I Quit Facebook and I Don’t Miss It

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Approximately two weeks ago I deleted my Facebook account. It wasn’t something I thought about a great deal. I suddenly realized “I’m done with Facebook,” and a day later I deleted my account.

I’ve been concerned about Facebook’s data-mining and privacy policies since I learned about early links to the CIA and DARPA. But this isn’t why I deleted my account. I don’t know if I even fully understand why I wanted to stop using Facebook, but here are some of the reasons I’ve considered:

  • despite having 300+ “friends,” my feed was usually full of comments and posts from people I didn’t even know
  • I got tired of reading other people’s political opinions or hearing about their outrage
  • annoying animated gifs and autoplay videos
  • I rarely felt compelled to share or post anything … mostly because I no longer had a clear sense of who was reading/seeing it

Facebook was starting to feel like a low-quality tabloid newspaper instead of a way to connect with family and friends.

One reason I stayed on Facebook for so long was that I felt it helped me keep up with acquaintances. I recently had an experience that made me rethink this supposition. I ran into someone from the dance music scene that I hadn’t seen in years. I’d seen that person’s posts on Facebook so I had a vague idea that I knew what was going on with him. But after a brief conversation on BART (our local transit system) I realized that I’d had no idea what was really going on in his life. I had been reading his posts without context, and didn’t understand that his life had been turned upside-down by a series of events, and that he was having to rebuild his life essentially from scratch. I learned more in a five minute conversation than I would have from reading a thousand of his Facebook posts.

Events and Invitations

A few friends would use Facebook to invite me to events. It was often difficult to find these real invites among the dozens of spam-invites to paid events that would also show up in my Facebook events list. I suppose some friends will have to switch to email (or snail mail) to invite me to things, but I actually check those formats on a regular basis. It’s nice to have one fewer inbox.

Focus, Active Curation

Since quitting both Facebook and Reddit, it’s much harder to waste time on my computer. I check my email, the New York Times headlines, and that’s about it. Sometimes I’ll look at my Twitter feed and click on a few interesting links. But I no longer fall into a black hole of distraction where I lose an hour or more of my day. I feel more focused.

In the evening, if I’m actively looking for entertainment, I now have to be more active in my search (instead of passively browsing an algorithm-generated feed, or pages of “top voted” content). This is a good thing. I’m reading more fiction (in book format, not on my computer), and finding very narrow content related to my hobbies (like the TerranScapes youtube channel). This is a return to how I sought entertainment during the first thirty-five years of my life, and it’s a more gratifying system. I’m engaging with material that actively interests me in very specific ways, instead of finding the occasional gem amidst a sea of broad content.

Out of the Loop?

I did have some mild anxiety about becoming more socially isolated or being “out of the loop” if I quit Facebook. I quickly identified this as a false fear. My real friends weren’t going to forget about me, and though I might learn things about people’s lives (who got married, who had a kid, etc.) later than most, I might enjoy the information more receiving it in person.

Quitting Facebook did inspire me to be more active in regards to social planning. Life is finite and you don’t have time to do everything with everyone. I’ll save the details for a later post, but I’ve made a few changes to my system for tracking what I/we want to do with our friends and family, and taking the necessary steps to schedule and plan those social engagements.

I actually feel more socially connected since I quit Facebook. I’m no longer looking at events I wasn’t invited to, parties I didn’t attend, and trips I didn’t take. Instead I’m looking at my own calendar to see what I have planned for the week, and with whom. If the calendar is looking empty then I take steps to fill it up.

What’s Your Investor Personality (Shark, Monkey, or Ostrich)?

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In terms of your investing personality, are you most like a shark, monkey, or ostrich?

Over the past year I’ve been attempting to get my own financial house in order, and writing about it. In the next few money/investment posts I’ll be referring to sharks, monkeys, and ostriches. Might as well explain what I mean.

Shark

You are a heartless sociopath, or close to it. This makes you potentially the best kind of investor, but also the most dangerous (to both yourself and others). You view money as primarily an abstraction, and are able to make cold rational calculations and decisions without getting emotionally involved. You are prone to both gaining and losing large fortunes quickly. With training, you are able to clearly evaluate risk and make good financial decisions (low risk, high potential gain). However you do like making big bets and nobody wins all the time.

