Great Teaching

Today I was entertained by no end by a little saga going on over on Twitter. Yes, you can say this whole segment that I’m about to write is in direct contradiction to the post that I’ve made previously criticising the human need to find entertainment from other’s suffering. But, and it’s a big butt: I’m also a fan of justice and not just any kind, specifically poetic justice with comedy that Armando Iannucci would struggle to come up with on his own.

I’m not a fan of social media at the best of times but there seems to be such delicious irony that one of the world’s richest and most identifiable individuals who uses Twitter as a staging ground for open ideological warfare has suddenly come to the realisation that people have been telling him and others like him for years. Perhaps that’s the lesson, no? We cannot ultimately teach someone anything effectively until they face the greatest teacher of all: a mistake.

For those who are not aware of this drama, Elon Musk engaged in a public dispute with an employee about job performance, during which the employee was notified by HR that he had been fired. As it turned out, the employee in question was hired as part of a contract in the purchasing of a company that was originally owned by that employee. Mr Musk then changed his mind about the firing as shown above in the linked tweet. I’m not going to speculate on what kind of legal and financial ramifications were happening behind the scenes but I think it’s worth pointing out how this situation could have been avoided entirely.

“Accept humbly, let go easily.” – Meditations 8.33

Perhaps then we can argue that the negative public perception of Elon Musk outside of his core fan base is wrong in itself. Of course, we can find things detestable about a person’s character based on the simple dynamics of virtue and vices but what are vices but demonstrations of lessons to be learned? I for one, think that a lesson was learned here – or rather I hope it was. I’m not above harbouring negative feelings towards people, it’s human nature to react instinctively to all kinds of threats whether they are physical or philosophical. In 2023, billions of us across the globe have access to social media platforms where we can respond immediately on instinct to such threats without much thought. We would hope that the new CEO of one of the world’s biggest would take a little more care about giving into those instincts but why would we hold anyone to a higher standard of self-control or moral responsibility due to the size of the bank account? History tells us that morality and judgement rarely go hand-in-hand with extreme wealth so why would we expect otherwise now?

Ultimately, the mistake and reflection of the mistake will be the only way forward for everyone. Anyone who’s ever made a silly post on Facebook that they regret or written a poorly thought out, two-hundred character rant about Love Island that has the slight flavour of implied sexism, will eventually have to deal with and learn from the consequences of impulse. This, of course, extends far beyond the digital confines of social media, just ask Cain after he bashed in Abel’s skull. Never before in human history has one badly thought out response or opinion been able to reach and be seen by so many, and in turn, effect so many. I suppose that’s why we have age-restrictions on social media (as useless as they are) to at least keep up the appearance that young people will have a chance to develop some sense of self-control before being bestowed the power of connecting with the world.

In the end, I’m not sure if Mr Musk will learn from this situation and excise a little more self-control or at least develop that faculty before engaging in high level business in such a potentially destructive way. I like to think that maybe there will be but it was my favourite Roman emperor who said: teach or tolerate. If consequences won’t do, I suppose I’ll have to be contented to watch – like the passive media consumer that I am from the sidelines -, tolerating and having a giggle at the comedy.

I’m not unhappy with that outcome, popcorn is my favourite snack.



Quick Quote Post: 5

This is becoming a weekly thing, finding myself reflecting on a single piece of wisdom rather than coming up with something actually original to say. Yet I think it’s a good thing, a refreshing thing, to have a focus. My focus today has been BBC Bitesize Cardiology because, of course, I’m hooked now on the topic. I’m not going to mention The Falcon and Winter Soldier or the fact that I’ve had five coffees and two energy drinks today because that doesn’t seem very learned. But we follow the patterns, don’t we? People tend to like things because they are good, it doesn’t mean they aren’t any less well natured because they are not inherently stoic in their content. What’s wrong with a little indulgence? A can of something, pizza and Disney+ isn’t an unworthy night in. I’m retreating from the world, retiring inwards after a week of work.

