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    Only now that I have cut things down over time, I have be come more aware how incredibly addicted we all are to social media and games. I pick up my phone far less then I used to, and it is surprising how many people cannot wait somewhere for five minutes without picking up their phone. In fact, there are even a lot of people using their phones while cycling which is incredibly dangerous, also to people who focus on traffic when they are in traffic.

    At any rate, a more or less chronological list of changes I made:

    • Ban phones at the breakfast/lunch/dinner table. This is family time. Also, what kind of example do we give to our daughter if her parents are behind a screen even during social activities.
    • Move from Google Mail (Google Mail for Apps) to Fastmail. Stop using Google products outside search. I keep around an account for Google Scholar. Google is a totally moral corrupt company and I want as little to do with them as possible. Unfortunately, this is very hard, I have to use uMatrix + DecentralEyes to purge them from my life. And hope that sites do not use recaptcha.
    • Nuke my Facebook account. This was probably the best step. In the beginning Facebook was nice to keep up with friends and family. But Facebook developed obscene dark patterns to keep people addicted. The result was a stream of memes and bubble confirmations.
    • Remove all games from my phone. They are pointless distraction. It’s more interesting to read a book or newspaper. The Nintendo Switch has much more qualitative games.
    • Remove all social apps from my phone. No more Twitter et al., I don’t get enticed to do dopamine shots.
    • Try to avoid using my phone during the evenings.
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      Remove all social apps from my phone. No more Twitter et al., I don’t get enticed to do dopamine shots.

      The phone is a tough one. I’m still struggling, even though I don’t have social media, email, or even a web browser on it. I’m compulsively checking Pocket (though I know I haven’t added anything), WhatsApp (even though no new messages has arrived) and my mobile banking (of all things!) for something—anything—to provide that dopamine hit. I try to put the phone somewhere out of sight, and I’m a lot better now than I was, but it’s difficult on weeks when I’m on call.

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        I wonder if I’m not suspectible to smartphone addiction because I’m just too asocial for that. I just don’t get dopamine hits from checking social media nearly enough to do it compulsively. I have wifi/3G on my smartphone disabled 90% of the time unless I actually need something from the Internet, and I find notifications annoying. If something important happens, the people I care enough about have my number, and if something really interesting happens on the Internet while I’m away, someone will probably send me a link or it will be reposted all over the place.

        But now that I think of it, in the unavoidable idle time, like in a bus, I’m usually thinking about programming problems, my writing, or my tunes. Maybe social media addiction is just a symptom telling you to find things to work on that really care about?

        Also, I haven’t used Google search for a long time and I’m quite happy with DuckDuckGo.

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          You can disable notifications from everything and still have wifi/3G, at least you can on Android.

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          re “I’m compulsively checking Pocket”

          In your defense, Pocket has a lot of good articles. I’ve been really impressed with the service.

          re Facebook

          One thing I warn you about is you might miss lots of important family stuff that can damage relationships. Most people in my family almost exclusively post lots of stuff to Facebook. They’ll text within the house-hold but mostly Facebook to the rest. Being off for a long time cost me a lot of experiences with them. I might turn my account back on just to see what people are doing.

          Far as limiting it, @ac phrased it as putting as much friction as possible between it and you. You’ve clearly been doing that. One thing he said that you aren’t doing was firewalling it in a way that was hard to work around. You could even have the firewall only open connections to your account for limited time per day or night. That’s the simple option. You might also have it set to vary based on your schedule so certain moments or events, like work or with family, that you definitely can’t access it.

          I always thought curbing addiction to social media this way was also a nice use for cheap HSM’s to block user from overriding password they don’t know or whatever.

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            My suggestion: Make an explicit habit to call your friends and family regularly (regardless of whether you see their posts on Facebook). Though, I must admit that I’m really bad at this.

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              A calendar reminder is useful toward this end.

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                It’s a good suggestion. I do it with at least closest relatives. The others… like you said.

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            Thanks for sharing! I’ve started to become more aware about my tech habits and the effects that it’s having on myself and others. I like reading about other peoples’ journeys to digital wellness/mindfulness. I think I’ll try to ditch my phone during the evenings now, too.

            I’ve more or less followed what you’ve outlined there. However, I did just add one thing to my repertoire that I kind of want to throw out there.

            When reaching for one of my devices I’ve started asking myself what I’m about to use it for and whether or not that activity aligns with my goals. The word “goal” has a connotation to it of it being something significant, like getting a promotion or launching a business. I let goals range on a much wider scale than that. Although, certainly those could be one of my goals, if I wanted them to be! Many of my goals are designed to maintain a balanced life-style and my own personal happiness. Even for things like rest and relaxation.

