🆕 Never Post! As Per My Last Podcast Episode...

Hans wonders why ‘being informed’ is so exhausting, and if there’s anything he can do about it (short answer: sorta) and a few members of the Never Post team discuss “important emails”. Also: the hunt for Diet Caffeine Free Dr. Pepper continues.

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–Intro Links

–Critical Ignoring Links

–Important Emails Links

Never Post’s producers are Audrey Evans, Georgia Hampton and The Mysterious Dr. Firstname Lastname. Our senior producer is Hans Buetow. Our executive producer is Jason Oberholtzer. The show’s host is Mike Rugnetta. 

You come in     
by the same door, you carry 

what cannot be left for its own
  sweet shimmer of reason, its false blood;
the same tint I hear with the pulse it touches
  and will not melt. Such shading
of the rose to its stock tips the bolt
  from the sky, rising in its effect of what
motto we call peace talks. And yes the
  quiet turn of your page is the day
      tilting so, faded in the light. 

Excerpt of Rich in Vitamin C by JH Prynne

Never Post is a production of Charts & Leisure.

Episode Transcript

TX Autogenerated by Transistor

Mike Rugnetta: 00:11

Friends, hello and welcome to Neverpost, a podcast about the internet. I'm your host, Mike Rugnetta. This intro was started at 8:56 pm on Monday, March 11, 2024, and completed on 12th at 8:33 AM. Let's talk about what's happened since the last time you heard from us. On Monday, March 11th, Geo head and confirmed Herb Jim Spanfeller announced the sale of sports and culture website Deadspin to the mysterious European firm Lineup Publishing, which according to Samarkhalaf at Deadspin spin off Defector, may or may not be based in Malta.

Mike Rugnetta: 00:48

The sale results in the termination of all 11 current Deadspin employees, whomst you might be shocked to learn are unionized. Curious. Probably just a coincidence. Lineup says they don't need the current Lineup because they want to, quote, build a new team more in line with their editorial vision for the brand. I'm guessing that means AI generated piffle.

Mike Rugnetta: 01:15

In related news, Mira Potni at Semaphore built a database of and for recently laid off journalists. Mira writes, amidst the tide of layoffs plaguing the media industry, there is now an extraordinary collective of award winning journalists without full time employment. I'm working on a database to make sure available talent is getting connected to those hiring in the media now and in the future. So I'll link to that in the show notes. Regarding also AI generated nonsense, Google looks upon its own works and despairs.

Mike Rugnetta: 01:49

As chat gptext has gray gooed the Internet, search has, predictably, gotten worse. Google said earlier this month, a major revision of their PageRank algorithm would seek to demote pages which are, quote, unhelpful, have a poor user experience, or feel like they were created for search engines instead of people. Ran Amadeo at Ars Technica points out, quote, Google's post is incredibly worded, not to mention AI. Google wants to style itself as an AI first company now, Amadeo continues. Apparently, that means never directly mentioning any of the downsides of the AI powered Internet Google played a role in creating.

Mike Rugnetta: 02:26

I wonder if we'll look back at the pivot to AI, or portions of it, the same way we look at the pivot to video, or the less dramatic, but still misguided pivot to gamification before it. Over the last few months, a lack of appearances after an apparent princess of Woah.

Hans Buetow: 02:58

Nope. Absolutely not. Nope. Nope. Nope.

Hans Buetow: 03:00

Hans Water. Nope.

Mike Rugnetta: 03:02

What are you doing here? Don't you live in the Midwest?

Hans Buetow: 03:05

I got on a plane.

Mike Rugnetta: 03:06

You got on a plane.

Hans Buetow: 03:09

To stop you. To stop you as your producer from royal posting. It's not gonna happen. Not now. Not ever.

Mike Rugnetta: 03:16

Hans, what are you? What what are you do What are you doing?

Hans Buetow: 03:25

Apologies for that. Mike had to, go out and buy some soda. In other news, speaking of gamification, Bloomberg reports that Discord will soon unveil new features which will gamify games? Quest is, quote, a product that offers rewards for online play. Oh.

Hans Buetow: 03:47

Just think. Achievements for achievements. Maybe I will finally be happy. The same Bloomberg piece quotes CEO Jason Citron saying, quote, at some point, we'd probably go public. A move which is notoriously good for social platforms and does not at all spell the beginning of the end for a service people have come to rely on for information, community, camaraderie and so on.

Hans Buetow: 04:10

And finally, today, Wednesday, March 13th, the US House of Representatives will vote or perhaps already have voted, on a bill demanding Chinese corporation ByteDance sell TikTok, which it owns, or the platform will be banned in the US.

Hans Buetow: 04:24

It is

Hans Buetow: 04:25

a cunning display of genius level political savvy as we've come to know and expect from the American government. There's some surprise speaker Mike Johnson and others are moving ahead with the bill given that massive multi violent loser Donald Trump is opposed to the ban, which is in self surprising given his previous support of tossing TikTok. Surprising that is until you learn that one of his mega donors is Jeff Yass, a hedge fund manager who ABC News reports has, quote, a massive stake in the social media platform. Curious. Probably just a coincidence.

Hans Buetow: 05:01

In show news, you can hear Mike on the podcast, Object Worship. It's all about how tools guide creative practice from Dan Pekachek and Andy Othling, and presented by the folks at Old Blood Noise Endeavors. Insert guitar riff here because they make guitar pedals. Mike talks to Dan and Andy about finding a musical community, a very esoteric synthesizer, how his field recorder changed his life, and of course, what Soren Kierkegaard would have on his pedal board. Link to that in the show notes, or you can search object worship in your pod catcher.

