Why Men Outnumber Women On Wikipedia

Form this article:

Wikipedia is “like a sausage”, its founder, Jimmy Wales, told a reporter in 2004. “You might like the taste of it, but you don’t necessarily want to see how it’s made.” Back then, the free online encyclopaedia that anyone can edit was an exciting new, scrappy, collaborative utopia. Now it is the most influential source of information in the world. Wikipedia is often the first search result when we google something, our first destination when we want to understand something, and the place where academics, journalists and politicians first brief themselves, even though they might pretend it is not.

Dismissed as dangerously unreliable in its early days, Wikipedia has become more rigorous over the years, with references essential to the survival of any article. We trust the website much more: amid the early panic of the ebola outbreak, the Wikipedia page for the virus was seen as an authoritative, reliable source, receiving as many hits as the World Health Organisation’s online ebola fact sheet. Wikipedia has become one of the most recognised brands in the world and for many people it is the portal to knowledge in the 21st century.

Yet when it comes to how it is made, Wikipedia is a colossal failure. Only a tiny proportion of users now edit articles and the overwhelming majority of those editors are male. The most recent survey by the Wikimedia Foundation, the charity that supports but does not control Wikipedia, found that 91 per cent of the editors are men. More optimistic surveys have put the figure at 84 per cent – but still, Wikipedia has a huge diversity problem. Instead of being the egalitarian “sum of all human knowledge”, as Wales had originally hoped, the English version of Wikipedia is mostly the sum of male knowledge.

So Wikipedia is now a great source of information. But it is a colossal failure because… overwhelming majority of its editors are male! Did I read it correctly? Wikipedia’s content is created by voluntary collaborators, which means everyone – women as well as men – are free to contribute to the encyclopedia. If women don’t volunteer, how is that a failure of the system which has accomplished what it was supposed to?

Wikipedia knows this is a problem – there is even a Wikipedia article on the subject (“Gender bias on Wikipedia”) – but no one knows what to do about it.

Wikipedia is amazing, but it is mostly created by men, and that is problematic! Does the fact that the amazing resource is created mostly by men negate its utility to the humankind? Obviously not. Then how is it a problem? Apparently some people – including Sue Gardner, a former executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation and the founder Jimmy Wales – think it is a problem that needs solving.

Elsewhere on the internet, women outnumber men on some of the other most visited sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, and in many online games. Why do they feel less welcome on Wikipedia? “I don’t want to get into a fight on the internet. Ugh,” says Zara Rahman, 26, originally from Man­chester and now living in Berlin. She trains journalists to use data and technology, so you might expect her to feel at home on Wikipedia. But her experience there left her “really annoyed. Just exhausted.”

The frustration stemmed from her experience editing the online entry for Hedy Lamarr, a 1940s Hollywood star and long-neglected inventor. Lamarr devised a crucial technique that paved the way for wireless communication, but her scientific achievements had barely a mention on her Wikipedia page when Rahman first looked her up. She edited the article to reflect the significance of Lamarr’s invention, referencing it in the first paragraph, but her changes were quickly reversed by another editor, on the grounds that Lamarr’s acting career was more noted by historical sources than her invention. Then someone added a line to the opening paragraph about how a film director had once commented on Lamarr’s “strikingly dark exotic looks”. The editing community allowed that to stay in.

It is dumb to draw parallel between Twitter and Facebook, and Wikipedia. But of course, Zara Rahman is a woman. So I can understand how she doesn’t get it that on Twitter and Facebook she can write whatever she wants to, but Wikipedia is not her personal social networking profile. It is a collaborative resource of information, which by definition means that what one writes will be scrutinized by experienced people before it becomes information that the world can rely on. If that process causes her frustration, one must understand that 91 percent male editors of Wikipedia have no way to bypass the process. Her explanation, therefore, is bogus.

The real reason why men outnumber women on Wikipedia is the same reason why men write more product reviews on shopping websites like Amazon.com. Men outnumber women in most areas where value-creation through collaboration with large groups of people is needed. Be it film-reviews on IMDb, discussions on various internet forums, or Wikipedia. Women too are found collaborating, but notice that most of them would do so either on websites which serve feminist agenda or those talking about women-specific things. Women rarely have the motivation to collaborate about general topics and issues which is essentially how value for the society is created. By doing the very same things men have built the society and have been continuing to further its development.