Monkey

You are clever, but not as clever as you think you are. You are good at creating investment systems and strategies but bad at consistently following through on them. Investing is so much fun for you (at least when you are winning) that it’s hard not to meddle and “improve” your system. You are prone to both excessive enthusiasm and wild panic, and thus often find yourself buying high and selling low. You vacillate between “money as a game” and “money is real” and thus underestimate your tolerance for risk and market fluctuations. The investment history of a typical monkey might look something like this.

Ostrich

You would prefer to not think about money, investments, or how you will fund your later years. You feel ambivalent about accumulating money, and conversations about investing stress you out. Can someone else just deal with it? You may sensibly pick a wise fiduciary to manage your investments and do very well. On the other hand you might get snookered by a Bernie Madoff type. Ultimately you have good instincts about investing, and also have the capacity to follow an investment strategy with discipline. The hard part is thinking about it long enough to get started.

The Basics

Investment personality aside, I think the same basic strategy works for most people who aren’t born rich (and yes I realize that term is relative — I’m referring to the poor, working, and middle classes in the U.S.). The basic plan:

  • consolidate all high-interest debt and pay it off as quickly as possible with no less than 20% of your income
  • save at least 10% of your income via automated transfers into savings and/or investment accounts (“pay yourself first“)
  • keep some of your savings in an “emergency cash” fund to cover at least a few months of expenses
  • allocate some % of your savings stream into “dream” accounts (travel, toys, gifts, etc.) and/or to charitable causes
  • invest the remainder of your savings stream in low-fee investment vehicles (like exchange traded funds), diversified with fixed %’s into categories that fluctuate independently (stocks, bonds, commodities, gold, real estate), weighted more heavily towards less volatile categories like government bonds (depending on your age), rebalancing periodically

The last bullet point is incredibly dense and probably makes no sense unless you already understand it. I unpack it here in this post (and I highly recommend the Robbins book mentioned in same post, for both novice and seasoned investors).

How to Deal with Your Weaknesses

As a monkey, I’ve been a happier investor since I realized I don’t have much tolerance for giant fluctuations in my net worth. Since this realization I’ve invested more conservatively, and it better fits my personality.

I’m lucky to have an ostrich as a partner. If we discuss major financial decisions we’re much better off than my typical “leaping without looking very carefully” approach. The hurdle for Kia was getting clear about why she should invest in the first place. Like many people (including myself) she can’t really visualize retiring, and thus had a hard time thinking about “saving for retirement.” The cold fact of the matter is that even if you don’t want to retire, you might be forced to, or people may no longer want to pay money for what you have to offer at age 65. Yet you could easily live for another 30 years. Longevity variability aside, having a portfolio that pays you passive income allows you to do the work you want to do, regardless of if anyone is willing to pay you for that work.

But what should the shark do? The main shark pitfall is losing everything on “all in” bets. So don’t go all in. Follow a diversified portfolio strategy with most of your savings, and limit your high-risk bets to a limited %. This is a good strategy for monkeys too.

Next Up …

I’ll write at least two more posts on this topic in the coming months, including:

How To Create an Automated Trading Prompt System with Google Sheets
I’ll create and share a public Google Sheet that calls current market data from both Google Finance and Yahoo Finance, and discuss some of the simple valuation formulas I’m using.

How To Invest a Lump Sum
If you have cash but don’t yet have a diversified portfolio, should you buy in all at once at your % allocations, or “limp in” buying cheaper categories first? How do you know if a general category (stocks, bonds, gold, etc.) is cheap? 

Bricks by the Bay 2015

Alice Finch's Mouse Guard!

Alice Finch’s Mouse Guard

We recently took a day trip to Santa Clara to check out Bricks by the Bay, a LEGO builders convention. I’ve tried to get into this before but the line has always been too intimidating. This year we bought VIP early entry tickets (only $20 each) and had a full hour to check out the builds with plenty of room to navigate the hall. There were so many excellent, impressive builds. Here are a few of my favorites!

