Lying beneath the angry, sensational game for influence, attention, and shame is still the quaint coffeeshop and witty banter. Can we still find the best of Twitter without getting distracted by the worst? And can Twitter, in its current state of disarray, find a business model that nudges us to become our better selves online? Or at least not our worst selves?
Cyclists often complain about Strava’s downsides even as they are unable to resist its addictive appeal. The constant feedback of performance data and social comparison encourages users to constantly strive harder without taking pleasure in the more enjoyable parts of the sport.
The Internet is so saturated with unsolicited life advice; why would I ever share my midlife self-absorption publicly? In case it serves someone else, as Steven Johnson’s birthday reflection from 12 years ago served me then, and served me again today.
How were these writers able to endow their characters with such sentimentality while totally cutting themselves off from the emotional lives of their loved ones in real life? Or is it the inverse? Perhaps the well-adjusted person, who shares his vulnerabilities honestly in the social world, lacks the burning impulse to produce great writing.
Why not experience this elevated attentiveness to the beauty of nature every day instead of the constant hustle to get ahead in the city, to get more money, more followers, more fame, more power?
We still structure our days this way, exchanging criticism, complaint, and conflict during the day and mythic stories at night. We stare at the glowing embers of our flat screen TVs and handheld devices.
A group of cyclists riding together is called a peloton, from the French word for platoon. And that’s how it feels, like a platoon of soldiers or a pack of wolves spreading out in search of something. Our bikes are within inches of each other, sometimes mere centimeters, as we travel 25mph down a country backroad.
I don’t have any fantasies of writing the 21st century Moby Dick, but I do aim to be more disciplined about writing 500 words every day.