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Quit Social Media, Your Career May Depend on It (nytimes.com)
1131 points by shill on Nov 20, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 548 comments

This part really resonated with me:

> Consider that the ability to concentrate without distraction on hard tasks is becoming increasingly valuable in an increasingly complicated economy. Social media weakens this skill because it’s engineered to be addictive. The more you use social media in the way it’s designed to be used — persistently throughout your waking hours — the more your brain learns to crave a quick hit of stimulus at the slightest hint of boredom.

I've recently been finding it really hard to concentrate on my work and I genuinely think this might be the reason. I find myself compulsively opening twitter and tumblr and scrolling through for ages before realising that literally none of it is interesting. I'm just scrolling past brightly coloured images and auto-playing videos while completely distracted and detached from the real world.

I agree with the sentiment elsewhere in these comments that the solution isn't to completely delete your accounts (I think they can have some value when used in moderation), but rather to change the way I use them. Maybe deleting the native apps and using the webapps will raise the barrier to entry high enough that I'll only use them when there's actually something I want to do on them.

As for Facebook, I deleted that a few months ago and my quality of life instantly increased.

> I've recently been finding it really hard to concentrate on my work

I've overcome my Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter problems, but I can't seem to shake Hacker News.

Same here. HN is addictive, but also insanely useful in some cases which makes it hard to leave like any other mentioned site there.

I literally owe many of my succesful professional decisions to researches that initally started here. I find some interesting article, read the comments first, then the article, then the comments again. In the middle of this flow, I decide whether it is worthy to save to my Pocket account. Those things in my Pocket quite often become kickstarters for things that I eventually adopt using or learning. I see no way of giving up such opportunity. Why would anyone do that? (That is a serious question that I really wish there exists a convincing answer)

Have you checked if the articles in your Pocket share something, for example upvotes or number of comments? Because then you could browse the top posts only once per week. Either via Hckrnews [1] or use the curated Hacker Newsletter [2].

[1]: http://hckrnews.com/

[2]: http://www.hackernewsletter.com/

Thanks for mentioning Hacker Newsletter! I hear from several subscribers a week (currently have almost 40k) that mention it has helped them cure/control their HN addiction. :)

I'm getting an access denied error when trying to subscribe

Sorry to hear that. It seems to be working fine based on the couple hundred others that have signed up this evening, so maybe try again? If that doesn't work, hit me up via email (listed in my profile) and I'll see what I can do!

Problem for me: the most popular ones are usually the least interesting ones. To get to the actual hacking and critical thinking I usually have to wade through through first page business talk and VC news, or get my hands dirty in the "new" section.

This doesn't help because the rush comes from typing and news.ycombinator.com looking for getting early into stories that are trending! :)

I'm subscribed through HNDigest http://hndigest.com

Just enough distraction for my work day.

Hacker News is actually a high quality medium and I God it pretty information dense. Facebook, on the other hand, gives me lots of videos of stuff that is utterly useless, and often just makes you feel angry about the world. I'm using it less and less.

Twitter I don't use at all. I don't even read it.

Twitter really depends on who you follow. I don't follow friends, but thought leaders I respect. I get r of the best ideas and all my news from there

One thing that HN has done is make my comments look ridiculous when I type them out on an iPhone.

I use the Panda extension for Chrome in part to keep track of what's trending on HN each day. If something piques my interest I'll usually check it out when I want to take a short break from work. This is a simple rule that helps limit how frequently I click through and I've found it to be very effective.

How much does it cost to go pro on (Panda)? I couldn't find out without kind of "going through".

I don't have a clue! I just use the free version of their extension.

I utilize their 2-feed layout option with HN (set to "Trending" posts) on the left and "visual inspiration" sites on the right (default is Dribbble, but I have Lapa, ffffound, Design Inspiration, etc. in the list, too).

I'm trying to use HN & reddit mostly as a pull-based source of information, instead of something that pushes an endless stream of things into my brain and needs to be followed constantly.

It's quite simple, when I'm looking for something, I do a google-based site-specific search to HN. I often find very old threads with really good value.

I still follow things every few days to stay on top of trends. I haven't discovered how to catch up with those without frequent visits, though. Perhaps the solution lies in NLP summary technology.

As someone else recently pointed out, you do know there is an awesome instant search feature right here on hn, https://hn.algolia.com. Don't need to power up The Google.

Thanks, I didn't know.

You've just given a good justification for staying up to date with trade news.

I've recently made a Zapier 'zap' that sends me a daily digest of @newsyc100 by e-mail. I realised that that account was the biggest reason I was still scrolling through my Twitter feed all the time. Ever since I've only checked Twitter once every few days, when I explicitly wanted to.

In the case of Facebook I found that just removing it from my bookmarks bar helped loads. Prevents me from just clicking on it half-dazed and starting to scroll.

Same here. Although I never got pulled in by Facebook and only a little with Twitter, I did with Reddit and especially Hacker News.

HN is the one where I find myself checking several times/day and I constantly have 20+ HN tabs. The pattern is something like this:

1) "Oh, interesting topic!"

2) Open in a tab

3) Read existing comments & the link (I don't always do the latter, admittedly)

4) Come back N hours later, read new comments

5) Repeat #4 over a day or two

6) Close tab unless I haven't read the link yet. If I haven't, then they tend to stick around until I do or send it off into OneTab for ultimate procrastination.

I follow a very similar pattern here on HN. One thing I've been thinking about lately is that I always read the comments first and only sometimes visit the link. The links act as topics that allow for discussion more than an end/reward in and of themselves (like on reddit for example). I'm always interested in hearing domain expertise, anecdotes, opinions, etc from the HN crowd which is, admittedly, much different than my active social circle.

Spot on. That's a good way of looking at it - that the links act as topics. The comments are definitely the main value proposition (and addiction) for me.

This was true with Slashdot as well, now that I think about it. Back in the day it had the same draw for the same reasons. Though I think HN is a better version, since it doesn't have a few editors driving it like /. did, which was often frustrating.

I don't think I'm as addicted to HN. I use to be pretty bad with facebook and ...oh god..sigh..myspace..but I think there was a point sometime in 2009 where I just felt my use had to be curtailed. Reddit naturally replaced facebook and I was pretty addicted to that as well. Reddit was probably the most difficult to curtail mainly because as I was earning my phd I belonged to some subs on the specific topics I was studying and found the stuff being posted to be relative to what I was studying. Post-PhD and what not, I use a new account there and don't really post much. I prefer to check in later in the day along with HN to catch some of the interesting reads and read up on the responses in the comments. But usually that's only after I've taken my lunesta and am winding down for bed.

I think all SM has good and bad parts. It's all addictive to some degree or another or it wouldn't be widely used. I think the addiction in hn is not the articles but the comments

> I think all SM has good and bad parts.

Correct. But like Professor Ted Kaczynski stated in his "Technology Manifesto"

> The bad parts of technology cannot be separated from the good parts.

This here is pretty much applicable to everything online, not just SM. Example: FaceBook and Twitter are used to organize protests, break news, reconnect with lost loved ones. The same technology sites are also used to recruit terr_ists, phish and spam seniors and unsuspecting people, troll and commit felony crimes etc...

I have replaced (2) with Shift-Click, which is Add to Reading List on a story link in Safari. It works better to preserve attention for me. I end up not reading 90%+ of what sounded interesting from the front page on first glance.

Similar pattern but on mobile. Now chrome doesn't bother with the tab count, just a ':D'

If I'm honest, I'm exactly the same: I'm on HN right now to avoid my matlab coursework. While HN doesn't feel like it's designed for distraction in the same way FB and Twitter are, it does seem to have the same effect: there's a reliable, constant stream of content that's vaguely stimulating. I think this is the combination that's so addictive. It feels as though your brain enters a lower energy state where content is being fed into it with minimum effort. Something about the lack of required energy to find and consume content seems to be what makes it powerful.

