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What Happened to Downtime? The Extinction of Deep Thinking & Sacred Space (the99percent.com)
55 points by minouye on Nov 20, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 32 comments

If you have that much trouble disconnecting sometimes, you need help.

I'm a loner by nature and I find it extremely easy to get alone time even without 'disconnecting'. My computers stay on, my phones stay on, everything stays on.

-I- am in control. I don't let devices or other people control me. I make the decisions on what to do and when.

I'm with you.

I also ride my bike 5-7 days a week, upwards of an hour or more. It's very "liberating" and I mostly think the whole time. I don't bring any tech, just myself and the bike, moving very fast. People cant interrupt you, unless you run over one. ;)

I do the same thing running every day... running with a headset should be forbidden :)

I was coming in here prepared to make a remark that the new structure of this society necessitates a balancing act of and/or trade-off between an expanded flow of information and solitude but your post pre-empts this argument by suggesting that they are not mutually exclusive.

And I am inclined to agree on second thought.

You've made 452 comments here, a 3.86/day average for the 117 days since you've registered.

Somehow that doesn't strike me as a behavior pattern of someone fully in control of his web browsing habits.

I think I win, or lose, depending on your point of view. Most people consider me fairly well-adjusted and successful. (Quote my aunt, to my cousin: "See, you can like geeky things and still grow up to be a productive member of society.)

Nobody says boo about someone who watches 3.86 thirty minute episodes of TV a day, or who writes 3.86 pages of email a day, by the by.

I say 4 things a day on a website and that's obsessive?

I choose what articles to comment on. There are a LOT more than 4 per day. I choose WHEN to comment on those. I don't have an RSS feed on my phone that alerts me to new stories so I can be first. I post when -I- read the RSS feed and see something worth commenting on.

That really depends, it seems reasonable that someone could comment at that rate and still make the claim if they allotted an amount of time to browse and engage on hacker news each day. Also commenting rates vary a lot between people, I may spend hours here and only make a couple of comments. Others may comment more frequently or focus on the shorter material.

I wish this was a problem. What is completely missing (at least in my life) is offline "downtime" and solitude. People in large openspace in the office, crowded tram, crowded shop, people everywhere in the park, people around my favourite walking trail, and of course, roommates, everywhere. There's no escape, no opt-out, no nothing. It actually drives me mad.

Go backpacking. I go crazy without it too. It slowly creeps up on me over months. If you haven't done it before, I wrote this to help: http://knol.google.com/k/how-to-backpack

I do that quite often, but never alone (I'd creep out while while staying in a tent at night alone with idea, that there might be bears nearby, even if it sounds funny). And it cannot be done frequently enough, over months... four or five days are already enough.

there is an abundance of empty space here in canada

What I actually want is my own apartment in a decent building (like, hm, the one where the architect paid some attention even to "details" like accoustic isolation) somewhere in a decent part of some decent city, not some detached bunker in a wilderness, or (even worse) house in some infinitely stretched suburbia. Sometimes, I do want to meet people, and it's great if it can be done with ten minute walk or 15 minutes of subway ride or something. I even kind of enjoy crowds at city squares, busy walking street and so on. I don't want to live alone, without a human being within tens of kilometers. That's not even practical and makes little sense.

And I don't like the idea of this thread below this at all. I even think it's very much a part of the problem, not its solution. Of course, it's happening, all the time, people moving from "ugly" and crowded city, somewhere to a "countryside" (yet near the city). And that's why I can't go anywhere outside the city, because there ceased to be any outside, just ring after ring of satelite villages, and roads between them. It had also turned the city into just a little more than a large parking place...

I really think that more and more people will start leaving the cities as communication continues to improve. The reason people conglomerated was so they could be in constant contact and physical space is not limiting factor to that any more.

Statistics would prove you wrong.

From http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2007/english/introduction.html

Quote from the introduction

In 2008, the world reaches an invisible but momentous milestone: For the first time in history, more than half its human population, 3.3 billion people, will be living in urban areas. By 2030, this is expected to swell to almost 5 billion. Many of the new urbanites will be poor. Their future, the future of cities in developing countries, the future of humanity itself, all depend very much on decisions made now in preparation for this growth.

Most of the urban growth cited by the article is in developing countries. This is because they are beginning to industrialize and make things. America is not making as much any more and most people work white collar jobs. There is just not as much of a reason to conglomerate around a place of work like there is if the whole town works building cars, for example.

(To put up a disclaimer, I have just extrapolating this from what I think. I have not done a significant amount of research. There is a lot science fiction talking about this however, such as Daemon, Freedom TM, and even The Stars My Destination from way back. I also found this article that has some facts, despite being a little old. http://www.innserendipity.com/ruralren/rebound.html)

The more remote the area, the more expensive supplies will be. Land might be cheap, and communications networks may be available, but you'll have to pay the extra for shipping things like food in.

Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind work much better in a distributed system in which individual homes and business are responsible for their own energy production. Besides energy, I think the shift toward healthier and organic food will lead to many people with land to have their own gardens and grow their own food.

Well, you're kinda extreme in getting away from the city buzz if you have to move someplace that needs to ship food supplies.

Even if you live in the boondocks today it is still only a 30 minute trip Wal-Mart. There just isn't any traffic.

Good advice. My favorite down times and introspection times are short meditation periods when I first get up and in the late afternoon. A key to good meditation is not worrying if you can't always clear your mind or random thoughts occur. I live in the mountains in Central Arizona, so short 20 minute walks by myself on the trails behind my house also form what I call walking meditation. I also find sitting outside for 5 minutes, again not thinking directly about work, helps me get a good perspective on whatever I am doing that day.

When I lived in San Diego I had a window office looking out over La Jolla Cove and I found a few times a day using 10 minutes with my door shut, looking at the ocean helped.

The subconscious mind is a powerful problem solver. I believe this is why it is common to wake up in the morning with an unsolved problem, worked out.

"The subconscious mind is a powerful problem solver. I believe this is why it is common to wake up in the morning with an unsolved problem, worked out."

Have you read anything about this? I do this all the time with my course work and I thought I was just strange. I can't tell you how many times I have banged my head against the wall with an assignment until I went to bed and then proceeded to get up an hour before it was due and finish it with no problem.

I can't recall reading anything specific about this. I was just relating personal experience. I assumed that this is a common occurrence for everyone.


.. but first finish your donut, check email one more time -- oh there's the icon for that cool new iPhone game you bought last night but haven't played yet, it will just take a minute to get a taste of that -- hold it, phone's ringing, a client, better take it! :)

Take a long, hot shower and bring a beer in with you.

I must be a counter example to the people with the problems this article describes. Maybe it is natural for a person about to graduate college with no idea what I am doing or where I am going but I can not stop thinking about my big problems. Moreover, my constant thought about myself is almost crippling and keeps me from actually doing anything. I do think that maybe this stems from the "self esteem" work this article talks about...

I was in this state a year ago and I found that external self-esteem boosters are pretty useless. The nagging self-doubt still lingers no matter what others say.

What I found helped was doing the task equivalent of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt-snowball_method - starting with a list of stuff I wanted to do/improve I did the easiest[1]/fastest things first. This builds confidence quickly and you can start working up to harder tasks - it also keeps you focused on nice short term goals, which reduces how much you worry about the big problems.

Not sure if this helps... good luck.

[1] I literally had things like "buy new shirt" in the list that were very easy, but we're constantly getting forgotten/put off because of the constant worry about the big problems.

Thanks a lot I will have to try this. I have started using todo lists and they have seemed to help. I do worry I might be slightly depressed. However, I think this problem is something different because I have not had any problems with meeting people and making new friends recently. Quite the contrary actually. Did you happen to smoke a lot of marijuana before this onset? I really think the intense reflection I do while high led to my conscious mind getting stuck somehow... I am just theorizing though.

I did not smoke marijuana, but I tend to fall into a state of intense reflection when I'm stressed and at some point I wasn't able to come back out even though the stress went away.

My biggest cause of stress is procrastination. When I put off things I need to do I stress myself out and then start down this path - maybe that's why the todo list thing helped.

My way of thinking about it is this: if I can't resist twitter and/or my email long enough to get something done, is it really worth doing?

This is one of those "speak for yourself" articles. Meaning, it assumes that everybody has this problem. When they don't. And for those folks who do feel like they have this problem, well, they have a lot of options and control at their fingertips to fight against and probably make it go away, or at least reduce it. There have been times where I've felt overwhelmed or had a hunger for solitude and it's almost always possible to deal with it. There are knobs you can turn. Leave your cellphone at home. Stay away from Twitter or Facebook or web forums (like HN) for a day or a week. Check email only once a day rather than 20 times a day. Plan a weekend vacation, offline, someplace quiet. And so on.

You're criticizing a strawman. Nowhere in this article you'll find a claim that "everyone has this problem".

It just states pretty obvious facts about the combined effects of new streams of information (mail/rss feeds/twitter/facebook) and new means of accessing those streams (laptops, smartphones) which leads to a growing addiction to frequent checking those streams.

This is not a novel or controversial point. There've been many articles about this effect in the past and there will be many more in the future.

I can observe this addiction in myself, when I pull out my iPhone to check my Twitter during lunch with my coworkers. I can observe this addiction in my coworkers when I glance and their monitors when I pass by and see the browser opened on Facebook or Twitter. I can see that in people on the street, who walk looking at their iPhones or Droids. I can see that in people in cafes, drinking their lattes with a laptop lid open and browser set on YouTube. I can see that in people like myself, checking Hacker News several times a day.

There is a problem, it is widespread and there is no easy solution. That's all that article is saying.

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