Stoicism & Me

Philosopher, Life Coach and a little bit Scientist 📧 = nilsgronkjaer@pm.me

Those familiar with the concept of stoicism know it can be summed up in just about 4 virtues:

  1. Prudence
  2. Justice
  3. Fortitude
  4. Temperance

Prudence

noun: the quality of being prudent; cautiousness.

Justice

noun: the quality of being fair and reasonable.

Fortitude

noun: courage in pain or adversity.

Temperance

noun: voluntary self-restraint.

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Nowadays many favour the terms: wisdom, morality, courage, and moderation. Either way, they are mostly similar.

So how does this translate to being a philosophy that is pretty much free from judgement or stigma? Especially when the pursuit of justice is one of the four main principles of stoicism. Judgment is, in a way, almost written in the word “justice”.

Judgement in this case however refers mostly to how you judge a set of circumstances and of course in accordance with the other principles. The goal here is to be fair, which is part of the definition of “justice”. Therefore, attaching stigma towards one's actions is not the primary goal here. As judgement serves the purpose only of allowing one to be “prudent” (cautious) and “just” (fair).

In fact, it is written in many ancient texts including Epictetus' 'Discourses' and Marcus Aurelius' memoirs, that a stoic should care little (if at all) about things like “dignity” and instead should favour “integrity”. Even in mid 2019 a lot of people mistakenly use the two interchangeably.

Integrity

noun: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.*

*Though I prefer how Merriam-Webster puts it:

firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: incorruptibility

Dignity

noun: a sense of pride in oneself; self-respect.

So plainly put, dignity aka “self-respect” according to stoics, is not as important as integrity.

As I said, we can see this clearly in ancient writings. Examples and references to a kind of “dignity” are in abundance:

“When someone is properly grounded in life, they shouldn’t have to look outside themselves for approval.” ― Epictetus

“Out there men swear never to prefer another in honor above Caesar; but here we swear to prefer ourselves in honor above everything else.” ― Epictetus

”... we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinions than our own.” ― Marcus Aurelius

“You want to live but do you know how to live? You are scared of dying and tell me, is the kind of life you lead really any different from being dead?” ― Seneca to some guy who spent all day just watching Netflix

“If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, “He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.” ― Epictetus

Now I certainly don't mean to say at all that stoics simply 'don't care' about dignity. But put dignity and integrity side-by-side and any ancient stoic would have told you to abandon the former in pursuit of the latter. In fact, many have said simply to offer any degree of limb and life in the pursuit of the 4 principles. For these, if you must lose a leg or an arm, lose it and if you must lose your head and thus your life with it, lose it!

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” ― Epictetus

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So then, for example what does stoicism say about those who die not willing to lose an arm to disease? It says simply nothing but that each person is allowed to set any level of value over their own property. That is, all that they own and control including of course their life and dignity.

If one wishes to die in favour of not losing an arm. So bet it. If one wishes to run from battle in order to spare one's life. So be it.

Stoicism is a philosophy that is not only completely aware of man's inherent capacity for weakness. It is obsessed with it. Where almost everyone today seeks to find a label for one's actions. Stoicism was mostly just concerned with doing the right thing and putting that above and beyond one's own mortal value (read: dignity).

In fact stoicism is one of the few philosophies that understood the act of passing judgement on one's self and others can only do so much. For when you identify and focus on what is right and avoid what is wrong. Concepts that weigh humans down such as 'self-respect', well they lose their appeal entirely.

One final thing to mention is that despite the appeal that stoicism may have by not being a philosophy or practice that centres itself around people passing judgement on each other. Living by the stoic's principles is still one of the hardest undertakings for any man or woman.

Could you let go of your life for the right reason?

“Life is never incomplete if it is an honorable one. At whatever point you leave life, if you leave it in the right way, it is whole.” ― Epictetus

Could you kill a few to save many?

“The bravest sight in the world is to see a great man struggling against adversity”. ― Seneca

Could you resist the temptation to steal, lie, cheat?

“If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.” ― Marcus Aurelius

Could you still be happy if you gave away all your possessions?

“Until we have begun to go without them, we fail to realize how unnecessary many things are. We’ve been using them not because we needed them but because we had them.” ― Seneca

Could you go on living even if everything you held dear was ripped from you?

“Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” ― Epictetus

Could you commit to living by these principles every single day? I'd be surprised if you could, because of those of us studying stoicism. We know that people like this simply don't exist.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try:

“But if we are endowed by nature with the potential for greatness, why do only some of us achieve it? Well, do all horses become stallions? Are all dogs greyhounds? Even if I lack the talent, I will not abandon the effort on that account.” ― Epictetus

Ah the age of technology. We're all meant to be so connected and yet there's still so many people who just can't call or write back. It used to be that heavy prices for international calls were to blame or even time-zones. Whilst we've more than eliminated the former thanks to the likes of Skype, Whatsapp and Facebook. Even the latter isn't really such a big deal as far as just sending a few photos, following someone on Instagram or conversing through voice messages don't require both people to be awake and online at the same time.

So why in this era of extreme connectivity, are some people absolutely terrible at keeping in touch? I'm sure we all have more than one friend that has the default slew of social media accounts and uses them semi-regularly. They might even have hundreds of friends, like 500 or even over 1000 of them on these accounts, but when it comes to actually talking to people directly, you'll find them severely lacking in that department and often waiting even weeks for a reply.

Unfortunately there is no real one discernable cause as to why someone doesn't care about keeping in touch, despite the ability being right at their fingertips. Without actually asking that person something along the lines of “Why are you so bad/hesitant at keeping in touch with me?” You're going to be hard pressed to actually narrow down the reason(s) behind their lack of motivation in writing or calling back. In fact, apart from asking them directly you are most likely never going to get a solid answer “Why?” So it's important to be wary about putting too much effort into the wondering.

When I was growing up I had a friend that stood out from all the others. We had similar parents, lifestyles and likes that well and truly transcended those of our other friends. Both of us were more observant and analytical than our other friends and due to our family situations we both had a few additional strong bonds between us. In short, best friends.

At times in our early teens we also fought on the bus to school and didn't talk to each other for days at a time until one of us gathered the courage to apologise to the other. In our first year of school I punched him so hard in the face for talking out of turn to me that he had to go to hospital to have his teeth checked. 8 years later, now a black belt in Tae Kwon Do he palmed me the full length of a tavern bar for consistently (and drukenly) antagonising him about a girl he liked. Again, when we were younger he never returned my console games when he said he would, at times prompting me to go over to his place and get them myself whether or not he was at home. None of this stopped us being close mates and a lot of it added to the level of respect we had for each other and our mutual understanding of each other's differences. Back then at least, we kept in healthy contact and it seemed that this would never ever be a problem.

Until some years later, we both moved away at almost the exact same time. Two months later it was like we never knew each other. I tried to keep up the friendship using what manner of social media and communication options we had at the time.

I wasn't asking him to call me every bloody day, but send a picture or video of what he was doing at least every-so-often and just generally keep in touch with any cool news about his life. So nothing out of the ordinary and nothing impossible to manage for any normal person with a smartphone, laptop and internet connection.

I tried at times letting up on conversation and going weeks without talking. Months even, all despite how many ways we could have even just barely kept in touch. The occasional photo. Text. Voice message. Phone call. He wasn't prepared to do any of these things. I hated doing this, it wasn't like me to wait and see if he cared about keeping in touch. And yet...

And yet, he was uploading photos with his other friends on Facebook. Replying to their posts and making his own on their wall. Following them on Instagram and liking and commenting on their photos. In other people's pictures he was tagged in, it was quite obvious that he was certainly getting around and being social. I saw this all the time, I couldn't not see it because there was always something in my feed. So I started to think was this personal? Had I done something wrong?

Granted, he wasn't outright just completely ignoring me. He was just taking absolutely forever to get back to me. Exactly 7 days minimum, sometimes up to 3 or more weeks. On top of that, he never started a conversation and only replied back to messages I sent.

In my mind I mulled over hundreds of reasons why he could be behaving like this. Adding a bit of context, I'd moved to a nearby country, landed a great job and had a new girlfriend. He was single and I knew he hated that and he was also working at a bar that I knew he hated working at. Was he a bit jealous of me then? Was talking to me akin to rubbing what he didn't have, in his own face? At the very least I tried a different 'plan of attack' and I asked only about his life and left out any of the things I could be doing. I certainly didn't talk really much about myself and my life before, but now I even tried leaving it out of the messages I sent altogether. Nothing changed though, so I ruled that out.

image Outdoor gatherings such as these, absolutely rife with complete strangers were some of his favourite events.

Ultimately I went through my own few stages of coming to terms with the fact that we weren't really even friends any more. How could we be with this almost total lack of communication... Sure I had made new friends but that didn't mean that I had replaced him somewhere in my heart and mind. There was still so many reasons I had for us to keep in touch. Why didn't he share those reasons?

