Joseph Ratliff Writer, Researcher, Thinker

Category Archives: Doing Less

The Rise of the “Watcher Society”

My comment to this post on Hugh Howey’s “Wayfinder” blog…

It’s silly (sad even) that we live in a society where we are “watched” to see if we do anything “wrong.” (Both quoted terms are used loosely).

You could go to a beach, and while having fun doing some sort of dance be caught on video (uploaded to YouTube) for public spectacle (good or bad).

In this instance, Eli is who he is, and I respect that. I’m not going to judge him in any way, shape or form based on minutes of video. The sports media might (I’m not sure if they did), but why can’t Eli just go to his brother’s football game and watch it in whatever way suits him best?

Even if he is considered a “public figure” … that doesn’t mean every single morsel of his life needs to be turned upside down. (Not saying Hugh did that, he is of course sharing his awesome wisdom based on that).

Assume the best in people, indeed. Don’t fall for the public spectacle “knee-jerk” reactions (especially prompted by media). We all have faults, every single one of us. That doesn’t mean that every single instance that gets caught on a viewing media needs to be explicated 10^99.

We need to quit watching each other so much, assume better of people as Hugh has so eloquently pointed out, and focus more on the moments that actually mean something (in the big picture).

As for the Cam Newton share by Nan, good on him.


Further comments about the Watcher Society

Some of us worry about the NSA overreach into our private lives, and participate in activism to combat it.

But there’s one form of overreach that is becoming insane, and if we are to expect the NSA to quit watching everything we do … then we need to adopt behaviors that support the idea.

Otherwise, in the Watcher Society, you won’t be able to move around and live like a human being.

Every move you make will be watched in some form by someone, and even posted to public media without your consent to be scrutinized without proper context.

That is a dangerous society to live in for numerous reasons I won’t detail here.

And we are better than that (I hope).

Media Nihilism

For those that may not be familiar, the (very) quick way to think about nihilism is a philosophy that explains our whole existence as meaningless, pointless, etc…

It was popularized (from my perspective) by a man named Friedrich Nietzsche.

Don’t get me wrong, I disagree with the notion that life as a whole is meaningless. I also hand-wave away the notion that our human existence is pointless.  Perhaps I’m wrong, or maybe it’s not a matter of “right” or “wrong” but screw it.

I do think that some of the parts of the whole of our lives, and some of the “things” we do as a species are both meaningless and pointless.

Some of the more extreme things are endless war, torture, our expressed judgment of each other, our exploitation of each other, the mainstream media’s spectacle, our individual desire to be “first,” “right,” “to dominate,” “to oppress others,” and on … and on.

But I’m not foolish enough to think these problems can (or will) disappear from our culture without a serious and massive awakening, or natural and positive evolution of Homo-sapiens (which could take tens to hundreds of thousands of years).

We just aren’t wired to understand, contemplate, and sometimes deal with the massive complexity and mysteries that encompass our human existence (and existence with each other).  We certainly have moments of brilliance, and pull together during crisis, but the consistency isn’t there … yet.

Those are “life” things.

I’m adding “blogging” to that list, but not to an extreme version of nihilistic intentions.

I think blogging as a human activity is a mostly (but not entirely) meaningless, pointless, and wasteful activity.  Why do I think this?

The web has reached a massive media saturation point.

There is way too much information on the web.  We are all publishing the same things to each other.  In rare instances, this saturation and the viral nature of the web brings valuable information to each of us who are “plugged in” to its information channel.

I have decided that blogging isn’t necessary for me to be able to take advantage of this important feature of the web.

Perhaps more important is the large media conglomerates that propagate most  of the media we consume.  Companies like Comcast, Time Warner, News Corp and others control 90% of the media we consume.

That’s sad, depressing even.

An individual who blogs cannot compete with this influence, nor should they try.  These companies will continue trying to turn our web into a form of “television media” that suits their needs … plain and simple.  We aren’t doing anything meaningful to stop that from what I can see.

I’m not saying I was trying to compete with that, but I’m going to slow down my contribution to this giant “whore house” of media slush pile.  Instead, I’m going to make my contribution to our intellectual society more meaningful.

I would rather publish a focused 350 page book that could be shared than a 350 word blog post that fizzles into the online media junk pile.

Spam, trolls, and other useless media garbage.

I don’t have to say much about this, by now you should know what spam is, spam comments (if you’ve ever blogged), and you probably have an idea what an “internet troll” is in the context of the web.

Been there, done that.

As for “useless media garbage,” I have a very strong opinion about content that seems to appear in mainstream media a LOT in the online space.

I’m going to keep most of this opinion to myself, but will sum it up as the gossipy, “who’s doing what in Hollywood,” “who’s sleeping with who, and what else did they do,” “whose reputation is on the Internet chopping block today” type of content.

