Ideas for Life
Some Advice — Thoughts on
How Best to Deal with Social Media
I’m starting to think that the best way to deal with social media is to treat it as you would alcohol, gambling or any other addictive thing in life. That is: very carefully. It has been designed, afterall, to operate on the same neurological circuity. And, look, it really, really works. In fact, I think it is the most powerfully addicting technology ever invented. It captures almost everyone who engages with it, including yours truly! So much so, in fact, that even our celebrities are caught-up in posting, scrolling, likes and followers. This is what really made me think twice about engaging with social media. I started following a few real celebrities — outside my usual world of fintwit stars, who may have large followings but are by no means famous — and couldn’t help but notice that these real stars were caught up in posting, scrolling, likes and followers as much as everyone else!
It wasn’t always this way. Remember what life was like in the pre-social media days? What were celebrities doing? Well, they certainly weren’t going out of their way to give us all intimate glimpses into their personal lives. In fact, quite to the contrary, there was a whole industry of aggressive paparazzi photographers trying to do this for us. There was this cat and mouse game going on and bold paparazzi photographers would risk their lives to get the smallest glimpse. This whole dynamic was not only annoying for the celebrity class but also dangerous. The paparazzi were notoriously aggressive and incidents and altercations, that sometimes turned violent, lead to lawsuits and sadly much more serious consequences, as with Princess Diana in 1997. Now though, in the social-media era, celebrities are voluntarily dropping photos almost every single day and sharing things that the paparazzi could only dream of catching! Things sure have changed.
I think historians are going to look back on the Web 2 / Social Media era as a turning point in the history of celebrity. For social media did something completely unexpected. It turned out to be so powerful that it not only was able to addict all of us but also it fundamentally changed the power dynamics of celebrity itself. There’s a sense in which the social media platforms have almost enslaved the celebrity class into a constant obligation to engage with their fans and followers in the most intimate ways. It’s introduced a threat — who knows whether it’s real or not — that screams “If you stop posting, then you are no longer going to be famous!” This is something altogether new.
Anyway, I decided a couple weeks ago to delete Twitter and Instagram from my phone. I’ve never been a power user when it comes to social media but in recent months I noticed myself picking-up my phone more and more throughout the day, scrolling mindlessly, often through the same posts I just looked at minutes earlier. I was wasting time obviously but also just making myself feel like crap. Ever since I did this I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my mental state. Social media is not all bad of course. But it does have this awful inherent feature that is rather difficult to contend with: it invites you to compare yourself with others. This is almost never a good idea but it’s downright terrible when done unconsciously. And, believe me, this is what is happening when you start feeling bad about yourself as you scroll through social feeds.
My new approach to social media is basically to severely limit my engagement with it. I don’t want to cut myself off completely from it because I think it’s quite important for understanding what’s happening in our culture and, in the case of Twitter at least, quite useful in understanding what’s happening in markets. I just don’t want it hijacking my attention all day!
A Book — “The Three Marriages”
by David Whyte
David Whyte is one of my favorite poet-philosophers alive today. He’s a captivating writer and speaker and has tapped into something really profound with his work about what it means to live with meaning in the modern era. I’ve shared one of his poems here in these pages already —
“Start Close In” — and have discussed his idea of the conversational nature of reality in several essays. Whyte is one of the cannot-miss thinkers and artists of our age.
“The Three Marriages” has long been on my radar and last month I finally got around to reading it. Of course, it didn’t disappoint. The book is an in-depth exploration of an idea that Whyte came up with on the fly during one of his speaking tours — that life can be thought of as a dynamic balancing of three important relationships or marriages:
1. Your actual marriage. 2. Your relationship with your work. And 3. Your relationship with your self. I’ll give you just a flavor of what Whyte has to say about these:
“Marriage, that profound commitment to another, officially or nonofficially, that longing for daily physical communion with a particular person, is also at its best an unconscious attempt to improve the world and the future toward which the couple faces.”
“Work is a constant conversation. It is the back-and-forth between what I think is me and what I think is not me; it is the edge between what the world needs of me and what I need of the world.”