From Alice Finch's Mouse Guard display

More from Alice Finch’s Mouse Guard display

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Here’s a post about the origins of the Mouse Guard bricks. You can follow Alice Finch on Flickr — check out her amazing Hogwart’s builds as well.

"The Walking Plastic" zombie apocalypse!

“The Walking Plastic” zombie apocalypse!

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I loved this comparatively small build of a kung fu fight in a Chinese inn.

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I didn’t catch the names of all the builders … feel free to add info in the comments if you see something you recognize!

Battle scene, possibly LOTR

Battle scene, possibly LOTR

Iron Giant defends a city!

Iron Giant defends a city!

Scrooge McDuck's gold vault.

Scrooge McDuck’s gold vault.

Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Shootin' hoops in the park.

Shootin’ hoops in the park.

Get your iPhone 6 here.

Get your iPhone 6 here.

Don't get run over.

Don’t get run over.

Lighthouse! (Anybody reading Jeff Vandermeer? Extra significance ...)

Lighthouse! (Anybody reading Jeff Vandermeer? Extra significance … )

Underwater adventure.

Underwater adventure.

Stranded!

Stranded!

A fun day trip … highly recommended! Thanks to all the builders who put many hours into these amazing displays.

Hair Regrowth Update and FAQ

Family portrait 2011 -- the

Family portrait 2011 — the “before” shot

Top of head July 2015

Top of head July 2015

In April I wrote about how I’ve been using a scalp massage technique to thicken my hair and advance my hairline, and shared progress pictures. Understandably the post generated a great deal of interest. Rub your head and grow your hair back? Get your hair back without drugs or surgery? Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Another hair regrowth scam?

I was skeptical too. Rob from perfecthairhealth.com introduced me to the technique, and it took a few email exchanges to convince me to try it. The basics of the system are as follows:

  1. Twice a day, morning and evening, massage your scalp using deep, intense pinching, pressing, and squeezing, for about twenty minutes. Your scalp should feel a little sore at the end of the massage, but you don’t want to break the skin.
  2. Adopt (or continue) a highly nutritious anti-inflammatory diet (low grain and sugar, plenty of vegetables, fruit, fish, poultry, meat, etc.) — more or less a paleo diet.

Why does it work? Is there any science to back it up?

  1. Rob was inspired to try this technique after reviewing this study by Henry Choy (Hong Kong University). Though the study has not yet been replicated (as far as I know), Choy’s results were impressive. 100% of the subjects regrew 90%+ of their hair. Choy describes the technique as “detumescence therapy.” According to Choy, bald and balding people have more “dome shaped” heads due to thickening of the scalp on the top of the head. The massage therapy thins and reshapes the scalp, expels trapped sebum, increases blood flow to hair follicles, and releases trapped DHT (which causes the hair follicle to miniaturize and become inactive).
  2. Rob has written an eBook which expands on Choy’s theory, and adds his own ideas about scalp calcification and diet. Soft tissue calcification (which is implicated in many diseases of aging, including heart disease) can occur in the scalp, and the intense massage process can help break up tissue calcification (which blocks nutrient supply to the hair follicles). In terms of diet, Rob recommends paleo both because such a diet tends to push to immune system towards a less inflammatory state (chronic levels of skin inflammation can contribute to hair loss), and also because foods like organ meats and bone broths provide high levels of certain amino acids which may encourage hair growth. He also discussed the role of thyroid health in relation to hair loss.

Personal Hair Regrowth Update

In my earlier post I detailed my own hair loss chronicles, and shared my experience using the massage technique described in Rob’s eBook. Since then I’ve been continuing the massage technique, but not as strictly. On average I probably do the head massage about five minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the evening. My hair is continuing to thicken and advance, slowly but noticeably.

My scalp no longer gets “greasy” after the massage sessions — I believe that I expelled any excess sebum within the first few months. My scalp feels much thinner, looser, and more flexible than it did when I first started. I am still experiencing what can best be described as “adult cradle cap” — excess dead skin accumulating on the top of my head that needs to be scraped off. I assume this is in reaction to the intense stimulation of the scalp skin, but it could also be a side effect of increased blood flow, old material deep in the scalp being expelled, or even some kind of stem cell activity or other hair growth factor related to the reactivation of the hair follicles. I don’t have dandruff as long as I “scrape off the gunk” and keep my hair and scalp clean (I use just water or a very gentle, “no bad stuff” shampoo).