HN also has the noprocrast settings. I've set the parameters to enforce an optional habit of reading HN once a day (usually after work). It works quite well.


For this reason, I always end up reading HN and Reddit after work. I'm usually mentally exhausted and need half an hour or so of nothing mentally taxing to recover. I imagine other things might fill this role for different people.

I can relate to that and part of it is probably because we don't want to be left out, we don't want to miss the latest technology that will make us obsolete, etc.

1) Reading HN all the time creates a false sense that things are moving much faster than they really are.

2) I'd suggesting reading "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck" and it'll remind you your time is finite


Absolutely no need to buy the book. Just read his original blog post that is more or less a TLDR; version of this bloated Amazon book. It made a huge difference in my work life. Everytime I found myself in a dumb user or arrogant dev or inept manager type situation (in meetings or emails or face-2-face), I would think back to this blog post and instantly feel better.

Mark Manson "THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F_CK" (12 minute read) => https://markmanson.net/not-giving-a-fuck

Thanks for the TLDR!

I couldn't help but see an irony in the Amazon description for this book considering the subject being discussed :)

"In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be "positive" all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people."

That being said this looks interesting and I am going to give this a read. Thanks for the tip!

Indeed. The book is really good in the first half. The second half is a mishmash of common sense advice, but I still found it useful.

The art of not giving a fuck link was actually pretty good read

Also may give the false impression that you are becoming smarter though contact with constant flow of info

I've blocked HN in my /etc/hosts on my laptop. I also recently blocked it on my phone. I can still read it in a VM on my laptop but at least I have to make a conscious decision to view it where as before I blocked them I'd literally type `n` and chrome would auto complete to `news.ycombinator.com` and I'd be 20-30 minutes in before I realized I never consciously decided to start reading.

I have similar problems with the net in general. This happens to me all too often. I decide to do something like take a shower. I walk to the shower and turn it on letting it heat up. I remember something that I want to remind myself to do. I walk over to the computer to type in a reminder. Before I even start typing the reminder something on the screen distracts me. 5-15 minutes go by. I go back to the shower and just before getting in I realize I never typed the reminder. So, I walk over to the computer to type the reminder and the same thing happens again. This type of thing has happened on more than one occasion. For example I'm walking out of the house, at the door I remember something tiny I want to do on the computer (send a mail, write a reminder, ...) same things happen as above.

To me, this loss of control looks like a very classic addiction pattern. As a suggestion, try to get in touch with a Internet/computer addiction specialist.

Not sure why the downvotes. It was an opinion, and actually not a disinformed one due to experience in my circle of friends. I did not want to sounds paternalistic in any way.

Thank you for the concern. You might be right. I guess I assume addition means I can't go without without withdrawals but I know I can go without just fine (long vacations) etc.. so at least at the moment I just look at it as being distracted easily (like a child ;P)

Your welcome. I just thought I give a comment - does not hurt, after all. As you mentioned, if you accomplish your life goals as planned there should not be reason to worry.

I have the same problem. I found editing my hosts files helps. news.ycombinator.com
When or if I try to go to HN I get an error in my browser and instantly reminded. Then I get back to work. One time I went 6 months without visiting HN.

HN offers this functionality itself. Go to your profile, enable 'noprocrast' and customize the intervals.

Didn't know this. Thanks a ton for this. Awesome I just enabled it.

Oh funny thing I found I was wrong about showdead setting there... I had assumed if I wanted myself to be declared dead/offline I could set my profile to show dead.. lol

> Oh funny thing I found I was wrong about showdead setting there... I had assumed if I wanted myself to be declared dead/offline I could set my profile to show dead.. lol

What's its functionality?

It shows posts from dead users, those who have been silently banned and still post.


When showdead is on, you see killed comments. Mostly spam and trolls. Only recommended for moderators.

Everyone's a moderator after gaining a bit of karma, since you can update and vouch for comments. It seems to be getting better, but there's still a few people getting hellbanned by what I can only consider a mistake.

Is it useful to report these potential mistakes? I have showdead on, and quite often I'll see decent comments. When I look at the user's history, sometimes there will be over 1000 karma for that user, decent posting record, and then at some point you see all their comments as dead (with no obvious troll comments that could have triggered it).

I wouldn't mind reporting on these, or vouching for the good ones, but it would be nice to have a channel where I could get feedback -- such as "this use was banned for reason xyz on these 10 comments".

> Is it useful to report these potential mistakes?

The "vouch" feature was recently added exactly for the purpose of correcting those mistakes as we spot them - so I'd say it is useful. Moderators are just people and have finite time too.

For individual submissions/comments there is always the "vouch" button. And the mods have been extremely friendly when I've mailed them about what looked to me like a new user which got caught in a spam filter by accident (which was then fixed, and the user asked to resubmit their "lost" submission)

showdead can also be be useful if you're new to participating so you can see what types of comments get banned and determine what the community generally finds unacceptable.

Just set it to 20min visit, 8640min break. My goal is to just read /beat and /bestcomments. Won't be able to comment myself very well this way though. Wish me luck :)

You mean /best instead of /beat?

This only works if I am logged in though. Thanks for pointing it out though as I completely forgot about it.

I had a little cron job that swapped in a hosts file with entries like that at 8 am and then swapped it back out at 5 pm. Helped me break the habit of going on reddit during downtime during work hours.

I wish, I could do that with reddit, but I reddit isn't just for news and trending shit. For many things I am trying to find a reddit discussion first.

I can only block the whole domain, right?

I imagine a proxy with a whitelist/blacklist setup should be easy to throw together in quick fashion, then set your browser to use that. TLS sites become a little more problematic, unless you feel like MITM'ing your traffic there as well.

I imagine there is some software where you can block the entire domain but whitelist certain subreddits - I do not think the hosts file affords that level of granularity however.

Avoiding HN entirely doesn't really solve the problem though.

The problem with hn is that it's likely to get past your primary defenses and justify itself by telling you the information provided is useful and relevant. Also, the conversations are likely to engage you at a higher level and the many of the arguments require laying out your case like a legal team to be taken seriously.

It is useful and relevant. However, just because something is good for you doesn't mean it can't be used as a distraction from another task.

Absolutely. There are lots of good, interesting, and useful things to spend time on, but that doesn't mean they are always the right use of my time right now.

That's exactly the problem. If I'm in "work mode" I'm after the thrill of tackling a meaty challenge. Then I don't procrastinate. But when I'm dealing with some tedious dependency hell/build glitches/other slow boring BS, I go looking for my intellectual thrill and before I know it, hello HN.

No argument here, hence my constaclicking.

The actual inventor of Hacker News, Paul Graham, hasn't commented for over a year:


Considering that he was very very active on HN in the past (karma 155077), I wonder what his reasoning is to cut back?

He was active, but the reason his karma is so high is that everyone has an upvote spasm when they see PG comment.

He has small kids. I stopped being active for a few years when my kids were born. It's natural.

Well, the quality of the discussions on HN have taken a dive dramatically since about a year and a half. So maybe he just doesn't feel theres much to comment these days.

From my perspective, from a very humble position, the content on this site seems to skew toward the "harder" science problems lately, a far cry from when 5 out of the top 10 stories were RoR related and many other stories were related to pushing CSS and JS to the extreme with a smattering of stories about startups and people hitting it big or failing.

I think we have since learned about the influence of survivor bias, that you can really accomplish the same things in any programming language and that since YC itself is now focusing on larger problems, some with sociological and political leanings, that it is best to move on from looking at things at the code level and instead look at the bigger picture.

A year and a half? Hmm, I think that's about the time I've been more active on HN. Sorry about that.

People have been saying that for the entire 6 years I've been reading HN.

Perhaps that is because it has been declining for the entire 6 year period.

If you fit the curve, HN was perfect about 14 months before it was created.

Those were the days!

Isn't that true of all software?

Concern over the decline of HN reached a head ~5.5 years ago.

Has it? I've seen comments such as this for a few years now, but I didn't notice the decline myself.

