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I program for a living and I'm addicted to the internet. Help
33 points by pcjunkie on Oct 9, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 14 comments
Over the past few years I've grown to see my internet use as an addiction. It's compulsive, it's not just social media, it's just the act of shoveling information into my brain. Novelty. Click. Read. Click. Read.

I've also discovered that it's having a negative effect on my ability to focus. I used to read a book a week. I haven't read a book since I got a smartphone. I can't.

Anytime I've done a full computer detox I feel better within a week. My sleep schedule normalizes. My focus lengthens. My brain gets quieter and less compulsive. Time with friends and loved ones becomes deeper.

But I love coding. And I love programming for a living. And I love programming side projects. Programming isn't really the problem. It's a productiv focused creative act that also provides me a good living.

But programming takes place on the internet pretty much. It's ever present.

I'm thinking about going internet free at home. No wifi. No smartphone. Just access to the internet while programming at work.

Any tried something similar?




I had the same problem, suddenly I had 2 kids, one followed the other, the Internet use becomes better, I am consuming just the necessary which is filtered organically by the amount of free time available. I am the developer as well and the time pressure is making me pragmatic. Not sure if this is 100% related to your problem but there is a point: there is something between the stimulus and the response, you are free to do what you decide to do in between, apply your real-time filter and go on. no need to shut down the connectivity, proof yourself you can.


Since I got my new job I realised I no longer want to spend my free time on side projects - I get all the enjoyment of programming at work which means when the day is over I spend the rest of the time on other stuff - friends, family, etc.

Maybe the issue with your programming "addiction" is just that you don't enjoy it enough at work, and in that case you might want to look into switching to a job where you will enjoy it.


I'll expand this later but there are four categories of approaches to use in parallel

1) https://getcoldturkey.com/ https://freedom.to/ and http://selfcontrolapp.com/. You wouldn't tell a dieter to keep cookies on their desk. Don't keep braincandy on yours.

2) Better sleep, diet, exercise

3) Build tolerance to discomfort by taking a cold shower every morning and by reading Stoic philosophy

4) Make better plans for yourself so that the answer to "what should I do next" is less ambiguous. Before starting any coding project, start by asking and answering "why is this worth doing?"


Don't try to cut off social media or junk internet completely because it has its uses. Don't schedule breaks from it, schedule time where you can fully engage in it. Maybe only nights or weekends.

Train yourself to enjoy boredom. Boredom is not unproductive. Boredom trains you to focus. Force yourself to be bored for periods of time, even if it's just closing your phone before bed.

You might want to replace your bad internet habits with better ones. It can still be 'unhealthy', as long as it's enjoyable. I've replaced it with Netflix and HN. Netflix at least trains me to focus on something for 20 minutes without getting distracted.

The book Deep Work also covers this quite a bit.


I do several things. Pomodoro technique with the timer visible to see the clock run down (www.tomato-timer.com). Stay focused Chrome plugin to blacklist sites and only have a set duration e.g. 10 minutes to look at them during the day (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/stayfocusd/laankej...). Finally put your phone at least 20 feet away to not compulsively look at it (with airplane or moonlight mode on). Also check out the book Deep Work by Cal Newport for more strategies.


>I've also discovered that it's having a negative effect on my ability to focus. I used to read a book a week. I haven't read a book since I got a smartphone. I can't.

I got a smartphone recently. I put a lot of ebooks that I read in my commute with inverted colors (white text on black background).

I charge the phone every 3 or 4 days: I don't listen to music on it, I don't take pictures, I rarely if ever go online using it. The home screen is black (took a picture with finger on the lens because I was too lazy to download a "black" image).


I think cold turkey is good idea. If you are not able to do that, I have free beta app for Android and iOS that will force phone to use specific DNS server. If you have someone who can control time and sites DNS will respond, it might help keep you on track using tech like opendns or dnsjack on GitHub. I also have anti internet addiction solution, but it's mainly for younger children since adult could easily bypass DNS settings (dnslearning.org). In order to prevent bypassing system, we tell parents to pay attention to timeline activity.