It wasn't until I came across this term years ago near to when this all started, “opportunistic friend” or more thoroughly described in articles of psychology as: “Opportunists disguised as friends”. After reading through a bit, I came to the saddening conclusion that my 'friend' did indeed have almost all of these traits... of not returning calls or messages and only contacting me when he kind of wanted something from me, be it even just basic information. Of a person whose replies were short and basic and more like he was barely keeping up pretences more to satisfy his own guilty conscience than actually because he gave a damn about our friendship. Could this guy who I would have described as “a brother” really just be this kind of cheap, fraudulent opportunist? Even though I didn't want to resort to some kind of ridiculous level of psychoanalysis, it mattered to me so I went over the evidence.

  1. Almost all of the photos he publicly displayed himself in were group photos.
  2. Any other photos he took or displayed publicly were those showing he was present (but often not himself present in the photo) at events, social gatherings, gigs, concerts or parties.
  3. Most of his public replies were directed at more than one person, instead of any specific individual.
  4. When he made textual posts, they were usually articles, images, memes or other fluff and he tagged multiple people in them instead of just one person.
  5. In none of his photos, was he the only person in the image.
  6. He never started any direct conversations with anyone.
  7. His replies were always a somewhat lengthy amount of time after the original post.
  8. Many of his friends publicly asked him how he was doing or where he was, almost all of these messages went unanswered and those he did answer were always short excuses like “been busy”, “been sick” et cetera.
  9. The rest of his posts were general questions directed at everyone and not anyone in particular about information concerning events, parties and so on.
  10. None of his photos or posts conveyed any level of dedication or obvious effort/care and were always hastily taken or seemingly written as briefly as possible and always for some kind of personal gain (eg. information).

Summing it all up, all of his behaviour was directed towards reinforcing to himself and/or others that he had a strong social circle and participated in social events. Anything else was just inquiries or 'checking off' any additional miscellaneous replies or remarks.

It was clear. My 'mate' didn't really treat anyone like a mate unless he was face-to-face. Social media for him was about keeping on top of what was going on around him. Maybe due to some kind of FOMO (Fear of missing out) or attempt to refrain from getting too bored. I couldn't blame him for those two things but it was now absolutely clear to me that he really didn't put any effort into actually conversing with any of the people he spent time with. You could argue that he clearly was just using social media for what it was intended for. Keeping on top of things around you, but I argue back that it was only for personal gain and not remotely to grow his friendships in meaningful ways. In truth it looked like he was just chasing the next thing that was going on around him.

In possession of this new information I contacted the guy's mother. Something that I realise isn't really normal, per se, but actually her and I are also long time friends (as are our parents) and she is somewhat guilty of the same behaviour to her friends, although to a lesser extent. She explained to me that she really didn't understand what the cause of his lack of enthusiasm was in keeping in touch but that she had even mentioned it and was sad that we didn't speak at all like we used to. Other than that she had no advice and even remarked that he doesn't return her own messages so she stressed that it wasn't anything personal.

Now having a good understanding of my position. I decided on one final act of reaching out, and if nothing came of it, I wouldn't bother again. Certainly I am not in favour of offering people any kind of 'ultimatum' so that's not what I did here. I sent what would be my last message as a simple “Hey, hope you're good, it would be nice to keep in better touch on Instagram some time”.

Two weeks went by. A third week went by and somewhere during the fourth I got a short reply (not even on Instagram) of “Hey sorry for not replying sooner. All is well here, just working a lot in the hopes I can move into a better place. Hope things are good where you are”.

So I deleted his number. We didn't have any connection on social media because I don't have any accounts except Instagram. I don't really blame this for why he didn't keep in touch either because when I did have social media, he never made an effort to use it to keep in contact with me. I did still have Instagram, mostly because it's something my mother and father enjoy looking at and also my girlfriend's mother, together with a small amount of our close friends. My mate never followed me back there and he never messaged me there in the 4 years I had that account. Despite me sending him my profile link at least twice.

It wasn't until the next day that I realised what I lost wasn't really much in the end. Even though he was certainly my best friend when we were teenagers. He became someone who I had less of a connection with than my librarian who I see and have a quick chat with when I use the library at least twice a month. I shared everything I had with this guy when we were younger, my games and consoles, my money and food at school and of course my time and ambitions. We both listened to each other's problems and we were both accountable. It wasn't ever even but I didn't care and I never expected him to reciprocate everything back 50-50. I didn't give any more effort than I felt I wanted to anyway.

Now, if he did contact me again and actually made an effort to keep in touch, I think I would be permanently wary of investing much effort into doing the same. I can't say when or how, but I do feel like something got permanently damaged along the way. I suppose it happened when I realised that he really did have seemingly all the traits of an 'opportunist' that cared only about being part of a crowd.

Going into my 30s though, I felt I had to draw the lines somewhere and consider the fact that, maybe we're actually both better off not speaking again. I hope however that in the future I can make an even better friend, one that is as equally invested in the friendship as I.

Like many things that starts out as a mere annoyance, though eventually growing into somewhat of an affliction. One particularly dark and insidious thing has more than reared its ugly head in recent years, and now far more accurately described as an epidemic disease.

I'm talking about the filth that is reCAPTCHA. Yes that seemingly harmless question of “Are you a human?” Truly I wish all this called for were sarcastic puns of 'The Matrix' variety but the matter is far more serious.

Google describes reCAPTCHA as:

[reCAPTCHA] is a free security service that protects your websites from spam and abuse.

However, this couldn't be further from the truth, as reCAPTCHA is actually something that causes abuse. In fact, I would go so far as to say that being subjected to constant reCAPTCHAs is actually an act of human torture and disregard for a person's human right of mental comfort.

Back in the 90s a bunch of smartasses realised that money was to be made and much time saved by programming bots to do everything for them online. Some bots were good and helpful and made things easier and more efficient for everyone involved. Whilst others were used to send spam and even caused some websites to crash or suffer lag due to repeated use.

For a time websites employed easily defeated methods for trying to prevent such abuse by making anyone (or anything) who visited/accessed page 'x' do 'y' thing. Mostly these preventative methods were something stupidly easy for even a computer/bot to solve and did little to stop spam and misuse except prevent access from those only computers/bots that didn't have a method of solving such simple problems.

To solve what was (at the time) an epidemic in and of itself of bots, reCRAPCHA was born.

Late edit: *Although the topic of 'who made reCAPTCHA?' is mostly irrelevant as far as this post's topic is concerned. I was firmly, albeit still mostly 'kindly' reminded that Mr. Luis von Ahn is the inventor of reCAPTCHA and who sold it to Google after ~2 years.* In my defence, the above wording is still right but as an author you have my apologies for not dropping your name sooner Mr. Ahn.

Google came to the rescue of all, as was arguably their responsibility because they were the ones taking it up the rear the hardest from such bots. With the torch now passed to Google, and in really no better shape than the original countermeasure. The below example is what you were tasked with solving, which in hindsight seems fair enough, though in reality – it's incredulous to ask.

firstrecaptcha

Clearly something like this frustrated people and it wasn't outsmarting computers either so it was time for Google to get “smart” and being Google, of course they realised they could kill two birds with one stone. So they came up with a way that almost no one was able to criticise them. They turned to making people solve reCAPTCHAs that were actually helping transcribe written works into digital format, searchable by OCR (Optical Character Recognition).

What am I talking about? Well do you remember the days when a reCAPTCHA suddenly went from looking like gobbledegook, to looking like this:

earlyrecaptcha

I know I do. I solved thousands of these myself. A simple quick single or double word combination which could also be played out via audio. Mildly annoying but quick and simple for humans, and apparently hard for computers. Except when it became trivial for computers. So Google had to up the ante.

It started out as the lesser of two evils, the good guy vs the bad guys. Except now the fight has evolved into a level of complete disregard for humanity thanks to the likes of these barstads. Yep that's exactly what it looks like. A “Professional” company that literally EMPLOYS PEOPLE TO SOLVE OTHER PEOPLE'S reCAPTCHAs.

Oh wait it can't be that ba-

  1. cough
  2. cough
  3. cough
  4. cOuGh
  5. and the list goes on, and on, and on...

How to meet the resistance in battle? Well, fast-forward to now and you've this disease that is reCAPTCHA v2. The piece of crap that you now find front-and-fucking-center of every single login/register page or text/form submission on the web. That beast that 'blocks your path' every time you want to need to login or write anything online.

recaptchav2

In 2017 and 2018, the average time to solve one of these annoyances was a mere 8 seconds for most people. I personally could do them in about 2-3 if I'd had my coffee.

In fact, people are doing studies on how long it takes different types of people to solve them. Such as this one here. Though mind you, it's from back in 2015 where you could solve these in seconds with both hands tied behind your back.

But now?

Now?

