How to Live in a World Gone Mad?

A long-time reader asks for advice:

I’ve been a MR reader for years. It sounds like you’re concerned about cancel culture and the associated political situation. I’m from eastern europe and caught the tail end of communism. What’s happening now in the US terrifies me. It seems like every week I learn that someone I respect is being tried in a court of public opinion for crimes that didn’t exist six months ago.

I’m in Silicon Valley, and realistically it’s impossible to operate here without lying. And I’m not right wing either, I’ve always considered myself a liberal! Some people seem to be dealing with it all right, but having to maintain a facade really eats at me. I effectively have to self-quarantine in a political closet. I hate it. I never could have imagined that I would need to choose between truthful expression and career/friendships in America. There’s always some finesse in human interaction of course, but this is so qualitatively different it may as well be another country altogether.

Do you have any advice for how to act, survive, and thrive in this political climate? I don’t know how to navigate this at all.

Social media has messed with our minds. The madness of crowds used to be limited by geography, time, and transaction cost–all of which have been lessened by social media. As a result, the crowds are now bigger and madder. And our brains, which are finely tuned to listen to the crowd (meaning the tribe or village ala Dunbar’s number), are overwhelmed when the crowd is in the thousands or millions. We should discount signals which come at the cost of a tweet but we can’t and so the pressures to conform are intense. If your job isn’t protected, stay off social media or at least use a pseudonym. Even if you do nothing today, the crowd may come after you years later so you can never feel safe.

I wish I had better answers. Readers?


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