This is my highly subjective, opinionated list of the most highly overrated things in 2023.
Society and politics
1) A formal education
Do you really need a college degree to get on in life these days? Well, if you want to become a surgeon, YouTube videos aren’t going to win over 8 years at med school.
But for millions who view university as the only way to achieve financial success, indepence and a way to think criticially, college degrees are rapidly losing face as the best way to go about this.
The 21st century workplace is changing. People are realising that working from home can be a norm, rather than an exception.
People don’t want to be saddled with 10s or even 100s of thousands in debt, just to get a crummy media studies degree where the majority of classes are held online, and 25 year old disinterested post-docs are being paid $15 to teach undergrads how to think.
I’m totally down with an educated society, but in 2023, a formal education, and a graduate degree isn’t what it used to be.
As a lens through which to understand universal truths, settle debates and answer unanswerable questions, science has had a pretty good track record.
Unarguably, tools such as logic, reason and the scientific method have immeasurably helped to further human progress.
But even science has its limitations. Science cannot tell us anything about justice. About right or wrong. About love, compassion, empathy.
Sometimes we have to make decisions which cannot be backed up by peer-reviewed studies. Sometimes we have to use our gut, our instinct. People who say ‘trust the science’ are kinda missing the point.
Science is not a religion to be ‘trusted’. It’s just a method of understanding. One of many.
The West is largely regarded as a secular society, so it’s ironic that the reason the West became the dominant economic power (soon to be superceded by China no doubt) is because of deeply rooted religious convictions that go back more than 500 years.
Calvinism, the Reformation, the Protestant Work Ethic weaved a thread into society, which told us that hard work was a way to please God, to be an upstanding citizen.This religious zealousness was one of the seeds of modern capitalism.
But fast forward to 2023, where economic inequality is at an all time high….. folks have realised that ‘working hard’ doesn’t correlate with happiness or fulfilment.
The system is rigged. The rich just get richer, the poor have to work 2,3 or 4 jobs just to survive.
Work, as a means to ‘the good life’ is vastly overrated.
The idea of democracy is so entrenched into the Western mindset that we almost treat it like a sacred scripture – an infallible concept that guarantees freedom and liberty for all who embrace it.
But take a look at how things have played out in the 21st century and it’s clear that many don’t think democracy actually works very well in practice.
For example, democracy in the United States is not about the best candidates, the best policies, it’s about whether or not you have several billion dollars to spend on promoting your politicians.
And even when we really put democracy to the test, it’s usually hijacked by misinformation and propaganda to the extent that citizens in effect don’t know what they’re voting for.
In theory democracy sounds great. In practise it’s highly overrated as an effective way to govern society.
Yes, you heard it right. War is over-rated. By that I mean, what’s the point? When was the last time a war actually provided a net positive benefit? Perhaps World War II?
These days wars are mostly about transparent regime change, ‘procuring’ natural resources and waging proxies with allies so that we don’t have to do the dirty work ourselves.
War-mongering, jingoism, nationalism are mindless distractions that cause us to look away from injustices that are happening in our back yards.
Advocating for war, instead of peace and diplomacy puts you on the side of imperialists, profiteers and hatemongers. War is a vastly over-rated solution to the world’s problems.
Without disappearing down philosophical rabbit holes, freedom is a loose, slippery concept that people often flag-wave at their opponents, without realizing the chains they surround themselves with.
People who live in ‘Western democracies’ regularly espouse values like free speech, a free press, free and democratic elections. But often they conduct these conversations in a climate of politically-correct driven self-censorship, topped off with a heavy dose cancel culture.
You can’t really say what you want to say any more. Because speech is policed. And the Overton window of debate is narrowing.
Freedom doesn’t exist, except for you own personal concept of what is it to be free. So before you tell me how great it is to be free, think about it….
From its roots in Zen Buddhism, mindfulness and meditation, transported to the west is now a multi-billion dollar industry.
From a surface persepetive there’s nothing wrong (in fact there’s everything right!) with taking time from your day to stop, reflect, be present, express gratitude and be mindful of your body, breathing, thoughts and environment.
