US elections game

a report on how I managed to avoid the US elections for 12 days

  1. I lost on Sunday, Nov 15 at 19:30. In a game with a lot of participants but no real rivals; just against the environment. The rules were simple: I had to be the last person on Earth to find out who won the US elections. It took me a while to write this report but here you go…

  2. I forgot the name of the game or where I first heard of it, but I believe it's traditionally played with the Superbowl results in a group of friends. Any spectacular, unavoidable event will do though. (Why there are few such events in Czech or German culture is another topic.)

  3. Last time I played was in 2016. Back then I survived only until noon after the election night but enjoyed the weirdest startup stand-up meeting ever. That's the main thrill of the game — it messes up your mind so nice. Or shifts the perspective, if you will.

  4. This year the conditions were ideal: working from home, not much to do outside. So to make it more interesting, I set to go on with my social life as I would normally do. I was meeting people and didn't try to avoid any conversation themes. But there was plenty of dos and donts:

  5. First, avoid all news sites and social media, obviously. Second, hide email subjects from your email program — a newsletter that spills the secret could arrive any minute. Not messaging with people seemed like too much isolation, so I just continued chatting as usual.

  6. Walking outside turned out to be fine too (no news-stands thesedays), same with most of online activity: magazines, blogs, searching, music… Just watch out for "trending topics" sections. In general, I'm grateful to everyone who's not trying to shove politics down your throat 24/7.

  7. The first two days were the hardest: I felt as if excluded from a fun party. Also I lost a source of distraction — I realized I had been checking the news each time I needed a short break from work. But I soon found many replacement activities:

  8. Longform articles, exhibition leaflets, notes from 2018, German vocabulary from 2017… I was occupied with some quality stuff but also just procrastinated. You see, the point was not to become a more focused and efficient person. This said, I did learn a few things:

  9. For instance letting people tell you international news in person is great. At some point a friend explained me everything about the latest development in the covid vaccine research that had apparently been happening. In his own words. Super enjoyable.

  10. But the most important moment came when the game was over and I started going through all that I missed. Excellent fresh look on what is relevant. Surprisingly, there was only about 20 articles I ended up reading. Nothing about the election itself. Plus a pile of memes.

  11. Funny thing is how the emotional aspect of the news got lost. It's barely possible to see 2 weeks old social media content. And if you do find it, you just don't feel it: I guess the waiting for the results was suspenseful? Being slow really breaks the news cycle engagement game.

  12. Two more findings: Content curation is great — a weekly newsletter compiled by a human is an ideal news format. And then categorization — the web needs more of it. I wish it was easier to filter only content (news, social media) about let's say art and new music.

  13. Anyway… that was the game. I lost quite unspectacularly: A friend mentioned that she had this wish for Trump to lose and that it came true. I was like: Hm.

Jakub Valenta

November 23, 2020