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Removing Home Internet Is the Most Productive Thing I've Done (theminimalists.com)
355 points by presentation on April 11, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 269 comments

I haven't dealt with my laptop based computer addiction, but I have solved my cell phone addiction.

It's important to understand how much behavior around technology is based on ingrained habits. My goal with dealing with my phone was to "short-circuit" the habitual/addictive behavior.

To do this, I did two things.

1. I turned off all automatic notifications on my phone, as well as all background updates of apps/email/etc.

2. I created a simple rule: I can use my phone whenever I want, but I have to wait five minutes after 'thinking of using it.'

Combined, these two rules have been effective in short-circuiting the addictive properties of my cell phone. The five minute wait time gives me the chance to have deliberate/conscious thought about my phone use. The lack of automatic updates happening in the background gives me a chance to catch myself, if I unconsciously start using my phone. For example, it takes 20-30 seconds to load email. If I unconsciously open the email app, nothing has changed. Sure, I can tell it to load the email, but the time it takes to load the email gives me the chance to realize I'm breaking my five minute rule.

I feel like I'm able to use my phone as a tool again. After around a month of this, I'm no longer scared of my phone's power over me.

Sadly, I haven't figured out an effective system for my computer yet.

After a long addiction where I had used my phones as projects rather than tools, I decided to unwind. The blinking notification light was the first one to go, as I couldn't concentrate when it was active (which was most of the time). The next step was to buy a huge battery which made my phone twice as thick, but I only needed to charge it every few days which was a huge thing not having to worry about constantly. After a couple of weeks I started disabling more and more of the apps which made my phone buzz, and at the end I had only the most basic apps.

At the final step I realized that I had a huge expensive phone with only basic functionality and a web browser that always seemed to steal my attention (procrastinating on the web). I bought a Nokia C5-00 (dumbphone) and told my family that if they needed to reach me, they'd have to text or call - everything else would be dealt with a couple of times a day on my tablet.

It's been a year, and I love the freedom to work and be with friends and family without constantly having my phone in my face. I also seem to handle boring situations much better as I no longer can rely on my phone to entertain me whenever I have 3 minutes to spare. I am now a 22 year old Swedish programmer with a dumbphone that I charge once every 1-2 weeks, and I love it. Also, the reactions from co-workers and train conductors scanning my SMS-tickets are very interesting.

e: grammar

I did a similar thing. I replaced my iPhone (after I dropped and smashed it) with a Nokia 105 "dumbphone". It can only do calls and SMS messaging. It's the best thing I've ever done. I knew I'd get by without most things but I wondered how I'd get by without google maps in my pocket. I bought a road atlas for the car and quickly re-learned how to read a map and plan a route the old fashioned way. If I'm going somewhere the seems remotely complicated to find I'll just print off a google map before I leave. Looking back now, it's scary how reliant I'd become on dumbly following google maps turn by turn directions.

Emails, again I simply deal with the way we used to before smartphones. As and when.

Most 2FA systems also still support SMS as an option so even that's not a limiting factor of using a dumbphone.

My new phone cost me £10 and costs only £5/month to run because I literally cannot use any data.

The only downside I've encountered is the feeling that others are being ignorant/rude whilst blankly staring into their phone. You don't notice this when you're doing it too, but it's really very noticeable once you stop.

I've never been truly addicted to my phone, even though I've had a smartphone since before they were a thing (HP iPaq, running Windows CE). I've always been app-phobic on phones, only ever installing the minimum that I need. As such the notification problem has never been an issue. If my phone is flashing, it means I've missed a call, or there's a text message. That's it. Most people don't use SMS anymore for casual conversation, so I don't get pinged about those until I'm in front of a computer.

I do like having a web browser in my pocket though. I'm old, and I was there when dial-up BBS's gave way to basic dial-up internet. I used the internet as a resource, and I still mostly have that mindset. It's not an entertainment platform for me - I fire up a browser when I want to find something out, and then I close it again. However I do watch the odd fun YouTube video from time to time (not on my phone tho).

This switching away from being always-online seems to be picking up as a trend. I think it's a good thing. Like all things, the internet should only be used in moderation.

The internet is a tool, no different from a shovel or a paintbrush, and you don't spend all day carrying those around and looking at them, do you?


Edit: s/spade/shovel

I disagree with the Internet is a tool... statement. The Internet is definitely not just a tool. It's a different type of consciousness; it's not completely mature yet as to approach the organic, human type, but it's definitely much bigger than a tool.

Your disconnection from it may help you rediscover your own consciousness and do things the old-fashioned way but it doesn't confer any superiority or higher levels of intelligence or higher information evaluation abilities on you.

What kind of higher information evaluation abilities are you talking about? The way I understand it is that if you're using the internet, is you're disconnecting from the pipeline, and evaluating information that you already have. Internet is for gathering, maybe filtering information. But the actual evaluation is usually separate from it.

You're looking at a very specific case. My point is more general.

Some people tend to believe that a return to the old ways of no invasion of the zeros and ones of the Internet would make their lives better by some significant margin. They see some less digitalized folk and wish they could have that life because they also believe the lives of these folks are much simpler, more triangular, etc.

Nassim Taleb and a few others have advocated a disconnect from news. This makes sense from a knowledge building POV as some folks actually only know stuff about the world through mainstream media, which I believe is particularly unhealthy and misleading.

Disconnecting from the entire Internet however is a different matter. My point is that such a recoiling into a zero Internet shell doesn't necessarily confer any superior analytical abilities on anybody. It may help your sanity/peace of mind/mental health (depending on what your obsessions are)/etc.

And to your point about actual evaluation being separate from the information processing pipeline, I also disagree. More often than not you still need the various resources available on the Internet to aid in the evaluation of the data/information you have collected.

There's such a thing as a responsible/profitable use of the Internet and the gains are probably much higher than whatever any sound minded individual would gain from a disconnection.

I did mostly the same, except:

- I went without any phone at all at first, after breaking my smartphone much like you did; then decided I should at least have an old Nokia charged in case of emergency. No contract at all.

- I don't like using it, and I still hate voice/SMS 2FA, I use Authy instead wherever possible.

- I cheat a bit, since I do have a Nexus 7 still which I use around home and sometimes put in my pocket for podcasts. I don't think this is really cheating though, since it's WiFi only, so it's not really different from using a laptop - I can't be connected unless I'm stationary.

> The only downside I've encountered is the feeling that others are being ignorant/rude whilst blankly staring into their phone. You don't notice this when you're doing it too, but it's really very noticeable once you stop.

Yes! I don't mind it too much at the moment though, because I just think I'm glad not to be doing that. I've occasionally half-joked (with family) something like 'Well, it's nice to be out somewhere different for a change while we use our phones, isn't it?' :)

I'm aware of this. It's still more secure than not using 2FA at all though.

> Emails, again I simply deal with the way we used to before smartphones. As and when.

Which is exactly the opposite of my way of handling e-mail versus SMS. It it's really really urgent, be courteous enough to give your time and call me. For anything else send an e-mail.

E-mail is my primary communication channel and any device that can't handle it is useless. Whereas SMS is discourteous to me as it demands that I read and respond on one particular device, rather than that which is most convenient or appropriate. Quite often I'll read an e-mail on my phone and sit-down at the laptop to compose a reply.

Have been thinking about doing the same. I've had a company paid phone the las five years but I wish they would get me a good pad and a cheap nokia instead.

Have you asked them?

I guess I will do next time it comes up.

In at least one way it should be an obvious win: my phones take some beating. My pad has taken significantly less.

The "set Do Not Disturb for 12:00AM - 11:59PM" trick has been amazing for me the past month or so I started the experiment. I set it to allow texts and calls from my Favorites through (e.g. wife, mom, dad) -- but essentially every other type of notification is non-urgent and likely even non-important.

By far the best app to silence has been my email. I consider it a luxury that I can come home and not worry about it. I highly suggest it to anyone who thinks they have a screen addiction.

I have my Android set as "Do not Disturb: forever", while allowing calls to still ring. Since people don't call me unless it's something urgentish, it works well, and notifications never distract me when I'm with others any more.

I do the same, and in addition the phone sits face down on my desk, to prevent me getting distracted by the notification led.

Love this idea, and the favorites exceptions make it very workable. Going to give it a try.

Is toggling "manual" just as effective? Good idea, I'll try this too.

I solved that problem with a far simpler solution. I don't own a smartphone. I spend eight to ten hours watching a screen at work. Don't want to spend another five doing the same thing in my leisure. I also don't own any tablets, for the same reason, except a Kindle which I use every now and then in commuting. Most people I meet feel surprised when I tell them I don't have a smartphone especially considering that I'm a "computer guy". But the thing is I don't really need it. I can't do any productive work on it and even if I could I wouldn't want to. As for the PC, I'm also off any social network, excluding Hacker News which is addictive but at least I'm learning stuff so I don't consider it procrastination.

I also did this for a very long time. Being the local computer geek everyone expect me to know everything about computers and phones and of course have the latest phone in my pocket.

But being the local computer geek gives me insights that others do not have. I already saw the problem coming a mile away with the first mobile phones long before they were called smartphones. I already had the whole village asking me for advice with their computers (the few that had computers). I helped everyone build theirs for gaming and had to help them when they had problems with viruses and so on.

Why would I want to be reachable at any time? Would a smartphone make it even worse? You bet. Would I be getting a phone any time soon? No way.

