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.


Serious problem of multitasking

when I was yesterday writing about procrastination, most of the memes I found were negatively turned towards procrastination while multitasking seems to look like a good thing to do, by most of the people on the internet.

Oh yes, I am trying to say that multitasking is really bad, but first lets define what exactly means to multitask.

So multitasking is apparent doing of several things at the same time.
I say apparent because what people actually do, is that they change their tasks very often so it seems that they are doing more things at the same time (this is exactly what computers do, switching between various tasks).

This can mean many things like: cooking and calling, emailing and eating, chatting and learning and so on, what is worse you add more and more things to do at the same time.

This takes price. Every time you switch from one task to another you must remind yourself what this task is and that takes energy so your brain eats glucose like crazy. What is even worse is that this switching between tasks releases dopamine.

Dopamine is hormone which does lot of stuff and is connected with Parkinson’s disease. This hormone is kind of good for you and your brain remembers exactly from what activity dope of dopamine was released. This is why you want to perform the task again, and again. Dopamine is stimulating your brain and this is where most of the addictions come from. So yes, what I am trying to say really is that you can get addicted to multitasking.

So what other problems are there with multitasking? Well it is energetically inefficient but also it does not let you to dive to one problem and solve it properly with your best. Sometimes multitasking can even double the time it takes to finish the task, while you still think that you are extremely efficient when multitasking.

Last thing is that when you are actually learning and playing games at the same time, the knowledge from learning, even if you learned something, may be stored in the part of brain tagged as “fun or recreation or games”. What then happens is that you are not able to properly remember those things when you are learning something similar and your brain should normally say: “Oh yeah! I know this part already!”

So my best advice, stop it now! As I said in the post about procrastination, try to learn not to be distracted by other things around and focus only on one task, the most important one.


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Serious problem of procrastination

today again I am leaving the stuff around astronomy to write about something we encounter everyday. This is the matter of procrastination. I feel like everybody knows about it, everybody understands the concept but most people just make jokes about it (some of them are really good).
For this one thanks belong to Cyanide and Happiness.

So first I will try define procrastination with the help of Wikipedia. They say: “Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task which needs to be accomplished.”

Cool, what does that mean in reality?
This means that you are finding excuses for not doing something or you just do something which is more “pleasurable” than the task which you should be working on.

It seems that at this time when there is internet you can get to procrastination in no time.
So imagine you need to learn something for an exam. You sit in front of computer with your book or sheet of paper with your notes and you are trying to learn something.
The problem is that while you sit in front of your computer which you would not need to use at all, your attention slides more and more to Facebook or whatever thing you forgot to close. This also has to do with multitasking.

Then it reminds that you needed to respond to someone so you do that, your book still lying around. Then you check your email, nothing is there which is OK, you have done another task and it was much easier than learning for next days exam.

Like this it may continue for a long time. You suddenly recall that you met yesterday someone new and you want him in your friends. Then you check news around world, eat some food because it feels as that you are hungry and so on and on.

So what happens is that you delay the most important task which needed to be done. Actually sometimes the other things which you do are not so bad but finally the most important ones are not completed anyway, even if some like taking bin out should take you just a moment.

😀 well so what to do with that? Well actually it is pretty easy at that point when you know when you are procrastinating.
Just do the thing somewhere where there wont be any distractions around. Do not take your smartphone with you. Do not say to yourself that you will do something for some amount of time, because what happens than is that you will just check clocks for most of the time. Just do it exactly the amount of time it needs.

Maybe making list of “things to do” and ordering them by importance can help. If you are procrastinating you can not say that you don’t have enough time since probably most of it you simply waste on the stuff which does not need to be done in your most productive time.


I will surely continue with multitasking.
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