Here is what Roy Baumeister [1] has to say:

The large institutions have almost all been created by men. The notion that women were deliberately oppressed by being excluded from these institutions requires an artful, selective, and motivated way of looking at them. Even today, the women’s movement has been a story of women demanding places and preferential treatment in the organizational and institutional structures that men create, rather than women creating organizations and institutions themselves. Almost certainly, this reflects one of the basic motivational differences between men and women, which is that female sociality is focused heavily on one-to-one relationships, whereas male sociality extends to larger groups networks of shallower relationships (e.g., Baumeister and Sommer 1997; Baumeister 2010). Crudely put, women hardly ever create large organizations or social systems. That fact can explain most of the history of gender relations, in which the gender near equality of prehistorical societies was gradually replaced by progressive inequality—not because men banded together to oppress women, but because cultural progress arose from the men’s sphere with its large networks of shallow relationships, while the women’s sphere remained stagnant because its social structure emphasized intense one-to-one relationships to the near exclusion of all else (see Baumeister 2010). All over the world and throughout history (and prehistory), the contribution of large groups of women to cultural progress has been vanishingly small.

Motivational differences. That is what is it.

References:

1. Sexual Economics, Culture, Men, and Modern Sexual Trends by Roy F. Baumeister, Kathleen D. Vohs

Game is an Art of Relationships

Below is an excerpt from the comment I received on my post titled: How women are asking to be viewed as sex objects.

This article sounds very much like a lot of pick-up artists books and articles I’ve read some years ago.

I’ve also tried to put them in practice. After I have tried these kind of strategies with mixed results, I realized that casual encounters do not give a man much emotional fulfillment. They can only satisfy the ego and the sexual needs, but only for a short while. Plus, some of the girls will get emotionally attached and will inevitably get hurt because of unreciprocated affection from my part. I felt guilty for hurting them like that. And all of that for what purpose? Just for a frustrated guy to demonstrate himself that he could game the system and trick the women into having sex with him? Trust me, it’s not worth it. All these strategies worth nothing unless I use them to become a better person and make the people around me (including the girls I meet) happier.

Also, this whole idea of the alpha vs beta male is misleading. There is no such thing as a full alpha or full beta guy. They are just a bunch of personality traits. Most guys have a mix of those traits in different proportions and depending on the circumstances. So it’s not all black and white, it’s just different shades of grey. An emotionally mature man knows that it is ok to display beta characteristics. Most of us have more beta characteristics, anyway. A man that acts alpha all the time is just emotionally immature or has a mental illness.

While I don’t disagree with all of it, there seems to be major misunderstanding about the purpose of game. This post is to address that misunderstanding while also serving as a response to the comment. Before you read further I would suggest you read the said article linked above for making better sense of what I am saying here.

In that article I am not talking about treating women like sex objects but viewing them like it. I have clearly stated that it is a psychological modulation (tricking one’s mind, if you will) required to pull off the behavior that pleases women’s sexual nature. In a way, I think, it is respecting women rather than disrespecting them. Respect them in a human way, by being dutiful and caring with heart and soul, and they will love you as a friend or a decent human being but not more than that.

I know that there is a continuum between alpha and beta, and most men are somewhere between the two points (albeit towards the beta extreme). Also, displaying high alphaness is more important at the initial stage of seduction/courting and as the relationship matures a man can be a bit beta to make the woman feel respected more in a human way. However, one must always be wary of slippery slope there.

Remember that although we are humans, we are sexual beings, and sexuality has to do with animal nature. Moreover, sex is so fundamental a need that unless the animal in us is respected/satisfied (in context of sexuality) the human in us won’t be fully capable of love. Have we seen a woman who just separated from her man saying that she didn’t feel the same “chemistry” despite the man being very nice and kind? I would say it is because of. Have we seen a woman who has a male friend she can always count on for help and emotional support but he is “just a friend”? So there. These men are not respecting women’s animal nature, so women aren’t sexually aroused by them. Their human nature (rational nature) may find these men lovable in platonic way, but what trumps in the end?