Some of the political arguments would -never- have been tolerated in the early years. Users and moderators would have quickly suppressed them...but they seem to have infested the forum since then.

100 times this. There needs to be a coordinated effort to stamp out all political material on HN so we can focus on actual Hacker News and not the Silicon Valley political sphere.

I was away for awhile...came back and was shocked at the level of political bickering and posts that were allowed to stay. A lot of the old members have moved on, it's a different place these days. Such is life.

Forums tend to become fragmented over time because as the number of active users increases, the diversity of the opinions of the community increases. Such increased diversity results in an increase in opposing viewpoints, which drives users away and increases the frequency of political in-fighting.

There are no moderation tools at present which can prevent this sort of in-fighting with blatant censorship.

In the absence of such tools, the only viable solution is a fragmentation of the community. This is most apparent to HN readers with the rise of lobste.rs

I think around the election it was pretty political, and some of the discussion was pretty, uh, heated. It's calmed down again.

They said that a year and a half ago.

I would wager that he wanted to distance himself from the increasingly negative / toxic "community".

Hacker News isn't social networking. Look, you have no friend list. No private message box. No feeds are pouring into your account. If you post something inane, you're punished by anonymous strangers.

Not quite. It's mostly not social media but there are similarities. There's a friends list here for sure where certain topics or people attract either similar or the same people. A small community effect happens there in the sub-threads. There's no private messaging but anyone posting an email or contact option will get messages if their posts are worthwhile. Anyone with HN Replies commenting a lot will have a pile of posts in their inbox on topics of interest. The last requirement mostly doesn't apply to decent members of the community but the sketchy ones dodge with with throwaways on a regular basis.

So, a bit closer to underlying mechanics of social networking in practice than it would seem on surface. Enough to get a similar participation high. That's on top of the knowledge expansion we use to justify the other high coming from the fact that we just enjoy reading this stuff. ;)

An I alone in never looking at usernames? I only read the content of each comment. I only look at the username to track a back-and-forth between two users and even then it's pretty much an opaque token to me. Might as well be a random string.

Your unconscious mind will see them. I don't know how much effect that has. I did consider helping people eliminate bias by creating a HN client that replaces the names with random ones on a per-thread basis. Any replies get substituted with real name when sent to actual site. Also some filtering options.

It is a sorta social networking though. A pull instead of push one, yes, but you do have feeds for people. Also, I recognize you and 'nickpsecurity by names already, by the very virtue of being a frequent visitor (and commenter), so it's not like totally anonymous - you get to talk to the same people over many discussion threads :).

Here's a friendly reminder that the "noprocrast" options in your profile exist. From the FAQ at https://news.ycombinator.com/newsfaq.html:

> If you turn it on you'll only be allowed to visit the site for maxvisit minutes at a time, with gaps of minaway minutes in between. The defaults are 20 and 180, which would let you view the site for 20 minutes at a time, and then not allow you back in for 3 hours.

You can set it to something more extreme, like maxvisit=60 minaway=720, and then it'll only allow you a one-hour session every twelve hours, which in practice usually means you can only go here once per day. Doing this turns HN from a distraction to something you have to consciously choose to visit.

It worked for me, until I got a smartphone ;)

I just simply changed my bookmarks to point to https://news.ycombinator.com/over?points=280 - which gets shaken up by a couple of new stories per day, but doesn't actually change enough to justify visiting every hour.

It's not impossible. I went from a hourly checker to only checking it twice a week. You just need to practice self control and realize most tech news aren't interesting or useful to know.

Interested to know how long your twice a week sessions are and how far you go back in the pages? I come twice a day for 10 mins and then once a week going back to article 90. Total time for the week is just under 3 hours, but I feel I've learned something.

About half an hour on Sunday mornings and 10~ mins the second session, but I'm slowly making that as close to 0 as possible.

One thing that's helping is Lobsters. Lobsters is super slow so if I do make a full switch from HN to that I only need to check it a handful of times a week.

But to me, it's not so much about how much time I spend on the time but rather the why. I simply don't get as much value out of HN as I think I do. Most news are irrelevant and unimportant, and I haven't really learned anything too insightful like others said they have (sadly). Simply put, tech news boards apparently just aren't for me.

What is Lobsters? I'm curious about the thing that's helped you wean yourself off tech news, but googling it hasn't helped.

I'm on both. HN has a more diverse community and array of content. There's just a ton of stuff on here. That can up the noise for many people but one must simply filter it in their head more effectively. I only click on a few links on the front page with occasionally looking at New and 2nd-3rd pages to see if readers and I would benefit from me bumping one up.

Now, Lobste.rs is different. They're a small community with a narrower focus on mostly tech stuff. They have relatively low noise with a preference for deeper insight on tech. You'll see more writeups on algorithms than product releases for instance. They also have an open-source website and open moderation log. A bit radical on occasion like where owner JCS just got rid of downvotes to experiment if upvote-only would keep quality without total censorship.

Definitely check out the articles over there on top of the ones here. The comments especially as people often say something there that someone here overlooked or vice versa.

Most forums ban obvious spam - viagra, porn, etc. But HN bans people for being overly critical, for not agreeing with the groupthink, or perhaps not having enough tact or politeness.

That's not true. I don't like to leave such statements unanswered—the community has a right to know that we don't do these things.

It would be helpful to see the specific links that you're basing this view on, so we could clear them up.

Maybe they did in the past. I haven't seen it since I've been here. The bans I saw made sense. I countered it with detail on Barnacl.es:


If someone has an invite, may I have one? No worries if not. (Sorry for the off-topic spam.)

I can no longer edit my post, but wanted to comment that I just received an invite. Thanks! :)

Sent. If anyone else needs one, ping me @GuiAmbros.


It's dangerous to go alone. Take this: https://news.ycombinator.com/best

It's hilarious that HN conflates popularity with "best".

So even at HN, the most addictive content is considered to have the highest value. Seems…topical.

The way this usually works, at least in comment threads, is that usually upvotes end up being stronger than downvotes. So the most popular thought in the community ends up at the top of the page... and then usually, the most popular counter-argument is its highest child.

It's interesting to see HN debate itself. The asymmetrical karma allocation can be a really interesting factor.

The name of that page goes back close to ten years, when HN was created. That was a time when lots of people had more faith in social forum upvoting than they/we do now.

Hi dang, I could swear I once saw a list of front pages with different algos, but now I can't find it for the life of me. Also, is there a "most commented" or "controversial" page?

It may also be a question of how you use sites like HN. I've found that this site is useful for learning when I simply click on the headlines and ignore the comments. Yes, the comments are informative. On the other hand, I have found that reading comments is a behaviour that I have adopted to procratinate (rather than to gain deeper insight).

I primarily visit HN for the comments. My usage is as follows:

1. Scan headlines for a topic I'm interested in, say, geometric algebra.

2. Rapidly scan the comments for people linking to other media (books, blog posts, libraries, etc.) that are related to geometric algebra.

I get vastly superior pointers to useful material this way than any other approach I've tried, and I'm extremely good at research anyway.

I use Google/FB just for the IM. I rarely ever read status updates.

But when I get frustrated on a problem or am knee deep in technical debt, you can be I'll flip over to Hacker News.

I have quit FB a few times but the reality is that FB Messenger is the main IM platform for many because it works so well going from mobile and computer. I don't use or care for any other features of Facebook.

I also don't bother with Twitter anymore. I still have an account but don't ever open it. Instagram and Snapchat are rather boring for me also.

So while I like social I don't really care for the media.

You can use FB messenger even after deactivating your FB account. But there are still things that can cause you to reactivate your account e.g. accessing two factor settings.

Hacker News doesn't have the churn that means other news sites are always different when you visit them...perhaps you could call that a downside, but I actually really like that aspect.

Worryingly, every time I've checked the admin news updates threads on Reddit, users are complaining that the front page changes too slowly. It does only seem to update about once a day.

