More Threats to Our Mental Cohesion

Like anyone else who works at a desk, I spend some of my goofing off time reading articles on how to improve my productivity. Some of the other time I spend reading articles on how to do the thing I'm supposed to be doing, rather than actually doing it.

Advice is always easier to accept from a faceless homunculus

Advice is always easier to accept from a faceless homunculus

But I also see headlines for articles telling me that I am doomed for various reasons, and I usually don't read those. I see pieces telling me how devastating Twitter or Facebook or just checking things on your phone is, and how I am doomed. I am not on Twitter, I find Facebook unbearably dull, and don't participate in much of any online community, and have no social apps on my phone. I will sometimes check if a new podcast has shown up in my feed.

I see articles telling me how everyone is fat, or sitting too much, or has metabolic syndrome. I also see articles on how exercise is good for your brain, or depression, or some other thing.

Of course exercise is good, and so you should do it. Of course being fat is bad, and you should not do that. I know this is controversial in some circles, and I intend to write about the rage such seemingly anodyne advice can arouse. But not now.

So I read articles on how being organized and getting things accomplished is good, and applaud the sentiments, and don't actually do those things. I don't read articles on how staying off social media and exercising instead is good, because I actually do those things.

So our content is consumed by those people who are least likely to act on what we have to say. Even good advice can be consumed as a substitute for actually taking it.

That's actually kind of weird. Most of the advice isn't fake, it's real. These really are things that you might do to improve your productivity, or lose weight, or make friends, or live a longer healthier life, or whatever.

But reading about them removes the urge to do anything about them.

My conclusion? You should read more fiction. That's like reading advice given to people who don't actually exist. What could be better than that?

That is today's PSA.

What advice do you consume rather than acting on?

And do you think the people who produce that advice actually expect anyone to take it?