Hans Buetow: 05:33

Tom Hahn sent you. We have a great one for you this week, show that is. I am going to talk with Steven Lewandowski, professor of cognitive science at the University of Bristol, UK about ignoring things as an important part of one's engagement in the modern media ecosystem. And then me, fellow Never Post producers Jason in Georgia, and your host Mike go deep on email. But first, a man also on a mission.

Mike Rugnetta: 06:21

Usually, they play like bump and dance music.

Mike Rugnetta: 06:33

Bagels past the sushi aisle.

Mike Rugnetta: 06:43

Alright. Here's the soda aisle.

Shopper: 06:46

Can I use your hand on this,

Mike Rugnetta: 06:48

Josh? Yeah. These ones?

Shopper: 06:54

No. No. No. These ones.

Mike Rugnetta: 06:55

These ones.

Shopper: 06:56

These. The bread Oh,

Mike Rugnetta: 06:57

I can see. Yeah. They're back there. Thank you. Yep.

Shopper: 07:00

Thank you.

Mike Rugnetta: 07:01

Just right in here?

Shopper: 07:01

Yeah.

Mike Rugnetta: 07:10

We got diet Doctor Pepper, regular Doctor Pepper, and that's it.

Mike Rugnetta: 07:22

Man, I'm so jealous. Hans had all of those like crazy flavors and

Mike Rugnetta: 07:27

we don't have any of them. Let's see. Walk further down this aisle. See if there's anything good in the end cap. I'm seeing more regular Doctor Pepper and more diet Doctor Pepper.

Mike Rugnetta: 07:42

That's it. And something called spiced Coca Cola. No thank you. Okay. Let's try the place down the street.

Computer Voice: 11:11

December 15, 2023. 9:0:3 AM. Never post Slack channel.

Hans Buetow: 11:19

Question for the team. Who can we talk to that studies media fatigue? Asking for a thing. I feel tired. Not like tired, tired, tired, but like my brain has just decided that it can't absorb any more global level threats slash crises slash catastrophes, and just refuses to engage.

Hans Buetow: 11:48

It's not that I don't care about things, it's that I can't care about all things at the level that I am being asked, and that I feel like I've been trying to for years.

Mike Rugnetta: 11:59

Yeah. I think this is not only a common thing, but like, something that the people know and use. There is. Hold on. Let me find it.

Computer Voice: 12:13

Link, critical ignoring as a core competence for digital citizens.

Hans Buetow: 12:20

Competence of critical ignoring, that is a wild and validating thing to read. The link Mike sent was to an academic paper, critical ignoring as a core competence for digital citizens. That's 3 big ideas, And it felt important to me to talk about those ideas with someone. Steve, hello.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 12:50

Hi. Okay. So should I start this now?

Hans Buetow: 12:53

Yeah. If you could. Okay. Okay.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 12:56

Here we go.

Hans Buetow: 12:58

Professor Steven Lewandowski is one of the cowriters

Stephan Lewandowsky: 13:01

of the paper. Just call me Steve.

Hans Buetow: 13:03

Steve is the chair of cognitive science at the University of Bristol in the UK. On his website, he says that his main interest is, quote, in the pressure points between the architecture of online information technologies and human cognition, and the consequences democracy that arise from those pressure points. Critical ignoring has a core competence for digital citizens. This paper was written in 2023 for the Association For Psychological Science along with co authors Anastasia Kosyareva, Sam Weinberg, and Ralph Hirtwig. I asked Steve to help me understand the paper by examining the ideas in the title 1 by 1, starting with Critical Ignoring.

Hans Buetow: 13:55

Steve, why am I so tired by the news?

Stephan Lewandowsky: 13:59

Well, you're not the only one.

Hans Buetow: 14:01

Thank you. Thank you for validating that.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 14:04

Everybody I know, myself included, we're all in the same boat. And because we live in an era of poli crisis, you know, there are multiple crises facing us. And the problem is that the crises are global, and so they're very difficult to escape. And part of the the problem is that we're overloaded with information, even if it weren't just those crises. The fact that we're connected to everything, and everybody else, and the whole world, all at the same time, on 300 different channels, social media, conventional media, surplus of information necessarily causes a a poverty of attention.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 14:52

We simply, as human beings, just don't have enough attention to pay, you know, to divide it to all the things we're supposed to to know about or we wanna know about. So you have 2 options. You can either try and stretch your attention so thin that you pay a little bit of attention to everything, in which case, you comprehend nothing. So that's not a very good option in my view. The other option is that you just live with the fact that you can't pay attention to everything, and you make it a point to ignore things, lots of things.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 15:27

Millions of things, just ignore it. Don't pay attention to it. And it's only by ignoring things that you can actually focus on other stuff and process it to the point where you actually understand it. Sound like a good idea?

Hans Buetow: 15:43

That it sounds terrifying because, like, ignoring is sounds like a pejorative thing. Right? That's the sort of thing you do as a rejection of things. Like, should we not be paying attention to wars? Should we not be paying attention to climate change?

Hans Buetow: 15:56

Should we not be paying attention to these things?

Stephan Lewandowsky: 15:59

I mean, we do have to care. We do have to be engaged. I'm not asking people to disengage from the world. Although, you see, here's the interesting thing. I would argue that the most disengaged people are probably the ones who spend most time on TikTok and Instagram, watching videos of interesting trivialities.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 16:23

I mean, they are interesting, and that usually means outrage evoking, exciting, tragic, bad things. It is not good information that is capturing our attention. It's usually bad stuff.