THE AVERAGE TIME IS OVER 30 SECONDS!

But don't for one second think that it has anything to do with some increasing level of complexity in the war against bots. No no no. How long it takes to now solve these things has increased due to completely deliberate and specific choices that Google has made in reCAPTCHA v3. NB! Yes, I do mean v3 here because these changes (increased complexity in v2) were only made after the arrival of v3.

I'm talking about why, despite you being a completely normal human being of sound deductive capability. You... just... keep... FAILING these things!

So why... whyyyy does this happen? It isn't because you are in fact a dunce who cannot count up to 3 or cannot tell how many buses or traffic lights there are in a few blurry photos and it also isn't because you don't know what a fire hydrant looks like. The reason that people fail reCAPTCHA v3 prompts so consistently now is because Google realised there was no punishment to forcing people to solve more of these 'human verification puzzles' and only more to gain by forcing (yes it IS forcing) people to train their AI for free.

“People whine non-stop about hidden crypto-miners in websites but those are in fact a far more honest take of the kind of beast reCAPTCHA is.”

In short. GREED is the reason why you are doomed to fail at least 2 to 3 times every time one of these blocks your path. In fairer times it used to be that if you had recently finished one, Google could tell and you would be able to outright skip any additional annoying puzzle or prompt after you had recently finished one already. It used to be that Google recorded a bit of your mouse movements and any other inputs you made and if those were 'human enough' you were spared the expense and agony of having to dance like a monkey to a tune. But no more. There are no short-cuts now. No free passes. It doesn't matter if you're logged into your Google account and allowing all manner of cookies. Google, despite its ability to track you even through every single reCAPTCHA prompt. They STILL force you to solve these things even though they know damn well you're not a robot. Why? Because fuck you, that's why!

“We have now hit such a dystopian phase in internet history that some people are in the business of hiring humans to sit in front of a screen and just solve other people's reCAPTCHA prompts.”

Things are only set to get worse too, and [I'm certainly ot the only one who thinks so. When we hit reCAPTCHA v4 and beyond the time that it takes to solve these prompts will arguably get longer and the tasks become more frustrating.

  • You will likely be asked to turn on your webcam to confirm you are a human, and not in fact a pesky cat that just stepped onto the keyboard.
  • You will likely be asked to enable access to your microphone and forced to sing the chorus to the likes of Billy Ray Cyrus' – Achy Breaky Heart.
  • You will likely be asked to open your phone/iPad/whatever and perform some action on a device other than the one you are trying to solve the reCAPTCHA on -

all begging the question of “I mean do you really I mean reeaaally need to login or submit that post? What if you try later... Maybe it will just go away? If only.

and...

YOU WILL WANT TO PAY A COMPANY TO SOLVE THESE THINGS FOR YOU. BUT YOU WON'T BE ABLE TO AFFORD IT! Solving reCAPTCHAs will be just another LUXURY like fast download and upload speeds, 4K displays and toilet paper that doesn't give you a rash.

But hold up, if you don't think that before you start to even consider that there must be a way to bypass or block these things just like you can block an advertisement online. Leading you to find one of those aforementioned 'solving services' and actually ever sign up to one of them. That there will, and, not LONG, before you ever could get to that stage, be an option to PAY GOOGLE THEMSELVES some form of subscription to bypass these things altogether. If such a thing sounds like a fairytale to you, my dear reader, you are very naïve. I call it the reCAPTCHA Pass I dare say it's already in the works and that, if you value your time, you will want one. With Google controlling the supply, demand and complexity of these bloody things, you can bet that their prices will be the cheapest!

Really I'm surprised there isn't a freaking crypto 'credit' service that exists that you can use to pay your way out of having to do them. Now wait, that's an idea! BRB whilst I go patent that.

Mark. My. Words. It will only get worse and there will be multiple businesses and services available pining for your money. 'When computers attack' the only thing that can solve the question of “Are you a human?” is literally exactly that, a human. Either you, or some poor sod you are paying. So what's it gonna be?

joke

It's my turn now but you won't take me alive!

#personal

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Final Edit (18/09/19): This was a personal post made in the form of a rant/satire, yet it wound up getting over 100k views after someone shared it out of the tiny microcosm it was posted in.

I was happy to learn that a lot of people empathised with me and even hundreds of people expressed similar frustrations. However I was also surprised to see so many people who took this post so absolutely seriously, even to the point of getting absolutely furious about it. I'm no stranger to ad hominem, but some people attacked even my “editor” (yet I don't even have one) for letting this “article” (it's not an article though) even be published...

Ironically, I was criticised for not doing enough research, though most of those who criticised my writing (I'm not a native English speaker by the way), didn't see that this article was filed under the “personal” tag and posted on an open platform for “speaking one's mind”. Yes I happily admit I should have mentioned the name of the creator of ReCRAPTCHA and I have since rectified this error. Finally, I also admit I mixed labels of v2 and v3 around. I've tried (though somewhat lazily) to fix this error also.

To further clarify that which I am amazed was not blatantly obvious. This post and all of my others are just as I am, imperfect and having flaws right from the beginning of the design process. I write to an audience for work, but my blogs are generally personal. So naturally I don't feel like I owe anyone an apology (except maybe Mr. Ahn).

Even though it seems this post gets only about 100 views a day now and I think its 'viral success' has long since passed. I just wanted to clear this up for any future readers. Thanks to those who provided constructive criticism and have a nice day :–)

netdeath

I've pondered this question for the last 6 months, wondering first why I didn't start pondering it much sooner. When did the internet start to go from being a joyous experience akin to those silly commercials we used to see on the television in the 90s. To one that often causes more harm than good for many?

Nowadays the internet harms and even kills hundreds of people per day, 1, 2. Just cyberbullying has been blamed for a 100% increase in self harm and attempted suicides.

I'd really like to pin most of the blame of social media, though that's maybe a bit too easy. A huge phenomenon that encouraged everyone to pour themselves out onto the internet to really no limit. Social media definitely did help remove the thought of using the internet for its original purpose but capitalism is the real guilty moniker which turned it into a place where you could fill the voids that exist in your life.

How do we answer the question of ethics when it comes to pouring ones feelings onto the internet, in particular to a public place where your posts can be read by others? Humans have for centuries fine-tuned the rules of engagement when communicating in person. The internet on the other hand, allows you to often get away clean with submitting all manner of content. In fact, there are millions of people who spend more time on the internet than they do having physical interactions with others.

Those aged 18 to 24 are around 20 times more likely to never speak to their neighbours, than those aged 55 and over, a survey carried out on behalf of Cancer Research UK found. Source

What the heck? By the age of 13 I knew the names of all 30 of my neighbours. How can teens and young adults living in a place as densely populated as Britain not speak to people face-to-face?

Rules and laws even fail to protect users and to this date there literally is no 'hate free' space on the web. The internet, which was created originally to share knowledge and improve products and services now only seems to get attention from people and the media when someone uses it to do something wrong. Positive improvements also always seem to be equally matched with some group of people trying to discredit any advancements in technology.

I use the internet to do my job. To teach, to learn and to write my articles and essays. I couldn't really imagine my life without it. When I think about how writers slaved over quill and candle in the dim light only to go blind before the age of forty, I consider myself lucky. I own one of the best and most portable touchscreen laptops (Dell XPS 15 7590) and I use it daily. It's an extension of my person. Could I live without it though? Absolutely. I've lived without having a computer for most of my life.

Up until 2016 I used social media myself. Mostly to keep in touch with friends and relatives that lived over oceans, and those of which were too lazy to consistently use some kind of free messaging app, which I greatly preferred. Through multiple counts of debauchery and douchebaggery from the owners and managers I kept on using it. Until one day I decided I couldn't use it any more. The ads, the drama, the injustice that it was rubbing in my face. Even worse was the fact that some of my friends were getting caught up in it. Fights in groups meant for selling items second-hand, arguments between exes and family members.

Why on earth had almost everyone I knew, even the boomers. Why were they all using the internet now to argue? What happened to sleeping on a dispute? What happened to agreeing to disagree?

Clearly humanity has forgotten all of those old stoic and wise principles of wasting not (including your words) and wanting not (including the need to soil the internet with your feelings).

I've long since realised that the old internet is dead. Murdered by the likes of

  • Twitter – which is nothing more than a place to fling shit at others.
  • Facebook – which exists to be a distraction and obstacle to meeting people you care about face-to-face.
  • Instagram- that serves the sole purpose to fuel narcissism in its purest form.
  • Snapchat – which is responsible for most people's present day FOMO.
  • Reddit – the crown jewel of content hubs which is now nothing more than a marketplace for shilling and astroturfing.
  • Tumblr – a site originally made to share pictures, wound up being used to share various types of porn and then proving a total disconnection between themselves and their user-base, they committed suicide all on their own

Mastodon is not far behind and is probably already part of the problem.

