xerox13ster 2 months ago

I did a digital detox in July of 2020, I had become overwhelmed with Discord and Reddit moderation and trying to Keep Up. I burned out hard. I turned off all electronics for a month and uninstalled the apps and restricted my phone use to calls and responding to 3 close friend's texts at a set time each day--I didn't keep it on me at all. No video games, no TV, no watch or music streaming. I had my library of local music loaded to my trusty Zune and used that exclusively for music as the only device I carried with me.

I read through the entirety of the Percy Jackson books and the Heroes sequels, the Mortal Instruments, the Seven Realms Novels, and the complete unabridged HHGTG. All it took to get my book-a-day self back was bringing myself back to my teen years when I wasn't allowed on the computer with access to the internet and my texts cost .3 minutes to read or send and I only got 100/mo. I was averaging roughly 350 pages per day.

When I wasn't reading I was drawing or writing or outside being active when it was cool enough which improved my mental health even in spite of my heat based SAD.

At the end of the month I had the attention span when I got back online to attend to a cross country move and secure a job and an apartment by the end of August. I had been intending to move for the 3 years prior.

I wonder how I could go about taking advantage of the burst of creativity and focus while still being online enough to develop some of the software ideas I have that I never follow through on without getting overstimulated and distracted.

  • rubicon33 2 months ago

    I know of someone who has undergone a similar detox. From what I've heard it's been somewhat life changing (in a positive way). I don't necessarily think it's lead to more _material_ success, but they seem happier and more positive generally.

    I'm trying to do a light version of this. I'm not sure I can ever completely give up the internet and video games. They're a big source of enjoyment for me. How much of that enjoyment is rotting away at my ability to focus and do great work for long periods of time? I'm not sure... but I'm also not sure I'd want to give up the things that I really enjoy, just to work more?

    I'm trying to just find a balance in life. I don't necessarily need to be producing code 24/7. I just want to enjoy myself the times when I am working, and feel positive at the end of the day that I wasn't ultra distracted and fragmented.

    Regarding reading ...

    I have been reading a lot more lately, but I'm not sure I could ever reach 350 pages a day. I just get bored after a while. I'm sure that's directly related to a life of internet + gaming, but, I have a super hard time believing I will EVER find books as interesting or engaging as the internet and video games. That cat is out of the bag. So I can give about an hour or two a day to a book, but then I'm pretty much disinterested and find myself "reading" but not actually paying attention.

    • fsiefken 2 months ago

      Due to RSI long ago I replaced video games with board games. I do play some video games now on occasion, for example interactive fiction and VR dance games and The Forest VR.

      • rubicon33 2 months ago

        If you like The Forest VR (which is excellent) ... I highly recommend Green Hell VR (PCVR).

    • fassssst 2 months ago

      I replaced video games with making music. Scratches the same itch and is much more rewarding.

      • baby 2 months ago

        Interestingly I've been trying to reintroduce video games in my life, in moderation, because video games are fucking great and I'm sad that I'm not playing anymore.

      • dieselgate 2 months ago

        I agree with making music scratching the same itch. Honestly working as a remote dev sometimes feels like playing a video game.

  • winternett 2 months ago

    Now that app makers have realized we're muting our phones and disabling app notifications, they're doing them within the apps... It creates dependency and anxiety. The best way I've found to deal with the constant prodding is to simply leave my phone at home or in the car nearby whenever I want to enjoy a day or moment. It's a device I paid for, it shouldn't cause me stress.

    Google and Apple can easily set up reasonable standards for app makers, but they chose not to, because they themselves are tied to the constant financial greed of the ecosystem. There is now no way to buy a highly useful device that isn't laden with advertising capabilities, and robust enough for you to disable tracking... The only way to limit all of that is to simply leave the devices and step away from them for sanity.

    Talking to real people creates more dopamine for me than the Internet does now, it's a gift... We shouldn't ever take our ability to talk in real life with people for granted, because the Internet is turning fast into a distorted reality bent on spamming us for profit and scams now more than ever, and no one there cares about the damage they do until it shows up in their own households (far too late to fix the problems they caused).

    • rapind 2 months ago

      I recently find that anything on my phone or computer that tries to grab my attention, whether it's in an app or on a website, produces immediate annoyance from me. Even some genuinely helpful (but unnecessary) notifications. Popups, badges, dings, etc.

      I hear about how "people" get a dopamine hit from the dings or whatever, and meanwhile I'm basically the opposite.

      • baliex 2 months ago

        Not all dings are equal.

        If they're replies to messages you've sent (i.e. the continuation of a conversation) or your latest instagram post getting a like, you're gonna get that hit. Namely, for the validation that someone out there is interested enough in something you put out there to respond to it.

        At the other end of the spectrum it's Uber Eats promos∆, news headlines, or Google Maps begging for a review. Maybe you'd place them elsewhere on the dopamine-spectrum but you get my point.

        ∆especially annoying because I want them on when I have a delivery coming, but off at all other times!

      • eastbound 2 months ago

        Stress. Especially on Twitter, every news today starts with “NEWS ALERT!” + a boring news or analysis that everyone knows. It produces stress. The content of the news is always highly disappointing.

        • winternett 2 months ago

          Eventually the overload will destroy itself... Hang in there!

          • teddyh 2 months ago

            I fear that the market will stay irrational for longer than we can remain sane.

      • winternett 2 months ago

        Me too, these days the greatest days are the ones without crisis and when I don't need to do anything productive online.

    • gombosg 2 months ago

      > Now that app makers have realized we're muting our phones and disabling app notifications, they're doing them within the apps... It creates dependency and anxiety.

      This is so true and so widespread that I haven't even realized it's happening. I disabled most push notifications on Android and have the phone muted almost all day. Still, I'm fighting with attention fragmentation, decreased memory etc. Nowadays most apps/web apps you open have a 'notifications' tab, menu item etc. creating yet another inbox for us. (Which we probably don't need unless it's work related or something.)

      • nicbou 2 months ago

        You can block them with uBlock rules. Just right click on them.

        I silenced a few websites that way. I also removed some feeds and distracting elements.

    • D13Fd 2 months ago

      Why don’t you just delete the apps that are causing that level of anxiety?

  • 10x-dev 2 months ago

    In terms of developing software without distractions, I like to recreate airplane conditions.

    I load in a persistent tab, get all the software I think I'd need for the day/weekend and turn on airplane mode. I don't need to Google everything - between devdocs, man pages and just figuring stuff out by myself, it can be very fun to code disconnected.

    • christiangenco 2 months ago

      I've recently realized I'm uncharacteristically productive on airplanes. I did a deep read of the first 8 chapters of a book I've been meaning to read on my last long flight. I had every intention of continuing at the same pace through to the end as soon as I checked into my AirBnB.

      The moment I got internet back at touchdown marked the end of my progress on the book. This was... four days ago. I think some airplane condition replication might be just what I need. I'm curious if I could go as far as to get some uncomfortable airplane seats and a simulated sky window.

      I didn't know about—thanks!

      • alsetmusic 2 months ago

        When I want to read, I go to the local park and grab a bench. I’m a productive reader when I get away from distractions, but not at home. I was able to read effectively as a teen, but not since we got super online.

      • grogenaut 2 months ago

        I used to be able to code on airplanes but i just can't type in most seats given how cramped they are now.

        that said I flew economy plus on lufthansa from seattle to frankfurt in 2019 and sat in the front left bulkhead seat. Being a premium seat they completely ignored the 3 bags I had up against the bulkhead at takeoff (safety rules and plastic utensils are for the cattle, comfort and metal cutlery are for those who pay). It was great. I had my latop comfortably on the folkd out tray, and I watched big hero 5 and 2 other shameless airplane movies on the pull up tv. I reviewed over 30 docs in offline mode, and was able to build a very good root cause and action plan (I was doing failure analysis).

        A offline/online docs site would be quiet helpful as what styimies me from coding is not having that one dependency or one doc I need and having to pivot.

  • hackernewds 2 months ago

    Amazing story and anecdata. It seems almost impossible to attain this today since real-life events require being online - Airbnb requiring Facebook login, needing WhatsApp, Instagram DM, messenger to keep in touch. And Facebook for real-life events. Of course have to use instant msging now through Slack (email used to set the right expectations)

    • nequo 2 months ago

      > Airbnb requiring Facebook login

      Hard to eliminate smartphones in day to day life but no need for Facebook to use Airbnb. You can sign up with your email address

  • pastaguy1 2 months ago

    What's heat based SAD?

    I always feel like garbage during the summer, but always chalked it up to allergies, some kind of low level chronic dehydration, or poor schedule discipline (used to be, when classes ended, my bedtime became about 3 am almost immediately. I'm older and that doesn't [can't] happen anymore, but since the sun sets very late now, I still get a minor version of it).

    There are a lot of external factors that I thought might contribute also. For one thing, every weekend of the summer is pretty much booked up, which becomes exhausting. Back in college, I also remember feeling kind of bluesy in the summer. I guess I didn't have the <whatever> to activate my brain by myself, so I looked forward to fall/learning time again.

    I'm rambling, but interested to hear a little more about what you mentioned.

  • baby 2 months ago

    I've been working on an app (for myself, but I guess I'll share it if it ends up working for me) that pretty much asks me every two weeks to fill two lists: 1) things in my life that I want to accomplish (in the next two weeks) and 2) things that I want to do more of, or less of. Every two weeks it asks me to summarize how I did for every item I had listed, and if I want to keep/remove/add more to list 1, and what I want my new list 2 to be.

    The idea is to make it a browser plugin, that forces me to fill that form every two weeks by making every new tab that form until I fill it.

  • Rebelgecko 2 months ago

    How much did the benefits continue past the end of your detox?

    • npteljes 2 months ago

      I've heard that reading from a novel daily, with a large continuous story, increases empathy. This effect is said to last for 5 days after the last reading session. Unfortunately I can't find the source, but I think that this is a helpful data point. With the moral of the story being that it's something to continuously keep up, to have the benefit.

  • tiffanyh 2 months ago

    How does reading & commenting on HN fit into that digitial detox?

    Genuinely curious.

    • rchaud 2 months ago

      I've learned to steer clear of the "hot topic" threads with over 200 comments. Usually the conversation has long since derailed from the original topic of the link.

      There are also smaller, more frequent threads that focus on recurring topics such as big tech power, cryptocurrency, Elon Musk, H1B visas that also head in predictable directions and can be avoided.

codemonkey-zeta 2 months ago

> When I pulled up at a stoplight waiting for the light to change, I would instinctively reached for my phone (mounted on my dash) to check my email (personal + work), check ESPN, look up something on Amazon, etc. While pumping gas in the car, I’d whip out my phone while waiting. Stuck in line somewhere? Time for my phone. Waiting in an elevator? The phone. Riding the train? The phone. Going to the bathroom? Make sure to bring the phone! Eating breakfast? The phone. Any spare or idle moment? The phone

This describes every single person I know under the age of 25, and I'm in that demographic. It must be the single greatest public health experiment of all time.

The crazy part is, not one single person I know thinks of it as a bad thing. They just seem to accept it as part of life, which makes me feel so alienated whenever interacting with them, since I am hardly ever using my phone (the computer on the other hand...)

  • oifjsidjf 2 months ago

    I never developed phone addiction in this way because I always had mobile data disabled.

    I only enable mobile data when I need to sync calendars.

    That being said: on PC and too often check hacker news and similar sites: I'm trying out Krishnamurti's "observation":

    Can you catch yourself the VERY MOMENT you wish to go to some website (NOT after you already did: but when you wish to go: what kind of pressure/frustration is building up in you?

    • codemonkey-zeta 2 months ago

      Will definitely check out "observation", sound interesting!

      I feel like the next step after recognizing and slowing/stopping the problem is with filling that void with meaningful work. For this I recommend "Deep Work" by Cal Newport. I felt like that book gave me the tools I needed to not just stop the bad habit, but replace it with constructive ones

      • landemva 2 months ago

        That is an easy read, and I liked the examples such as hay farming, and 'shallow' v. 'deep' work. People have to be willing to prioritize and set down the distractions.

    • kzrdude 2 months ago

      I'm wanting to do a phone & computer distraction free day per week. I just haven't gotten started.. of course.

      Maybe disabling data on the phone will be a good way to do it! (I still need to keep it around at work hours for calls.)

      • landemva 2 months ago

        A friend of mine just got a new model candybar phone. Calls and texts (w/o pictures).

    • codemonkey-zeta 2 months ago

      This is exactly the same reason I didn't develop an addiction. Being forced to be disciplined about data seems to have had a knock-on effect of lowering my dependence on the phone in general.

      • pastaguy1 2 months ago

        For me I think graduating to a smartphone later than "normal" had a similar effect. Mid 30s, but I got my first smartphone at ~25 instead of ~20.

        There's a lot of external pressure to be constantly on your phone. People of my age are a little perplexed when I explain to them the reason I didn't text back right away was because I was outside, but my phone was upstairs in my room.

  • dudul 2 months ago

    I remember the elevator thing hitting me pretty hard back around 2010/2011 when I had a job on the 9th floor of an office building. I realized that almost every single person stepping into the elevator would immediately pull out their phone and start playing with it. Even for a 3 floor ride that would take literally 5 seconds. They genuinely couldn't bare to not be entertained for 5 seconds.

    I assume things are even worse nowadays.

    • Gigachad 2 months ago

      I pull out my phone even though I know there is no signal and that nothing will load. It’s more to avoid interaction with anyone else than entertainment.

  • Barrin92 2 months ago

    >Any spare or idle moment?

    It wouldn't even be that bad if it was just idle moments. If you're ever sitting in a cafe or restaurant or at the movies look around and see how often people bring their phone out during personal conversations or stuff they paid actual money to see. It is wild that barely anyone talks about how pervasive this is now.

    • gombosg 2 months ago

      I think that this is the worst part. We gradually forget how to do nothing, how to stare out a window and just daydream or read something. Not being busy or productive every moment.

      • ranguna 2 months ago

        You can read something on your phone?

  • steve_adams_86 2 months ago


    If I was in this state I would be scared for myself. Maybe I wouldn’t need to be, but it seems seriously concerning.

    I think I’m bad with my phone, but I’m nowhere near that level. I can still leave it at home without anxiety or choose a book over Instagram, so to speak.

    In some naive way I almost hoped younger people would see the problem with phones and navigate their way around it. I felt almost blindsided by how addictive they are, having acquired my first smart phone around age 25. Perhaps the reality is that we’re all weak to the phones and being steeped in it for a lifetime is a curse more than a blessing.

  • iratewizard 2 months ago

    For anyone struggling, turning the screen to black and white helps. Less dopamine per hit makes it easier to break those habits.

    • davchana 2 months ago

      I did that few weeks ago after reading a similar comment here on hn. It helped, phone was less interesting; but then monkey brain made it a challenge game to assume, guess & fill colors in screen display images. More brain taxing, I changed it back to regular.

    • wcchandler 2 months ago

      I never thought to do this and already enabled it per your comment. Let’s see how it goes the rest of the weekend.

      • Mezzie 2 months ago

        I genuinely prefer greyscale displays. If I weren't visually impaired and/or so much UX didn't rely on color, I'd turn it off permanently except for art creation.

    • Aeolun 2 months ago

      Color filters under Accessability, for those on iOS.

      • MacsHeadroom 2 months ago

        Same place on Android, incidentally.

    • thrown_22 2 months ago

      I wasn't even aware that's an option.

      If nothing else it might make late night usage of the phone much less disruptive to sleep.

  • baby 2 months ago

    > The crazy part is, not one single person I know thinks of it as a bad thing

    That's what gets me the most. We all have an insane addiction, yet nobody seems to be talking about it. It's completely socially accepted.

    Interestingly, a lot of weird things are totally socially accepted. Religion, alcohol, coffee, etc. (I'm a sinner who drinks but still, it's weird)

    • mantas 2 months ago

      Religion/acohol/coffee makes a society work. One gives a common background for a community, another gives stress relief valve and helps mating, the third one lets people stay on the clock and focused.

      Meanwhile phone disrupts all of those. Tears apart communities into online bubbles managed by algorithms, increases stress and prevents mating and shortens attention span and disrupts focus.

    • allenu 2 months ago

      It's fascinating because ten years ago, people did talk about it. I remember when everybody started getting smart phones, when someone whipped out their phone, somebody would inevitably comment on it, like "Oh, we're playing with our phones out now?" and then would follow suit. (Most likely because they wanted to check something on their phone as well.)

      It was almost a faux pas at first to sneak a peek at your phone when having a meal or coffee with someone, but nowadays, nobody bats an eyelash. I very much remember people consciously trying to put their phones away or face them down on the table since it was so distracting to everyone.

      I suppose for someone who's 25 years old now, it's not necessarily a social transition that they experienced.

      • baby 2 months ago

        I read this as I’m sitting in a social circle in a park and started checking HN on my phone as people were around

  • stefandesu 2 months ago

    My friends and I are all around age 27 to 31 and while most of us still have this behavior, we do talk about it a lot and definitely think of it as a bad thing. For a while, we had a craze about Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, but I guess it didn't stick.

    I do realize though that I live in a bubble and that most people our age probably consider it very normal.

  • unethical_ban 2 months ago

    >The crazy part is, not one single person I know thinks of it as a bad thing

    I bet they don't think of it at all. It's addiction. It's a habit that sneaks up on you.

    I'm not attacking you, but have you mentioned it to them as a bad thing, or challenged them to not do that?

    I say this as a 30-something that does the same, but today installed to work on the struggle.

    • ryandrake 2 months ago

      I remember one time back right before COVID hit, watching this young couple in a restaurant a few tables down from us. They were obviously on some kind of date (dressed real nice), but their phones were just lighting up constantly. Dinging and buzzing and vibrating. Notification here, message there, and they kept picking them up over and over and checking them every time, like Pavlov's dogs reacting to the bell. I don't think they even got through a sentence, let alone a conversation. I can't imagine maintaining my sanity in that environment. It's like living on the Las Vegas strip all day with all the lighting up, dinging and buzzing all the time.

      When I originally posted this story with a very critical tone, I got downvoted into oblivion. How dare I judge these addicts! I think a lot of people here see a little of themselves in that picture and rush to its defense.

      I've been for about 5 years on DND mode 24/7. No messages, no phone calls, no notifications, no needy phone waking up wanting me to do its bidding. It's really liberating. I now use my device on my own terms not on some app developer's schedule. The wellbeing difference is indescribable.

cmrdporcupine 2 months ago

Since I haven't been commuting or going many places, my phone mostly sits idle for days, unused. I watch my wife and daughter constantly in front of theirs and I don't understand. I hate using those little screens with terrible input and fundamentally boring distracting apps.

The problem is though, I'm addicted to my computer. I'm not actually sure it's that much better.

  • vorpalhex 2 months ago

    Schedule a time where everyone agrees to not use screens. Dinner is a good starting point but ultimately, whatever works.

    Practice conversing and talking.

    Socialising is a muscle, and smartphones (and other devices) are a crutch that lets us avoid using that muscle.

    • downut 2 months ago

      We try hard to eat at the table together for all dinners and weekend breakfasts. Screens are strictly prohibited, even for guests. Some guests... hahaha, think this is quite the sacrifice. So what? My daughter has brought the convention to her group house.

      When we eat out we try to do the same but because of the damn menus, translation app, etc. the screens still come out. We still are usually doing much better than the other tables in the restaurants. Helps to turn the devil device face down.

      We think it is just so sad to see people out on a date, or even a clearly married older pair, each staring at their (own) screens.

    • arkitaip 2 months ago

      Boards games and card games are great too.

      • dumpsterlid 2 months ago

        It is the golden age of board gaming and it couldnt have come at a more crucial time.

        • mrfusion 2 months ago

          What are some good ones that work for common people?

          • vorpalhex 2 months ago

            Board games fall into a few categories:

            Then within those categories you have easier and harder games (and better made or less better).

            Try a sampler platter and see what works and is fun.

