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Personally, I find my smartphone addiction gets worse when I turn off all notifications. Because then FOMO takes over and I spend tons of time digging into apps to make sure I didn't "miss anything". For me, it works much better to intentionally choose the notifications I get to be the things I really want to be interrupted by. I wish there were an AI or human secretary who could make those judgements on a per-notification basis with my best interests in mind, but that doesn't seem to be a realistic option at my income level.

Another thing I do to limit my phone's dopamine rush is to delete all of the social media apps from my phone and only access them via a browser. mbasic.facebook.com is significantly less addictive that the app, while still being useful. Sometimes when I really need a break, I'll create a block list in the "Restrictions" settings on my iPhone and block Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and HN completely. I wish that there was a way for someone else to be able to remotely manage those restrictions for me, so I could uninstall all of the time-suck apps from my phone and only re-install them by getting permission from a friend who could help me honor my intentions.




> Because then FOMO takes over

This is the real problem, not the phone or its apps. You need to eliminate FOMO from your life. You'll be much happier for it.

I don't have a recommendation on how to do that. For me I came to the realization and acceptance that there is always more. More work, more knowledge, more news, more parties, more potential friends, more opportunities, etc. It never ends and it's impossible to know or participate in it all.

If you find yourself having anxiety from that thought you might want to see a psychologist.


You'll be much happier for it, but can you afford it?

If you've got the kind of social life and communication you need, great. And I agree that many people who are in an accidental too-much-FOMO situation probably didn't need all the extra tweets and whatnot flung their way and it's mostly junk. In that case, just turning most of it off is a reasonable idea.

But if you're in a position where the communities you need to be making more of an effort with use fast-moving, presenceless platforms for most of their socialization (Telegram, Twitter, etc.—maybe even, say, Slack?), good luck snagging those limited opportunities to learn which people to get to know better or get a word in on something important without constantly checking everything. (This might be a good argument to not do that for your next community!)

The idea of more closely regulating the feeling so that it's not overdriven and occupying your whole mindset is still relevant, but it takes on quite a different form if you can't actually afford to check out of the fast side; you have to do a trickier balancing act.


Maybe you need to find different communities. Being part of something isn't a need, it's a want, and you either accept that you want to be there and take the good with the bad, or you accept that you don't like the bad and give up on the good.


Ask any psychologist wether being part of something is a need.


Being part of something is a need, but being part of a specific community is a want.


I'll grant that as a theoretical rule, but most communities are not tech communities. Suppose that you're able to pick one which is not dependent on any undesired proprietary/attention-sucking/etc. medium but is still interested in the things you're looking for. (Many communities are not very fungible.) One day:

“Hey, I like what we're doing, we should set up a group for it to make it easier to keep up with events and stuff.”

“Telegram? That's what everyone else seems to use.” “Yeah, I've already got that on my phone.” “Me too.” “Yup! And I've got this great sticker pack I want to show you…” “Hey, can you show me how to install it?” “Sure, it's easy, just…”

“Awesome, I'll set it up.” (tap, tap, tap)

(Substitute Facebook, or Discord, or whatever else.)

Gradually people just kinda forget to post things anywhere else, because it's convenient and lets them post from their phone and they get all the encouraging responses they wanted there, and so it gradually becomes common knowledge that that's the place. The choice of platform isn't in their community identity, so the default is whatever people gravitate to that doesn't require doing something unusual.

If you don't integrate psychologically with the popular platforms, you're not really choosing to not be part of a specific community, because that's what “popular” means: you're choosing that the set of communities you can explore in the first place is whittled way down, and your membership in any you do find is now precarious. “Pick a community that doesn't do that” not only raises the difficulty at the beginning, but it also doesn't save you later.


I was also kind of thinking about _FOMO_, but just in terms of messaging apps. For instance, if I were supposed to be getting a ride with someone and my notifications were off, wouldn't I have to be checking my phone more since i'm now manually checking for messages about the lift, instead of being pushed them as they come in.

