Links: August 2017

Social Media Is Worse Than You Can Imagine

Julie Beck, a psychology writer, explores how spreading anxiety about important issues through social media tends to be counterproductive.

While the intentions might be good, moralizing worry distracts from the real goal by turning people’s attention inward to their own emotional states, rather than outward onto the problem.

Additionally, she examines how social media enables extreme societal anxiety.

[Social media] creates containers for anxiety to swirl in on itself, like a whirlpool in a bottle.

I consider social media to be a public health disaster, but I’m not a doctor.

That said, it seems unlikely that usage would ever decrease or that governments could (effectively) regulate it. Like some of our other historical mistakes, we’ll need to figure out a way to live with it. Don’t ask me how, I’m not a doctor.

Life, Figured Out

I noticed this article being applauded by various Silicon Valley indoctrinates.1 2 Perhaps unsurprisingly, it struck me as parochial. It is a muddling of cultural values and human nature.3

Remarkably, Mr. Stulberg has figured out the best way to live. He extols the virtues of living “unbalanced” life, in which you concentrate all of your available time and energy into something that excites you. However, he notes that developing “internal self-awareness” is critical to managing relentless pursuits.

Maybe the good life is not about trying to achieve some sort of illusory balance. Instead, maybe it’s about pursuing your interests fully, but with enough internal self-awareness to regularly evaluate what you’re not pursuing as a result — and make changes if necessary. Living in this manner trumps balance any day.

Hmm, this sounds like balance.

  1. Always alarming.↩︎

  2. Confirmation bias is a helluva drug.↩︎

  3. The usage of flow is a misappropriation.↩︎

Are You a Carboholic?

What I’ve realized is that eating a little of a tasty dessert or a little pasta or bread fails to satisfy me. Rather it ignites a fierce craving for more, to eat it all and then some. I find it easier to avoid sugar, grains and starches entirely, rather than to try to eat them in moderation. The question is why.

I’ve always thought I just was a fat kid inside.

This effect of insulin on fat and carbohydrate metabolism offers an explanation for why these same carbohydrates, as Dr. Ludwig says, are typically the foods we crave most; why a little “slip,” as addiction specialists would call it, could so easily lead to a binge.

Thank you, Science. Release me from my guilt.

The result is that even a bite or a taste of carbohydrate-rich foods can stimulate insulin and create a hunger — a craving — for even more carbohydrates.

Just a taste of this article has me fiending for a (gluten-free) blueberry bran muffin.

Sugar and sweets might be a particular problem because of several physiological responses that may be unique to sugar. Sugar cravings appear to be mediated through the brain reward center that is triggered by other addictive substances. Both sugar and addictive substances stimulate the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, producing an intensely pleasurable sensation that our brains crave to repeat. Whether this really is a significant player in sugar cravings is one of many areas of controversy in the field.

I actually wrote fiending before reading this part.

Whatever the mechanism involved, if the goal is to avoid the kind of slip that leads from a single forkful of rice to a doughnut binge or falling off your diet for good, then the same techniques that have been pioneered in the field of drug addiction for avoiding relapses also should work in this scenario as well. These basic principles have been developed over decades, says Laura Schmidt, an addiction specialist at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine who now studies sugar as well. They can “work for anyone who’s gotten clean and sober and wants to stay that way.”

Ok, this is too real.

The first and most obvious strategy is to stay away from the trigger. “Alcoholics who care about staying sober won’t get a job in a bar or even walk down the alcohol aisle in a grocery store,” says Dr. Schmidt. “It’s harder to avoid junk foods in the food environment around us, but we can certainly clean up our home environment and avoid situations where sugar and other treats are easily available.”

This article is a trigger.

More seriously, I wonder if added sugar might become the next nicotine.