I decided to get serious with myself about two years ago: no more wasting time. This was a gradual process. I stopped using Twitter and Facebook first. Then I got rid of my smartphone - except for listening to podcasts at the gym and occasionally keeping up with WhatsApp (I keep it in a drawer in my office most of the time). Since around June I have targeted email and device use in general: I don't check email of any kind before noon, and I am off grid by 7.30pm (TV and internet) - no exceptions. In the last two months I have also stopped going to online news websites.
What have I learned from this?
1. I am much more productive. The thing that has probably made the most difference here is cutting down on email and on evening internet use. I now write huge amounts longhand in the evening and get shitloads done in the morning for my "real job". I used to think I had a short attention span. What I've discovered is that having the internet always available, and the TV always on, shorten your attention span and it doesn't take long for you to learn how to lengthen it once those stimuli are removed.
2. Not having a smartphone means not having your headphones on all the time when outside, and it turns out that's really nice - almost like a blessed release from the tyranny of having to constantly be entertained. You start to savour opportunities to just be: a pleasant quasi-meditative state in which you just listen to what's around you and let it stimulate idle thoughts. I also get much more reading done during my commute.
3. Not using social media very much (I am still using G+ in much reduced form) makes a massive difference to your mental health. I was not particularly depressed or anxious before, but I did use to notice that after spending a lot of time dicking around on Facebook or Twitter I would begin to feel edgy, irritable and slightly out-of-sorts - a feeling of vague disappointment with myself and the world. That's gone away.
4. I haven't missed any major news stories but I have missed a vast amount of inconsequential clickbait shite. Now if I ever do look at, for example, the BBC news website, it has a truly surreal quality - like news made up in a parallel universe by somebody trying to parody what he thinks is "news" here.
5. Sometimes you want to take a photo but can't, because you don't even have a camera anymore that isn't inside a phone. This is the main disadvantage I've discovered.
6. The second disadvantage is that writing text messages takes ages, and smartphone users have a habit of sending you streams of messages all in one go, so by the time you've finished replying to their first text they've already sent about 5 others.
7. The urge to check your phone and/or email goes away pretty quickly - within about 48 hours. As time goes on you begin to resent having to do it at all, and frequently leave the house forgetting to even take your dumbphone.
8. You become by turns more optimistic and pessimistic. On the one hand, interacting with your fellow human beings in the ways that nature intended and through those ways alone, you generally feel happier and more comfortable, because you see people as they really are: generally decent, nice, community-minded, and lacking in extremism. You don't get to see them through the lens of social media, which turns everybody into an arsehole. On the other hand, you quite often find yourself looking around at all the people glued to their smartphones, compulsively and robotically scrolling as if they are getting paid for it, and despairing about the human race. (These feelings darken even further when looking at parents doing this while their children sit in puzzled and slightly sorrowful silence wondering when Mum/Dad is finally going to acknowledge they are alive.)
I offer these thoughts to you from a position of slight smugness, but you can join me: I don't regret any of the changes I have made whatsoever, and to bring things back on topic, so to speak, if you wish you had more time to devote to this hobby, the above are practical solutions to get it.
Man, I've been toying with the idea of cutting all this 'net stuff for a while now.ReplyDelete
Hearing about the results makes me want to take the leap even more :)
Humans are tool-users first and foremost, and getting rid of the most advanced tools, pleasant as it may be, makes one functionally revert. Everyone can make this choice to undo their humanity and experience this "blessed release", but it would be prudent to at least be respectful to practicing homo sapiens sapiens and devices they're "glued" to—especially those related to communication and learning.ReplyDelete
That imply the internet and social medias have made us smarter: my experience says it has made us dumber.Delete
Without the internet and social medias, you wouldn't be able to have this conversation. You wouldn't have access to this blog you're on right now.Delete
People keep talking about technology like it's the world's greatest evil, but it seems to me like none of them are paying attention to what it does for them.
I guess it's predictable that you're getting this backlash, noisms.Delete
Sort of makes your point I guess. Enjoy being unplugged and productive.
That seems like a very odd argument. Nuclear weapons, the rack, and cluster bombs are effective tools. Do we "undo our humanity" by limiting their use?Delete
Imperator: I hardly advocated "technology" being the world's greatest evil. I am advocating limiting usage of it. Clearly, the internet has its uses. It also has negative effects which should be curtailed. We are not slaves of our tools - they are there for our use, and when they are no longer being useful but detrimental, they should be dropped.Delete
"We should prefer tools to do anything" does not even remotely equal or imply that "doing anything is alright".Delete
So either you're introducing this false equivalence—or you're saying that we should kill and torture with bare hands? Frankly speaking, I'm not sure which constitutes the benefit of the doubt here.
More and more these devices seem to serve as anger and idiocy alarms.ReplyDelete
"...parents doing this [glued to their smartphones] while their children sit in puzzled and slightly sorrowful silence wondering when Mum/Dad is finally going to acknowledge they are alive."ReplyDelete
That is indeed very sorrowful.
