How to avoid being sucked into a toxic internet subculture

Something I’ve discussed in the last few posts is the spread of toxic subcultures on the Internet. It’s a consequence of the fact that we’ve introduced entire societies to a new form of communication that nobody has genuinely had time to adapt to. Societies change faster than human beings can adjust to those changes. I would define a toxic subculture as anything that reduces your quality of life as you invest more energy into it. I want to discuss the warning signals I consider important to be aware of.

These are what I consider to be a few important warning signals:

1. The subculture tries to convince you that the whole world is going to shit

Tomorrow we’ll run out of oil, next year global warming will make the planet uninhabitable, all the cool animals you saw on National Geographic as a child are extinct, women have turned into whores who want to fuck everyone with an IQ below room temperature, the Jews have taken over the government and send our sons off to die in the Middle East to protect Israel, hormones in the water are making your dick small, rich pedophiles fly to tropical islands to have sex with kids, the government watches you while you masturbate with secret cameras installed into your shoes, you have no privacy left, everyone you know is dropping dead of cancer, refugees are going to take over your country and the government will take care of them by stealing money from your pension fund.

Does any of the above sound a bit like the kind of information you find yourself regularly exposed to? Then you’re probably exposed to a toxic subculture. Before you tell me that Podesta really is a pedophile, or that Jews really run the government, I’m going to tell you that I don’t care. If Podesta is a pedophile, you’re going to have to wake up at 7 AM tomorrow, hurry out of the door and pick up the phone to help dumb babyboomers with their computer problems. If Podesta is not a pedophile, you’re going to have to wake up at 7 AM tomorrow, hurry out of the door and pick up the phone to help dumb babyboomers with their computer problems.

While you were filled with righteous anger about the dying polar bears near the Arctic or the children raped by Pakistani pedophiles in Rotterham, female genital mutilation is disappearing across Africa. The hole in the ozone layer is healing, you have a higher life expectancy than any previous generation in human history, you can have sex without having to fear a pregnancy that could kill you, you can eat tropical fruit that would have been reserved for a medieval king and read any of the world’s greatest literature without having to leave the comfort of your own bedroom. If your great-great-grandaunt who had her fingers chopped off her hand as a ten year old in a sewing factory when she got too close to the machinery heard that you’re spending the period of greatest human prosperity ever observed worried about how everything will go to shit a few years from now, I think she would be somewhat offended.

What these subcultures remind me of are people who you take out to visit the forest during a beautiful day in fall and who try to point out everything mediocre to you. “Oh look at that disgusting mess of rotten mushrooms with flies on them!” “Ugh, I stepped into some horse poop!” If you’re more susceptible to negative information than positive information, your brain is not functioning correctly. Psilocybin is used to treat this disorder. I’m not insisting that it’s the solution to the problem for everyone, but it is one of different treatment routes being studied, that works well for a lot of people. It worked quite well for yours sincerely too.

“But the whole world is going to shit!” Fine, but there’s nothing you can do about it. And more importantly, your conviction that the world is going to shit is a method that effectively allows you to justify your own misery. “I’m unhappy, but that’s normal because even Silicon Valley tech insiders are convinced that social media makes us miserable and they don’t expose their children to it oh and by the way America has a massive opioid epidemic and society is falling apart because we’re all so miserable.” If you read a headline in the newspaper telling you there’s an opioid epidemic in your city, stuff it into the back of your head and don’t think of it again until you’re in a hospital yourself with a broken hip and asked to rate your pain. It’s not relevant to you until that time, because there’s literally no way in which this knowledge can affect your own life in a constructive manner.

Alex Jones, spreading his genius ideas

2. The subculture encourages you to think you can change the world for the better by spreading your own unique insights.

Every dipshit with an anonymous blog now thinks he can change the world. I’m talking here about people from a working class family with a slightly above average level of intelligence who never really fit in well into their environment. Hint: You can’t change the world. You’re nobody. It’s a peculiar side-effect of growing up in a democratic egalitarian culture with a tradition of free speech, that every dipshit thinks he can devote a lot of anger and mental energy to a big problem and somehow solve it, simply by putting his ideas online.

Tomorrow after fifteen hours of browsing obscure websites you find that video you’ve been searching for over 17 years, that proves beyond any reasonable doubt that something fishy went on over at WTC 7 on 9/11.  I’m going to tell you right now: Absolutely nothing is going to change. You might be invited on Russia today and they will let you ramble for fifteen minutes. After your moment of fame is over, you’re going to be the exact same nobody with “self-employed” as his job title on Facebook that you are today.