I did eventually get a Nokia 3210 though, which stayed with me until a couple of years ago when I gave up and bought a smartphone to be able to screen incoming robot sales calls...

I do have a smart phone, because I got one handed by my employer and I kinda need it for work. However I find it almost unusable, the screen is too small, the onscreen keyboard and general touch interface seems cumbersome. The result is that I spend almost no time with my phone, only when forced.

iMessage has to one of the greatest inventions in recent time. It allows me to communicate with my family, without forcing to use an actual phone.

Perhaps you are just using your smartphone wrong?

I use it to do:

- Read News article and books on my communte

- Use the flashlight in the morning or evening when it is to dark (when winter i use it every evening when going home from the train to my flat 10 minutes)

- Use it as a phone

- use maps for navigation

- Check out gps stuff when sitting in a plain

- use the sync feature to have an up to date contact list

- get calendar notifications

- use it as an alarm clock

- use it for listing to music (but not that often)

Otherwise it is in my pocket but thats it. Like my keys. I don't use it at home at all.

I think it is actually your first point regarding reading news articles and books that people are trying to avoid. People become addicted to constantly looking up things to distract themselves instead of paying attention to what is going on around them.

If you take public transportation, look around, everyone is looking at their phones and no one is interacting with the real people around them.

We have become a society lost in their digital devices.

I look around, i'm not a very focused reader but i don't think a train is in any way a useful way of meeting people or communicating much.

I don't value shallow talk with strangers very much. Or have you been on a subway and was discussion with someone strange daily politics?

People report being happier after talking to strangers on public transit. They also underestimate how open other passengers are to it.


Sea turtles live long. That doesn't mean lying on a beach all my life is right for me.

The people and things going on around me are not interesting.

Selecting for proximity means wasting my life on random noise.

An $800 phone is a bargain if It lets me spend my limited time on good stuff.

I had taken the public bus for years and I don't recall people interacting before smart phones were popular. Maybe it's different on a subway or in different cities.

I found the worst people around me with phones are the older ones. The teenagers put it down but the older people seem to think that a text will expire if they don't respond immediately, regardless of what they are doing at the time.

Well I don't need a flashlight, it's never too dark where I live (Greece) regardless of season. As for your other points. Reading: As I said I have a Kindle which is far better than any smartphone for books, and thanks to Instapaper I can read pretty much everything on it. GPS: I don't need it, my car has an embedded one and it works just fine. When I'm not in my car wandering around without knowing where exactly I am is a joy, actually it's one of my hobbies. I get to accidentally find new places all the time. As for a phone per se, I have a dumbphone (Samsung E2600). Alarm: I don't need one, I have a steady sleeping pattern and I wake up automatically.

I'm not saying they're plain useless. I just don't risk getting hooked on them in exchange for a handful of useful services. I can live happily without owning one. If I ever feel that owning a smartphone will make my life better I'd gladly buy one. It's not ideology that stops me from getting one. I just don't want to end up like those guys who meet up for a coffee and spend two thirds of their time watching their smartphones. I don't feel sorry for them, I think they're hooked to the damn thing as I could easily get hooked if I had one. So to relieve me from the temptation of checking it every other minute I simply don't have one. Problem solved. As always, YMMV.

Dumbphones can have flashlight, alarms and mp3/radio too, mine does.

I had a 'dumbphone' before. But my phone now is much easier to use. The ui is big and clear.

My contacts are synced automatically and i can read news on it.

I'm not forcing people into using a smartphone and i don't have any issues with how i use it.

Disabling notifications, both on my phone and on my laptop, was one of the best things I ever did, hands down.

For the laptop, I've experimented with logging out of most social networks with some good results.

I block out an hour every day or so for email and the like, and during that time, I'll re-log-in to Facebook. But outside of that, I stay logged-out, and 2FA helps by making the login process even less convenient.

Messenger and Twitter do get re-enabled when I'm at a conference or need to coordinate with people via those channels, but otherwise, it's just another cognitive burden and potential source of bees-in-head.

When I'm at home, I also leave my phone in the charger in the bedroom. Out of sight really has been out of mind.

Oh, and no phone in the bathroom has been a very good rule as well, in terms of breaking bad habits.

important enough that I have saved it


"I think of different communication media as having different urgencies / time constants. Emails are a daily report. My phone's notifications are an hourly report. Notifications which I forward to my watch are the instant things. Be sure to mercilessly "mute" most apps from bugging you on your wrist. With this setup, I never feel the urge to check my phone. If there is something important, it would've buzzed my wrist."

Totally agree with turning off Notifications. People, who complained about busy their life, seeking solace from technology, the updates/alerts, et al. have asked for tips or tricks. I told them to disable all notifications. Many are surprised, some feels that I'm turning into a savage, while some got angry.

Anything that asked for permission for notifications, alerts, just do not allow them. That should solve most of the problems.

I wrote an article about it long back (2014) and people really seem to like it [personal plug] - http://brajeshwar.com/2014/missing-step-productivity-activit...

I've have the opposite. I've stopped using my laptop at home. Since I find my phone more annoying to use, I don't use it as much.

Totally agree with turning off all notifications on the phone. This simply makes the phone experience so much better. Knowing you only reach for it when you need it, instead of getting dragged into checking other things while already looking at the screen due to the notification, really calms one down.

I still have an iPhone, but I'm (by choice) on a contract that has 500Mb of data per month and then a very expensive per Gb cost after that. Being aware of what percentage of my 500Mb I've used makes me very careful about wasting time on the phone. Works well for me and keeps me productive.

For me, the solutions are bookmarks. I keep a folder "Daily". Several times a day, I open all bookmarks inside that folder and go through the opened tabs one by one. Moreover, I unsubscribed from any kind of impersonal email.

Similar for my phone. I have vibration turned off for all apps, and most limited to just 'badges' for me to check when I want. I feel more relax; it's a better way to live.

Oh man, oh man, this is so close to my experience. I went lo-fi since the beginning of 2017. Real testimonials of a drug/facebook/internet addict who has the problem out of control here.

I killed my Facebook account 3 months ago, and switched to a dumb phone (from a Pixel phone ;-) since the beginning of the year. Now I'm rocking a webOS phone and no IM account except for hangouts which I check on my computer when I want. I no longer reach my pocket to check for message or anything when I enjoy my meal or go travel somewhere. There is no push or anything I can play when I wake up in the middle of the night to keep me up. Also, looking up and navigating to places by instinct sucks, and is fun at the same time. I no longer have any idea how highly rated any place is before I walk in, and I had plenty of surprises since then. Just last weekend I traveled somewhere and interacted with the locals because the only place in town was closed - I wouldn't have if I had a smartphone to "OK Google." Without the smartphone, I now carry a big, beaten up mirrorless camera in by bag, so I am more or less have to do more "proper" photography now, instead of disposable instagram stuff to get likes (this I have to credit the Pixel, it was an incredible camera for how thin it is). Learning photography with a camera is super fun, although the end result seems to be the same.

I'm an immigrant. Other than the Trump stuff my liberal friends were talking about here, there was another alternative flow of stressful/irrelevant celebrities news from my home country. I realized that without Facebook, I actually extremely rarely check or care what's going on, about who is fucking who and who is getting fat. The amount of stuff getting in my brain is dramatically reduced. I thought I would miss Facebook, and it turned out I don't. The benefits far, far exceeded the negatives.

Without Facebook and a constant smartphone influence to consume, I write way more, about what I like and what actually matters to me, not to get likes from my friends and to appear intelligent. I get downvotes from Hacker News when I say something stupid, which I don't get from Facebook. It's alright :) I honestly feel I learn everyday.

I get so much better sleep, way less stress and I have so much free time since then. It was like an enlightenment for me to be taking control of my life. I will try to cut back the internet also as the author suggested. Now excuse me, I have to get back to work on my writing.

Sometimes things just get ingrained as impulse and habit. I tried a lot of things before finally deactivating Facebook. Downgraded to a dumbphone briefly but it just wasn't feasible with work - especially the hotspot for when I'm on call. Tried scheduled site blockers like Freedom.io but the problem is I know how they all work so it was easy enough for me to disable them for a second. Tried blocking news sources that were usually associated with political-rant-shares but the algorithm just keeps roping you back in.

I generally try to stay off the web after work unless there's something I NEED to do after hours (right now I'm just finishing a database upgrade) and that easy enough. Killing Facebook ended up being the real cure for me. Any other sites I check I'm generally done after about 15 minutes...for the day. Facebook is just constant though. It's just such an easy go-to. Like the author of this post, I find myself reading books a lot more (for a really interesting read, check out The Undoing Project btw).

I see some other comments on here being critical of the decision but the real key is just identifying an acknowledging when you have a real, legitimate time sink problem. When you do and you can get to the bottom of it, it's like a weight off of your shoulders. Some people are better at moderation than others. Others are much better at quitting cold turkey.

When you really identify how much time you're wasting per day / week of something that's in short supply, especially when there are things you keep wishing you could find time for...the decision to do something like this gets really...really easy.

And once you do it, it feels pretty great.

>The Undoing Project

I heard about it on Freakonomics. I will check it out as I have time now ;-)

> Now I'm rocking a webOS phone

Which phones are webOS? I thought that it was essentially dead.

I never reach into my pocket to check for messages. That is what my LG G Watch R is for, it gives me the information quickly and easily.

That's missing the point though. This is not about the inconvenience of certain gestures, this is about the constant stream of notifications raining down on you.