But in the context of 21st century capitalism, mindfulness become a banal form of spirituality that instead of tackling wider, systemic issues, instead puts the onus on you, the individual, to focus inwards to solve all of your problems.
Being mindful is not going to help you overcome the inherent inequalities in the world, or greed, corruption, and exploitation.
The best that mindfulness can do in these situations is to help you think more clearly. But it’s not going to fix big picture existential problems in your life.
8) Being right
Young kids learn by making mistakes. They grow and absorb new information by constantly trying out new things, ideas – they don’t have a concept of shame or embarrassment, they just want to learn and move on.
Adults on the other hand are terrified of losing face. So we police our speech, we reserve our judgement, we self-censor.
For instance, I’m trying to learn a new language, and I’m constantly battling my fear of messing up and getting things wrong – which is a barrier to learning and growth.
We need to realise that being right all the time is not achievable, not realistic and creates undue anxiety.
No-one expects you to be right all the time. Get over it. Make some mistakes
9) Lots of friends
Back in the heady days of early-stage Facebook, nobody knew about the more sinister, deleterious effects of making online connections, and sharing your whole life to a bunch of ‘friends’ and let’s face it, lots of randos.
So everyone, myself included thought it was a great idea to ‘Friend’ anyone who showed up in their recommendation algorithm, including – ex-girlfriends, weird 2nd cousins, the old school bully, some social misfit you worked a Saturday job with back in the day.
You see, Facebook led us to believe that there’s no upper limit on how many ‘friends’ we’re supposed to have. In fact the more the better.
Truth is, that’s all bunk. Evolutionary psychology tells us a realistic target for the number of close friends is around three to six.
Yep, having tons of friends is awesome. But most of us can live perfectly happy, fulfilled lives cherishing quality over quantity.
The industrial revolution was premised on companies being able to produce more widgets, by replacing inefficient humans, with tireless, unrelenting machines.
Productivity ever since has been the mantra of corporate and personal development – how to get more done in less time.
Whilst it’s always good to embrace the basic premise of being more productive, I think we’ve gone too far.
People talk about 4am workout regimes. Buying 10 identical sets of clothes to save on sartorial pondering. Listening to audiobooks and podcasts at 2x speed.
Well, good for you if your end goal is just about getting more done. But if your goal is to enjoy what you do, to enjoy both the journey and the destination….. maybe you might want to re-evaluate how highly your regard productivity as a priority in your life.
11) Ted Talks
I used to love Ted Talks when they first came out. Super smart folks across every knowledge discpline you could think of, summing up their whole life’s work, their philosophy in just under 20 minutes.
Ted Talks used to make me feel smarter, instantly. But after a while, I realised that I was increasing attracted to these cult-like presentations because of their click-bait style marketing – the idea that watching this speaker would transform your undertstanding of the world.
Slowly I started to feel, every time I watched another TED video, the same way I would after eating a McDonalds. I thought I consumed something substantive, but in reality I didn’t take in anything. Empty calories. I was hungry straight afterwards
TED Talks have recevied a lot of similar critisisms over the years for dulling critical thinking and cheapening the concept of education.
TED Talks are OK as light info-tainment. But they are not an education in any way.
I’ve never watched much TV these days but I’m a crazy movie fan, with hundreds of DVDs gathering dust (yes I’m old) with everything from Bogart to Akira.
I don’t have a Netflix account but my girlfriend has. And when I’m bored and fancy a movie night, I’m reminded that Netflix has a woeful, limited selection of movies.
Admittedly, you’ll occassionally stumble on an awesome, genre-defining Netflix exclusive series – Breaking Bad, Narcos, Black Mirror – but the rest of of it? Did Squid Games really live up to the billions of words of hype? Wasn’t Stranger Things the very definition of overrated?
If you’re true to yourself, you’ll probably admit that like me, browsing Netflix is like staring into an existential void – you thing there’s something out there, but in reality it’s 99.9% junk….
Save your time. Save your money. Life is too short for bad movies. And sub-par TV shows.
