I read everything Jen Myers writes

I rely less and less on social media, and more and more on direct, genuine conversations with others also seeking connection, reflection and revelation. I may appear, from the outside, to be becoming quieter and quieter, and I am. What may not be readily apparent yet is that becoming quieter is how I’m learning to make my words matter. Though we spill them around rather carelessly these days, words do matter. In the future, I’ll be using them purposefully, with context and weight. And I’ll be listening, quietly, for the words said back to me that carry the same meaning.

via Jen Myers

Two good ideas

  • When to quit your journalism job: “If you work in any kind of editorial organization, it is your job to understand the business model. If you feel you can’t do that, you should quit. By ‘understand the business model,’ I mean you can (confidently) answer this question: What is the plan to bring in enough money to sustain the enterprise and permit it to grow? Can’t answer? You have the wrong job.” [Jay Rosen, PressThink]
  • How to be an expert in a changing world: “The first step is to have an explicit belief in change … Another trick I’ve found to protect myself against obsolete beliefs is to focus initially on people rather than ideas.” [Paul Graham]

A little update

Friday night news dump from me: I’m be joining BuzzFeed News in January! I’ll be working with the news app team in NYC and will be focusing on figuring out the best way to deliver news to “informed, educated people who want to know what’s happening in the world” and yes, writing a daily newsletter :)

Here’s a bit more about what we’re trying to do from my very, very smart to-be editor, Stacy-Marie Ishmael: “Everybody has that one friend who’s really interesting and really witty and who’s, like, the sparkling guest at the dinner party … We want to be that friend. We want you to come across something through us that you would never have otherwise seen that is a nugget of interestingness that makes you more informed.”

Ok, now a favor from me! Send me a message (millie@fittingly.net) about how you come across news and information in your day-to-day and any challenges you think you have in wanting to be stay up to date and/or an informed citizen, like there’s too much out there, not enough time, etc. Would LOVE to hear what you guys think!

Finally, I’m immensely grateful for everyone at the American Press Institute and am so proud of what we’ve accomplished in the past year and a half in relaunching API. And if you know anyone who is rabidly curious about news and the business of journalism, let me know.

An idle mind is a crucible of creativity

One of the biggest complaints in modern society is being overscheduled, overcommitted and overextended. Ask people at a social gathering how they are and the stock answer is ‘super busy,’ ‘crazy busy’ or ‘insanely busy.’ Nobody is just ‘fine’ anymore,” writes Kate Murphy in The New York Times.

A study shows how far people are willing to go to avoid introspection: 64 percent of men and 15 percent of women began self-administering electric shocks when left alone to think. Murphy writes about how people are prone to dwell on our problems and other negative things when left with their thoughts, so this becomes an uncomfortable feeling if you’re not “intrinsically good at reflecting.” Instead, people opt for busyness and distractions, of which there’s no shortage. But giving yourself time to reflect can enhance your ability to empathize with others and encourage creativity. This is interesting to me because I feel the exact opposite: I’m always trying to make more time to reflect.

Something experts suggest, which I think sounds effective (I say “sounds” because I haven’t consciously tried this yet) despite it being deceptively simple, is: Use third-person pronouns or your own name instead of first-person pronouns when thinking of your own problems. “If a friend comes to you with a problem it’s easy to coach them through it, but if the problem is happening to us we have real difficulty, in part because we have all these egocentric biases making it hard to reason rationally,” Ethan Kross, director of the Emotion and Self-Control Laboratory at the University of Michigan, tells Murphy. Makes sense.

Semi-related, it also makes me think of Vietnamese pronouns and how the norm is to refer to yourself in third-person, which I’ve always had trouble with given the variety of ways you can refer to yourself depending who you’re talking with. And unfortunately, my default is assume I’m talking with a grownup, so I use the “one’s child” pronoun. Please don’t speak with me in Vietnamese if you’re not my parent, it’s embarrassing. I’ll stop short of psycho-cultural analysis though.

Anyway, for whatever it’s worth, what I’ve made an effort to do for the better part of this year was to avoid complaining or mentioning how “busy” I am, whether that’s solicited or just in casual conversation. There’s really nothing more behind it than me believing that, well, so is everyone else.

PS. I just added a Hustle & Flow category because it felt appropriate.

My Facebook as a public thing

“Work in public. Reveal nothing.” —Robin Sloan

I recently started cross-posting on Twitter and Facebook. I figured if I was posting links and things on my public Twitter account, I could also post said links and things on my Facebook as public items. Some friends don’t do this because their followers on Twitter (formed presumably through similar interests) differ from their connections on Facebook (presumably personal friends and family). However, I realized that the majority of the things I post aren’t personal in nature and I would therefore not require some expectation of privacy.

That realization brought me back to that entry on public thinking and blogs as a public good I posted awhile back — not that I would even call half of the content I post useful and for the public good. But, it did remind me that these ideas and musings I toy with in my head (now, this kind of runs counter to the article in question that led me to even write this post) could only benefit from the transition between nonpublic and public because writing for a public, whether for two people — Hi Machiko & Mickael! — or two million people, forces a clarity in thought or at least thoughtful curation. Isn’t this a nice balance of private and public? To sit down and write privately, to think in solitude, then to share, exchange, discover and refine ideas with a public?

“When you let people inside your head, they come away smarter. When you work in public, you create an emissary (media cyborg style) that then walks the earth, teaching others to do your kind of work as well. And that is transcendently cool.”

Anyway, I was compelled to write this because today after I posted a link to a story I had just read about groupthink and creativity, I had two complete strangers comment on the post, which was kind of one of those paradigm-shifting moments where I started thinking about my Facebook as a public thing and wasn’t bothered by it. I still have privacy settings and most of my “private” things such as personal photos are only shared with friends and family. Twitter is much easier — everything is public.

I think this shift of thinking about my Facebook as a public thing to share ideas and just interesting things is the reasoning behind Google+ (which I am very slowly migrating to) — or at least what all of the Google+ enthusiasts praise about it.

Speaking of Google/+, I absolutely hate the personal search results.