Some people are alcoholics. They can't exist near an open can of beer without their life going to shambles. But most people aren't and don't have the urge to binge drink.

I'm not sure how this is any different. The author of this article is an Internetaholic, therefore I should cut my tether to the Internet? And what of my LTE connection?

I see it a lot particularly with regard to facebook. People take "I have a problem" and turn it in to "this thing is a problem".

One big difference is that alcohol was not engineered to be addictive. Whereas at Facebook and many other companies there are a lot of smart people continuously trying to improve metrics like DAU, UAM, response frequency, etc. And they do it with no apparent regard for the impact on users' lives. Heck, many game companies proudly advertise how they are the most addictive thing you can get right now.

Well okay sure, but engineered or not, alcohol is very addictive. There are probably more addictive substances, but alcohol really is up there on that list. You could probably engineer a better addictive substance, but not one nearly as pervasive in global culture.

There's something truly unique about alcohol that isn't true of any other addictive substance on the planet.

> There's something truly unique about alcohol that isn't true of any other addictive substance on the planet.

Except nicotine, sugar, caffeine, etc.

Honestly I'd say your argument is a much better fit for sugar.

I'm saying this as someone who went off it for a few years, and now back on it, trying to quit.

Tremendously addictive, and it's EVERYWHERE.

Birthday? Cake. Meeting up with friends? Drinks. Easter? Candy. Date? Chocolate. Did something good? Reward with cookies.

I sound like I'm on some bandwagon, but I'm not trying to argue that honey or agave or anything else is better, but there's very little sugar naturally in any real food, and we can't escape it.

Alcohol is at most gatherings, but it really isn't nearly as pervasive.


By the way, if you're looking for a way to get a clean break from sugar, following the paleo induction plan "Whole30" has worked well for me. The initial withdrawal symptoms are not fun, but the limited time span and the clarity of the program made it relatively easy to do.

Feel free to email if you want to discuss. I'm so glad to be off it again; I feel healthier and my mood is so much more positive and even.

Thanks! I'll look into it.

I didn't have any trouble quitting last time, but having a family and more commitments now makes it tougher to completely revamp your habits.

What I find most fascinating is how I can look outside myself and notice how my rational brain time and time again gets disregarded by impulse, while knowing what I know. It's like observing someone else.

I have clear memories and notes over how (as you describe) my mood was better and I felt healthier, yet an immediate impulse with a fleeting effect takes priority, while knowing it will only prolong the problem.

Somehow I've never really had a sweet tooth at all. I usually decline sweet foods when people are handing around cake or cookies, or only accept to be polite and take a small slice. But get some nice savoury food near me and I'll scarf it all down. For some reason umami is to me what sugar is to others.

I'm the same way. I call it a salty tooth. I couldn't care less about desserts, but if someone offers me some smelly camembert, or bread and olive tapenade, or a bonito rice ball, you better watch out because it's all going into my mouth.

Aren't fruits full of sugar?

The problem with sugar is, IMO, glycemic index. With glucose being an index of 100, no sugar being an index of 0, and something that takes a moderate amount of time to convert from starches/etc to sugar being 50, things that are higher than 50-60 tend to spike your blood sugar and cause insulin to scavenge the sugar out and store it in fat. Doing that often causes things like insulin resistance and obesity as you get hungry again when your blood sugar drops.

Fruits have a surprisingly low glycemic index because they aren't processed and you have to get through fiber and digest the cells before having access to all of the sugar. I've changed my diet to avoid sugar and notice that I very rarely feel actively hungry/crashy vs. before, and most fruit is just fine.


I checked the table you linked and:

Apple: 38 Banana: 51 Pineapple: 66 Watermelon: 72


Ice Cream (premium): 37 Sponge Cake: 46 Frosted Flakes: 55 Snicker's Bar: 55

Fruits really are very high GI compared to regular snack foods. They're relatively healthy for other reasons though.

A perhaps better measure is glycemic load, which takes mass into account. 400 calories of frosted flakes is about 100g. 400 calories of watermelon is 1.3kg. Watermelon's glycemic index is worse, but at reasonable serving sizes, fruits generally end up being way better.

You also cherry picked, figuratively speaking. More literally, you didn't pick the cherries at an index of 22. There are a lot of fruits in the 20s to 40s. I tend to stay away from both pineapple and watermelon.

Sure, that is naturally occuring, and I wouldn't advise eating too much of it either, but at least the ratio is offset by a lot of fiber (and water), so you get somewhat full.

But I get your point, it shouldn't really be about what's naturally occuring, but how it affects your body. I stay away from fruit as well.

> There's something truly unique about alcohol that isn't true of any other addictive substance on the planet.

Alcohol is a viable a substitute for carbohydrates for feeding nerve cells. Ethanol -> acetate -> ATP. Some research was published a few years ago about how the brains of heavy drinkers switch to running on acetate....


Huh. It looks like alcohol is in the middle of the common drugs: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substance_dependence#Dependenc...

I'm not sure about pervasiveness, though. In the US, a lot more people are caffeine dependent. And Facebook's MAU is way higher than alcohol's.

pervasiveness is a factor. If you think of the addiction as an "infection" then relapse/reinfection is a lot easier when the reinfection vectors are pervasive.

I read this in a drug information pamphlet a long time ago; basically it said that cocaine and heroin both bind to a different set of receptors to the other, but alcohol binds to both. Which is what makes it uniquely addictive. Its obviously not as strong as either of those drugs but combines the nature of both.

the worst part? affecting children, in which Yes it's the parent's responsibilities...

But there only so much parents can do AND there is this thing called 'sense of belonging' that influence kids to be as much as their peers

What you're both implying is that, unless something is EVERYONE'S problem, no one should share their experiences. The author constantly makes the case that maybe this is too extreme for you, and you can choose not to do it. But for a lot of us here, as is clear from the activity on this thread, this IS a problem, and I'm glad the author made the post.

But Facebook is a problem. Social media has its place somewhere in society but Facebook in particular is definitely a problem, for a multitude of reasons.

Care to list some?

As a digital nomad for the past several months, Facebook has been crucial in keeping in touch with friends and family back home, but also a perfect platform for staying in contact with new friends I make on my travels :-)

I am an immigrant. I've been living mostly away from home for 10 years. I have people (friends, relatives, family, people that I know and love) that are easily reachable on Facebook. I deleted my facebook account and realized that I can still reach all the people I want to reach if I had really wanted to. Stuff that is "on Facebook" seems optional to me. When the only way I know them is their Facebook profile then I'm fucked. Now I learned to ask people for their email addresses, I personally think it will live far longer than Facebook.

are you american or what?

That's really insane man. Take care of yourself. :)

Sorry, I can no longer edit my comment, so I am adding another comment here. I'm in no way criticizing your way of communication. I think Facebook is an excellent communication tool.

However, to me, there is something special about emails that makes them a much personal way to communicate. When I send an email to a friend, I feel like I made a personal connection. I feel I like the person a lot more when I write an email to them and get an email back. When I commented on/liked a facebook status, it just feels like it's some shit I have to do when I am bored. Since I deleted my facebook, it turns out that there are very few friends/acquaintances that I added on Facebook that I feel like I need to connect on a personal level. That's very strange.

I'm a few months into the no-facebook game and it certainly is strange to realize how vacant most of our interactions on the platform were.

In some ways it feels like I've never been this lonely before. It makes me realize just how superficial most of my connections really were. I moved around a lot and had a sizable group of friends I would interact with on facebook, but now that it's gone... only three of them still make the effort to text or call me at least once a week to catch up. Sure, I have more friends who are simply indisposed and busy, but because they have social media they don't seek much interaction outside of it and so we don't talk.

It honestly hurts and the last two nights I've actually broken into long crying fits over how lonely I feel, because I feel like I don't connect with anyone, even the people I do talk to. I know facebook wasn't providing that level of connection I desired, but I realized it had tricked me into thinking it did. I realized that in the past, when I felt this kind of loneliness-induced depression creeping up, I would get on social media just to look at other human beings and remind me I'm not on a rock by myself and other people are dealing with the same emotions. Decent short-term solution for getting rid of the symptoms, but it did nothing to address the problem itself.

Incentivised social media like Facebook is really not healthy for the developing psyche. It's shaped the way I think and feel, and what triggers my brain's reward systems, and now I'm suffering for it.

It's not a problem per-se IMO, but Facebook is highly optimized for being addictive. They A/B test the addiction out of it!

There's a GREAT book that I am careful recommending as indeed I think it explores ideas that can be abused easily: Hooked, how to build habit-forming products ( https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hooked-How-Build-Habit-Forming-Prod... )

I'll list two because I've been on HN too long today already.

1) Facebook is part of an initiative to lay down internet infrastructure in Africa, with the catch being that access to Facebook, Google, et al. is heavily subsidized. They are attempting to trap an entire continent on their platform, with subsidized tax money, knowingly simultaneously creating the most advanced social monitoring tool ever to exist. The CIA already has "social unrest" prediction mechanisms and, regardless of what some people involved think they're doing it for, this tool will be used to enslave the continent, continue preventing its people from achieving economic parity with the West, and provide better data for three-letter agencies to use in their sociopolitical and economic targeting (targeted propaganda, red herring social issues, media blackouts, even full-scale political coups)

I have not read this article but I was in a hurry to find a source to give you. I'm hoping the Guardian doesn't let me down here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/01/facebook-free-...