BTW (I’m tagging on Amazon Prime, HBO, and any streaming service. Cancel them all!)
The very word makes me cringe. ‘Influencer’ You mean your job is to influence me?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about folks who become influencers by means of a genuine talent or skill. These people can inspire with the knowledge and experience they’ve worked hard at.
I’m talking about self-described influencers who make a living doing ordinary things that everyday people do every day. Playing video games, trying on clothes and makeup, going on holiday or just being a dumb opinionated loud mouth.
Self-described influencers don’t add any value to society. They’re not your friends. They just exist to perpetuate their self-obsession and braggadocio lifestyles.
Influencers are overrated, over-valued and a waste of everyone’s time. Click this button to unsubscribe now!
14) Blockbuster movies
There used to be a time when I would really look forward to watching a super-hyped Hollywood blockbuster. Remember the original Star Wars trilogy. The Matrix. Jurassic Park. Anything by Christopher Nolan?
But somewhere in the 2000s things changed. Superhero franchises like Marvel and DC Comics spinoffs became cash cows for the Hollywood studios and blockbuster movies started more and more dull, repetitive and ultimately really, really boring.
The advent of ultra-realistic CGI and the attraction of generic storylines that would appeal to global audiences saw studios spending $200 million to rake in over $1 billion at the box office.
Nowadays, big budget blockbusters have lost their edge and only exist to appeal to the most inane audience demographics. I’d much rather watch a foreign movie, that is, if I can be bothered about reading subitles.
The last example I can remember was a forgetful Marvel spinoff I saw over the summer. Excited to witness a cinematic spectacle, 15 minutes in, I turned to my partner and asked if she really wanted to sit it out for another 1hr 45. We made it to the end, but it was an ordeal.
15) Adam Driver
On the subject of Star Wars, who can deny the archetypal supremacy of Darth Vader as the ultimate Hollywood villain?
Fast forward to 2015’s The Force Awakens and I was really looking forward to seeing how evil the baddie would be.
And what did we get? Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, whose only terrifying characteristic is to bore you to death with his monotone performance.
Touted by Scorcese as the best actor of his generation, on screen, Adam Driver is one of the most overrated actors in Hollywood today. Dull, unengaging, anti-charismatic. Avoid.
16) Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran seems like a perfectly nice guy. I’m sure I’d enjoy hanging out at the bar together for a beer. And yes he’s got a great voice, and he strums a mean guitar.
But his songs….? Yeah, they’re OK. Maybe even bordering on ‘good’. But does Shape of You really warrant 6 billion views on Youtube? Obviously 3/4 of the planet haven’t played that video so it means millions have watched it on repeat multiple times.
I don’t get it. It’s like a nursery rhyme. I love you Ed. But you’re definitely top of my list of over-rated musicians.
17) TV News
Growing up in the UK, 100 years ago (OK I exaggerate) ,tuning into the 9 o’clock News was a mini-ritual. TV news back then really was news. And everyone would talk about it the next day at school, at college, at work, at the bar.
Today, despite anchors with expensive suits, swishy backdrops, and local, or even global correspondents, TV is no longer the go to authority for finding out what’s happening in the world.
CNN chief Jeff Zucker for example in 2015 was accused of turning the network into a a near 24/7 Trumpathon just because the orange president was such a hit with audiences.
In the post-truth era, people just don’t trust what they hear any more from TV anchors. TV news is not fit for purpose any more. Can we move on now.
It’s been a long time since I visited a zoo and was genuinely impressed by something. Perhaps a century ago, before TV and the internet, seeing an elephant up close would be a once in a lifetime experience.
But these days, you’re more likely to be greeted by indifference if anyone suggests a visit to the zoo.
Zoos fail to impress these days. Maybe decades of wildlife programs have made us feel sorry for the cuddly and not so cuddly creatures. Maybe we just realise that watching animals in cages isn’t such a great thing to celebrate.
The zoo experience in 2023 is sadly over-rated.
Let’s face it, the bar has lowered considerably in the past couple decades for calling yourself a celebrity.