On the Self
“I must learn to live at a kind of frontier between what I think is me and what I think is not me, so that my identity is more of a meeting place; an edge between past and present rather than an island around which the events
of my life swirl and move on.”
The book is full of quotes like these and fascinating stories both from Whyte’s personal life and the lives of famous historical figures. These stories provide powerful examples of the three marriages at work and sentence after sentence, Whyte challenges the reader with penetrating insight and questions into the challenges of life. He ends the book in a brilliant way by offering some unconventional or unexpected advice for those readers who might be confused about where to start with all this.
“I stop trying to work harder in each of the three marriages and start to concentrate on the conversation that holds them together. Instead of asking myself what more I need to do, and killing myself and my creative powers in the process of attempting to carry it out, I ask myself: What is the courageous conversation I am not having?”
3. A Podcast — Krista Tippett’s “On Being”
Episode with David Whyte
Krista Tippett’s “On Being” is one of the best podcasts in the world and there’s no better place to start than her 2016 interview with David Whyte. I was first introduced to Tippett, of course, from Maria Popova, the author of “The Marginalian,” which was previously featured here as a recommendation for a cannot miss newsletter, perhaps the best in the entire world. This episode not only blew my mind but helped me get some much-needed perspective during a stressful period of my life. I found their discussion about how you can use the power of language to bring meaning and richness into your life particularly inspiring. Over the years, I’ve found that how I talk, both to the outside world and to myself, can do things like lift me out of darkness and boredom, provide me needed energy when there is none to be found and inspire me to be a better man. Incredible.
“On Being” is worth exploring in its entirety and listening to on a very regular basis. There’s a huge library of content already out there and new episodes regularly. Tippett interviews artists, spiritual aspirants, activists, leaders and other important people in the world today about things like the meaning of life, what it means to be human and how to live a good life. These meaningful conversations with what I consider to be some of the most important people in the world today are a true cultural treasure. I hope you enjoy.
4. A Tool and a Practice
Koyfin and the Weekly Markets Scan
This is a recommendation specifically for my investment-focused readers but really a good one for everyone. I’ve come to believe that finance is such an important part of modern life that basically everyone should seek to have a decent understanding both for how things work and what’s happening. This is an area of life you just shouldn’t ignore. Everything is connected and interrelated, so much so, that you cannot really understand movements in politics or even culture without having a decent sense for what’s happening in markets.
Anyway, Koyfin has built an incredibly valuable free product that allows you to quickly see what’s happening in markets around the world. It’s like a Bloomberg terminal but easier to use and actually affordable (i.e. mostly free). They’ve done such a good job designing the site that you can quickly and intuitively get an understanding for what’s happening in almost every public market in the world. You can see how equities are trading, what interest rates are doing, what’s happening in commodities markets and even keep track of key economic data. They have tools even for things like technical and fundamental analysis.
Part of my practice is to go to Koyfin once or twice per week and just go through all their pre-set dashboards. They’ve done a great job of organizing key markets for easy analysis and I’ll just click through all of the Market Dashboards one-by one.
What I’m trying to do with this practice is just get a sense of how markets have been behaving. I’m not tracking anything in particular or trying to do technical analysis on the charts. I’m just trying to get a feel for what’s happening. As I’m going through all the charts and data, the question I keep asking myself is this:
What, if anything, is the market trying to tell me?
I’m not really expecting an answer in the moment. In fact, one almost never comes. But sometimes, after some time passes, I will get a flash of insight, an idea or another question. “Why was X trading like that when Y was trading like this?” “What does it mean for Z to be moving so aggressively in that direction?”
Remember, with the art of investing we have to resist the temptation to look for “the” answers to these questions or expect some magical formula for money making to emerge. The art is about asking the right kinds of questions over and over again, occasionally making some decisions to buy or sell and then mostly just sitting around doing nothing but waiting.
Nick Halaris is a real estate investor and developer. He’s the founder and President of Metros Capital and publisher of Profit.
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