media, millenials, kindness, and cars

Part 1 of the 6-part series called "Reactions"

So I read a lot at work. Mostly I read articles online, whether they be news or thinkpieces or listicles or social-media posts. Today I thought, Let’s start writing about my thoughts on each of these things as I read them, just as little reactions to the things I read every day.

So here we are. Reactions.

I’ll think of better titles later, and maybe a different way to organize this stuff.

Anne Helen Peterson, How millenials became the burnout generation

Peterson’s article has been on my radar for it seems like ages, and I’ve finally gotten around to reading it today. Even though I count myself among the lucky in my generation — I don’t have student debt, or I have a job I can leave at work — everyone I know has had at least one of the problems outlined here, and it’s all getting to be too much. I think even the problems I have with the economy, like working two jobs because one doesn’t pay enough, or dealing with social media (even though I try to avoid it as much as I can), I minimize because of my survivor’s guilt that I don’t have to deal with the big issues facing our generation.

The media that surrounds us — both social and mainstream, from Marie Kondo’s new Netflix show to the lifestyle influencer economy — tells us that our personal spaces should be optimized just as much as one’s self and career. The end result isn’t just fatigue, but enveloping burnout that follows us to home and back. The most common prescription is self-care. Give yourself a face mask! Go to yoga! Use your meditation app! But much of self-care isn’t care at all: It’s an $11 billion industry whose end goal isn’t to alleviate the burnout cycle, but to provide further means of self-optimization. At least in its contemporary, commodified iteration, self-care isn’t a solution; it’s exhausting.

I knew I had a weird feeling about the whole self-care thing! It never felt like what people were saying online about it rang true, or maybe I’m thinking of the commercials/ads pushing self-care, which really is just them hijacking yet another part of our lives and packaging it up and selling it back to us. I want to say something about colonizing our minds, but I feel like that falls flat coming from a white guy. Because it’s more complicated than that, or rather because colonization is more complicated than that.

You don’t fix it with vacation, or an adult coloring book, or anxiety baking, or the Pomodoro Technique, or overnight fucking oats.

I laughed out loud at this, because it’s so true. I even have a recipe for overnight oats, and then I wrote a poem about the anxieties I got from them. Jesus, this article is ringing too true.

[Millenial burnout is] not a problem I can solve, but it’s a reality I can acknowledge, a paradigm through which I can understand my actions.

I’ve been trying to figure out what the coming paradigm shift, precipitated by the invasion of our privacy through ubiquity of Internet connection, the increased tension in every-day life as a result of increased partisan bickering in our leaders, and the precariousness of the economy resulting from the fact that we are reaching the physical limits of growth. Maybe this is the shift: we are all burned out, and we can only be burned out for so long before a change is forced, either through everyone basically dying or dropping out completely, or through revolutionary change that fundamentally restructures society. I’ve been feeling like we’re on a wave that’s been cresting for much of my life, and I think we’re currently in the crash of that wave. I wonder what the shore will be like, or if there is one.

Devon Price, Laziness does not exist

Laziness does not exist was linked from the Millenial Burnout article, above.

If a person’s behavior doesn’t make sense to you, it is because you are missing a part of their context. It’s that simple.

I think about this all the time. I had thought it was me giving people too much benefit-of-the-doubt, but reading this makes me think that we all need that much.

Needing or benefiting from [advice for dividing big tasks into smaller ones, or organizational tools like a to-do list] doesn’t make a person lazy. It just means they have needs. The more we embrace that, the more we can help people thrive.

This was really important for me to read. I’ve been beating myself up over not writing as much as I want to, or not submitting to magazines, but the reasons for both (and especially the submitting) is that I’m scared, ulitmately, of rejection. And that’s okay — rejection is terrifying. But I can embrace that fear and move past it, I think, to actually maybe get published. I hope, anyway.

And I did. And I was so, so angry that this student was made to feel responsible for her symptoms.

I’ve been guilty of holding someone responsible for their symptoms. I had a friend who had depression, and sometimes wouldn’t be able to come out of his house or would flake (I put that in quotes now, I didn’t then) on hanging out because of his illness, and I thought, Well, it’s fine if he has depression, but I think he’s using it as a crutch. Which is really pretty f-ed up, I see that now. I wonder how much of judging him was really a way to monitor myself, in my anxiety/depression, that as long as I don’t use it as a crutch, I’m fine and don’t really need help. I didn’t get any for a while after that, though I definitely could’ve used it. Grad school was a stressful time.