2) They have better data than anyone else with respect to gauging addicting user behavior, and instead of taking the Nintendo approach ("Why don't you take a break and play outside?") they actively exploit these behavioral patterns to increase user engagement. 1/4 of the world's population exists on an insulating platform that does not have their interests in mind. They are unwittingly paving Facebook a permanent highway over our social systems. This creates negatively-reinforcing social vacuums and a massive chilling and normalization effect. But even worse than this normalization is the ideological reinforcement and mass hyper-emotional response that tends to result from an network of humans all checking their emotional response against others in a social vacuum. To make things even worse, Facebook capitalizes here as well and exploits users' emotional response mechanisms.

Here's a paper from a few years ago exploring this concept. I wanted to find a more recent article that was quite good but I couldn't locate it with a quick search:


The article I wanted to find mentioned one of the ways Facebook would exploit peoples' emotions to provoke their addictive behavior:

Facebook knows John spends about 10 minutes going through his feed at a time. During work hours, this number is 3 minutes. Right when Facebook thinks John might be about to put his phone away, they will suddenly show him a post from a friend he likes. He might stick around a little longer and comment. He scrolls a little more just because he is used to the behavior, and when Facebook thinks he is about to leave again they show him a post from someone he doesn't like. Bonus points if Facebook has determined the post is positive in nature. This triggers a negative emotional response in John and he scrolls a while longer, looking for a post that will give him another dopamine rush and return his "happiness" to him.

It's disgusting. It's predatory. It's abusive. It's no different than the CIA knowingly spreading crack and fentanyl to control the population and create pockets of crime that call for increased enforcement.

I am really curious about this last technique you mentioned (predicting when the user might be about to put their phone away and intervening at that moment with enticing content). If you remember any clues that might lead to it, or find it again, please post. Thanks!

I still couldn't find it and it really bugs me. If I do, I'll shoot you a PM.

In my search, I did come across this[0] and it concerned me. Seems like Facebook is expanding the ability of its users to enforce the chilling effect by allowing them to report "mentally unhealthy" posts so the users can be targeted for behavioral modification and automatic reporting to mental health agencies, as opposed to say, just messaging their friend directly and saying, "Hey, you OK man? You seem a bit sad."

They are also using ML to do the same thing, automatically. Just further separating us in the name of bringing us together.

[0] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-facebooks-mac...

GeoHot talked about FB in a few interviews how they used machine learning entirely for the purposes of tricking people into using FB more, which is why he quit working there.

Never knew GeoHot worked at Facebook! What was he thinking?!


I think this blog post is entirely too idealistic about the benefits of turning off the Internet, but I don't think comparing excessive Internet use and Alcoholism is appropriate.

Having personally been on the fringe of "high functioning" alcoholism on a few occasions, I don't think the comparison works. Alcoholism is inherently negative. Drinking alcohol in moderation may not be extremely harmful, but is still not necessarily great. While I certainly won't tell anyone how to live their life, cutting out alcohol use is still a "good" thing. Even if it's not a problem for you. Edit: I also still drink periodically because I enjoy it.

Internet use is not inherently negative. "Addiction" to the Internet may not be great, but is not necessarily all bad. The tricky thing about Internet use is that it's generally not something with negative social connotations. So even if someone is "binge consuming", one is not likely to feel negative social pressure because of it.

So I ultimately agree that he shouldn't be touting no Internet as a solution for all people, but I can't get behind the Alcoholism comparison.

> Drinking alcohol in moderation may not be extremely harmful, but is still not necessarily great. While I certainly won't tell anyone how to live their life, cutting out alcohol use is still a "good" thing. Even if it's not a problem for you.

I just don't know about that, even though I know you're trying to be fair and reasonable. Even ignoring the reported possible health benefits of alcohol in moderation, if it's slightly bad for your physical health it can still be a net positive in your life.

> it can still be a net positive in your life

I also don't drink[0], but when I did I saw it as a positive thing as it got me outside and I was able to socialise with people when I was drinking. That was all just a state of mind though - there isn't anything magical in alcohol that makes you more confident (other than removing

Since I've quit I've made many new friends and my relationships with them are much deeper than any of my previous 'drinking buddies'.

[0] I occasionally drink kvass which has very small amount of alcohol (usually <1%). It is more natural (not pasteurised and filtered like most alcoholic drinks), so I wouldn't be surprised if it also has the same or greater health benefits.

It's not just an increase in confidence or ability to socialize, and there's no inherent reason why friendships need to be shallow or dependent on alcohol like the phrase "drinking buddies" implies. Alcohol causes euphoria, plain and simple. I don't see any reason why responsible moderate use can't result in a net utility gain over the potential health decrease. I'm thinking along the same lines as other dietary treats (like candy or comfort food) that are probably not part of any theoretical "ideal" diet but which can still make people happy.

My point is mostly focused on the extremes. I realize that I brought up the moderation bit and the true benefit/harm of moderate alcohol use is up for debate.

But if you look at extreme overuse of alcohol, there is nothing good about it. Pretty cut and dry.

Extreme "overuse" of the Internet - may have negatives attached, but is still in that "debatable" territory. True impact (positive or negative) depends on what the person is spending their time on, depends on the nature of their work and personal relationships, depends on what they have access to away from home, etc. etc. Even the definition of "extreme" or "overuse" is entirely relative and depends on the specifics of the situation.

I have to disagree that internet addiction is not something without highly negative social connotations. There is a significant number of people who fall into poor social circumstances via too much exposure to internet. There are a lot of internet communities out there that amplify deviant and antisocial behavior in people who spend way too much time on the internet. I agree that it's a different beast than a substance addiction, but there's no way you can simply dismiss binge internet user issues. Though my point may seem anecdotal, a lot of people have friends who were a lot better socially adjusted before they started letting the internet change their perspective and priorities.

That's fair, and to be clear I'm not entirely dismissing the issues related to binge Internet use. I do think this can be a very real problem that has very real consequences. I'm mostly unable to accept the alcohol comparison.

In addition to those communities, I'd also add MMORPGs as pretty clear example for me. Robin Williams referred to some games as "cyber cocaine": http://variety.com/2014/digital/news/how-video-games-were-a-...

And I've had friends that I've just lost to online games for a long spell.

> There is a significant number of people who fall into poor social circumstances via too much exposure to internet.

I'm not convinced that causality is not inverted there.

Some alcoholics are genetically predisposed to addiction and some are just using it to cope with something traumatic. Some basement dwellers (predisposed) gravitate towards depraved social forums and some well adjusted people are radicalized by political memes on Facebook.

While I certainly won't tell anyone how to live their life, cutting out alcohol use is still a "good" thing.

See, I'm not so sure about that. I spent probably 7-8 years without alcohol. It was never that I drank often, but my ex really had issues with it along with mental health issues. Part of making a good environment for him was to keep alcohol out of the house, and I couldn't really afford to be that impaired.

After we broke up, I started drinking casually. Its been years, and I still don't drink much, but it is a unique occasional enjoyment. I neither have pressure to drink nor real consequences from it - after all, I'd be spending the money on other entertainment anyway.

It was much harder to not be part of social media networks, honestly. No one cares if I drink, but folks will simply not talk to others if they don't share the social network.

There are many things for which use normal use is ok, even beneficial. E.g., alcohol, gambling, work, food, and sex. But for some people those become addictions. They are not inherently negative, but they can be abused.

If there is a distinction between those things and internet use, you haven't made it clear.

An alcohol manufacturer rarely has an army of designers, data scientists and engineers working non-stop to make their product more addictive and measuring their success on engagement growth.

> An alcohol manufacturer rarely has an army of designers, data scientists and engineers working non-stop to make their product more addictive and measuring their success on engagement growth.

They have at least the first two, and tobacco companies have, or historically have had, all three. Job titles are slightly different, but basic functions are the same.

This is just not true. Go visit a vineyard, distillery, or a brewery. People may be trying to improve the quality of the product, but they are not relentlessly trying to increase "user drinking minutes" or any metric like that. They do try to sell more of their product, but their main goal is getting better reviews, wider distribution, and more customers, not stuffing people like foie gras geese.

> This is just not true.

Yes, it is.

> . Go visit a vineyard, distillery, or a brewery. People may be trying to improve the quality of the product, but they are not relentlessly trying to increase "user drinking minutes" or any metric like that.

Yes, that's exactly what the marketing arms of the firms involved, and the advertising agencies they employ, are trying to do. (There's some actual product-development involvement there, too; light and ultra-light beers were invented pretty much exactly to maximize user drinking minutes.)

That's really only true for big companies like Ab-Inbev. You aren't going to see any of that at your mom and pop vineyard or craft microbrewery. You also don't see much of that pathological, exploitive behaviour in 1 person indie game shops either, however.

You aren't going to see any of that at your mom and pop vineyard or craft microbrewery.

Half the craft microbreweries are owned by Ab-Inbev and the likes.

Yes, and tons of indie developers are beholden to big publishers like Sony and Microsoft. That doesn't change the fact that there are plenty of properly independent folks.

Also, I am not aware of the craft microbreweries owned by the big companies engaging in the sort of abusive behaviours that the main brands engage in, are you?

Needless to say, it's a complicated picture.

As others have pointed out, alcohol/tobacco manufacturers do in fact have these.

However because addiction is a known factor in their industry, I think they are kept somewhat in check, if only for legal reasons. I don't think Internet companies have any such qualms, so I would agree that they basically are trying to 'weaponize' this addiction.