“But you’re a dipshit with an anonymous blog yourself!” Correct. The difference is that I’m not going to embark on this with the mentality of changing the world. I hope to get a handful of people who are similar to me in personality and mindset to avoid repeating my own mistakes and expose them to ideas that are genuinely entertaining for them. Thinking that sharing your own insights can dramatically affect the world is the kind of impulse I had to teach myself to abandon. Once you abandon that stupid idea, your life becomes better.

Terrible stock footage, I know, but I had to do it.

 

3. The subculture convinces you that all the odds are stacked against you

“Never believe a prediction that doesn’t empower you.” -Guy born with an even shittier hand than you. “No you don’t understand, I’m not 6 feet tall and I’m not one of the best looking 20% of guys so no women is going to” Shut the fuck up. Ever heard of natural selection? What kind of subculture grows? A subculture that gets you to keep coming back. So how do you get someone to keep coming back? Convince them there’s nothing good outside of their little incestuous clique. Anything that makes you feel powerless creates an opportunity for itself to make you dependent upon it. An opportunity it can then convert into money. Perhaps it’s a vitamin supplement they’re shilling to you, perhaps their Amazon affiliate links are enough to let them pay their rent.

-You’re not six feet tall.

Nobody gives a shit, here’s a dwarf married to a playboy model:

“Yes… but he’s the exception to the rule because he did this and that and-” Number one problem is attitude. People enjoy being around people who lift them up. Women in particular just want to be entertained. That’s the secret of bad boys. The vast majority of people don’t want to interact with people who can only spread negativity. That’s how the human brain functions. We don’t enjoy having our opportunities limited. We don’t enjoy having to constantly pour energy into people without any chance of ever getting anything back.

“But I don’t have money and this motivational bullshit of yours is just bullshit because I have this study here that shows that when you’re born poor your chances of remaining poor are”

Very high if you spend your time reading studies that confirm the hopelessness of your situation. The number one factor that made successful people successful is the fact that they simply kept trying. Lynn Margulis had to hear fifteen rejections from scientific journals before she got her paper on endosymbiosis published. Today her idea is common scientific consensus. If one thing didn’t work for them, successful people tried another thing. If that didn’t work either, they tried yet another thing. We live in a world where a guy made a million dollar with a website of 1000×1000 pixels. We live in a world where a guy traded a paperclip for a house after fourteen trades. Capitalism likes novelty. We live in a world in love with novelty. If you decide to go out and do something that hasn’t been done before, you’re going to get attention and then you’re going to construct something useful out of that.

And if you end up failing after all, you spent your whole life so busy trying that you never had time to sit down and feel miserable about the fact that you never made it.

“Well if you haven’t graduated from a good school with a useful STEM degree then you’re-”

Going to have to try something that doesn’t require you to graduate from a good school. Here’s the deputy prime minister of Italy, dropped out of two majors. The leader of the other governing political party is Matteo Salvini, another college dropout. Italy is ruled by two college dropouts who rode the wave of public anger. Hint: If all your stupid doomsday predictions about the future are in fact correct, public anger just grows further. Here‘s a recent president of Brazil, he didn’t graduate high school. I’m not claiming all opportunities are open to you. If you’re aged thirty now and finished a Phd, becoming a porn star might not be an option anymore either, but there are plenty of opportunities left to you. I’m going to take this a step further: If you dropped out of high school today you have more opportunities than a lot of wealthy people who lived centuries ago had. Technology creates new societal niches, there are opportunities for you that didn’t exist in the past.

“Yeah but it’s too late for me now because I’m now thirty and-”

Here’s a guy who spent seven years in Africa taking care of street children.  He’s the CEO of a Silicon Valley company developing lab-grown meat. Don’t you need to be a college professor in microbiology to be involved in lab-grown meat? Nope, this guy has a law degree. I’ll be the first to say it’s easiest to get in if you have a Phd in microbiology, but opportunities exist at every level, at every age, at every level of capacity. I’m not about to say it’s easy. In contrast to what mainstream liberals claim, broader access to education has reached diminishing returns and we’re now primarily reducing people’s opportunities by it. I will however say that the fruits of trying something will always be greater than those of doing nothing. Leonard Cohen did not touch music until age 33.

The opportunities available are going to increase even further in the years ahead, as the college bubble is going to fall apart. It’s not just Peter Thiel paying people to drop out, Italy being governed by two drop-outs, the growing unaffordability of college, or the intellectual bankruptcy of the modern scientific method. It’s everything. It’s death by a thousand cuts. Aubrey de Grey is a computer engineer who weaseled his way into the medical field and he’s right in his assessment and he’s going to cause a revolution in the field of medicine.

“Aren’t you contradicting yourself? First you start out telling me it’s hopeless to try to change the world, now you’re spewing hopium about opportunities.”