A man’s animal nature is relatively easy to satisfy since both human and animal natures of men are respected/satisfied by a good-looking, dutiful and devoted woman. Women, on the other hand, are complex. A dutiful and devoted man would satisfy a woman’s human nature but that won’t help his cause if he can’t satisfy her animal nature which requires completely different (quite often the opposite) treatment. Therefore, a man has to always be conscious of not losing the right balance of alpha- and betaness while in relationship with a woman. Most men can’t pull it off because once they are into the woman, they can’t help falling to the beta extreme of the continuum. Cultural conditioning of men also has a lot to do with making betas of them. Hence, game.

Chateau Heartiste has referred to game as “learned charisma”, or “applied charisma”. CH gives a short definition of game as: The practice of challenging women.

Why do women want a challenging man? Women are unique in this way. Men have no desire for challenging women. Men love nothing more than sweet women who make their lives easier and don’t play head games. Women, in stark contrast, need challenging men (especially in the early going of a courtship) because their particular psychologies emerge from a biological substrate that is designed to function on cues supplied by non-physical and thus less conspicuous male traits, such as men’s social status and attractiveness to other women.

Being a challenge has the same effect on women as a slender hourglass figure and pretty face have on men: Urgent stimulation.

The art of right balance of alpha- and betaness is what game is about. Game is to understand what women actually want from men and how they want men to be. Something that they themselves can not fully articulate because their yearnings of animal nature are transmitted through instincts, not rational thought.

The infamous notion that game is all about seducing women for pump-and-dump is inaccurate, if not totally wrong. It is much more than that. Game is an art of creating satisfying relationships. The art which is much needed in men in the world without traditional values that stood as pillars for relationships in the times gone by.

How Women Are Asking To Be Viewed As Sex Objects

A while back I was helping a friend of mine get a girl he liked, by giving him advice and tips from the gaming arsenal. Then suddenly one day he said he couldn’t get this girl and wanted to give up. The reason: He had developed strong feelings for her! The more he thought about the girl the more she got to him and it caused unbearable mental trauma. I advised him to forget the girl and move on.

If one develops romantic love for a woman, one most likely won’t get that woman because one is going to screw things up by acting like a beta male which will turn off her attraction even if there was any. Read reason # 3 in Three Reasons for a Man Not to Fall in Love.

Now the question is: How to avoid developing feelings for a woman and acting beta? The solution is to view women as mere sex objects. It may sound spiteful and misogynistic when I say that, but if one understands a woman’s sexual nature then one would see that the way to respect a woman’s deepest desires is by gaming her, which essentially means projecting alpha-male qualities. For a beta male this necessitates viewing her as a sex object.

Why view women as sex objects?

So what’s the deal with women? Do they want to be viewed as sex objects? Of course not. But they also don’t want to be treated as princesses. Do not believe a woman when she says she wants a gentleman who would treat her like a princess. Between a dutiful gentleman and a cocky dominant man, a woman would always choose the latter. Ask her why and she may not have an answer. They desire love of a dominant alpha male who is always in charge and acts like their master. Men with alpha-male qualities are aloof, unpredictable, overconfident, narcissistic, unemotional, uncaring, psychopathic,.. And women are sexually aroused by such men because that is how evolution has formed their biology.

Alpha-male qualities correlate with behavior which was necessary for survival in the harsh conditions of the state of nature in our evolutionary history. Women mating with alpha males have had better survival rates of their offspring due to alpha males being better providers and protectors. Therefore, women who are attracted to alpha males are naturally selected by evolution.

In the present-day society such alpha males are not good bets for women. And rationality dictates women choose emotional and caring men, because not only such men can provide for their women and offspring just as well (or even better) today, they would also be better partners overall considering how different today is the relationship between men and women from that in the state of nature thousands of years ago. For one, in civilized societies we have something called marriage and family responsibilities; and people are expected to be virtuous and law abiding to best fulfill their social and familial roles. An alpha male of the wild is not a good candidate for these roles. Alpha males are often those who are bad-boys in the society. (Serial killers are most alpha.) Even women refer to them as jerks when they are speaking out of rationality. But due to their sexual biology they are titillated by the same men nonetheless. Women find alpha males challenging and their biology makes them love such challenges.

That is why women often complain that it is hard for them to find a partner. Men wonder as to how it could be difficult for women to find a partner since the sexual marketplace is largely a seller’s market. It is hard for them for their biological imperative is at odds with their needs in the present-day society. The conflict of natural biological needs and impulses and the dictates of rationality goes both for men as well as women, but for men it is relatively easier to reconcile their animal nature with the rational nature.

