Two years ago I started an experiment I would like to recommend to you. At the urging of my best friend, concerned not just about my happiness but my mental health, I went dark. Perhaps if enough people give this a try it could help pull our troubled culture out of its downward spiral.
What do I mean by going dark? I’ve enjoyed a four-decade long career as an engineer, entrepreneur, and venture capital investor working with many others to help build the digital world in which we now live. As the years passed I became more of an “activist,” devoting increasing amounts of time, money, and attention to various issues and causes impacting the body politic. For 25 years I wrote regular opinion columns for publications like Network Computing and Communications Week, back in the pre-web days, transitioning to Forbes.com, the Huffington Post, RealClear Markets, the Daily Caller, and the Foundation for Economic Education in the digital age. As my tech career began winding down I spent half a dozen years as a fellow at a Washington DC policy think tank, three as a radio show host on Bloomberg Radio where I had the pleasure of interviewing Claire Lehmann when Quillette was just a gleam in her eye, a couple of years as a roving lecturer on college campuses, all seasoned with a smattering of talking head appearances on TV. I had also been deeply engaged in social media since the phenomenon first emerged.
Then in January of 2018 I abruptly shut it all down, because my best friend was right.
First I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts, agents of digital dysphoria that were turning me and countless others into crazy people. But I didn’t stop there. I cancelled all my newspaper and periodical subscriptions, including the Wall Street Journal, a once but no longer trusted news source I had read every morning for more than 30 years. Then I gave up writing opinion columns. I stopped listening to NPR. I deleted all the browser bookmarks I had accumulated for news and commentary sites that kept me “informed,” including inflammatory volcanoes of vituperation like Zero Hedge. Banishing the loathsome CNN/Fox two-headed beast was not an issue because I stopped watching TV back in the 1980s when Diane left Cheers. I did everything I could to decouple from the 24-hour news cycle, including relegating directly to the trash all of the “Have you seen this outrage? Pass it on!” emails that used to fill my inbox. I unsubscribed from all the echo chambers I’d come to frequent. I did all of this cold turkey over the space of a few days.
Exactly the same for me. I don’t have a ‘smartphone’, Twitter and Facebook accounts, don’t watch local TV and don’t listen local radios. And don’t read newspapers, books and ‘philosophical’ discussions. Some scientific papers and discussions are exceptions. Why? Stephen Hawking wrote that 90% from everything published in popular science books is trash. I have realized that this is right for everything published. I watch some TV channels from European sattellite ASTRA1 19,2E (3Sat, Arte, N24 Austria) and listen some radio channels on this sattellite: Swiss Classica, RMF Classic, Radio Classique. Sometimes I look the Free Thinkers Physics Discussion Group’s discussions and get some thoughts from there. My history, values and exceptions from trash (IMHO) I write down in www.basicrulesoflife.wordpress.com
When I was on my hunt for sense and understanding myself, I translated (into Latvian) two books from Dr. Daniel Siegel: Mindsight and Mind, and one from Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, Richard Lannon, The General Theory Of Love, and this allowed me to understand and manage myself. To live reasonable life. Open for discussions based on logical and skeptical thinking, based on facts and proofs.