Hans Buetow: 16:39

So help break down that distinction between low quality information and good information, and why we pay so much attention to low quality information.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 16:48

Yeah. Well, imagine being, you know, you live in the stone ages and you're in, you know, a little tribe somewhere on the savannah, and you gotta respond to information that is outrage and fear evoking, because that's what keeps you alive. But if you're sitting in your armchair, you know, in front of a TV monitor and and on the Internet, that no longer applies. But, of course, our attention is still the same as it was, and so the platforms can push things at us that keep us engaged, for reasons that are no longer adaptive. To prepare for this interview, by the way, I looked at my Instagram feed.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 17:26

I just wanted to feel what it's like to be sucked down the rabbit hole. But I did it 5 minutes before I had to come online, so I protected myself. But those 5 minutes, I watched all sorts of, you know, airplanes landing in a crosswind. Wow. That looks cool.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 17:42

This big wave coming and wiping out people on a on a beach somewhere because they came, you know, it was all this stuff, and I could just feel it kind of sucking me in, and I thought this is a wonderful way to prepare myself. And so I would argue that the people who are most disengaged are the ones who are probably ignoring the least, because you're not gonna be politically engaged if you watch airplanes land in a crosslink.

Hans Buetow: 18:08

Well, this is where, to me, the combination of the word critical and ignoring is is Exactly. Fundamental. You're not ignoring the topic, you're not ignoring the world, you are being selective and combing and filtering out the things that are getting in the way of your ability to actually be informed about the world.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 18:31

Precisely. Precisely. It is inescapable. There's too much for us out there to be able to consume it all. We must ignore things, and the more we ignore things, the more we can focus on, stuff that has value.

Hans Buetow: 18:47

So are we just subject to the whims of information then? Like, what sort of agency do we have to be able to to to ignore this? Like, do we have a capacity to ignore?

Stephan Lewandowsky: 18:59

Yes. We do. We do have a capacity to ignore, but it's difficult. The content that algorithms push at us is the equivalent to our attentional system as junk food is to our taste buds. We're constantly tempted to consume things that are actually bad for us, Same as junk food.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 19:23

And so we have to learn to to to kind of say, woah, woah, woah, this all sounds very interesting, but I actually don't wanna know about it. And the easiest way to do that is to reengineer your environment so you're less tempted. You can uninstall Facebook, for example. Okay? You do have that agency.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 19:43

Now it may seem inconceivable to you to do that, but it is possible. And in fact, when that's done in experiments, there was one experiment where people were given an an incentive to uninstall, deactivate Facebook for a month. You know, they were paid some amount of money to not go to Facebook. And it turns out that that is freeing up about an hour of time every day. If people get rid of Facebook, they have an extra hour to spend every day offline, and they can put that time to good use.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 20:18

And in fact, what happens is that people end up being slightly happier after they've, you know, got rid of Facebook for a month. Which isn't entirely surprising, because they're no longer exposed to all this sort of negativity that that Facebook is is awash in to keep our attention. So we do have agency, but it's not easy.

Hans Buetow: 20:40

So there are 3 strategies you outlined in the paper, and what you've been describing feels like the the first strategy, which is you call self nudging, which is reducing distracting low quality information. But that's only part of how we get there. Right?

Stephan Lewandowsky: 20:57

Yes. I mean, there there are other ways. There are other strategies you can apply. And, I mean, the second one is what we call lateral reading, which is what fact checkers do. And it's very easy, very clever, and very effective.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 21:12

What it does is to say, if I'm confronted with information online, and I wanna know whether this is high or low quality information, The best thing I can do is to not stay on that website, but to open a few other tabs and to then use reliable sources to tell me what the website in question is about. So if I come across something about, you know, climate change and I randomly look at it online, how do I know if that is credible or not? Well, if I look at the website itself, they'll do their best to to make me think it's credible. They're gonna tell me that they have a scientific advisory board and that they are, you know, an independent think tank, blah blah blah. They'll tell me all the stuff that sounds really good.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 22:01

But what I won't find out, unless I go to Google or Wikipedia, is that that is actually an astroturf website that is funded by the fossil fuel industry, let's say. The only way I can find that out is by asking questions about the website elsewhere. And that's called lateral reading, and it's very easy to do. And it's a lot of fun, because you can find out within 30 seconds whether somebody is trying to fool you, or whether it's a genuine website.

Hans Buetow: 22:32

Whether someone is trying to fool you is, I think, a critical part to all of this because we've been framing this as just like, oh, there's just a lot of information, and yes, that's true. There is a lot of information. As you all say in the paper, the relentless stream of information has turned human attention into a scarce resource, and you have to be careful about how you spend that resource. But Exactly. But what you just said there is a whole other part, which is that there are bad actors who know this, that there are people who are trying to feed you things that are not right, that are trying to get something out of you.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 23:08

Exactly. If I ask my neighbor, you know, whether I should take my rubbish bin out because it's a collection day, they're not gonna lie to me. They're gonna tell me the truth. And the same, you know, wherever you go in daily life, on average, people tell you the truth. And so it's very natural for us to have this default assumption that everything we see or hear is correct.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 23:31

Unfortunately, on the Internet, again, that breaks down because there's an incentive for people, of course, to present you with information that's wrong if it is serving their political or commercial interests. And so, yeah, you have to navigate an adversarial environment. So how do you deal with that? Well, basically, you completely ignore them, do not engage, you block them, and you report them, to the social media platforms. Even if that doesn't necessarily work all the time, it'll work some of the time.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 24:05

And most importantly, you're denying the trolls the attention that they're thriving

Hans Buetow: 24:11

on. I think for anybody who spends some amount of time on the Internet, these three strategies you're talking about, reduce your distractions, check information, and don't engage. People say, yeah, exactly. That's how you behave on the internet. But most people actually knowing that don't behave that way on the Internet, and have trouble remembering to do these, what are actually, when you break them down, fairly common sense, sort of simple things.