For women, not so. As a result while women fall for alpha bad-boys, they also expect them to be nice to them. Note that an out-an-out bad-boy would not hold a woman’s attraction for long and would get rejected as asshole. Women love men who are strong and badass to the world in general and at the same time gentle and caring exclusively to them, albeit, not giving up their dominance. With women, there is such a thing as too much love and tenderness which would turn off their attraction. A man has to always maintain his dominance, be aloof and unpredictable, and display what is called Push/pull approach; meaning, being aloof and emotionally unavailable most of the time, but not all the time, intermittently rewarding the woman with care and attention so as to make her feel she is working hard to earn it. It gives her the tingles and keeps her romantic excitement burning. Women are complex beings like that. That is why most men who take what women say they want at face value fail to understand and satisfy women. Women never tell what their biology, aka, animal nature wants. Men have to observe what women do, not just what they say, to discern the cues.

Now we get to the core of the reason why women need to be viewed as mere sex objects. Viewing women as sex objects basically means not investing emotions in them. I am not suggesting treating them like sex objects, just viewing them like it. Viewing women as sex objects is a psychological modulation necessary for the nice-guys-at-heart to get the right frame of mind to be able to treat women the way they want to be treated. Hence, the title of the article. By rewarding alpha males and men otherwise displaying learned alpha-male behavior which requires not caring, being unemotional etc., women are indirectly asking to be viewed as sex objects.

Why it is necessary is because women don’t get that their romantic needs are actually fantasy ideals. The kind of men they dream about only exist in romance novels and movies. In the real world it is quite unusual for a man to be a bad-boy and a nice-guy at the same time. Bad-boys are natural alpha males (called naturals in seduction literature). They would use women for sex and dump them after draining them of sexual and emotional energy. Nice-guys are virtuous beta males who are chronically rejected and/or friend-zoned by attractive women and have to settle with either fat, unattractive women, or single-moms, or middle-aged women,.. Women don’t get that it is against a real bad-boy’s nature to be loving and caring to a woman, and it is against an empathetic and kindhearted nice-guy’s nature to be psychopathic bad-ass that arouses women. Even the same man can be both at different points in time but not at same time, which makes sense considering that bad-boy and nice-guy qualities are vastly different, mostly opposite.

Therefore, it is only through game that men can be how women want them to be. But it is difficult for a man to love/respect a woman and game her at the same time. By understanding the complex needs of women’s sexual nature nice-guys can modulate their behavior to appeal to women’s sexuality by acting like alpha males and form successful relationships with them. However, for it to succeed a man has to keep from investing in the woman emotionally at all costs. Alpha-male behavior and deep emotional attachment can not coexist in a man.

Game, or viewing women as sex objects, is not misogyny but service to womankind. Without that women would either be disposable fuck-toys of natural alpha males who actually treat them like sex objects or have a bland life with beta males. Or both, in the same order.

How to view women as sex objects?

Think of women like female-androids, robots. The idea is to be able to not get emotionally too attached to her while taking care of her needs.

Drawing parallel with robots is not totally illogical. Women are like robots in many ways. Once one understands woman’s sexual nature it becomes fairly easy to know which buttons to push to get a specific response. Pickup artists do this all the time. A woman driven by animal nature (and women are generally driven by animal nature; they are creatures of instincts) responds so predictably to a pro seducer that it makes one wonder whatever happened to free will. Robots don’t have free will. Just push the right buttons and there you go.

Women’s compliments mean nothing. Women are wired with an ability to filter out beta males by testing them (which are called shit-tests in seduction literature) without even being conscious of it. When a man compliments a woman, most of the times he is being honest; and if a woman displayed joy from the compliment then the man would only feel good about it. But if a man displays joy upon getting a compliment from a woman, he is at a great risk of being permanently filtered out as a beta male. This is true despite the woman’s compliment being honest. Women’s biology registers it as beta-male trait and would turn off her attraction. A man has to remain unaffected for the sake of being unpredictable and also for showing confidence about his worth. Would you be carried away if a robot compliments you?

Women’s talks mean nothing. As I explained above, women have this eternally ongoing conflict between their animal nature and rational nature due to which they are constitutionally incapable to knowing what they want. Women carry huge inconsistencies in their behavior. Their words and actions often don’t match. This is because their words flow from more-or-less rational thoughts while their actions are largely driven by instincts. And to point out their inconsistencies is to give up on any possibility of access to their sexual resources. Would you give any serious consideration to what a robot “thinks” and talks about?