Once upon a time you needed to be, I don’t know, a movie star, a fashion icon, an ex-president, to achieve celebrity status.
Celebrities used to remind us that life could be aspirational, that somewhere, far from the humdrum of our meagre lives, there wa a parallel universe where special annointed ones achieved a life worth ‘celebrating’
Today you just need a TikTok account, a YouTube channel, or 15 minutes of fame on a reality TV show. Anyone, from a swimming pool cleaner to an Amazon warehouse worker can be a celebrity.
Celebrity status just isn’t what it used to be.
20) Tourist destinations
A trip to Disney World, Las Vegas, Bali, the Great Pyramids of Giza. Sure, I get it. Life is short, there’s only so much you can put on your life bucket list, so let’s do the big destinations, grab a selfie and one more life experience.
But I can’t stress how many times I’ve travelled to a famous tourist spot, only to be underwhelmed. Mass tourism, cheap flights have made travel accessible to so many more millions, and as a result, all of the big destinations in the world have become commercialised to the max.
So whilst the Eiffel Tower is still impressive, to get their you have a fight battalions of tourists, trinket sellers and scammers. Before you plan to visit any popular tourist destination, ask yourself – is the real life experience really going to be worthwhile.
I loved the concept when AirBnB started. Instead of checking into an anonymous dingey hotel room, what about staying in a real house, like an authentic local?
Perhaps you might find somewhere really unique or quirky – a treehouse, or underground eco bunker perhaps? The possibilities are endless.
But these days, whenever we book a road trip, or a foreign excursion, AirBnb is last on the list. Because…. it’s expensive, there are loads of fees for cleaning, admin etc added on to the price, plus you never know whether your host is going to be a normie or a psycho. Just book a hotel or an apartment, it’s much easier and there’s no hype to live up to.
It’s all the rage. Apps are making literal billions from selling meditation soundtracks, some of them read by your favourite celebrities. But let’s face it…. who likes meditation? Who has the time, the patience? What do you really get out of it?
The main problem is that Westerners have adopted meditation as a way to make themselves happier in a materialistic, consumerist society.
Meditation is mostly used in the West as a way to alleviate stress, to increase productivity at work, to manifest (material goods usually)
And when it doesn’t work, when folks realise the point of meditation isn’t to achieve, or acquire something, but the point is the meditation itself….. that’s when it all collapses.
Save yourself the time, money and effort. Unless you’re living a spiritual life already, you’ll be better off without meditating. It will only make you less, not more happy.
23) Outdoor sex
Rarely have I been more disappointed in a romantic encounter as when I’ve attempted to seize the moment of passion in an outdoor encounter.
The prospect of wild, abandoned sex, in the open air, in nature, like animals I guess, is, I agree an attractive proposition.
But in reality…. different ball game. In my experience there are too many uncontrollable variables… the cold, the comfort, the privacy or lack of, the willingness of your partner… all of these require extra effort and at the end of the day, for what reward?
Save yourself the effort. I’ve been there and it’s definitely overrated.
I’ve lived most of my life in one of the world’s largest cities. We have the subway, buses, trains, trams, even a god-damn cable car to cross the river.
So why would I want or need to car in the city? Traffic jams, speed limits are not my idea of fun or freedom. The only reason I see for having a car is to carry people, or things from one place to another.
If you’re stuck in the mindset that cars are desirable, shiny things, it’s time to admit the truth. They’re big heavy, ugly hunks of metal, plastic and other toxic materials. They destroy the environment, make you lazy, and burn a hole in your bank account.
Get over it. Cars are dull, boring and make your life more complicated. Get a pushbike instead.
The carnivore diet…. WTF? It’s all the rage now. Folks convince themselves that eating carbs is akin to psychosis, and that the human body was designed from the ground up to exist solely on prime rib-eye, for breakfast, lunch and supper.
Haven’t these people ever heard of scurvy? Don’t these zealots realise that life is short, the earth is a wondrous, abundant planet. That human existence predicated on chopping down rainforests to feed animals, to feed us is kinda reallly f*cked up?
