On the Importance of Disconnecting In the Age of Trump

A long time ago I wrote on the importance of slowing down in life, to step back and look at the beauty around you. It’s a major theme in Gorilla Mindset. Over a year later, it’s become doubly important.

One of the major reasons I looked forward to a Trump presidency was that it would seriously dent and demoralize the Year Zero, illiberal left. That has been the case, but it was naive of me to think that they would become depressed and paralyzed, or at least reflect and reconsider their antics. Instead, they’ve predictably doubled and tripled down, flitting from one outrage to the next and letting cognitive dissonance guide them (witness the rationalizing of the killing of the TPP to something “bad” just because it was Trump that did it).

Far from turning the left away from its Year Zero tendencies, Trump’s election has thus far only increased those tendencies because…

  1. Donald Trump serves as a potent visual symbol of anger and outrage for them.
  2. They drew the opposite lesson from the election than from what I had hoped. Far from leaning, instead, the election of Donald Trump served as confirmation bias that their narrative of “systemic oppression” is real. It stands to reason that this would make them more vicious and feel more entitled to deconstruct society.
  3. The illiberal left felt entitled after the re-election of Barack Obama. They felt they would begin to move forward essentially unchallenged, hence the peak of the SJW mobs in 2013 and 2014. The election of Donald Trump was a major shock to them.

The most negative, least charitable headlines and interpretations spread far and wide. The outrage is growing. Instead of becoming depressed, the left is growing increasingly violent and accepting of violence (witness the attempts by the media to rationalize a justification for the attack on the otherwise odious Richard Spencer under the guise of “but it’s OK to punch ‘Nazi’s'”).

Of course, it’s still way too early in the day to draw a decisive conclusion, but the atmosphere of today is troubling. Some have not too inaccurately described it as a “cold civil war.” The increasing propensity to violence on the left isn’t too far away from resembling the late Roman Republic, where violence against political opponents became normalized in the tribunates of the Gracchi brothers.  Today’s atmosphere also resembles that which led to the outbreak of war in The Red War.

In recent weeks I’ve taken a step back to reflect on whether social media, which I see as the key driver of this insanity, has been a net good. While my attitude toward social media has improved in the past few years because I’ve seen first hand how it allows you to build a brand with no capital, on the whole I still have to say that it’s been a big net negative. It incentivizes the most outrageous, emotive, and divisive stories and interpretations of facts. It encourages polarization because it drives on the inherent love people have for conflict and drama. Sticking it to the other side gives you a dopamine rush. While social media has allowed an emerging grassroots media to challenge the entrenched media and this is all to the good, I actually think social media has made the media less, not more trustworthy, as the spigot of banal outrage, no matter how loosely connected to reality, must continue in order to get the maximal number of engagements. More concretely, social media has insulated journalists from doing actual reporting. They spend their time on Twitter instead.

On the whole, I still have to conclude that social media has been a big net negative for the social atmosphere. Great for business, terrible for human interaction.

Sure, engaging in the fight can be fun. It can also be excellent for building your brand. It’s worked for me and Mike Cernovich is perhaps the best example of how you can be successful doing it.

But, like Robert Greene remarks, emotional states are contagious. It’s all too easy to get outraged yourself when “keeping up with the news.” If one side gets outraged, you get defensive and outraged in turn. It’s not a good way to live. For now, the media and the illiberal left have learned nothing and, more than that, have a new lease on identity and outrage politics because of their confirmation bias.

That doesn’t mean you should stick your head in the sand. You have to keep your finger on the cultural pulse to build your brand if for nothing else, but it can get exhausting. You should never argue on social media unless you think you can gain in exposure from it.

Don’t be afraid to take a break from the constant storm of outrage. Disconnecting for a few days…or a week or two, is vital, not only to get other things done, but, I’m increasingly convinced, for your grip on reality.

Chosen fathers of the Senate, all men who decide on difficult issues ought to free themselves from the influence of hatred, friendship, anger and pity. For when these intervene the mind cannot readily judge the truth, and no one has ever served his emotions and his best interests simultaneously. When you set your mind to a task, it prevails; if passion holds sway, it consumes you, and the mind can do nothing.

Caesar was right.

Even in the darkness of trench warfare during World War I, soldiers rotated on and off the front lines of the trenches. Everyone understood the importance of giving the troops a break.

Don’t disconnect forever, but all warriors need breaks. Don’t be afraid to rotate off the front line for a while. Your comrades will cover your back.

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The first book of The Red War, The Awakened Lion, will be released later this year. In the meantime, read Stumped to stay ahead of the competition.

  • Keeping up with the news can definitely affect your emotional state. Where I work, it seems like the walls are plastered with TVs tuned to CNN. One is set to Fox. Most of them are silent, but having to see CNN’s headlines every time I get up and move around can challenge my ability to maintain mindset.

    I concur on taking breaks from social media. I go in fits and starts. Sometimes I’m more active; other times I pretty much avoid it for weeks. It all depends on what’s going on and what I need to focus on.

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    • Right, just seeing what’s sure to be the most outrageous, least charitable headline is enough to get you angry, either at Trump on one side or the media on the other.

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