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In the 1970s & 80s, anthropologists working in small-scale, non-industrial societies fastidiously noted down what people were doing throughout the day. I’ve been exploring the data & am struck by one of the most popular activities: doing nothing. [thread]
104 replies and sub-replies as of Apr 14 2022

This is fascinating Manvir ! Thank you. Doing nothing is liberating. 70s , 80s or now..
I can confirm that I'm an expert at doing that. It has been my specialty for as long as I can remember.
PS. It is know in our circle as, Vegging (Being a Vegetable)🥦🌽🥕
Brilliant thread. Superbly interesting
"But how much do we know about doing nothing? Not much." Sounds like we need more practise in doing nothing.
This is why I recommend staring off into the forest or even just at a wall and thinking about life. If you can manage it on top of everything else(which is fair if you can't, our society is designed to give you little opportunity for this.), it can really help give perspective.
"doing nothing" is wrong. They have taken the time to "thinking". They did not have the tools to record their information. So they spend time reviewing and storing it in their brains.
How can you know what is going on inside their minds?
1- In awakening and consciousness the mind cannot be idle 2- (Just a possibility) But when in large numbers they do nothing for significant hours, then they must be planning and processing and arranging the findings and experiences in their minds. (Lack of recording tools)
I believe the term 'doing nothing' was a description primarily of behaviour, meaning non-goal directed actions. (Goal directed actions e.g. hunting, cooking, gathering, cleaning, grooming, etc.)
" it's really about doing nothing at all, at least apparently." Please Read this section and its subsequent tweets carefully.👇…
The researchers typically chose among ~60 activity codes, one of which was "Idle, doing nothing". This is different from napping, chatting, fixing tools, tidying up, & idleness b/c of illness. As far as I can tell, it's really about doing nothing at all, at least apparently.
Last tweet, because this is unimportant: That tweet literally said exactly what I just wrote to you. He made no speculation about their mental activity. Hope you have a good day. Take care.
Thank you. You too. good luck.
Energy saving. The less you have to do the less food you have to go get. You want honey or fruit? Chop the tree down; you want fish? Poison the pond. Only an idiot climbs a tree and endangers himself. And don’t worry about ‘living in harmony’. Once the area is exhausted, move on.
The biggest lie we have ever been told was that an economy is supposed to provide jobs. That the world is supposed to strive for employment. Instead of efficiency. Resulting in a completely destroyed biosphere. After just 20-30 years of 3-4 billion #bullshitjobs.
quit. but dont expect others to continue to work for your benefit
I don't have a #bullshitjob, but I'd gladly pay more tax if i didn't have to endure any more advertising.
what are you talking about with advertising?
This is an example of a toxic use of public space. Also an enormous waste of energy and resources. 1515 7th Ave
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Lmaooo the women in here trying to compare they life to indigenous women is funny asf and they all white 😂😂😂
Exactly. The world is being killed by people trying to be excellent.
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Doing nothing…I wouldn’t even know how to do that 🤣
Industrial society and its future, by Theodore John Kaczynski
I cut this quote out of a newsletter about ten years ago and I keep it in my wallet.
Also what most animals do left to their own devices as well. Doing nothing is a very important part of being a happy creature!
La dolce far niente - 'Sweetness of doing nothing' - is so much more than what we perceive it to be. It's a form of reflection & meditation.A healthy & neccessary function.Villified to suit industrialist-capitalist agendas - part of the reason we're in the mess we're in.
So you are saying we Men are ahead of our time by mostly trying to Do Nothing all day, but its our significant others with their "Honey Do" lists that are upsetting the Natural balance of things & the primary reason we Men die sooner?? 😄😆😉 Finally..... Im vindicated
Doing nothing aka “waiting for that guy with the notebook to stop pestering me”?
This is fun to see pictures of, it gets discussed in the book "Exersized" by evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman.
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This is the life, this is the way we humans were meant to be!!!