Hans Buetow: 24:39

And this, I think, brings me to the second part of the title, core competence, and I wanna look at that. So it's critical ignoring as a core competence. And when I came of age in the nineties, there was this ongoing public service campaign that was put on by NBC. So it started in September 1989. It consisted it was 30 seconds of celebrities, and they would come on and they would tell you earnestly about a social issue.

Hans Buetow: 25:06

And then this big animated star would wipe across the screen, and the words the more you know would trail the the star. And that campaign embodies the mentality that I feel I grew up with and absorbed deeply into my approach to the world. Consume everything, read it carefully. It's my obligation to know more, to pay attention to every social issue, and seeking out information was a virtue, which feels like we're in a different world. You write in the paper, we argue that it is insufficient to borrow the tools developed for offline environments and apply them to the digital world.

Hans Buetow: 25:53

Is this concept of the more you know and looking deeply and seeking out information, is that still what is being taught, and is that the way we are still being trained to deal with information?

Stephan Lewandowsky: 26:06

I think, yes. The default assumption of, you know, universities, schools, kindergartens, you know, wherever you go, is to teach people that more knowledge is better. And, of course, it is. I'm not disagreeing with that at all. It's just that to acquire knowledge, you gotta be able to focus on something.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 26:27

And if you are so overwhelmed with information that you can't pay any proper attention to anything, well, then you're not gathering knowledge. You're just gathering random noise. Knowledge means, you know, justified true belief. That's how it is defined. Now, you can't achieve that unless you're focusing.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 26:47

And you can't focus unless you ignore a hell of a lot of other things.

Hans Buetow: 26:52

You are, it sounds like, advocating for a shift in how we talk about critical thinking. Yes. Especially with students and people who are emerging into this attention economy, this deficient attention economy. Right. How do we change from one way of looking this everything is worth knowing to you have to ignore because there's just too much to know?

Stephan Lewandowsky: 27:16

Wow. It's a long term project. This doesn't happen overnight. I mean, there's increasing amount of research now being done on critical ignoring and deliberate ignorance. And it has become known within the scientific community that those are important concepts.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 27:35

Also, as educator, I mean, you know, I'm a university professor, so so I teach. One of the things that I tell my students is that they have to ignore a lot of things to focus on what's important.

Hans Buetow: 27:50

I wanna look at that third part of the title of your paper. You use the term in the paper citizen and citizenship several times, most notably in the title Yes. Which is critical ignoring as core competence for digital citizens. What relationship have you found between information and citizenship?

Stephan Lewandowsky: 28:13

I mean, first of all, the assumption underlying democracy is a well informed citizenry making decisions or deliberating to come to political outcomes. I mean, I don't know any theory of democracy that says democracy works because no one knows anything and everybody is misinformed. I've never heard that. It sounds absurd, and it is absurd. Yeah.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 28:41

And that means it is your civic duty to inform yourself, and that means you don't randomly listen to everybody on the Internet who's wearing a tinfoil hat and tells you that whatever, you know, the virus was created by some political outfit because they wanna do god knows what, establish the world government. Okay? Well, that's nonsense. And you're not entitled to believe nonsense. Hey, you want a democracy?

Stephan Lewandowsky: 29:09

Well, then you better do something for it. And the minimum you can do is is to inform yourself, and that means to ignore. We're back to the ignoring. That's that means you gotta ignore a lot of nonsense. So digital competence is so important that people develop an understanding of what it actually means to be online.

Hans Buetow: 29:35

Steve, thank you so much for helping me understand why I feel fatigued and I appreciate that.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 29:40

Yeah. Just talking about ignoring and feeling good about it is a is a, you know, liberating experience.

Hans Buetow: 29:46

Thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 29:49

Thank you.

Hans Buetow: 29:53

Thank you again to Steven Lewandowski and Anastasia Kosareva for their help critical ignoring and deliberate ignorance. And we would love to hear about your relationship to critical ignoring. And also, what tactics do you use to discern between high quality and low quality information? Which is to say, how do you decide what to pay attention to? Send us an email, voice mail, carrier pigeon, whatever works for you.

Hans Buetow: 30:27

All the information on how to get ahold of us is also in the show notes.

Bodega Owner: 31:06

How's that? You doing? I'm also here. Good. How are you?

Mike Rugnetta: 31:26

Okay. So they have cherry Doctor Pepper. And regular and diet, but nothing else. Thanks, boss. Say again?

Mike Rugnetta: 31:45

Looking for, diet caffeine free Doctor Pepper? I saw you had the diet one. Do you have the diet caffeine free one? No. No.

Mike Rugnetta: 31:53

Yeah. It's hard to find. It's not around anywhere.

Bodega Owner: 31:55

Check maybe. I'm not sure. Maybe. Next welcome maybe you can

Mike Rugnetta: 32:00

The guy's right up

Bodega Owner: 32:00

here? Yeah.

Mike Rugnetta: 32:01

Okay. Right. I'll go look. Thanks.

Bodega Owner: 32:10

Alright.

Mike Rugnetta: 32:14

Let's go try the next deli over.

Mike Rugnetta: 32:43

I'm here with the Never Post production team, Jason, Georgia, and Hans. Hello, friends. Hello. Hello.

Mike Rugnetta: 32:51

How are you?

Georgia Hampton: 32:52

I'm here. I'm awake. I'm thriving, and I'm learning. I'm at least

Jason Oberholtzer: 32:58

one of those things.