In my earlier post some readers were critical because my “before” and “after” pictures were taken from different angles, with the “after” shot taken from further back and thereby making my hair look fuller. I’ve tried to correct that with the following “same angle” comparison:

July 2014 vs. July 2015

July 2014 vs. July 2015

Overall I would say at this point I’ve regrown about 80% of my lost hair (if you include thickening on top of my head), and about 50% of the previously totally bald areas grown in at least partially. Much of the regrowth is hard to see, but I feel it when I run my fingers through my hair (verified by my wife and a few curious friends).

This isn’t as dramatic as the results of Choy’s study, but I’ve definitely regrown a lot of my hair! Frankly I’m amazed it works at all.

Readers of my earlier post have been curious about various aspects of the technique. I’ve tried to condense some of the frequently asked questions below.

F.A.Q.

1. Did your fingertips get numb?

At times they did. Using my nails more (trimmed short, just long enough to dig into my scalp a little) helped relieve pressure on the fingertips. So did using altering the angle so that I was using the finger pads more than the fingertips.

2. Did you use any special oils, like emu oil?

No — too messy for me personally. Emu oil may have a mild anti-inflammatory effect, but there isn’t much evidence that it helps regrow hair. It probably can’t hurt though!

3. What is the “correct” massage technique?

Choy’s paper describes “pressing and kneading.” Rob’s eBook focuses on “squeezing and pinching.” My guess is that the exact technique probably doesn’t matter a great deal as long as you are going really deep, almost to the point of pain, to loosen the scalp, break up calcification, and stimulate blood flow. Really get in there! What you don’t want is friction on the surface of the scalp; go deep instead.

4. When will I see the first regrowth?

Probably after about four months, though you’ll notice your scalp feels looser after only a few weeks. Readers who have been using the technique from Rob’s eBook for more than four months — when did you first start to see results?

5. Will I lose more hair before regrowing new hair?

Possibly. I didn’t experience this, but others have. Shedding may occur from follicles that are already undernourished and partially miniaturized. For some, this possibility might pose enough risk to want to avoid this technique. You could always wait until you’re completely bald — then try the technique risk-free!

6. What about supplements?

I take some supplements on an ongoing basis, including vitamin D, vitamin K2, cod liver oil, and chelated magnesium. I didn’t add anything new when starting the massage technique.

7. What if my scalp is too tight to pinch?

Try pressing and kneading, using both hands if necessary, until your scalp gets looser.

8. Would a wooden massager, brush, or electric contraption work just as well?

I doubt it. To generate enough force and really remodel your scalp tissue, direct pressure from strong hands and fingers are your best bet (and your hands and fingers WILL get stronger if you practice the massage technique daily).

9. Can the massage cause headaches?

This didn’t happen to me, but it’s conceivable that increased blood flow and vasodilation could cause a headache. Since the massage is generally relaxing, a vasoconstriction headache (the type brought on by stress) seems unlikely. To prevent a vasodilation headache, adequate hydration, salt intake, and possibly coffee could be helpful.

10. If the scalp calcification theory is correct, why do hair transplants work?

A reader wrote to both myself and Rob with this question. I didn’t know anything about hair transplants, but here is Rob’s response:

Many years ago, a big research paper came out about hair transplants. Scientists took thick healthy hairs from non-bald regions in the back of the scalp and transplanted them to balding regions. These hairs continued to grow normally for the duration of the study, and so scientists concluded that these hairs would continue to grow in perpetuity because they were protected, for reasons unknown, from MPB.

This paper became the basis of support for all hair transplant surgeries, but there were significant flaws with it. The problem: the study wasn’t long enough.