The comments are seriously addictive; I wish there was a way to hide 90% of them to make it easier to stop reading.

It barely works but the reason I built www.sagebump.com was not be distracted by a need to visit different social media sites. It also condenses the best to only a handful, so in theory one would only need to spend around 15 mins to get the best of ones own custom feeds, then spend the rest of the day coding. I have only posted this as I believe it is relevant otherwise let me know and I will remove this post. Thanks.

This has been me for ever so long. Started with /. , with me to this day in the guise of HN and others. The slightest cognitive lull then muscle memory and habit brings me back to the tech news feed.

I'm making an AI to recommend articles so you can check it once a day or get email alerts for ones you want to comment on. Downside is you have to train it.

Will it be able to do something like "send me articles about Ruby on Rails, but only if the author hates Rails"? :)

How far are you? Beta site link?

It may seem trivial, but during the US primary season I had to modify my /etc/hosts file to block several political sites for my own sanity.

Yes, I can very easily `sudo vi /etc/hosts` to undo, but I never did.

Helps that I could really pull it up on my iPhone if I needed, but this way I could focus when I needed to, and if I was on my mobile I was clearly doing other stuff.

HN is problematic because signal/noise ratio is relatively high.

My old strategy for this involved a cronjob to update my host file every five minutes, so I could edit the file and read for a few minutes when I legitimately was waiting on something to compile, but would get yanked away from the browser black hole and back to work in a reasonable amount of time.

Then I got a better job, and now I feel a lot less compulsion to sit and read the internet.

You might try setting the noprocrast flag in your profile. By default, after 20 minutes it'll enforce a 3-hour break.

I only visit https://news.ycombinator.com/best . The articles there don't change every time you press F5.

I use https://freedom.to/ to block HN on my phone and laptop when I need to.

What I found is that blocking completely works less than just delaying the page for a bit with something like https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/waitblock/kcnjfepp...

That way I have enough time to think and question whether I really want to open the page I was about to open, and I don't disable the whole thing if I actually need to visit it.

Thanks for the recommendation, but why is it a subscription service? Does it work like a vpn or something where they host servers to support this kind of traffic blocking?

Ya, that's how they are able to block websites on your phone. You go through their VPN.

+1 - Deleted everything else but HN is sooo good and I can trick myself into it being relevant because it's mostly about the future. :\

Helpfully providing us with an example of survivor bias, though!

I've rationalized somehow that HN is okay because the content is relevant, insightful, etc.

> I've recently been finding it really hard to concentrate on my work and I genuinely think this might be the reason. I find myself compulsively opening twitter and tumblr and scrolling through for ages before realising that literally none of it is interesting. I'm just scrolling past brightly coloured images and auto-playing videos while completely distracted and detached from the real world.

I recently solved this problem, yes 'solved' and it worked from day one. Thanks to Cal Newport's ideas.

The trick was this (YMMV, but I believe you sound exactly like me):

Imagine your mind like your desk. Every morning it's empty. (Usually) You wake up you load it up with all sorts of crap to entertain yourself, social media, Reddit, hacker news etc, etc.

By the time you get to work, there is no place to put work stuff on that desk. You try to put work stuff on it, but pretty much the whole desk is filled with Twitter/Tumblr/Facebook shit. So even if you make some space for the work stuff, sooner or later you focus on Tumblr again. Work stuff gets pushed out.

Generally in my case, by 2PM I manage to clear out all the distracting stuff and get focused.

The solution was this: BORE YOURSELF at every available opportunity.

When I start my morning, I refused to pick up my phone and check out social media (usually I would take a 45 minute dump just catching up on stuff posted last night). Sure my morning chores became a bit boring, but I also became more efficient (I started getting to work sooner).

Basically, by the time I get to my desk, I am so bored that the most interesting thing I can do is work. And my work (programming) is a very interesting task, it used to keep me engaged for hours and hours, it's just that Social Media defeated it.

I do check social media. I check it around 2PM after my standup. That 'impulsive' desire to constantly check it is gone. I catch up on all the social media in the evening or at night (but it doesn't create that compulsive pattern anymore.

End result: My productivity has gone up by 5-6 times. I have a performance enhancement story to work on and I managed to fix 6-7 bugs I found during my work, and it turns out that it was a whole team's sprint's work.

A year or so ago I read "The World Beyond Your Head"[0] which also tackles the questions "Where do we direct our attention and why?" Ever since then I've become acutely aware of where I choose to focus my concentration and why.

It's exceedingly difficult to take charge of one's moment-to-moment experience of the world, but in those rare instances when I achieve it it's very rewarding.


A couple years ago, I gave up using my cell phone while on the toilet for Lent. It was surprisingly one of the toughest habits I've ever had to break.

Great story, I like his book as well, but since I suck at putting ideas to work, they are only text for me :(

One thing that I haven't seen anyone commenting is that nowadays Facebook becomes the place where you test ads, write content, become an expert, and get clients... so many folks can't just quit. Heck, I still want to get started on it...

But maybe carrying a dumb phone during the day and coming back to the smartphone during the night is a way to try unplugging for a couple hours.

Facebook's a problem, but aren't there plenty of other things online and on your phone that are just as distracting?

For example, I waste at least 2 hours a day on the weekend on HN. I learn a little bit, but not as much as if I had been actively trying to learn a new technology or topic. Also on HN, I get frustrated with others' responses, so it affects me mentally as well. If anything is engineered to be addictive for those in tech, it's HN.

Also, news. I can read news sites for hours. Constantly going back to the same headlines, waiting for something new.

And games. I have a handful of games I'll waste time on.

And deal websites. I want to save money.

The only way to stop all of it? Stop using my phone and computer.

Also TV series. They have taken over movies (and other activities like reading).

In fact, most of them are mostly not series any more: they are serials. That's infinitely more addictive.

In a series you can watch a random episode, almost or fully independent from the other ones (so you don't care so much about missing one episode now and then), that has an introduction, a progression and a conclusion. The continuous background is weak, sometimes almost non-existent, just to give a little bit of matter to the characters.

In a serial, you cannot miss an episode because it's just one long story cut in chapters, and the episode theme is more and more secondary nowadays. When you start a serial, you're hooked, you need to see all episode to be able to follow (and even if you happen to get bored, you want to finish the season to know the final word). Also, instead of cooling down after the climax as in a series, each episode ends with a cliffhanger ; that means your consumption becomes compulsive, you want another episode right away, or as soon as possible.

In fact every 'cultural' production nowadays aims at binge consumption and is tailored for this unique purpose.

Yes, Netflix is really very addictive. And sometimes peer pressure puts on you an expectation to be always 'on'/watching something or the other. The best solution is, of course, to read the Wikipedia plotline of the series in 5 minutes and save yourself tens of hours in the future.

>I agree with the sentiment elsewhere in these comments that the solution isn't to completely delete your accounts (I think they can have some value when used in moderation)

If social media really is addictive, then moderation might not work. Most alcoholics aren't capable of having just one drink, most smokers aren't capable of having just one cigarette. Absolute prohibitions are cognitively much easier than moderation.

But most people are not alcoholics, and are capable of having an occasional drink. Social media could also be like that.

One reason I do not wish to close my Facebook account is for the groups and events. Facebook Timeline is not something I look at daily, but rather once or twice a week, to find upcoming events I might be interested in, particularly ones in which people I know have already expressed an interest.

When being on Facebook becomes an activity in itself, then I think it becomes problematic.

Facebook has an events app that cuts timeline and profiles and pages. Deleting the main app for this totally isolated that usefulness for me.

You may find this article interesting that criticizes the abstinence-based approach of Alcoholics Anonymous. Research has shown that cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing and medication to control withdrawal symptoms is more effective for a large population than absolute prohibition. In fact, I wonder if there are medications that address withdrawal symptoms from social media?