Sure they do, they just focus on marketing and packaging more than on trying to create new chemicals.

Some do

I would be utterly shocked if most of the big ones didn't, and I'd be even more shocked if they (along with tobacco companies) had helped to develop techniques now taken for granted in the digital world.

Raising awareness of internetaholism doesn't seem like a terrible idea.

I do think that a lot of people are very dependent on the internet in this way—and that there's very few things in life that we find to be indispensable to ever be disconnected from—air, sustenance, light, and... internet?

The fact that many find it to be so inconceivable to go from having the internet 24/7 to having the internet for your entire workday and any time you spend in a public place with internet, really points out how psychologically dependent we've collectively become on the web.

I think the problem is that apparently many people default to some level of potential "internetaholicity"; it explains the insane success of something like FB after all. People take time to recognize the various Skinner Boxes and develop the kind of sophistication so many on a site like HN take for granted. MMORPG's, Mobile F2P Skinner Boxes, and messaging programs really are going right to the core of human behavior.

How many of us didn't at least go through a phase of abusive use around the internet, or games, or something like that? When you add that having an FB account and the like is often seen as ultimately normal, it starts to add a lot of pressure for some people. As someone who has always hated something like FB, it's been disturbing to see it sink hooks into so many.

That said, I saw it coming because when I was a teenager I was hooked on mIrc for a while!

SO no... don't cut your tether, you're either naturally immune or like me developed an immune system. You should recognize though, that plenty of people aren't going to have such a successful outcome playing with that particular fire.

I think comparing it to alcohol is incorrect. It's more analogous to cigarettes. You start and it's very hard to stop. You increase your intake and it's very hard to even reduce it. Honestly, I think the internet is much more addictive than cigarettes and more comparable to very hard, addictive drugs.

Just an observation, shouldn't it be Internetic, even though it sounds wrong:

Alcohol-ic so Internet-ic

It should, but English lacks a suffix for "addicted to...", so people have taken the "-holic" of "alcoholic" and reinterpreted it to fill that void. The genie is out of the bottle now, so to speak, and we will probably continue to use "-holic" for all forms of addiction as long as English is spoken.

I don't think so. Work-a-holic comes to mind and it has the some suffix has alco-holic. Probably I would say netaholic.

> And what of my LTE connection?

I was wondering this too after reading the "call to action" -- do I get to keep my data plan? (Did the author keep his?) I assume the answer is supposed to be no, but that might be good to note explicitly as this wouldn't be nearly as life-changing if taken a little too literally. (Not to be too nitpicky -- the article makes great points!)

I find for myself that using my iPhone's porn filter to block timesuck sites like Reddit, Facebook, and ironically, this one—is a nice middle ground, where most of the time it's too inconvenient for me to go through deactivating the filters, but I can when I want to do something related to the service (like administering this hacker news post). Coupled with not having the native apps installed, it makes for a decent first step in reducing dependence.

My general heuristic is that anything with an infinite feed is designed to suck you in—so avoid apps that provide them, as much as is feasible for your lifestyle.

Even if I cut off my home internet, I still have my phone. Am I suppose to cut off both?

A less extreme idea embedded in here, that I'd like to try, is writing things down that you'd like research instead of impulsively Googling stuff. I think this wil have at least two benefits. 1. This will prevent you from impulsively interrupting what you're doing (like work or eating dinner) 2. Will filter out things you don't actually care about. When you sit down to go through your research list, you might discover you don't actually care about half of them thus saving you time and effort.

I have tried this and it works great for me. Here are two extra things I now do:

Keep two or three parallel lists for different kind of internet use (e.g. research, message a friend, check for news about x, buy y).

Keep writing tools nearby always, even if it's just a pen and a scrap of paper in your pocket.

This is a great idea, maybe not just "what I want to research" but write out exactly what I want to accomplish before I turn on the computer. For example, pay electric bill, move money to savings, send an email to dad. etc. I can't really imagine not being able to pay bills online, I am trying to reduce the physical mail I get/have to deal with. I would never want to go back to writing checks and putting them in the mail.

I really wish I could do that, but the problem is that note-taking/text-entry on current smartphones (i.e. the only item you're likely to have with you at all time) is such a dreg.

How do you solve that, by carrying a notebook and pen with you everywhere?

Try a Galaxy note phone/tablet and the One Note app. Works and syncs mostly everywhere.

Have you tried Google Keep? If not I would definitely recommend it vs built in notes apps.

I know Google Keep and use it, but I'm talking about physical text input. Virtual keyboards for non-daily-vocab are awful, and devices with physical keyboards are getting rare, plus they're not getting better -- I've tried multiple Blackberry models, what a disapointment, it's hard to believe they had such a following for so long. I miss my Nokia E70 and Droid 3 :-/

And before someone weighs in with the inevitable "but virtual keyboards are totally cool, bro": I get it, they can be quick, but no they're not. Not when you switch between languages, not when you use a lot of technical or uncommon terms, and not when you appreciate a low typo-oops-correction rate.

Interesting how I never considered this option. It never even hit my horizon. I'm actually in the process of increasing speed since faster speed equals faster access and better productivity. Right? After reading this article, I suspect I'm wrong.

Thinking about how easy it is to get distracted when I'm online 100% of the time, no access is probably a good choice. It's going to hurt but this is something I'm going to try. Good article.

Yeah, I found this article since my girlfriend's internet got cut off once her roommate who was paying for it moved out—she never got around to setting it up again, and now that I've observed her habits change during this period, I was pretty impressed! I'm definitely considering trying this out for a bit, as I find I have more than enough time in the office on the web, and it's a pretty good excuse to get out and about.

But if you cut off your internet access, how do you keep in touch with your coworkers after hours?

I've found that it was too easy for my co-workers to ping me on things that can wait until the next day or stuff I can't do anything about until I get to work. I've asked them to call me if there's an issue that I have to fix. So far I've gotten zero calls and it's been over a year. If ever it becomes an issue I've got internet access within 5 mins from me. I suspect it's the same situation for most people.

Why would you need to do that?

If they are also friends, fine -- make after-work plans face-to-face. Otherwise, talk to them at work tomorrow.

What do you mean? If they are your friends, they can call you. If they need to talk to you about work... well that's not what "after hours" are for!

Sorry, I forgot to append /s.

>I'm actually in the process of increasing speed since faster speed equals faster access and better productivity. Right?

YouTube will load faster, yes.

Cute. Kind of like a paleo diet. Check back in in 2018, let me know how that's going for you.

I mean, I get it, you have to rebalance, which sometimes calls for going overboard. Just don't get too excited about it being the One True Way. 50 years from now?

Just so you know, this was written in 2011.

In college I had tried to get into programming (including taking a CS class) and had, each time, bounced off (not because I couldn't get it, but tutorials seemed boring and a passion wasn't ignited).

Fast forward to after college, I found myself at a career-y job I disliked. Each lunch break I loaded up my (shiny new 2011) Macbook Air with a few tabs-worth of chapters of How to Think Like a Computer Scientist [0] and headed to a Wendy's that didn't have an internet connection. So, for 45 minutes I could eat my spicy chicken nuggets and apply what I was learning from the book in console at a Python command line. It was so simple and fun, I was hooked. Within a month I was taking on programming-related responsibilities at work, soon thereafter auditing a class at Uni (I specifically chose cause it interested me), and within 4-5 months was being paid by my professor (from audited class) for web dev grant work, and a few more months and I was being paid as a developer by the University directly. The rest is history.

I think one key part of why it stuck the fourth time was because my routine allowed for 45+ minutes of time away from the internet each day with learning materials. The satisfaction of learning is incredible but more of a "slow drip" compared to the kind of instant satisfaction one can get by opening Netflix, Facebook, or whatever. Going without the latter during a key period I think changed my life.

[0] - http://openbookproject.net/thinkcs/python/english3e/

> tutorials seemed boring and a passion wasn't ignited

> job I disliked ... How to Think Like a Computer Scientist [0] ... and apply what I was learning from the book in console at a Python command line. It was so simple and fun

I'm struck by how the right guidance was also helpful. Actually making something new happen is rewarding (py console), you experience your progress. But it can be tricky to divide a topic into bite-sized things, that can be experienced. That's where guidance helps.

Unfortunately, some topics have so many layers, they're difficult to break down into these learnable, rewarding chunks (e.g. computational fluid dynamics).

So (if you don't mind a reframing) while the slow drip of a consistent routine over a long period was crucial, each drop gave fairly quick (though not immediate) gratification.

May I suggest that the problem is one of quality much more so than of quantity, and that a solution that takes a more fine-grained approach than just shutting off your ISP altogether can give you the best of both worlds?

"How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind — from a Magician and Google Design Ethicist"


Once you see how subtly dark patterns borrowed from advertising and casinos tap deeply into your subconscious impulses without your knowledge, you will likely jettison any cavalier conception of things like Facebook, smartphone notifications, etc., and begin to treat them like the subversive, profit driven intrusions that they are.

Let's as well not forget that just about 100% of the web used to look like it would today if you disabled all Javascript and CSS. The change is not a coincidence, and it's important to recognize who benefits from the intrusive web, and what we lose when our scenic view of the historic part of town has been blocked by the new casino development.

A really good comment.

> I need the Internet for ...workwork...

> You probably don’t, and maybe it’s time to look in the mirror and be honest with yourself.

That's where I stopped reading as obviously this article is not directed at me.

Unless there is a way to troubleshoot and fix remote servers in the middle of the night without internet.