Transplanted hairs weren’t tracked over a series of hair cycles, but rather for relatively short periods of time. During this time, it was concluded that these hairs weren’t miniaturizing at the same rate of other hairs in the same region, so these hairs must be protected from MPB. This turns out to be a false conclusion. In actuality, the transplanted hairs begin to miniaturize and eventually fall out, but the process takes a long time because the transplanted hairs are so healthy to begin with.

The reason why is just as the book argues: they’re transplanted into regions of the scalp suffering from fibrosis, calcification, excess sebum/dandruff build-up, plus a host of other epigenetic changes to collagen structures. As you know, the conditions for MPB are present years before the symptoms (hair loss) begin to show. So, we can assume that if these conditions precede hair loss, then it must also take time for thick healthy transplanted hairs to miniaturize after being moved to a relatively more calcified region in the scalp.

Anecdotally, I’ve worked with a lot of people with hair transplants. Of the group who received them 5-10 years ago, almost all of them claim that most of their transplanted hair is already gone. I have a friend with a hair transplant who’s experiencing the same problem right now. It’s one of those weird cases where the science doesn’t add up with the anecdotal evidence.

To make matters worse, all hair transplant surgeons are aware of this. It’s why they ask you to go on finasteride and minoxidil after a transplant (in hopes that some of the conditions to the scalp will be addressed). They also ask you to join a hair club, and some now even mandate massages to promote elasticity (you can find YouTube videos of doctor demonstrations on this).

In regards to hair transplant surgeons being aware of these issues, Rob followed up with a link to this article, which includes the following passage.

“Micrograft survival rates in hair transplantation have been frequently described in private conversations by hair transplant doctors as variable at best. References in medical literature may grossly underestimate the prevalence and magnitude of poor growth. This is probably because most hair transplant surgeons arc concerned that publication of a significant incidence of poor growth would reflect negatively on their practice.”

11. Do headstands help?

I’ve been doing headstands for years, partially because I thought it might prevent hair loss. It may have helped, but headstands on their own didn’t help regrow my hair. I still do headstands for general health, and in addition I also twist and rub my head on the floor (or mat) while inverted, to make my scalp more flexible and to apply more pressure. No idea if it helps, but it feels good and may be synergistic with the massage technique.

12. Has this technique worked for many people outside of Choy’s study?

Many of Rob’s eBook readers have sent in before-and-after pictures, and Rob (with their permission) has forwarded some of those pictures to me. The results are impressive: significant regrowth with several men regrowing all of their lost hair (at least as much as you can tell from a picture). I hope that some of these gentlemen will grant Rob permission to use their pictures in the next edition of his eBook.

Still, we’re far from this being a “proven” technique. Anyone who is trying it now is an early adopter/experimenter. I salute you — together we are forging the way for potentially thousands of people who can use this simple technique (along with patience and persistence) to regrow lost hair!

If you’ve been using the technique for five or more months, please write in and share your results (with or without pictures).

13. How important are diet and general health to the hair regrowth process?

Since Choy’s study doesn’t mention diet or nutrition at all, and all of his subjects experienced hair regrowth, I can only assume any dietary changes are less important than the massage process. Personally I did not modify my diet at all, but I was already eating a low-grain, low-sugar, high-nutrient diet before I started.

Still, why not take the step of improving your diet if you choose to embark on the hair regrowth journey? It can’t hurt, and it may help other issues related to poor diet and/or chronic systemic inflammation, including asthma, insulin resistance, and heart disease. Even if you don’t go paleo, or maybe don’t eat meat at all, you can still take steps like cutting out baked goods (like bread), sweet drinks (too much fructose), and more than one drink a day, while at the same time increasing omega-3 intake, water, and nutrient dense foods.

14. Are you planning any video tutorials, eBooks, or other hair regrowth products?

Not at the moment. Rob and I have discussed working together on something (in very vague terms), but for the moment I think Rob’s current eBook is a great product.

If you are already experimenting with the massage technique, let us know how it’s going. I’m especially interested in people who have been using the massage technique for five or more months. Is it working for you? Did you get discouraged and give up? Do you look like Fabio now? Please share below, and as always please be polite and respectful towards other commenters.

Update:

Some readers have requested more pictures. Here are my most recent progress pictures from August 15, 2015, right after I cut my hair.