- You can try something like Pomodoro, which is like a timer running forcing you to focus for 25 mins, followed by a 5 minute rest. - You can install web plugins, which will allow you to measure where you are spending time online, this will sort of show you how bad it has been - If a complete computer detox helps, you need to follow it up - You need to fill your day with more enriching activities

Remember, every habit takes ~21 days to get complete hold of. So, need to consistently do it for a while.


Pomodoro's downside is that concentration takes more than 25 minutes and the breaks should be longer. But adjust as fits as long as you can stick to it. I go with 1 hr work/30 min break.

The brain processes creative thoughts while 'inactive'. But it's vital not to think of other things - especially social media. Breaks like walks, lunch, shower, naps will keep your brain processing.


Absolutely, try your idea of only internet at work. If that impairs your social life too much, maybe allow yourself messaging applications but not sites.

I've generally found there are a couple of main culprits for me -- Reddit, HN, Twitter -- and banning myself from them during work hours fixes things. YMMV.


There are a number of browser plugins where you can prevent yourself from viewing sites. It can be a big help to ban social media and news sites. That said I do think it's a good idea to remove internet from your home


selfcontrol (the aptly named app) helps with self control.

I only use it on desktop to limit myself to productive online resources. I have an aversion to using my phone for browsing anyway, so don't need it there too.


So first of all, I completely sympathize with you. I have been working from home for years and it's been a continual struggle. Some thoughts for you:

The biggest internet timesinks for me have always been those with near infinite novelty and also very occasional strong benefits.

For example, Reddit has clued me in on the Paleo diet and using a tongue scraper for better breath. Those have actively improved my life. I've also spent thousands of hours looking at stupid pictures. Hacker News has been more useful than Reddit, but still has been a large timesink. But we all have our own set of sites.

For me, blocking apps did not work at all, because I can just disable them. Unless I give up root access to my own computer, but that isn't really going to work. Having an "accountability partner" didn't work. I even did money challenges where I had to pay $500 to someone if I browsed Reddit. I did one time pay some money, and after that the group stopped really believing we'd hold each other to it.

Guilting myself has stopped working. But I don't think that's really a solution anyway.

Cold turkey seems to not really help. I'll go for a while without doing the addicting thing, and then get really angsty and then binge. Food can sometimes be this way this too. Yo-yo dieting and yo-yo internet binging both seem harmful.

Some things that have helped me:

First, just becoming aware of what is happening. I've been reading a lot about human psychology lately and came across the idea of "Supernormal Stimuli," the idea that some modern things are incredibly addictive because our brain did not evolve in an environment where it had to deal with things like the internet, Doritos, and internet pornography. This comic sums it up really well: http://www.sparringmind.com/supernormal-stimuli/

If you can in any way limit the sources of infinite novelty, or get rid of the worst offenders that can help. And I think all the sources contribute to make addiction harder to break.

And honestly not having internet at home did solve the problem - I've tried it twice. But I work only from home and kind of need it to do work. If I lived in a place that has better coffee shops, I might stick with that.

Speaking of which, leaving the house helps me. I find I am not as willing to just slack off completely if there are other people around, so I am quite productive in Starbuckses.

No electronics in bed has helped a lot. That alone has helped me not find myself staring at a device at 2am for no real reason.

Humans are creatures of habit and also lazy, and so one advice I've heard is to make the things you want to do as easy as possible and the things you don't want to do as hard as possible. If you can get away with not having internet at home, that might just be a way to solve the problem.

I don't think there is a silver bullet, but continuing to try things has helped me find a few things that have helped me. Also some of the above statements may not be completely accurate and I'm open to correction and further nuance.

Slowly over time I've seen myself become more and more self-controlled, though I'm of course not perfect. I'm convinced that the default today is for people to be addicted and ineffective since humans did not at all evolve in this sort of environment, and so anyone who makes an effort to better themselves can become very effective in life.

Best of luck, and email me if you want to talk more.


Linux, C/C++, apropos, and man. It's the only kind of development I do where I don't have to google every 10 minutes.

edit: fwiw, you can also host godoc locally...




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