I'd have to wonder how medication plus prohibition would work. AA is more than simple prohibition though. It's a program to help people come to grips with the negative impact addiction has had on their lives while helping them to work to clean up the mistakes. I think it's harder to measure the impact vs sheer statistics because people often talk about hitting rock bottom before they go to AA. Rock bottom usually means your life is at a point where it's broken, you are broken, relationships are broken and you feel like you can't ever be forgiven for what you've done.

AA helps you rebuild your life. It's a whole lot more than just coping with addiction.

At some point over the last couple of years AA started coming under attack for some inexplicable reason. There's a lot more to it than just statistics.

Most likely a reaction to how dominant AA recovery programs are for those without means to afford one-on-one counseling combined with the religious overtones.

Thanks for sharing that article. We just covered moderation approaches in one of my clinical psych courses and they really can be very effective.

One interesting finding is that the sense of self-efficacy gained through moderation makes dealing with relapses or setbacks easier when compared to the all or nothing approaches.

The weirdest thing about AA, to me, is that it is supposed to be about not letting alcohol control your life, but then it prescribes that you devote every free waking minute to thinking about not thinking about alcohol.

I met a number of people that had just traded one addiction for another. They were AA-meeting-addicts.

I've had great success with using https://freedom.to/ to block social media from my phone and laptop during periods of time when I want to focus.

Actually I've found that by setting up a blocker on my devices that I can toggle on and off at will is enough.

When I start the workday, I toggle it on, and every time I try to load my social stuff (HN included) it puts up a big red warning.

I found that the majority of my wasted time was because I impulsively opened a tab to somewhere during like 10 seconds of downtime while waiting for something. And having this little block in place stopped it in its tracks.

Will you share what you're using as a blocker and on which device?

It's an extension for chrome that I'm using, as I tend to not have a problem with my phone during work.

I'm not near my PC to be able to say which one exactly, but there are several made specifically for this kind of thing.

Agreed. I use rescue time and it has a feature to block distracting sites. Very helpful to train yourself to stop being distracted.

But "social" was the whole mantra of business, a decade or two ago. Still is... "open space!"

We are all going to "collaborate" endlessly into ever higher heights of achievement.

"Social" was being integrated, per force, into the workforce.

And... real productivity dropped, and people became stressed out.

Facebook et al. aren't at odds with the contemporary corporate workplace. They just exemplify what a crap policy it is.

Imagine being forced to be on Facebook 8, 10, 12 hours a day, while trying to actually accomplish something. That's what much of the contemporary workplace has become at major corporations with which I'm familiar.

Am I bitter? A little... more than. Because they kept telling my my trouble concentrating in such environments was my fault.

Whatever you think of social media, such workplaces have not earned the right to express any opinion on the matter.

A couple of companies I have worked for have tried company social networking e.g. with Yammer or Tibbr. It doesn't work because companies are fundamentally not social. Like, am I suppose to follow my manager, and his manager, and her manager? Do I have to "like" what they say even if I know it's complete nonsense? Will it be noticed if I'm the only one that doesn't? Can I ever post an honest status, or comment on anything? Is my "friends" list being used to judge me? Does my "engagement" with this project, which was mandated by the CEO, affect my annual appraisal, because you can bet it's tracked.

And it doesn't help that the software itself is universally bad, if it were ever exposed to the public internet where people had a choice to use it or not, it would sink without trace...

I suspect OP was making fun of the open office fad where interrupting my debugging flow by hearing the finance clerks arguing about workload when posting accounts receivable forms or whatever will magically make my code 100x better. Or if I stand up and read from the book of Knuth on the topic of the evils of the bubblesort, that will motivate the salespeople to sell sell sell. Or at those open offices that are as quiet as libraries used to be, the off the charts sarcasm level displays that nobody works together with anyone at all, which is kinda sad and sterile working environment.

At a large company I worked at they tried discussion software but once the shine was gone, out of 150K people you'd have like 10 people who actually posted and on this web discussion board thingy and the content was all filler. Sometimes funny filler, but filler none the less. Imagine the sadness of a HN with only 10 participants.

" It doesn't work because companies are fundamentally not social."

I really have to disagree with this. Social media can be essential in a company that is widely geographically distributed and needs to collaborate, such as a technical sales field with different offices and R&D groups. Really depends on incentives.

> Maybe deleting the native apps and using the webapps will raise the barrier to entry high enough that I'll only use them when there's actually something I want to do on them.

That's worked pretty well for me. Also check out Kill News Feed and Kill Tweet Stream to avoid distraction if you need to use eg Facebook events or Twitter DMs.




> Social media weakens this skill because it’s engineered to be addictive.

Absolutely. App companies like FB and Twitter are on a constant quest to eat up as much of your time as possible, in pursuit of metrics like "daily active users" (they want you there daily) and "average session time" (they want you there as long as possible).

Ultimately, they're maximizing ad revenue. An hour of your time spent feed scrolling is worth about 10 cents to Facebook.


Years ago I caught myself watching Entertainment Tonight this was around or a bit past the Mary Hart and John Tesh days. I caught myself with a smile but my eyes following along if that makes sense I call it the Joker smile it was terrifying to think what I had become. So I stopped watching any stupid tabloid shows outright starting that at that moment.

The other day I realized that social media is essentially the same thing tabloid junk. Only now in the social media we choose to watch it we seek it out and then comment on it we become part of it.

Yes. If somebody would have told us 20 years ago that we would all have a TV-set on our office desks today, we wouldn't have believed them. But the reality is that we indeed have a good equivalent of it, and with highly addictive content.

I was always leery of Facebook and what it did with data. After the Snowden revelations, I only used LinkedIn for career related reasons. I make sure to never post too personal, identifiable information on forums. My real name returns google results, but they are very sparse. It's crazy out there and the consequences are real.

As for the premise of the article, I can see how your brain craves immediate relief from boredom. That's really what it is, right? My work is fairly interesting to me, so I've never had the overwhelming and constant desire to distract myself from it. Perhaps a few articles here and there for a mental break.

> I've recently been finding it really hard to concentrate on my work and I genuinely think this might be the reason. I find myself compulsively opening twitter and tumblr and scrolling through for ages before realising that literally none of it is interesting.

LeechBlock has helped me out of this habit. I'd recommend giving it a shot.

There are far too many distractions online not necessarily social media. In the past it was irc and later forums. I find instant messengers particularly distracting, even if you put all on silent mode sooner or later you will want to check if you have unread messages.

cough Slack cough

The counter argument is that social media being designed to distract you makes it good training for your concentration. You don't need to avoid grocery stores that sell chocolate to stop getting fat, just get more disciplined.

> Social media weakens this skill because it’s engineered to be addictive.

Might as well add (modern?) gaming to the list—it has the exact same property.

..and movies, books and TV?

No: all of those are "single use" items, i.e. you typically only consume them once.

Games and social media, OTOH, are designed for continuous consumption without end. Here, "being addictive" is basically the only thing that matters (and in fact, is the only variable companies actually measure).

A problem with that model is little kids do what feels good and what feels good is watching the same TV cartoon many times. Once they're socialized into adult life they stop. I distinctly remember when little kid cartoons (tom and jerry type stuff) became boring and repetitive to me so I stopped while my kid sister was still cool with watching endlessly repeated stories.

And at the other end of the age scale, my MiL watched (watches) MASH (a 70s sitcom about the Korean war, which sounds improbable but was actually hilarious due to good writers) and she never, ever laughs, quiet as a church service, but I'd LMAO at a funny line I'd never heard before, and her entire family would stare at me like I'm insane. "But don't you get it, it was hilarious, Radar compared the other guy's wife to ..." and they'd just shush me like in church. I'm not entirely sure what she's thinking when she sees episode #24 for the three hundredth time. I should ask her over the holidays...

Something that both anecdotes fit is the model of not being in adult society or caring much about adult opinions.

This is why I've stuck with single player games. Aside from a summer where I spent 12 hours a day on Counter Strike, I only play single player games enough to just finish the main story (don't care much about unlockables or anything crazy). I finish them and that's it!