Yes I agree with you and I think, for people with our type of needs, a more sensible approach would be to switch from smart to dumb phone, in fact I have been thinking about that for a while now.

That would be throwing out the good with the bad. The phone isn't just an internet portal, it's a music player, a navigation system, an audiobook player, a book reader, etc.

Yep. I've deleted Facebook and it's reduced my time wasting. I still pull my phone out, swipe left, swipe right, realize there's nothing for me to do and then put my phone away. (I have most notifications turned to minimal/off)

But LOVE my audio books and podcasts and google maps and digital note pad and dictionary and wikipedia... And never feel guilty about those things.

Your phone can do all those things without a continuous data connection.

Dumb phones can do audio too.

But sure, better to get rid of the data connection than the smarts.

Sorry that doesn't sound sensible to me at all. How about we keep the tools and learn to discipline ourselves better?

Part of learning self-discipline is learning what triggers or facilitates undesired behavior and modifying one's environment to increase desired behavior. This can include limiting internet access, such as removing home internet, or switching to a dumb phone. This isn't weakness; it's learning about oneself and working with what you have. Certainly, there are ways to increase will-power, but relying purely on will-power can be difficult for many people.

I didn't say it was "weakness". I meant it seemed like unnecessarily crippling oneself. It might be valuable for many people to investigate why they can't stop themselves from overusing their smartphones. Sure if they end up realizing that they can't manage to stop themselves, it would make sense to change the environment, but why give up without even trying? This really seems like the opposite of learning self-discipline.

I didn't mean to imply that you said it was a weakness, though I did think some may consider it as such ("what, you don't have enough self-control to limit your smartphone usage?"). I'm addressing the fact that self-control is not limitless (even if developed and increased) and that if one's goal is to be more productive, one should feel free to use the tools available to them, which include both modifying one's environment and increasing self-control. And of course any modifications have to fit in with how you want to live your life. If it's crippling, it's not a useful modification. Having a dumbphone may be crippling to some, and liberating to others.

You seem to have dismissed the former entirely with "that doesn't seem sensible to me at all", and here leave it as only a last resort. I don't believe that's a useful way to view it. Use the tools you have available to modify your behavior.

Because you don't have infinite willpower.

You don't need "infinite" willpower. You might even need very little once you've changed into a default mode of using your phone less. By the way it's still unclear whether ego-depletion is a real phenomenon AFAIK.

"If people would just eat less they wouldn't be overweight!"

You will need more willpower than what most people have, and so the problem remains.

Now what?

I'm noticing that for me, simply disrupting the pattern does wonders. A background process that re-bans websites via localhost redirect in my hosts file every few hours does wonders, for example.

A bad habit I can fall into as easily as breathing is a problem.

A bad habit I have to indulge in some effort to perform, puts me in the position of needing willpower to indulge in it!

Are you disciplining yourself enough, whilst you post here?

What's wrong with posting here?

Please don't do ad hominem; it is not conducive to a healthy discussion.

That would probably be a better way to improve productivity since I rarely use my phone for phone calls but it is still always by my side.

Maybe a dongle/phone you can connect to, but don't use?

Fun (semi-related) story, I once had someone steal my mac power cable on a bus ride from Quito to Banos, Tungurahua in Ecuador http://bit.ly/2olVpLT and had to install putty on an internet computer from 2003 to get into a server to reboot a process. That was when I realized that Internet access was no longer a luxury for me.

This article highly underestimates the skill type and level of the audience and hence should come with a disclaimer warning us about it.

Why not just uninstall your internet browser on your main user account?

But... but... I need the internet for online gaming and aimless browsing!

It's true. This stuff is addictive, and I've known that for over two decades now. And I've been addicted ever since my older brother told me about the Internet when he went to university. I don't fool myself that I can stop anytime; I clearly can't. I don't want to. But it's true that it's sucking up way too much time.

I don't read books anymore because I read HN and Google+. I have trouble of focusing on boring administrative chores because there's always this info-driven dopamine boost within reach.

That's what i don't like from theminimalists.

I'm a minimalist but it doesn't mean that i have nothing in my flat. I enjoy watching stuff on netflix or playing computer games.

Being a minimalist and have basically nothing is just another form of 'hi i'm peter and i did something to an unnecessary extreme, please look at me'.

No internet at home no one will do this. Lots of people will try it but will stop doing it and haven't learnt anything from it.

Being a minimalist means having that mindset and evaluating all the time but being content with the status quo. If you have the feeling that you are using the internet too much, reduce it somehow but not by removing it completely.

It is the same with diet: No one will keep there weight when dieting. Change your eating habbits instead.

I wish there were better ways to regulate your own access. It's easy enough to make good decisions about where you spend your time when you're in a good frame of mind, but it's almost impossible to do that every minute of every day. It's a bit like eating I think. It's not too hard to buy healthy food when you're at the grocery store, but it's hard to say no to a plate of cookies every time you walk past when they're sitting on your table.

I wish there were good software solutions, like a way to schedule a blacklist of websites on your phone and computer that you simply couldn't get around. Almost everything I've seen is set up to block access for children, or is easily bypassed. I feel like it's an area that could be a huge benefit to a lot of people.

Completely killing your home internet is extreme. I'd have to change careers, hobbies, and it would even interfere with friendships. But there's no reason why it has to be all or nothing.

I tried living totally without internet access, and while I felt a lot better overall, I eventually had to give in. Nowadays phone books aren't usually delivered to homes anymore, so if you want to get in touch with a store or find a doctor's office, you need internet to search for it. Since I wasn't driving at the time, I couldn't just head out to an internet cafe when it was something important.

For similar reasons, I've had trouble detangling from Facebook. 10 years ago, if a friend was getting married they'd send out announcements -- now they just "announce" it on Facebook, and if you don't log in that week, you don't find out about it.

So part of the reason it's hard to disconnect is because the previous methods of staying in touch have atrophied in favor of these new, more toxic systems.

Nevertheless, I'm trying a couple of things (with varied success -- I really do much better cold turkey):

- Trying to reward myself with internet time after I score enough points in Habitica (aka HabitRPG)

- Trying to turn off the modem at a certain time of night like 10 pm (I find I sleep better too -- might be coincidence but I've noticed the difference many times)

Ultimately what would help me would be a pay-per-use internet plan versus an "always on" internet plan. If I know that my plan fee increased after 20 hours / month, I'd have access when I needed it, but then I'd have to "save up" for special occasions like streaming a show. As of yet I haven't found an external limit that doesn't also make life too logistically challenging.

I lived without internet for a while too and had the same experience. There's benefits, but it's not practical long term.

Pay-per-use would is an interesting idea, but if you live with other people it gets a little more complicated.

The best tool I've found is an app called Self Control. It puts rules into your hosts file and either blacklists certain websites or blocks all of them and whitelists the ones you want. It uses an external timeserver so you can't get around it by changing your computer clock, and it runs regular checks to make sure you don't just edit your hosts file yourself. It's really pretty good. And in theory you could set up scripts that would start up certain blocks at a scheduled time every day. The one huge problem though is that it's Mac only.

I don't think there's a way to completely fix the issue externally, but having some powerful tools for limiting yourself would go a long way in making it easier.

RE: Phone listings, TellMe (408-752-8052) and Jingle Networks (800-FREE-411) run free directory assistance services.

It's so sad to see such techniques just because people can control themselves. Ok, a life with a full list of friends on facebook is fake, but the opposite is fake too. It's just another hypster minimalist move. Some tortured guy looking for meaning in his life, as all of us, but with enough paternalistic arrogance to pretend he knows better than us what's good for us, usual story.

People of my generation around me, myself included, tend or tended to boast how we are living without any TV at home compared to our parents or the time we spent watching TV when we were younger. Now, people in my flat sharing were watching series on their own laptops most of the evenings, otherwise spending their time on internet.

In retrospective, I wonder if we will have the same "relationship" with Internet our parents have with the TV, and if our children will behave the same with Internet as we do now regarding our pride not to use a TV anymore.

If something better comes along, sure.

This is hardly new. People complained about individuals wasting their lives reading books all day too.

I think I should do something similar to my addiction to HN. I find myself glancing HN feed several times in the day with insatiable need to know the shiny new things. I'm going to try to restrict myself to one time a day visit to HN. Lets see if that can get my lazy ass to finally make more contributions in GitHub and do something more productive.

Check noprocrast in your profile.

From the FAQ:

In my profile, what is noprocrast?

It's a way to help you prevent yourself from spending too much time on HN. 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 override noprocrast if you want, in which case your visit clock starts over at zero.

Ah cool. I updated my profile with noprocrast. Now going to check back again after a while to see if it works ;-)

Thanks for the tip.

I use http://hckrnews.com and ONLY view the Top 10 per day. After the first visit or two all subsequent visits last only a second as a realize there's nothing new.

Subscribing to the weekly newsletter / digest might help, you still get hacker news, but only once a week ;)

Did you know your profile has a "noprocrast" setting which might help you there?


Not sure I agree with this entirely.

Sure, facebook/twitter/social media et al are obviously utter dross, but why cut yourself off from learning & knowledge like some sort of troglodyte?

People say books are great - and sure they are, but I have yet to find a book that 100% answers every question I have right there on the page as I am reading it. I frequently find myself thinking "hmm interesting - I wonder...." and look up stuff on the internet for more background/context/history/examples/whatever.

