The Midwit Trap

How to be brilliant and alone.

Taylor Foreman

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The “midwit” feedback loop makes a lot of sense:

  1. Common sense and intuition are replaced with a more “objective” explanation (which often happens to nicely excuse our character defects).
  2. Despite their emotional cost, we buy and consume those explanations in exchange for a little boost in status (actually, did you know…).
  3. The “normies” (anyone not in the know) push back on our weird ideas, which just affirms that the world is too dumb to understand us and compounds a sense of rejection.
  4. Rinse and repeat until we completely distrust our instincts and the world.

I’m very familiar with this strange feedback loop. It’s the “midwit” trap, which is the inspiration for these funny memes:

A clear example of this thinking is… a lot of Malcolm Gladwell‘s schtick. For example, he opens a segment by saying, “You think people smile when they’re happy? No, no, no. Actually, your intuition is…. wrong.” *theme music plays*

We get a nice dopamine kick for feeling like we know something others don’t (and I’m not immune). Gladwell has mastered the art of packaging information that’s both counterintuitive and extremely attention-grabbing.

These rabbit holes are everywhere. They range from Andrew Tate fans to a guy who recounts a John Oliver segment to you, word for word, with an IPA in his hand (this obviously happened to me). There are many others: Red pill. Pop-sci. Social engineers. Pick up artists. Hustle culture. Manifestation. Outrage news. Astrology. Bitcoin.

Most of us have secretly dipped our toe in one of these pools.

For me, it all started before TikTok was even a thing when my very angry, bald, chain-smoking philosophy professor introduced me to the world’s most brilliant midwit, Friedrich Nietzsche.

On the first day of class, he said, “There’s always some emo kid in the back of the class who thinks Nietzsche would’ve been on his side. He would not have been on your side, dude.”

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Taylor Foreman

Essays bridging mythic meaning and the modern world. Click here to have them appear in your inbox some Saturday mornings --> https://www.taylorforeman.com/