I've never actually played an MMORPG. I avoided EverQuest in University when everyone was playing it. I never got into WoW (I did have a friend who lost his virginity to a girl he met on WoW so...I guess it helps some people).

I feel religiously opposed to them now when I see how involved people get into those games. I'm all okay with Quake/CounterStrike/Left4Dead type games where you shoot-em-up with a team for a bit and then it's over. Those are good breaks when you've been on a project for hours.

Movies and TV yes (there's ample research to show it actually rots your brain). Books, no. There's also ample research to show it has several benefits, even if you're reading trash. The medium is the message, as Marshal McLuhan would say.

I just "deactivated" Facebook and I think things are improving as well.

As for twitter, I want to use it as a personal brand vehicle, that and my quora page. So while I agree that it's poison half the time, it's also a great way to engage people and discuss topics that can lead to partnerships/work in the future.

"personal brand vehicle"

It's hard to find this done well. I tried this myself on Twitter for a few months and realized that, even though I wasn't saying so explicitly, it was bland pathetic performative "I'm an entrepreneur, thinker, innovator, creator, TEDx Speaker" nonsense.

I have a legitimate question. If you delete your Facebook account, how does that affect your OAuth logins on other websites? I've been tempted to delete my Facebook account but there are unknowns about how that would play out in the social login space, so I'd be interested in your thoughts.

I don't use OAuth ever, because:


1. log in once; be logged in everywhere

2. no password manager required because you have only one (or maybe a few) logins

disadvantages (I'll just keep numbering to give it unique IDs):

3. if the provider is down, you can't login

4. the provider knows when and where you log in

5. if you decide to delete your account at the provider, you can't log in anymore

6. if the provider decides to delete your account because, say, you bought a fake Nexus (or what was the story recently?) or because you forgot to pay or just because there is a glitch on their end, you've got a problem

7. if your account gets hacked, everything got hacked.

I just don't see how that tiny bit of convenience weighs up to all the issues of having a SPOF whose trustworthiness is questionable to begin with.

I can only speak for my own site. We don't receive any notifications from third-parties when accounts are closed. If you don't login again, you can use password reset with your email address to get a password for your account. Which email address depends on the primary address set at Facebook.

For some reason I never used FB for other accounts - I always used Twitter or Google, so it wasn't a problem for me. I guess if I deleted my Google account a lot of things (GitHub, Freenom, Soundcloud) would go down too.

IMO distraction from your work where how interesting your task at hand vs immediate facebook check.I would relax and get to see what I am doing and how its interesting/fullfilling/fun/silly etc and lets the grip of immersion take over you. So to reiterate is I don't think social media is distracting but rather working lives of most office workers aren't as exciting(like friends windsurfing) and social media can be a demotivational poison at that point. I am guilty of letting social media reign over me on bad days, but on really good days it is the task at hand has control of my attention and rest of facebook/tv/movies/games noise has selfish demanting and yet weak overtones...

> Maybe deleting the native apps and using the webapps will raise the barrier to entry high enough that I'll only use them when there's actually something I want to do on them.

+1. I have found that switching to the Dillo web browser (with CSS and at times even images disabled) has considerably decreased the time I spend on Facebook. There was also a command line client for FB, but iirc it's not maintained any more.

So, yes, use an "ugly" browser and you're good. :-)

Smartphones make the problem 10x worse for me. It virtually calls out to me from my left pocket to check for updates.

I'm on vacation now and am experimenting with reducing my phone time dramatically (about 10 minutes a day to respond to texts). I don't carry the phone around with me at all times. It's great -- mentally liberating and actually allows me to completely space out staring off into the distant landscapes, or completely focus on reading/writing.

I'm thinking about doing the same, but I need to carry my phone with me to listen to my music at work. I'm investigating MP3 players, but the field is disappointingly sparse these days (which is to be expected since everyone listens to music on their smartphone now).

The very last sentence really resonated with me.

> Sounds pretty eccentric, doesn't it? It always will when you're trying to solve problems where there are no customs yet to guide you. Maybe I can't plead Occam's razor; maybe I'm simply eccentric. But if I'm right about the acceleration of addictiveness, then this kind of lonely squirming to avoid it will increasingly be the fate of anyone who wants to get things done. We'll increasingly be defined by what we say no to.

My way out is the self control app on mac. I have fb, twitter and reddit blocked using that for 24hrs, then visit fb and twitter for 30 mins when the 24 hrs is done and then call the self control app again for the next 24 hrs. As for the top hackernews i subscribe to The Macro weekly newsletter, saves me from HN addiction as well.

randomness is very addicting, even if most stuff is not interesting, the few interesting parts keep you coming back.

I removed social apps from my phone ages ago, and turned off notifications most places (especially slack which is massively distracting). It has helped, a bit.

I do still check hn more than I should...might have to work on that one next.

Instead of deleting or otherwise cold-turkeying, I've been experimenting with freedom.to to manage my social media usage. It has been pretty effective so far, though the mobile experience is still somewhat lacking.

If that was really valued, then you wouldn't have your day cut up with meetings working in an open office either.

i just put together a small script if you're interested!


vi /etc/hosts facebook.com www.facebook.com m.facebook.com twitter.com m.twitter.com www.twitter.com

I found that really helps.

try medtitation

>I agree with the sentiment elsewhere in these comments that the solution isn't to completely delete your accounts (I think they can have some value when used in moderation), but rather to change the way I use them.

I would hope the solution to your problem is not for me to delete my accounts.

Your problem sounds like you're following people with weak content. Follow new people and stop following (or make better) the weak.

> As for Facebook, I deleted that a few months ago and my quality of life instantly increased.

Except for the part where the addicts are confused why you aren't on facebook.

But I think its becoming common enough now that you aren't so much of an aberration

I'm curious, what is it in the human psyche that causes us to have such a desire to stay plugged in to social media? Especially when the content we go through usually only ends up white noise to us.

All the positive reinforcement of gossip, with none of the historical negative connotations because of the new name.

As with all renaming strategies, eventually the new name gets enough tarnish that its either given up, gets yet another new name. There was a pretty concerted push a few years ago to rename everything online as "viral" regardless of the original source and meaning of that name. Wasn't time yet, but soon enough "social media" will be for old people but the cool kids will continue doing the same old thing with a new name.

It's a combination of 2 very primitive (and hence innate) human instinct - Anxiety and Pleasure.

Anxiety - It's also called FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). If all our friends and family are on Facebook and we don't constantly login and read the feeds, we feel like we are "missing out" on all the fun and exicting stuff going on around us.

Pleasure - Social Media feeds our ego and give us pleasure when we post pics and "updates" and then few minutes later, a RED Icon notification pops up showing that so and so liked your post, commented on it etc. There is a reason why Facebook has no DISLIKE button. Don't forget 'Zuck' is a Psychology Minor.

Related Reading: "What is driving people to constantly check in with social media" => https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/rewired-the-psychology-...

We used to evolve in situations where information was scarce and potentially relevant to our lives, so we would crave for every last bit of information in order to find the lion before it finds us.

The longer version (9 minutes) of this argument: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYYuiWP0IpA

As mammals we are fundamentally social creatures, and if we can't socialize then we become anxious. It's built in - you need to be a part of the tribe/pack/village/whatever because over many years of evolution, going it alone wasn't a successful survival/reproductive strategy.

There are hacks to mitigate some of the negative effects, which pre-date FB et al. You might carry a photo of a loved one, and that's enough to trigger that part of your brain that craves contact. You might have a pet or a "companion animal" as they are called these days. Children (and some adults) have meta-pets - stuffed toy animals.

FB quite deliberately leverages these urges - it is designed to trigger all the fear-of-being-outside-the-tribe that evolution gave you. Why does it tell you that all your friends are at an event, say? To make you feel like you should have been paying more attention to FB so you could have gone too..

It's the same reason why kids were passing notes in school instead of paying attention. It's no longer called socializing/talking with friends. Its now social media/playing with your phone.