Hans Buetow: 33:01

And I'm the other 2.

Mike Rugnetta: 33:05

So I have gathered you all here because I have a question for you and I would like your opinion on various things. And, there's a little bit of background to this. Recently I wrote a big email to a client. This was like a big, sort of important, asking for things. You know, spent a long time making sure that it was worded right, all this other stuff.

Mike Rugnetta: 33:28

And sent it and then a few hours later went out to dinner, with Molly. And we're on the train going into Manhattan and my phone dings and it's a response to the email. And so I read it and they're like, yeah, this is great. Like all good, accepted, deadline, good, budget, good, whatever. And I was like, ah, yes.

Mike Rugnetta: 33:45

Great. She said, write them back. Say to them, you know, like, received? Great. Can't wait till you know, whatever.

Mike Rugnetta: 33:53

Whatever you would say in that reply email. And I said, oh no no. I can't do that. I'm only on my phone. And she said Mhmm.

Mike Rugnetta: 34:04

Right. Millennial. Molly

Georgia Hampton: 34:07

is Molly

Mike Rugnetta: 34:08

is also a millennial. So scathing.

Georgia Hampton: 34:11

The call is coming from inside the house.

Mike Rugnetta: 34:14

You can only write an important email on the computer, And I want to know, just to get started, if this is a way that you all also feel. Because I was not aware this was a thing when Molly said it.

Georgia Hampton: 34:30

Oh, I do all my text exchange on the computer. I prefer sending texts on the computer. I don't like doing it on my phone. I like doing it on the computer because I can type so much faster.

Jason Oberholtzer: 34:44

That is both practical and feels totally wild to me, the text part.

Georgia Hampton: 34:48

Oh my god. No. I like I I've had, like, multiple conversations with people where I'm, like, if I'm talking to them for example on Instagram, like, on DMs on Instagram, I'll be like, just here's my number. Text me. I prefer texting on a computer.

Georgia Hampton: 35:06

Okay.

Mike Rugnetta: 35:06

Yeah. I mean, I I I wanna hear from Jason and Hans.

Georgia Hampton: 35:11

That's it, guys. You

Bodega Owner: 35:12

can leave.

Mike Rugnetta: 35:13

But, George, I but, George, I got a lot of questions for you.

Georgia Hampton: 35:18

Okay. Listen. It is a bigger screen. It is a bigger keyboard. You have everything there.

Georgia Hampton: 35:25

You can see it all the same time. It's just it's just better. Like, I I'm I'm right.

Jason Oberholtzer: 35:31

No. It is better. My, litmus test is always, do I think I'm going to need tabs? If it is just tabbing over to one page on a browser and tabbing back to what I'm writing, I can do that on a phone, but that is the absolute limit. If more than one page or, like, a separate email and a web page need to be looked at to do this job, No shot of doing it on the phone.

Georgia Hampton: 35:53

Interesting.

Hans Buetow: 35:54

Mike, I have questions for you.

Mike Rugnetta: 35:55

Okay. Sure.

Hans Buetow: 35:56

Is it you're worried your little fingers, your little thumbs can't go that fast? Are you worried you're gonna autocorrect? Because autocorrect is a real thing on the phone that, like, can misinterpret you. Like, that could be a reason. Is it, like, the information is too important for the smallness of the device?

Hans Buetow: 36:15

Like, what where does that come from for you?

Mike Rugnetta: 36:18

I think there are a couple things. And I wanna stress that, like, I write emails on my phone all the time. But, like, import there's a certain kind of email, a certain echelon of email that I'm like, I gotta do this on a computer.

Bodega Owner: 36:32

Mhmm.

Mike Rugnetta: 36:33

And I think part of it is, for whatever reason, that echelon of email should not have the literal markers of being written on a phone. Oh. Like sent from mobile or typed mine is typed using only my thumbs. And I am not confident in myself in finding all of the settings, both within iOS and the Gmail app to turn them all off. Mhmm.

Mike Rugnetta: 37:03

And also I don't want to. I'm just lazy. Sometimes I do think it's a mark of importance. Like, I'm out in the world doing things, and I'm emailing you back. That's how important this is.

Mike Rugnetta: 37:15

But that's like a different kind of importance, I think.

Hans Buetow: 37:18

That's like the urgency.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 37:19

The importance

Georgia Hampton: 37:20

of urgency. Yes. Exactly.

Mike Rugnetta: 37:22

I also I think a lot about how an email looks when you first open it. And the feeling that I want someone to have is,

Bodega Owner: 37:32

I'm

Mike Rugnetta: 37:32

gonna read this email. Not, oh my god. And the facets of that are like overall email length, length of section between new line breaks, and length of sentences. Mhmm. And I just visually feel like I have a harder time getting a grasp on how an email feels overall on a smaller screen.

Hans Buetow: 38:04

Because you can only fit so many words into that, and you have to scroll up and scroll down and remember, and you can't get the full scope of it by looking.

Mike Rugnetta: 38:11

And I think part of it also is is a little bit of anxiety of being like, on the small screen, it always feels too long to me. Because of because of how much I'm scrolling and going back and forth. And I just, you know, I don't know.

Jason Oberholtzer: 38:26

I identify with that so much. You've articulated something that I was feeling but had not actually thought about. The physical construction of an email and the proportions of it are something that I understand on a computer screen and are important to me to figure out if this email is successful in some way that's hard to articulate and scrolling up and down on a phone to try to figure that out is terrifying, and I'm not confident that I can do it. It feels so tied to the concept of a successful email to me. I just know it will work if it feels proportionally correct.

