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There are a lot of "hacks" in this thread (put your phone in grayscale, put variable reward apps in a folder, turn off fingerprint sensor) but in my experience the mindset is by far the most important part.

What's worked for me (and the article talks about this too) is viewing my phone as a tool with a limited set of functionality. For me, that functionality is: calls, texts, Google maps, Spotify, Audible, podcasts, Uber, and a camera.

That's it, no email (technically have the ability to send an email if i need to, but no notifications and no checking) and no random internet browsing and twitter etc consumption. There are some blocking apps that might help with this, but the biggest thing is the attitude. Twitter in line at the grocery store is no longer what my phone is for. Not that reading tabloid headlines is any better, but the main point is stretching out your focus muscles, getting rid of the urge to immediately grab your phone anytime there's a lull or hint of boredom in your life.

Overall, it's nice. Almost like being back in the 90's pre smart phone but also with a super powerful computer that can play any song you want/give you directions to anywhere you need to go.




When my dad decided to quit smoking, he didn't throw out the pack of cigarettes he was currently in the middle of. Instead, he put them up on the shelf next to his work desk. The pack wasn't totally in his face, nor was it out of sight. Despite the visual reminder being present, he broke his years' long pack-a-day habit.

Eventually - long after he stopped smoking - he threw the pack out, as part of his usual housekeeping.

I thought of this when I decided to quit social medias over the past two years. I bring it up now because it's something I think about in regard to how centrally important mindset is when trying to break a habit, or work on something of deeper value.

I wonder now too about the asymmetry in the ease of adoption vs. difficulty of opting out with smart phones and social media. Anecdotally, it just seems that you can nearly unconsciously start using a smartphone or say, sign up for instagram. But after a relatively quick onboarding, the effort required to opt out of these things feels akin to doing actual, hard work.


I've never smoked, but I did the same thing with snacks when I deliberately quit years ago (I don't avoid it now, but I'm more healthy about it).

I kept a pint of ice cream in the freezer and a bag of chips in the cupboard. The reasoning for me was: I'll never impulse buy snacks while at the store, because I already have it at home.

And if I haven't eaten out of my pint of ice cream, then I haven't eaten any ice cream.

It's like knowing you have these traps to avoid, but if you just keep one very close, that's the only one you need to consider, and then all the other ones disappear. It's definitely a focus thing for me, don't know if it was the same for your dad.


> It's like knowing you have these traps to avoid, but if you just keep one very close, that's the only one you need to consider

Love that roundup of this technique. Coincidentally enough my dad also used this same aid to quit smoking. I saw some slight sense but never enough to unpack it myself.


I've done this as well. I actually have a pack sitting around somewhere. Quitting never felt possible when I told myself I'd never have a cigarette again. I'm pretty sure I'll have one again, but not today. This is what I tell myself every day, and other than really crazy bar nights, I've been pretty good at perpetually procrastinating on smoking.


> the asymmetry in the ease of adoption vs. difficulty of opting out

A term related to this idea is dark pattern.

This is a good overview of the idea. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxkrdLI6e6M


Wow - thanks for this. Hadn't heard this term before, but certainly covers problems that are brought up by design ethicists. Literally laughed out loud at how hard it is to close an amazon account. And I thought it was bad that the New York Times made me call them to cancel my digital subscription.


Makes sense. Getting rid of something doesn't teach you not to use it when it's there.

If you can not use it when it is there, you've really won.


This is perhaps the best reason why, unlike a very large proportion of my family, I've never had a problem with alcohol.

It's always around. I can have a drink whenever I want (and I mean, I have drinks socially, I usually end up playing bartender at parties, that sort of thing). But it is, and always has been, something that happens on my terms.


I've heard good results from restricting the time you can use something, but not the amount. Don't smoke before 8am. Push that you 8:30. Push it to 9. Eventually you quit.


I wouldn't be strong enough to make this work. Quitting smoking was exactly opposite for me. After several unsuccessful attempts to quit, my frustration grew bigger and bigger and I finally had to say to myself "I WILL NEVER EVER SMOKE AGAIN", and threw away remaining cigarettes. Everything was easy after that. My brain switched mode to "NEVER EVER" and cravings stopped completely. That was back in 1995.


Haha. I'm not your dad (I'm older). But I did nearly the same thing to stop smoking. I tried several times after finishing a pack. It didn't work. I had success when I tossed half a pack on a high shelf. When I got the urge I'd have to climb a chair to get them. That required enough time and effort to cause me to reconsider.


My grandfather did the same thing. Carried a half-empty pack around in his jacket for weeks after he decided to stop. I always thought that was the hard way to do it, but maybe not.


"they're there if I want them, but I don't - and that's OK."

Those first few weeks are the most difficult part of the process.


The best mindset change for me has been realizing on a fundamental and emotional level just how garbage most of the internet actually is, and how much happier I am to get an extra hour of sleep, reading a book instead of Reddit, or letting myself get bored enough to stimulate serious creativity.


> letting myself get bored enough to stimulate serious creativity.

I think this is another key takeaway. We're so scared of being bored that we instantly reach for our phone as a means to fill this seemingly unwanted void. As if boredom has this negative connotation attached to it.


It is shockingly unpleasant.

But our lives should contain some unpleasantness, I think. Some difficulty.


We fear death and we overvalue productivity. This is a cycle for never-ending anxiety -- the itch to always do something. We value productivity almost to the point where it is considered virtuous. We look at someone who is productive and think, "wow what a great person, must really have their life together".


