Ben Franklin’s Virtues in the Internet Age

I just started reading “The Happiness Project” mostly because it has been recommended time and time again on a podcast I listen to but also because I need to get out of this bored, unmotivated, uninterested rut that I have found myself in for the last few weeks. At the beginning of the book, the author talks about Ben Frankin and his list of virtues:
Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation
Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversations
Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time
Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve
Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing
Lose not time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions
Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; speak accordingly
Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty
Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think you deserve
Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or habitation
Be not disturbed at trifles or accidents common or unavoidable
Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation
Imitate Jesus and Socrates

Ben did his best to live by these. I first read them when I read his autobiography back in high school. I highly recommend the book – he was quite the guy. My post-it that marked the virtues way back when is still attached to page 95.

A lot of the virtues really make me think about a topic that I have gone back to over and over – the internet. It’s really a time suction that I am increasingly frustrated with. I’m not fussing and threatening to take down the blog again even though I would certainly understand you, as a reader, deciding to cut it out of your personal life so you can reapply that time to a better pursuit.

That is part of the virtue that Ben called industry – “cut off all unnecessary actions”. I would like to think this means never checking Facebook at all. But, I do have family on there and a handful of friends I respect so what I have done is unsubscribed from all of the people who are not those people I care to hear from. For example, if I see a post invoking what you don’t like about Obama or Romney that is in the form of a rant and not a thoughtful introspection, BAM! Unsubscribe!

Facebook has sucked the joys out of high school and college graduation because it has made it where you never truly leave. I was fine without a lot of these people for the 15 years since college that there was no Facebook and being reacquainted with them over Facebook has reminded me why I chose to move away and lose touch with many of them in the first place.

Using Ben Franklin’s Virtues as my template, I can also easily see the need for silence. So many people are baited into virtual warfare by stupid Twitter and Facebook opinions. Facebook especially is like having all of the social fake drama of high school / college played out virtually for the rest of our lives. Have you noticed that the same people you wished would shut up back in the school are the same ones patting themselves on the back all of the time for supporting politician A or social cause B? Silence means not engaging them because they are not important. If they were important, they would be too busy being important to post all of that crap in the first place.

Tranquility is tough when you’re surrounded by opinionated people on their virtual soapbox so I don’t think you can just ignore the messages flowing in. You really have to turn them off. You’ve really got to stop the incoming flow. I worry for my kids who are already entrenched in this sort of living that is not really living. It’s just bytes of data trying to trick us into thinking that this is actually living. This “new world” is wonderfully portrayed in this commercial:

One virtue Ben missed is have fun. I don’t have near enough fun. I will be on vacation again next week and I plan on us getting out of this house every single day since I sit in this house every single day working. I plan on doing some reading and listening to some podcasts during my down time when we’re not running around doing stuff. I won’t be scrolling through Facebook posts or worrying about work emails.

Maybe this vacation will be the beginning of my own happiness project.