Hans Buetow: 39:03

I have another clarifying question because you're using the word important, but I want us to define important a little bit more.

Mike Rugnetta: 39:10

Sure. Sure.

Hans Buetow: 39:11

Because I feel like we're we're conflating a little bit what might be a Venn diagram of important and formal.

Mike Rugnetta: 39:19

Oh. Interesting. So one of my jobs is I do what is effectively like artists services for a music technology company or like I'm reaching out to artists, and I'm often, like commissioning work from them. And those emails are not formal. Mhmm.

Mike Rugnetta: 39:41

But they are important. Mhmm. And I would never send one on my phone.

Hans Buetow: 39:47

Okay. Okay. Interesting. What are the markers of them that you make you say they're not formal?

Mike Rugnetta: 39:54

I think they're they're conversational, but it is still discussing work that someone has to do. Deadlines. The details are important. And I gotta make sure I get them right. Do you know what I mean?

Mike Rugnetta: 40:06

That's a that

Jason Oberholtzer: 40:15

And that sounds like you you're gonna need some tabs to make extra sure you do that. Yeah.

Bodega Owner: 40:20

Yeah. Yeah.

Georgia Hampton: 40:21

I'm still very hung up on the copy, the design, these elements of little filigree that's added to your digital communication only on your phone. So, like, what, Mike, you were saying if, like, sent from my iPhone or whatever, like, that just I I don't have to think about that if I'm on a computer, and there's so many little versions of that. Even, I mean, god, Hans, the the evocation of autocorrect, I'm sweating. I'm nervous. I'm scared.

Mike Rugnetta: 40:51

Because I don't

Hans Buetow: 40:51

know I don't always notice it. Like, especially, like, proper nouns that I intended. I'm working on a story for another show where it's all about blobfish, and autocorrect is always putting it to blowfish. It's a small change, but that's not the word.

Mike Rugnetta: 41:05

I mean That's a different thing.

Georgia Hampton: 41:07

It's a different thing.

Mike Rugnetta: 41:07

It's a different

Hans Buetow: 41:08

thing. And I don't always notice when

Bodega Owner: 41:10

it does it.

Mike Rugnetta: 41:10

Yeah. So, okay. I wanna get us back to emails and I wanna ask, a relatively big question. I was reading last night about just like generational email norms. Baby boomers include GIFs or like images and, like, have quotes in their, email signatures.

Mike Rugnetta: 41:30

Gen x doesn't capitalize anything. There's no punctuation. Their emails are very short. Gen Z just doesn't send emails. I read basically this claim that was, Millennials think more about emails than any of these other generations.

Bodega Owner: 41:50

Mhmm.

Mike Rugnetta: 41:51

I mean, it's so stereotypical, but, like, this was the way it was framed. Something we are anxious about. Do you think that's true? Absolutely.

Hans Buetow: 42:00

It is just as much as other forms of, like, the social Internet are the marker and lifestyle of people who grew up with its nascence. We grew up with the nascence of email. Email was the new thing. And that primacy of it was validated by its use in business for 20 years, 30 years. It's still, when you work for corporations or communicate in formalized ways, it's still the preferred way of communicating.

Hans Buetow: 42:29

I think that it's got a reification that happens, plus we grew up alongside it. And so it's a peer.

Mike Rugnetta: 42:38

Georgia, are you you are a millennial. Right? I don't know where the cutoff is.

Georgia Hampton: 42:42

I am. I think the cut off is 1997.

Mike Rugnetta: 42:45

Okay.

Georgia Hampton: 42:46

Like, I'm a millennial. I'm not gonna pretend I'm not, but there are components of my upbringing and my relationship especially to the Internet that I do find myself aligning a little bit more with Gen z, not completely, but my relationship to digital communication. Email to me if we really bring it back to this notion of formality or importance. If you're emailing me, I'm kind of assuming that this has some kind of professional tone to it, if that makes sense. Like, I hardly know any of my friends' email addresses because I don't need to email them about anything.

Mike Rugnetta: 43:26

Yeah. I think that's true. I yeah.

Jason Oberholtzer: 43:28

Yeah. Yeah. In thinking about correspondences that were primarily email, of which there are none in my life right now, but there used to be when I was younger, a fair amount of folks, the primary method of communication we had was email. And they were correspondences. They were long form.

Jason Oberholtzer: 43:44

They were considered. They went back and forth every week to month to if we were at in a fever pitch, maybe, you know, once a day or something, but they were thought out. They were basically electronic letters. That behavior has not ported over to any other platform, and I wonder if it has for others. Does anyone do long form correspondence on text or on any of these other places?

Mike Rugnetta: 44:12

What you say rings true to me, Jason. That like, there were there were times, probably like 15 years ago, where I would like have back and forth with someone who I knew via email. And, yeah, you would write like maybe a page.

Jason Oberholtzer: 44:27

Yeah.

Mike Rugnetta: 44:28

That sort of went away and hasn't really come up anywhere else.

Georgia Hampton: 44:32

The closest thing I can think of that I certainly use, my friends certainly use, is sending voice memos. When we're texting, sometimes we'll just switch over to voice memo and send each other voice memos instead or if we're sharing something and we're walking or we're sharing something that's an especially long story, what we'll do instead of texting it out is send a, like, 8 minute long voice memo.

Mike Rugnetta: 44:58

Woah. Yeah. That's just a podcast. Listen.

Georgia Hampton: 45:01

Yeah. It kind of is. Yeah. But, yeah, I mean, in terms of this long form component to it, That that's the closest approximation I have in my life.