Well, I definitely don't have enough time to do everything I want. I'll give these a shot and see what happens!!ReplyDelete
I'm curious. What do you do after 7.30 pm?ReplyDelete
I've been trying to shut off all devices, but I live alone so that's pretty boring. So I always end up turning everything on again
He said he "write[s] huge amounts longhand in the evening."Delete
I've found that "early to bed, early to rise" is also pretty great when you don't have tech. Instead of sitting around lethargically consuming, you just go to sleep unless you have something to do. Then you get up early in the morning energized to accomplish things, exercise, whatever.
Yeah, I do lots of writing in the evening and also a lot of reading. I also go to bed earlier, like Ivan says. Without electronic devices to artificially stimulate your brain, you actually feel sleepier a lot earlier - I go to bed about 10 and wake up at 6 now, where I used to be asleep around midnight usually. And to tell the truth I could probably go to sleep about 9pm because I'm usually sleepy enough then. Most sleep experts will tell you that the TV and electronic devices stave off sleep and I was skeptical about that, but I've discovered it's true.Delete
I have a family so it's a bit different - early to bed, early to rise actually helps a lot with the morning routine and dealing with a small child and her circadian rhythms. Luckily my wife is not a massive TV watcher but if she does want to watch something she just does it on her iPad while I'm reading a book or whatever. But we actually do the bizarre thing of talking to each other quite a lot in the evenings too!
Also, if I'm out at for drinks or at a party or whatever (which is a lot rarer nowadays thanks to parenthood, which is a different story...) I have no difficulty being awake past midnight, so it's not as though it cramps my social life.
I should just add that limiting the TV is really quite a spartan thing to do and probably not for everyone. The really big important changes I would recommend to anyone are to quit social media unless you can justify it for work purposes (but then be strict about only using it for e.g. 30 minutes a day during a defined period), to ditch or severely restrict your use of the smartphone, and to eliminate evening internet use. Doing those things has had huge benefits for my quality of life, which far outweigh the costs.Delete
>But we actually do the bizarre thing of talking to each other quite a lot in the evenings too!Delete
It really is one of the best things to talk to one's wife free from distractions. Especially when you have kids, it's surprising how you get into a rhythm of not doing this. Put the kids to bed, both tired, clean up, watch a movie/dink on phones, call it a night.
This may sound a bit crazy/hokey, but we pretty regularly turn off *all* the lights in the house and sit together at the diningroom table with candles. *No* distractions. It's amazing how you can just talk for a couple of hours and how fulfilling it is compared to scrolling through FB. A fantastic way to spend an evening. A glass of bourbon is a good accompaniment.
As a long time lurker, first time poster, I'd like to first, acknowledge your work. Second, lately, I've been struggling for ways to increase my productivity (as real life demands it) and your rules seems pretty solid, so I'll give a try.ReplyDelete
(sorry for any butchered english)
This is a great post - I've been trying to do something similar for a while, with some success. The biggest gains for me were cutting out social media and news. You don't miss much of any import, and I feel less stressed and hold fewer dumb opinions about inconsequential/ephemeral matters. I appreciate that people whose social groups are online can't just cut out all social media, but it's definitely worth understanding in what ways social media has the potential to affect you, your brain and personality. Jaron Lanier's book "Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now" is a tight little read on this subject.ReplyDelete
I was concerned about the culturally regressive aspect of all this "cutting out", and still am. A good example is #metoo. Whatever anyone thinks of this cultural shift/meme/thing, if you had no access to social media and news, the weight of these cultural changes could pass you by (maybe). Maybe the really important/epochal stuff would still filter through, but with less context and less capacity for empathy with those who *are* more exposed to the debate (regardless of which side they're on).
I was less concerned about regression from a technology/tools perspective, but it's a valid point. There are retirees today who can't use computers, and those who can. It's hard to project forward and imagine which technologies will actually matter in the future, but not using some tools entirely, e.g. smartphones, means developing the heuristics, awareness of design language etc, becomes harder.
I don't know about the "culturally regressive stuff". I didn't miss out on #metoo. It was in the news and people were talking about it. I'm not sure what being "more exposed to the debate" would add to my life and I can think of quite a lot that it would take away.Delete
I do see the point about being to some degree rendered outmoded by advancing technology if you fail to adopt it, but...I don't know, I think I see that as a feature rather than a bug. I think technological advances are robbing us of the things I value in humanity, like community, family, good manners, and humility, and I'd like to preserve them at least for myself and people around me if I can.
Fair points. The reason #metoo jumped to mind was that it was the specific stories people told ( celebs and us normies) that really brought it home to me. I'm not sure I would have been exposed to the detail, all the problematic nuances, if I had relied on top-level news and the occasional post on a blog I already read. I don't think its exposure to the debate per se that's the damaging thing, so much as the way the debate currently manifests itself, especially on social media. Just not sure what to do about it (other that run and hide).Delete
I deactived my facebook account several years ago, and last year finally deleted it for good. Never regretted it :-)ReplyDelete