It seems to me that message notifications, at least, do keep me from checking my phone.


Are these some sorts of business communities where you're actually working for a tangible reward to further your career? Even if they are, this sounds really crazy and wrapped around an axle to me, if this is your steady state level of interaction, especially if this is multiple communities you're talking about. If you're bootstrapping yourself as part of a marketing or sales push, you can dedicate a time slot to working it, or consider this level of intensity as a short-term effort until you've established a more self-perpetuating network.

If that's not the case, are you really sure that you need to be doing any of that? Especially "get a word in on something important" is awfully similar to https://www.xkcd.com/386/ .


Ignoring the “business” part of your comment, because that's far from the only reason to want to have broad social ties:

Dedicating a time slot in the usual sense is very socially costly if they've gravitated to a presenceless, fast-moving platform, because psychological consensus and topic closure operates more on the perceived speed of communication of the group. If 90% of the other people respond within an hour, and you get there eight hours later, the conversation's moved on, so if everyone else is in the habit of checking their phone every fifteen minutes, there's pressure for you to be too. So, yes, you can “dedicate a time slot” at the end of every pomodoro, if that's what you meant.

This is more true in “channel”-based environments where “new in thread” is inconvenient or unavailable. If you're not careful, you can even be disruptive. Even on slow-moving, old-style Web forums, “necroposting” is considered rude; a chat-like medium with little to no threading support can just lower the threshold for it from weeks to hours if there's enough activity.

For the other part, I'll grant that “get a word in on something important” was badly worded, though I can't think of a better phrase this instant. I was imagining things like “we've changed the meetup location because someone raised a problem, is this okay with everyone or does someone need a ride” or “I'd like comments on which direction I should go with the next part of this piece” or “I'm going to see if some of us can do X together tomorrow, I want three more people, who's with me”. All of these can easily render your participation irrelevant if you show up too late, and “too late” is by default defined by what's usual and convenient, not by abstract considerations of what's good for people's habit formation.


This assumes that only things worth any value in life are those with "tangible reward to further your career". I dont really agree.


No, I'm simply saying that if they're killing themselves by maintaining such a high-stress & rigorous involvement, they should at least be getting something out of it and should ensure that that extreme level is short term, because it's not healthy.

If they're doing it only because they kind of fell into it as baseline socialization shifted, they need to step back and reconsider things because it's not healthy.


Meditation is good for this. Being aware of those thoughts and understanding why you feel it can help lessen the addiction. You may even find out you don’t care but you’ve trained yourself to. Everyone’s different but I think meditation can help some aspect of their life.


This similar mindset helped me break away from playing League of Legends all of the time. Just understanding that I've been through it all and nothing new or different would happen helped me to just move on. I didn't have to accept the toxic community.


I don't know what it is about league, but it seems to attract the absolute worst of people. Most of the gaming communities I am a part of are very welcoming and friendly. I went to a tournament for league once and the team that beat us came over to gloat and remind us of every mistake immediately afterwards. They only stopped once my wife started actually crying from the verbal abuse.

Needless to say, I cut my losses with that community.


Limiting FOMO was a large part of the appeal for a smartwatch to me. I could easily triage notification and dismiss from my wrist without the ability to get lost in an infinite scrolling list of whatever. The few times when it was an actionable notification, the phone came out to respond, but for most notifications, they are read and ignored.

Now that I don't wear my android watch daily, I find myself with my phone on my desk or table more. The fear of missing important notifications makes me more obsessed with all notifications.


The key thing is to break the cycle where Facebook (or other attention generating machines) is the personal personal equivalent of O365 or GSuite at home. Never, ever, never use the app and you've solved 80% of your problem, because you don't have this external force trying to corrupt your decisionmaking.