Forage and Chill
Interesting data. Every time I visited my great-great aunt, she would be sitting in her chair doing nothing. No TV, no radio, no book. As a child, I couldn’t wrap my head around literally doing nothing and realized there was a huge generational gap.
Congrats on being the best tweet I’ve read in months.
this is relevant to your tweet about Romans
(No comment)
Doing stuff is overrated!
And doing nothing is harder than it looks.
Thanks for this data. Is it correct to believe that agriculture means less “doing nothing”? Does rice (year round) imply more work than wheat (annual)?
I lived near a small village on the east coast of Costa Rica for a few years and, coming from a culture where "productivity" is so important, was astonished at the capacity of some people to "do nothing". It took a bit of mental work to allow myself to do the same 🙂
My sister lived in the South Pacific some years ago, I recall her talking about the "doing nothing", very liberating. Growing up my brother referred to it as"passing time", as a good thing.
Cool Hand Luke was onto something.
enjoying consciousness and communing with the universe.
I'm impressed by this! I have often caught myself "doing nothing" for an hour or more. Also, does logging onto twitter count as "doing nothing"?
What you’ve been saying yesterday and today reminded me of this article I saw the other day @CominternQueer
Can’t wait to read it!!
It is based on western research and I can’t vouch for it but it’s just interesting to me to think that human behaviour in the human communities closest to how we all once lived includes this thing that westerners don’t understand which reminds me of what you were talking about ❤️
In the 70's a documentary promised more automation and computers that would power societies and give governments big problems as people would have more leisure time and no money. Here we are.
This shouldn't even surprise us, all animals mostly do "nothing", we're the weird ones for doing things we don't want to do every single day because society tells us that's the only way for our species to survive.
This was interesting. Thanks for posting.
In a modern society, does scrolling through social media can also count as "doing nothing"? :)
We need a do nothing day. 😅
I read this and I thought of you and your work (to rest). I'm tagging you, in case this thread is of interest to you.
Yes, now look at the pic used as an example. Safe to say, the people complaining on this thread, able to work 40 hours a week have no intention on giving up push button thermostats, hot running water, showers and store bought shiny things. Morden privileges cost modern money.
What a coincidence. That’s my favorite thing to do!!
FWIW, I did my PhD on the topic of doing nothing mostly because of this. Couldn't work out what I *really* did in the field, other than nothing, so then if that was the reality, that was the topic: Why did people understand what we did together as doing nothing?
Thanks for your analysis, interesting aggregation and comparison. I'm concerned by how many people want to use these as proxies for their own past. The 70s & 80s may be a while back but 'we need to relearn that' implies something else. These are contemporary people not ancestors
It has been well-k own for decades that most aboriginal societies had far more "down-time" than modern Western societies. It's probably time to bring that back. For mental and physical health.
We were doing nothing
Yay, my ancestors would be so proud of me!
I was at Ba'ak's last month. Nothing has changed.
People weren't doing nothing.... They were just happy for being alive... That's why I say that confort weakness the soul...
Just curious, we’re all the anthropologists male? In most societies women act differently when it is men “observing” (and in fact there are often female activities not to be seen by men). This is not to dispute the main point of the very interesting articles— just to query.
Do we know how this impacted on health, well-being, longevity?
I've always thought Canada should have siesta time off in afternoon during summer, into autumn. With temperatures getting warmer in summer, maybe now would be a good when? 🤔
doing nothing and rarely living past their 40s
Plenty going on in areas of the brain when we sit idle. Consolidation of learning, access to greater memory, creativity, problem solving
This is interesting to me because I work with unhoused people and I've always been fascinated with the ability that some of them have to genuinely enjoy doing really nothing at all. Just kinda sitting and looking around or just thinking. Usually it's older people who do this.
Is this "doing absolutely nothing", I wonder, or "doing nothing I can understand"? I mean, they could have been thinking, at least. Maybe even planning. Would the anthropologist have known?
Interesting thread. Thanks for compiling it all. My first thought was that, as usual, the Italians got there first with their phrase "Dolce far niente," the sweetness of doing nothing.