Women’s promises of love mean nothing. Since men don’t have conflicting romantic interests as women, when a man says to his woman that he loves her, it is more reliable indicator of his commitment to the woman. At least if all other things remain the same and the woman continues to love him, his love won’t change. But the same doesn’t work with women. A woman may say to a man that she loves him. But as we noted above, with women there is such a thing as too much love and tenderness. So even if all other things remain the same and the man continues to love the woman, she may still lose interest if the man gets out of line to love her too much. Note that I am not saying that a man’s love never wanes. It does, but never because of the woman being too good. It’s crazy unfair that a man can lose a woman even without doing anything wrong, just by being too good. This aspect of women makes them extremely untrustworthy. (Watch Blue Valentine, a marvelous film on this subject.) Would you take it seriously if a robot promised to be with you forever?

But one would still take good care of a robot by providing timely maintenance, recharging, etc. to keep it functional and in good health. Even emotional attachment is okay in the right measure as long as one remembers about the robot’s nature.

Peacock Theory of Mate Attraction and Decline of Culture

Among modern urbanites it is becoming fashionable to look like a hippie. More and more men now get themselves tattoos and piercings. Long hair for men is also increasingly becoming acceptable. Not to forget various accessories that urban hippie men now wear which in earlier times were only seen on women.

Need I spell out that fundamentally it is all about sex appeal? Maneuvers for mate attraction. It is what Neil Strauss in his book The Game describes as Peacock Theory. An excerpt from the book goes as follows:

Peacock theory is the idea that in order to attract the most desirable female of the species, it’s necessary to stand out in a flashy and colorful way. For humans, he told us, the equivalent of the fanned peacock tail is a shiny shirt, a garish hat, and jewelry that lights up in the dark—basically, everything I’d dismissed my whole life as cheesy.

As the world gradually transforms into an unregulated sexual marketplace, I postulate that we will see more and more men taking cues from our primal animal nature to attract women.

While women use makeup, flashy clothes, hairstyles that make them distinct, piercing and ornaments etc. to stand out and attract men, culture has taught that the way for a man to deserve a woman is to be socially productive and responsible.

Unlike the state of nature the civilization demanded of a man to form a family and provide for the woman and children for better part of his life. Civilization also expected a man to contribute to the growth of society by participating in production processes. This a man could do only if he was productive and possessed socially desirable qualities. A man who proved himself worthy in this way would be accorded high status by the society. And through social conditioning and mechanisms culture made sure that such high status men top the positions for most desirable marriage candidates.

Women on the other hand have been free of the responsibility of providing for a family, much less contribute majorly to the larger entity that is society. Culture put no pressure on women to prove themselves worthy by being socially productive in the same way it pressurized men to do.

Therefore, in order to win women men had to earn high status in the eyes of the society. In order to win men women mostly just have to look attractive for which they use various attention capturing maneuvers.

While beauty-enhancing makeup, nose and ear piercing and wearing rings through them, tattoos (in Indian tradition it is known as mehndi for women), long hair and creative hairdos with them,.. is considered adding grace to woman’s appearance, the same maneuvers when applied by men have been considered indecent and cheesy by culture. A man using those maneuvers is agreeably described by the term hippie, which explains how little the mainstream society valued them. Even today most traditional societies would be scrupulous to accord high respect to a man who wears an earring, has tattooed his arms and other visible body parts, has long hair etc. And these societies have a point.

Sex is a fundamental goal of our life. If culture has to develop it has to do so by strategically exploiting man’s sex drive. By forming mechanisms wherein men get women, and thereby sex, only if they prove their worth by being socially productive, culture ensures its continuation and growth. In the state of nature a man could attract women by killing mighty animals and other men, thereby establishing himself as alpha male – and it works even today as far as attracting women is concerned. (Evolutionary biology has plethora of evidence that women are sexually attracted to bad-boys and psychopaths.) But letting men get sex by such displays of strength is not conducive to development of the civilization. Hence, culture would form mechanisms to ensure that such men got no sex, by putting the men into prison and making outcasts of them.

