Welcome to Mindf*ck Monthly, a newsletter that doesn’t suck. If you’re not already getting these in your inbox each month, well what the fuck?! Sign up below now.
Welcome to another Mindf*ck Monday newsletter, the only weekly newsletter that can’t remember the last time it had a haircut, and doesn’t even care. Every week, I present three fascinating ideas that could potentially make us each less horrible human beings. This week, we’re talking about: 1) why we often keep doing things we hate, 2) how our brains are bad at handling information about groups, and 3) why cultivating a sense of boredom might be important.
Let’s get into it.
1. Why we do things we hate – It really is crazy if you think about it. Not only are human beings the only species that spends extended amounts of time doing something it dislikes, but sometimes we even do things we dislike and get nothing out of it!
Whether it’s a job we hate, a relationship that makes us miserable, a hobby we never liked, or a degree we never wanted, at some point, we all commit to things that don’t make us happy and, despite discovering how much they suck, we still continue to do them.
Usually, this is where I hit you with a teaser for a new article and tell you to go read it. Well, I’m going to try something a little bit different this week. See, back at the beginning of the year, I decided that I wanted to produce some high quality video versions of a lot of my content. I started shooting while I was in LA in February with the goal of releasing the videos in March.
Well, then that whole pandemic happened and that all got shelved for a month or two. But I decided to go ahead and start releasing videos on my YouTube channel this week.
So if you want to know why you continue to do things that you hate doing, check out the video:
Watch: Why We Do Things We Hate
…unless you hate watching things on YouTube, in which case, why would you ever do something you hate?
But if you do enjoy the video, please like it and subscribe to the channel. I’ll be posting more videos throughout the spring and summer. Also, if you have any feedback or suggestions on what I could be doing better, feel free to reply to this email.
2. This is why we can’t have nice things (internet edition) – Last night, while scrolling through social media, I saw a video that, unfortunately, we’ve all become too accustomed to seeing over the years. It was a police officer at a gas station, harassing a man and his young child. It wasn’t immediately clear what the situation was or what happened prior to the video clip, but as usual, it was upsetting. No surprise then that the comments were full of lines like, “My God, I hate cops,” and “What is wrong with this country?” and “We have to end this, NOW!”
Now, I really don’t want to talk about police brutality. Instead, I want to use this video as an example of a wider phenomenon that I see happen online all the time. We see an example of one person from a group saying or doing some awful thing, and our mind immediately jumps to the presumption that the entire group condones said awful thing.
Men who have terrible experiences with women will lament, “Why are all women so crazy?”
Women who have terrible experiences with men will complain, “Why are men such pigs?”
In politics, people on both the right and left will point out the most visible, insane radical on the other side of the spectrum and paint the entire opposing political party with the same crazy brush.
We see instances of government policy failing individual people and assume that the government must be failing everyone, everywhere.
We read about corporate corruption at one notable company and assume that all companies, everywhere, must be corrupt.
And, of course, we see one cop beating up on one man (or, actually, a number of cops harming or killing people over the last few years) and our minds are instinctively drawn towards conclusions of police officers as a whole.
In logic, this is known as the “proof by example fallacy.” It’s the human tendency to take a single instance of something happening and unconsciously assume it must be true in all cases, everywhere. It causes a lot of misunderstanding and judgment in the world. And, unfortunately, the human mind defaults to it all the time.
But there’s also an informational version of “proof by example” that happens. I can’t tell you how many times over the past two months, someone has emailed me or sent me a video of a solitary doctor, somewhere in the world, talking into a cheap camera and saying something contradictory and/or controversial about COVID-19 or the lockdown or the government. Despite the thousands of experts working around the clock, 24/7 to understand the crisis, this one anonymous fucking doctor — who usually isn’t even an epidemiologist! — who happened to be handed a microphone and caught on camera, is now getting passed around as some sort of luminary in virology, economics, political science, and history.
People, stop listening to random “experts” on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. Having “Dr.” before your name does not make you an authority. It doesn’t even make you smart.
Science is like democracy. Almost nothing is 100% agreed upon. Pick a scientific fact and there will be someone out there with a doctorate who disagrees with it. Then, all you have to do is throw them in front of a camera, create a title like, “The Truth *THEY* Don’t Want You To Know!” and watch it go viral. Why? Because we’re dumb fucking monkeys and we see one person in a group say something and we automatically assume that all people in that group must secretly think the same thing and therefore it must be true.
Unfortunately, the way science works is that it collects data from tens of thousands of sources and then lets them all argue, debate, analyze, debate, re-analyze, collect more data, debate some more, analyze again, then again, then again, then slowly, over the course of many years, usually a consensus gradually emerges.
But this is not sexy or exciting. This does not make an exciting soundbyte. It does not get emailed to your nieces and nephews with a subject line, “DOCTOR SHUTS DOWN MEDIA FRAUDS.” It does not get shared on Twitter.
Think about this the next time you see an individual somewhere sharing some controversial view. No matter how charismatic they are, no matter how smart they are, they are simply one data point out of tens of thousands—far more data than you or I could ever comprehend on our own.
And just as there is a silent majority of police officers who are good and trustworthy, and there is a silent majority of people on the right and left who have moderate, sane political views, there is a silent majority of scientists that is quietly, carefully collecting thousands of samples, analyzing millions of possibilities, and gradually emerging at a consensus on what it all means.
You just never hear about them.
3. The Modern Virtue of Boredom – The fallacy above highlights what I think is a more pernicious problem with much of our online culture today: we often misinterpret what is emotionally impactful as also being something that is true.
This is something I talk about in both of my books, that just because something feels really important, doesn’t necessarily mean it is important. Well, an extension of that is that we often believe that because something feels important, then it must also be true.
You could say that all of the bullshit misinformation that flies around the internet is, at a base level, a product of our ceaseless addiction to entertainment. Sifting through dozens and dozens of studies to find decent data is boring. Listening to someone discuss the nuance and uncertainties around unemployment numbers is boring. Sitting at home for most of 2020 is profoundly boring.
There’s a kind of modern virtue in the ability to sustain boredom. It’s something that fewer and fewer people seem capable of doing (including myself here). Yet, I would argue that it is more important than ever.
Until next week,