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Righteous Rectitude Requires Retained Rationality

The nice thing about the Internet is that anyone can say anything about anything (generally) without censorship or moderation.

This is the obscene power of the web, but also its Achilles’ Heel, because although you get a lot of brilliance in that kind of crock pot, you also get a lot of, well, crock.

Incorrect ‘facts,’ misinformation, and outright lies are pervasive and given more prominence than they would be likely to get on any other platform. The evening news might skew the truth and the Times might get their information wrong, but you’re not not as likely to find the kind of wild yarns you’ll come across in the blogs and forums strewn around the net.

It’s due to this precarious balance that I’m uncertain how to feel about a series of links I’ve been sent over the past few weeks, links that lead mostly to blogs posts (but a few mainstream news articles, as well) that hold grains of truth but are composed mostly of hit-piece wording; the kind of stuff you’d find on TMZ, not The Economist.

One such piece started to make a strong argument about legitimacy in the online world, but then lost me with insults directed toward someone who feels differently about the subject.

The topic under the microscope in this case was that more and more people are offering consulting services despite the fact that the only strong work experience they have is writing a blog (and they consult on things non-blog related).

As someone who worked hard to build up a couple of traditional businesses before entering the blogging world (and who continues to do so now), I can definitely see the point being made here. Anyone with a Blogspot account and PayPal can position themselves as an expert these days and most folks won’t know the difference between a seasoned professional and a well-read blogger with a professional-looking theme.

To each their own, of course, and if the market will bear it, more power to them. But I’m glad someone is bringing it up.

The thing is, in this article especially, entwined with the legit arguments is an unhealthy amount of venom.

I know, it’s tempting to really tear apart ideas and people that you don’t like or agree with, but for the sake of healthy debate and the integrity of your own ideas, keep your wits about you and present your argument without a garnish of disdain.

Piling on that kind of unnecessary bias weakens your position and makes it impossible for anyone except for your close friends and shock-bloggers to support you without having their own image tarnished.

It doesn’t matter if you’re arguing that the sky is blue if you’re also saying that gays are evil and women are inferior to men. I’m going to question every single thing you say more carefully knowing about the inherent bias you bring to what should be a clean, rational debate.

I get why people bring the scorn: it’s easy, it’s satisfying, and it feels like the only way to take people with differing opinions down a notch.

But if you have an idea worth writing about, especially if it’s counter to another popular idea that’s being written about in the public forum, keep the moral high-ground and present your case rationally. With the coldest, calmest, rationality you possibly can, in fact.

Sure, from a marketing standpoint it makes more sense to appeal to emotions. But the people who will respond to that kind of call are not the sort that you want or need on your side.

Update: February 2, 2017

Another piece that was clearly a response to something that made sense in the moment, but I don’t recall the full context. Man, the blogosphere was sure an echo-chamber back then.

I still believe that cold, calm rationality is the best way to make a measured argument. Though I also recognize (and perhaps increasingly so) that the emotional element is often what makes something sticky and more likely to pull in attention to begin with. Being able to meld the two without resorting to tabloid-style “journalism” is tricky, but doable.

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Travel-Buddies on the Journey Through Life

Traveling with a friend can be a blast, or it can be an immense disappointment.

It all depends on how well you get along and communicate, and how much you each gain by having the other around.

Are you just there because you have to be, or have you chosen to be around this person? Are you benefiting from their company, or are they getting in the way of you seeing and doing what you want to see and do?

This doesn’t just apply to travel-buddies, it applies to the people you surround yourself with every day.

Life is too short to spend it with people who don’t inspire you or otherwise make you happy.

Act accordingly.

Update: February 2, 2017

This, I think, is a toe-dipped-in-the-water expression of what can seem like one of the more cold and callous aspects of minimalism: applying the tenets to relationships.