It’s all useless garbage.  I would even question the entertainment value of this crap (why does anyone pay attention to this brothel of media garbage?).  There are blogs created around this type of “content” … and while I try my hardest not to contribute to this mess … I am going to cut off one more possibility that I would ever do so, by mistake.

I’m all for entertaining myself, and watch funny cat videos too … but come on.  In a sphere of discourse where free expression is encouraged (and necessary), at least we can stop paying attention to drivel and “the spectacle.”

In this area, the web has to “grow up” a bunch.

We are losing the ability for deep thinking.

Aside from an “anti-intellectual” attitude in this country (the U.S.), consuming fragments of thoughts like those mostly found on blogs are like eating junk food.

Sure, some of it tastes good, but empty calories are the result. There are a few blogs that raise the intellectual bar, but most don’t get enough traffic to reach the audience necessary to make an impact. But even though there are a small percentage that publish intelligent content (thousands of the millions that are created), most blogs have a specific agenda that keeps the best ideas off of them.

You might have to buy something to get the best from the person or entity publishing it, for example.  Political bias is another.  Propaganda is another more-encompassing agenda (a couple of good books on this topic).

There are more biases and agendas, but you get the point (I highly suggest you read the books recommended).  I’m going to reduce my contribution to this mess by at least one channel, this blog.

(I’ve already closed a few social media accounts, leaving Twitter and Linkedin).

Fragments of thoughts only go as far as the web will carry them.

This one is simple, using a blog as a tool to spread a message is only as effective as the message itself.  Right now, our society wants to see the types of messages that I don’t want to produce.

So I won’t any longer.  I don’t have the type of message that we want to share at this moment in time, nor was my expectation that mine would be (read:  I’m not complaining).

Unless you’re starting a media company, but then, is it a blog any more?

Once you expand a “blog” to a multi-author scenario, or if you publish journalism, I don’t think you’re blogging anymore.  Just because you’re using a blogging “framework” (like WordPress for example), doesn’t mean you operate a blog.

So, I was blogging, but I’m not anymore (with the rare exceptions noted at the top of this post).

Ranking on Google?  Yeah right, not what you are thinking.

You are not going to rank on Google by yourself, blogging … unless you devote massive amounts of time and energy towards “doing that.”  But then, are you writing for your audience or the search engine itself?

Yes, you can optimize your writing for the search engines like Google (called S.E.O., here’s a good paid resource, and a good free one to start).  But not by yourself, as I mentioned.  You need to pay close attention to changes in the S.E.O. arena in order to maintain search rankings.

I want to write and share resources with people … not devote time worrying about keywords and semantics.

So I’m done blogging here.  It’s close to meaningless.

That said, I will remain active on Twitter (for now, it’s falling down the rabbit hole of useless media too), and on Tumblr.  An occasional story or more fleshed out essay might appear on my Medium page, but that will mostly be used for commenting on and sharing other’s work within the Medium community.

I will also be publishing books, fiction and non-fiction.  One of the first will be a collection of essays assembled from this blog.  I have written over 1000 posts, so I will pick the 25 – 50 best ones and form a book out of it (if you have suggestions about your favorites, contact me).

That’s it for now.  Life is too short, and our attention is being whittled away by forces that we haven’t fully understood yet.

My attention, I’m going to preserve it as much as I can, and focus on the things that make life meaningful.  That said, I enjoy interaction too.  That’s why the social accounts have remained open.

But genuine connection is much more important.

Over the next 50 years we are going to see a LOT of changes that will freak people out (good, very bad, and indifferent).

Always stay focused on the present, so that your life always has the most meaning it can, no matter what happens.

What’s The REAL Reason You Use Social Media?

When you login to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc… what is the real reason you use such a tool?

To connect?

To market your business?

To develop relationships?

To find former classmates?

I’m going to pose what I’m examining as the real reason, the one reason we all use social media tools… in the form of a thought question:

Could the whole reason we use social media be to validate our own existence from a variety of perspectives… and NOT really to connect at all?

(e.g. I’ve got MORE friends/followers than you do, so I use social media to validate and publish that fact)

So I’m posing the whole reason, the one reason we’re using social media has to do with only one person, ourselves. I’m not sure if vanity is the word to describe it, but it seems to apply.





  1. Excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements.
  2. Denoting a person or company that publishes works at the author’s expense: “a vanity press”.


conceit – futility – vainglory – pride – arrogance

This does explain some of the use of social media on a personal level, doesn’t it? Even if you don’t want to admit it.

But in order for this to hold true, we have to prove the business case for social media. So why do businesses use social media?

To market, to connect, to distribute information? Or, does vanity play a part in the reasoning? Are business owners using social media to validate their business’ existence?

I suppose if a business got enough “likes,” or could get enough “likes” on Facebook, that would serve as a form of validation… although the profitability of that validation might still be in question of course.

But the second definition of “vanity” could apply here.