Social Media is a Cancer

Sunset over Wilmington Island

Back in January, I came up with my new social media rules and they worked for a while, but the more I actually looked at how I felt before and after a session on Facebook or Twitter, I decided they weren’t working – and worse, that at least those two platforms aren’t worth it.

Facebook is a cancer that’s taken our relationships and turned them against us in order to sell advertising. I’ve always called Facebook “what community would look like if designed by a sociopath” and it just gets truer. Facebook, as a company, has no ethics, no moral compass, and lies constantly about the effects it has on our society, and more importantly, our relationships. It’s powered by outrage and amping up emotions.

I started taking stock of my emotional state before I opened Facebook and then after I close it, and I never feel better after having scrolled through the outrage-of-the-day posts, dumb memes and gripes about this and that. Never. Not once.

Twitter’s even worse. I used to say that Twitter was the internet’s dinner party where you’re always two seats away from the best conversation. Now, it’s the internet’s brick fight. It’s constant outrage, clapbacks, sarcasm, and vain attempts at temporary viral glory. It’s gone from fun to toxic.

So, what to do about it? Eject. I now treat Facebook and Twitter like email addresses I don’t care about. I check it once or twice a day just to see if I have any new notifications and that’s it. I might post when I write something new here, or if there’s an event I’m organizing (like codebar), but that’s it. No more endless scrolling. No more posting in hopes of more likes. I still post photos to Instagram, because photos are great and it’s been somehow immune to the worst impulses of its parent company.

It’s taken a while to break the habit. Deleting the Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone has helped. But, I also installed several new games on my phone to try to keep myself from going back to old habits (I’ll just start toxic new ones, yay!). Instead of compulsively opening Facebook when I pick up my phone, I’ll see what’s going on with the Angry Birds or if I can level up a hero in Fieldrunners Attack.

I’m sad about the state of social media. I had such hopes for them bringing people together and building empathy. Unfortunately, it’s brought together nazis, pedophiles and assholes – and the rest of us now have pointless arguments to make algorithms happy. It’s all so… stupid.

I don’t know where those platforms will end up, but at this point, I don’t care and they can go there without me being trapped there.

My New Social Media Rules

Social Media, Social Media, Social Media! It’s awful! It’s ruining everything! Why are we all still using it then! I’ll leave it to experts to explain that part, but in an effort to extract myself from the worst of Facebook and Twitter, here are my new rules for myself. I’ve been following some form of them for over a year, and they’ve definitely made me feel better, almost as good as when I stopped watching cable news.

My Facebook Rules:

  1. Remorselessly snooze and unfollow toxic people, even if they’re close friends or family. I’m trying a two snooze then unfollowing if I still can’t deal with their posts showing up in my feed.
  2. Don’t dive into comments on a post where you don’t know everyone. There are too many trolls, and it’s not worth it.
  3. Don’t join new groups unless you have to.
  4. Never ever ever click ads. They’re almost always a scam anyway.
  5. No quizzes ever, not even the funny ones.
  6. Don’t share content from pages you don’t run.
  7. Set a timer. That’s your “mindlessly wandering Facebook” time. When the timer goes off, close the app.
  8. Use Facebook in a browser you don’t use for anything else (or use the Firefox Facebook Container extension).
  9. Before you post, think “should this be a blog post?” and post it here instead of on Facebook. It’ll last longer, and you’ll be able to find it again.

My Twitter Rules:

  • Don’t leave twitter open all the time. Check it like you would email.
  • Don’t speak in the internet’s, and especially twitter’s, default “sarcastic jackass” tone. Be conversational. Be helpful. Be fun. Because there’s too little of all of that.
  • Don’t feed the trolls (this is evergreen, but twitter is now majority troll and it’s just not worth it).

I don’t always follow them. I’m human. I screw up, and I can’t think of a case where I didn’t regret it almost immediately. I hope they’re helpful to you.