I'm older than most of you here. I'm constantly amazed at the lack of self control related to phones. I do exactly as you said, use my phone as a tool. Walking to work and think of something I don't want to forget? Whip out the phone and write myself an email. At home on a weekend and I'm in offline mode? DnD turned on until the alarm on my phone the next morning. I never feel like my phone is controlling my behavior or that I am a slave to it. Perhaps it's because I was able to grow up in a world without it. Dunno.


The age discrepancy in phone addiction probably has a lot to do with younger folks getting more value of social media on average, though I don't want to discount the idea that older people have more self mastery. Brain development is pretty much done by age 26, but I know way more 30-35 year olds with smartphone addictions than 50-55 year olds.


I'm under 30 and I don't get it either. I use my phone to communicate and perhaps read the news if I'm waiting at the pharmacy or something, but I don't understand a lot of the comments here regarding addiction to their phones. Not saying it isn't a real struggle for some people, but it's a foreign concept to me.


Old dude here. I have a mobile phone but I totally disable anything from it that can disturb me. I use it as a glorified answering machine. If it wasn't for the occasional picture I may take and my kids' games, I'd throw it away.

(but well, I love the web, so I'm not completely out of the world :) )


If you want to understand, see it as an addiction, especially a slot-machine/pachinko-like addiction. It just shows how widespread it is. When we're free from one, it is easy to say it is =only= a matter of self control.

Like other types of addiction, some of us may be weak to those generated by the smartphone era (associated with a certain socio-cultural mindset based on fame, social validation/gratification).

http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/smartphone-add...


Same. I have email, sms, Signal etc. on my phone. I use it for som utility stuff like banking (getting around a braindead token-based two factor thing in the web-version). Even HN, if I'm far away from home and bored. And all that really only amounts to 15-20 minutes in a day. And then navgation, and the occasional book I read on it. And snaphot photos. It's all nicely under control.

Like the parent poster, I'm an old fart. But my daughter, in her early twenties, have much the same pattern, and most definitely no addiction to either phone or social media. For what it's worth, she's had pc and phone for about as long as she can remember. With internet and no control, but a lot of guidance.


For me, one of the big advantages of email (which makes it my preferred electronic communication medium) is that it does not assume immediate reaction. I can read my mail once a day, reply to the messages that need to be replied to, and forget about it until tomorrow. Having email on a phone (especially with notifications enabled) would undermine that advantage.


I have trained most of the members of my social circle to expect a similar level of response to most text messages. No one has given me crap about it and still get invited to plenty of functions. I'm 33 and the level of convincing/training necessary did seem to be very inversely related to age, but eventually everyone got it.


I need to do this as well. I use most messengers out there and it serves a purpose to separate them into groups of different friends. The problem is that some of them still use the shitty fb messenger, and the inability to switch off 'last seen' makes them keep track of my online behavior. I have unpredictable, sporadic behavior and just don't log in to fb messenger for days sometimes, and that makes them think I had an accident or something. Is there a hack to disable 'Last Seen' on fb messenger?


While I’m not sure if it’s possible to turn of fb ‘last seen’ the attitude of friends using that or similar info (ie read receipts in iMessage) to jump to conclusions was precisely what I had to “train” my friends on. Personally the big reason for me is that I like to be in control of engaging in a conversation depending on what I’m doing, how I’m feeling, how much thought I have to put into it, etc. At first I made a lot of excuses (I was riding my bike and saw your message pop up but couldn’t respond, sorry!) but eventuallly just explained that my level of social media/communication engagement was just fundamentally different.

Of course I completely except that this means sometimes I miss out on something or that I can’t be the one to re-negotiate plans last minute, but overall it’s a good trade off. My close friends also know to just add a “need answer today” or “..now”. And also that I will still respond to messages that are truly of a critical time sensitive nature “car broke down! Can you pick me up?”

I do really wish most connunications apps cane with more status options (unavailable, busy, do not disturb, response may be delayed, etc) or customizable auto responses.


Conversely I use phone-based e-mail as the primary form of communication on my phone because (1) SMS messages are expensive on PAYG plans and (2) the other party doesn't have yo consider where I am and what channel they need to reach me


Best way to start shifting mindset that I've found, is aggressively removing things that I miss & hurt a little. Switch to a flip phone for two weeks. Uninstall Chrome frequently. No email at all.

I always cave & go back; maybe I'm on the road and I need to look up information so I turn Chrome back on. Maybe texting with the flip phone is just getting too painful. But I feel like it makes me more aware of what I'm doing.


I read this waiting at a bus stop, going to put it away now and enjoy the weather.


huzzah! Witness granted; reward++


Newport talk about the same approach in the book DeepWork. It has really opened my eyes, I have removed all my social media apps from the phone. I do not use it as an entertainment object.


> There are a lot of "hacks" in this thread but in my experience the mindset is by far the most important part

it's not easy changing your mindset, that's why hacks are here.


I have mobile plan from 12 years ago that includes calls and sms but no data in the modern sense - there's internet access but tailored to 2006 tech (WAP, early mobile web for dumbphones), it's billed per 100kB and really expensive. So no internet use when not connected to home WiFi and I like it this way. I even own dual-sim smartphone and actually have a sim card with 5GB data plan I could use, but it stays in a 4G mobile router we only take for long trips/holidays to use navigation and have some emergency internet connectivity.


I started something like this 4 months ago:

- I only removed social media

- and turned off every notification, leaving badges for company email.

This made already a huge difference. Some of the points are also not relevant for me (never had games or so...)




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