Likewise, culture discarded many a way of men that worked for attracting women in the state of nature, and retained only those (like accumulation of wealth) which would help the culture grow. So much so that the most worthy man in the civilized culture is such that he would have hardly attracted any woman in the state of nature (a beta male). And a man who would have attracted most women in the state of nature is such that he would stand on the lowest rung in the civilized culture (a sociopath). This is because of disconnect between the goals of rationality and the biological goals of the species.

Culture is a product of human rationality, whereas in the larger picture human beings are organisms with biological goals. The goals of culture I would call human goals, and the biological goals are nature’s or evolutionary goals. Nature’s primary goal is propagation of genes and expansion of gene pool by reproduction. Survival of the fittest is the law, and nature has no regard for human well-being or prosperity. Those are the goals of rationality, the human goals. Hence the disconnect between the two types of goals that direct human organism. It is man’s fight with nature.

To attract mates by appealing to biology is to take cues of animal nature. It works for we are animals. When women attract men by using aforementioned maneuvers they are appealing to men’s biology, not rationality. (That is why we say it is irrational to get influenced by women’s outer beauty, and all the talks of “inner beauty”.) In the same way when a man attracts women by being a hippie he is appealing to women’s biology, and it works. Except that if men got women, thereby sex, that way then why would they employ their rational faculty to achieve high status by being socially productive? What will happen to culture then? Because society and culture are products of rationality and their growth is dependent on its members being driven by rationality instead of mere biological cues.

Culture, mostly through religions, formed mechanisms whereby men employing their rational faculty in ways that helped the culture grow were promised women. This was enforced mostly by religious teachings of virtue (which is also a product of rationality) and conditioning of women and society at large, so that they would value virtuous and socially productive men and view the likes of hippies as unworthy of having a woman.

This, however, is changing rapidly. With erosion of religious teachings and traditional values from modern societies, culture seems to be going downhill. A culture that allows its women to get attracted and won by men employing animalistic maneuvers and fails to reward virtuous men in the sexual marketplace, faces grim prospects survival. It would likely spiral into the state of nature from where it evolved.

Why the screens are so addictive

The kind of addiction to screens that was perhaps only suffered by stockbrokers and individuals trading in the stock market a decade ago is suffered today by most of the urban human population. What is worse is, unlike the stock market, it keeps one glued to the screen virtually all the time!

I am talking about smartphones, instant messaging and social media.

One should hardly be surprised by the research that says people are sleeping fewer hours because of smart phones.

Adolescent sleep needs range from 8.5–10 hours per night, with older adolescents requiring less sleep than younger adolescents. On average, however, American adolescents receive between 7.5–8.5 hours of sleep per night, with many sleeping fewer than 6.5 hours on school nights. Cellular phone use is emerging as an important factor that interferes with both sleep quality and quantity, particularly as smartphones become more widely available to teens.

This article in The Guardian, among other things (like how multitasking makes us less efficient), sheds light on why the screens are so addictive.

Because it [texting] is limited in characters, it discourages thoughtful discussion or any level of detail. And the addictive problems are compounded by texting’s hyperimmediacy. Emails take some time to work their way through the internet and they require that you take the step of explicitly opening them. Text messages magically appear on the screen of your phone and demand immediate attention from you. Add to that the social expectation that an unanswered text feels insulting to the sender, and you’ve got a recipe for addiction: you receive a text, and that activates your novelty centres. You respond and feel rewarded for having completed a task (even though that task was entirely unknown to you 15 seconds earlier). Each of those delivers a shot of dopamine as your limbic system cries out “More! More! Give me more!”

In a famous experiment, my McGill colleagues Peter Milner and James Olds, both neuroscientists, placed a small electrode in the brains of rats, in a small structure of the limbic system called the nucleus accumbens. This structure regulates dopamine production and is the region that “lights up” when gamblers win a bet, drug addicts take cocaine, or people have orgasms – Olds and Milner called it the pleasure centre. A lever in the cage allowed the rats to send a small electrical signal directly to their nucleus accumbens. Do you think they liked it? Boy how they did! They liked it so much that they did nothing else. They forgot all about eating and sleeping. Long after they were hungry, they ignored tasty food if they had a chance to press that little chrome bar; they even ignored the opportunity for sex. The rats just pressed the lever over and over again, until they died of starvation and exhaustion. Does that remind you of anything? A 30-year-old man died in Guangzhou (China) after playing video games continuously for three days. Another man died in Daegu (Korea) after playing video games almost continuously for 50 hours, stopped only by his going into cardiac arrest.

