The Promise of Social Media in Action – 7 Takeaways No. 123

TikTok no and yes.
TikTok no and yes.

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1. “3000 people were being killed by cars each year”

How The Netherlands Built a Biking Utopia – Michael Thomas – (Distilled on YouTube)

I found this fascinating, not just because of my Dutch heritage, but because of my appreciation for transportation options in The Netherlands, and my own recent experience.

For some reason, I’d always kind of assumed and associated high bike accessibility with The Netherlands. Shorter distances and a basically flat landscape make it an ideal location for this ideal solution.

It was significantly more intentional than that.

In the 1970s about 500 children were dying from car fatalities every year. Well, four decades later in 2010, 14 children died from car fatalities — a decrease of 97%! Compared to the United States the Netherlands has three times less car fatalities per capita.

There was apparently significantly more intentional design, legislation, and popular choice than perhaps I’d assumed.

Do this: Go ride a bike.

2. “There’s no future in artisanal oncology”

What Do We Know About Our Minds? – Sam Harris – (Making Sense podcast)

This is actually from the preamble to the podcast. Harris chats a little about AI, and his concerns relating to its recent and sudden rise in both ability and popularity.

I don’t think anyone knows how all of this is going to transform our relationship to information. But what I’m experiencing personally, now is a greater desire to make contact with the real world…

AI is apparently a recurring topic in his podcast. And with good reason. We’re talking about a technology that, in some senses, is attempting to mimic the human mind. The path is fraught with uncertainty. And yet, it’s also ripe with opportunity.

Do this: AI or not, make contact with the real world, anyway.

3. “Zest for the common objects of life”

A Crucial Character Trait for Happiness – Arthur C. Brooks – (The Atlantic)

For some, it’s easy. For others it’s not, but it’s still within reach. The trait? Enthusiasm.

choose to treat every morning, every interaction, and every setback as a cheerful invitation

In a classic case of “behaving as if it were true makes it true(r)”, even faking it works. While inherently enthusiastic people tend to be happier, simply faking it — acting as if you were enthusiastic about a situation, or life in general — improves your feelings as well.

Do this: Find your zest.

4. “The contrast, not the amount, is what makes you happy.”

What Makes You Happy – Morgan Housel – (Collabfund newsletter)

An interesting insight, illustrated by the survival of 28 men who, after their ship sank in Antarctic ice in 1915, rowed 800 miles to safety in tiny lifeboats in bitter cold over the course of 19 months.

Can you imagine how good it must have felt to have a bath, a hot meal, and a warm bed after being constantly frozen and starving for 19 months? Even if the water was lukewarm and the food was half stale, that must have been one of the most pleasant and fulfilling evenings anyone has ever experienced.

Happiness. Bliss. Even if, as the essay points out, “second hot meal, second bath, and second night’s sleep probably felt 1% as amazing”.

What actually brings happiness is the contrast between what you have now and whatever you were just doing.

Do this: Appreciate what you’re doing.

5. “Find the small stories that I think exist in my life”

Homework for Life – Matthew Dicks – (TEDxBerkshires / YouTube)

This TEDx talk ultimately promotes what Dicks calls his “homework”:

Every night before I went to bed, about 1130, I’m going to sit down, and I’m going to reflect upon my day. And I’m going to ask myself, if I had to tell a five minute story from something that happened today, as benign as it might be, what was the most story like moment from my day?

I know there are various schools of thought on daily … well, daily something, be it goal setting or journaling or gratitude work or something else. This is an interesting framework. As Dicks points out, there are several side effects, two of which resonate: you become more mindful of what’s happening throughout the day, and you have a record of things that you’ll  remember for years to come.

Do this: Do your homework.

6. “The goal is to get people to talk about it not to actually do something”

On TikTok Bans – Hank Green – (vlogbrothers / YouTube)

Hank Green lives in Montana, where the governor is set to sign legislation banning TikTok in the state. Green is also likely the Montana resident with the highest number of TikTok followers. And he’s conflicted. As am I.

To begin with, as the takeaway states, the legislation is ultimately meaningless in any practical sense. Not only is it impossible to implement, and even more so to enforce, it’s clear it’s all about political posturing, mostly on the part of the far right, in an effort to score “points” with their base.

Whether it is using that to spy on high profile individuals, or if it’s used to sort of put your finger on the scale and promote content that creates more rifts in our society, which these platforms have done already on their own for purely economic reasons.

And that’s the thing: you don’t have to be a platform based in China to be a problem. I’d argue that the US-based services have already done much more damage than what we seem to be worrying about with respect to TikTok. And, to be fair, all the platforms have also enabled wonderful levels of creativity and connection. There’s just no black and white here, and it’s foolish to posture as if there were.

Do this: Use social media … with awareness and responsibility.

7. “Never Overlook the Value of a Message Because of the Messenger”

45 Life Lessons: Reflections from 45 Years of Living – Srinivas Rao – (Medium)

Yes, yes, I’m a sucker for a listicle. To be fair, though, this is more than that. Each lesson includes Rao’s explanation, and why it’s an important lesson. For example, he expands on the takeaway I’ve selected above:

Often our beliefs and opinions about a person can influence the value we place on their input. We should be open to learning from anyone who has a valuable message, regardless of our opinions about them.

So very true, particularly in today’s society where not only are we expected to have opinions about just about everyone, but those opinions are expected to be strong. A valuable message can be lost as a result.

Do this: Focus on the message.

8. “This is the promise of social media in action.”

OrganTok – Leo A. Notenboom – (Personal Blog)

Perhaps to counterbalance the TikTok related takeaway above, I share what I consider being one of my great finds on the platform, and what that means for social media in general.

Other topics, from different music and instruments to entertainment to education to philosophy and more, all have their representatives on social media, and are all gaining wider audiences and traction than they could ever have hoped to without it.

Do this: Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

More links & thoughts

What I’m Reading

In progress:


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