Erik McClure

People Can't Care About Everything

Sorry, I need my computer to work

I originally posted an even more snarky response to this, but later deleted it when I realized they were just a teenager. Kids do not have decades of experience with buggy drivers, infuriating edge-cases, and broken promises necessary to understand and contribute to the underlying debate here (nor do they have the social context to know that Xe and I were just joking with each other). Of course, they also don’t know that it’s generally considered poor taste to interject like this, as it tends to annoy everyone and almost always fails to take into consideration the greater context in which someone might be using Windows, or Mac, or TikTok, or Twitter, or whatever corporate hellscape they are trapped in. The thing is, there’s always a reason. You might not like the reason, but there is usually a reason someone has locked themselves inside the Apple ecosystem, or subjected themselves to Twitter, or tried to eke a living from beneath the lovecraftian whims of YouTube’s recommendation algorithm.

People can only care about so much.

They can’t care about everything. You might think something is important, and it probably is, but… so is everything else. Everything matters to someone, and everything is important to society in general to some degree. Some people think that YouTube isn’t very important, but they’re objectively wrong, as YouTube creators reach billions of people. They change people’s lives on a daily basis. We could argue about how important art and music and creativity is to society, yet observe that our capitalist hellhole treats creatives as little more than wage slaves, but then we’d be here all day.

As this blog post bemoaning the loss of Bandcamp explains, They Can And Will Ruin Everything You Love. The only thing that is important to the money vultures is… money. The only people who can build another Bandcamp are people who believe it’s important. I particularly care about the Bandcamp debacle because one of my hobbies is writing music, and I prefer selling it on Bandcamp. If Bandcamp dies, I will no longer have anywhere to offer downloadable lossless versions of my songs. Everything has devolved into shitty streaming services, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m too busy fixing everything else that’s broken, there’s no time for me to build a Bandcamp alternative and I’m terrible at web development anyway. Don’t get me started on whether the new solution should be FOSS, because some people believe FOSS is important, and they’d be right! Just look at Cory Doctorow’s talk about enshittification and how proprietary platforms are squeezing the life out of us.

Everything is important!!!

…But I can’t care about everything. You can’t care about everything either, you have to pick your battles. No, that’s too many battles, put some back. That’s still too many battles. You only have 16 waking hours every day to do anything. You have to pick something, and everything you care about has a cost. When everything is important, nothing happens. No websites are created. No projects are built. No progress is made. We simply sit around, bikeshedding over whose pet issue is the most important. There are always trade-offs, and sometimes you can make the wrong ones:

As the corresponding blog post later elaborates on, when you are 19 / still a student / unemployed, time is all you have to spend. It can be easy to forget how valuable time is to some people. Even if I won’t touch Apple devices with a 10-foot-pole, I can understand why people use them. If all your use cases fall inside Apple’s supported list of behaviors, it can be great to have devices that just work (assuming you can afford them, of course). On the other hand, while I prefer Windows, I know many people who use Linux because Windows either won’t let them do what they want, or literally just doesn’t even work. They are willing to put in the time and effort to make their linux machines work just the way they want, and to maintain them, and occasionally do batshit insane source-code patches that I hopefully will never have to do in my life, because it’s important to them.

Back when I was still writing fiction, I got a great comment from an editor who said something along the lines of “writing should be fun, you should only pursue perfection as far as you enjoy.” You can spend your entire life chasing perfection, but you’ll never reach it, and at some point you have to ship something. I’ve been trying to finish up some songs for an album recently and I’ve had to rely on formulaic crutches more than I want to, because at the end of the day, it’s just a hobby, and I simply don’t have the time to be as experimental as I want. My choice is to either release an okay song, or none at all. You can tell where I was hopelessly chasing an unattainable goal for over two years when my output completely stops:

Song Output

Everyone has to make trade-offs, and it can take time to figure out which ones are right for you. Not everyone can contribute to your particular social cause. When you ask someone to care about something, you are implicitly asking them to stop caring about something else, because they have a finite amount of time. They can’t do everything. In order to help you, they must give up something else. Is it grocery shopping? Time to cook? Time to sleep? A social gathering? Playtime with their children?

By no means should you stop asking people to care about something, that part is kind of important. Raising awareness allows individuals to make informed decisions about what trade-offs they are making with their time. However, if someone says they aren’t interested in something you care about… it’s because they have different priorities, and the trade-offs didn’t make sense. Maybe they care more about adding a feature to a 50 year old programming language, and thank goodness they did, because would you have cared enough to put up with this nonsense?

Your time is precious. Other people’s time, doubly so. Mind it well.



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