Grounded by the glare

Collecting the world, not by understanding it but by feeding on the latest stimulus. Smartphones have engineered a collective immunity against boredom.

Play, relaxation, and exploration all take turns scratching on the glass. We are always on and perpetually entertained. The phone never shuts up—the text neck is infectious.

It’s not our fault that we have to resist and embrace distraction in order to stay sane yet connected and get ahead in our lives and careers. We can try to go minimalist or disconnect altogether but that would set us back.

Aware of that rectangular glow but not controlled it, that is all we can ask.

Social Media Tech

The great escape

Peeking at life, three inches from the screen. It’s the possibility that it may show us something captivating that keeps our eyeballs alive. #tech #gif

Peeking at life, three inches from the screen. It’s the possibility that it may show us something captivating that keeps our eyeballs alive.

Even with robotic intervention, we’re glued to that rectangular glow. There’s enough variety in the repetition to keep us hooked.

But what happens when we willfully want to get away?

We struggle to bend our attention back into focus. When a thousand websites and apps are talking to us screaming for clicks, we lose understanding of ourselves.

Consumption drains identities so that we can no longer be ourselves. The physical and psychological spaces are limited, that is until we make the first move to get out.


Leave the phone behind

I have a simple rule: every time I take the dog outside for a walk I leave my phone behind. #gif #tech #addiction

I have a simple rule: every time I take the dog outside for a walk I leave my phone behind. 

I used to take the phone with me wherever I went — even the bathroom. Now when I abandon it, I can literary feel my mind rebuilding itself.

I have a similar approach for my work desk. I deliberately put the phone out of reach so I don’t have the temptation to snag it.

The resistance, of course, is never perfect. I wish I earned a penny every time my eyes get sucked into that rectangular glow.

Resisting the phone by leaving it behind is a win for my head. So grab a leash and take your thoughts for a walk. It’s impossible to connect the dots when your mind is playing the slot machines all day.


We have reached peak screen

The smartphone hypnotizes us into screen glaring addicts.

We have zero control of our attention and it makes us feel like we’re losing our mind. Writes Farhad Manjoo in his piece We Have Reached Peek Screen:

Screens are insatiable. At a cognitive level, they are voracious vampires for your attention, and as soon as you look at one, you are basically toast.

There are studies that bear this out. One, by a team led by Adrian Ward, a marketing professor at the University of Texas’ business school, found that the mere presence of a smartphone within glancing distance can significantly reduce your cognitive capacity. Your phone is so irresistible that when you can see it, you cannot help but spend a lot of otherwise valuable mental energy trying to not look at it.

The companies Apple and Google who got us hooked in the first place are now trying to reduce screen time by outsourcing things like to-do’s to voice assistants like Siri.

If Apple could only improve Siri, its own voice assistant, the Watch and AirPods could combine to make something new: a mobile computer that is not tied to a huge screen, that lets you get stuff done on the go without the danger of being sucked in. Imagine if, instead of tapping endlessly on apps, you could just tell your AirPods, “Make me dinner reservations at 7” or “Check with my wife’s calendar to see when we can have a date night this week.”

That candy-colored rectangular glow is too seductive, a trap that leads into a ludic loop of distraction. It’s about time the tech heads, like car companies did with seat belts, are doing something to preserve our neurological safety.

Psychology Tech

The irony in promoting internet abstinence

The people who argue to resist the internet are its biggest culprits, myself included.

How can something so good become so addictive and bad? Says the author of Irresistible Adam Alter, who openly admits his own email obsession:

“We’re biologically prone to getting hooked on these sorts of experiences. If you put someone in front of a slot machine, their brain will look qualitatively the same as when they take heroin.”

In promoting abstinence, the anti-internet promoters are really trying to help themselves. Writing or speaking about the resistance, are tools for coping.

If sitting is the new smoking, technology is like binging on alcohol. The New York Times op-ed columnist Ross Douthat proposes that schools should prohibit computers from schools, saying “let them play in the real before they’re enveloped by the virtual.”