I’m making two different points here. Point two is that there’s no point in devoting all of your energy to global problems you have no influence on. Point three here is that you’re nonetheless perfectly capable of doing something with your life that is valuable. You’re not going to convince the whole world of whatever idea you’re peddling, but you’re perfectly capable of coming up with a new idea that can contribute to society.

“And yet my situation is hopeless because-”

You painstakingly try to convince yourself that it’s hopeless. It’s hopeless because you spend your days building the case for yourself that it’s hopeless. It’s hopeless because you want it to be hopeless. It stops being hopeless when you no longer want it to be hopeless. The first electric car and solar panels were invented in the 19th century. Global warming was discovered in the 19th century. Nothing happened to that back then because there were entire branches of human knowledge and opportunity that people simply did not invest significant time and energy into exploring. We explore a small well-walked trail amidst a vast land of terra incognita. There are a thousand opportunities nobody even considered that you can turn into your own. The people who accomplish things are the people who keep trying.

4. The subculture makes you resent other people

White men. The Jews. The freemasons. The feminists. The 1%. The Muslims. The more people there are you resent, the more difficult you make your life, because you’ll probably have to interact with them anyway. If you insist that every boring tech company needs to have more diversity and that every conference you attend has too many white male speakers, I have bad news for you, because twenty years from now you’ll still be staring at white male faces. There’s nothing that prohibited women from investing in cryptocurrency or developing new cryptocurrencies, but it nonetheless became a white male dominated space. We hid ourselves behind anonymous usernames, there’s nothing that forcibly kept you out.

In a similar manner, there’s nothing you can do that’s going to reduce the number of ethnic minorities in your country. I’m sorry, I know you don’t like hearing that. My suggestion needs to be: Deal with it. You might not like the demographic transformation that took place in cities like Paris and Brussels. I’m not going to pretend it made these places better to live. I’m going to tell you that you have zero influence on it and if you can put it out of your head you’re able to move on with your life. I’m perfectly well aware that you didn’t have to fear being stabbed or blown to smithereens when visiting a train station or a concert fifty years ago. You didn’t have to fear dying in a heat wave or getting Lyme’s disease when visiting a forest fifty years ago either. If it’s not something you can control, it’s something you will need to accept and move on with your life.

When it comes to anger towards other groups of people, even if the anger seems entirely justified towards you, don’t waste your mental energy on it. Rather than focusing your energy on such anger, focus yourself on surrounding yourself with the kind of people you do like to meet. If you only enjoy speaking to other plus-sized black lesbians, spend your time meeting them and don’t waste it upset about all the white males at work who make sexist jokes and objectify women.

The human brain is simple, it’s easy to manipulate. “Rapefugee wanders through the streets of Rome, juggling with the heads of decapitated cats” You click, you fill yourself with anger during a period you intended to read a book, cook a meal or talk to a friend. Someone somewhere earns a buck, converting your time and energy into money by triggering outrage. Before you know it, you become addicted to the outrage and your world begins to shrink.

I’m not a saint. I’m prone to resenting people. I made a decision a while ago, that nothing productive is going to come from that for me. It’s merely going to limit my opportunities in life, and I’m not even referring here to the gorgeous Kurdish girl back in college who brought up out of nowhere to me when we went out for drinks that she’s agnostic (then weeks later she claimed to other classmates that she is in fact a Muslim). I think you get the point.

5.  Nobody seems to have his shit together

I’m not saying everyone on your favorite forum needs to be CEO of a billion dollar Silicon Valley company. I’m saying you need to be wary of communities where nobody seems to be at the stage where you’d like to be in life. When I look back at my past I remember that I spent a lot of time in communities that were not going to get me anywhere. I remember American “patriots”, who had their kids taken away by CPS because they had cigarette marks. I remember people in assisted living, traumatized Vietnam veterans, fundamentalist Christians, depressed metalheads with greasy ponytails and other people clearly unhappy with the position they’re in life.

This sounds like a cruel way of saying “get the losers out of your life”, but that’s not the point I want to make. If all you want out of life is a nice little permaculture farm and you hang in a community where some of the people have exactly that, then they might not have accomplished much, but they’re nonetheless happy. If you’re a teenage boy and all you want out of life is to get laid and you hang out on an incel subreddit full of guys who fail to accomplish exactly that, then you’re setting yourself up for failure.

It’s not so much that I’m telling you to avoid miserable people or to break friendships. However, if you’re prone to a harmful negative mentality, you need to be careful when it comes to introducing people into your life who drag you down. When you’re more comfortable in your own skin, when you no longer fear being dragged back into a black abyss, you can allow people into your life again who do have a toxic attitude.

