I love the Internet. I remember the first time that I saw a webpage load. It has changed my life in every way.
But the Internet is a tool. And like any tool, it amplifies both the good and bad that any one person can do.
Amplifying bad human behavior has always been around since the beginning. But the tool is increasingly rewarding bad human behavior.
We are adapting to the tool rather than adapting the tool to our needs.
It’s a complex idea. But I found a tweetstorm from Naval Ravikant that sums it up in a way that must be archived. Here it is in its entirety, copied with the permission he gave in replies to credit the original.
1/ The Internet lowers the returns to distributing facts, while social media increases the returns to distributing signaling goods.
2/ The facts are still there and people can still reach them. But the institutions selling access to facts have lost their business models.
3/ Newspapers have been exposed as mostly reprinting Reuters and AP. They can’t make a living selling access to facts anymore.
4/ While the business model for distributing facts and truth dies out, the model for distributing opinions and signaling goods is booming.
5/ Signaling goods signal status and affiliation to the other monkeys. They have value when produced or consumed conspicuously.
6/ Signaling goods can be physical – handbags, watches, and fancy cars. They can be virtual – political, religious, and tribal affiliations.
7/ The further, the faster, and the more easily something can be shared, the better it is for signaling. Social media fuels signaling.
8/ Social media makes it easier to signal wealth via conspicuous consumption. Consuming food, travel, clothing on Instagram and Facebook.
9/ Every group has a set of shared myths that signal to believers and against outsiders.
10/ Religious myths, secret histories, conspiracy theories, unfalsifiable beliefs, scapegoats…
11/ Social media has degenerated into a deafening cacophony of groups signaling and repeating their shared myths.
12/ Editorial outrage is a signaling good. That’s why former news outlets have switched from facts to opinions and outrage.
13/ Campus social action is a signaling good. That’s why universities are more focused on agreeing what to think than teaching how to think.
14/ Economic logic will drive an information business towards signaling goods. They’re easy to manufacture & share, and pay social rewards.
15/ We are moving from a world where it pays to spread facts to one where it pays to spread opinions. From real goods to signaling goods.
16/ From private truths to public lies. From knowledge to outrage. From positive sum to zero sum.
17/ Lies need to be repeated to sustain. The truth just is.
18/ Want to escape? Avoid Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. Avoid venues and media built around group signaling and conspicuous consumption.
19/ Stop sorting people, including yourself, into groups.
20/ Truth is a lonely, and unprofitable, business.
The Internet is a tool. And like any tool, you should adapt it to your specific goals. Here’s the book that explains it the best.
Here’s a few ideas –
- Open your phone’s settings and customize a few apps. Doesn’t matter what – just change some settings. Make it a habit.
- Subscribe to websites in an RSS reader like Feedly.
- Browse Wikipedia instead of social media.
- Batch browse social media on the Web. Manually navigate to the friends / accounts that you want to learn about instead of leaning on an algorithm.
- Use an app to track your phone / computer usage. Re-allocate the time to something else like IRL people or books.
- Stop randomly sharing stuff on broadcast social media. Email or message it to specific people.
- If you do share something, spend 1 extra minute to find the original source of the webpage.
Also – learn how outrage works.