I was going to comment on Tom’s post but decided to make my own instead.

What was I going to comment?

I saw the boat video too and social media has trained my first instinct to be ‘that’s not real‘. I would bet my life that there’s someone on the boat behind the camera or something like that. Nothing looks better than a genuine fuck up. And you know what, even if there wasn’t, it doesn’t matter.

Myself, theoretically

But that reaction has become my default anytime anyone says “did you see the…” followed by some news story. I assume either 1) something in the story isn’t being told accurately or 2) vital context is missing. Because most of the time when someone is telling you something, it’s because they have an opinion on it, and the story probably jives with that opinion.

One of my favorite Podcasts is Plain English with Derek Thompson, and he’s harped on the outrage-to-something-that-isn’t-actually-happening point before. The example he used recently was a letter by Osama Bin Laden that was ‘trending’ on TikTok. Supposedly all of these Gen Z kids agreed with Bin Laden while older generations wondered what the fuck was wrong with these kids on TikTok.

Except the letter didn’t really go viral in the first place! Like five accounts shared the letter which went around mildly, then some news site writes about it which goes viral because people are surprised a Bin Laden letter would ‘go viral’ causing more people to seek the letter out which makes it actually go viral causing even more news sites to write articles about it! So the headline “Osama Bin Laden is Going Viral Amongst Gen Z on TikTok!” is misleading.

Another great point that Thompson makes is the definition of ‘go viral‘. What does it mean? If the letter was shared 10 times is that enough to say it’s ‘going viral’? Most people would say no, but there’s no definition! So ‘viral’ has simply become ‘more than one person is talking about it‘ which news orgs can run with to get clicks.

All of that to say that keeping up with the 20 different trending news stories each week is deflating. It’s too fleeting to get wrapped up in. By the time you’re proven ‘right’ about one story we’re on to the next.

Instead, do yourself a favor and go listen to Jeff Bezos on the Lex Fridman Podcast. That was genuinely the best two hours of content I’ve consumed in months. I knew next to nothing about him and had never even heard him speak before but he was awesome. He even makes a point about intentionally consuming long form content like books or long podcasts given the state of scrolling apps today, which I think most people agree with but rarely do. There are my two cents.