            For example: I’m so used to jumping on Reddit that I do it reflexively; even to the point where I forget about engaging with some of my other hobbies! Now I stop and consider: would I enjoy my time better if I was on reddit, reading a book, playing Stardew Valley, or maybe chasing that productivity dopamine hit of striking something off my to do list? Maybe I could make progress on an interesting topic I’m studying? I could work on a blog post! I could work on that 2D game I want to make. These alternatives to reddit that I just mentioned are considered some of my goals because they make me happy.

            Just by asking myself that question, I’ve been spending more time thinking about those goals I’ve set for myself and doing them, rather than mindlessly losing myself to a computer screen because of an addictive impulse.

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              What are you doing on lobste.rs though?

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                You cannot be completely free of sins ;). More seriously, I am not trying to abstain from the internet. lobste.rs is one of those sites that is not very addictive and usually high signal - low noise. It has a more positive effect than negative. The same for e.g. LWN.net or the newspaper we are subscribed to.

                Or do you mean posting in the evenings? This post was not made on my phone. My computer-rule is no computers after 20:30. Though it usually ends up at 20:45 or so.

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                  My thoughts exactly. I have no problem with that, but OP seems to fight with daily use of Internet by promoting his Internet content by using an Internet service :)

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                    Cheap shot, but I’ll bite ;-)

                    I wouldn’t say I’m fighting “use of Internet”: I’m fighting low quality ways to spend my time. In contrast the community here is fairly high signal to noise ratio. I learn a lot more useful stuff here than in the average Twitter/Facebook post and their replies. Those services constantly re-arrange the newsfeed to avoid you being able to catch up too quickly and move on. They also inject adverts and (for FB) an enticing sidebar full of “news” that I’m too undiciplined to avoid. Not so with Lobste.rs, which I mostly read via RSS subscription to a couple tags.

                    As for promoting my own content: nothing wrong with that, is there? :-) I’m not a naturally gifted writer: it takes me hours and much editing to produce a blog post I’m happy with. (Though it’s getting easier!) Getting a discussion going around my writing motivates me to write more. (Even if the feedback is bad I usually learn something.) At some point I expect to influence colleagues more through writing English than code, so honing those skills seem like a good investment.

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                  I’ve done similar. It is interesting to hear it’s not just me who’s unhappy with some of the ‘tech’ that’s part of modern life. Friends and family seem surprised by my attitude. I think they believe that if you work ‘in tech’ then you must fetishise it or believe it’s all good, simply because it exists.

                  Differences from above: I’m on a mail provider called Soverin, who seem to do a great job, and I’m using DuckDuckGo as much as possible. And I went Apple - phone, laptop, desktop.

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                    They are pointless distraction

                    I think this is most games, not just mobile games, and I think that the same could be said of books. Some games have had the same kind of impact on me as a book. Not many I’ll grant you, bu they’re there. I do understand what you’re saying though.

                    The Nintendo Switch has much more qualitative games.

                    I still think it depends on the game. The Switch has some good stuff, but there’s still some garbage on the eshop. Having a device with the express purpose of gaming and a higher bar for quality control is definitely beneficial though - I pretty much only play Nintendo DS and GBA games.

                    A lot of games on mobile devices are designed with the same dark patterns and bad intentions as social media sites. But some games (such as Florence) genuinely moved me.

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                    I switched to a basic, non-smart phone, some time ago. I’ve run into some issues with things that require a smartphone app, but overall it’s been good. I still waste plenty of time on the fediverse, but only when I’m on my computer.

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                      I’ve been making the steps to do this, one at a time. One recent critical step was setting up a MacOS VM so that I can have a bridge connector to iMessage. I think another one will be having an android VM in a cloud server so that I can make simple adapters to certain app-only interfaces.

                      This tendency towards app-first/app-only interfaces while the web interface is non-existent or non-functional is something that seriously troubles me, but as long as I have a brain and a computer, I’ll find a way around it.

                      I’m trying to figure out if I can make a keyboard-first phone, one that has touchscreen only as a fallback, and I’m making slow progress towards it.

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                      I’ve cut right back on social media and it has been a godsend.