Dovetails

I actually read these articles earlier this week, but they talk about a lot of the same stuff as Peterson’s and Price’s articles that I thought I’d include them here. I’ll just include my general thought on each one and why they stuck with me, at least through today.

Derek Thompson, Workism is Making Americans Miserable
Talks about the religion of work and how it can lead to burnout, especially for rich white men, which might be a blind spot of the piece. But it led me eventually to …
David Foster Wallace, This is Water
The classic commencement speech, with the bit about the fishes. The really important thing I got out of it was that everyone worships something, we can just choose what it is. And to be thinking about what you’re thinking about, to really be awake to your feelings and thoughts, is what’s really important.

Keith Naughton & David Welch, This is what peak car looks like

Your time is not free, right? Your time is worth more than $20 an hour. So in my case, why not spend $15,000 to $20,000 a year to get all of that time saved? Larry Kim, on swapping car ownership for Ubering to work

God, I wish I could spend $20K a year on Ubering to work. This seems like an ultimate Rich Person Problem. Like, this guy spends $20 a day, every day, to save an hour of time. But on the other hand, he isn’t really saving that time, just making it so that he can work during that commute time — leading to more possibilties for burnout through increased productivity. So maybe instead of being mad at Mr. Kim, I should be mad at an economy that makes him think that paying $20K a year so that he can work on his commute to work worthwhile.

And with new cars increasingly expensive, but mostly used just a few hours a day, the financial case for alternatives is growing stronger.

I remember when I first read the figure that cars are parked for something like 90% of their lives, it blew me away. Cars are inefficient just about any way you look at them: they’re 2-ton machines with thousands of parts that get at most 8 people from one place to another; they cost all kinds of money and depreciate over time; they don’t even get used for most of the time they’re owned. (Can you tell I hate cars?)

mobility services

Okay, I’m sorry, but mobility services sounds like a polite way to talk about motor scooters, which makes this article unintentionally funny to me.

Replacing a taxi driver with a robot cuts 60 percent from a ride’s cost, making travel in a driverless cab much cheaper than driving your own car. The takeoff point is the robo-taxi, Wakefield [head of automotive practice at consultant AlixPartners] says. By 2030 we have a pretty substantial amount of sales volume coming out [of vehicle sales] because of that.

This is very exciting to me, but I don’t know where he’s getting 2030 from. I hope he knows something I don’t — 2030 is only 11 years away.

Indeed, automakers may talk a good game about moving metal, but increasingly they’re chasing profits expected to come from services that charge by the mile.

This sounds like more of the licensing that companies are doiong nowadays: instead of selling something outright, they sell the license, retaining the ownership for themselves and squeezing ever more profit out of the consumer. I don’t like this trend at all.

A regular joe could hail a robo-shuttle that gets him to the subway just before his train departs for the city center, where he’ll hop a prebooked e-scooter to carry him the last mile to work. This is the ideal future of mobility for a city, Heineke says.

More on the renting of life in the future: all I see is that the regular joe doesn’t own any of his means of transportation, which means he is no longer in control of his whereabouts. I wonder how the Chinese social credit system, which has already kept people from getting on planes, would mesh with this.

Bites

Some articles I just read and don’t really have any thoughts on, either because they’re short or fun or both or they’re just kind of fluffy (which I guess means the same thing as both). Here are those articles.

Forrest Smith, My favorite paradox
About Simpson’s Paradox, which basically says that you can look at data in different ways and get wildly different results. The author gives some examples and talks about YouTube in Africa.
John D. Cook, The hard part in becoming a command line wizard
The power of shell one-liners in Unix is an incredible thing.
Daniella Cheslow, As payments go social with Venmo, they’re changing personal relationships
I have a Venmo but I immediately set my privacy settings to private. I don’t really understand why anyone would want their transactions with other people to be public. But I guess, like what the one interviewee says at the end of the piece, they have nothing to hide. It just makes me nervous.