And ho'! People said that the Dark Web was the scariest and most horrible thing to ever grace the net. The supposed untrackable 'internet' that people sell drugs and even assassination services on! Today no-one even uses it though. In fact, only 1.5% of all people using Tor, are actually browsing the dark web 98.5% of people just use it as a source of cheap anonymity.

So because we cannot go back to how the internet was, and to be fair – we absolutely should not. Who truly does want to go back to the sounds of dial-up modems and waiting 5 minutes for a photo to download? Certainly not me. Faced with the knowledge that the internet is killing and hurting people. What can we do though to make the internet fun again? Harmless again? Anti-virus websites would have you believe that you just need to install filters and apps to protect yourself from 'bad websites'. But I'm not talking about the software and code 'nasties' that scare no one except old mothers. People are stealing millions of dollars with no need to go as far as making malicious code and programs to do it. Social engineering is far easier and even cheaper.

Sadly this is not where I get to say stoicism is the answer to safely using the internet. Using the internet will always be an adventure, and an adventure by definition is something that can result in personal injury or gain.

The only real way to deal with any toxic thing is to limit your exposure to it. Negative affliction via contact with the internet isn't something anyone is immune to. There is no more a cure or vaccine for drama in the physical playground as there would be either for that which happens on the web.

Before the internet came along humans got on fine and arguably had much more healthier habits. People walked more, people played sports and most importantly of all, people met each other in person.

I'm not really one for speaking personally in my blogs and online writings, as I am so used to writing objectively for work. But personally? I fence. I've been doing fencing for 16 years. Unlike football which I played for 6 years and can be done with anyone that has two semi-functioning feet. Fencing isn't a hobby that everyone can do. In fact like judo, it's perhaps one of the only hobbies that can tell you on your first day, whether or not you are cut out to do it, least of all enjoy it. Just like my early years on the internet, I was dissatisfied with football and not even sure why I did it for as long as I did. When I found fencing, it became something even bigger and better than the internet, that I built my life around.

So when I'm not fencing I'm reading, which I still am able to do thankfully more than having to write. Also thankfully, in Denmark we have a cultural norm of 'fika' that has survived the 'real life' social onslaught brought on by the internet.

To close this post, I'll sparingly refer to another personal anecdote. Of the 40+ countries I've travelled to it is (in no order): Estonia, Latvia, USA (the Southern counties only), British Columbia, Chile, Columbia and Mongolia and Western Russia. These of which that are mostly unaffected by the internet and where I see people engaging in healthy hobbies and habits outside and away from a screen. Arguably some of them would even be doing better without the internet.

European countries like Sweden, Norway, Germany and god-forbid the UK are doomed when it comes to the internet. You could even somewhat put my own Denmark in there which is sort of surviving at current but could go either way any time soon.

In a stupid kind of way, I wish those loonies freaking out about 5G antennas killing people were actually right for once. The saddest thing is that exposure to radio waves has nothing to do with it. The internet has already killed a dozen people in the time it took me to write this blog...

NB: This is not one of the mass amounts of posts on the topic of “arguing” that have sprung out of nowhere. Quite the opposite actually.

The other day at work I had an interesting discussion after giving a speech on an essay that finally got around to being peer-reviewed by my colleagues and some members of the public. After everyone had shaken hands and started packing up their things, I was approached by a man...

He was 29, here in the country on a short period of work where he was finishing his PhD (in a science related field) and he identified himself as a Cuban American. Naturally when he approached me, he opened with a typical narrative that almost always precedes a conflicting opinion of a highly personal nature. It went along the lines of:

“Hello , So, I really liked your essay and speech, it was a great and blah blah...”

“However,–”

Wait- This is where I expected any one of your aforementioned garden variety personal critiques, and it was... Except this was one that took me 5 hours. Yes five hours and at least 3 beers after my throat got so dry I suggested we take it to the pub down the road – until I got the point across to this person.

This man's argument opened with the fact that he was, as I said “Cuban American”. He started by telling me he totally wasn't your atypical American, and that he grew up feeling pretty diasporic and not really considering himself American. He also made it very, very clear that he was a leftist and lived in a very diverse community in New-England. Actually before he told me he was American, I assumed from his accent that he was in-fact Canadian. Anyway, the discussion started as I'm sure many people are familiar with. With a whole bunch of almost entirely unrelated personal and anecdotal nonsense that had nothing to do with the real reason he wanted my attention.

After he confirmed that I did in-fact understand that America was this huge country with scores of diverse communities, where millions of people lived and that some states in America are so different from others, they might as well be separate countries of their own. Aaaand further more after explaining that he was also (and I quote) “totally deterministic same as you” aaand... still really super impressed by my essay which he promised he DID read all of and literally (I quote again): “didn't just sit there in the crowd waiting to have this conversation person-to-person”...

There was still just “some things” not quite right about my essay and accompanying speech.

Before we get to that though, what was this guy's background/profession? He was/is a marine biologist... and he sure argued like one and not like someone whom like myself, had spent their entire life studying philosophy and by association (humanities). His arguments were of a highly personal nature but masquerading as 'objective' and in his opinion, “backed by ethics”. Okay then...

Whilst his arguments towards my essay and speech started out generally pretty loosely strung together, and littered with slippery slopes and an innumerable amount of pointless personal metaphors. When arguing back and trying to explain my own stance, he fell back on, and doubled down with increasing amount of anecdotes, where even the very sad ones were narrated with an almost immediately dismissive amount of positivity. This was a social justice warrior in plain clothes trying to argue nothing but entirely personal and selfish topics, but one trying extensively to come across as a completely objective humanist igitur “but what about the greater good”?

Yeah, I've met hundreds of such people.

So here we are sitting at a bar, much like the ones pictured below, but not the one pictured below:

bar

After giving me all of this context about who he was and where he was from, I was allowed to go into more detail about my stance on social justice, and why I do not think that it is worth caring about, i.e. Why do I have the opinion(s) I have? (Mind you, I'm of the stoic kind, so we don't care about a lot, it's really nothing personal, and I did make this clear to him).

First of all and I started with

“Personally,-

💡 speaking from first-person as this is typically what any social justice warrior is most interested in despite the cause(s) they identify with (their own personal feelings, not that of a collective)

-the concept of social justice has no personal appeal to me. I want for almost nothing in life. I'm not lonely, I'm not poor and most of all I'm not bored with my life.”

Queue the drum-roll before the reply

Ah so you're quite privileged then! No wonder you don't feel that there is a cause worth fighting for.

In any other kind of setting, I'd probably have interpreted this as a cop out.

So the next thing to explain was that I'm of the belief that there are two kinds of people. Note: though this is not a generalisation you'll hear me say out loud though and without a lot of context beforehand.

The first type of person, is very easily impressionable. I don't mean empathetic (although you do need to be somewhat empathetic to be impressionable), I mean impressionable. More often than not, you don't need a person to go running to them with a problem, to have them lend their support. I explained that historically this is how social justice started, with an initially small but significant amount of people who banded together to fight for self-serving principles and rights. Ultimately gaining their critical mass via appeal to emotion (fallacy) and via support of these easily impressionable types.

The second type of person, isn't very impressionable (not to be confused with stoic). If you were to run to them with a problem, you would find that whilst it certainly is possible, it definitely does take more effort to win them to your side. They are fundamentally far less readily available to support a cause. And that's what social justice is, a cause advertised under the guise of something specifically personal to an individual.

So I explained make no mistake, when you are supporting social justice. You are supporting a group, with an identity and a motto, who by association at any time, may or may not support the values or views of the individuals within that group. This is just for starters. Because when more people join a group, each person's feelings within that group obviously have less of an impact on the direction of that group. It's kind of like a fast moving boulder rolling down a hill covered in a mass of ants. The larger it gets, the less likely it is that it will stop and the more likely it will cause damage when it hits something. Some ants will jump ship after they realise this is not at all what they signed up for. Some will stay and be crushed under the weight and energy of the rolling boulder, and some ants are still wondering where the fuck they are and what the fuck is going on.

A problem with social justice causes and groups is that they are often comprised of a monumentally large portion of these very easily impressionable people. People who don't even so much as need an explanation of a subject before they move to rally behind it. History has also shown us over and over that usually what starts as an act of good faith ultimately winds up misrepresented by both those on the inside of the social movement and those on the outside. The rest of us not so easily impressionable types are usually also more rational and aren't about to go diving into something without checking out how deep it is and what sort of obstacles could be in the way.

By now, and seeing that he was getting nowhere with me because he hadn't yet convinced me of anything except that yup, social justice really is something I want no part in. This man had to drop the crown jewel of anecdotes. That he was gay, married and what a huge and great feeling of victory it was when he was given the legal right in America to get married, not to mention that his partner was also apparently at congress when the change was written into law. Truly... anecdotes are a social justice warrior's best friend! Anyway, it was a piece of information I had already gathered by now just via his mannerisms and convictions. It really changed nothing and only confirmed what I had already worked out on my own, even after 3 strong beers.

