And how we get out of it
The core line for me in this piece is right here: “There’s a big difference between nobly pursuing truth and uncovering fraud, and reactively shitting on something or someone to grow your follower count.”
It’s true — and the reason so many people choose the latter is because of financial incentive structures. There’s little money in uncovering fraud (how much did the researchers who uncovered the Alzheimer’s fraud get?), and potentially lots of money in dunking on bad takes if it results in more followers. How do we change these incentives so we get more of the former and less of the latter?
Great piece, Packy. Prior to COVID I erred on the side of optimism. I wrote a book that was mostly well received and built a following on my ability to "tell the truth about business." But I eventually grew exhausted fielding comments from people who knew better than I yet had never owned a business, been a Black IC in business, never written a book or numerous articles, or had any actual connection to half of the things I was talking about. While most think it's "easiest" to ignore the trolls and naysayers, we're all emotional beings and get triggered by negativity, especially when it's something attached to the vulnerability of putting your writing out into the aether for others to consume. It eventually sent me into a bit of a depression, exacerbated by the lockdown, and I stopped writing for about a year because I was more concerned about the reaction than speaking my truth. Still poking my head out from the shell a bit as I rush toward the release of book #2. The overall theme is along the lines of this article so I'm glad to know I'm not the only one feeling this way. Keep up the great work. It resonates most with those who NEED to hear it.
Can get a bit sappy at points, but The Power of Strangers by Joe Keohane is an easy read. Some themes overlap nicely with this post: includes a bit of anthropology around tribalism and tries to distill some practical advice for dealing with rampant polarization.
Sending you vibes for a kick-ass, super-positive week, Packy. Your newsletter is required reading in my office. Thanks for all you do.
I guess I’m lucky that I’m not in media, but my cure for this is to not even use Twitter. Through books, podcasts, and articles like this, I feel more than knowledgeable about the state of tech/business without being exposed to the usual pettiness of Twitter. Every time I do check Twitter, it’s confirmed to me that there are so many better ways to learn and be inspired. I’ll stick with Substacks like this and steer clear of the echo chambers, tribalism, and dunking. Thanks Packy for allowing me to do that!
Great thought-provoking article Packy. I think I might disagree with the premise of seeing the greater online shift of the pandemic as positive, and seeing the present state more negatively. I think the former led to the latter. As a beast, we're not meant to interact so much online. Online interaction should be a "tool" of life as a hammer is a tool to the carpenter. But we've elevated online interaction as a norm of life. Well naturally in the physically "safe" and semi-anonymous environment of "home alone with computer" inundated by world-view shattering information crafted by someone, somewhere far away, that's nearly impossible to prove or disprove, all delivered in what can only be described as"the accidental evil genius" of algorithms that only serve to amplify tribalism - no wonder we all hate each other. The beast was meant to act locally, to read body language, to have some context and backstory on advocates and opponents alike, to quickly learn through shame, and admonishment, that some our more corrupt and despicable tendencies should be kept in check. But now for example, you can think something as unworkable as the idea of "work" is stupid, that we should only exist in fulfillment of our deepest dreams and desires, go on Reddit, and find ten-thousand others who support this warped way of thinking. We need to remember the drivers of behavior have existed a certain way for thousands of years, and admit that many of the "features" of online life, at least as it stands now, are counter-productive to civil society. And if you're like me - you think, "surely smart entrepreneurs can innovate ways to fulfill the positives of online interaction while minimizing the negatives", but then I go back to the beast. Let's be honest, we crave vices, gossip, voyeurism and the like. Can a platform that minimized those tendencies gain and sustain traction? It's a conundrum...
Thank you for taking the energy to write! I enjoyed the read. I thought my algorithm had changed on Twitter, bc suddenly so many smarty-pants antagonists commenting on innocent questions I had asked on popular posts. I watched Kevin Smith talk about a similar sentiment in a recent interview. Not about what your saying in your article but that he retracted on what he knew was a great idea bc some reporter wrote a piece about him, 'Kevin Smith is going to beg his fans to fund his next film.' When really he had build the first GoFundMe type platform, pre GoFundMe. Anyway, he backed out of the group funded movie idea and the tech project that he'd already invested tons of money to build bc a stranger, who didn't understand the project, tried to berate him. Kevin Smith openly admits his regret. And encourages people to go forward in their good idea. It hit me so hard a couple weeks ago. Hearing what happened to Kevin and how he responded prepared me for this vibe shift that's been occuring. I need to clear my head and check my intentions before engaging in any space online or in chain. Also, guard my heart. There's always a billion critics! Just look at your comments already below 👇
Not sure how you have managed to avoid talking about The Network State thus far. You briefly called it out in your weekly optimism, but I think you need to give it a full gander. It leans into this tribalism instead of trying to swim against the tide. You’re right, the vibe is changing. Mainly, the political axis is shifting away from the traditional left vs right and into authoritarian vs libertarian. All the other little cliques proliferating are manageable. I just wrote a post about this that also has a cool gif. Up good!
Comrade Packy: I enjoy your newsletter, but your take on COVID is flawed. From the very beginning, COVID was used to divide people and all real world data shows that the reaction did more harm than good. Nothing slowed the spread. People were forced to close businesses and lose jobs, then watched mobs destroy cities. Kids lost precious learning and may never catch up, especially in urban public schools. The unvaccinated have been demonized and discriminated against, even though the vaccine never stopped transmission or infection. Mental health has deteriorated. Meanwhile, tech and big pharma reaped record profits. Moderna and Pfizer execs are battling over the Boston luxury real estate market, Fauci will retire on a $400K/year pension. No one responsible for these tyrannical, harmful, and ineffective policies has been held accountable. Until that happens, trust in institutions will continue to crater. Will join the only ~3% of parents of kids under 5 who has somehow kept the faith and enrolls them in the failing mRNA experiment?
Sorry you got darted, but don’t stop.
Hello Packy. A very thoughtful article thank-you! You are so right that (online) it can be tricky to understand other people's true intentions. Personally I sometimes feel I have some form of social media dyslexia/ autism with things getting scrambled or, I take things at face value and miss out on the nuances.