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November 30, 2018

After a long year of reading and experimentation, I have found a mini-calling to withdraw from much of my online participation and screentime. You know, participation is hardly the word because so much of my screentime has involved passive scrolling and skimming! I am probably becoming as pretentious about this subject as Neo-Luddite Frank Navasky from You’ve Got Mail, but I do think the mindful steps back I’ve taken have been helpful to me. I’m reading more, I’m journaling more, and I’m looking up a bit more. It’s not a perfect change, and I do still reach for my phone in unconscious moments of insecurity or mild boredom, but I’m getting there.

  1. Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, Linda Bacon. I’m getting a lot out of this book, which sparked the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement. It’s very well-researched and talks about the factors that influence weight regulation and how to listen to your body’s natural cues regarding food. It’s a very generous book and while I do find some chapters difficult/anxiety inducing (the food industry, eek!), it’s been an excellent, stabilizing force in the ocean of diet and nutrition information out there.

  2. Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound
    . “We know from research that the reading circuit is not given to human beings through a genetic blueprint like vision or language; it needs an environment to develop. Further, it will adapt to that environment’s requirements – from different writing systems to the characteristics of whatever medium is used. If the dominant medium advantages processes that are fast, multi-task oriented and well-suited for large volumes of information, like the current digital medium, so will the reading circuit. As UCLA psychologist Patricia Greenfield writes, the result is that less attention and time will be allocated to slower, time-demanding deep reading processes, like inference, critical analysis and empathy, all of which are indispensable to learning at any age.” This is really interesting, talking about how our reading skills evolve to fit the mediums we use, and how our current screen media make it difficult to do deep reading. But read this piece – it ends with a message of hope!
  3. Disruption: Saadia Muzaffar. “For the vast majority of these workers, their only contact with their employer is through an app. You sign up through an app, you interact with them through an app, you get paid through an app. All of this is fine until a worker does something, let’s say unsavory, that the employer does not like. They are immediately kicked off the platform with no recourse. They have no way to reach anybody, talk, clarify, renegotiate, and their work history is erased. So it’s almost like they never existed, doing the jobs that they did for many years at a time. These platforms also purposely don’t provide any way for these workers to connect with one another, so it is a very lonely existence as a worker.” Wow, this is a really interesting look at a population (online labor workers) that I hadn’t considered to this degree. The level of employee surveillance is definitely something I’m not comfortable with, along with the designation of these employees as independent contractors to avoid giving them benefits or a safety net! This is a really good talk.
  4. The Problem With Being Perfect, The Atlantic. This is an interesting examination of perfectionism. When I had a therapist, one of the most freeing things she told me was to shoot for “excellence, not perfection.” Personal excellence, meaning that you tried your best and tried only to please yourself over any external judges, is a healthier goal for me than an ever-distant perfection.
  5. The Ugly History of Beautiful Things: Perfume, Longreads. “It’s not always about simply smelling good: We want to smell complex, so that others will be compelled to keep coming back, like bees to a flower, to sniff us again and again, to revel in our scents, and draw ever closer to our warm, damp parts.” Gross! But fascinating. I like reading about scent; it’s hard to describe and I love when people do it well. “Smell is the mute sense, the one without words,” wrote Diane Ackerman in A Natural History of the Senses. “Lacking a vocabulary, we are left tongue-tied, groping for words in a sea of inarticulate pleasures and exaltation.”

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