Now that he was sure I knew this crucial fact about him and why social justice is so important to him. I was asked, what it was that I truly cared about, if there was such a thing. Surely I had to have something I held dear enough to rally behind and fight for. Again, this was just another attempt to try and coax me into validating this guy, who by now clearly had proven no real complaint against anything I had thoroughly thought on before talking or writing about, it was just all personal. He wanted me to see that he was really 'just like me' but 'fighting the good fight'.

Well I said:

Oh sure if people moved in tomorrow on my community back home and threatened to eject my family, friends and neighbors I'd be on the first plane back to shout “Over my dead body!”

This was met with a very predictable “That's exactly what we're doing though when we support a worthy cause”. And ho' how I tried to explain difference of our examples, first being that mine was still purely hypothetical and on an absolutely miniscule scale compared to anything he supported. Secondly and perhaps most importantly, that I was supporting friend and family, not 'mob identity'. You see I said “There is a big difference between you and I, and it has nothing to do with empathy” I stressed. Truly I empathised a lot with his fight but the difference was that I was not from the same mould he was. I felt that I had about as much right as any straight person did to argue for a gay person and on the contrary I'm not amused when gay people try to tell me as a straight person what I should do or feel regarding my own sexuality or rights. Finally, even if this did happen through some crazy turn of events, if the whole world hadn't gone to shit for this to happen in the first place (at which point the topic of social justice cannot even exist), the legal system would do its job in defending my family's and neighbor's rights.

This still wasn't good enough, insert more anecdotes and appeal to emotion.

Well then, my final 'reason' for not supporting social justice is a really simple one and that is I think that suffering is actually a somewhat healthy and fundamental part of being a living being. I don't enjoy suffering, just like the next person but I do understand that there is a reason we suffer. For quite obviously to me, we suffer so that we can learn and adapt as a species, like any other. Without conflict life is boring and life literally has no meaning. If there is no conflict of interest on this earth, there is nothing worth doing. Who am I to dilute or rob the satisfaction gained by winning a long and hard victory?

So in short, how do you deal with a persistent and quite annoying person like this who's really just a selfish (but not bad, but certainly self-serving) person masquerading as a humanist and all round 'good guy' fighting the good fight.

You explain your stance simply like this (and save yourself the hours I should have):

  1. That you are certainly very empathetic (this is the key word they are searching for) and will help those that come to ask, so long as they can ensure that you will not be asked to place yourself in a compromising situation and that your support cannot be misrepresented in any way. You see, this is perfectly fair for you to argue but absolutely impossible to promise if you are being asked to support social justice.

  2. You give at least a few examples of things you would support if the need arises, but stress that they are not ideological in shape or nature and therefore cannot be unintentionally or intentionally misrepresented in any way. Therefore and same as #1 not able to put you in a compromising situation.

  3. You explain that you're looking out for your own safety and interests and it's perfectly fair to do so, as after all this is what anyone else is doing regardless of what cause they choose to identify with.

  4. That it is and you are certainly a person with strong feelings, who understands the need for change but that you are wary of any cause that wants you for nothing more than you being an additional single number of critical mass, rather than someone who truly understands and is directly affected by what-ever cause it is they're trying to sell you.

  5. If necessary you wish them the best in their fight. At the very least they will leave with at least what they think is your blessing, even if you didn't mean it. That is often enough, although only if you end with doing this and not begin with it.

If someone then moves to call you selfish. You reiterate that social justice is nothing but supporting a self-serving ideology. How are you any different?

Rinse and repeat as needed. You might not reduce any social justice warrior to a fumbling ad hominem fuelled mess, and hey c'mon you're a rational adult why would you want to help fuel a victim mentality? But at least you can walk away knowing that you didn't have to resort to fallacies, underhanded tactics or bastardry to prove your point. This person certainly won't have really anything to argue or complain about to others after making the mistake of bothering you.

Congrats and welcome to the philosophy of not caring, aka the 'not getting fucked by others' club.

Freedom of speech gave us philosophy, medicine, abolished slavery, gave women the right to vote, opened borders and many more. Make no mistake that it is far more important than most give it credit for.

After all the hubbub about #Gab recently, I finally caved and decided to give it a look. I preface this post by stating that I am definitely a strong advocate of 'freedom of speech' and I absolutely abhor viewpoints of any kind that condemn what can only be described as 'thought crimes'. This author understands well that there is a serious difference between hate speech and freedom of speech, though this author also knows very well what a world without 'free speech' looks like.

Now that we have that out of the way, I'll explain what I knew about Gab before having a look the other day. There's a very short answer here and it is; basically nothing. I knew only that Gab came under a lot of controversy and that it was a somewhat less moderated kind of #Twitter. That's all the information I knew.

Doing a quick search told me that Gab has had to move to a type of #Mastodon instance in the '#fediverse' due to non-stop attempts at trying to cripple the platform in literally every way imaginable 1, 2, 3.

Side Note:

I was also really sad to hear that F-Droid also recently banned Gab from its repo, which I personally find goes entirely against the fundamentals of 'Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)'. If you aren't aware of the fundamentals of FOSS, here is a link but for the very lazy of you, just see Freedom 0:

Freedom 0: The freedom to run the program for any purpose.

Which would obviously include allowing the installation of an app [Gab] that has literally the same policy. And yet F-Droid banned the app...

In fact, I'll be honest here, even though I certainly don't like 'Gab' at all, I was really quite angry that F-Droid's developer broke what has been a long and consistent neutrality to take a stance on what is literally nothing but a politically charged topic and has absolutely nothing to do with #FOSS at all. This only further shows that these days there really is almost no barrier between “feelings” and literally everything else in the world and given that F-Droid has no advertisers or investors they could lose by not banning [the Gab app] and that F-Droid should exist only to promote FOSS, taking a stance like this absolutely annihilates their credibility in my eyes. The founder of Gab has said though that he will fork F-Droid and work to make the original obsolete and I look forward to watching that one unfold.

Additional reading: Here is a very interesting discussion on 'Hacker News' about F-Droid banning Gab. Truly an incredibly controversial topic with many for, and many against the ban. One comment I liked in particular was:

Wait, Gab is banned but 4chan related apps are fine? What the hell??

Anyway back to the topic. Even after Gab moved to Mastodon, they have in almost every single sense been banned from view by anyone in other fediverses 1, 2, 3. One of the most fundamental part of the fediverse is that despite being in one, depending on your connections you can still see what is written from users in another. For Gab however, this is not possible unless you register directly on the Gab instance.

My personal favourite, the developer of Mastodon who made the entire thing open-source, back-flipping on the 'open' part and calling for a mass censorship, and getting mad that Gab forked their OPEN SOURCE app.

“So Gab has decided that their own code that they spent $5M of investor money developing is so unsalvageably bad that they're going to use Mastodon's code instead, with the added bonus of leeching off of our apps (with Gab apps being banned from app stores)

This is an early warning to fellow admins to be vigilant and domain-block them on sight, when/if they appear (unconfirmed whether they intend to federate), and to app devs to consider if blocking Gab's domains from their app is necessary”. – Mastodon Founder

Side Note:

Really though, imagine making what you boast is a free and open platform that can be forked by anyone and when a group want to use it for literally its intended purpose. You throw a tantrum, call for censorship and not only that but call their behaviour 'leeching'? Why did you make Mastrodon open source then? The problem isn't with Gab's previous code but with the fact that hosting it on a centralized platform has failed time and time again. I can't be the only one here that finds all of this very hypocritical.

Anyway. Now that you have an idea of how hard life has been for Gab and its founder. Speaking completely objectively here, we can finally tackle the question of “Is all this censorship, sabotage, and banhammer swinging really necessary?” Is Gab seriously that bad? Could a platform that advocates for 'free speech' really be such a massive threat to the comfort and safety of so many that all of this behaviour is actually justified?

The answer is absolutely not. In my mind Gab is literally a non-issue. It's a social network full of some of the most fragile people I've ever seen. What exists on Gab is really nothing but a multitude of frustrated rants from people who until the platform came along had really nowhere else to complain. Gab users fall under the category of basically wanting a place to complain about the the things on their mind, without the issue of having unpopular and conflicting viewpoints that would cause them drama anywhere else. Personally I think this is a perfectly normal, albeit unhealthy (that doesn't – not make it normal though) need. The difference here is that Gab is generally a place used by people who have severely unhealthy habits and lifestyles. Those of which affect their lives negatively and of course can certainly affect others in a similar way.

