A tie-in to an earlier post I did on Rat Park, Johann Hari has written an article (link via Robert McGinley Myers at Anxious Machine) that in part serves to promote his book, Chasing the Scream, about the war on drugs and the real drivers of addiction. Addiction is not caused by the drugs themselves. This is backed up by both studies and practical real-world trials. As one of Hari’s sources, Professor of Psychology Bruce Alexander is quoted as saying, “… addiction is an adaption. It’s not you. It’s your cage.”

Want to stop the harmful effects of drugs? Treat the causes — disconnection, isolation, lack of contact and socialization — not the resulting use of drugs as a poor substitute for those unmet needs.

Twenty years ago, even among other college students I was considered an ultra-liberal wacko for saying that drugs should be legalized, regulated, taxed, and the resulting revenues used to help addicts by treating them for any mental illnesses, and helping them to find jobs or enter vocational training. Maybe more people are ready to listen to Hari now.

Social Media

Social networks are designed around who you are and who you know. They’re for 24/7 contact with your family, classmates, friends, bosses, coworkers, ex-classmates, ex-bosses, ex-coworkers, ex-friends, ex-family, and exes, in a medium that doesn’t leave much room for humanity, filtering, subtlety, and nuance. Some people love it; I only see the irrelevance, drama, and baggage that comes with it, and being politically impossible to un-“friend” many of them.

As a teenager, I escaped from these real-life people, problems, and social statuses to the internet — the last thing I wanted was to be surrounded by them there, too.

Marco Arment, referring to “A Teenager’s View on Social Media”. Unlike Marco, I didn’t see using the internet (or in my case, pre-internet BBSs) as an escape, but a way to connect with people I had more in common with. I completely agree with his assessment of social networks, though.

The good points about the major social networks in Andrew Watts’ article are far too numerous to quote. Just go read it, and then take a look at his follow up on a grab-bag of other social media.

Though I’m far away from being a teenager, I agree with nearly everything he said about why Facebook is ubiquitous, but painful to use. I have a Facebook account only because social obligations virtually force me to have it. I check my feed about once or twice a week, at most. I rarely post anything. The exception here is that I do sometimes post family pictures, which I restrict to family members and very few select friends in my privacy settings.

No one in my family or ex-whatevers cares about anything I care about. I have virtually none of the same interests as anyone I knew in my past. I don’t want to share anything that has any meaning in my life with most of my “friends” on Facebook. I’ve ignored quite a few friend requests, and have blocked a couple of people whose feeds were unexpectedly filled with unfiltered nastiness or stupidity. I quickly found that if I have lost contact with the people in my past, it’s usually for a really good reason.

I could maintain contact with my family through other channels, including “meatspace” ones, but they apparently would rather use (and thereby pressure me to use) a shitty invasive service with constantly varying privacy rules and a proprietary interest in personal lives. (Oh, did I mention that, while I love my family, I don’t get along particularly well with most of them?)

Instead of exchanging email or phone numbers, new people I meet lately seem to prefer using Facebook[1]. Why? Probably because:

  1. It’s easy and nearly ubiquitous.
  2. It maintains some social distance in case you turn out to be a nutter.
  3. It’s not that hard for you to unfriend someone you don’t have significant social ties to already (see: 2, above).
  4. It’s a good way to see what kind of things a new person is interested in, assuming their feed isn’t completely based on a bullshit public persona (see: 2, above).
  5. It consolidates contacts into a single service.

My experience with the major social services seems to correlate pretty well with this:

LinkedIn is for people you know. Facebook is for people you used to know. Twitter is for people you want to know — (possibly originated with João Sanches)

… except that very few of the people I know in Japan have any idea that LinkedIn even exists.

  1. Mixi used to be the predominant social service — see Mobile Internet in Japan for some discussion about how Japanese mobile practices made using many Japanese social services cumbersome or impossible for people with non-Japanese handsets. Facebook surpassed Mixi a couple of years after I wrote that article and, surprise-surprise, part of the reason for that change was attributed to foreign-hostile design.  ↩

“Tim Cook Speaks Up”

This shouldn’t be a story. And yet it is, still, in this world, newsworthy. As John Siracusa said on the recent episode of ATP, being gay should be about as interesting as being married. You don’t “come out” about being married, or left-handed (though I did compare left-handedness to sexual orientation in an essay once) because it’s just not that interesting or noteworthy.

The very fact that this had to be presented by Cook as a revelation shows that there’s still social progress to be made. And as Casey Newton pointed out at The Verge publicly acknowledging that you’re gay can still be a career-ending move in most of the US. Even for the CEO of Apple, this wasn’t a risk-free move, and it does make a difference for a lot of young gay people.

"Reddit Users Band Together to Boycott Retailers who Disable NFC Readers"

Android and Apple users are joined in solidarity against a common enemy. In other news: mass hysteria in the streets, lions are cuddling with lambs, a tech site has started a print division, Jihadists are having an Ecstasy-and-alcohol-fueled love-in with fundamentalist Christians, and local coffee shops have called a détente with Starbucks.

Google Ads Everywhere

While Barbara Hambly is no futurist, she nailed this one in Knight of the Demon Queen. She portrayed a slightly more technologically advanced alternate universe in which people have ads playing all around them all the time in order to offset their living costs. Only the well-off can afford to have anything resembling privacy by disallowing advertising.

For the medieval-world character who gets temporarily stuck there, it’s a version of hell. And it appears to be coming to our future. Ain’t technology grand? Remember: at Google their product is you.

Sweden to Test 6-hour Workday

How will that work out in productivity? Probably pretty damn well. Sweden’s GDP per capita is better than Japan’s. If you were to divide by hours worked — even by the official numbers, which are bald-faced lies — Sweden’s economic efficiency would look even better.

Meanwhile, in Japan: Unpaid overtime excesses hit young, a Japan Times article from last year. (Spoiler: nothing has changed in a year. Shocker.)

This bit is particularly quote-worthy:

It is also hard to get a realistic grasp of the abuse because workers often fail to log their OT for fear of being penalized by their employers, who are leery of exceeding the 80-hour limit and risking litigation.

Bullshit. Workers are explicitly told by their employers not to log their overtime hours, or they are on salary with no overtime provisions and their hours are not actively tracked. I have no source of inside information to draw on, but this absolutely could not happen on such a widespread — nearly universal — scale without government collusion. In my native US, the companies would have been shaken down by the IRS for blatantly cheating on their taxes if for no other, more humanitarian reason.

In addition to forced unpaid overtime, many companies are increasingly using contract workers (契約従業員 keiyaku jyûgyô-in) in lieu of hiring regular employees (正社員 seisha-in) because they can pay them less, and can quickly cut their workforce whenever they feel like it by simply not offering a new contract at the end of the term. While karôshi abuses were typically suffered by regular employees who had loyalties to the companies to exploit, as well as the Damoclean sword of a pension to hold over them, “black companies” are using the dynamics of the job market and the active lack of enforcement of existing labor laws to vigorously and enthusiastically fuck ahem, exploit an entire generation of Japanese in a way that is arguably even worse than the previous generation was abused.

It’s really no wonder that many young Japanese, particularly men, are actively turning their backs on having a career and instead are viewing contract and part-time jobs as a minimal investment to pursue a solitary and frugal life, without the pressures of attempting to gain anything resembling the previous generation’s mostly-illusory promise of lifetime employment. Sôshoku-kei don’t have ambition, families, or a pension as a handle for their employers to exploit, and they’re apparently completely uninterested in acquiring any of those accoutrements of traditional Japanese society.