I really liked the framing in the linked post[1]. Some relevant quotes:

When I stay with my parents I regress back to being a teenager. I become irritable, messy and spend most of my time eating cheese toasties and watching The Simpsons. There’s something about this social environment which brings out qualities in me that I don’t like, and behaviours which I don’t want [...] 

Another example - there’s a friend of mine who is quite a curious, laid-back type. And often when I’m with said friend, I somehow magically become more curious and laid-back. In this case, the social environment is bringing out qualities in me that I do like.


There are [...] things which EA brings out in me which I don’t like.


I’ve spoken to a bunch of people that are doing something like ‘trying to figure out their relationship with EA’. And often it seems like people end up trying to do something like ‘work out whether EA is good or bad’. 

This is a hard question to answer. I think an easier one, and a more action-relevant one is ‘Does EA bring out the best in you?’ or even ‘What does EA bring out of you?’. 


An overall theme here is that people are different depending on the social environment that they are in. This will be more true of some people than others. Some people will change a lot, like a chameleon, and other people will change only a little, like a cow, or a… wardrobe, or whatever the opposite of a chameleon is.

I found this a useful mindset I hadn't thought of, even if it seems obvious in hindsight. Many posts and books mention the value of engaging with the effective altruism movement to prevent value drift. But I had never reflected on what directions different parts of the movement are making me drift towards, or are preventing me from drifting to.

Edited to add: Symmetrically, I'm now thinking: "When I'm interacting with the effective altruism community, do I help bring out the best in other people?"

  1. ^

    I can't trace back where I found it, it somehow made its way into my open tabs for this evening. Thank you to whoever shared it.
    Edit: It was in this footnote, huge thanks to David_Althaus and Ewelina_Tur for sharing it on the forum.




Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 11:48 PM

Fascinating question. 

A follow-up question: Does EA bring out the best in me... compared to what?

I'm active (probably way too active!) on Twitter (aka 'X'). Which brings out the better me -- Twitter or EA Forum? Almost certainly EA Forum does. 

Twitter tends to make me disagreeable, reactive, ornery, partisan, angry, outraged, attention-seeking. EA Forum tends to make me calmer, smarter, more open-minded, more respectful, more intellectually serious, more likely to steelman opposing views, etc.

So, as a subculture (or at least as a social media platform), EA (and EA Forum) seem way better than Twitter/X or most other social media platforms or subcultures.

I think analogous arguments could be made for EA Forum bringing out better versions of us than Reddit, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, etc.

Is EA perfect as a subculture? Nope. But it's one of the best subcultures I've ever been involved with, and it brings out more of my best than most others do.

I think this is really a discussion of norms, boundaries and expectations. I don't think that any community can easily bring out the best in everyone and what may be best for one person may not be best for another. 

I am prone to neuroticism - I like to think about things for a long time. Perhaps the prioritising nature of EA is a little bad for me, whereas for someone who doesn't do this at all, it's probably good on net. 

It's very easy to think that we all want or need the same thing, but I don't sense this is the case. And as EA is both a work and social community this becomes more complicated - while it seems possible to make a work space for a set of 50 people, the idea that we can make a unified community that caters for the work and social habits of 5000 people. That seems very difficult.

I suppose the question then is: does EA bring out the best in people? If not, how can we empower community members to be their best self in an EA context?

For example, community members should notice when they're not being their best self, and have enough agency to change the causes for that.

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