The problem is that we need platforms like Gab. Without them we are confined to Twitter, Reddit, Youtube and Facebook et cetera, all of which have absolutely no clear content policy and constantly backflip by banning or not banning users for things both against (and not against) their policies. My personal least favourite platform is Twitch which absolutely WILL NOT follow their own content policy by banning users that consistently break their policies time and time again, and wholly allows popular users who bring in a lot of income to the platform, to continue to break rules and push boundaries on a regular basis just because money (read: greed). None of these platforms can be trusted any more than Gab to be a racism, sexism, hate, aka 'garbage free' environment, least of all one that follows their own policies/rules. On the contrary, hundreds of millions more people use these platforms than those who use Gab and the web is littered with thousands of examples of egregious behaviour from users on other platforms, let alone from the platforms (and their staff) themselves.

Having said all that, I don't see why Gab gets so much hate. I think it all stems back to the guy who shot up a synagogue in the US right after posting on the platform. But how many people have committed a similar act of terrorism right after using another platform? For crying out loud the New Zealand mosque mass shooter streamed his entire horrible act live on Facebook!

Whilst I don't support racism, sexism, you name it, of any kind. I certainly don't see what all the fuss is about and if anything it seems that Gab has sadly just become the poster-child piñata for a solid bashing by anyone who has their feelings easily hurt. All of the bans from corporations show just how capitalist the state of the world is and how much power entities like Google, Facebook, Paypal, the list goes on, have on anyone who dares to hold themselves to their own merit.

I pity Gab and I pity the users on Gab, but I pity even more those who are afraid of free speech and those who are completely blind to the necessity of free speech. The real threat are those who would have us thrown in prison, or worse, simply for 'thinking' in a way that does not align with them. It's such a shame that the Dark Web predominantly became a place to engage in highly illegal and unscrupulous behaviour because the world needs a free and open internet now more than ever...

shills galore

Back in 2013 despite the fact that the web was experiencing one of its biggest booms in terms of sharing knowledge and advice, forums and bulletin boards were still one of the most popular places to find information and advice on most topics. For each forum you were required to make an account, pick a username and confirm your email which even to this day was a really cumbersome and honestly, really pointless task when you just intended on making one post asking for advice. Even worse than this, was the fact that you would have to sit and wait patiently, sometimes for weeks to get a reply that would hopefully answer your question.

I remember back when I didn't even know of the existence of Reddit. Reddit had been around for over a decade before I even got wind of it and I don't actually remember the day that I found it, or how I started using it. I just remember what life was like before it... I remember how many days or weeks I used to spend searching high and low for answers o problems I had about software or science.

The difference was, that I was happy. I didn't get all of the answers to my questions immediately, but I was entirely free from distraction. When I went looking on Google for advice or information, even if it meant taking the time to register on a forum to get past some kind of guest-wall that required registering to see the content I was looking for (see paywall).

When I started using Reddit I was amazed at how quickly people would reply to a question and not just how fast the replies were but generally how 'good' the replies were (very past-tense 'were'). In addition to this, themed subreddits generally had a Wiki that was full of mostly up-to-date information and tips from people who had more-often-than-not spent a few years polishing the advice and knowledge therein.

The problem was that Reddit was a two-way street. For every post of advice, there was this weird kind of 'unwritten law' that you should also be one to answer questions that you were qualified in answering. This wasn't made any easier to ignore with the presence of 'karma' Reddit's system of “rewarding” (heavy inverted commas here) people who make what the community consider 'good posts' and what amounts to shaming those who make 'bad posts'.

For a time Reddit was like finding a gold-mine. I had a connection to knowledge and advice at my fingertips that had basically no lag what-so-ever and I could get a response almost instantly. I used Google (search engines) less and less, and as for forums? Hah, I would never bother to register, think of a username and confirm my email on one of those ever again. Especially as they were getting hacked left and right and user's account information was getting stolen in staggering numbers (see image below, mind you these were throwaway accounts but the number is still insane).

breaches

Through the years of using Reddit I came to become totally reliant on it. Reddit was my go-to for advice on pretty much any topic. Heck it was my go-to for even entertainment. I was consuming Reddit on an absolutely massive scale and the worst part, was that I was even spending hours and hours of my life trying to find content to post that others might like, whether I was posting what I found on the net or even making half-assed content myself from scratch. I was doing this even though I wasn't gaining anything at all personally... and when I wasn't doing this I was answering questions and trying to help out. I didn't remotely care about Reddit the company/brand (in fact I sorta hated them) but I was completely sucked into helping others simply because I got a couple of good answers all those years ago and some dumb karma points that I was constantly trying to convince myself that I didn't care about.

By now Reddit had changed a lot and I was starting to see the growing trend of shill posts, astroturfing and a lot of other really shady behavior. The ease of making an account without even needing to provide an email address much less ever confirm it, was actually becoming a negative trait. People were making shill accounts left and right, sock puppets to argue their agenda and try to make it seem like they had a large amount of support. Now when I checked account's post history, comments, even the subs that were frequented on them. The more I started to look, the more patterns emerged. New user accounts that had few posts were somehow appearing out of nowhere in subs they had never visited to make controversial posts or replies to other controversial posts/replies. Things were well and truly starting to get out of hand.

Around this point I started downsizing my Reddit usage but even unsubscribing from a few subreddits that were really just a distraction and mere procrastination-fuel at this point caused me to go into immediate full scale withdrawal. I upped the ante without even realizing it and I made more posts and put more effort into other subreddits that I liked.

The problem was that I had completely unrealistic and personal expectations for certain subreddits, like they would somehow stand for something on their own. Without realising (or remembering) that people from all walks of life, all beliefs, all ideologies can post freely without even needing to register or confirm an email or provide any remote proof of their neutrality and objectivity, heck even the moderators of these subreddits are often the most guilty of such behavior. On the contrary this was now a platform with so many agendas being pushed so often and so heavily, that the only way to fight back was to reply in kind.

Things were now well and truly out of hand. I had lost trust in multiple subreddits that I once thought were beacons of 'free speech' and 'neutrality'. I also wondered how I went from getting advice, to finding myself even wanting to be on such subreddits. People were going ape-shit left and right and Reddit mods were banning people without even blinking, locking and outright deleting threads in waves of censorship. Moderator personal information was being leaked by furious members bent on trying to and uncover injustices and mods were being accused of having a personal agenda that completely infringed upon what people had come to expect the standard of a subreddit to be. The line between free speech and hate speech was completely blurred and no longer was there any 'fair' middle ground.

So I further downsized my usage. I unsubbed from literally ALL of the subreddits I was using. Used add-ons to block comments and even remove the comment box to try to lessen any urge I would have to respond to the masses of agenda pushing posts I was seeing, disguised as 'self-help' or 'advice'. So the only thing I could see was the first opening post in a thread I was reading. The problem here was that I initally wanted Reddit to be something I used for my own personal gain, but instead no one was gaining anything any more, least of all me. There was no 'right way' to use Reddit. Even after deleting all of my posts and then my account and reading the site still with comments hidden and no account, I was still face to face with politically charged poison on a site that I once naively thought was just about sharing knowledge.

So I sat down and I thought. How did this all happen? How many years had gone by. No one had changed my opinion in years. I was still the stone-faced guy who joined the site 6 years ago, in what I thought was me taking advantage of a wealth of knowledge available at lightning speed that was only one or more questions away. Why was I now searching for advice I didn't even need? I had gone from being reactive and looking for help only when necessary, to literally seeking it out of hobby.

Had I changed anyone else's opinions? Had I prevented a school shooting? Had I done anything meaningful? Even if I had, at what cost? How many hours, days, weeks of my life had I spent? How many hours of sleep had I lost conversing with others when I should be sleeping? How utterly far had I completely thrown all caution to the wind and gone from having healthy routines to waking up and checking Reddit only to be disgusted with what I saw. When it wasn't so utterly obvious advertising, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. It was some of the most insane level of shilling I've ever witnessed, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, check 1st comment

If you have the time, check the accounts that made those posts to find that they were ultimately deleted, brand new and just otherwise completely obvious shill posts or obvious bait, 90% of the time they stopped posting as soon as they were caught (read: burned). This is what passes for 'quality content' on Reddit. Even worse, a lot of subreddit communities were deleted for continuously exposing this shady and disingenuous behavior. So much for free speech.

So people couldn't be trusted, upvotes couldn't be trusted and could be bought for a few cents each and not even the mods could be held to a standard...

There was only one option. Completely and utterly boycott Reddit entirely and go back to search engines and trawl through forum posts for advice. I knew that it would prove frustrating at first, and I knew that it would take a lot of tries to ween myself off the site but it absolutely had to be done. Everything half-decent that once made it the most popular website on earth even kinda worth visiting, was now owned by companies or littered with politically charged wars and people were pissed.

At least forums were generally heavily moderated and posts didn't get personal and remained technical and mostly objective.

It wasn't as hard as I thought though and I soon realized there were so many other and better websites and communities for advice and information on topics I was interested in.

Stack Exchange and Stack Overflow for anything computer or programming related.

For Linux I, literally, could, not, choose, between, all, the, options.

