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viruses & self-destructive impulses

The transmission of ideas

So I take "memetic virus" more as metaphor than something completely literal, though I think Dawkins may have taken it more seriously when he first coined the term. Then again, he applied it to religion specifically which doesn't really transmit like a virus at all but, if anything, more like a memetic symbiote so who really knows.


The point, though, is that ideas are contagious. That's not really surprising, right? We know that's how they spread. I think what's sometimes harder to imagine is that the spread of ideas isn't always intentional! You could argue that bigotry in general is formed through active work and then is sustained through passive memetic spread, but I want to talk about things more subtle than that, things less commonly recognized.


What I mean is that every time a person says of themselves "I'm so lazy" because they're having a hard time working, they're spreading a memetic viral load that ties worth to work. Every time someone says "Ugh I look so fat" at their reflection in front of another person, ideas about what bodies should & shouldn't look like are spread. Every time someone muses that they're too old to ever do anything with their lives, they're also spreading memetic viruses.


Basically, my point is that most of our overt, verbalized, self-hate & self-deprecation are viral in nature. We say awful things about ourselves and thus spread those to the people around us. I know I've spread bad ideas to others and other people have spread bad ideas to me. We can hurt each other unintentionally this way and replicate bad, destructive, systems and cultures.

Emotional quarantine?

So am I suggesting, then, a kind of emotional quarantine in which we don't talk about the bad feelings we have? We just hold our insecurities inside until they somehow pass?


No, no I don't think that works at all. I've tried it. I've tried very, very hard to not spread memetic viruses of despair & nihilism and mostly only managed to sink deeper into them.


I think what's helpful is a protective layer of abstraction. We can instead talk about our feelings as feelings rather than as statements of fact. Rather than saying "I'm lazy", "I don't do enough", "I'm ugly", it's better for me to say "I feel like it's hard for me to get things done and I'm scared it's because I'm lazy" or "I worry that people thing I'm unattractive" or "I'm having trouble with something and I feel like that makes me look stupid".


A conclusion?

To that end here are some of the things I want to stop saying


I'm stupid

Any variation of "I failed grad school"

I'm worthless

I'm boring

I'm weak

I'm lazy

I'm ugly

I'm selfish


and maybe I'll not only help myself but not hurt the people around me even unintentionally.

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