And sometimes, you just need to call people out on it. If you have a dear friend who is obsessed with every misdeed committed by the Freemasons since humans evolved opposable thumbs, make clear to him that it’s not going to get him anywhere. The most dangerous thing must be our tolerance of things we know to be toxic. I think of Adam Lanza’s mum, who would have known he had a poster with school shooters in his room if only she had bothered to walk into his room at least once. There have always been people in dark places, what defines our era is a cowardice that disguises itself as tolerance.

Conclusion

I made an effort to point out five important signs of toxic subcultures I have encountered over my life. I’ve fallen victim to such subcultures as a teenager myself, but I’ve seen it happen to friends too, boys as well as girls. I had a friend, a girl, who ended up shaving her head bald out of loyalty to a stupid online cult full of miserable people. Today her life is normal however, she moved to Denmark has a boyfriend there and is self-employed, doing something she loves. Her life is fine today, but it’s hard to deny that years were wasted. I’m sure I’ve wasted a lot of time myself, stuck in a negative mentality that was hard to overcome.

I am not about to claim that people’s lives are entirely decided by toxic communities. There are other things that can go wrong. Vegan straight edge types may be stuck in a toxic community, but the low cholesterol caused by a vegan diet is a known risk factor for severe depression. This severe depression then causes stronger loyalty to the toxic subculture they joined. Numerous studies have found that adults with low LDL cholesterol levels are at a strongly increased risk of depression, it’s inevitable that many vegans suffer from this problem.

It’s important to stay active, to continually read new books and watch new films, to continually meet new people, to eat a healthy diverse diet, to pay attention if something seems to go wrong inside your mind and not to let it slip into a vicious cycle. Along with this list however, it is important to avoid participating in toxic communities. Our social environment changed faster than our brains adjusted to it, so we are tasked with the obligation of being watchful and avoiding falling victim to something that will consume us if we are not careful.

4 Comments

  1. Looking at research and articles on low cholesterol and depression…
    There are no hints of depression being caused by cholesterol-lowering agents in clinical trials.

    Your link refers to a simple association in a cross-sectional study. No filtering for confounding factors from what I can see without a journal subscription. The article says that its data is too limited to determine cause.

    Population studies of depressed patients will naturally be skewed by eating disorders and alcoholism, as common as they are among the depressed.

    This review of clinical studies on cholesterol-lowering medication shows no direct link between low cholesterol and depression:
    https://annals-general-psychiatry.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/1744-859X-5-S1-S251
    “In the late 1990s several double-blind rand-
    omized trials showed that there is no statistically signifi-
    cant effect of low cholesterol concentrations on the
    psychological well-being. At present, a strong hypothesis
    has been put forward about the effect of the statins them-
    selves on some specific psychological parameters. This
    effect seems to be unrelated to cholesterol levels. Many
    randomized controlled studies came to the conclusion
    that there is a reduction of depressive symptoms, anxiety
    and hostility in patients treated with statins.”

    Additionally, here are the cholesterol rankings for vegans vs non-vegans in major studies: https://veganhealth.org/cardiovascular-disease-markers-in-vegans/#lipids
    This is not likely to produce clinical symptoms associated with low cholesterol.

      • Animal studies aren’t so good an argument when multiple clinical studies of humans already contradict them.

        Besides not being a human model, the study in your link induced low cholesterol in the brain by means of “chronic mild stress”:
        “CMS significantly reduced total cholesterol levels in the mPFC but not in the hippocampus and resulted in depressive-like behavior”

        You’re just reaching waaaaay farther than the data is going to support here.

        to even go farther to show this, a study shwoing increased depression among vegetarians states:
        “The analysis of the respective ages at adoption of a vegetarian diet and onset of a mental disorder showed that the adoption of the vegetarian diet tends to follow the onset of mental disorders.

        In Western cultures vegetarian diet is associated with an elevated risk of mental disorders. However, there was no evidence for a causal role of vegetarian diet in the etiology of mental disorders.”
        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3466124/

        and from a cross-sectional:
        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3293760/

        “In a recent cross-sectional study, omnivores reported significantly worse mood than vegetarians despite higher intakes of EPA and DHA. This study investigated the impact of restricting meat, fish, and poultry on mood. …
        After the diet intervention, VEG participants reduced their EPA, DHA, and AA intakes, while FISH participants increased their EPA and DHA intakes. Mood scores were unchanged for OMN or FISH participants, but several mood scores for VEG participants improved significantly after two weeks.”

        • The study demonstrating worse mood in omnivores compares them to omnivores who were switched to a plant based diet for two weeks. I don’t interpret that as a contradiction of my own worries.

          My hypothesis is that a long-term vegan diet translates into abnormally low cholesterol levels, which then contributes to reduced mental health.

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