I read a post on social media: A thirtyish, chubby, and bearded white dude was extolling the pleasures of being childless.
The responses were not kind.
One of the gentleman’s suggested benefits was the ability to play a video game for twelve hours at a stretch, with the only interruption being his partner asking him if he stole her weed.
He admitted that he had.
Whether this post was satire or not—it’s become impossible to tell—the replies from other platform users were unanimously opposed to the gentleman’s views. Many replied with counter anecdotes of their own, citing the joy they received from their experiences with children. But there was a set of replies that criticized the gentleman for “wasting half a day playing a video game”, as though it were something to be ashamed of.
I thought to myself, “Why care about how someone else spends their time?” As long as no one’s getting hurt, what does it matter? And then I thought, “How is playing a video game any less shameful than scrolling social media?” And I didn’t ask this to evenly demean those who criticized the gentlemen for his choice of activity, but as a deeper self-realization.
No one hops on to a social media platform, reads a single post, makes a single reply, and hops off. It’s a process that can take an hour or more, mindlessly scrolling, and is only interrupted by external forces or a realization that time is being wasted.
I understood that the original post, the replies, and my own reactions were all part of an ouroboros. We were scales on a snake that was eating its own tail, and the flesh of the thing was time.
So, I put down my phone and got on with my day.
Only an idiot quits their day job to pursue art.
Every time I see someone post social media bait for their OnlyFans page, I open an incognito browser window and search for their username plus “OnlyFans leak”. If something turns up, I get a free peek. If nothing turns up, I feel sorry for the poster.
Don’t listen to anyone who tells you “everything in moderation” while they sit in front of a computer for eight to twelve hours a day.
I read ninety-nine books in 2023, more than double the forty the previous year. Has it helped my writing? While I have faith that it has, I didn’t write enough in 2023 to tell.
I made it more than halfway through The Horus Heresy. I’d predicted in my review of the first book, Dan Abnett’s Horus Rising, that I would be done at the end of 2023. I can now say, with great certainty, that I’ll be done at the end of 2024. It’s perfect timing, too: the final book in the sprawling 62-novel series is due to be published at the end of this month, January 2024. As someone who despises cliffhangers, I couldn’t be happier.
I’m 10% of the way through the Holy Bible (BSB). Near the end of September, I started reading it aloud whenever I went to the toilet. This is part of a long-term project of objective and academic readings of the holy texts of the major world religions. It’s been fascinating so far, and ChatGPT has been an invaluable study buddy.
I’m twentyish book reviews behind schedule. One of my first goals for the new year, now that the 365 project is behind me, is to catch up and also start a more diligent documentation of other media, namely video games, films, and digital serialized cinema (formally known as “television shows”).
It’s here that I need to discuss “reviews”. I was talking with my wife the other day about how much modern reviewing has sucked the magic from media, and video games in particular. When I first got into video games, back in the Atari/Intellivision/Colecovision era, no one was producing exhaustive video essays on the individual games available for those systems. The usual process of discovery was finding a game at a swap meet, being swayed by the box art, poring over the ragged manual on the car ride home, and firing it up to play with a tabula rasa mindset. This continued for me long into the early 2000’s, as I was then still visiting brick-and-mortar video game shops in Tokyo and buying games based on their packaging. It wasn’t until the rise of World of Warcraft that I became aware of game guides and the ability to use the internet to look up solutions to puzzles. Fast-forward to today, and now an interested consumer can watch someone else strip every ounce of the magic of discovery from a new game, book, film, or DSC right before their eyes.
Forget about struggling with the design of a game, or the difficulty of a certain level or boss. Now, without the work of learning to play and experiencing educational defeat of any kind, players can be led by the hand through the toughest of encounters. Or, instead of having to sit through two to ten hours of painstakingly crafted cinema, a viewer can have a random social media user sum up and spoil the entire plot.
I’m well aware that I’m venturing into “old man shakes fist at cloud” territory. We, as media consumers, still have personal choice. And all this is to say that, in my reviews, I do my best to relate in the vaguest of terms how I felt about the overarching structure of book, game, or cinema without overtly spoiling the thing.
It’s also for this reason that I’ve deep-sixed any notion of ever bringing back the reading of Steam video game reviews, either in live or pre-recorded form. I realize now that I was contributing to that stripping of joy that I mentioned, to the point where I now hide the reviews and review scores when I view Steam, to approximate that experience of so many years ago, perusing the shelves of my local shops for gleaming nuggets of gaming gold.
There’s so much more that I have to say about the importance of documenting a life’s journey, but there’s only so many hours in the day and I’ve already blown most of this morning. Remind me later.
I want to divide my time evenly between writing, reading, and coding. I have a plan to draft a short story every week for 2023 and read at least 100 books. I have a membership at boot.dev that replaced the French study I was doing on Duolingo, and I want to complete the twenty backend programming courses. If I manage that, I have a thick tome on C++ that I would love to absorb, and then start looking at projects using either the Unreal or Godot game engine. For now, I’m keeping the coding on an “interested hobbyist” level. I’ll let you know how it all turns out.
I want to review every book I finish reading, every video game I finish playing, and every film or DSC I finish watching.
I want to draw more, especially physically, either pencil or charcoal. I have a process in mind for this, but this is a low-priority resolution for me.
I want to continue spending ninety minutes a day at the gym from Monday through Saturday, running fifteen kilometers, walking ten, and working toward functional strength. I would love to be under ninety kilograms bodyweight by my 49th birthday (March 31st) and near eighty by my 50th. This dovetails with maintaining a clean diet free of processed foods and sugars and forcing myself to sleep for eight hours every night.
I want to go the entire year without ever once reading a social media post or watching a single second of Twitch or YouTube video content. I’m convinced that, for me, engaging with that content is nothing but harmful for my mental health and a massive waste of time.
In 2023, I published a new written work, alongside an original digital artwork and audio recording, every day. I also posted these to new Instagram and X accounts, every day. I used the recommended number of appropriate hashtags. I liked my own posts. I closed comments on both platforms, and never engaged with any other content.
The X account gained four followers in the first month, then no new ones for the rest of the year; in fact, the account lost three when Musk took over and purged the bots. I did, however, get a healthy ratio of likes to views, often 1:1. The likes that I got never came from followers, though.
The Instagram account gained six followers in the first week, then no new ones for the rest of the year. It was extremely rare to get a like on a post.
The takeaway here is, I think, that one must engage with other accounts to gain visibility on either platform. You can’t just post and expect interaction, at least not if you’re not already off-platform famous. For me, this is a losing proposal: I can’t see the value of spending time trawling the muck of social media, liking and reposting, in the hope that I build a network. I would rather use what little energy I have left to work toward off-platform notoriety.
I’ll continue to cross-post any work that I do on this site to those accounts. In that way, they can serve at least as a notification system. I would, however, recommend that you subscribe to the CMØN mailing list if you haven’t already, if only to protect yourself from the potential harm of endlessly scrolling through other people’s lives and misinformation.
I hope your new year gets off to a fantastic start, and I’ll see you again in a month’s time.