Hair regrowth progress as of August 2015.

Hair regrowth progress as of August 2015.

Why I Quit Reddit

RedditCOA

Bye and thanks for all the cute animal pictures.

I just deleted my reddit account and committed to no longer visiting the site. Why? Reddit refuses to ban openly racist and hateful subreddits.

What About Free Speech?

Reddit is based on the principle of uncensored speech, shielded by anonymity. Sounds good, right? Anonymity is especially important for activists working in countries with repressive regimes. Even in the United States, where you can often criticize your own government without fear of repercussion (I’ve done so many times on this blog, though higher profile dissenters do face risks), there is value in anonymity. Many commenters on this blog comment anonymously about health issues and the like, and thus write more freely, sharing more information than they would otherwise.

Uncensored speech is equally important. Speech (and writing) that goes against the prevailing orthodoxy is often jarring and even offensive to the mainstream. Galileo’s astronomical notions were once considered heretical. Values and beliefs change over time; next week my daughter attends “Camp Galileo”. The same is true for Darwin’s ideas, many of which the political right are still having trouble digesting. While heliocentrism is generally accepted today — as far as I know even Texans accept that the Earth goes around the sun — attempts to censor Darwin’s ideas are still quite active.

But problems arise when free speech and anonymity are combined with hatred and willful ignorance. The result is online communities that steer marginalized loners towards violence.

Seeing something in writing — including slurs and blanket generalizations about racial groups or women — legitimizes the hateful treatment of that group. For young people especially (who may not yet have fully developed critical thinking skills) participating in echo-chamber hate forums comes to no good. In the “kind of bad” scenario, a hypothetical heterosexual young man who participates in “men’s rights” forums views begins to view women as “the enemy” and is thus set back in developing joyful trusting relationships with women. In a “very bad” scenario a young man like Dylann Roof is incited to violence and kills innocent people. It’s not only racist forums that contribute to violence. “Men’s rights” and “pick-up artist” sites probably contributed to the misogynistic attitude of mass killer Elliot Rodger.

Is there a difference between racist forums (including subreddits), pick-up artists sites, and sites that promote actual violence (like jihadi recruiting websites)?

Sure there is, but reddit should ban all of them. Major content websites (and reddit is in the top 20) need to take responsibility for their content. Like it or not, reddit is mainstream. It’s possible that reddit is so popular because they so staunchly support uncensored anonymous posts, but reddit should ban hate speech even if it means they become less popular. Corporations should do their part in marginalizing hate speech. Otherwise mainstream consumers like me will leave in droves, and reddit will be left as a cesspool of racist and misogynistic hatred. There goes the neighborhood (and there go your profits).

Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman has recently returned as CEO and has given the racist subreddits a pass. Reddit’s new proposed content policy will “ban spam, illegal activity and harassment, as well as the posting of ‘private or confidential information’ and sexual content involving minors” but will continue to host subreddits that “violate a common sense of decency”. This list includes /r/coontown and dozens of other subreddits that foment hatred and prejudice.

From the wikipedia article on controversial subreddits:

Reddit’s general manager Erik Martin noted that “having to stomach occasional troll reddits like /r/picsofdeadkids or morally questionable reddits like /r/jailbait are part of the price of free speech on a site like this,” and that it is not Reddit’s place to censor its users. The site’s former CEO, Yishan Wong, has stated that distasteful subreddits will not be banned because Reddit as a platform should serve the ideals of free speech.

Huffman himself writes, “It’s ok to say ‘I don’t like this group of people.’ It’s not ok to say, ‘I’m going to kill this group of people.’” While I acknowledge that Huffman faces a difficult “lose lose” decision (any policy change will alienate both free speech advocates and people trying to marginalize and discourage racists), for me personally the line is in the wrong place. Huffman’s “I don’t like this group of people” is a euphemism for “I hate this group of people,” and the latter is very close to “let’s take real world measures to hurt this group of people.”

As entertaining as I have found the cute animal pictures, fascinating news stories, and in-depth discussions of Dungeons & Dragons rules mechanics, I no longer want to spend time on a site that hosts malevolent, noxious hate groups.