I love meat. But I also make sure I eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, pulses. Humans are the most adaptable species on the planet (apart from cockroaches and rats maybe). We’re meant to eat all kinds of different things.
Can we get over the concept of the ‘healthy sun-tan’? Doesn’t everyone understand now things like UV-rays, skin cancer etc? Sure, sunshine is like medicine, and a healthy glow is always a good thing.
But the idea of spending two weeks in a beach resort, purposefully prostrating oneself to the deadly rays of the sun for 6 or 8 hours of the day is frankly lunacy.
You won’t look healthy afterwards, you’ll look red and ill. Enjoy the sun, but do what the locals do – cover up in the hottest part of the day. Stay in the shade when you’re outside.
And don’t even get me started on tanning salons. You really think orange is a great skin tone???
Weddings are social events to convince family and friends that you want to make a commitment to your romantic partner.
Weddings are rarely about the needs of the couple, or love, or commitment. They’re a pea-cocking display of social conformity. Look at us, we’re good people who comply with societal expectations.
Weddings are dutiful, often pompous rituals where everyone is supposed to behave and treat everyone else nicely. But in truth, they’re dull, boring and a colossal waste of money, time and effort.
Are you one of those people who believe we each have an ideal soulmate, a perfectly matched partner, somewhere out there in the universe, if only we could find them…
News just in. You’re living a fantasy. There’s no such thing as romantic soulmates, they only exist in movies and myth.
I ended up with the girl I always wanted. She’s the one for me. I don’t want anyone else. But a relationship even with your ‘soulmate’ is still a massive pain in the butt. You still have to work hard at it. You still fight and bitch with each other.
Don’t idealise your romantic aspirations. If you love someone, you love them. It’s that simple. Work it out as you go along. Don’t spend your life seeking the perfect soulmate.
Google used to be like a god. Omniscient, wise, objective, reliable, faultless. For while, the company, with its aim to ‘organise the world’s information’ seemed to be doing exactly that.
But at some point Google recognised it was a monopoly and stopped caring about its users. But truth is there are better alternatives for Google Search (DuckDuckGo), Gmail and Gsuite (Zoho), Chrome (Firefox) the list goes on. Don’t fall int the trap that Google is the best at everything. Many of its products are mediocre at best.
I had an iPhone back in the day. It was cute and made calls. Everything else was decidedly average. Plus, if I wanted to transfer some files from my computer, forget it. In fact if I wanted to do anything other than use Apple software iPhones are like baby toys.
High end Android phones pretty much beat iPhones in every technical respect. Plus they’re cheaper and you don’t get locked into the the Apple ecosystem.
31) 3D printers
I can’t remember when I first heard about a 3D printer you could buy for your home but I was blown away by the concept and the potential.
I was convinced that soon everyone would have one, and they would become ubiquitous in every home. But fast forward to today and 3D printers have become niche products that only the nerdiest of nerds would consider owning.
Don’t bother. Overrated to the max.
32) The metaverse
This possibly gets the award for the most overrated concept ever. Mark Zuckerberg’s vision sold us an egalitarian, utopian virtual world, where we can create our own realities, hang out in an ultra-realistic parallel universe with anyone, at any time, with endless possibilities.
The reality is more like an awkward 3D sim game from the late 2000s. Hanging out in the metaverse is about as appealing as watching paint dry.
Yes it’s probably the most addictive social media platform ever. Yes it’s responsible for billlions, maybe trillions of eyeball hours. But, really, when was the last time you enjoyed yourself watching TikToks?
It’s basically a drug, feeding you content that for some reason other people have engaged with, so that it can send the content on to more people in an endless feedback loop. If TikTok was a food product, it wouldn’t even make it to Macdonalds levels of nutrition. It’s just feeding you ever decreasing circles of mindless junk to trigger primal brain chemicals as if we were pigeons in a psychology experiment.
I’m done ranting. This was cathartic. I hope you agreed with some of my opinions. I’m sure you disagreed with many!