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Three ways to push the boundaries of who you can be

Photo by Chase Moyer on Unsplash

Every two years, I fall flat on my face — on purpose.

I’ll work my way to getting fired from a job or even quit just for the hell of it. I’ll end a romantic relationship when things probably could have been repaired. I’ll change the way I earn money from various side hustles. I’ll go from suit jackets to hoodies to see if I feel any different.

None of the changes are necessary, or even the “best” decisions per se, but each change keeps me from getting bored and helps me live a different way.

Until recently, I never…

You’re simply not going to find what you’re looking for online

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

Every time I go online these days, three words rattle around in my head like a mantra. Often, they are directed towards myself, when I’m clicking on the fourth article about some stranger who has been cancelled for dubious reasons. But increasingly, I say them as a kind of incantation to the countless people I see online acting in a way that is clearly counter to their best interest: Just log off.

I can’t think of one online dust-up, cancellation, ruckus, brouhaha, Twitter screenshot apology, or controversial company statement—followed by another bizarre statement that clarifies the first one—that wouldn’t be…

Making choices based on the desires of others is a part of human nature. But there are ways to counteract the force.

Illustration credit: Liana Finck

Nearly everyone (unconsciously) assumes there’s a straight line between them and the things they want.

I wake up one day and “suddenly” decide that I want to run a marathon. (Amazingly, all of my friends had a similar realization when they hit their midthirties, too.)

I get the brilliant idea that starting a podcast is objectively the best way to talk about big ideas, and I arrive at this decision based on all the “data.” (Right around the time that everyone else seems to be arriving at the same conclusion.)

I decide to get a dog during the pandemic because…

How to live your life on a need-to-know basis

Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

I recently offered this piece of unsolicited advice to an author whose first book had just been published: “Don’t be constantly checking your Amazon rank. Limit yourself to 30 times a day.”

It was only sort of a joke, since I had a feeling this author was likely to check 50 times a day. In reality, I meant zero times a day. That’s probably unrealistic for first-time authors, but if you want to know the truth, I haven’t looked at my Amazon page, let alone the ever-fluctuating sales rank, for the last three books I’ve published. …

To make your phone work for you, not against you, think like an anthropologist and deconstruct all the jobs you’re asking it to do

Credit: Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

My hands hurt. They’re sore and stiff, and on bad days I can feel a dull ache from my wrist all the way up to the base of my skull. I know what the problem is: Even though I’ve tried to be on my phone less, it’s clearly still too much.

The pandemic has thrown us into a tizzy of endless news-reading, doomscrolling, and social media escapism, without the in-person social norms that used to help regulate our behavior, and the tumult of the election year didn’t help. I also added five months of maternity leave and a texting-while-nursing habit…

Reminders we all need. Yes, even you.

Photo: Artur Debat / Getty Images

We all know how to use Twitter without setting ourselves up for a scandal, right? We’ve gotten used to not starting pointless fights on Facebook, and not posting incriminating photos on Instagram, and not doing anything at all on TikTok because we’re all too old for that, every last person on Earth is too old for that. Right?

Well actually, no, and I’m willing to bet there’s some “common sense” rule of social media each of us is guilty of breaking at one point or another. Shane Paul Neil has an irreverent — and totally useful — rundown of what…

Let’s normalize the social-media Covid disclosure

Emoticons with face masks on a phone screen.
Emoticons with face masks on a phone screen.
Photo: Markus Winkler/Unsplash

For health journalists like me — and, I suppose, for basically any well-informed person who believes in science and cares about public health and, like, the greater good — social media has become an utter minefield. (Social media has always been a minefield, so this is really saying something!) Everywhere you look there are alarming behaviors and questionable, or nonexistent, personal protective equipment.

Even in person, saying something to a stranger not wearing a mask, or wearing one improperly, feels uncomfortable at best, bear-poking at worst. …

Turn doomscrolling into joyscrolling

Blue filtered image of a woman with curly hair looking at her phone with a smile.
Blue filtered image of a woman with curly hair looking at her phone with a smile.
Photo illustration; Image source: Delmaine Donson/Getty Images

At this point, we’re all pros at doomscrolling. The end of the presidential election brought a brief respite, but we could really use a longer break. Or a sabbatical, if we’re being honest.

Let us offer you a digital palate cleanser from the gloom: 25 Instagram accounts that will uplift you, make you laugh, and help you feel a little bit more human. Some of these folks share highly relatable illustrations. Others make you feel like you just walked out of a free therapy session. All will help your social-media feed become a place you actually enjoy spending time in.


How to quit measuring success by net worth, fancy titles, or TikTok views

Photo illustration; source: Stuart Walmsley/Getty Images

Every other week, Paul Ollinger investigates how redefining success can help us lead better lives.

A few years ago, when I was looking for a new workout routine, my wife suggested I take a spin class at a place called Flywheel. The last time I had biked en masse was at a fancy California health club, so Flywheel’s spandexed clientele, neon lighting, and ebullient instructor were not new to me. But one thing did stand out: Behind the coach hung a flat-panel screen displaying each rider’s name, bike number, and total “power points.” It was a scoreboard.

Giving it little…

Why nice people are jerks online

Two people holding their phones.
Two people holding their phones.
Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

Spending an extended amount of time on the internet can feel like being in a bad relationship: You know it would be healthier to call it quits, but still, you can feel yourself being sucked in. And the longer you stay, the harder it becomes to recognize yourself.

Coming off a long, grueling election week in a long, grueling year, that feels truer now than it’s ever been: Our personas online, especially on social media, are often far from the people we want to be IRL. We pick political fights with relatives in the comments of a cousin’s Facebook post…


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