People want to feel like they are part of a group.

More importantly social media is bad for your mental health. It hits the brain in many of the same ways as the 'news' and those intentionally boring phone games. It causes dopamine dysregulation which leads to a dependency. Consider the anxiety you feel if you need to go to the bathroom and cannot find your phone. This dopamine dysregulation destroys your mood and motivation.

Being social is a good thing. However companies have figured out they need addictive properties in order to be successful. I previously worked on optimizing companies for user engagement and the addictive properties naturally fall out of the process. If social media satiates your desires you will actually use them less. Think about it; why are your keys always in the last place you look? Because once you find them you stop looking. If you want to keep people on your site you hide their keys. People love a challenge and will be even happier when they find them.

It's particularly bad with modern (low information) news media. I'm a compulsive news junkie* so I have to avoid the news in order to get anything done. I quit facebook and google over their insistence on pushing 'news'. It's junk food for the brain. It's low information and only gives an illusion of being informed. E.g. the recent election.

* Note: I consider HN to be social 'media' news and I am aware that I'm here 'chipping'. I do so intentionally in effort to avoid fettishising vices. Plus HN is as close as I get to an online group of peers. I only use HN after self-flagellating while repeatedly muttering "the flesh is weak".

>Consider the anxiety you feel if you need to go to the bathroom and cannot find your phone.

Is this a real thing?

A thread on reddit about just that very topic gained front-page visibility and a lot of "I'm actually doing this right now" comments.

EDIT - I actually found it, "Reddit is probably the world's largest group of people that communicate while shitting.": https://www.reddit.com/r/Showerthoughts/comments/5dqufr/redd...

It is. I have a mild case for it, especially when I go for "the longer stay".

But then again, the smartphone simply is that important for many of us. For me, it's a device that's always with me, second only to my own clothes. I may leave a wallet behind, but for sure I'm taking my phone with me. I don't usually think consciously why is that, but some reasons would be:

- the phone is what enables telepathy; if someone wants to reach you with their thoughts over large distances, you have to have the phone with you to receive it (and to respond)

- the Internet-enabled phone also lets me look up answers to random questions that pop up in my head; since the questions pop up randomly and either go away or take real estate in the brain until answered, I want to be able to answer them ASAP anywhere I am and whatever I'm doing

People used to read newspapers while sitting on the crapper. In the 90s it wasn't uncommon to go to the bathroom in someone's house and there to be a stack of magazines on the windowsill...

Bathroom time is already wasted, so it's a guilt free opportunity to check your feed.

Unless you spend 5 minutes finding the phone first.

Depends on how long I need to be in there.

>More importantly social media is bad for your mental health. [...] Being social is a good thing.

This is all that I need to have learned to quit* social media.

*I still use a Facebook, but I don't post anything, and I don't read anything. It is handy for the messenger though to keep in contact with friends that you might see again, such as when travelling.

You can 'deactivate' your Facebook account and remain active on Messenger, FYI. I did this.

Interesting, I actually didn't know that. I'd still need to be able to add people, I'll check that out thanks.

>Think about it; why are your keys always in the last place you look? Because once you find them you stop looking. If you want to keep people on your site you hide their keys.

That is actually very interesting analogy! And when I think about my facebook browsing habits, it only makes sense. Of course it has a flow an rhythm. Something interesting I engage with, a bunch of filler I scroll through, another interesting post. If all that is interesting to me is crammed into the top of the page, that would drop the metrics. Less vertical space used, less ads, less time on site (biggie with investors, I'm sure). Probably get fatigued much faster too. Consume even less interesting stuff than the "long format". I wonder if it is really beneficial (at least to them) in the long term or it is one of those things not worth maximizing (metrics vs. reasons [1]).

Do you have any interesting reading/watching/listening material from your old jobs? What are you up to these days?

[1] http://nxhx.org/maximizing/

Thanks. I post stories about it secretly on HN through anonomous accounts. I mostly get downvoted as it's usually controversial and counterintuitive. It is to be expected.

I don't teach 'defence against the dark arts' as the techniques are more likely to be exploited if more widely known and I'd rather not help it spread. Thankfully we're already seeing a cultural pushback with people logging off. I expect to see much more of that in the future as society gets better at understanding addiction and individuals get better at optimizing for their own happiness.

As for me; I have my own software product company now and I am free to optimise for the user. I don't need the money but I do like making the world a better place.

Why social media only?

After being a news addict for years, I've decided to not only limit my social media posts (and reading) down to zero, but also the amount of time I spend on the daily news sites (NYT, Guardian, Politico etc). Instead I read media that operates on a longer cycles like weekly (Economist, NewYorker) and longer (Foreign Affairs, Private Eye)

Its been an interesting experiment: most "news" is just content that is ultimately inconsequential, discussing ephemeral events that will be forgotten by the next news cycle.

However, the weeklies and the monthlies, because they have to edit what they write about, do a great job of filtering out the fluff and giving me a better perspective of what mattered that week/month.

I've found I still know what I need to know, suffer much less distractions, and more time to read books (amazing invention btw!)

This is a super interesting approach and I really like the sound of it. I might just try switching to it sometime! Thanks for sharing :)

Side note: it sounds like adding the occasional dose of /r/tldr + /r/outoftheloop would add quite nicely to the "filtering".

It was hard at first breaking the habit, developed over years, of opening up a few tabs with news sites each morning over breakfast. I still occasionally scan the headlines, which is enough to know what is roughly going on.

News is essentially free (and commoditized). What I value is thoughtful analysis and good interviews; Andrew Marr's interview with Marine Le Pen being a recent case in point.

Very interesting. Makes me wonder if the same techniques which get people hooked to current forms of distracting social media could be used to encourage better habits, focus etc?

Have see some humorous attempts such as http://www.chorewars.com/ and http://code.rpgify.com/ but usually with a focus on motivating groups of people.

About five years ago I bumped into an old friend of mine that I hadn't seen since around 2005. Despite not keeping in contact physically, we both knew everything about each other's lives. It was great to reconnect, but we didn't have the typical reward that comes with the rediscovery. I knew what he was doing for work, the projects he had going on the side, etc.

Tracking my friends stripped a lot of the romance, joy. and mystery out of reconnecting.

Around the same time I got into a new group of friends that were all about their 'personal brand.' Every occasion was started with a good ten minutes of silence while they checked-in to Yelp, Foursquare, snapped photos of the venue / table / food, and tweeted bullshit along the lines of 'having the time of my life!' -- I spent the time looking for typos and leading errors on the menus. It was exhausting. Everybody was there, but nobody was present. Even the meal itself was dull because of the endless obsession with creating something it wasn't.

I never bought into those bullshit games of 'put your phone in the middle of the table' or whatever. If you're a typical human being, my expectation is that you can silence your phone and have the slightest bit of restraint to avoid looking at it every few minutes. I understand if there's an emergency or whatever, but otherwise, keep it on vibrate and be done.

Around this time I completely disabled all notifications and the phone never made a peep.

A few years after that I starting tracking how many images and tweets I was reading vs enjoying. It was about one in twenty or so.

Examining my own tweets and other contributions to social media had me realizing that I was as social as a guy at a party shouting opinions over the music to a room full of people doing the same. It wasn't social, and it was barely media.

I decided to purge the accounts and start from scratch -- and will be doing so every year or so. Starting fresh is nice, but I find that I rarely have anything of actual value to contribute.

I've avoided facebook for years and only use it for events. Instagram is all kids. Twitter is all business and 'I'm speaking at x conference --- here's a link to an instagram post of a photo of a slide in my presentation taken from the back row'. I've avoided the graphic design sites like dribbble where most 'portfolios' aren't filled with client work or art, just 99designs level work that is good, but irrelevant... and the list goes on.

Social media isn't completely dead, but for me, I checked out a long time ago.

I'm hoping that the next wave will be a hybrid of twitter, meetup, foursquare, and tinder --- an app where you check into a location to say 'I'm here, who wants to hang out?' and you can hang out with some strangers for a time.

