Discover more from The Simple Heart
I started this blog so you won't read it
Can an online tool be used to get people to connect offline?
There have been many reasonable critiques of the media in the last decade. The decline in local news and the nationalization of politics. The moral panics of social media platforms, which profit off our anxiety and anger by jumping from one supposedly-existential crisis to the next. The disappearance of real investigative journalism, as companies compete for our short attention spans.
But by far the most compelling critique, to me, of the modern digital media environment is how it creates isolation. Facebook conceded a few years back that people who use their service become more depressed. And a University of Pennsylvania study showed that “students who limited their use of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat to 30 minutes a day for three weeks had significant reductions in loneliness and depression as compared to a control group that made no changes to their social media diet.” There are now 3 billion people on Facebook, and rising. And increasingly, social media is how we connect with everyone in our lives.
And yet all the evidence seems to show that social media is making us miserable.
Ask yourself some questions.
Do you find yourself stuck to your screen and sacrificing your in-person relationships?
Are you anxious or angry about things happening in a virtual world over which you have no control and little connection?
Are you working at a job that seems entirely devoid of purpose, and spending most of your time with machines (digital or otherwise), merely to ensure you can financially survive?
I’ve struggled with this for a long time. I don’t believe the inauthentic and digital ways we’ve been interacting have been good for the future of our species, or our planet. And yet it seems we need to use these digital tools, e.g., a blog, to reach people with our message — including the message that the digital tools are themselves dangerous. And while I don’t have an answer, yet, I have the beginnings of one.
That is why I’m launching this blog. I will say much more on that, in future posts. But let me start with some basic principles that I hope will make this blog very different from other things you might read.
Create online to build offline. If the blog is just something that people read alone, then I’m doing it wrong. I want this to facilitate real connections. For example, I hope this blog is used to form discussion groups of people in real life.
Assume good faith in others. Acknowledge my mistakes. There is so little attempt to understand one another today, as our society is historically divided. People who disagree are no longer interlocutors but enemies, and any sign of self reflection or doubt as to our own position is a sign of weakness or betrayal. I want to create a space where we see the best even in our adversaries, and embrace the personal self reflection that’s necessary for growth and change. For example, I hope to write about my fiercest adversaries — including the people who are seeking to put me in prison — and explore how their intentions might be good.
Be kind. I previously wrote about the three types of kindness. The world desperately needs the third: not charity or pity but genuine kinship across all beings. I want this blog to be a space where that form of kindness and kinship — what the Buddhists call Anattā — is cultivated. For example, I hope to tell the stories of animals — and other people whose experience is radically different — from their perspective, not mine.
There will be many steps to living up to these principles. But here’s one, to fulfill the first one: If you enjoyed my first blog, about my loss of Lisa, share this it with someone you love, and ask them to talk about it in real life. Here are some questions you might ask one another to start. My plan is to make this blog a space for not just online consumption but offline connection, and you can help by turning off your computer now.