Time, value and the legend of waste.
It’s no secret that I don’t enjoy ‘traditional’ micro-blogging. I make the effort to check Mastodon a few times a week not because I think I’ll have a nice time on Mastodon but because I think its rude not to check my messages there. If people take then time to DM, Tag or otherwise mention me, then the least I can do is give them a little 👋 to say that I saw it.
More often than not though its half nice people boosting my automated YouTube tweets (that are cross posted) or someone asking a quick easy-to answer question. The other half of the stuff I have to endure is people complaining because I accidentally posted an Instagram picture on Mastodon. Or complaining that I linked to a service they don’t like. An example of this is this one time someone asked me about exporting photos from Google photos. I replied with a link to the Google “TakeOut” page and I literally got four messages telling me why I shouldn’t use Google. Thing is, I agree (mostly) and was helping someone else get an exit strategy together. It was infuriating.
I actually did today remove Instagram from my phone. Not because I think it’s evil (I know it’s evil, its owned by Facebook) but because it doesn’t really interest me any more. Removing Instagram is part of a whole trend in my life where I have been rejecting time sinks. That’s the wrong way of phrasing that. It’s not time sinks I reject. It’s time sinks that don’t give me anything. For instance, I could browser Instagram/TicToc/whatever for an hour but at the end I would have lost an hour and got nothing in return. If I waste an hour reading a book I have that story/knowledge/opinion in my head. The trade was of value to me.
It’s also worth saying that I don’t think in these terms because I want to become super productive. I think in these terms because I am annoyed at the end of a valueless hour. I literally regret any time I spend on these services. Also, I don’t presume to be the arbiter of value either. When I say that they have no value, I am saying that from my own point of view. They have no value for me. There are lots of things I enjoy that would have no value to other people and I don’t presume to judge that, or them.
This time vs value mind-set crept in to my stupid brain about a year ago. Before that I knew I was annoyed by some online services and trends but hadn’t really understood why. Once I got a grasp on my own thoughts I embraced this method of evaluating things.
The Micro-blogging services were an instant rejection from me. Anything that trends towards short-form is inherently without value to me. If someone has an idea or opinion or even a nugget of wisdom or knowledge to pass on, then I want them to take their time. To be allowed the freedom to express it. You can not do that in a fucking tweet.
Comments sections have to be ignored. With much the same ferocity that I reject micro-blogs, comments have to receive Tar from the same brush. A comment is a micro-blog with pre-loaded context is all. It is just as useless. This includes Reddit.
On Reddit the comments are larger, the potential for value is higher but its ruined for a few reasons. Firstly, why in the name of Kirk would I give a flying rats testicle what someone else thinks about an article I just read? The way I usually articulate this is: When you were a kid and you watched Knight Rider. Would it in any way have been made better by having to read everyone else’s thoughts on it the moment the episode ended? NO! Because 11 year old me was wise enough to give no shits if ‘MagnoliaFan’ thought Michael Knight’s hair was crap this week, or if ‘WanpaOne’ thought that the episode lacked narrative originality. ‘HexDSL’ thought a detective man in a kick-ass car was kick-ass, that was enough for 11 year old me. I had a poster and everything. The truth is, when I finish reading something on the internet I need time to let the ideas ferment before I can form a well thought out opinion on it. The comments section is some kind of mental short-cut to the end product. The problem is that most people are fucking idiots and their opinions are stupid. Ultimately it would have fucking ruined Knight Rider if I had to listen to their prattle. For this reason Reddit offers less value than my own RSS feed that is free of wannabe intellectuals wanking themselves off.
This said, there are some occasions that Reddit is great. Thats technical support problems. In the old days I would have visited a “forum” for technical support stuff. But in the web-90.zero world (Or whatever web number we are on now) Reddit has eaten forums and its all that’s left. So when I say its great for technical support. I mean its all thats left. So yeah, Mixed feelings on that one. But I do visit there when I have an issue.
Speaking of Knight Rider I should also tackle my thoughts on YouTube (I know, You were worried I would gloss over this one) I took to downloading the YouTube subscriptions I care about a while ago. I use a terminal application called YTCC, to subscribe to things and a systemd timer to download them a few times a day. This means I don’t have to visit the website as a habit. I visit only when I want something specific. For instance, last night I was thinking about the game Vermintide 2 that I have been playing a lot of and wanted to know where those glorious Ratmen came from. So I loaded the website and searched for “Warhammer origin of Skaven” I scanned down for a video that was more than 2 mins long and then used a browser key-combo to play the video in MPV. No comments, No ads, No habit building.
I was watching a 10 hour long C tutorial recently. I downloaded it so I didn’t have to keep going back to the website. Don’t want to accidentally form a visitation habit.
I think I put my thoughts across okay that, patting myself on the back right now.
On to the next section.
Given my value-trade mindset it may seem odd that I play as many video-games as I do. Well. Yeah, that’s odd to me too but I think my brain is doing a little gymnastics. Let me explain…
Generally I wish I didn’t play video games. I honestly wish I didn’t like them because I think I would be massively more productive. But I do like video games. And Video games are how I bond with friends, its the dominating topic of most conversation (Okay, Star Trek is that, but its number 2) and its the thing we actually do the most together. Video games are responsible for my entire friendship group forming.
Video games have been a net positive impact on my life. Sure, sometimes I play too much but over all. Good thing. De-stresses me, gives me social interactions, gives me mind-healthy problem solving puzzles and keeps my reflexes trained. Over all the only down side is the time-sink. I think its a reasonable trade of time vs reward though. Brain accepts it as long as I balance my game-time with productivity. If anything there’s a change that the “I spent 10 hours playing Doom Eternal” guilt fuels my productivity. Games may actually be making me MORE productive over all. Theres a change that this very post is a subconscious spring back from playing Ys for 6 hours yesterday.
I also watch TV for about an hour and a half a day. Usually I’ll watch one episode of a show with my dear Mom. Because she likes the company and I help her discover new shows (we are currently going through ‘Veronica Mars’ at one episode a day) and of an evening ill watch an episode of a sitcom while I eat (currently ‘I dream of Jeannie’) Then about once a week I’ll watch a movie with my Daughter (because the rest of the time she has better things to do)
All my TV time is either social or facilitative. That extra half hour of sitcom is simply something to do while I push food into the Rat-hole.
P r o d u c t i v e .
But none of this is because I want to be productive. Its just the way I have come to organise things in my head and feel the most happy about how I spend my time. We all do this in one way or another. When I was little I remember my Dad saying how his time in front of the TV doing nothing was valuable. He worked really hard all day and of an evening that physical and mental “down time” that 2 movies back to back brought him was decompressing and actually made his day measurably better. For me its too passive but its in no way less valuable than the things I do. All of our brains are wired differently (apparently.)
The idea that we should do things to be more ‘Productive’ however is something of a mixed bag. What we really mean is that we want to be happier and feel more like we have accomplished things. I think, everyone does the time-vs-reward maths in their head but they don’t think about it in those terms.
Given the finite lifespan of humans, I’m pretty sure enjoyable and productive are interchangeable words in our head. No one says “Gosh! I spent too much time having sex today, what a wasted afternoon, I could have done the garden.” But humans are pretty bad at articulating things without thinking about them for a while (more reasons comments suck.)
This was all the result of me thinking about shit for a while and trying to unpack some ideas. All of it is subjective and nonsensical though. I mean I still post to my self hosted micro-blogs all the time. For some reason I find those of-value. Not really figured out why.
Anyway, I will shut up now. I just thought I would share these thoughts with you.