Considering who benefits from my attention

“Wondering how to decide what to read? Here’s a simple but effective heuristic to cut down the choices significantly. Ask yourself one question: Does this writer make bank when we hate one another? And if the answer is yes, don’t read that writer.”

Alan Jacobs, “a friendly reminder”

Jacobs makes a good, high-altitude argument. If the goal is to keep you engaged by making you angry, giving it your attention doesn’t benefit you.

It’s not that anger can’t be a useful motivating tool. But anger as the end goal isn’t worth pursuing.

I came back to this post after all the changes with Twitter’s new main character. Maybe he’s the Final Boss, but that’s not clear yet. Anecdotally I’ve noticed a lot more garbage in trending topics that make it less useful, and a lot of time spent by people trying to dunk on the Chief Twit (whether or not they name him in their post).

I don’t need an app whose primary purpose is to tell me what dumb thing Elon Musk said or did today.

But it’s not just about Twitter, either:

Betchik is one of TikTok’s premiere rage-bait chefs: influencers who make videos of gruesome and often disgusting recipes, which they then consume in front of a camera. Most creators in the space claim to be driven by curiosity rather than fame, but their reliance on outrage to fuel their online presence is undeniable. On TikTok and other platforms, algorithms favor engagement — and nothing inspired engagement quite as reliably as disgust. 

Jessica Lucas, Why the worst recipes imaginable are blowing up on TikTok

It used to feel harder to pull myself away from some of this stuff. I’m not sure what’s changed. Maybe there’s just a tipping point. When the problems with an app or a type of content outweigh any potential benefits.

Sure, I can get sucked down a rabbit hole like anybody else. But a thing that can help to pull me out is asking, “Are they just trying to annoy me? Are they just playing a game to get me angry so their metrics look good?”

I don’t want to be a little rage button that can be pushed to juice somebody’s numbers.