Serious problem of mental masturbation

just to clear things up, yes mental masturbation is serious concept that actually exists though when I heard about it first I thought that it is just some joke or what.

Today I want to talk about YouTube, Khan Academy and what mental masturbation means.

This topic is kind of connected to procrastination  and multitasking and I already wrote about those in previous episodes of “serious problems”.

While procrastination is simply avoiding some work that you know you are supposed to do and multitasking is doing more stuff at the same time (which decreases your overall performance) mental masturbation is doing intelectuall things that could seem on the first hand quite good but are actually either preventing you from doing real action IRL or making you think that you are just at your top productive.

Now let me give an example.

The way I understand this concept is in watching educational YouTube videos. There are literary thousands of them, so you can spent a lot of time like that. Try to watch some video (best more) and after few days try to recall what was their content. SciShow is for example great channel for this experiment.

They release daily videos about science. Each is something like 4 minutes long and there are over 700 of them. Mental masturbation would be if I watched 10 of them and then did not remember a single thing but still thought that I was being productive by watching educational content (this is quite intuitive, if I watch so much at the same time without thinking about it I can not remember it). Actually, most people would probably agree with me and said something like “Yo man! You are doing some serious work on internet.”

Now the pitfall is of course that it is just wasted time and you do not even know it. You could say that you remember something and that is fine but you want to remember the whole video because maybe it was some high quality stuff but you just skimmed through thinking that “yeah this is great”.

The way I first noticed this was when I watched videos and then talked about them during family dinner. Sometimes I contemplated that I do not know mere minutes after it finished what it was about, though the false great feeling was still there.

This applies to lot and lot of stuff, reading too of course. I mentioned Khan Academy in the beginning. KA is a huge project that has lot of nice educational content. Like it or not, content needs to be tested and proper testing system in Khan Academy is basicly only in math sections. The other subjects you can use just as a tool for mental masturbation.

Derek Müller from Veritasium is pretty good in his physics videos. He discusses this issue in this one:

So how can you stop mental masturbation?

  1. Start taking notes from what you read, videos you watch, people you talk with
  2. Talk with someone who is interested in the topic or she/he saw the video too.
  3. Play it/read it it more times. Repetition of the best stuff is going to make you remember it whether you like it or not.

The last advice might seem like a waste of time but as it happens it does not need to be.



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