“A single example of extravagance or greed does a lot of harm – an intimate who leads a pampered life gradually makes one soft and flabby; a wealthy neighbour provokes cravings in one; a companion with a malicious nature tends to rub off some of his rust even on someone of an innocent and open-hearted nature – what then do you imagine the effect on a person’s character is when the assault comes from the world at large? You must inevitably either hate or imitate the world. But the right thing is to shun both courses: you should neither become like the bad because they are many, nor be an enemy of the many because they are unlike you. Retire into yourself as much as you can. Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those whom you are capable of improving. The process is a mutual one: men learn as they teach.”Letters from a Stoic VII

How many people have we all encountered this week? How many of us could do with a little retreat over the weekend to recharge and wipe off the rust of another. Call a true friend over this time, call them and discuss something easy, something you can learn from, something you can appreciate and take comfort in. I have a friend who inspires me. They find themselves in retreat and I respect that – as do I find myself now in retreat. Passive activism of the self: shake off the dirt and energy of the week and its people, see it for what it is in its nature and return with a smile on Monday.

Gosh, perhaps maybe delete your news app just for this 48-hours. Delete your social media, if you can bring yourself to do it. Feel the weight of the world’s vices lift from your shoulders while you can before returning to the fold as the social being you are, as we are. I’m maintaining you can be a social being without social media, but not everyone has that luxury to switch it off anymore. I’m not judging, I’m just suggesting; a suggestion from one person on the path to another.


Quitting Social Media

I quit social media as the title suggests. There was no note or post about why or who – I just gathered the phone numbers of those important and deleted it. I’ve been on both Facebook and Instagram for over a decade and I don’t know why I assumed that I’d miss it. I still have social connections, I still know when people’s birthdays are, and I can do it all without seeing mountains of uninformed reckons and opinions. In the echo chamber, I found myself existing in a drone state of buying more and more arty design products and falling down random clickbait rabbit holes, hearing opinions I wanted to hear, meticulously crafted for my targeted demographic. The irony is you will find people arguing with all they have that everything is fake news but the repost they shared about some random anonymous strawman must be true. No one is above this, not even I, with my subscription to both Vice News and LadBible proving that sensationalism works on even someone who preaches moderation.

Here’s the truth: it’s all fake. A cyber reality dictated by click ratios and carefully curated images to elicit purchase or ad viewership. I have ads enabled on this site right now – how many, I wonder, are targeted? When I visit to preview the settings, all I see are lawnmower ads not that I have grass to mow.

“Accustom yourself not to be disregarding of what someone else has to say: as far as possible enter the mind of the speaker.”Meditations 6.53

In such a time of Ancient Rome, I suppose this would have been sound advice yet today that is more complex. When entering the mind of another through the platform of social media, what mind is there? A teacher I know said: “Lady Macbeth is not real, she is a puppet.” We call programmed ones bots, but the live performances, the personas of our profiles: more puppetry.

In an understandably human need for connection we have disconnected from what it is that makes us human, ironing out imperfections and scrutinizing any we see. I am guilty of this. I am not even a month into closing my accounts where I would inwardly scoff at the flaws of myself and others. Filters in principle, work just the same whether they are applied to a selfie or a scathing comment about Bill Burr.

“Look then at what is happening now. Only the intelligent creatures have now forgotten that urge to be unified with each other: only here will you see no confluence.” – Meditations 9.9.3

By coming together like we have, we have allowed ourselves to be broken apart: separated by invisible walls of the echo chambers designed to keep us easily marketed to. I wonder if the algorithms designed were ever intended to be so nefarious. It seems they were programmed to specifically spread fire and misguided passions and pride. From cancel culture to the rise of internet celebrity, bollocks we should feel indifferent about is injected straight into our brains. In media it’s called the Hypodermic Needle Theory just for that reason: you must care about Addison Rae and her boyfriend; you must care about James Charles; you must care about Jeffree Star ‘slamming’ internet trolls; you must care about what the cast of Love Island 2017 are up to now!

It’s the perpetuation of fame for fame’s sake. Even on the micro scale with Joe Blogs – for example – down the street becoming upset that no one liked his picture of the petunias in his front garden. Or Karen Smith telling the entire local community board to boycott a particular business because they are unable to cater for a very niche condition of some sorts. Perhaps even to some extent, this blog that I’m writing on now is guilty of this, yet I would defend that by saying that I have no expectations further than venting thoughts and reflections. Adding adverts is a nice bonus, I suppose.

Yet, despite my disdain, I shouldn’t judge too harshly if at all. Nor should anyone. We can teach or tolerate, as I’ve surely quoted before.

“Take your joy in simplicity, in integrity, in indifference to all that lies between virtue and vice.” Meditations 7.31