Not only will you not be dealing with their stalking draining your battery, but you'll get rid of the FOMO thing. Visit the site every couple of days for the events or whatever other excuse keeps you on there. You'll figure out that you're missing nothing, although Facebook in particular will get increasingly desperate and try to hook you in via bullshit emails, etc.

Once you get bad/abusive actors away from you, you'll find that your phone has robust notification and other mechanisms to help you get productive notifications.


I find it helps to access Facebook purely through their website, and just use their Messenger Lite app for messaging. This solves a lot of issues.


You stopped half way. when you put your phone off notification, you have to make that final step to put your mind too.

I consider this (I have it too) to be almost full fledged clinical addiction. It toys with your mind and distort your life in unhealthy ways.


> Because then FOMO takes over

Others have mentioned this is a separate issue from the smartphone (although smartphones to make it easier for us to enable FOMO).

In my experience (most, if not all) FOMO disappeared in my early thirties and once I gained a more settled life. And while I do still check HN, twitter-lists daily (usually more than once a day when commuting, or having a break) I have noticed how on a busy day (or a weekend day), I completely forget about that.

Maybe age, and changes in lifestyle have been most responsible for this, but I also find that I'm less impressed by new stuff now than I used to be, so I'm much less likely to feel that I'm missing something out.


Not for me. However I seem to differ from may orhers who agree with you that I am not curious enough to miss the kitten posted next door nor the fancy meal plate of random strangers, intermingled by advertisment or is it already the other way round?

Without these notifications I stay more focused and get less stressed.


Once I started turning application notifications off, I began to see much more clearly how manipulative they are. For instance, Facebook started emailing me, something I didn't realize I had to disable (up until then, I don't remember them mailing me anything). Twitter would pointlessly send a notification for "Person X and 42 others liked this tweet" and so on, clearly because I was opening their application less.


The intrusiveness and desperation only escalate. For me the last straw was when Facebook started sending me notifications over SMS.

If I hadn't deleted my profile, I'm pretty convinced they'd be calling me on the phone or showing up at my house with printed-out notifications by now.


Same here. I don't need a notification for every single "like" I get on Twitter/Instagram. In fact, it's similarly rewarding when I come back to the app and see a bunch of notifications waiting, knowing that they didn't distract me.


even in terms of sheer dopamine, i find it rewarding to see a bunch of new notifications at once. to me push notifications feel more like an annoyance than a dopamine hit. i keep them turned on for sms because it's useful as a way to contact me immediately, but they're off for everything else, including email. (i never turned them on for twitter or facebook because i discovered back in the 90s that i was happier turning them off for email)


> even in terms of sheer dopamine, i find it rewarding to see a bunch of new notifications at once. to me push notifications feel more like an annoyance than a dopamine hit.

The social networks understand this. I've read that they have algorithms that will batch and spread out your dopamine hits for maximum re-enforcement effect.


>i find it rewarding to see a bunch of new notifications at once

My wife wonders why I scan all my groceries at the store and then enter my loyalty card instead of doing it up-front as the system asks for. It's because if I see the price read $130 and then I enter the card and it drops to $110, it feels like I came out ahead. Even though it's going to be the same number.


My local grocery store does that automatically—the register rings items up at the full price and then applies all the discounts at the very end while you're waiting for the card reader to be ready. And it seems to do it intentionally slowly, about two line items per second, so that it takes exactly the right amount of time to be sure you notice it without getting annoyed at having to wait.


There are various apps to try and promote healthy levels of smartphone engagement. Eg in Forest (iOS and Android, no affiliation)[0] you plant a tree and it will grow with time, but will wither away the more you play with Facebook. It will occasionally notify in case you get lost in facebooklandia.

If you object to that particular implementation, the point is there's a usage API in case you'd like to write your own app.

[0] https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=cc.forestapp


I don't have the facebook app, will this detect if I use it in the browser?


From the app's site:

"Whenever you want to focus, plant a tree.

The tree will grow in the following time.

