Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Defriending Your Annoying Facebook Friends Makes You a Horrible Person

Earlier today, my friend Tina Plantamura posted a Huffington Post article she wrote about defriending on Facebook. The article was supposed to be humorous, but quite a few people apparently didn't get the joke. The article caused me to reflect on my own friending/ defriending behaviors, which are a little bit unique. 

Over the years, I've developed a Facebook policy that prevents me from defriending people. No matter what annoying, offensive, disturbing or boring stuff they post, I keep them around. It's worth noting: I treat Facebook sort of like I treat teaching. It's a stage. The role I assume isn't the person I really am, though my Facebook persona is made up of elements of my personality. Often, I post thoughts and opinions that are the polar opposite of what I really believe in order to stimulate discussion. That slight dissociation allows me to more easily carry out the "no defriending" policy. Here's five reasons why I developed the policy:

  1. It's a grand thought experiment that expands my horizons. This is the biggie. I have a lot of strong opinions, but I'm also open to points of view that contradict my opinions. That self-skepticism is basically a function of age. Over the years, I've went through a lot of phases ranging from ultra-conservative to crazy-liberal. The end result is the realization that the world is a continually-shifting collection of shades of gray. Absolutism, in any realm, is a ridiculous approach to life. Exposing myself to divergent opinions allows me to see things from other people's perspective and helps develop empathy. Being able to listen to their opinions is an excellent learning experience.
  2. Echo chambers are boring as shit. If I surrounded myself with folks that thought exactly like I do, Facebook would be incredibly lame. I already know how and why I think the way I think and spend plenty of time in my own head. Why the fuck would I want to spend even more time discussing the exact same crap?
  3. Trolling is fun. I know, I know. This isn't very open-minded of me, but trolling friends' status updates is a blast. It's sort of a douchey thing to do, but being douchey on occasion is good for the soul. 
  4. Being offended by something is, in my world, a mortal sin. A few years ago, Shelly and I decided to start working toward becoming "offended-proof." It's really just a manifestation of the "zero fucks given" mentality. No matter what anyone says, the goal is to laugh it off. I cannot begin to describe how valuable this has been as a life-enhancer. Once we started that journey, I realized just how much our "I'm offended" culture traps us in a prison by letting other people's thoughts, ideas, behaviors, appearance, etc. affect us on a personal level. I take the right of free expression VERY seriously, and my right to express myself freely is entirely contingent on my willingness to grant the same right to everyone else. Playing the "I'm offended" card immediately gives everyone else the right to do the same, thus destroying my own right to free expression.
  5. The natural filtering mechanism automatically creates a really awesome tribe of open-minded people. While I do not defriend people, many defriend me. In fact, I lose about five friends per week. I never really paid attention to this until I started getting friend requests from people I assumed were already friends. Anyway, the people that stick around usually need to be relatively open-minded to tolerate the hyperbole and dumbassery that occurs on my wall. The resulting tribe is thus capable of discussing a huge range of topics and issues from all sorts of angles, which helps fuel items one, three, and four on the list. 
 There you have it- five reasons why I don't defriend people. Of course, those that know me know I'm usually a bit hypocritical. I have defriended people in the past, and I have hidden a small number of people's status updates. The people that were defriended (happened three times) all showed very obvious signs of mental illness and posed a real, significant threat to my family (yay psychology degree!) The "hidden" people (about five) all fall into the same category - all are "one-trick ponies" that only post about one topic usually pertaining to ridiculous conspiracy theories. I consider my inability to tolerate their rants as a personal weakness, and it is something I'm continuously trying to improve.

Could this policy be right for you? If I were you, I'd give it some consideration. It has made me a more open-minded, empathic person, and I suspect it could do the same for you.

Some questions to consider (feel free to leave answers in the comments section): 
  • What is your current "defriending criteria?"
  • How do you handle posts that offend you?
  • Has social media changed your opinion on any matter? If so, give the rest of us an example.


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Sunday, January 18, 2015

You're Fat Because You're Bad at Counting

A few years back, I wrote a BRU post (and cheeky, snarky "book") about the concept of calories in/ calories out as a means of losing weight. Since that time, I've experienced a steady stream of people, in real life or via social media, that have asked me about weight loss. My response is usually the same: 

Eat less and move more.

The typical response is usually either a) "I already tried that and it didn't work", or b) "I read (or saw a YouTube video) that refuted the idea. A new post by NPR more or less sums up my response to those responses, which is basically something along the lines of "You're just really bad at math."

Here's the deal. Weight manipulation is relatively straight-forward assuming you don't have a disease that alters metabolism. Even then, the basic principle still applies. 

If you want to lose weight, you need to create a caloric deficit.

If you want to gain weight, you need to create a caloric surplus.

That's it. It really is that simple. "But wait!" you say, "I want to lose weight. I've tried that and it has failed!"

Here's why.

Reason #1: You think you consume less than you really do. This is the biggie. In my experience of working with people trying to lose weight, they ALWAYS under-estimate portions. You may think you're eating one portion of roast beef, but you're really eating two-and-a-half. And you forgot to add that handful of Chex Mix. And that third glass of wine.

Reason #2: You think you burn a lot more calories than you really do. Let's say you run three miles on a treadmill at the gym. It took you a half hour. You probably burned about 300-330 calories. That's not even enough exercise to make up for those medium fries you ate from McDonald's.

Reason #3: You fail to account for adaptation. This is common when people have initial success, then reach a plateau. This usually happens for two reasons. First, as body weight drops and body composition changes, the number of calories needed to sustain life (or are burned through exercise), the fewer calories you need. Second, your metabolism usually adjusts to the deficit by becoming more efficient. Both of these require a continually-diminishing caloric intake until the goal weight is achieved. 

Reason #4: You're over-simplifying the equation. There are all sorts of things that probably affect caloric uptake and expenditure, like the type of food, environmental conditions, internal states, etc. For example, eating 100 calories of carrots will probably help create a deficit better than 100 calories of chocolate cake because of the way the body digests both. Since we know so little of the vast myriad of potential effects, the only reliable solution is to consider yourself an experiment of one to learn what variables seem to be at play.

That's it. I know a lot of you will be tempted to refute the idea by posting links to YouTube videos from people that "found a way to cheat the system." But they're either wrong or their idea subscribes to the deficit/surplus idea with added layers of complexity. Either way, it's ignoring the obvious:

There has never been a case of a person gaining weight with a caloric deficit or a case of a person losing weight with a caloric surplus. 

My own experimentation confirms this. Back in the day, I used to weigh about 215 pounds. I attempted to lose weight often, but always failed. The one thing that eventually worked: creating and sustaining a caloric deficit.

It's worth noting I don't continually create said deficit because, well, I like food. And beer. And wine. And I like lounging around. For me, creating a caloric deficit sucks balls. As such, I tend to cycle every few months. Gain five pounds, lose five pounds. Wash, rinse, repeat. Sometimes that weight gain is mostly muscle (for mma, for example.) Other times it's mostly fat (again, I'm lazy and I love food.) Regardless, I don't sweat it because I've done the hard work of learning how my body responds to all sorts of caloric manipulations, which is what's really necessary.


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