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"The radical act of checking on each other" (Ricky Weekly #84)
This is where I share 3 things every week with my friends and anyone else interested.
A picture from my life:
Took my dad to NYC. His first time flying since moving to America with me on Sep 18, 1999.
A thing on my mind:
I took a walk with a friend recently and he mentioned how he remembers a time in his life when he felt less alone and more alive. That got my attention because I remember a time like that, too. The problem is I don’t really know what I’ve lost. To the extent I’m able to understand it, what I’ve lost is quality time with some of my closest friends because they’ve moved away or have gotten too busy.
My friend explained some more — it’s not that he’s lacking in people he knows, but that he’s lacking in people who he feels like he can share himself openly with. He talked about being able to express his values, strong opinions, ways of interacting with the world, and have people around him who can see and validate his ways. He struggled to paint me a better picture, but I think I understand. This idea, that his loneliness is a symptom that he’s declining to share a piece of himself with people around him who can reinforce those values, was something of a revelation to me.
Loneliness is not about the number of friends you have or amount of time you spend with them. It’s being able to share pieces of your world, have that be seen by others who have the capacity to understand, validate and reinforce your world. A feedback loop! I remember the early days of Instagram and how fixated the founders were at making sure you got lots of likes every time you shared a photo. More than a decade later, that’s still the only kind of easy social reinforcement we can get today, and they’ve gotten cheaper to the point that they exacerbate loneliness rather than soothe it.
I write this newsletter because I want to put pieces of my world out there to friends I don’t get to interact with regularly, and feel connected knowing that you’ve read it. No one I know really uses Substack this way because Substack is about growing subscribers and charging for your writing. As I look around the Internet, there aren’t many new and better ways to feel less alone. I’m lucky that Flow Club can make a difference here. Flow Club is about helping people get work done, but we do that by helping people better support each other. Our business is in building supportive, meaningful feedback loops. From one of our customers: “What I love about Flow Club is the radical act of checking on people in an era when we all need someone to check on us.”
By the way - I wrote this newsletter with help of GPT3. I usually don’t know what I’m going to write about until I write it. After jotting down my first draft, I asked the AI to write a few more sentences, and this is what it came back with:
“We talked more, then he got onto what might be the source of his loneliness — it’s not that he’s lacking in people he knows, but that he’s lacking in people who he feels like he can share himself openly with. This idea, that my loneliness is a symptom that I’m declining to share a piece of who I am with people around me who can reinforce those values, was something of a revelation to me.”
As you can see, I ended up using that in the final draft. At the point when I interacted with the AI, I was nowhere near clarity in my thinking, and yet the AI seems to have gotten straight to the crux of what I’m trying to say, and said it better than I could. That was nice, but made writing slightly more intimidating because all of a sudden I felt like an imposter compared to the AI.
A piece of content I recommend: