Part of the disconnect, I eventually became convinced, comes from the reality that we’ve lost our familiarity with the concept of “thinking” as a concrete and isolatable activity; something that can be prioritized, and trained, and even cherished as a valuable pursuit in its own right.
My wife has accused me of being addicted to the mobile phone. She, therefore, ensures that our daughter watches YouTube videos via Chromecast on the television. She is determined to make sure she doesn’t get hooked to mobile phones early on in life. It’s inevitable I say, but she’s fighting to keep this menace away from her daughter as long as she can.
My search to quit this addiction, online has led me to various resources. There was writing by Seth Godin, Cal Newport, Brett McKay and Ryan Holiday that contributed to ideas. There is also a r/nosurf sub-Reddit that addresses this issue.
I tried deleting the applications from my phone – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I didn’t stay off these for long, ending up installing them again almost instantaneously.
Before, I share my reading about this topic, let me share my current status. I have switched off all notifications except for phone and SMS. I have removed Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram from my phone. I access them only on my laptop at home. I was able to hold this for about a week now.
I was listening to Peter Attia’s podcast, The Drive with Ryan Holiday today. Holiday, answering a question on how the connected life has affected our life, says that we reached a right about place in 2010 and then went overboard. He says that there was a time when we used social media just enough and then went over. Attia likens it to a tuning issue that went to the max setting after passing the optimum level. The max setting makes sense for some people but not for all the people in the world.
Further along the podcast, he talks about he keeps his smart phone in the other room and does not pick it up until almost after lunch. It makes for productive mornings and he lets people know that phone, SMS and email are the best way to reach him. Just earlier, he has read a comprehensive blog post about spending less time on the phone. Following one of the suggestions there, I am planning to move both of our smart phones out of our bedroom tonight.
Seth Godin also wrote a blog post today about that thing in your pocket that has an infinite options that are much better than what you’re doing right now. The idea is to prioritize what you have to do right now.
I have written earlier on the blog here about Cal Newport’s work on how social media has been designed to be addictive here. Brett McKay had called to build a Social Internet instead of being addicted to Social Media. Om Malik called for a decade of self-control. So, I’ve started on my own little journey. What about you?
I’ve written hereearlier about Cal Newport and his book, Digital Minimalism. The book calls for lower if not zero use of social media. In the post, he shares an article published in The Atlantic, titled, “The Dark Psychology of Social Networks.” by Jonathan Haidt and Tobias Rose-Stockwell.
Whereas Newport suggests zero to no social media use, Haidt and Rose-Stockwell call for regulation on the part of social media companies. Newport thinks this is highly unlikely as this implies a direct hit at their bottom line.
I love this particular paragraph from Newport’s blog post that succintly summarises Digital Minalism on how social media design changed and how it affects our response:
In Digital Minimalism, I argued that our relationship with social media was transformed when the major platforms updated their designs to make these services less about checking on other peoples’ status, and more about checking incoming “social approval indicators,” which arrive in the form of likes, retweets, shares, hearts, streaks and tags.
I had written earlier about wanting to move towards Social Internet on this blog earlier. The move feels more urgent as I changed careers and moved to a more creative career field.
When you’re on Twitter or similar social media websites, you are bombarded with information. This information, though, is about different topics. To process this information, the brain does something called “context switching”. Cal Newport, a computer science professor, working with Georgetown University has written extensively on his blog about the cost context switching has on our brain. In short, this affects our attention span. He suggests a mental declutter of thirty days in his new book, Digital Minimalism.
Besides the cognitive costs, it also affects our world. It enriches a few corporations that gains by selling our data to advertisers. This leads us to “walled gardens” that affect our privacy. We do not have a clear picture about what data we give to corporations and how, in turn these corporations use our data.
Some of my friends have also started moving from corporations on to blogs of their own. Their dusting off old blogs that they once maintained and renewing them. A recent one I read about is Karthik’s. I am trying to get other friends to start up their blogs as well. This is where you have control on your content and data.
Tobi Lutke of Shopify is also working towards making shopping online social again. Recently, I was talking about a friend about cameras and that night I saw ads for cameras on Amazon. The Amazon app on your phone has permission to make calls. Is it listening to you as well? Shopify is now considering taking on Amazon. Tim Bradshaw has a nice article in Financial Times that describes the social shopping experience that Shopify seeks to build.
I am not advocating quitting social media. I am only saying that you need to be aware of how you give data away to corporations who make money off it. At the very least, I hope there is a thriving Social Internet that thrives along with Social Media.
Brett McKay has a podcast, Podcast #479: Becoming a Digital Minimalist on The Art of Manliness with Cal Newport on digital minimalism. The concept surrounds the idea of not having social media in walled gardens like Facebook, Google etc. These are only trying to rob our attention and make money from them. These have an adverse impact on us just like fast food, cigarettes etc.
I am dealing with my own smartphone addiction and might get the book in the last week of this month on Audible.