So last week I took the plunge. I started my Blog and mailing list . It’s something I have been thinking about doing for a while, but always managed to find an excuse not to start, sound familiar ? This got me thinking about a quote I recently heard by Stoic philosopher, Epictetus:

If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid - Epictetus

I think his point is that often the fear of looking foolish can cripple us and prevent us from starting a new venture or applying for a dream job or starting a blog. If we are not careful we can place too much importance on social validation and caring what other people think. Of course, it’s good to value other people’s opinions, using these to guide and keep us accountable for our actions. But, when this need is out of balance we can loose authenticity and succumb to fear. So how can we avoid this trap ?

  • At the risk of sounding harsh, remember that everyone is far too busy worrying about their own lives, and what others think about them, to even remotely care about what we are doing.
  • If, as Epictetus says, we are content to be thought foolish, the ‘fear of what others think’ will no longer be a stumbling block.

I raise the second point, in particular, for a reason. While I have been considering how we use technology and the impact of social media, I think this point is at the centre of how we can choose to use technology healthily. The fear of what others think can manifest itself as a form of hidden self inflicted censorship where we are sometimes scared to share out real thoughts on a subject, and rather choose to comply with the ‘herd mentality’. In addition, the need for social validation can lead to a dangerous position where our inner self-worth is governed by what others think of us. A point professional sport climber, Madison Fischer eloquently raised on her blog saying:

I wanted the congratulations. I wanted admiration. I wanted my follower count to grow. I wanted everyone to envy my life and achievements. I wanted, no, needed people to tell me I was going places - Madison Fischer

If we are not careful the need for others to validate our self worth, and the fear of what they may think about us, can lead us to craft highly curated artificial lives online. Only showing the good parts, portraying a life that is neither authentic or reflective of who we really are. If this was not bad enough, it can lead others to desire our artificial life, lead them to question the value of their own, ultimately reducing their own belief of self worth. A harmful cycle on a downward trajectory. Cal newport raises the deeper question lurking beneath this debate, and one that I will also leave us all to consider:

Are these services making you a better or worse version of yourself ?