Each time we dispatch an email in one way or another, we feel a sense of accomplishment, and our brain gets a dollop of reward hormones telling us we accomplished something. Each time we check a Twitter feed or Facebook update, we encounter something novel and feel more connected socially (in a kind of weird, impersonal cyber way) and get another dollop of reward hormones. But remember, it is the dumb, novelty-seeking portion of the brain driving the limbic system that induces this feeling of pleasure, not the planning, scheduling, higher-level thought centres in the prefrontal cortex. Make no mistake: email-, Facebook- and Twitter-checking constitute a neural addiction.

Now when you find yourself checking your smartphone or computer insanely frequently when you should be doing something important, or sleeping, you should understand what is making you do that.

Oh and before I am misunderstood, I am by no means implying that we couldn’t control it so it is not our fault. It is quite the contrary.

On Friendship and A-Friend-to-All-is-a-Friend-to-None Effect

A friend to all is a friend to none. I have two interpretations of the saying.

I know a guy from my office who has a way of making people feel special, by his words, gestures and all his behavior. Even if one is meeting him for the first time, he would behave as if they have known each other a long time and make one feel safe and secure to open up to him. When I initially begun interacting with him I didn’t know him that well and I felt hugely respected when talking to him. I thought he saw through me to understand that I was a good, intelligent person and hence respected me. When he told me that I can, as a friend, walk up to his office any time without hesitation in case I needed anything, I felt appreciated, even mildly flattered. But I soon learned that he treated everybody in the same way. He didn’t actually know me any more than he did the next person he greeted. This guy is a corporate trainer for soft-skills and communication. No wonder he knows how to use his people skills most effectively.

Should I be carried away by his good behavior towards me? If he was being good particularly to me then that would mean he valued certain qualities (thoughts, mannerisms, intelligence,..) that I possessed. In that case I can consider him a friend and count on his friendship. But if he is equally good to everybody regardless of their qualities and character then that doesn’t tell anything about his value system. How do I know if he is being good to me for he values the qualities I possess or because that’s the way he always behaves with everybody? And if he doesn’t value my qualities any more than another person’s who is a lot different from me, on what basis should I count on his friendship? He may live up to his word, that I can always walk up to him, in his professional capacity, but I doubt his use of the phrase “as a friend” is reliable.

I am not implying that he is not a nice person. Even if he is a nice person, him showing niceness is not the only thing that should make me think of him as friend. In fact, show of niceness is not necessarily a part of the equation in friendship, even. One’s best friend may not be the nicest treating person in the world.

Friendship is about understanding and respect. A friend is he who sees your qualities, understands you, and values and respects you for the particular person that you are. He who is being friend to everybody in across-the-board fashion isn’t really a friend to anyone. This is the first interpretation of the saying.

The second interpretation is derived from what I call a-friend-to-all-is-a-friend-to-none effect. We all have limited time and mental space. Back in time when life was simple, without Internet and social networking websites, we used to have fewer friends. I think most people would even be able to count the number of friends they had. Not so today. Today we have hundreds of friends through various channels. You may say that all are not equally important, and all are certainly not friends. Still the fact is that a like-minded person you friend on Facebook today may outweigh your other friends in importance in matter of days, because s/he is like-minded. Back in time we had limited choice. Whether or not one’s neighbors or classmates had similar thoughts and interests as oneself, if one had to hang out then those were likely the only people in one’s vicinity, so one had to choose one’s friends from among them. And it worked most of the time since we were a lot more adjustable than we are today.

Now we have choices. One can always find someone better, someone more suited, a better match. We go on making new friends. Soon we would have more “connections” than we have time and mental space for. Earlier people had, I think, on the whole, relatively longer lasting friendships, because the friendships were bound by fixed routines. Meeting friends meant meeting a fixed set of people, because one’s world was limited. Now relatively more often we are meeting different sets of people when we are meeting friends. Back in time being neighbors or classmates often would have sufficed for two people to be good friends. One’s accessible pool of people to choose friends from was limited. Today it’s virtually without bounds. As a result, our standards and expectations also tend to rise without limit. New people are added into our lives much more frequently, and so is the rate of friends being forgotten. This is important. As better matches are friended, some have to take a back seat, before gradually being completely forgotten. Because, as I said above, we have limited time and mental space. This phenomenon makes friendships fickle and short-lived.

