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A short rant on personal memetic hygiene

I wonder why people don't protect themselves from memes more. Just to be clear, I mean meme in the broad memetic theory of spreading ideas/thoughts sense.

I think there's almost an intuitive understanding, or at least one existed in the environment I was bought up in, that some ideas are virulent and useless. I think that from this it's rather easy to conclude that those ideas are harmful, since you only have space for so many ideas, so holding useless ideas is harmful in the sense that it eats away at a valuable resource (your mind).

I think modern viral ideas also tend more and more towards the toxic side, toxic in the very literal sense of "designed to invoke a raise in cortisol and/or dopamine that makes them more engaging yet is arguably provably harmful to the human body. Though I think this is a point I don't trust that much, speculation at best.

It's rather hard to figure out what memes one should protect themselves from under these conditions, some good heuristics I've come up with is:

I think if a meme ticks one of these boxes, it should be taken under serious consideration as harmful. Granted, there's memes that tick all 3 (e.g. wearing a warm coat during winter), but I think those are so "common" it's pointless to bring them into the discussion, they are already deeply embedded in our minds, so it's pointless to discuss them.

A few examples I can think of.

Granted, I'm sure there are examples where these rules of thumb fail miserably, my brain is probably subconsciously coming up with ones where they works. Even more so, I think the heuristic here are kind of obvious, but they are also pretty abstract and hard to defend if you were to scrutinize them properly.

Still, I can't help but wonder if it "safety measures" (taken by the individual, no political) against toxic memes shouldn't be a subject that's discussed more. I feel like it could bring many benefits and it's such a low hanging fruit.

Then again, protecting ourselves against the memes we consider toxic might be something we all inherently do already and something we do pretty well. So my confusion here is mainly about how some people end up not considering certain memes to be toxic, rather than how they are unable to defend themselves from them.

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Published on: 2020-01-27



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