In my opinion curiosity is something that should be encouraged and not put on a rationed list of "things to do later, if you have the time"

My advice would be: - delete all social apps - star your immediate family contacts so that all other calls/notifications etc are silent - stay observant and curious, and embrace the pursuit of knowledge & learning

Exactly, I have vast wealth of contextual knowledge because of browsing Internet regarding multiple stuff from philosophy, computer science, history etc.

This has resulted me to find and appreciate connections between various stuff, things I never would have in a analog fashion of only reading books(which I do as that deepens the knowledge).

The internet expands and augments our perspective with that of so many others in a searchable fashion with element of serendipity & discovery to it.

Social media may contain lots of irrelevant noise, but that doesn't define the internet, like reality shows don't define existence.Te web in general has been a extremely positive gift to me, and to spurn it is not a option for me at least.

I total agree with the sentiment. I stopped using facebook for about 3 years. It was almost instantly obvious how much time was wasted on people's whining, fake news and dog photos. It is easier to do when it only affects yourself.

However it is a whole different story when things, like a cable tv, affects every member of your family. I was faced with fierce objection when I brought out the idea to cut out cable tv, and removing all TV from home.

It seems to me that the market value of "media" is how much time people are willing to waste instead of doing other stuff. For instance facebook now worth about 400B. What happens to global economy if facebook doesn't exist and people divert their attention to do whatever they interested in?

I don't think this is the correct solution. It's like chopping off your nose to avoid cold. Rather, try more self restraint or self control.

- Install a nanny software to block time-sink sites at specific time (chrome nanny was an awesome tool)

- Schedule appointments in advance with your friends/relatives to keep the relationships active

- Enroll in social events to be around with people and work for a cause you care

- Go for group studies/writing workshops/book clubs etc to rekindle your passion of reading/writing

There're a hundred other hacks which you can use to ensure you're productive/social !

A famous author once made the following observation - When faced with the option of either doing more exercise or less eating for losing weight, take the option which requires you to a) spend less time and b) not add anything new to your life (i.e. the cognitive overhead).

Apparently, people who tried to eat less were also more successful in losing weight.

Cutting off home internet is the option of less eating. Seems more drastic, but is actually more tuned to how our brains work.

Your suggestion is similar to doing more exercise. It can also work, but it is just a whole lot more work and cognitive overhead.

Besides, its not like the author is asking people to go off the grid.

To be fair, the amount of exercise you need to overcome even small amounts of excessive eating can be disproportionately difficult and time consuming—but while the example may have some logistic holes, I still generally agree with your idea :)

I really like the idea. But I think the author needs to be super transparent to his audience and be honest about when he re-enables his internet connection. Otherwise it is just socialmediaing the audience with nice pictures of his "life", building a façade that is not truthful.

I keep my internet off most of the day (via kernel firewall). Have a command that gives me a few minutes of internet so I can look up docs, then shuts everything back down.

If you're on a Mac then i can recommend Dash app for offline docs libraries. For me it's completely different experience to code offline (very enjoyable). More thinking involved - less Google/SO.

Can you say more about how you set it up? This sounds like a balanced solution: you avoid the long time sucks but can still look up needed info.

Sounds like a script with iptables. I believe many consumer routers also support time based internet access

Implementing this exact solution probably won't work for most people, but I found the idea of digital fasting a productive one. Try some less extreme variation of this like getting a dumb phone or switching to a paper magazine for your general interest reading for sometime. I found I built better habits offline that also translated online.

I just wish our devices were designed with the recognition that we users of them, yes, even adults, may want some help limiting our usage of them. Something like granular parental controls, but for the average adult user. I'd love to be able to set a time limit, at the system level, on my ability to use my phone or computer. Or limit what apps and programs and sites I have access to. I.e., I want my computers, tablets, and phones to be mostly TOOLS, with reliable limits on how addicted I can get to 1) reading news, 2) watching YouTube, 3) watching Netflix/Prime, 4) browsing the web. Of course this is not going to happen because there's a lot of money in peddling addiction. Apple and Google make a lot of money serving ads, selling games and content, etc. So we really need another option who builds a really good TOOL which has limited entertainment potential.

I have an unpopular opinion about this, but here it goes: I think the whole article is based on false premises. Mostly two of them:

  - Productivity is the be all, end all of life
  - It's somehow wrong to "waste your time" with things like Netflix, Gaming, etc.
What does "productivity" even mean? To be able to work more? I don't want to work more. And what is wrong with gaming, or watching TV shows on Netflix? I would consider some games and TV shows as works of art, and to me there's nothing wrong with experiencing more art in one's life.

I do agree with some of the less extreme sentiments here on HN that it's good to be more conscious about how you use your "internet time". I quit Facebook, and it has gained me more time to use for other stuff, and it strengthened the most important relationships in my life.

I did something similar when I was in college to fix my bad grades - I didn't have a laptop or a computer at home, and didn't own a smartphone. I did all my school related work at labs in college, and this made me much more productive at home - instead of mindlessly surfing the internet, I actually did the school work. As a result, my grades shot up to summa cum laude levels and there is a distinct step function between my freshman/sophomore year grades and the junior/senior year grades. Unfortunately, living with a girlfriend who adores Netflix, I am back into my procrastinating self when I am at home.

If your girlfriend is at all receptive to it, maybe you can try to move things in that direction—sounds like you appreciated a bunch of aspects of that lifestyle!

I get this, I really do. I wish I could dump the Internet for some of my home life. But unfortunately my home life is polluted by work. I'm a web developer who maintains an entity with multiple domains. One of them is a 24/7 uptime service. So I'd love to follow this advice, but I don't think it is applicable to many viewers at HN, as many of us need to follow our job.

What good advice would any viewer give to a life I just described? How could anyone (I) separate the Internet from a home life when being off that grid for a weekend could cause catastrophic failure without the dev leader their to fix it?

I struggle with some demons when it comes to the internet, mostly in terms of distractions and time wasting. Alcohol problems run in my family, and while I have no problems with it now or in the past, I find my addictive tendencies come out in regards to the internet and its content.

I've learned that I am very sensitive to physical spaces in my life, and I have made an effort to set "space boundaries" for myself to help with my tendencies. For example, I got rid of my desktop computer, replaced it with a laptop, and got rid of my desk in my room. It was calling me every day to sit down and use my computer for hours on end. It's been that way since childhood - the habit is deeply ingrained.

Now, I use my room for relaxation and I try to keep it that way. I'm not perfect, but when I have to work from home I make sure I don't do it in my room. I sit at the dining room table most times, and that has become a "work space" for me. I've trained myself to not work in my room, and, while I still use my computer and the internet in there, I only use it for personal things.

This solution is still in flux for me. So far it has been successful in turning my room into a relaxation space, which was a real lack in my life before. I hope that helps!

Have two dev leaders.

Also, more/better automation and fallbacks, an employee to cover all these extra shifts you're working, or trade out time with a colleague where you cover for each other which brings you back to having two dev leaders.

Either the business is successful and you can hire another 2nd leader; or can merge with a competitor to gain the 2nd leader and more resources of some sort (you have too many customers too little infra, so look for a company with underutilized infra). Or it's actually not that successful and is using your life 24/7 as life support for itself and it's past time to cut it loose.

I did this last year and it was amazing. I got so much done. I became way more fluent in git, started using syncthing to back stuff up, and began printing things I wanted to read.

Are you still doing it, or?

I'm not anymore. My house went for about 8 months without internet, but many of the lessons learned seem to still apply. I've been able to cut out a large amount of cruft from my browsing habits. I still struggle with news websites (i.e. HN), and twitter, but it's an ongoing journey.

I actually block a lot of stuff in /etc/hosts, and that helps temper habits. Deleting Facebook is up there in the top 10 greatest things I've ever done with my life. It re-expanded my whole universe, reintroducing such things as mystery and intrigue. There was a kind of perpetual 'wavefunction collapse' that Facebook imposed on my social and spiritual outlook. I really needed to let that one 'decohere' permanently.

When I say delete, I mean delete, as in https://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=224562897555674

Pro-hacker-trick: If you want to get all of your activity off of facebook, open your activity page and put a heavy object on your keyboard's 'down arrow' key. Then wait for an hour or two while it loads the entire endless scrolling page. Once it finishes, use your browser's save feature to save a web archive. Now you have a record of all the links you've posted on that damn thing.

I wish it was easier to extract content off of facebook. Going through the process of doing it myself really drove home how parasitic the platform really is.

Aside, you don't need to end a question with "or". It's assumed.

It's a non-committal way of writing that I've been seeing lately. As if you need to pre-empt and soften the possible "no" answer to your yes or no question.

Actually, it's more of saying "This is NOT a yes/no question, if it's "no", I want you to elaborate." Think of it as "..., or what happened?"

People like to vary their language to apply different tones to what they're saying.

Pointing out the obvious fact that it's not necessary doesn't serve any purpose.

his suggestion to hide my modem would just drive my phone data use through the roof :(

I remember the days before the internet and mobile phones. They weren't better (well, apart from being young and fit and knowing I was immortal, obviously). We like these things for a reason.

I used to watch a lot more tv before I had 24/7 Internet access.

I remember those days too. I had a lot more fun.

The votes indicate that people like this idea, it's just that it's impractical for most people whom like it.

> Earlier this year I made the conscious decision to remove all Internet service from my home. It ended up being the best productivity decision I’ve ever made.