Leftovers Accomplished: Turkey Ramen

A finished bowl of turkey ramen

What do you do with your turkey carcass after Thanksgiving? My mom suggested making stock, so that’s what we did! And then I realized that we could turn that stock into ramen broth with just a few more ingredients and with the crock pot, we could do it with a lot less effort than it took to make Momofuku ramen broth (which my son and I took 12 hours to do one day – it was delicious, but a lot of work).

So, here’s my turkey ramen recipe, which turned out way better than I expected and was slurped up in minutes by my family.

  1. We took the turkey carcass, with some leftover meat on it, legs and wings (which no one in my family likes), tore it up and stuffed it disrespectfully into my 6 quart crock pot, then covered it with water. We’d smoked the turkey, so you may get different results if your turkey was roasted, but it’ll still be good.
  2. Crock pot it on low for 18 hours (really).
  3. Strain out the broth. I used a metal colander because I don’t have one of those fancy soup colander things. I just wanted to make sure I caught any bones and big chunks. The great thing about ramen broth is that you don’t have to be as diligent about skimming off fat as you would with a classical stock.
  4. After straining it out, I put the broth back in the crock pot with two packages of mushrooms (one shiitake, one baby bella), a chunk of jowl bacon and two ham hocks and let it go for another 18 hours. You could use bacon ends, a ham bone, just something porky to give it some extra punch. I also added some more water to get it back up to almost the top (I left about an inch between the broth and the top).
  5. With about four hours to go, I added 2-3 tablespoons of soy sauce. It probably doesn’t matter too much when you add this.
  6. I didn’t have any ramen noodles, so I made pad thai noodles, which worked fine.
  7. Plating is pretty easy. In each bowl, I put:
    • 1 poached egg (I poached them in a sauce pan full of water and put the eggs in biscuit cutters to keep them together)
    • Chopped green onions
    • Grated carrots
    • Some chopped up leftover turkey
    • Finely chopped roasted unsalted peanuts.

That’s pretty much it! The broth came out full of strong flavors, which matched well with the light flavors in the bowl.

I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the 12 hour process. This worked really well and should be super flexible.

The only thing I might do differently is to actually make the tare instead of just dumping in soy sauce, since it’s easy to make and super versatile. If I were starting from scratch and had it handy, I might also start with the konbu broth and then pour that over whatever poultry I started with in the crock pot.

If you come up with interesting twists on it, let me know what you do!

Hi There

The longer I see that almost-year-old post sitting there on the homepage, the more daunting it gets to think of something worthy of kicking it out of the top spot.

I’ve been blogging a lot (ok, not a lot) on the Rails Machine blog, but work, the Creative Coast and other stuff seems to take up all the time I would otherwise spend writing.

In fact, I have to write a column for the paper that’s due on Monday, so I guess I should go do that instead of writing this drivel.

Recent Realizations

  • Being CEO means making decisions all the time. You don’t always have time to think about them and not making a decision is actually making a decision.
  • The more decisions you can let other people make, the better. The trick is knowing which ones you can afford to delegate.
  • I still have a lot to learn about the business side of things, and not a lot of time to learn them.
  • I miss writing code full-time. I miss the order of write, test, debug, repeat. Management is unpredictable and messy.
  • Comfort Eagle is Cake‘s best album.
  • There’s a fine line between thinking about a problem and wasting time.
  • I wish there were more British-style quiz shows in the US. I’d watch the hell out of a US version of QI, 8 Out of 10 Cats or Mock the Week.
  • The code I’m most proud of from the past 12 months has got to be my OAuth2 server. I looked at it again today after not seeing it in a while, and it’s gorgeous. Most code I’ve written disgusts me if I go back to it 6 months later.
  • Savannah is the perfect town to wreak creative havok in. It’s the right size where one person can make some real change happen if they set themselves to it (or even if they half-ass it like I do), and a great creative community that’s easy to “infect” with good ideas who will either jump in and help or at least cheer you on.