                      I quit Twitter a few years back after multiple failed attempts at integrating it into my life in a healthy way. Shortly afterwards I decided to read my Pocket chronologically (rather than reverse chron) and found that maybe 70% of articled I’d saved weren’t interesting enough to read by the time I got to them. A few months later I stopped reading almost all news (joining Lobsters was my first toe-dipping back into it, and I find the pace and signal:noise quite manageable).

                      In the past month I’ve drastically cut down my FB friends list and stopped posting there all together. I deleted 3 of my Instagram accounts (I have one left for an art project but it’s less of an attention suck). I now send out a newsletter every few months rather than posting family photos to FB or Insta.

                      I’m still part of a few hobby-releated FB groups but I don’t have any social media on my main phone. I use an old phone for that, so I have to either carry 2 or go and find the second phone when I want it.

                      I still watch youtube, but do it via podsync or newpipe which avoids most of the rabbit-holing. I listen to a ton of podcasts but again do it chronologically to avoid getting sucked into current events.

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                        I’m using an Atlas to drive from Seattle to Santa Fe. It’s so nice not having an app constantly suggest new routes based on traffic conditions. It’s also nice to not have it constantly remind me how much progress I have made and how much more time there is left on my journey. It’s very nice.

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                          Extreme positions regarding new sources of information/communication have traditionally not played out well through time. Though I do think unplugging and then slowly walking back isn’t a bad approach to finding a sort of “middle way”. I personally find that muting notifications from apps and services that spam me does the trick. I read it when I want to, and I don’t read it when I don’t want to. The other big thing you can do to fight media addiction is just to do more interesting and fun things with your life. Part of the reason people seek solace in the stream of communication is they don’t have things that bring them joy in their lives. Hobbies are good. I like to have a hobby for the mind, a hobby for the body, and a hobby to relax.

                          Right now mine are, functional programming, bicycling, and taking naps in new places.

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                            One thing I think is very interesting is the fact that many technologists are walking away from the types of platforms we helped build/grow on (by virtue of being early adopters). I say this not to cast stones, but rather as recognition that the nature of the platforms and their value proposition has shifted significantly since many of these sites were made. I believe they got too big, and that we, as people, weren’t designed to all be funneled into one gentrified site in the first place.

                            The future probably lies in what I call the forum Internet, characterized by smaller communities, deeper pockets of knowledge, and (probably) signatures/avatars/post counts, because what is community without vanity metrics? :)

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                              I’ve also read Digital Minimalism, and I found it to be a good read (although I felt like a three page manifesto could be typed out of it with the same content, minus examples.) I have started viewing my time with a more critical eye, which has helped me spend more evening time on my hobbies and less on consumption.

                              Things I have done since reading it:

                              • Cut down my email spam. If I get an email I am not interested in, I unsubscribe or block. This has cut down on shopping impulses. I will be transitioning to protonmail in a few months.
                              • Stop reading Reddit. The noise to signal ratio is terrible, but the site is very addicting to me. I tried letting some back in after a month without and fell right back into bad usage patterns. It is now on my ublock list of banned sites.
                              • Unlimited Youtube time, but I must be knitting while watching. I make hobby progress and keep up with my favorite channels, win/win. (And if I get tired of knitting, I can stop watching!).

                              Soon to try:

                              • I also have been sleeping with Youtube playing, but I may try keeping my phone in another room and seeing if that helps me sleep better.
                              • Replacing Morning Commute NPR with the Up First podcast, to reduce my news time to 10 minutes. Replace rest of commute with Audible book.
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                                Why a person might choose to use just one news site to gain knowledge about what’s happening? Aren’t you afraid of a bias one service has? Today all news sites have a bias, the only way to get past it seems to be to use multiple news sites which show the world from multiple perspectives.

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                                  The other way is to read none of them, which is the approach I’m taking.

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                                    Ah the “ignorance is bliss” approach ;) I choose this one from time to time too.

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                                      It’s more about focusing on what is useful rather than what is popular. The time I save reading news I spend reading history, philosophy and psychology. Time is a filter; the longer something has been around the more likely it is to be worthwhile.

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                                          It is easy to mistake “new” for “important” when there isn’t always a connection.

                                          A better illustration of this concept is the awful, awful concept of trending, where the popularity of an article/hashtag somehow makes it more deserving of your attention rather than the intrinsic value of the content.

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                                        Regarding being concerned of bias: yes, I am. I would be particularly worried about a nice and cozy echo chamber. The Economist is a good fit (for me!) in that regard. It’s much more right-leaning than I, challenging my preconceptions. I like that they don’t put author names alongside articles either, avoiding the personality cult that is so common in many big papers.