long-term benefits, etc.). This schism could be considered “today you” (that part of you that is interested in immediate sensory satisfaction) vs. “tomorrow you” (the part of you that considers future consequences of present actions).

Goal-setting tilts the scales in favor the neocortex (“tomorrow you”). This doesn’t necessitate total self-denial. “Today you” can be easily satisfied with good food, adequate rest, time with friends and family, and other animal pleasures. Life occurs in the present, so it doesn’t make sense to endlessly defer gratification. But goal-setting can provide a line of defense: a minimum level of effort dedicated to improving circumstances over time (even if it means minor, occasional discomfort in the present).

Motivation and Brain Health

If your life is devoid of excitement and nothing excites you, you are probably depressed. When I experience a lack of ambition and motivation it’s a red flag for me that my dopaminergic system is out of whack, and that I need to take immediate steps to increase BDNF, encourage neurogenesis, and resensitize dopamine receptors. My basic strategy in this case is to become more paleo (eat less sugar and starch, decrease artificial light and go to bed earlier, exercise more intensely, spend more time with friends and family, and reduce screen time). On top of this I eat more curry and oily fish (turmeric and DHA both increase BDNF, increase neurogenesis, and improve brain health). When I take these steps I generally notice a marked improvement in attitude and motivation within a week (and sometimes just after a day or two).

Personal Update

My own goals continue to center around fiction writing. Though sometimes I feel (as a 44-year-old trying to start a career as a novelist) like I’m tilting at windmills, I recently completed a 2nd draft of novel that I’m reasonably pleased with, and I’m working towards what might eventually become a novel-writing system.

Good luck with your own goals, and Happy New Year!

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