5 Self-Improvement Techniques That Actually Make You Dumber

#2. Learning New Things You Disagree With Makes You Disagree Harder

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Because of the fucking Internet, it's easier than ever to live in a tiny little bubble of masturbation circle jerkery, which leads to such embarrassing mistakes as saying "I think Ayn Rand made a good point" or "Nikolai Gogol was very influential in literary realism," but instead of pronouncing it "go-guhl" you repeatedly pronounce it "g'ghoul" loudly in a coffee shop like a fucking moron and make it impossible for me to concentrate on writing my dumb Internet jokes.

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Just kidding. No one actually gets writing done in a coffee shop.

The Terrible Truth:

It's not just the Internet and 24-hour news networks that are conspiring to keep you uninformed (spoilers for further down this page!), it's your brain. Key parts of our ability to process and synthesize new information shut down whenever we're confronted with something we disagree with. In fact, if we are bludgeoned (or bludgeon ourselves, as intellectual masochists are wont to do) with information that contradicts our inane beliefs, we can actually end up making ourselves cling even more desperately to our erroneous assumptions -- even if they've been proved false. In fact, especially if they've been proved false.

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I'm just going to leave this here.

Amazingly, the harder we work at not being "that guy" at the party who can't admit he's wrong no matter what, the more likely we are to arrogantly claim that Obamacare is a socialist Islamo-Nazi takeover and get a flaming shot tossed in our face. And it sure isn't helping that ...

#1. Watching the News Makes Us Uninformed

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Nothing will earn you the rightful dismissal of your peers faster than casually saying that you "don't follow politics" or "don't really keep up with the news." Especially if you live in the United States, or another First World country, your every little decision has ramifications that stretch around the globe. Failing to pay attention to what's happening in the world isn't just ignorant, it's downright irresponsible. Just have MSNBC playing in the background while you play Dota 2, for fuck's sake.

The Terrible Truth:

OK, so watching all news isn't bad for you -- it's pretty much just the 24-hour networks. Remember that headline that was making the rounds a while back about how Fox News was making you dumber? They only spun it that way because the real headline -- "Journalism in the United States Is Less Reliable Than Inspector Gadget's Tragically Glitchy and Mangled Body" -- wasn't quite as clickable.

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"Wowsers" is just another way of saying "What in the name of Christ am I?"

Yes, people who watch Fox News were "significantly more likely" to believe things that aren't true, but pretty much only in a way that favored the American right. People who watched MSNBC, NPR, and PBS believed, for example, that it had been proved that the Chamber of Commerce was laundering money (it was just accused), while people who watched network TV broadcast daily were more likely to believe that Obama signed the bank bailout (it was Bush).

But that's an old story from 2010. What about the 2012 study saying Fox makes you stupid? Well, although NPR did better that time, CNN, Fox, and MSNBC were still the least informative news sources. Fox is still the worst by a reasonably large margin (obviously), but when all three major news outlets in the country suck, picking on one of them and acting like they're the only problem is actually the exact goddamn core of that very problem. Even contemplating that idea has dropped my IQ into "Hey, look, a quarter!" territory.

J.F. Sargent is an anti-dumbass activist, vehemently lobbying against self-improvement. He has a Twitter, a Tumblr, and a Facebook.

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