The tree will be killed if you leave this app."

So probably, yeah. I assume there is some point at which the tree won't be killed since it goes on to talk about keeping a forest of trees representing stretches of time not using your phone to do anything other than run this app - hitting up its app store page describes it as a pomodoro timer, so about 25min gets you a tree.

My inner paranoid says "wow, what a great way to get people to help you mine cryptocurrency" but I will choose to assume that they're happy with the money they're making by selling it for two bucks, plus the occasional "sunshine elixir" IAP.


Let me ask the crowd. Would you use a browser plugin that eliminates newsfeeds?

One of the things I struggle with is the endless novelty of a newsfeed. I can always scroll and get more. And then I can reload for another chance at finding something interesting.

There are extensions that do this for Facebook alone, but I was thinking something more general. And something that's also clever about eliminating the way companies use notifications to for similar novelty-injection, rather than true notifications.

I suspect I also need a "please temporarily show me the newsfeed" mode, possibly on some sort of time restriction, with mandatory delay, or requiring some boring work, so as to raise it from "compulsive response" to "considered choice", but still keeps people from removing the extension on the occasions they really need to see the feeds.

Would you use it? And what services would be required?


You might like the chrome extension "Delayed Gratification"[0]. I also use xTab[1] to limit my tab count to about 6 to prevent opening every link I come across. (The interesting ones go into my OneTab[2] to alleviate FOMO and so I know I can find them later, although I rarely need to.)

[0] https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/delayed-gratificat...

[1] https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/xtab/amddgdnlkmoha...

[2] https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/onetab/chphlpgkkbo...


Sure I'm interested in such an extension!

I like the delay idea. A minute delay to reflect upon your actions, or yourself or something.

Of course one can simply disable the extension. I guess you'll need testing to see what kind of delay makes the target audience not jump to disable the extension. If you're serious about this, I can send you my mail address and see if I can help with parsing feedback or something!


I would absolutely use this, and I've even thought of creating it. I've hacked together parts of that functionality several times. I think the problem would be that if anything like this caught on, companies would adapt their platforms to get around it. Tricksy hobbitses!


HabitLab for Chrome has this as a nudge.


Ooh! I was not aware of this. Very interesting! Much more impressive than what I would have built. Thanks!


My problem is being bothered to check notifications over the course of hours when I'm programming.

Snapchat, twitter, text message, facebook message.

All while I'm trying to figure out why my middle-wear isnt working. I catch myself shitposting on instagram instead of running my app.


Try Pomodoro time management approach


That isnt the issue. Its that I need my phone on, and Im getting slammed with notifications.


Try to view to it every 25 minutes (or whatever your preferred time slot is)?


Have you tried setting up silent notifications for the things you actually care about, and muting the rest? E.g. I get silent notifications for my personal email, which means I'm never tempted to refresh my inbox but I'm also not interrupted.

It's important though to tightly control the notifications such that you get them only for things you actually care about. E.g., unsubscribe from any & all mailing lists you don't care about.


I started on this path recently with email by using the Astro app, and only getting notifications for "Priority Emails" which are intelligently chosen.


Inbox by Gmail does this, too. It's fantastic.


Yeah, same.

One other thing I do is have physically separate devices for work versus entertainment. A spare phone is my Twitter/Facebook phone. I have a separate laptop for watching videos, playing games, social media, and HN. (I also have a tablet for long-form reading: Kindle, Instapaper, The Economist etc.) It helps establish that there are separate modes, which limits FOMO for me.


I've got a burner Nokia phone that I refer to as my "ground phone". Whenever I need a break from the cloud, I swap my SIM card into it. All it really has is texting and calling. It kind of works, but using it also means I have to give up some things that I consider essential practical tools like Google Maps, my full contacts list, my reminders, and my calendar. I really think there'd be a market for some kind of smartphone that has full utilitarian functionality but doesn't support and kind of distractions.




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