Philosophy also had quite a few healthily sized communities. Here, here and here.

Really it seemed that the internet was doing fine despite Reddit having a majority monopoly on discussion. The Fediverse was also another interesting place for discussion but sadly suffers from a lot of the same problems as Reddit and in particular, Twitter are suffering from. Which is that a lot of people with no confirmed knowledge or expertise in topics behaving like they are some kind of authority on the topics they discuss... For anyone who isn't easily baited into arguments or strawmans it's not usually a problem but for those who aren't familiar with slide tactics and fallacies, one can get sucked into an argument that quickly goes from being casual to personal...

I will admit that at times I have missed Reddit and for some very, very niche questions I haven't found any other websites that would be better suited to the questions I have except for certain niche subreddits. However, I've decided that I can live without knowing the answer to every little niche question that I have and that most of the time I can just adapt and either live without or simply tackle the problem from another angle rather than just racing off to the world's worst bulletin board that's littered with both blatant and disguised ads and scores of furious politically charged people walking the edge of the banhammer. Besides, I got on fine without Reddit for the majority of the time I've spent online.

If Duckduckgo doesn't know the answer, then I'll either find out myself or look for an alternative. I only wish there was a browser add-on that let me remove every link to Reddit in any of my search results and I would truly be a happy man. When the eventual day that Reddit completely collapses and evidence of their treachery is made public, I will toast champagne to their demise.

I'm sure that no one is interested in my personal recount of a long #relationship that didn't ultimately work out (and for the best, I might add). However, as with almost all other posts concerning this blog, the topic here is how #stoicism helped me deal with the crushing level of disappointment I experienced in my relationship. I hope maybe in some way it could help you too if you find yourself in a similar situation.

When you ask most people how they dealt or are dealing with a bad breakup, or any breakup for that matter, or if you ask for advice on how to deal with one yourself, you'll generally get answers from people like:

  • Listen to lots of music and/or watch lots of TV and cry it out
  • Foster your relationship with God or find God
  • Go on a journey of self-discovery and travel and/or live like a hermit
  • Bury yourself in hobbies or other activities

i.e. basically do any and every possible thing that isn't facing your heartache and just hoping that good ol' time, technology or some form of socializing (or the complete opposite) will smooth the recovery of your emotional wounds.

This is about the most unstocic and often pointless set of things a person can find themselves doing.

To further elaborate:

My own sister went to India to “find herself” and see first hand the misfortune of others, and she even did a 30 day vipassanā course. All in an attempt to try and get over the ex-boyfriend she thoroughly abused and took for granted consistently over the span of 5 years. My sister traveled from Sri Lanka and Southern India to the west and Goa and then up North though India and into Nepal. During this time she (and I quote) “I saw a woman with maggots living in her arm and I could only walk past after deciding that I would return with at least some kind of food for her”. Well, I can tell you now more than 7 years after she returned from not only India, but Sri Lanka, Nepal, Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Denmark, Germany, Thailand and Indonesia (these were all the places she ultimately went to), she is an even more volatile, bitter and manipulative person than she was before she stepped foot into the first plane on her journey. Despite the story she told back then not even a journey of self-discovery that spanned multiple continents and a dozen countries worked in helping her become a more warm and accepting person. Ironically she's now preparing for another trip, this time in a personal van that she will use to travel around the continent and sleep out of. No bonus points if you guessed that it won't fix her horrid disposition and foul personality traits that she knows she has, until such time as she faces them directly instead of e.g. throwing herself into a place where people are worse off than she is in an attempt to try and foster some kind of gratefulness or something like that...

To put it bluntly and refrain from being pleonastic, I can just say simply avoiding your heartache and burying your head in the sand is a bad answer to a bad situation. To be even more blunt, you can just say that it simply isn't an answer at all.

Consider a similar situation where you find yourself fired from a long-term position you held at a good job. You had a fair degree of 'job security', good pay and your life and routines were somewhat built around your work, only now you find yourself unemployed and face-to-face with many new doubts, questions and emotions. If should we apply the same carbon-copy advice you will be told for dealing with a breakup, would you even consider it? Music and TV? More Church? Hobbies? Surely not! There are bills to pay, and yet why should your emotional health and mental well-being be instead so easily cast aside in favor of what amounts only to a distraction of sorts?

I certainly won't deny that facing an emotional hurdle head-on is often incredibly painful, in fact it can be so painful that many ultimately commit suicide in the face of such adversity. I also won't deny that distractions can at times provide some emotional respite in order to better face your problems later. The real problem comes with relying on a consistent chain of distractions in favor of facing the task at hand.

Life is absolutely full of distractions and even at its inception, stoicism and the stoics were convinced that back c. 60 AD, there was too much for any man or woman to concern themselves with and be distracted by in daily life. Things have only gotten more complicated 2000 years later.

Anyone even mildly familiar with stoicism knows that adopting a stoic mindset means that one must come to terms with what ails them. In particular, stoicism seeks to actually prepare a person for the pitfalls of life before they ultimately happen. In the famous book 'The Discourses' one of the first quotes from #Epictetus deals with the topic of humans facing an ultimate and inescapable death and how one should accept such a fate as quickly and maturely as possible so they can move on to what they can change.

So if we're supposed to look death straight in the eye, and according to stoicism, even consider to lay down our lives if it was the 'right' thing to do at the time, wouldn't then one consider a mere relationship breakup to utterly pale in comparison to the rest of life's pitfalls?

Well that's the answer. A breakup absolutely does pale in comparison to something like death and the end of all things, least of all the 'self'.

Around 3 years ago I got out of what, at the time I considered a pretty good relationship. Naturally I was heartbroken and very confused. This wasn't my first breakup, although this relationship was by a good margin, my longest. I too went on a bit of a soul search and traveled and even connected with old friends. Friends now whom I would not at all consider reaching out to.

Looking back now though, the time that I spent with friends, family and traveling and doing what I justified at the time as 'healing', was really just me acting out of desperation to bury the pain that had been inflicted upon me when my relationship dissolved. In short I was doing the same thing as my sister, just in another flavor and on a somewhat smaller scale.

Today I can say with certainty that the only thing that I really feel proud about was when I stopped traveling, stopped investing in friends that I had kind of always felt disappointed by and stopped crying about my 'loss'.

Even after the pain really did go away, I'm talking about the doubts, questions and emotions I mentioned earlier. Those that I felt daily, even after all that. The feeling of satisfaction, the peace and the calm I felt at knowing that I had accepted the fact that our relationship was a dead-end and we were ultimately incompatible. Despite the fact that I had, had regrets and probably even still did. I had faced my disappointment, walked the filthy swamp of 'grief' and ultimately emerged a new person.

Make no mistake. I was not at all the same person who had been for years connected to another through trust and love and life.

Often we tend to think of ourselves as having fundamental traits that we can never fully rid ourselves of. Habits both good and bad, likes and dislikes. Standards especially. People often think of standards as the one thing they would never sacrifice, and it's funny how something as simple as 'dignity' can pose the greatest obstacle in the pursuit of happiness.

Epictetus again has an answer for this in The Discourses:

[8]“For one person it is reasonable to be a bathroom attendant, because he only thinks about what punishment and privation lie in wait for him otherwise.”

We could apply the same reasoning to making yourself a doormat or emotional sponge in an abusive relationship or slowly changing to suit the needs and wants of your partner whilst forsaking your own needs and wants. Simply because you would place greater power on the fear of loneliness as an alternative to staying in an unhealthy relationship.

[9]“Someone else not only finds such a job intolerable for him personally, but finds it intolerable that anyone should have to perform it.”

A nod to the concept of 'dignity' and these 'standards' I explained, and also to the point that each of us as humans have varying levels of standards.

[10]“But ask me ... and I will tell you that earning a living is better than starving to death.”

*An early example of why we should not cut one's nose off to spite one's face and not only this but a clear example of why our standards and our concept of 'dignity' holds us back from what truly matters.

In the case of this post and topic, the freedom of living within ones means and not placing the act of being in a relationship above own self-value and betterment.

On the topic of dignity or as #Epictetus says in this case “integrity” he states quite eloquently and cleanly:

[33] “Consider at what price you sell your integrity; but please, for God's sake do not sell it cheap.”

Simply put, it all comes down to fear. The fear of being alone, of not finding another relationship as comfortable as the last. Which really in hindsight is so utterly ridiculous because if my previous relationship didn't last, shouldn't that say enough how paradoxical and thus stupid it would be to try to hold onto any feelings I'd still have to it?

When I eventually arrived at the obvious conclusion that my failed relationship did not, at literally any point of its existence, remotely 'define' me as a person, I subsequently got over my feelings and just got on with my own life.

So when I stopped feasting on distractions and faced the truths I've been discussing here I cut contact with my ex; we didn't stay friends or even keep in touch. The why here isn't really important because regardless of everything there really is no point in keeping in contact with an ex. Unless of course you have children but that didn't apply to me.