Hans Buetow: 45:13

I have a side question that we haven't really talked about from Mike's original question. We've talked a lot about the technology and the ways that's the technology affects what you do, which of course reminds me of Walter Murch, In A Blink of an Eye. Amazing book and in this he has an essay, Methods and Machines. Walter Murch famously the, inventor of sound design, and one of the most incredible, film sound designers and sound sound designers, to have ever lived. And a great theorist about sound.

Hans Buetow: 45:47

And in this essay, Methods and Machines, from his book, In the Blink of an Eye, he talks about how much the machine changes what you do. The first line of the essay is, the tools that you choose to edit with can have a determining effect on the final product. Meaning that he uses different editing machines to have different choices to do different things to have different results depending on what he needs out of the film, which I think ties what we're saying and what we've been talking about, but there's a whole other component that I'm really curious about because you started that story on the train. And is there anything about not the technology that you're using, but the location on which you find yourself that feels like it's too casual, that there's something about the formality of sitting in front of a designated spot, which is what a computer usually is, or few spots. To do this, is there an environmental thing?

Hans Buetow: 46:44

Like, would you ever send an urgent email on the toilet?

Mike Rugnetta: 46:50

Not to keep bringing up Molly, but I guess she was like the the genesis of this whole discussion in a way. Molly makes fun of me sometimes because she will ask me a question, and my response will be, I'm not ready to think about that yet. Like Boundaries. Yeah. Like sometimes, like, you know, she would like wanna make plans.

Mike Rugnetta: 47:10

She'd be like, what should we have for dinner tonight? And it'll be like 2 o'clock in the afternoon. And I'll be like, I'm not I can't put my brain there yet. Like I'm not there yet. Yeah.

Mike Rugnetta: 47:18

Yeah. Yeah. And it's like too much work to get there. Yeah. And I think that I do feel that to a certain degree, when I am working I am like, I'm in the studio, I'm in front of the computer, brain is in a certain mode Yeah.

Mike Rugnetta: 47:35

And certain other things become easier just because of one, the attitude that I'm able to inhabit in a particular place and also because, like, it's very material. Like, all the stuff is in the right place. Like the yeah. Like Georgia said, the keyboard is easier to type on, the mouse is always in the same spot, everything's big on the screen. The studio monitors are here, so I can listen to loud music and like blot out everything else that's distracting me.

Mike Rugnetta: 48:02

I think that, yeah, it's harder to get into that same frame of mind on the train on the way to date night. Where I'm like, oh, gotta change gears and it really does feel like doing a Stady 180 on the highway. Yeah. However, to answer your question directly, would I send an important or urgent email from the toilet? Is the question on a phone specifically or on any device?

Hans Buetow: 48:28

I mean, I'm hoping the phone is maybe the most you're taking to the toilet with you, but that this is not I'm not gonna judge.

Mike Rugnetta: 48:35

I mean, I've never I've never sent an important email from the toilet on a laptop, but it doesn't seem insane

Georgia Hampton: 48:41

to me. Just bring a tower

Stephan Lewandowsky: 48:42

in there.

Bodega Owner: 48:43

Just get a whole set of

Georgia Hampton: 48:47

Please, honey. I'm gaming.

Mike Rugnetta: 48:51

I have some important business to attend to.

Jason Oberholtzer: 48:53

Sending emails from my Oculus, honey.

Hans Buetow: 48:57

I have kind of the same reaction you do, Mike, but kind maybe for different reasons. I think I have a defense, like, I want it to be in the computer because the computer is where I do business.

Jason Oberholtzer: 49:06

Yeah. Yeah.

Hans Buetow: 49:06

And I feel like not only is it hard to put my brain into that space on the way to date night, I don't want that in my brain on the way to date night. I wanna be on date night.

Jason Oberholtzer: 49:16

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I feel similarly about, being on the toilet. I don't wanna also have to do my job.

Georgia Hampton: 49:27

Yes. Yes. I can only think of very situation specific moments in which that would happen and it would truly have to be, like, I need to send this out.

Stephan Lewandowsky: 49:38

Yeah.

Georgia Hampton: 49:39

Let's say I'm I'm at a party. I don't wanna do this, but if I'm in the bathroom, at least, I'm kind of in a little room by myself and can be left alone to be like, oh, god. Okay. Hey.

Mike Rugnetta: 49:53

So good to hear from you.

Georgia Hampton: 49:55

That sounds that sounds great. I will have that to you by EOD, all my best. Yeah. And then delete, you know, sent from my iPhone, delete all traces. But but, truly, the only time I could think of doing that would be under duress.

Georgia Hampton: 50:15

Otherwise, I would just wait and respond to something later.

Mike Rugnetta: 50:19

Okay. So I feel like we've learned a lot about each other's email preferences. I wanna return to something that, we talked about at the top of this conversation, which is Georgia typing texts on her computer.

Georgia Hampton: 50:34

I knew it. I knew you were going to come for me. I knew it. I can't believe this. I'm gonna get you guys.

Mike Rugnetta: 50:39

What's wrong with you? 2. You're gonna oh my god.

Bodega Owner: 50:42

Oh my god. Oh

Georgia Hampton: 50:43

my god.

Mike Rugnetta: 50:44

I think this is interesting because, like, I think a lot about the weight of posts. Like, a text to me is a relatively light post. An email is a relatively for the most part, usually, a relatively heavy quote unquote post. A tweet is like somewhere between those 2. A blog post is like closer to an email and sometimes heavier than an email depending upon what it is.

Mike Rugnetta: 51:15

And I think I just think that typing texts on a keyboard elevates them in weight in a way that I think is very interesting.

Georgia Hampton: 51:27

Alright.

