The Capacity to be Alone – 7 Takeaways for June 13, 2021


1. “Social media has not corrupted us, it’s merely revealed who we always were. “

Social Media Isn’t the Problem… We Are – Mark Manson – (Mindf*ck Monday newsletter)

This is a long read (by today’s standards anyway — calculated as 30 minutes). Worth. Every. Second. Even if you end up not agree with the premise, Manson presents a lot of what I consider to be compelling evidence for the underlying position.

Social media has not changed our culture. It’s shifted our awareness of culture to the extremes of all spectrums. And until we all recognize this, it will be impossible to have serious conversations about what to do or how to move forward.

There’s a lot of meat to this essay, which is why I so strongly recommend it. I’ve often had this feeling that we’ve been here before, and Manson outlines some of the very arguments I’ve been having with myself — much more articulately than I would have.

Do this: please, do take the time to read this one.

2. “We’re all on stage at work more than ever”

Susan Cain on being comfortable with public speaking at work – Susan Cain – (The Economist)

Susan Cain is the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, a book I highly recommend for both introverts and extroverts alike.  The pandemic has put us all on stage more than ever — often visibly in the form of online video calls. I’d also claim it’s about much more than work. Many social, business, and volunteer activities are happening online as well, forcing many to communicate in ways that they’ve never been comfortable with.

Starting with tennis player Naomi Osaka’s decision to pull out of the French Open due to public speaking anxiety for the required after-match press conference, Cain outlines a series of steps those who feel the same way can take to reduce the pressure. If they want to.

To me one of the more important outcomes of Osaka’s decision is that it brings anxiety and mental health to the forefront, hopefully bringing more public legitimacy to all those who suffer.

Do this: Read Cain’s book for valuable insights. The past 18 months have been difficult for all on both sides of this spectrum.

3. “May whatever hurts my feelings make me money”

A Stranger Called Me “Worthless C*nt” And I’m Inspired – Shani Silver – (Medium)

I loved this essay. As anyone who publishes online can tell you, you become a target for the vilest dregs of humanity that managed to crawl online. And that’s if you’re a ROSWM (rich, old, straight, white, male) as I am. It’s many orders of magnitude worse for women. I honestly can’t imagine — and I’m writing this after earlier today having been called a “f’ing loser” and that I should go “f myself”. (Needless to say, my genteel correspondent didn’t use the “f” shorthand.)

I love Silver’s approach. Turn it around. Sure, take what little recourse we have on whatever platform (blocking, in her case), but then turn it into something positive: content. And not just content hitting back, but rather content that analyzes the situation and proposes a few healthier ways of coping with it. It would be terribly easy to let it all beat you into a pit of despair, but looking at it with humor, empathy, and even opportunity, can truly turn one sourpuss into a bucket of lemonade.

Do this: Don’t let the shitheads get you down. Seriously.

4. “The capacity to be alone”

Don’t Forget How to Be Alone – Michael Easter – (Medium)

As an only child I grew up knowing how to be alone. The pandemic and its forced isolation had little direct impact on me (though the politics of the day and society’s overall behavior certainly did). Working at home, alone, was just another day at the office — literally.

And yet, the author’s foray into true isolation appeals. It’s something that, coincidentally, I’ve attempted to make happen strategically over the next few weeks and months. In between more normal and slowly returning social interactions, of course.

I’m hoping that the pandemic will allow some who’ve not had the ability to experience it in the past learn a little bit about how to be alone and perhaps even come to value and enjoy it.

Do this: schedule yourself some real alone time. It doesn’t have to be out on the tundra, as was the author’s experience, but something. I have some long solo drives ahead of me and am totally looking forward to it.

5. “Who is technology made for?”

Tech Forgets About the Needs of the 99% – Shira Ovide – (New York Times)

This isn’t a new topic, yet it affects more people than ever. I hear from them every day. Technology giants and startups alike focus on the “gee whiz” factor with new and exciting features that help . . . I won’t say no one, but often very few. Often a very passionate few (for example the “lossless audio” feature mentioned in the article), but certainly not the masses of consumers trying to use technology.

Consumers want something much more fundamental: solutions that work, batteries that last, displays they can read, interfaces they don’t need to ask their kids for help with. And yes, it really is the 99% that are being ignored.

Do this: If you’re in a position to make a difference, make a difference. If not, respectfully let the producers of the products you have frustrations with know.

6. “most other forms of wealth in the United States aren’t taxed”

The ProPublica Revelations Show Why We Need to Tax Wealth More Effectively – John Cassidy – (The New Yorker)

Would you willingly pay more taxes than you were obligated to? A lot more? Of course not. Anything over your legally responsible requirement boils down to a voluntary donation to the government.

The same is true for the rich. They naturally use everything legally available to them to avoid paying more taxes than they are required to. Just like you and me. (I know some cross the line of legality, but that’s not my point.)

What people fail to realize is that in the U.S. we are taxed on income, not assets or wealth. Someone who has billions of dollars in net worth can legitimately pay no taxes if they have no income. Naturally, they play lots of games — again, legal games — to minimize taxable income. And again, just like you and me.

This points out a flaw in our tax system, not our billionaires, and not you and me. It’s the tax system that needs to change. Whether our lawmakers are willing to do so is the question. You can guess where rich politicians with lots of assets and wealth might fall on the issue.

This article is a good overview of the situation.

Do this: consider tax reform changing the law to address more equitable taxation.

7. “If people were content with just “content delivery,” libraries and textbooks would have made schools defunct.”

How to Think like Shakespeare – Scott Newstok – (ebook)

That takeaway follows a quote from Carter G. Woodson: “The mere imparting of information is not education.

This book, so far, is not quite what I had imagined. It feels like less of a “how-to” book of thinking tools and techniques and more of a critique of our current education system and society in general. Not that they aren’t worthy of criticism.

Particularly in the pandemic, we moved so much of our in-person work online in the form of “content delivery”, it’s important to realize that the human aspect of having actual people involved as instructors, guides, and confidants, remains critical.

Do this: be an educator, not just a deliverer of content.

What I’m Reading

In progress (also on GoodReads):


1 thought on “The Capacity to be Alone – 7 Takeaways for June 13, 2021”

  1. The web gave us free access to every piece of knowledge, data and wisdom … but how to use this to transform the world ? We have more and more tools but no good idea about what to build and how…
    Great stuff. Thanks for making the hard work and sharing the essence of all these interesting readings with us.
    Eric, Belgium


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