Not that people don’t want to be friends, but they just can’t. It may be quality of friendship or duration that suffers. This I view as a-friend-to-all-is-a-friend-to-none effect taking place in the modern-day friendship arena. In pursuit of countless friends we may inadvertently end up eroding the meaning and essence of friendship.

At some point one has to point to oneself a few people who are one’s friends, and remain true to them, no matter how many options one has of finding better suited people. Easier said than done though.

The Guy Who Rejected Me as Friend

When I was about nine or ten my guardians sent me to school with a guy living next door who was three or four years older than me. The school was about half-hour’s walk from home and I was too young to go alone. So this guy – who was in the same school – and I would walk to and from the school together.

I never really became friends with this guy, because the only times we interacted was while walking the distance to and from the school. He never entertained me at other times. Never allowed me to join them when he played cricket with his friends in the evening. Yet he played an important role in my life.

He was brilliant at studies and almost everything else. Topped in every exam every year. Was great in sports too. He also played cricket with guys much older than him, because he was so good at it. I felt in awe of him. I was not good at anything. He was always condescending to me for that.

All our talks involved something he was great at and I sucked at. I won’t fault him for that because I sucked at almost everything. He would ask me to memorize mathematical tables, and spellings of words, and answers to science questions, etc. and threaten to hurt me if I failed to do so. Every day he would give me some homework like that, and if I failed to do what he had asked he would hurt me by pressing at the back of my neck.

He made me feel stupid. But maybe because of young age or because of my belittled existence I didn’t have a concept of ego. So instead of hating him for that, I admired him. I knew that he was much superior than me, and thought I was really a piece of trash that he made me feel. Like a slave for his master, I tried my best not to incite his punishment by not doing the homework he gave me.

One day I asked him why he won’t let me play cricket with them or join him and his friends’ company, and he said he didn’t want to be friends with me. I was perplexed. As I asked why, he said he would only be with people who are equally or more intelligent than him, and I was not it. He had nothing to learn from me. That day I felt very sad.

If I had ego, I would probably resent him, hate him. Call him arrogant. But I was too young to have ego. Didn’t even know what arrogance was. I wanted to be with him all the more now, because if being with more intelligent people than oneself was good then I should rather be with him than anybody else. I worked ever harder and with stronger determination to please him enough so that he accepted me as a friend. But that was never to happen.

What happened, however, is that I developed a lot. I never could win his friendship, but if it hand’t been for him I would never have learned many things which I did as a result of him sharing those walks with me. Be it remembering the maths tables, or spellings of words, or knowing meanings of difficult words, or grammar tidbits, or cricketing tips and verbal coaching, and a lot of general knowledge about various subjects. I think I got a whole lot better informed and wiser spending whatever amount time in whatever fashion I did with him.

And that’s not the only thing I got from him.

***

There are people who are smarter and more intelligent than you, and there are people who are dumber. Being with the former type may make you feel stupid and small. It may make you realize how little you know. Being with the latter type would likely make you feel wise and great.

Those dumber than you may find things to learn from you, and consequently you may earn their admiration quickly and easily. Not so with those smarter and more intelligent than you. Most people choose to be with those from whom they easily get respect and admiration. It feeds their ego.

While there is nothing wrong in having the ego that loves to be admired, I believe it also matters who one is being admired by. If you are being admired by people who are considerably dumb, I don’t think you should take such admiration seriously, be ego-fed by them. When you earn respect and admiration of people who are smarter and more intelligent than you, that better warrants your development.

It is a good strategy for one who sincerely wants to grow intelligent, develop. Try to be with people who know more than you, who are more intelligent than you. It is hard compared to being with people who are less smart or less intelligent than you, because the latter would accept you into their circle easily while the former may not. Now, you don’t want to be a cost to them, like a parasite, so earn your way in to their circle. That means working hard to prove your worth and value to them. That’s the way you develop.

While I don’t generally shun people who are less intelligent than me, and admit to getting ego-boost by their admiration, I place much higher weightage on earning respect of more intelligent and smarter people who I admire.

***

The guy who rejected me as friend gave me the craving and mindset of striving to earn respect and admiration of people greater than me. I wonder if a lot of what I am today is due to him.