Jason Oberholtzer: 51:27

So here's the question then. I'm assuming that your texts, all of you, come to your computers and your phones at the same time. Yeah. When you are sitting there at your desk and a text comes in Yeah. What percentage of the time do you answer on your desktop or pick up your phone to answer

Hans Buetow: 51:47

it? This is a good question.

Georgia Hampton: 51:48

You already know my answering to that.

Jason Oberholtzer: 51:53

The phone is left in the bedroom, has not made its way to the desk.

Georgia Hampton: 51:57

The only exception to that for example, if I need to send a photo of something for my camera roll

Mike Rugnetta: 52:04

Right.

Georgia Hampton: 52:04

If I need to edit a text, I can't do that on my computer. For some reason, the software, like, hasn't updated to be able to do that on the computer. So if I sent something and god, this is such a dumb editorial thing. If there's a double space there and it drives me crazy,

Mike Rugnetta: 52:20

you are you are just, you are are proving my hypothesis here that you think of texts as being weightier than the rest of us.

Georgia Hampton: 52:28

Listen. Grammar and syntax are important to me, and I won't apologize for that. But, yeah, like, if I have to if it is easier to do it on a phone or if I need to have access to things that are in my phone, I will absolutely send it on my phone.

Mike Rugnetta: 52:44

I I think I feel the same way. The Imessage app on desktop is so miserable that if I need to do anything other than just send a text, like respond to someone, write write text, then I'm gonna go get my phone.

Bodega Owner: 52:59

Yeah.

Mike Rugnetta: 52:59

But like, I do agree with you. Like, I hate Apple autocorrect. Typing on the iPhone is also miserable. Mhmm. So like

Georgia Hampton: 53:08

So so I'm right? Yeah.

Jason Oberholtzer: 53:09

It's even better.

Georgia Hampton: 53:11

So I'm right. So you agree?

Mike Rugnetta: 53:13

If if you need if you need this,

Bodega Owner: 53:15

then yes.

Mike Rugnetta: 53:22

Okay. Friends, thank you for letting me gather you, to ask you about your email practices and preferences.

Jason Oberholtzer: 53:29

My pleasure.

Georgia Hampton: 53:31

I don't know if it was my pleasure.

Mike Rugnetta: 53:35

I don't know. Yeah. Have we done ourselves a disservice by being millennials and then just sitting here now staring into the abyss of thinking about email. We would love to hear also from our listeners from from the audience. If you guys have thoughts about, what an important email is, how you should and should not send that email, the weight of various messages.

Mike Rugnetta: 53:59

We would love to hear your thoughts. Drop us a line depending upon how important you think your message is. You can get a hold of us by sending us a voice mail, leaving us a voice memo, sending us an email or dropping a comment on the website. There are links on how to do all those things in the show

Bodega Owner: 54:20

notes.

Mike Rugnetta: 54:32

In the first episode of Neverpost, one of the shipping managers at Cub Foods told Hans

Stephan Lewandowsky: 54:38

Don't have things that certain regions of Pepsi doesn't carry.

Mike Rugnetta: 54:41

And And so my thought was, if Hans is having a hard time finding diet caffeine free Doctor Pepper in Roseville, Minnesota, maybe I'll have an easier time in Brooklyn, New York, which must be a different region from where he is. So, over the course of a night, I wandered around my neighborhood. I went to 2 grocery stores and 3 bodegas and I could not find diet caffeine free Doctor Pepper at any of them. And so I'm sitting now in the studio and I'm thinking to myself, probably we're going about this all wrong just trying to wander around to stores looking for something that seems to us like it should be easy to find And I am just going to go to the internet, I'm going to go to Amazon dotcom and I'm just gonna try to buy diet caffeine free, doctor. Interesting.

Mike Rugnetta: 55:38

It is the first result when I type diet caffeine free. Let's see. Woah. Okay. I can purchase it for $6 a can and I can have it tomorrow.

Mike Rugnetta: 55:52

$60 for a 4 pack of 12 12 ounce cans, $35 for a 2 pack, the diet Doctor Pepper caffeine free 12 fluid ounces pack of 12 is out of stock. Purchase options. Oh, okay. I can get this delivered to me on Thursday for $26. Okay.

Mike Rugnetta: 56:24

So that to me means that this object is in or around New York City, if I can get it delivered to me that fast. It's just not available in any retail stores and is marked up a wild amount, just out of okay. Let's see. Diet caffeine free Coke. How much is diet caffeine free Coke?

Mike Rugnetta: 56:47

Okay. 9.99. That's $10, so more than twice as much, almost three times as expensive. Why? That is the show we have for you this week.

Mike Rugnetta: 57:09

I hope you enjoyed it. We'll be back in the main feed in 2 weeks on March 27th. In the interim, there will be extended cuts of both Hans' conversation with Steven and our important emails staff round table on the members only extended segments feed. Head on over to neverpo.st if you wanna get in on that, and also take a look at any of the other members only posts we have available. Never posts producers are Audrey Evans, Georgia Hampton, and the mysterious doctor first name, last name.

Mike Rugnetta: 57:36

Our senior producer is Hans Buto. Our executive producer is Jason Oberholtzer. I'm your host, Mike Rugnetta. You come in by the same door. You carry what cannot be left for its own sweet shimmer of reason, its false blood, the same tint I hear with the pulse it touches and will not melt.

Mike Rugnetta: 57:59

Such shading of the rose to its stop tips the bolt from the sky, rising in its effect of what motto we call Peace Talks. And yes, the quiet turn of your page is the day tilting so, faded in the light. Excerpt of Rich in Vitamin C by jhprin. Never post is a production of charts and leisure.

Emails? You Love 'Em!