Thanks for sharing, that was very insightful. I find myself being increasingly annoyed being around people who are continuously tapping their phone, taking pictures, spending minutes choosing filters and thinking of cliché captions, list goes on. They aren't present, often giving wrong replies to my questions.

I don't know why, I find people doing the same but playing games instead are less annoying.

It feels like a lot of people are creating an archive of a life they wanted to live, but didn't.

An ex of mine has a young boy who she treated more as a mannequin than anything. She'd get angry if I didn't take a Vogue-level portrait of her posing with an ice cream cone. It was exhausting --- and to what end? To get a higher Klout score?

Big whoop.

Online social apps should be focused on improving the offline world.

I've read the whole article, but this is where I should have stopped.

> I’ve never had a social media account.

He basically summarized that procrastination is harmful and social media is to blame. He doesn't really share anything I haven't known as a social media addict. Kinda like saying to a smoker that smoking tobacco causes cancer. I know that, what now? I tried shutting down social media sites with plugins, blocking sites in the hostfile and other slow to circumvent things. They kinda worked, sometimes never. I also noticed that if a site gets shut down, something new emerges that replace it.

This is something you have to deal with, regulate it. If you find yourself constantly opening FB, Twitter or whatever your addiction is, then it signals that something you are having problems with something you should be really doing.

I actually think that quote is interesting for a different reason. First he says:

> I’ve never had a social media account.


>I think many more people should follow my lead and quit these services

You can't quit something if you never started using it.

I think what he meant was, be like me, and to do that, quit those services.

My take is that this article is also really poorly written. The overly formal tone and extended sentence structure makes it seem like the author is trying too hard to sound smart. He's doing this especially annoying type of bad writing where he thinks the tone he would use for an academic research paper read by one professor is a good fit for an opinion piece that will be seen by thousands.

> There are many issues with social media, from its corrosion of civic life to its cultural shallowness, but the argument I want to make here is more pragmatic: You should quit social media because it can hurt your career."

> Perhaps more important, however, than my specific objections to the idea that social media is a harmless lift to your career, is my general unease with the mind-set this belief fosters.

Just talk to me like a person! Unless you're Slavoj Žižek you should probably go for something more accessible and conversational.

You think that sounds like a research paper? What field are you reading research papers in?!

For what it's worth, the author of the article has written multiple best-selling books for popular audiences.

Exactly. Whenever I increase my consumption of social media, it's because I'm doing something I'd rather not be doing at work. Even these little 5-10sec wait times make me open a new tab and check HN.

I approach social media (twitter in particular) this way: “try to be a good neuron”.

Meaning: social media forms a global hive mind. It determines what a lot of people see and hear about the world. Witness the flare up recently over the influence of “fake news” going viral.

A neuron's role, as one tiny piece of a brain, a neural network, or, for my purposes, a hive mind, is to take in a number of inputs and filter them, firing occasionally to convey some distillation of the inputs received.

Anyone who reshares highly inaccurate or incendiary content is being a bad neuron.

If instead you gather a range of news and opinion from a variety of sources and then, being very selective, reshare the one or two things each day (or week) with the best combinations of reputability, newsworthiness, timeliness, importance to current problems society is facing, and exploration of new ideas, then you're being a good neuron.

This in my opinion is the best use of publicly shared social media. If lots of people did this the world would be better off.

There may be career risk in sharing things related to politics, but that's a risk I'm willing to take. Without the freedom to do that, I might as well be in a repressive totalitarian society, and now more than ever that is something we should fight to prevent.

The general message is good: stop procrastinating and actually work (which is what I should be doing instead of mulling over the wording of this comment). The way it is written, however, is less than ideal because it has entirely too many unsupported claims. Without evidence it isn't a solid argument.

For example: "My second objection concerns the idea that social media is harmless. Consider that the ability to concentrate without distraction on hard tasks is becoming increasingly valuable in an increasingly complicated economy. Social media weakens this skill because it’s engineered to be addictive. The more you use social media in the way it’s designed to be used — persistently throughout your waking hours — the more your brain learns to crave a quick hit of stimulus at the slightest hint of boredom."

I know it is a newspaper article and not an academic paper but I still need evidence to make me believe these claims are true. I've read people claiming that we are becoming more distracted but I haven't read that the ability to not be distracted is becoming more valuable. Similarly, while I've read claims that social media is addictive but not that it is engineered to be so.

> I've read claims that social media is addictive but not that it is engineered to be so.

Recommend reading up on the "Hook Model" - http://www.nirandfar.com/hooked - or watch this video - https://youtu.be/oQBsnSC_TRM - the techniques for building addictive products are well known, with a history that goes back to Las Vegas and the gambling industry.

Most social media companies - with the exception of one or two like Zynga - of course aren't overly announcing "we're building stuff to get you addicted" but their business depends on audience numbers so guess what: try searching LinkedIn jobs for "Facebook" and "psychology" and it's pretty clear

Rather like alcohol. Universal social lubricant. Popular even in places where it is banned. People complain about it being used noisily in public by young people, especially women, but it may be the lonely older people at home whose use is more problematic. Causes problems for people who don't indulge and feel left out. Associated with long-term health risks including suicidal ideation.

You probably shouldn't indulge at work, but in some careers it may effectively be required.

Most people learn moderation, but some may have to cut themselves off.

I found this hard truth by myself. I noticed how my attention spans were decreasing. I've always been a really distracted person, but social media made it worst.

I ended up adding Facebook, Twitter,9gag, Reddit and other sites to my /etc/hosts ( Was the only way to fix it.

While I work I leave my phone at a distant table, with notifications turned down. The only thing that I get are phone calls.

I remember Simon Sinek saying something like: "if there's a person that the first thing he does when he wakes up in the morning is drinking a glass of whiskey, you'd say he's an alcoholic". What does that make you if the first thing you do when you wake up is checking Facebook?

I'm not a big fan of social media, but the argument here seems specious.

Here's another way to put it - "If the first thing a person does when they get up is eat, you'd say they're a glutton". True?

(Or indeed "if the first thing a person does when they get up is go to the toilet, you'd say they're incontinent.")

The "first thing in the morning" idea is pulled from the CAGE assessment for addiction, as the "E" which stands for "eye-opener", the others being "cut down", "annoyance" and "guilt" https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/johns_hopkins_healthcare/dow...

You're right that this one thing alone doesn't spell addiction, but if someone talked about how they should use the bathroom less, felt bad about how many times a day they went, and annoyed everyone by the bathroom constantly being occupied and the person being absent/late due to their use, in addition to using it first thing in the morning, then... maybe they're addicted to social media and using the bathroom as a way to get their fix ;)

Thanks for sharing that link. The test seems to be setting the bar pretty darn low, however. It's enough that you think you should be doing less of something, and others have criticized you about it to the point of annoying you. That includes things I would put in the category of bad habits rather than clinically actionable disorders.

Heh, well put!

Is "eating" the first thing you do in the morning? Would it be ok to leave a sandwich in the table next to the bed to take a bite as soon as you wake up? Of course this is a matter of opinion. I don't want to get too picky about the details. I used to wake up and check Facebook right away, and I considered it not to be really healthy. But again, just my preference.

> to my /etc/hosts ( Was the only way to fix it.

I like that fix! I tried to limit myself awhile ago by getting a chrome plugin to limit my access to only lunchtime... but I would simply get around it by opening firefox instead :(

> What does that make you if the first thing you do when you wake up is checking Facebook?

Under 30?

More like 25-35. I'm a high school teacher and most of my current crop of students spend virtually no time on Facebook.

Twitter and Snapchat, on the other hand....

Is twitter still heavily used by teenagers? I didn't know that, thanks for the tip. I did know Snapchat was standard. And also Instagram, right?

(I feel old)

I'm also feeling at old (at 27), but I would guess that they use Twitter to follow their celebrities, while using Snapchat and Instagram to connect to each other.

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