Monday, April 25th, 2022


What Elon Strange Trip It’s Been

There's a ringing sound as I write this. There's a ringing sound when I write anything, It reverberates like tinnitus. Several years ago, I started using an app from Twitter called Tweetdeck to track my likes and retweets—they call tools like this social media dashboards, but they're better understood as the vital signs for an internet dopamine junkie. One of the options in the app is to hear a shrill, school alarm bell sound anytime anyone interacts with one of your tweets. Out of curiosity, I enabled the feature. The first ring startled. The second one went down a little easier. The third ring calmed. And after that, I needed the fourth ring. When the alarm bells went off in quick succession, it felt good, like a song I wanted stuck in my head. So, that day, I decided to leave the feature on for a little while.

That was about a decade ago. Since then, anytime someone responds to me, mentions me, retweets me, likes one of my tweets, shares anything related to my newsletter NextDraft, or links to any of my other writing online, I hear the ring. And I experience a positive response each time. Ring, response. Ring, response. It's like someone forgot to pick up after Pavlov's dog.

The bell has sounded so often, and has become such a pervasive source of background music in my house, that no one in my family ever even mentions it. It would be more noticeable if my laptop were open and there was no ringing. Every now and then, during a quiet, dry spell, one of my kids will hold a finger under my nose to make sure I'm still breathing.

I was there before the vowels. I was there when a podcast search engine called Odeo spun off a side project that became Twttr. I was one of the first users. I eventually became one of the most serious addicts. Like other addictions, it's been fun at times. But as my tolerance built, I needed more and more of the dopamine to get even a small buzz. And the anger and distractions associated with the service have long been eclipsing the fun. When news of Elon Musk's bid for Twitter broke, I shared my concerns over the potential deal. In the days since, those concerns have merged with the ones associated with myself and the toll my social media drug of choice has taken on me, in terms of lost time, lost focus, and ultimately, lost joy. So as Elon Musk, another person who is deeply addicted to the service, takes Twitter private, I think I'll do the same with the thoughts I'd ordinarily Tweet. I'll still use Twitter to source news. And I'll retweet news stories and posts I want to help amplify. But that's it. At least that's my plan (even though it's like saying I'm going to spend a lot of time at Studio 54, but never snort coke). There's a chance I'll start tweeting again in a few months, a few weeks, or even a few minutes. But I haven't done it for about an hour, and I feel pretty ok so far. (It's a few minutes later and I'm proofing this section. Maybe I'll just Tweet less? :-)

+ The intro to this section is from my book, Please Scream Inside Your Heart: Breaking News and Nervous Breakdowns in the Year That Wouldn't End. As much as anything, the book provides a look at how our relationship with tech and media got out of hand.


Touched Football

For some Americans, the separation of church and state has been a long established norm. But as we've seen over the past several years, what some see as established norms others see as detours from the America they want. For those folks, the modern interpretation of the separation has just meant that prayer in schools has been on the injured reserve list until they could get it back. And, with the current makeup of the Supreme Court and a new coach on the sidelines, that team finds itself in the red zone. ESPN: How an unknown high school football coach landed in the center of a Supreme Court religious liberty case. "All he wanted, he says, was to connect with young people by coaching football, and to connect with God by saying a brief midfield prayer after each game. 'I'd take a knee and thank God for what the guys just did and the opportunity to be a coach,' Kennedy told ESPN, adding: 'I wanted to hang out with my players and develop these young men.' Yet the 52-year-old finds himself out of coaching and in the midst of a raging legal battle ignited when he insisted on taking a knee at midfield to pray after games, often with students. Bremerton public school officials fired him in 2015 after he refused to stop his on-field prayers, which they said violated the Constitution's prohibition against government endorsement of religion." (I guess I'm an outlier. During football practices and games, I always took a knee because I was tired.)


Adolescence and Sensibility

"'Young people are more educated; less likely to get pregnant, use drugs; less likely to die of accident or injury,' said Candice Odgers, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine. 'By many markers, kids are doing fantastic and thriving. But there are these really important trends in anxiety, depression and suicide that stop us in our tracks.'" Depression, self-harm and suicide are rising among American adolescents. Matt Richtel spent more than a year interviewing adolescents and their families for a series on the mental health crisis. NYT (Gift Article): It's Life or Death': The Mental Health Crisis Among U.S. Teens.