This and that

  • I’ve misplaced my iPod. I am bad enough at cleaning the house with it, I can’t imagine what I’ll be like now. Booo. I need my crutch! I am going to dig out our 80s-inspired iPod that is the size of my head and see if I can duct tape it to my body. That should get me through the day, I hope.
  • The kids didn’t have school yesterday so we went down to Kevin’s office for lunch. The boys were happy when practically the whole office went with us. They just looooooove Kevin’s coworkers. Brian especially enjoys spending time with the office manager, Juliet. He makes sure to sit with her and walk with her and give her hugs. He got mad at me once and said, “I don’t love you anymore. I just love Daddy and Juliet.” A couple of weeks ago a bunch of us went out to dinner, including Juliet’s parents. Brian was really excited to meet them. I joked that he was meeting the in-laws. It’s so cute to watch and Juliet is so nice to him.
  • I had a (bad) dream last night that we were moving to Utah, where we would be isolated in our liberal, hippie views AND we’d have to deal with constant four-foot snow. Kevin was thoughtful enough to buy lots of Christmas decorations so our new neighbors would like us, though. Hmm.
  • As far as I can recall, I have never voted for a winning presidential candidate before. (I honestly can’t recall which candidate I voted for when Clinton was reelected, which wasn’t my first election.) It’s nice for that streak to be over.
  • We’re going to the in-laws for Thanksgiving and I am really looking forward to seeing everybody. Kevin’s brother and his family, including a baby, will be there. YAY. And an aunt, cousin, and and a grandma are coming too. Lots of family time! I love it when the boys get to see their extended family. The downside is that we are staying in a hotel, which is my least favorite thing to do with kids. Worse than 4 hours at the Health Department without a lunch break, even. But that is what happens when your family quadruples in size, yes? So, nice problem to have, all things considering.

How I Use Evernote

I mentioned on twitter the other day that I love Evernote and use it to keep my daily to-do list and keep track of what I work on. A couple people said I should write a blog post about it. Since I’m just waiting for my Tylenol PM to kick in, I figured… why not.

If you’ve never heard of it, Evernote is a note-taking app that is accessible from anywhere. They have desktop applications for OS X, Windows and the iPhone and a really nice web interface too. I clip things I’m reading to it all the time to either save for later or because I know I’m going to want to send it to people and might not be able to find it again. I put quotes in it I want to save, put URLs to things, and even jot notes down on the iPhone if I come up with an idea while I’m out. It’s fine for that, but I didn’t become a heavy user of it until I started keeping track of my to-do list. I’d tried implementing GTD (Getting Things Done) several times before, but it never stuck, until now.

Evernote has the idea of notebooks and notes. I have notebooks called Stuff – for everything not work-related that’s not a to-do list, Journal – for all my daily to-do lists, and Work – for work stuff I want to remember.

Here’s how I use it for keeping track of my daily to-do list:

  • I have the desktop application open all the time. It’s never closed unless I’m rebooting, so my to-do list is only ever a couple keystrokes away.
  • Either at night before I leave work, or first thing in the morning, I create a new note in my Journal notebook with the date as the title.
  • Then, I just start creating a list of to-do items I want to get done that day. They’re usually always work-related, but sometimes they’re not (lthis week, one was: “Call doctor about the whole not-being-able-to-breathe thing” – and I did… check!).
  • Then, as I go through the day, I’ll either just check them off if they’re simple, or add details about exactly what I did and approximately how long it took. The details are the important thing, since I can now remember the steps I went through to do something and have much better recall when I need them again.

This sounds really anal, I know, but it’s really helped me concentrate on my productivity, and how much time I spend doing things other than the stuff I really need to get done that day. I also remember more of what I do during the day just by writing it down.\
The to-do items in Evernote are still a little buggy. For example, until recently, you could only add them in the desktop application and you couldn’t mark them complete in the web if iPhone apps. I just checked and you can’t mark them done in the web interface… oh well, nothing’s perfect (and it’s still in beta).

There are some great web apps out there that are all about to-do lists, and I’ve tried most of them (I got the farthest with Remember The Milk). I think Evernote is sticking because I use it for more than just the to-do list, and I can get to it wherever I am.