Easy Choices and Spongey Learning

It’s a national holiday in Japan today, so I’ve the time to be able to write, and today’s topic is continuing the trend of me reflecting on the effects of disconnecting from all major social media, including YouTube.

It’s been nearly two weeks now since I made the decision to do such a ridiculous thing, and so far it’s been very easy for me to do, and I’ve been writing about the things I’ve observed – like the smoke and mirrors of the digital realm – and the effects it has on my mind, especially in regards to clarity of thought.

Today it’s about how easy it has been recently to make decisions on what to do, and how much that “cognitive space” I wrote about previously has improved my ability to learn and absorb information.

I’ve noticed that over the past week or so, when making decisions on what to do in my free time, what to buy, what to write and everything else that involves choice, I’ve been a hell of a lot quicker on my decisions and overall a lot more satisfied too. This morning I slept in (and not to mention had fantastic sleep) and after waking up, quickly made decisions on what to do today. I decided to go for a long, brisk walk after I clean my house up while coffee brews and laundry works its machinery magic, then head to a cafe, write up another blog post, head home and do other shit. It was all pretty quick, there was very little consideration of options, and I’m all the more satisfied for it.

Another recent choice I made was the choice to purchase a new game (it’s called Sifu, it’s god damned great and their previous game was, too). I was interested in it a while ago, but because I lack access to social media I didn’t really have the opinions of others surrounding my purchasing decision. I just had a look at quick review summaries, trailers and then went for it without much else to consider.

Thoroughly enjoying it and am very satisfied with my purchase. I know for a fact that had I been using YouTube, I’d be looking at review videos of some dingus spending 45 minutes on a review for the game, analyzing every little bit and being so-so on it because it once glitched and did a small thing that annoyed them, or it was “too short” (I hate this particular critique). Then there’d be 48,000 comments of people talking about how he’s wrong and shit, or he’s right and good, or in between, etc etc.

It’ll just be an avalanche of information that I don’t particularly need to know or care about, and it’d paralyze my ability to make decisions based on the fact that I see so much information and I’d be confused as to whether the game is good or not.

This isn’t to say that getting opinions or feedback on products is a bad thing, but there is such a thing as too much, and we also live in a culture where we criticize every little damn thing and are never, ever satisfied. I’ve seen reviews that give games a shit score because it doesn’t hold their hand and requires thought to complete puzzles, for fucks sake. Do you get pissed off when someone doesn’t hold your hand walking to the train station too, you little shit? It’s not really a game anymore if it babies you through everything. Use your god damned brain.

Repressed anger at gaming journalism aside (I’ve worked in that industry, most journos are horrifying at games and slimy assholes), too much information confuses you with too many variables that aren’t important to the decision making process. Are the graphics perfect? Does it have 4k textures? Does it run at 165fps locked on a GTX 960 at 4k? No, 5 out of 10.

These things are non essentials. They are worth looking at, but ultimately the purchasing decision comes down to one question:

“Am I interested in this product?”

If yes, check quick summary on quality, check overall rating, consider whether you can afford it – buy.

If no, cool. Go do something else.

That’s all you need. Everything else is noise.

One of my favourite games to go back to and play constantly is Tales of Maj’Eyal. It’s a top-down roguelike in the hardcore sense with basically Windows 95 quality icons for graphics and a UI that confuses the hell out of you at first. For any modern day hype reviewer who thinks AAA games with game breaking bugs are good though, this game is a total shitshow.

But god damn does it deliver in gameplay and fun factor. It’s my kind of game. I found it via just browsing the internet and I have over 100 hours in the damn thing. It’s a legitimately amazing game – but barring the niche communities that adore it, you won’t hear about that. You have to discover it and be interested in that type of game to actually get it.

My point though is that the decision to play and enjoy it was my own, and I was infinitely more satisfied that way – I wasn’t told what to play and recommended by others. Because YouTube and the internet is at your disposal, you can be bombarded with far too much information that is irrelevant and get lost at the fact that the fundamental question is “Am I interested or not?”.

If you’re interested, do a quick research summary to ensure it’s not a broken pile of Biomutant shit. Then if it’s fine and not Biomutant, then go and buy it. I’m not sure if you can tell, but I really hate Biomutant.

Choices are much easier when your access to information is clean and low in noise. Not all information is useful. Remember the rule: filter what is useless, take what is useful.

The other factor that I’ve noticed is how fast and efficient I’m becoming when learning things, in particular I’ve noticed it with my Japanese speaking ability.

I’m already conversationally pretty fluent and can essentially sort out my bills and taxes without too much hassle, but my weakpoint is in grammar and acquisition of new words. That and reading, but reading is a different skillset and probably the really hard part in Japanese due to its use of three different writing systems that are used in different contexts, and have different pronunciation depending on the context. 学ぶ and 学校 both share the same kanji character at the beginning, but the first set is “manabu” and the second set is not “manakou”, but “gakkou”. Why? Onyomi, Kunyomi and Jukugo, too – look them up. Japanese is very tricky.

I digress. I’ve noticed that in the past week and a half, my ability to speak Japanese has actually improved, and notably so. I pick up on things and respond faster than I did before.

I do practice it daily, and my girlfriend being Japanese means that I speak pretty much entirely in Japanese with her – and hot girls are a great incentive to learn (fyi, incentive is an important part of language acquisition. You need a motivated reason why you’re learning). But I’ve noticed that I’m actually remembering things quicker and communicating way, way faster.

The only factor that I could consider is the whole social media detox thing. It correlates directly with the timing of starting that, and given the fact that I’ve been speaking about the whole clarity of mind thing, I think the extra room I have in my head gives me the room I need to learn the things I focus on far faster due to having room.

This is important – it’s similar to having physical things around you, distracting you from your goals. When our room is cluttered and noisy, we can’t really focus because there’s so much information to take in. The internet is the same thing – you’re still taking information in from social media, the internet and all that, it’s just not physically around you – it’s more a passive thing as you’re looking at your phone and doom scrolling away.

While you’re not particularly focused on random tweets, your brain is still noticing it, and everything you notice takes a little bit of space away from your mind. Not just that but advertising and people’s wording on the internet are often designed to drag your attention with it. Flashy shit, carefully worded sentences and spacing, all of it is strategic and works to pull your attention.

That’s energy taken away from focusing on things actually important to you, and thus, less energy to memorize and learn things.

I strongly believe this is the reason I’ve been learning so fast recently. I’ve been sleeping a lot better too, and that definitely has an effect on cognitive performance, but all of it is compounding off the fact that I’ve been cutting off all my time on social media.

It’s pretty nuts so far. Calmer, happier, more focused on my interests, and making decisions far better, too. I think there’s definitely something to this experiment that I think a lot of people can benefit from, and to be honest if you have a hard time cutting off social media and find the thought insufferable, then maybe you’ve got some demons to sort out or you’re evading something. I don’t think that’s healthy.

Social media is not food, but it’s definitely a huge god damned distraction. Useful, but like all tools, how you use it matters most.

More writing, soon.




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