A France Encounter

"The second five-year term for the 44-year-old centrist spared France and Europe from the seismic upheaval of having firebrand populist Marine Le Pen at the helm, Macron's presidential runoff challenger who quickly conceded defeat but still scored her best-ever electoral showing." French voters once again turned back the rise of authoritarianism in Europe. Hopefully American voters will take the cue. To Europe's relief, France's Macron wins but far-right gains.

+ Opposition wins Slovenia vote, defeating right-wing populist. These results are one more area where it seems Putin's invasion has backfired politically.

+ "Macron's decisive victory notwithstanding, Le Pen is not walking away empty-handed. In a little more than a decade, she has succeeded in transforming her party, the National Rally (formerly the National Front), from a toxic fringe group to one of the most significant players in French politics. She has advanced to the presidential runoff twice, but perhaps most significant of all, she has normalized her far-right politics on Islam and immigration and has forced her mainstream opponents—Macron among them—to engage with, and in some cases even appropriate, her views." The Atlantic: Macron Won. And So Did the Far Right. (True. But it's OK to be elated at a win by a very wide margin in a race that could have dealt a heavy blow to democracy.)


Extra, Extra

Diplo Tour: "The strategy that we've put in place, massive support for Ukraine, massive pressure against Russia, solidarity with more than 30 countries engaged in these efforts, is having real results. When it comes to Russia's war aims, Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding. Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine, to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence. That has failed." So said US Sec of State Antony Blinken as he and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Zelenskyy in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Joe Biden has named the veteran diplomat Bridget Brink as the new US ambassador to Ukraine. And Putin is hitting railways to make it harder for allies to get weapons to Ukrainian soldiers. Here's the latest from BBC.

+ Left Out in the Cold War: NYT: With Us or With Them? In a New Cold War, How About Neither. "Governments representing more than half of humanity have refused to take a side, avoiding the binary accounting of us-versus-them that characterized most of the post-World War II era." (They're waiting to see which side looks like it will win.)

+ Office Politics: "It all comes down to a fundamental strategy conflict between the two sides. WBD sees CNN as a value-add to the mega service it plans to create, eventually bringing CNN under the same streaming umbrella as the Discovery networks and the erstwhile WarnerMedia properties (HBO, etc.). They decided it was better to rip off the Band-Aid now, especially with more than $3 billion in cuts that the new company is expected to find." Behind the Scenes of CNN Plus's Stunning Fall. It didn't fall. It had the rug pulled out from under it.

+ Board at Work: US gas prices are over $4 a gallon. These oil CEOs took home over $20m. Think that's something? Wait until your see the quarterly profits oil companies take in after these past several weeks of price hikes.

+ Brooklyn Bridge: The Brooklyn Public Library is giving eCards to teens nationwide to challenge book bans.

+ Crossing the Chasm: Construction has begun on what is billed as the world's largest wildlife crossing for mountain lions and other animals caught in Southern California's urban sprawl. (At least some traffic will be moving in LA.)


Bottom of the News

"In an era when young entrepreneurs have become fodder for countless movies and TV shows—cf. The Dropout, WeCrashed, and Super Pumped, to name just a few—eliding the true story of the women behind the sports bra is an omission and a diminishment that's as remarkable as the sports bra itself, especially because the three women have no hesitation talking about the messier parts of their story." The Mostly Untold Story Of How The Sports Bra Conquered The World And Tore Its Inventors Apart.

+ "By the time the alpacas arrive outside the Fairfax County Courthouse, it's not really that surprising. Andrea Diaz of Lorton, Va., is a Johnny Depp fan who has been watching his defamation trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard, and thinks it's 'really messed up.' She started a business during the coronavirus pandemic where she brings alpacas to kids' houses to raise their spirits, and wants to do the same for Depp." WaPo (Gift Article): In Va. court, Depp fans clamor for seats. Alpacas must wait outside.

+ "The dreams of the 'People's Convoy' quickly died in the Bay Area after a critical tactical error: turning onto a street with a Safeway and a group of bored kids." Inept 'People's Convoy' chased out of Bay Area by egg-throwing kids.