Yep, can confirm that. I haven't had any Internet in my student flat in the past 1 1/2 years and am thriving on it :-) I have Internet at university and when I go home for the weekends, so I'm not cut off from the world; but I do need to much more deliberate in how I spend my time online.

One of the biggest advantages: I have time to read books again. As a kid I was a voracious reader, but that decreased in high school, partly because I was spending the time on the web instead. Giving myself the opportunity to go back to books has been tremendously satisfying. (HN and the Internet is great, but you learn so much more through books.)

I recently (2 months already!) closed my FB account and I have a mixed feeling about it. Part of the time I spent on facebook now I spend on things I want to do, but other part now I'm using HN and Twitter more, so maybe declaring internet-free time would be a good idea for me too.

My ISP (Chunghwa telecom) delivers such terrible service that my life basically works this way.

I spend much more time in the office, because the Internet connection works. But that makes me use office time to live my online life, instead of doing company work.

dude is milking the minimalist marketing.. there is only so much stuff one can eliminate..

killing the home internet is an obvious click bait.

I don't have a source for it - if you're interested enough, you're welcome to verify it independently, but supposedly a fifth of the country no longer has wired internet anymore.

"No longer" or "never had"? Because I can certainly believe that a fifth of the country simply never had wired internet to begin with.

What the author suggests is highly impractical, and makes adopting this way of life all the more challenging.

I suggest for people who have a serious problem, to try out time-managers and site-blockers.

When I was going through a highly unproductive phase, I used ColdTurkey. The software's not too good and if you're really craving for a fix, you'll find a way to get past it. But, for the regular procrastinator it does wonders for productivity.

Don't be rash and cut out one of the most important utilities there is just because you're having some issues.

Do be intelligent and work around the issue.

The author suggests that if you assume that not having an internet connection at home is highly impractical, you should take a moment to really think about whether you're assuming too much.

I agree. As for me, I'm a remote worker but I rent a desk in a coworking space, which means I can use their high speed internet for hours every day. That's a lot of time to acquire information and do chores.

So the consequence of not having internet at home would be, basically, that I'm offline between 7 PM and 9 AM, or whatever. When I've lived without internet before, I've spent a couple of hours on weekend days in cafes checking my websites.

It's not necessarily a horrible austerity. For me, I've always experienced an offline home as very relaxing, nice, and peaceful. (Of course there are many factors which can make it impractical, e.g. family.)

> The author suggests that if you assume that not having an internet connection at home is highly impractical, you should take a moment to really think about whether you're assuming too much.

Perhaps it is my young age, but all the people I know are effectively lepers if they're not, atleast, connected to the internet.

I was rash in assuming everyone was similar. Now that I think of it, there are older people that wouldn't miss a beat if they took time away from the internet.

Maybe being a bit of a leper wouldn't be too bad.

I think the view that the internet is "one of the most important utilities there is" is seriously influenced by what most of us do for a living. The fact is that it's mostly used for idle, time-killing entertainment and gossip. I've been so tempted to cut my home service but like others have mentioned it would be a really hard sell to the rest of the family.

I'm having a similar experience travelling through Melbourne as almost all of my internet access is metered. My mobile plan has 3GB/month and is almost my sole source of internet.

I just discovered the public library which is great for getting work done, but I have to leave my room to get there. Most cafes either don't have wifi or impose a time limit w/ a user/pass login (so changing mac address won't defeat it).

I'm mostly finding it makes me more productive, though it's sometimes frustrating if I need to search for a quick Stack Overflow answer.

I scratch around passing time on the internet, but then if I'm not doing that I'm passing time watching cable tv, passing time playing chess, passing time smoking pot, passing time reading novels, passing time playing golf, passing time laughing frivolously, passing time sleeping, passing time day dreaming, passing time eating, passing time shopping, passing time chatting on the phone......

Basically, I pass my days in my idle ways, and I don't think it matters what the medium. I can say that I don't pass my days on social media, its tedious.

This definitely will not work for Software Engineers, especially developers. We constantly go online looking for solutions to problems we face in everyday work.

I watched the documentary on these guys; my takeaway is that they have some sort of environment control OCD issue. Their minimalist tendencies are extreme.

If you have kids and ever go to some sort of school function like a play etc. Look around at all the parents watching the play through the phone screen recording instead of just putting it down and looking at their kids as they perform.

I noticed I did that and decided to just leave my phone in my pocket and watch it directly with my eyes. You feel so much more connected with the moment and your kids value the eye contact.

Next time strap a go pro to your head and you'll be able to record it while you watch it. The fish eye lens will also let you record other people watching it through their phones, and you can feel even better about being more connected in the future too.

Only problem with that is that after that my kids wont want to talk to the strange guy at their play with a camera strapped to their head :)

I have recently stopped playing video games. Uninstalled them all. I also cut off netflix, hbo, and tv in general. It was hard at first, but I am so much more productive. Creating things is so much more satisfying than consuming them. I am also getting healthier/working out and cooking better food.

I was thinking about cutting off internet, but the other members of my family would go bonkers.

Sure let's go back to the dark ages because we lack the self control to do things in moderation.

No thanks. Removing internet from my home won't make me more productive, in fact it will make me less productive, as I won't be able to get information instantly, like a recipe for the things that are soon about to go off in my fridge.

I have to agree with you. Why don't we just lock ourselves away to become productive. At one point or another every little thing becomes distraction and harming productivity.

At what point becomes productivity and efficiency an addiction as well? Don't we already call those people workaholics?

Having to walk to a cafe in order to use the internet is not really a return to the middle ages, you know.

I haven't had home internet in well over five years and it is absolutely fantastic. I did it while in school so I could focus on getting reading and homework done and found that I really enjoyed it. I still use a smartphone but will leave it in another room if I want to read or focus on something other than tech.

Something about the headline nags at me. I don't really like the idea that being "productive" all the time is a positive thing. My brain is for more than achieving things. It is in point of fact okay to use it for watching silly YouTube videos for half an hour, an hour, whatever.

During the time periods when I haven't had internet at home nor on my phone (three months times two in different cities) it hasn't made me more "productive", it's primarily made me more relaxed, grounded, and happy.

Coming home to a house without internet is a very special feeling to me, aside from concerns about time management or getting stuff done. It's just peaceful. I come home and can immediately focus on, for example, cooking, reading a book, meditating, exercising, etc.

This almost makes sense for me, but I don't know if I can pirate music on coffee shop wifi.

I was about to say "what, streaming services aren't good enough for you?" Then realized you can't stream without home internet >_<. Ah well, I bet you can buy cheap CDs and rip them :)

Spotify Premium lets you download something like three thousand songs for offline play.

More to life than productivity.

The title is not the greatest, but the article mostly talks about how the guy is living his life more fulfillingly, not a micro-optimization of productivity.

Yeah, I guess, but it seems like there's a conflation of the idea of getting stuff done and being fulfilled. Playing games online (or just sitting around and chatting with my wife, for that matter) doesn't really serve to help me get anything done but I derive enjoyment from it.

More to life than browsing reddit and getting on the rage-train with the latest injustice spreading through facebook like wildfire.

Well who says that's what I do online?

Fair. That's just where many of us are coming from, and I think what makes "cold-turkey" appealing.

I forced my phone to use 2G (GPRS/EDGE) which means it still functions as an internet connected communications device, but I'm far less likely to go browsing Twitter on it because of the slowness. I save money too.

All that illustrates is the author needed a bit of help with time management and found it difficult to tear themselves away from their on-tap Internet comfort zone without taking firm action to remove the temptation.

For devs who want to go offline for a bit I recommend Zeal (offline docs) + kiwix (Offline Wikipedia app that also parses stackexchange/stackoverflow dumps) Check their github page.

The entire stackoverflow dump is about 10 Gig.

Is that (kiwix) really going offline? I don't think it's the 'active internet connection' that's the crux of the problem, it's the trawling through pages and pages of stuff, which Wikipedia is very good at allowing.

Obligatory XKCD:


I mostly use it for offline stackoverflow. Open ended offline wiki journeys have happened but I personally think much less. When online there are many more triggers to send one off on these random walks.

I am still trying to find the perfect balance. Not too long ago I did not own a cell phone - only a landline. Now I have a Nexus 5, but no cell service. I can already feel the addiction setting in.

On my iPhone I use the content blocker to block every site I frequent (as I do on my Mac with /etc/hosts). I then allocate 2 hours on a Sunday going through the best articles of the week.

I have disabled certain sites in my windows hosts file. It helps as it is a hassle to find it and edit it again.

When I actually do visit Facebook, I use a private window. That way I won't forget to log out.

I use Pomodoro Technique (search for Tomato Timer for online version).

-posted on the internet.

Why dedicate all your life to making money? All these "productivity" things, working 20 hours each day. To show others that you are not "loser"?

If I may play devil's advocate:

1. to retire early

2. if you are in america, to ensure you can afford to live someplace where the schools are good for your kids. A sad state of affairs but it is what it is.

3. assuming you enjoy your work, to make some positive difference in the world before you inevitably die.

4. if you do not enjoy your work, then so you can get your hateful work done sooner, and then have time to do what you actually want to do.

But why even give birth to kids? To doom them into the same miserable life of working 20 hours a day?

It's not for everyone, that's true. Some of us want to experience the joy of nourishing a new life, even if it's ungodly expensive.

dont know

Money can be exchanged for goods and services.

Goods and services to consume while sleeping? All wake time is dedicated to work.

You get to keep some of the money when you stop working.

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