Like everything else, screen time needs to be moderated. Until then, writing about web addiction seems to be in contradiction with the practice of publishing it — we can’t upload our work without signing in online; in the same way, we can’t take a picture or pay for a cup of coffee without pulling our phones. Smartphones are the ultimate convergence machine, and we are its slaves, using expression as self-help.

Social Media

Throw Instagram into the Ocean

My friend Carter Moore deleted his Instagram account.

“I never really considered the long-term impact and influence it had on my life…”

I would do the same and delete my account once and for all but I’ve come up with an alternative solution that allows you to keep the account but level out the addiction.

Instagram is designed to be a sticky experience. Even with notifications turned off, it still shows those dopamine-producing hearts every time you log in. It’s hard to resist the temptation of identifying your likers or new followers. People also blame Instagram for the explosion of photo-sharing, arguing that Instagram is ruining photography. Perhaps Instagram is the scapegoat for much larger frustrations with our digital behavior.

Anyway, here’s a way to keep using Instagram without deleting your account while still enjoying the process of photography, the art of noticing, which is really what Instagram should be about.

Delete the Instagram app from your phone after you’re done publishing. Redownload it only when you need it to publish again.

That’s it! And it goes a long way, not only preventing you from checking in to catch flying hearts but also will omit excessive scrolling.

This process may be inconvenient, but it works.

In summary: Download Instagram, log-in via Facebook, scan the first five photos in your feed (optional), upload your new photo, delete Instagram, and get on with your life.

Don’t itch the scratch by keeping Instagram on your phone. Note: this same process can be applied to other apps including Twitter, Facebook, or Amazon, all which I only try to use on a desktop computer where I spend less time.

If you’re still struggling with this proposed workaround, you can always do what Austin Kleon suggests to get more reading done: “throw your phone into the ocean.” Or you can just delete your Instagram profile and call it a day.


Off the Grid

The Internet is best used in spurts. You really only need it a few times a day, to social network, to answer emails, to publish blog posts, and to search.
But the Internet is like water. We consume it more than we need to. It’s an escape goat for boredom.

At the same time, the Internet is indispensable. You can’t live without it in the United States since so many people depend on it to communicate. BUT you can get away without needing the Internet in some parts of the world like the small Turkish town I’m in now. Most people here just call and text each other. Ideally, they converse face to face. It’s where we were nearly a decade ago.

The digital divide will inevitably narrow. The Turks here will have access to the same ubiquitous high speed Internet we do in a couple years. And someday they’ll too fight the urge to disconnect.

The Internet is an amazing tool, the new railroad. But this trip once again reminds me that everything is best used in moderation.

We don’t need the Internet as an excuse to get stuff done. We should just make an effort to turn it off like a faucet and live in the moment every once in a while.


Tunnel Vision

Losing cell reception in the Grand Central tunnel is liberating. One can dive into their own thoughts for about seven minutes without being interrupted by a push messages, SMS, or calls.

Yet there’s always a few passengers though poking their browser’s refresh button trying to force a single bar of reception.

Internet connectivity is like water, free and accessible everywhere. We can drink a lot of it, all day, but only so much as our body permits. Remove it completely and we die.

The Internet works the same way. Turning off the Internet makes you appreciate it more. We should be thankful when we’re forced to disconnect.

The Internet is the modern day railroad, a massive transformation in the way we communicate and get stuff done. Creation, distribution, marketing, and disruption literally sit in the palm of your hand.

But we still need more tunnels, more opportunities to unmoor from the anchors of technology so we can recharge and appreciate its power. We need to use the Internet judiciously.

Technology is always on. Our brains require sleep to rewire. Take a break every once in a while. It’s ok to be thirsty.


Is Your iPhone Turning You Into a Wimp?

Americans spend an average of 58 minutes per day on their smartphones, according to a recent report from Experian Marketing Services. Talking accounts for only 26 percent of that time. The other 73 percent is devoted to texting, e-mail, social networking, and web-surfing – in other words, activities spent hunched over a little screen. (Usage varies according to the type of smartphone: iPhone users spend an average of one hour and 15 minutes with their phones each day, with only 22 percent of that time devoted to talking.)

Poor body posture “weakens your will,” especially for iPhone users. 


A Trip to Camp to Break a Tech Addiction
A Trip to Camp to Break a Tech Addiction