I could leave the blog here, and maybe I should. However, I still haven't got to the point I had originally when I started writing this blog post and what the actual title of it alludes to in the first place. So read on only if you are still interested.

Fast forward to the other day and a particular topic that is not remotely worth mentioning arose and my current partner suggested that I contact my ex for the first time in over 3 years to possibly obtain something we had in our possession which she once offered me because she didn't want it, though I refused because it had been bought for her. After discussing the topic briefly and rationalizing that it should be fine to contact her and politely ask, even offer to pay to obtain the thing I wanted rather than buy a new one, I decided on contacting her to ask. *“Why not?” I thought, “it's been years.”

I don't have Facebook or any social media for that matter, so my partner offered to contact her on my behalf. In the meantime whilst waiting for a reply, I reasoned with myself into making a temporary profile to contact her directly and just ask myself again anyway. I didn't have her number because I had deleted it when I cut contact.

In short, my ex didn't reply and instead blocked my partner and myself, something that shocked us both as we both had a mostly favorable opinion of her and considering the years gone by, neither of us expected this would be her response. Whilst theorizing (but obviously not obsessing) about what the outcome of her response would be in the beginning, we'd gone through the most obvious things she might do and of course considered that she might not even have the thing I asked for any more. In the back of my mind I had only a tiny feeling she might not reply. Blocking though? She hadn't blocked my current partner in the years we have been together, so why now?

As for me, I'll be honest and say that despite my best efforts I immediately got a bit annoyed. The nerve I thought, when we parted ways I left with naught but the clothes on my back and she walked away with everything we ever owned. I was contacting her to ask about one of the lowest value (but considering my current personal circumstances, relevant enough) things that I had let her have.

I thought about how I felt then in that moment when she blocked me and of course I thought about how I should feel. Honestly I wanted to throw all caution to the wind and tell her to shove that thing up her ass, but then I thought back to the topic of dignity and I realized some things.

Firstly, it was ultimately my choice at the time to leave that relationship with only the clothes on my back. I had already resigned myself to the fact that it would have been a pretty huge burden to try and deal things out fairly and that I didn't want anything that reminded me of our relationship etc. Just because I've since changed my mind and removed the 'emotional devaluation' from those belongings but that doesn't change the fact that I already made the decision to forfeit them all.

Secondly, and this was probably the main reason for the disappointment I felt now, I realized I had placed a lot of value on the fact that I was capable of spending all these years out of contact with my ex whilst not paying the past any mind, and during that time she had too. I was the one who broke the streak. At all the times, and for all the reasons that we both could have spoken to each other, even for the briefest of moments, I was the one who caved and reached out. I didn't even at first consider this to be 'caving' otherwise I wouldn't have said anything in the first place. However, when I realized how pissed off I got at her blocking my partner and I, it became obvious that's how I ultimately felt: like I had lost some kind of long 'silence contest'.

How very unstoic...

And yet, whilst lying in bed with my phone in my hand, contemplating going on a mission to find her phone number and call her a bunch of names, thus sabotaging what little dignity that I had left even though I've already long resolved myself to the ongoing task of living 'above dignity'.

I decided fuck it.

I don't even want that thing anyway.

Stoicism + 1

a.k.a How to make a fresh throwaway #Google account for a bit of increased privacy on a new phone, whilst still getting access to all the paid apps from another account.

Google Family Library

So after patiently waiting and fumbling around with Postmord I finally was able to pick up my new smartphone today. I won't say what brand it is, but I will say that it cost me 8,250 crowns and it's currently the best flagship on the market.

I made a decision before I got this phone that I would resolve to (wherever possible) use as many #FOSS apps in place of apps that aren't. For those less tech savvy here, FOSS means simply “Free and Open Source Software”.

In addition to the above pledge I also decided I would make a new Google account. Yes I know I just posted a blog stating that I would be moving away from Google wherever possible. Well that's a little 'extreme' for me at the moment and I'm not quite ready to go full tin-foil hat and throw away services like Google Maps away even though I do quite like Openstreetmaps.

The problem is this. I have an old Google account, and by old I mean ancient – merged over from the @googlemail days. I'm sure Google has quite a nice list of all of the things I've ever done on that account despite me having location and search history etc. turned off for years. One day I'll get around to asking them to send me all of my data under the #GDPR. One thing I cannot change sadly are purchases linked to this account, specifically app purchases.

At current I have paid for exactly 78 apps in the 8~9 something years I've had an #Android device (can proudly say I've never owned an #iShit device). Of these 78 apps, 74 of them were a waste of money and more than 75% of those 74 probably have better FOSS alternatives. A few months ago I downloaded an app that told me what I paid for all of those apps and I was both disgusted and relieved to find that it was roughly 1450 crowns. Not as much as I thought but also 1450 more than I would have liked, especially seeing as at least 30 of those apps have bastard developers and wound up as a 'bait-and-switch' or ultimately went free after taking my money. I'll admit I got a bit carried away with the earlier sales Google had, but thankfully about 35 of those apps were only 1kr each.

After scrolling through my old phone and counting the apps I absolutely could not live without, that is: Poweramp, Nova Launcher Prime and Bouncer. I can't count Titanium Backup because I actually won't root my new device and it's not worth using that app without root. I had to think about whether or not I was willing to pay (and thus add a payment method to my new account) for the apps a second time. I decided against this because:

  • I already paid for these apps
  • Google actually made one smart and very fair choice of adding the 'Family Library' so up to 6 people can all use the same paid apps
  • Adding more personally identifiable information to a new account would be a pretty redundant thing to do and I might as well just use the old account

That meant adding my new account to the same family library. It also means I cannot sadly delete my old Google account unless I am willing to buy those apps again.

Obviously I'll lose a bit of privacy for this. This is Google we're talking about and even though I'd like to distance myself from the nice record that Google has for my old account which I have used for everything and probably has years of Youtube history saved on it. It's just not a feasible thing to do and I had to rationalise between paying again or 'associating' my new account with my old in the 'family library'.

Easier said than done.

My fresh new Google account was made in a different country from my super old account. Apparently that's not ok and all members of the same *cough, family cough* must be registered in the same country. I got right to the end of the process adding my new account to the family and got the “It seems your country is different from the head of the family's”. Real smooth Google.

We can get around that though, thankfully Google allows you to change your country once per 365 days right from the Play Store. Provided of course that you are actually physically in a different country. Yikes. Take a trip back to where I registered my old account? I think not. Besides the country you have your Play Store set to only matters in the case of availability of 'some' apps.

Reason number 342356345347 as to why and where VPN comes in handy. I installed Wireguard as the first app on my new smartphone and used my old phone to make a quick QR code for instant access to a profile in the country I needed. It took a bit of messing about (had to get the details for my VPN account) but sure enough a quick force close of the Google Play store and it gave me the option to change my country as soon as my VPN was connected.

Except that it wanted a payment method as a final step to the process. Ah fuck! After all that I'm still going to need to add a payment method and it has to be one tied to bank or Paypal account registered in that other country.

Well cutting a long story short. I popped on over to a CC generator and made a fake BIN and after trying half a dozen and ensuring that I was generating BINs for the country I needed, I got one that worked. 30 seconds later I was confirmed and the Play Store reloaded. 60 more seconds later I had added my new account to my 'Family'. Then all I needed to do was delete the bogus payment information. HAH! In your face Google!

Now I have all 78 apps that require a linked Play Store license to download, ready and available to download on my new device. A good few hours of messing about just to save a few crowns and snob Google, all at the cost of a bit of privacy (like you get any with Google anyway). Oh well, you can't have everything I guess.

Here I will outline the goals I have for my blog, as well as a little bit about who I am.

  • Name: Nils
  • Born: 80s
  • Area: Western Denmark
  • Languages: Danish, Swedish & English
  • Hobbies: 'Fika' (we have in Denmark also), Swimming and Writing

One of the first books (that wasn't fiction) that I remember enjoying was The Discourses. Admittedly that book blew me away when I was young.

I started off with some nice light reading about stoicism, and philosophy as a discipline before eventually working my way up to the likes of Ethics and Human Action in Stoicism. I would have loved to have jumped straight in the deep end but in my earlier years I was a bit more content with playing my Gameboy instead of reading.

As to what I hope to achieve with this blog.

Naturally I want a place to write freely about my life and thoughts, not just in the realm of philosophy (which is how I pay my rent) but also on topics such as privacy, security and maybe even a little bit about a lifelong crux I've had: games. Bah! Try as I might, despite how I wish I was only fascinated with ancient knowledge and wisdom a significant portion of me enjoys certain video-games.

As for any readers I may have. You must excuse me for not directing this blog towards any particular audience, but I do hope nonetheless that you find it a relaxing and enjoyable read if you do decide to read a little.

Best, Nils