            Some specific suggestions:

            Love letter, Takanoko, munchkin, elder sign.

          • ornornor 2 months ago

            Carcassonne, saboteur, splendor.

    • thih9 2 months ago

      What about people who use smartphones for socialising?

      Staying in touch with friends, finding new interesting people, browsing local events, deciding where to meet, etc.

      • rlayton2 2 months ago

        Ultimately, if you are using the smartphone for a deliberate purpose, that's probably fine. Looking up a recipe, contacting a loved one, reading an ebook.

        The problem is when you are just "on the phone", not really doing anything, not anything you planned to do, and not really getting anything done. Even this can be fine, as long as you go "I'd like to see whats on twitter for half an hour", rather than just opening things up and doing them because the algorithm pulls you in.

      • vorpalhex 2 months ago

        Do that in the other 22 hours of the day that isn't dinner.

        There's nothing wrong with smartphones per se. It's that the smartphones become a crutch to avoid socializing in person. All the excuses come out to prevent that crutch from being removed.

      • skydhash 2 months ago

        Browsing through my distractions websites- HN, Twitter, Reddit, Dilbert - only take me about 15 minutes to note everything interesting. I do that thrice a day, and it’s more than enough.

      • Swizec 2 months ago

        With the kind of friends who won’t leave you alone for 2 hours to focus on something important, who needs enemies?

    • gjvnq 2 months ago

      As an aspie, that sounds like torture, particularly if I'm actually hungry.

  • GekkePrutser 2 months ago

    Same here. I don't understand why someone would willingly use a 6" screen when they have a glorious 24" and actual input devices available.

    • frosted-flakes 2 months ago

      Because it's easier to use a 6" screen when you're laying on the couch or in bed.

    • shrimp_emoji 2 months ago

      Because computers are for nerds (the bigger it is, the MORE computer it is); only boys should be nerds; therefore, girls select against using computers. It sucks.

      • GekkePrutser 2 months ago

        I still find it weird.

        Using a mobile is like reading while looking through a toilet roll, and typing by using a straw in my mouth :P

        I often get questions from people on WhatsApp saying "How can you reply so quickly??". Well duh... I use a real computer :) Anything I can do on the mobile I can do twice as fast on the computer.

        For me it just 'hurts' when my brain cycles are forcibly wasted. Not just with this, also with those stupid mandatory trainings in work where the narrator is so slow to make sure even the most mediocre non-native numbnut can keep up. It just frustrates me so much when I'm forced to listen to that (usually I spend my time looking through the javascript to find a way to turn off the non-skip setting :P )

        I actually got caught out by that once when an intern noticed I had only spent 1 hour on a course everyone else spent at least 3 hours on :P But I told her I was on a plane so when I finished it I was in a different time zone :D

  • kkfx 2 months ago

    It's much better just because your desktop it's yours. Even if it run Windows or OSX it's still give you less strict cage, surveil you less and give you more options.

    Unfortunately even if you run a FLOSS OS you run on crapload of proprietary fw down to the CPU but again, you have some ability to move and act, on a mobile you are just free to do what the OEM decide you are allowed to, with it's right to change policy as it wish.

  • 411111111111111 2 months ago

    I love the form factor and input for reading fiction. Probably 90% of my phone screen time is that, which adds up to a significant time each week.

    • jrib 2 months ago

      Have you tried an e-ink screen like the kindle? It's perfect for consuming fiction books

      • 411111111111111 2 months ago

        Yes, I own a kindle and rarely use it, because i much prefer the smaller form factor of phones for fictions.

        Technical books are better on larger screens, so the Kindle only gets used if I read that kind of book. Though the Kindle has way too few pixels imo, so I often read these on my desktop or ipad too.

luxurytent 2 months ago

Had a coworker who lived life the old way, distinct online and offline modes of operation. His phone was a classic flip phone. During the day, he'd be online working his software engineering job. Outside of that, he may stay on the computer some more, but if he stepped away from the office, there was no other device in his home to that'd allow him back online.

We discussed it a few times, and my belief is that small amount of friction, entering a particular room to go online, was enough to help him get more intentional about how he spends his days.

Needless to say, the man had a lot of interesting hobbies and was well read.

  • milosmns 2 months ago

    Similar here. Mine was also very socially challenged, so to speak.

thenerdhead 2 months ago

I had a similar awakening moment about 5 years ago. Felt like I wasted my 20s on consuming content and only playing video games outside of work.

I had a similar journey. I’m even writing a book on it.

I have found that the one thing that has helped bring enlightenment to this problem is reading books and thinking each day on how to apply them or just simply observing those around me instead of being glued on a device.

I’m a bit further in that journey than the author and there are some great premises out there about the damage tech and our fragmented attention causes to our lives.

There are even great titles mentioned in this blog bringing awareness to them, but some of the more old and interesting perspectives are those of Thoreau(Walden) and Emerson(Self-Reliance).

While there’s a number of titles talking about internet or tech addiction, all we're doing is pointing out a problem rather than taking actual steps to improve our character to rid ourselves of these things to begin with. This problem is only going to get harder for the individual, and it’s up to each one of us to battle our own battles. No amount of reform will solve it for us.

  • TechBro8615 2 months ago

    > outside of work

    Why did you feel this pressure to meet some self-defined obligation outside of work? Were you missing something in the work itself that you felt you had to recover in the time outside of it?

    In my experience, if I feel the value of my work output itself is meaningful, then I don’t need to worry about what I’m doing outside of it. If you start a business or work for yourself, then your career goals “at work” and “outside of work” are equivalent, thus freeing that time “outside of work” for you to make progress toward non-career goals (or to simply relax and recover).

    I’ve always found discussion of side-project optimization to be silly, because it’s missing the forest for the trees. The optimization is to take the risk and work on it full time.

    If you want to maximize the meaningful activities you do in your life, then it makes sense to start with the category of activity you spend the highest percentage of time performing.

    • thenerdhead 2 months ago

      I don’t quite understand your comment, but my comment was just talking about how empty I found myself just stuck in a loop of attention grabbing activities outside of work.

      I believe all lives require work, but not all lives are fulfilled by certain kinds of work. Hitting OKRs or KPIs at work can be satisfying but ultimately mean nothing when you approach retirement age/wealth.

  • TheFreim 2 months ago

    > observing those around me

    Most days within the last few weeks I've been leaving my phone at home. Not having one on me makes me actually look around at my surroundings more. It takes a bit of getting used to but after a while it no longer feels bad during downtime, just normal.

  • nonrandomstring 2 months ago

    > I had a similar journey. I’m even writing a book on it.

    I'd be interested to hear more. Do ping me if you have time.

    > While there’s a number of titles talking about internet or tech addiction, all we're doing is pointing out a problem rather than taking actual steps to improve our character to rid ourselves of these things to begin with. This problem is only going to get harder for the individual, and it’s up to each one of us to battle our own battles. No amount of reform will solve it for us.

    You might be interested to read Digital Vegan [1]. The food metaphor goes quite a long way. I really see it as a public health issue.

    [1] (can send you a review copy of you like)

    • thenerdhead 2 months ago

      I love the metaphor. I especially love using the Michael Pollan quote of “If it’s a plant eat it, if it’s made in a plant, don’t” or similar. I think that can be applied to our use of technology and especially content/digital consumption.

      I’ll have to send you an email when I get back from vacation. Thanks for the kindness.

walrus01 2 months ago

The best thing you can do is FULLY TURN OFF notifications from any social media app (twitter, facebook, instagram, etc).

Anything that would result in a requirement to swipe down from the top of the screen on android and look at a notification/popup and either slide it away to dismiss it or click on it.

It's easy to do in android or ios.

You should only see content when you specifically choose to open the app.

This is by no means a complete solution but goes a long way to reducing the compulsion to check things every 5 minutes.

  • gnicholas 2 months ago

    Or uninstall the apps and use a browser instead.

    • jeffbee 2 months ago

      Right? You'd be nuts to have the bird app on your mobile. It works perfectly in the browser, and when you close it, it's dead and gone! Can't use any battery at all!

      Gmail is the same way. Gmail for mobile web is a phenomenally good web app, and completely incapable of notifying you of anything whatsoever.

  • hackmiester 2 months ago

    It improves battery life too.

user_7832 2 months ago

At the risk of sounding repetitive, this can also be a classic case of ADHD. If you also resonate with the post, ask yourself - do you have issues planning and completing long projects? Time management and procrastination issues? Lacking motivation? (Dis)organization problems? (Bonus: frustrated with yourself/your progress!)

If (like me) you say "damn that's a lot of things I have to a significant degree" then you should

a. read up on executive (dys)function, and

b. Ask your GP/doctor if you may have ADHD*

* - often CPTSD, physical brain trauma etc can also cause similar symptoms, as they can also cause physical changes in the brain similar to ADHD (There's a lot more of nuance and stuff that can be discussed, I'll try my best if anyone has any questions)

  • ellopoppit 2 months ago

    Could it be that smartphones and TV can cause ADHD?

    Before such electronic media, books were the main media, and inherently required and trained users to concentrate on one thing at a time for extended periods.

    TV and smartphones do the exact opposite

    • kortex 2 months ago

      Nope. ADHD is a distinct neurological condition that we can pick up on with PET scans and the like. It sure as hell can be kryptonite for ADHDers - basically limitless novelty on tap - but it cannot cause ADHD.

      Source: had adhd long before smartphones. Still do.

      - written on my smartphone

      • ellopoppit 2 months ago

        Were you diagnosed with ADHD before TVs were invented?

        As it stands, psychiatrists do not know what causes ADHD (or any psychiatric disorder in the DSM), so its certainly possible that social and environmental factors which induce ADHD like behaviors could be contributing factors. This is in accordance with the biopsychosocial theory.

        As for brain scans, those are not considered medically or scientifically reliable ways of diagnosing psychiatric conditions.

        You'll notice that every study which suggests it is, does not control for the fact that the psychiatrically diagnosed in their study are already under the influence of psychiatric medications which have tangible effects on brain chemistry; of course a brain on drugs will look different than a brain not on drugs...

        "psychiatric diagnosis still relies exclusively on fallible subjective judgments rather than objective biological tests"

        -Allen Francis, Professor and Chairman Emeritus of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University School of Medicine, chair of the American Psychiatric Association task force overseeing the development and revision of the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV)

    • user_7832 2 months ago

      Unfortunately I'm not a doctor or researcher to be able to give a definitive answer, but I don't think these things can cause ADHD - though they can likely worsen symptoms, for both people who have it and those who don't. But I suspect such an effect would be reversible, unlike (genetic components of) ADHD.

      • 988747 2 months ago

        I thought that the researcher that 'discovered' ADHD admitted oh his death bed that it was just a scam he invented to make money on the drugs to cure it.

        • user_7832 2 months ago

          Oh, trust me I wish I never could relate to the ADHD symptoms, but for better or for worse it exists. Heck, the concept of Alzheimer's sounds very suspicious ("How do you forget your name!?")... until you see someone with it and then it's just sad :(

      • ellopoppit 2 months ago

        There is no known gene which causes ADHD.

        Like all other conditions in the DSM, there is no objective biological diagnostic criteria

        • kortex 2 months ago

          There's no one gene, but aside from very specific things, there's hardly one gene for any condition, but ADHD is highly heritable, and we already know several strong candidates. DRD4-R7, COMT Val158Met, TPH2, a couple others have been identified recently. Also, PET scans and in some cases high-density EEG can pick it up, the thing is, those are quite expensive and don't really even tell you that much, whereas psychological evaluation tells you much more qualitatively.

          • ellopoppit 2 months ago

            There is neither one or many genes or any objective biological test that is used to diagnose any psychiatric condition in the DSM.

            "psychiatric diagnosis still relies exclusively on fallible subjective judgments rather than objective biological tests"

            -Allen Francis, Professor and Chairman Emeritus of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University School of Medicine, chair of the American Psychiatric Association task force overseeing the development and revision of the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV)

            • stevenhuang 2 months ago

              The mechanism of gene expression means the presence of certain genes may cause an individual to be more or less susceptible to certain stimuli.

              So yes, the presence or absence of genes alone may not determine much, but together taking account to one's environment and upbringing, may have explanatory power.

              It's similar to medical diagnoses where the presence of X genes mean someone is Y% more likely to exhibit Z condition.

        • user_7832 2 months ago

          Perhaps specifically saying gene isn't accurate, but adhd is highly heritable (anywhere between 40 to 80% depending on which paper you look at)

          • ellopoppit 2 months ago

            Indeed, social behaviors are highly heritable, we don't need a scientific paper to tell us that.

    • brainzap 2 months ago

      dopamine disorder

  • graeme 2 months ago

    How would you distinguish between ADHD vs modern distractability?

    Especially if someone showed no ADHD symptoms before smartphones

    Everyone has some distractability so curious about threshold

    • kqr 2 months ago

      When it makes you effectively mentally handicapped (you literally need environmental adjustments in order to function) in at least two areas of life (work, relationships, household), it's clinical.

      • robocat 2 months ago

        I would paraphrase the question as: is the ADHD a problem with brain chemistry§, or is it with the contextual environment? A common worldview is to split biological from environmental - an analogue to nature vs nurture.

        I do agree with your definition of clinical. There are a lot of signals, even such as the article itself and the works it references, pointing towards the problem being our modern internet device environment. This article is written by a teacher who is quitting teaching because most students won’t engage at school due to their devices (so probably clinical by your definition - “work” impacted and I’m guessing household too).

        § yeah, “brain chemistry” is conceptually unsound, but I couldn’t think of a better physical metaphor.

    • user_7832 2 months ago

      To add on to the other answer, for folks with ADHD symptoms it was likely there before smartphones too - you/they just didn't realize it (like I didn't myself). A doctor however is far more capable of this judgement.

      Another simple test - after a week long (say) tech detox, do they (permanently) improve, or are the benefits very little (tending to perhaps even being distracted during that week)?

  • jannyfer 2 months ago

    For Diabetes, there’s Type I (genetic) and Type II (caused by frequent exposure to high blood sugar).

    I wonder if ADHD might have something similar, that we’re just beginning to notice. The brain’s plasticity might be adjusting to higher levels of dopamine from our phones.

    Anecdotally, I never had ADHD-like symptoms until COVID lockdowns. In the last year, I would spend pretty much all day in front of a screen and never get much meaningful stuff done. Now that I’m out and about more and staying away from phones, I feel less ADHD and I’m back to reading full length books and picking up hobbies.

    • user_7832 2 months ago

      Apparently stressful situations (university, becoming a parent) can cause folk's lives to fall apart revealing adhd that was being till then coped with okay (like in my case - I moved to a different continent for my degree). Covid too caused a huge shift for a lot of folks who may have been able to cope till then. (Personally I don't think ADHD is binary - autism is now understood as a spectrum, I think ADHD should be too.)

      Fun fact, I have diabetes too ;) Fun life lol

1vuio0pswjnm7 2 months ago

"Hari's book connected with me in a deep way, which is why I was drawn to it, page after page. Hari explains that "wherever my generation gathered, we would lament our lost capacity for concentration."

As a member of a generation that can still focus, i.e., one not born into a world of personal computers, let alone pocket-sized ones, nor "tech" hype, I hope the author and his peers^1 figure out that this "economy" needs to be "disrupted" sooner rather than later, no matter how profitable it may be for a chosen few.

1. And the other people doing most of the work to "build" these distractions and the people being targeted with them.

It saddens me that many members of older generations, who did learn how to focus, have decided to go along for the ride with the younger ones into this attention span abyss. IMHO there are substantial "life skills" that are being lost due to "tech" hype and money-making. We cannot expect younger folks to understand what they are, as the mindless "tech" hype ceaselessly commands their attention above all else. Money-making no matter what the cost to society. These disappearing life skills have value, e.g., ability to concentrate, ability to evaluate facts and think critically (cf. simply voicing uneducated opinions and complaining about anything and everything to the internet), ability to deal with conflict, and so on. The OP managed to remember the value of concentration, so perhaps anyone can do it. Please do not give up. That is exactly what the "tech" companies want you to do.

Waterluvian 2 months ago

I’m developing a personal opinion that being on a phone all the time is like being high all the time.

Eventually you look back and see thousands of hours you could have spent building something or learning an instrument or whatnot.

Instead you just kinda pissed it away on gossip and getting anxious about events you have no control of.

My most productive time on this phone is when I’m learning new stuff here on HN. But even that can probably be curbed a lot.

I’m thinking about how I break this cycle. One main issue is that I want to create using a laptop. But I have young kids who rightfully demand my attention often. That’s why social media fills the thousand little gaps so well.

I’m thinking I need to learn how to write code in short segments of as little as 15 minutes. At work I need to build up context and state in my mind. But I can’t do that in such short bursts. So I need to learn how to do “stateless programming” per se.

This leads me to wondering: if I had the memory of a goldfish, how would I go about writing an application? Some way to spend 15 minutes breaking a big problem into self contained 15 minute tasks. I’m convinced the software architecture will reflect this and as a result I’ll discover different paradigms for how to write software.

  • bigmealbigmeal 2 months ago

    Perhaps just to shatter the illusion that one will instantly become an enlightened productive person, this is what I did when I got rid of screens and books[^]:

      * Sat around philosophising about what to do with my life
      * Walked around philosophising about what to do with my life
      * Walked around discovering abandoned places in the city
      * Played instruments (which I already did when I had screens)
    That's about it. It's not a bad way to live, but I didn't get any great projects done, or create anything, or build anything.

    Instead, I've made the most progress in life by setting myself up with social environments that force me to get things done. Joining bands and sketch comedy groups has essentially peer pressured me into writing and producing a shitload of songs and screenplays. I've played more times live than I can count.

    I achieved not through ridding myself of the drug of the internet, but by supplementing it with the drug of social belonging.

    Hypothetically, most of our motivation for creating or building things comes from wanting to be valuable to our tribe. If we have weak social ties, or our tribe doesn't really value what we want to do, then motivation will be very difficult to find. (I think some people are exceptions to this, where they create endlessly in their splendid isolation, but it may be worth being honest and asking whether you are one of these exceptions, or whether you fit the rule like most of us.)

    [^]: Failing to get rid of books meant I just sat around reading books all day

  • JoeyJoJoJr 2 months ago

    There was a time I was productive working on a side project in mostly odd segments of time after work, or in moments I was waiting for my girlfriend to get ready. There were some factors that I see as critical to allowing me to stay productive in 15-30 min windows.

    - my side project was a game with very few dependencies. No other people or large libraries that would complicate things. - I already had a solid foundation laid and had already invested sufficient time to the project. I wasn’t starting from scratch. - New features had to fit within my mental model of my foundation. I couldn’t afford any redesign or experimentation of my foundation. - Faith that many small incremental improvements would yield a bigger resul - I was very familiar with all the tech involved - I had a good set of simple gamedev design patterns that I cultivated and experimented with over the years

    It was a really worthwhile experience and gave me a different perspective on how I approach productivity.

  • teddyh 2 months ago

    > I need to learn how to write code in short segments of as little as 15 minutes.

    This, i.e. short cycle time, is one of the effects which TDD reportedly has. Write a tiny bit of test – write a tiny bit of code – test passes – refactor while all tests still pass – repeat.

scotty79 2 months ago

Books are slow and often teeming with filler content. Audiobooks are even slower than books and practically painfully so. When I had to paint walls for few hours I initially listened to audiobook but it was tortuous. My own thoughts are more interesting and less of a slog than a book read at that pace. Audiobook feels like my brain is shoved into a tarpit and held there foricbly.

It's really no wonder that your brain rejects all that when it tasted variety of information delivered at much higher speeds.

I don't think I wouldn't be able to focus on textbook for mathematical analysis that's so dense that reading two pages takes an hour ... but books filled with so so many words that were just excercise in language use for the author and carry barely any information? Mostly, no thank you. It's not a problem of focus. It's a problem of rising standards on what feels interesting.

Even the author of this essey admits he had no trouble reading a book when he finally found one that was actually interesting for him (because he felt it was about him and his self-percieved plight).

  • glorioushubris 2 months ago

    As a fiction author who spends hours worrying about individual sentences and whether they're carrying their weight in the overall story--is it advancing the narrative, or deepening characterization, or delivering important information, or furthering my thematic goals, or (ideally) doing more than one of these things at once?--I'm pretty resistant to your claim that books are "often teeming with filler content." Possibly too resistant; perhaps your attempted reading is biased such that this is actually true. Maybe you're trying to make it through lots of things that were originally published as serials, or lack good editing, or have some other reason for the author to have emphasized sheer length over the qualities we usually find motivating. Maybe this is an accurate representation of your experiences.

    But I'd like you to consider the possibility that, rather than huge swaths of those books you disparage being pointless, they are instead doing things that you have not cultivated an awareness for. It may be that, rather than being "filled with so so many words that were just exercise in language use for the author and carry barely any information," they are instead filled with passages offering information that you are not currently sensitive to, like music played on a frequency you can't hear.

    Fully engaging with art requires an active interest. Art is generally made by people who are deeply interested in their form, and made in ways that reward said interest being matched. The less commercial the art form, the more this is true. Even within specific art forms, there are distinct traditions and modes. Its unreasonable to expect that you will appreciate everything about a particular work of art without developing literacy in those things.

    For example, if I say that I find fighting video games boring, that's a perfectly defensible position. But if I say that fighting video games are boring because the developers don't in enough effort to make something other than a thin story about who wins a tournament, then I'm simply wrong. That's a failure to engage with the art on its own terms. Fighting video games aren't about narrative, they're about zoning and rushdown and combos and various other game mechanics. The developers put in lots of effort, but their focus was on gameplay, not narrative. Expecting the focus to be narrative would be an error on my part.

    If I made that error, I might also say something like, "Why do these fighting games have so many characters? The tournament story barely changes no matter who you play as. All these extra characters are useless filler." In saying that, I would reveal myself to be insensitive to the vastly different move sets and mechanical plusses/minuses that are the desiderata for the large casts of most fighting games.

    (As it happens, I do think fighting games are boring. But that doesn't mean the games are flawed, just that not all art forms are enjoyed equally by all people.)

    (And while the large casts of fighting games aren't filler, there are, of course, video games with filler. Triple-A video games often have filler, to be able to boast about, say, 100+ hours of content. Anime series based on ongoing manga often have filler, to maintain their viewership without running out of material. When things have filler, the reason is usually commercial. When The Hobbit was adapted for the screen, it wasn't split into three movies for artistic reasons. Filler is all about money. Most fiction authors are not lucky enough to have any reason to produce filler.)

    A quotation attributed to Lord Dunsany: "I see now that keen interest can illuminate anything, and that anything, moreover, has something worth illuminating in it, and that without that interest gates carved by Benvenuto Cellini from two diamonds would merely look chilly."

    Things grow in our estimation with the attention we invest in them. Your "rising standard on what feels interesting" could, instead, be a diminished capacity or willingness to invest a keen attention in things that don't immediately capture your interest. When all the things you struggle to focus on are also things that seem, to you, to be fully without merit, then how could you distinguish between those two states?

    Perhaps those books you tried are filled with thing that, even when engaged with actively, would still not be to your taste. But when you say they carry barely any information, it's hard for me not to think of "The Machine Stops" by E. M. Forster:

    The air-ship was crossing another range of mountains, but she could see little, owing to clouds. Masses of black rock hovered below her, and merged indistinctly into grey. Their shapes were fantastic; one of them resembled a prostrate man.

    “No ideas here,” murmured Vashti, and hid the Caucasus behind a metal blind. In the evening she looked again. They were crossing a golden sea, in which lay many small islands and one peninsula. She repeated, “No ideas here,” and hid Greece behind a metal blind.

    • scotty79 2 months ago

      I'm terribly sorry. I know some people delight in carefully chosen phrasing and meandering narratives. It's just a shrinking set. Other just want only relevant information at a snappy pace and internet makes them aware that's what they actually like.

      Your comment deserves tl;dr and it doesn't have one. You have no idea how tempting it is not to read it.

      However I did and it was a slog.

      So let me tell you what I got from it.

      0. You don't agree.

      1. Perhaps reading wrong books gave me wrong impression. (It's just a politeness, you really believe 2.)

      2. I don't get books as I am not cultured enough to understand what they try to be.

      3. To get art one needs to make effort. Only then reward comes.

      4. Then comes a relatable example that fighting games don't need a story and demanding that of them is objectively wrong. Because art of fighting games is something else.

      5. Then you agree that art sometimes is partly built of filler content.

      6. Then a quote that says that everything has something interesting about it if you look intensly enough.

      7. Then you claim that things gets better when you look at them longer. And you say that maybe I don't see value not because there's none but because my inability to focus prevented me from looking long enough and how can I tell.

      8. Then you concede that it's possible that even if I looked as long as humanely possible at something I might still not like it.

      Congrats. You created a comment in a style of a mediocre book. Hard to parse through, filled with a lot of words and just a few thoughts that don't particularly go anywhere.

      I'll make an attempt at a response.

      Your disagreement is entirely understandable given your occupation. Thank you for the attempt at politeness however I read many good books so it's not just because of happening to stumble only on bad stuff.

      Now to the core of the argument ...

      I don't agree that the only correct way of appreciating given form of art is doing it on its own terms.

      I believe that criticizing fighting games for lack of plot is a valid position. Somebody might argue that Injustice 2 was the best fighting game ever and in sense that is important to him it might be objectively true.

      I believe that appreciating art on my personal terms is equally valid and from my point of view way more important.

      Great art does not require prior effort. Great art captures you in a way that gives you no option to avoid giving it your effort.

      Mediocre art is a book that you read for half an hour every day and you think it's hard but rewarding.

      Great art is a book that you finish reading at 4am because you couldn't possibly imagine falling asleep before you found out all that there was to find out.

      As for my appreciation, sometimes the longer you look the more repulsive some creation becomes in your eyes. Like the form of your comment.

      • boveus 2 months ago

        I am not attempting to take a side in either direction here, but I noticed something interesting about the format of your reply in contrast with the person you're replying to. The person you were responding to broke their post up into paragraphs that were organized into sentences (sort of like you'd expect in a book). Your reply seems to be broken up into individual paragraphs that are >240 characters (coincidentally the same character limit as Tweets).

        I don't mean this as an attack. It seems interesting to me that the way people can communicate in writing can be influenced by what type of media they consume.

        • scotty79 2 months ago

          I'm quite aware of the differences in style. Style of the other person was so hard for me to parse that in order to respond I needed to reformat it into my style. Only then I could construct the response using my translation as reference.

          I'm not quite sure that my style comes from the content I consume. I think I acquired it earlier, by doing math problems at school, by learning math in college and by learning programming. In all of those contexts I needed to extract meaningful stuff from all the baroque elements.

          So I developed appreciacion for high ratios of important elements to fluff words and for writing that has clear, traceable backbone that has a point.

          I think shortness of what I wrote is a result of my preferences not the key factor that shaped them. Best writing advice for clear communication is to write short sentences. Information split in short portions provides natural places to pause to appreciate it and is easily skimmable where you can skip sentences or paragraphs that you already understand to get a grasp of how they fit in the surrounding context.

          This is btw not an endorsement of twitter which I personally hate and didn't manage to find a single reasonable use for it since its inception.

spookybones 2 months ago

I agree with most of the points in this article and try to practice them, but I wish the author would have waited before offering his take. There are too many bloggers who read a self-help book or two, get really energized, and then, before testing the long-term results, suggest their readers to follow suit. Often, a few entries later, the blogger will then modify their take, which gives them more content for the blog, but seems like a waste of the reader’s time.

kristianc 2 months ago

Although the attention span myth is one of those things that is taken to be almost idiomatic, there’s actually very little empirical evidence for it.

There’s no such thing as an ‘average’ attention span, and even for those individual tasks it would be very much context dependent (where I’m sitting, what I’m doing at the time, my general opinion of the author, the mood I’m in).

It’s a nice story, and it will invariably generate a nice stream of anecdata in a comments section like this, but there’s very little evidence for it at all.

  • MrYellowP 2 months ago

    There's no such thing as an average. Dividing sums isn't real.

    We can't even measure what attracts the attention of people. We can't track their eyes. We haven't been improving our techniques for catching someones attention and focus for the last decades+. We don't try to keep people hooked to our websites by making sure they stay engaged. FarmVille is a only a myth, too. "Endless scrolling" doesn't actually exist either.

    Chatbots on websites, which try to engage you in a conversation within seconds of inactivity, don't actually do so to keep your attention on the site.

    Man ...

    If all your understanding is based solely on data other people have gathered, then you not only are completely unaware of all the potential data that hasn't been gathered yet, you also have only very little understanding of pretty much anything out there.

  • dumpsterlid 2 months ago

    This is an extremely crucial point. Though I do think social media apps are designed to be addictive in a negative way, the narrative that they are destroying our attention spans has absolutely no backing in science and yet it is taken almost as common sense.

    • jmt_ 2 months ago

      Totally agree with both of you. I don't see this issue in terms of "attention span" per se, rather we now have an ever-present device that most often contains software engineered to grab as much of our attention as it possibly can. I can't think of anything similar past generations had that was close to this in terms of magnitude and accessibility. We all know the rat in a box will tap the dopamine button as many times as it can and now, unprecedentedly, we carry that button in our pocket every day.

  • blindmute 2 months ago

    There's simply no empirical evidence that you love your wife/mother, so it would be foolish to believe that you do. Until a study is funded there's just no way for you to know. Trust science

  • Graffur 2 months ago

    The thing is that people can feel it themselves and see it in other people. It would be great if it is studied but there is something there.

jacquesm 2 months ago

The addictive nature of those devices is exactly why I don't have one, I'll end up with even less time in my life and that's pretty much the only currency you never get more of. It's bad enough with just a desktop/laptop.

I just stuck to my Nokia 'dumbphone' while it still worked and after the last of the networks that it used went dark I switched to the N800, it's not perfect (technically a smartphone, it runs KaiOS), but it still has buttons and I refuse to go online with it (you can't do much on that silly screen anyway). In a pinch it will serve as a mobile hotspot.

tester756 2 months ago

When I was writing my thesis I told myself to get separate room & computer without all those distractions like discord, hn blocked, etc.

so I can perform context switch easier

95% of the work was coding and it actually helped me to sit for 1-3 hours per two weeks and do solid step ahead

Unfortunely now I do not have such privilege to have separate room to learn :(

I believe environment may make things way easier.

Also I feel like I'm music addicted, very often the very first thing that I do on my PC is start playing some music. I do wonder how it affects e.g learning, focusing and similar.

I did notice that in competitive video games I play worse when listening do music, and when it's "spiky music" e.g some Disturbed's song, then I play riskier.


I do wonder whether there is some "distraction meter" for workplace - e.g 3 meetings a day (all of them with 2h gaps) + scrum + 5 emails that require at least 5 minutes of attention = not much can be done

  • Mezzie 2 months ago

    Can you try to play something that isn't musical and note the differences? It might be easier than just turning it off. White/brown noise or nature sounds or something.

    > I do wonder whether there is some "distraction meter" for workplace - e.g 3 meetings a day (all of them with 2h gaps) + scrum + 5 emails that require at least 5 minutes of attention = not much can be done

    Cal Newport's Deep Work goes into this a bit, and I found it to a good read for understanding why there were certain things I was struggling with in my job at the time.

swayvil 2 months ago

I think that smartphones merely illuminate a pre-existing problem.

That problem is that people, as a rule, live in a dream-world. The smartphone just provides the most convenient exterior manifester of dreams that we've invented so far.

The cellphone is a dream-amplifier. The natural evolution from books, radio and tv.

But the central problem isn't the phone. It's our habitual-dwelling-in and preference-for the dreamworld. The phone is just the enabler.

frereubu 2 months ago

There are some valid insights in this piece, but just a note of caution about the book by Johann Hari that he cites a lot. This Twitter thread unpicks a lot of issues with that book:

  • user_7832 2 months ago

    Thank you for that Twitter thread. Unfortunately quite a lot of books end up with criticisms that feel like it undermines a lot - Gun, germs and steel and Why we sleep both come to mind as having inaccurate or misleading information.

    • frereubu 2 months ago

      Yes, Why We Sleep seems to have been particularly egregious.

wwilim 2 months ago

Judging by the article I'm not doing terrible at all for someone under 30, despite the fact that I use my phone for continuous glucose monitoring, which means I can't live without it in a nearly literal sense. I can't remember what it was like 3-5 years ago though, it was probably worse, but after reading a few articles about the attention economy I started paying much more attention to what I was doing.

The most terrible thing for me is 2FA, especially at work. If I'm focused on something and I have to open the notifications on my phone in order to complete the demanding task, I'm at high risk of an attention lapse. I wish there was a 2FA app that functioned entirely within the lock screen or even the Always-On Display.

  • schw1804 2 months ago

    I just wish organizations would quit pushing two-factor authentication on people who don't want it. If I have a 30-character passphrase (inspired by "correct horse battery staple") that I'll never need to write down, then do I really need additional protection for my accounts? (…yeah, probably I do and I'm just being naive; maybe someone will look over my shoulder in a coffee shop.)

    I miss the good old days when there weren't ads between posts on Instagram, and just having a password was enough, and websites forced cookies on you without asking permission, and the YouTube subscription button was yellow. And I'm only 24. I'll make a great crotchety old man someday.

    • teddyh 2 months ago

      Sites get hacked all the time, and some either have bad hashing, or get so thoroughly hacked that the clear-text passwords get exposed. You shouldn’t re-use passwords.

    • Beltalowda 2 months ago

      At least the 2FA solutions are pretty much all open; it would be much worse: "please install our proprietary app available only for these two proprietary systems".

  • tempasdf 2 months ago

    On Android, you can enable Do Not Disturb, then configure your 2FA app to override Do Not Disturb in the global notification settings. If you're getting text messages instead, you may be able to override on a per-number basis as well.

darkerside 2 months ago

I will say that perhaps the reason the author couldn't get into those authors is not that they lost the ability to read longer material, but that they have somehow matured or evolved to a point where a certain type of book that used to be entertaining just isn't anymore. And that's ok. At some point, you've tapped a book, TV series, or other similar content for all you're going to get. It starts to get formulaic, and it's fine to move on.

marginalia_nu 2 months ago

I do wonder how much web design contributes to the apparent epidemic of attention difficulties.

There is very often (even some in the article) visual noise in or around the text. Ads are designed to draw attention to themselves, and ignoring them wears on your cognitive resources.

Sometimes the text is "enhanced" to fight back against the surrounding noise by adding images or color or highlighting portions of the text or any number of tricks. That just makes the visual noise worse, and further adds to the habit of skimming.

It's like talking in a bar. The noisier it gets, the more the communication turns into shouting short simple sentences, further adding to the noise level, further imposing restrictions on what's able to be communicated.

  • alexalx666 2 months ago

    What's scary is that having a clean distraction free layout becomes an exception on the web. Most articles "regular" ppl read can probably only be read via reader layout in safari

helloworld11 2 months ago

One thing I do that makes my cell phone work well for exactly the opposite isto install en ebook reader app in it and use it to read more books than I previously did, on the go, whenever I have spare time. Some people can't handle this with their eyes, granted, but in my case it's never been a problem so far.

Also, I don't have any chat apps in my phone except whatsapp. Definitely no facebook app and even instagram, though present, is completely silenced. I also silence all notifications in general except phone calls.

All together, these things have helped keep the phone handy without it turning my brain to mush.

unethical_ban 2 months ago

This piece was written as if it had lived a year in my mind.

Every time I take a vacation, I spend much less time plugged into the world. Each time, I come back refreshed and more in touch with myself.

The phone and our collective reliance on them is not healthy. It will take some collective effort for me, and some of my friends, to try to plan events more regularly, in order that I am not feeling the need to have my phone with me so much.

I'm also going to make a few more MP3 discs for my car, which thankfully has a CD player (2014 model).

I can't emphasize enough how important it was for me to read this article. At least I know I'm not alone.

djvdq 2 months ago

Oh, it's what I started to think about today. That I use my phone way too much and I have to fight it. Unfortunately, fight it again, because a few months ago I tried, it worked for a few weeks and then was back again even bigger :(

I want to read some book and play some computer games. Neither is working for me because of some "problems"(?). In case of books I was aware that the phone is the problem. But in case of games I was pretty sure that I'm just "too old". But more and more I think about it, the phone is again the cause of this.

  • dumpsterlid 2 months ago

    I also think that we use our phones as a way of coping with how shitty our quality of life is in the modern world. Many people, including myself, are so stressed and exhausted from modern life that I think being able to zone out on my phone is a gift in some ways.

    Yes phones are designed to be addictive in a negative way, but I think we should also recognize they are a safety blanket we can take anywhere with us that costs almost nothing to use as much as we need. We should partially put the blame on the society around us that makes us need thar safety blanket so badly.

  • hackernewds 2 months ago

    You could try to establish Systems (instead of pure motivation).

    * Disable unnecessary notifications * Get an app like Daywise to batch notifications that are necessary but not timely. * Use Digital Well-being on Android or Action dash to set timer on your apps (owned by a marketing company though) * Track streaks of days where your usage is < x hours using a Habit tracker such as Habits

  • k__ 2 months ago

    I'm trying to recalibrate my dopamine receptors for a few weeks to no avail.

    Maybe, it's not the right month. Too hot to do anything remotely complex.

    • the_only_human 2 months ago

      it took your mind 2 million years to develop those receptors. good luck

      • k__ 2 months ago

        I don't want new receptors, I want to undo what social media did to them in the last five years.

kiernanmcgowan 2 months ago

One thing that I have done to help keep focus is to turn off as many notifications as possible and put my phone out of sight when I need to focus on something. The goal is to claim agency around where I put my energy. Conversely, if I'm bored and have a few minutes to kill I don't beat myself up about scrolling twitter.

You can control what takes your attention, but at the same time everything is _designed_ to take your attention. Ad blockers are an example of this sort of exercise - you can limit what tries to take your attention, but it requires action.

thrown_22 2 months ago

>Last week at work, a colleague asked if anyone might be interested in participating in the corporate-wide “Read a book a week” [...] For example, I’ve listened to every book in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, and I eagerly await new ones. But when the latest book came out, Better Off Dead, I couldn’t make it past the first few chapters.

It's kind of astonishing that "read a book" somehow got turned into "have a book read to you" and that the author still doesn't manage to get it done.

Reading is fundamentally different to listening. One is active, the other passive.

Then the ending's conclusion is completely nonsensical:

>Some other challenges I’m still figuring out, like how to navigate a city without Google Maps. I bought a handful of paper maps and found myself looking at the area, trying to grok the logic of the streets and analyzing the area’s layout seemingly for the first time.

What do the skills of hunter gatherers have to do with clearer thinking?

Would life be better if instead of writing on a keyboard you only wrote on parchment made from the skins of animals you hunted? I imagine the authors writing would improve, only because there would be a lot less of it.

throwawayarnty 2 months ago

Hackernews is also a huge source of distraction, but some people here won’t admit it.

  • Graffur 2 months ago

    Strange comment. Who doesn't admit it? Everything can be a distraction.

    • throwawayarnty 2 months ago

      People think that hackernews is productive won’t admit it.

  • rhubarbcustard 2 months ago

    It is but, for me anyway, it's a world away from Facebook, Insta and similar sites in terms of quality and usefulness. I do find myself opening my phone and having a quick look down the HN homepage listing but I'm fairly safe in the knowledge that anything I do read will of decent quality and have some benefit.

    The other big difference is that HN doesn't got out of its way to make you consume more or want to constantly come back, that's not their business model.

jaqalopes 2 months ago

So glad to see I'm not the only one taking drastic action after falling into the phone/attention trap.

This won't work for everyone, but maybe 6 months ago I got a phone safe (this kind of thing: <>, I refer to it as the "phone jail"), which I leave my phone in from bedtime every night to ~4pm the next day. And I leave the whole rig on my bedroom shelf while I go to work at the library/cafe/kitchen table.

There are obvious drawbacks to this that I don't think most people would accept (especially regarding being reachable or having a way to place emergency calls). But it's been invaluable for me to make the mental space I need to finish my manuscript. Plus you can still use the phone through the holes in the cover if you need to, it's just really annoying and not very portable.

In the long run, I'd like to become a fliphone guy like some other commenters here, but I genuinely do get a lot of value from having a smartphone. I just need to get away from it during working hours.

  • losteric 2 months ago

    I did something similar for a while, but I still found myself distracted when the phone was out of the case. I ultimately opt to simply make the phone less addictive.

    On Android, I used Digital Wellness to monitor how I was spending time. Then I uninstalled all the timewasting dopamine-trap apps, set limits on Firefox (10min day), disabled vibration/sound notifications except for phone calls, removed all app icons from the home screen, and set a complex unlock passcode (disabled face unlock). I also started using the phone for "harder" things, like writing long emails.

    At this point, my ADHD brain just sees the phone as a tool... because that's all it is.

    Next step is figuring out how to apply the same lessons to my laptop.

  • TheFreim 2 months ago

    > especially regarding being reachable or having a way to place emergency calls

    I love being unreachable, it's one of the reasons I'll often turn my phone off during the work day or leave it at home. This means I won't have a phone to make emergency calls, but I'm not really bothered by that (it's how I lived over half my life).

  • bombcar 2 months ago

    Getting an actual honest-to-goodness landline isn't terribly expensive, and works as a phone for emergencies.

    Most people wasting time on smartphones would put it down almost immediately if it had no internet access.

    • em500 2 months ago

      You don't a landline. As you mention yourself it's very hard to waste much time on a mobile phone with no internet access. OTOH, a laptop with internet can be as just much of a timesink as a smartphone.

      The internet, it's a hell of a drug. Can't live with it, can't live without it.

    • TheFreim 2 months ago

      I have a landline in my home, it's great. Can't get texts so people have to call, they can leave a message if it's urgent. I can leave my phone off as long as I want and still be contacted when I'm at home.

      • bombcar 2 months ago

        Yeah, and if you want to go the "hacker route" you can terminate the landline in a cobbled-together Asterix PBX for even more fun.

        You could use a VOIP number but then it would go down when the Internet goes down.

        • dragonwriter 2 months ago

          Increasingly, “landlines” are VOIP with legacy connections.

          • bombcar 2 months ago

            Yeah, the trick sometimes is ask for "burglar alarm" or "actual two-wire" or similar so they give you a real pair to the CO.

markvdb 2 months ago

Feature phone user here. I had a smartphone for about a year in 2009. I gave it away after seeing four people in a row waiting for the train consumed by their pinging devices.

I can't recommend the feature phone experience warmly enough. About the only thing I really miss is a decent camera in my phone. Lugging a camera along is a bit of a nuisance.

All of this doesn't completely free me from the attention economy though.

Firstly, I distract myself. I still read the news more than is good for me. From time to time, I'll even play silly computer games excessively. FOSS games, but still quite distracting.

Secondly, as the article describes, there's the profound cultural shift I have to cope with. Many people, even friends, don't even think about asking me for permission to let Siri, Alexa or Google overhear our conversations. Just because they want to be plugged in.

When we are discussing what year Greg Lemond beat Laurent Fignon in the Tour de France, is the goal knowing some useless trivia? No, it's the conversation. The social process is the goal.

MrYellowP 2 months ago

to the author of this:

Well done!

You still have a lot ahead of you.

Next step: Avoid any and all background noise. Chatter and music. Chatter is worse than music, but music is still bad. In contrast, sounds of nature are absolutely fine. If you don't like those, then there's something wrong with you.

Assuming you're used to background noise you will hate this, though, but if you can muster up the discipline and get over yourself, you won't regret the increase in your cognitive abilities, once they push into your awareness.

Most people have no idea of what's there to explore.

You're welcome. :)

drewcoo 2 months ago

Tom Johnson appears to be the poster child for ADHD.

He's been so busy noticing everything else that he didn't bother to pay attention to the hugely disruptive distraction everyone's been talking about for over a decade now.

And then he blames his inability to focus on some externality instead of realizing it's his condition.

  • unethical_ban 2 months ago

    >He's been so busy noticing everything else that he didn't bother to pay attention to the hugely disruptive distraction everyone's been talking about for over a decade now.


  • bigmealbigmeal 2 months ago

    I would argue that people with ADHD noticed this problem before anyone else, simply because they were the first to suffer from it.

FunnyBadger 2 months ago

I never got onto FB or TW et al.

I recently deleted 100% of my Reddit and Quora posts (10-15 years worth) - didn't even bother to save anything. Just better to pull the bandaid off fast. Such an improvement.

If I get bored and feel the urge to go online, I take a walk outside.

I'm seriously thinking about getting a dumb phone and tossing my iPhone entirely. I don't actually use it for more than literal phone and text. I disconnected e-mail on it a year ago. Of course, never had social media.

Note: I've been on the internet since it was called Arpanet and I was heavily involved in the 1G web. No stranger to being online but my views have its utility and value have changed - I now believe it's nearly the worst thing that has ever happened to humanity.

bigpeopleareold 2 months ago

I have not dedicated so much time to video games for years. It is probably the same response that some have to smartphones. For me, I saw my time being wasted on nothing. While I am good at wasting time, it was a particular thing I felt was hard to just timebox.

My vice instead is spending too much time reading or tinkering on my laptop in my spare time, even sometimes when I should be doing other things (probably like now :) )

I like the smartphone for things that are useful - primarily maps, a chat application with my wife, translating words between my first and second language that will absolutely plague me if I don't know the answer to and looking up some things on the go. That's good enough for me with that.

g9yuayon 2 months ago

I forgot who, but someone influential said more than 10 years ago that browsing internet is like having intellectual squirt, which keeps us wanting more. I guess a phone with Instagram/TikTok/Twitter just make it worse. My counter measurement is surrounding myself with all kinds of books and articles and courses. Whenever I have the urge to go to Twitter, for instance, I'd ask myself why. Usually being aware of the urge is enough for me to stop the urge. Otherwise, I'd pick a reading at the moment. If I really worry that I may spend too much time reading instead of going back to work, I'd take a Duolingo class, which takes no more than 5 minutes.

eikenberry 2 months ago

I went through what I'd consider my version of this with RSS blog feeds back in the 00s. It wasn't a problem with notifications distracting me, it was the constant feeling that I wasn't keeping up with the feed (and I wasn't). Took a while to notice the stress it was contributing to my life but eventually it dawned on me and I had to drop the RSS feeds all together to get rid of it (every feed was to important to cut). So I switched to a different medium (reddit + hn) where there wasn't that feeling of a feed to keep up with.

permo-w 2 months ago

To take a cynical viewpoint, based on the examples given by the author, it could equally be that he's just lost interest in what I would describe as lowest-common-denominator action novels. He was able to fully listen to the book about focus.

I find that I can pay attention to the things I'm interested in as well as I ever could, but interests change and develop over time. I still avoid smartphones, but I don't think they've actually done anything to my attention span

sdze 2 months ago

Following atomic habits for habit forming process: - If you have important stuff to do, put the smartphone away in another room for example. Out of sight, you won't notice anything missing.

To be honest, since introduction of Do not disturb by Apple iPhone, I am very unbothered during working hours.

koiueo 2 months ago

I did great and finished this only in two sessions

This is a great article.

I learned to disable all but important notifications. But I still suffer many symptoms the author has described.

IMO, an overwhelming amount of the content on the internet adds nothing on top of its title. You eventually learn to consume all the content without putting too much effort, by skimming quickly, otherwise it's exhausting.

I don't know what could be a solution here. Some sort of filtering for the content is needed, but how to implement it exactly?

Perhaps one should put more focus on reading books instead of free articles on the internet. But this does not solve the problem completely. Many books suffer from the same lack of sense.

Does anyone have any ideas or any related experience regarding the content moderation for consumption?

hirundo 2 months ago

I fight this with the pomodoro app on my smartphone. Starting a "tomato" gives my subsconscious the permission it needs to ignore distractions for a small window. I can't say that this completely offsets the distraction, but it does mitigate it.

fprct 2 months ago

It's not really about the smartphones, I think. They are just a symptom of much more fundamental behavior (which may or may not be problematic - depending on how you look at it).

All those 5-10 second breaks -- waiting for a light, waiting for an elevator... If it were not for the phone, what would you typically do? Focus on some random thought or two. Then snap out of it and carry on. The fact that now this is often not a random thought but random input from random app doesn't seem to change that much - pattern stayed the same, just now you can see it in other people from the outside, so it seems more profound.

  • iknownothow 2 months ago

    I think you made a great observation about the 5-10 breaks but I disagree with your assessment that we're just replacing one random behavior with another.

    The fact that I am "compelled" to look at my phone instead of staying with my thoughts is not an innocuous pattern. Why do I, with perfect predictability, prefer reaching for my phone rather than staying with my thoughts? And it's a fact that this compulsion to look at my phone exists even when I'm working on something important and not just when I'm standing in the elevator.

    (My tone might be aggressive. I don't mean to offend, I just disagree).

    • fprct 2 months ago

      Good point.

      Would you say that all your "interruption slots" are taken by a need to look at a phone or particular app? Aren't there still situations where you break your current focus (be it something important or just waiting in the elevator) with an actual thought not related to the phone?

      I agree that position I've presented probably stands to some degree on the assumption that there still is a noticeable amount of non phone related interruptions of one's thought patterns. Otherwise my claim of equivalence would be stronger and require more arguments that I have at the moment.

      From my personal experience (n=1) it's exactly the case - sometimes it's a phone, sometimes not, so that clearly directs my judgement. OTOH I find it unlikely that this is particularly atypical.

      • iknownothow 2 months ago

        At this point it's a reflex and that's what I hate about it. I've had to catch myself mid way through the reflex, when I turn to look at the phone and then turn it on and then realizing what I've done and then turn it off. To a third person, it looks like I've just checked if there's new messages or checked for the time. I've had this reflex and caught it mid way, when having important conversations with partner, friends, colleagues etc in the last two weeks and it's embarassing.

        I am of the inattentive type so I am more prone to this reflex but I am also more mindful than most who doesn't actually go through social media at all. The reflex is most likely to just check HN or Reddit. Maybe you'll be more aware and notice this reflex in other people you're in conversation with.

sarang23592 2 months ago

This article was describing more and more about myself. In between the article I drifted off to another site without even realising. I am going to do my digital detox right away...after I browse through my youtube feed. I need help :(

agumonkey 2 months ago

Not to go against, it's not smartphones, it's free high speed internet ..

I have the same issue at home with a laptop. compulsive F5, serial alt-tabber ... nature wasn't ready for this amount of thin stimuli and shallow emotional hooks.

aagha 2 months ago

Due to this same feeling of losing control to my phone, I spent the most I've ever spent on Daywise [0] to manage my notifications.

I'm not checking my phone one quarter of what I was before.

Notifications throughout the day except for the very important things/people I deem are grouped for later viewing if I want to--I find at the end of the day I almost always dismiss most of them.

0 -

longnguyen 2 months ago

I still want to consume online content, just not news articles though.

There are so many interesting blog posts and long-form content out there. Over the year, I trained my mind to not consuming them on my phone/computer. Instead, I send those articles to my Kindle. At some point, I decided to build a tool to support more than just web articles[0]. Give it a try if you're looking for a better way to consume online content.


TheRealNGenius 2 months ago

Holy shit, dude wrote up an entire essay on their journey to rid themselves of their phone. Meanwhile, I’m here never had a phone and without an essay. The duality of man.

digitcatphd 2 months ago

This is precisely why I haven’t purchased a smartwatch. These devices decrease our ability to solve problems that require analysis for extended periods of time.

  • allenu 2 months ago

    I feel the same way. I found it interesting that when smartwatches came out, people were excited about being able to see text messages or other notifications on their wrist.

    As someone who felt the need to be on top of things, receiving notifications was slightly stressful as it meant something I'd have to evaluate and make a decision on "right now". (Obviously, feeling like I should react to things immediately was something I had to work on in myself, but the phone didn't help.) Feeling a notification buzz on my phone gave me slight anxiety as I'd immediately react with, "oh, what is this that I might need to take care of?" Putting the phone aside for periods helped, so the idea of not being able to escape it with notifications on my wrist was a little terrifying.

    In the last few years, I've set my phone to always Do Not Disturb mode, so it doesn't vibrate or even light up when a notification comes in. I do the same on my Mac. It's helped quite a bit with my stress levels. I just manually check periodically to see if there's a notification instead of always feeling like it could go off any minute.

  • user_7832 2 months ago

    If you are interested, watches like the Amazfit (Bip) or perhaps Garmin are low-ish tech while still giving health information/basic alarms etc.

  • graeme 2 months ago

    I’ve found the opposite. The apple watch isn’t distracting at all if you turn off notifications

    You can do some things quickly without sinking into the infinite scroll of the phone. I.e. you can check your calendar and that’s it

phendrenad2 2 months ago

Those of us with attention-deficit disorders are immune to this: our attention span is maximally fragmented anyway.

jmfldn 2 months ago

I use focus mode on my Android phone all the time. Only have phone, messages (not whats app) and a few things I need for work. Basically turns it into a dumb phone. I do deactivate it sometimes and sneak a peak at a website but it seems (amongst my friend and colleagues at least) that noone is using these features nearly enough.

alexalx666 2 months ago

Quitting Facebook and Instagram as well as getting Nokia phone from 90s + iPad was the best decision of 2022

  • asdfqwertzxcv 2 months ago

    which phone did you get? Do you tether the ipad to it when out and about?

    • alexalx666 2 months ago

      I got iPad with Cellular, magic keyboard and the cheapest prepaid SIM card with 4Gb of data so I know I can not just browse forever. I got Nokia 6510 and I absolutely love it. New Nokia feature phones don't have the same level of attention to detail and quality of plastic. I don't take my iPad anywhere usually. If I want to take photos I use Pentax ME Super, for reading - Kindle. For music I got iPod Video and upgraded it to 120Gb sd card, new battery, sounds magical with Marshal Mode earphones, I also had iPod Classic 7g but the sound quality was much worse, its like components of music track were decoupled. It sounded consistently worse to me for all genres.

      • floren 2 months ago

        > If I want to take photos I use Pentax ME Super

        A man of culture!

thewileyone 2 months ago

I recently realized that I couldn't read a whole book/e-book without being distracted as well. I bought a Kindle so that I wouldn't be tempted to switch to another app or to not get notifications. So far, it's been a good thing.

yandrypozo 2 months ago

Also stop reading Hacker News :)

themadturk 2 months ago

At this point in my life, digital detox is an alien concept to me, and I say that as a boomer who gets antsy when he's more than ten feet away from his phone. Yet, according to my reading diary, I've started over 30 books this year, finished 22 of them (a couple I'm in the middle of, several I've abandoned already), and I still occasionally check in on Reddit, have a bunch of email newsletters and a number of RSS feeds (including some people I follow on Twitter, meaning I don't have to actually open Twitter).

I've read a lot ever since I was a kid, and a couple of years ago when I felt I wasn't reading books as much as I used to I decided to turn the habit around, with what I consider minimal change in what I followed, instead changing how I followed. More than anything it's a matter of ruthless curation. I think it helps that I have a Kindle and the Kindle apps on my tablet and phone. I'm literally never without a book.

LoveMortuus 2 months ago

I've been thinking about this.

Does it fragment your attention if to the outsider you're able to focus on this device for several hours without a break?

Or does it not work like that?

alexfromapex 2 months ago

Reels and TikTok is this problem on steroids. Hopefully younger generations realize this can be problematic, even though it’s been ubiquitous for them.

sys_64738 2 months ago

Power your phone off and don't install any garbage apps. Don't do social media on your mobile phone either. This is really just about will power.

jeffbee 2 months ago

One thing the "I used to be able to focus" folks all have in common is they're all older now, but this is never mentioned.

codemonkey-zeta 2 months ago

The author must have gone to P-town in the winter. I imagine going there in the summer to regain focus wouldn't pan out so well...

husamia 2 months ago

young generations will have to learn how to adopt to attention sucking reality in their own ways

csydas 2 months ago

Articles like this are interesting for me because I have trouble relating to "feed addiction" and the attention issues often associated with social media. I understand how it gets the way it is and I can imagine how it must feel, but I just haven't really experienced it, and I don't think that it's quite the drug it's made out to be.

My work makes me eager to throw my phone/laptop away as soon as possible; I'm definitely a workaholic and rather dangerously at that, so maybe I'm getting the same result via a different means; but there is almost always a point at the day when I just need to zone out on a dumb show I've watched a ton of times or just take a run with a bit of music or a nice walk and zone out on some music or even just the sounds of the city for awhile.

My work more or less has roped me into social media to some degree for some part of the day, and I really don't like social media at all; I don't dismiss it, it's just not the way I like communicating and because I deal with a lot of awful customers via social media (often fruitlessly) I have a very dour understanding of it as the same communication mechanisms that the awful customers implement are what I see elsewhere. When I do see non-negative/complaining content on social media, it's just not that interesting, and I'm more relieved that it's not some non-sense I have to deal with than I am interested in what someone has to say.

For me, modern social media even makes it easy for me not to get into it. Instagram floods sponsored objects when I just want to go and like my friend's pictures/stories. Reddit kills itself for me with its comment/voting system and the efforts to make it readable in a way I like just isn't worth it for the content I find. Twitter is the best at keeping me out of social media as it actively does its best to ensure I can't read Twitter content without signing up and giving a bunch of information I don't want to give, so I don't even have a chance to get hooked on something before the login modal hides the content. The less said about Youtube and its social media aspect, the better but it's absolutely unintelligible; even trying to follow older conversations (less than a month) is impossible sometimes as there are so many orphaned responses that you can't follow the context of a given answer as it was deleted or hidden somewhere else or someone changed their username(? I'm not sure if this is a thing but it's one of the only other ways I can understand what I see).

I can at least respect TikTok in that you can access everything without an account or even an app, and more or less it's the same experience, but there is so much repeat content that it's just not interesting.

When I want to check something nowadays, I just check it. If I want to go for a walk and just think for awhile, the most distracting thing is just that I'm processing too many projects/problems from the week, and I need to physically move a bit to calm down a bit. Cooking, running, reading articles, taking a crack at some code project, it's calming because it's easy to focus on, and the only challenge I have is just exhaustion most of the time.

aliswe 2 months ago

ironically my attention span didn't let me finish the article.

jb1991 2 months ago

Anyone here try switching to a flip phone?

  • oblak 2 months ago

    I did but it died on me. I've been with a candy bar ever since. Been a decade since I gave up on smartphones. Only took me about two months. These days I check my phone once or twice a week, sometimes not at all. Good thing the battery lasts for many days

danr4 2 months ago

Related: Anyone using Blinkist? How is it?

  • thenerdhead 2 months ago

    The summaries are mediocre at best. If you are willing to have someone you don’t know summarize a book for you, then it’s good. There’s plenty of people posting book summaries online that are a bit more reputable. I personally think it’s filling the exact niche of people not spending more time being analog to find out for themselves by reading and redeveloping their attention.

hettygreen 2 months ago

TL;DR. Can someone summarize this for me?

  • karmakaze 2 months ago

    I did find it ironic that this is a long form essay that would be of most value to those with limited attention spans.

    I agree with the content, though I've never had a problem with mobile devices as they're for zombie content scrolling rather than creating that takes a normal OS and program distribution. i.e. I can forget my phone somewhere all day no problem--not sure I'd easily make it through a day without my primary (or secondary) personal laptop.