What Should One Be Paying Attention To?

Television, he writes, “serves us most ill when it co-opts serious modes of discourse — news, politics, science, education, commerce, religion — and turns them into entertainment packages. We would all be better off if television got worse, not better. ‘The A-Team’ and ‘Cheers’ are no threat to our public health. ‘60 Minutes,’ ‘Eyewitness News’ and ‘Sesame Street’ are.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/07/opinion/media-message-twitter-instagram.html

Do read the entire column, and I hope it is not behind a paywall for you, for it deserves to be widely read. But I’ve found myself thinking about that line: “We would all be better off if television got worse, not better”, and thinking about its broader applications and implications.

  1. How should I be thinking of Twitter and how much time I spend on it? (A lot, by the way, far too much. The only good thing, if at all, is that I spend almost all of this time reading what others have to say rather than saying anything myself. But – and this is a pertinent question, especially right now – would I be better off if Twitter got “worse”, or is it the other way around?)
  2. How should I be thinking of the amount of time I spend reading blogs? Books? Fiction books vs non-fiction books? Do books serve me most ill when they co-opt non-serious modes of discourse?
  3. Should I be watching the Rene Girard series on YouTube, or does that make my experience of both learning more about Girard and time spent on YouTube worse?
  4. “What am I optimizing for?” is a great question, and a very powerful one for analysis. When it comes to learning, is “What am I optimizing for when I consume content in different ways?” an even better question, or simply a subset of the first one?
  5. I’ve given up on watching news on television entirely, and have been patting myself on the back ever since. That, to me, is the only silver lining after having read this column.

3 thoughts on “What Should One Be Paying Attention To?

  1. Another point: What’s good for the median consumer is not necessarily what’s good for a person with good habits and good discipline. I have the self discipline to only hang out on the good parts of Twitter. If twitter gets worse, the median user will be better off because she will outrage less, but I will be worse off because I will no longer find the good stuff that I go to Twitter for. This has already happened with TV (which I don’t really watch).

    • Solve for the equilibrium, you might say 🙂
      The person with good habits and good discipline is that much more likely to cut losses and run (away from Twitter), and the optimist in me says that an even smaller subset of the g.h and g.d bunch will also come up with a better substitute for the good part of Twitter. Or so one hopes!
      And nope, Mastodon ain’t it.

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