Minimalism is about focusing on the important stuff so that you have more time, energy, and resources to spend on those most vital things. The same applies to relationships, which means spending less of what you’ve got, especially time and energy, on those people most important to you. The consequence of this is that you’re spending less on others, and that sounds kind of mean, especially to folks who’ve never acknowledged that some of their relationships are draining rather than valuable.

To each their own on this, but I’ve found that focusing in this regard has dramatically improved my relationships as a whole.

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Secular Blogging Religions and Healthy Skepticism

The blogosphere is a world full of people with answers.

Want to make money fast? I’ve got some marketing tips to throw your way.

Want to pick up women? Don’t worry, with this e-product, you’ll be irresistible.

Want to be a better person and live a better life? Fear not, minimalism/lifestyle design/location independence/entrepreneurship will save you and all will be well with all things, always and forever. Amen.

The thing is that none of the answers given is the absolute answer. I know this because there is no single, true answer. There’s no sure-fire money-making model, path to happiness, or moral absolute.

But in the blogging world, you’ve got to streamline and emphasize your messages so that they are easily-understood and digested by the largest number of people possible (if you want to be a professional blogger, anyway). Otherwise, the notoriously finicky and A.D.D. population of the Internet will browse right past you, leaving your manifesto unread, your e-goods unbought, and your rallying cry unheard.

The end result is what you see available now: smart folks with lots of good ideas talking about one thing as if it’s the be-all end-all of philosophical thought. It seems like there aren’t any idea people left, just revolutionaries. Everything is a movement instead of just a good idea, because people don’t listen to good ideas but they like insurrection.

After all: if it bleeds, it leads.

Take minimalism, for example (something I write about and am well-acquainted with). The Internet has exploded with minimalist bloggers, all reducing their number of possessions, talking about Tyler Durden (that’s actually a common theme for just about every category of blog — do a search and tell me I’m wrong), and espousing the benefits of their newly-chosen lifestyle to the world.

And this is great, don’t get me wrong. I consider myself a minimalist, and though I may take a slightly different approach to the philosophy than some other adherents, I think the enthusiasm I’ve been seeing for the ideas and ideals of minimalism is great. It’s nice to see people get excited about something that I consider to be a good approach to life.

What we all need to keep in mind, however, is the danger of assuming that because a blogger focuses on and writes about one topic all the time that what they are discussing is that important.

I see minimalism as a challenge and a philosophy that fits with how I wanted to live my life anyway, but it’s not a religion. If you were to ask me if it’s important I would answer, ‘To me, it’s very important.’

If you were to ask me if it’s the most important thing in the world, however, I would say ‘Of course not. It’s just one of many good ideas that works for some people. I like it, and you might too, but maybe not.’

Blogs, by their very nature, are marketing tools. Anyone who tells you they know all the answers is trying to sell you something, and many of the people who don’t make this claim are, as well.

Most bloggers mean well, myself included, and aren’t intentionally trying to deceive, but we all must necessarily leave out potentially pertinent information in order to convey an idea clearly.

Remember that, and the fact that you’re being sold to, and take in ideas a la carte rather than wholesale, constructing your own philosophy as you go along rather than submitting to the secular blogging religion of an e-guru (or any guru, for that matter).

Good ideas are only good until they become dogmatic, and minimalism, location independence, lifestyle design, internet marketing, entrepreneurship, blogging, and every other idea (read: product) that’s being pitched by a choir of adherents are great so long as you approach them the same way you’d approach a box of chocolates: take a few pieces you especially like and which suit your palette, then leave the rest for other people to munch on.

Eating the whole box can be satisfying, of course, but the consequences can be a real bitch.

An open mind is important for growth, but a skeptical nature keeps us from swimming in a sea of meaningless prattle and false revolutions.

Update: February 2, 2017

Huh. Looks like I was ranting about this topic sooner than I thought.

It’s still a good point to remember. Though the online scene has become a lot more crowded and resultantly watered-down, there are still a lot of e-gurus out there just waiting to sell you snake oil that’ll cure whatever ails you for the low, low price of too much money.