"FREE BEER" is Part of My Problem

You are most likely reading this because of a curiosity created by a tweet and that's what good headlines do.

The problem for me with Twitter is that I may see hundreds of these headlines a day. Some, but not all, are irresistible and that can lead my curiosity down many, many very short paths.

It's like browsing the magazine rack at a fine book store - it's an almost unavoidable lure but probably doesn't lead to the most productive visit.

Ian Leslie in his excellent book Curious distinguishes between two types of curiosity.

One he describes as follows: "Deeper, more disciplined, and effortful type of curiosity is called epistemic curiosity. It is hard work; it involves sustained cognitive effort."

The second, he explains, leads to a more negative outcome: "In our digital world, diversive curiosity is constantly stimulated by ever-present streams of texts, emails, tweets, etc. that stimulate our hunger for novelty.  In the process, our capacity for the slow, difficult, and frustrating process of gathering knowledge may be deteriorating.

I've certainly seen the second in my own online habits, with many of my students in the classroom (most of whom have devices in class this year), and even with my son today as he got started on research for a lengthy paper.

I never thought I'd be saying this but the next time I see a "FREE BEER"-like tweet, I may need to resist the click.


  1. This can be the case with Twitter, the echochamber. It's important to intentionally solicit folks that will challenge our thinking.

    1. I agree. The echochamber can be very reaffirming, which leads to some validation. But it is usually the dissenters who do get us thinking and possibly push our boundaries to a new level. If we are open to them.


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