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The Death of Social Reciprocity in the Era of Digital Distraction (scientificamerican.com)
242 points by headalgorithm 75 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 114 comments

One thing I try to always do is smile and/or wave at babies/young children if they make eye contact with you.

In a world where there is a lot of negativity being broadcast on the news 24/7 and click bait headlines, it is good to instill a sense of happiness in the youth of today by being friendly.

Walking places a lot of people are distracted by their phones and hardly make eye contact anymore of if they do they make eye contact and turn away. (Maybe I'm just butt ugly I dunno).

Kid however all seem to enjoy a quick smile/eye contact.

Something I've been making an effort to do more is to try to have a softer look on my face when I'm in public. I tend to be pretty intense looking, especially when I'm thinking hard, which I usually am when I'm walking or standing in line.

I've noticed that consciously thinking about something that makes me very happy, or something I find funny, will make that happy emotion show on my face. When I project happy into the world, I get a lot more happy back - people (I'm talking about adults here) seem drawn to strangers in a good mood. When I'm consciously trying to be happy, people are much more likely to smile and say hello.

And maybe it's confirmation bias, but when I'm trying to project happiness, and when I try to really smile at people and say good morning and mean it, I notice a lot of times that people seem to walk away with a little more pep. Almost like "wow, some stranger just genuinely wished me a good morning."

This all could be cause I live in Santa Monica and people out here tend to be happier than they did in NYC.

When I moved to NYC, I was used to walking around with a pleasant and welcoming face, "without armor" as you say. Unfortunately, this caused me to be accosted multiple times a day by beggars, scammers, or just crazy people. After a few months, I developed the mild scowl and cold attitude required to keep them away.

Dense cities are a "product" ripe for disruption - great stimulation opportunities but simultaneously an unhealthy environment for humans.

Consider: Containerized city. 0-population cities where rapid transit brings people in during active-hours only? Walkable areas being vehicles themselves, forceably removing people after N-hours and dumping them in to less-dense habitation areas?

FWIW, I haven't made the parent comment's sort of experience in either Berlin, London, or Paris. So it might be somewhat specific to New York.

And I have trouble understanding what you are actually suggesting, but it seems to be an entirely technocratic take ignoring what actually makes cities liveable, with possibly some dehumanisation of homeless people thrown in for extra discredit?

I've managed to make a (insert politically correct term for "gypsy" here) beggar in Paris turn around and walk away a few seconds after she bee-lined towards me with my scowl, which makes me wonder what look I had that was so effective...

In US cities it seems the norm is to never say a word to strangers about anything, ever, so it then follows that anyone who does talk to you is more likely trying to grift you. Which makes you even less likely to talk to strangers in the future, in a vicious cycle. I've never actually read Jane Jacobs but I'm pretty sure this isn't what she was interested in preserving. I don't know if it's technology, population churn, or what.

I would disagree that all US cities are like that. In the midwest, people will talk to strangers on the train or street in Chicago. Even in the coastal cities there have been instances where I’ve spoken w people around me if something funny or odd is happening.

Absolutely untrue one you get a hundred miles from the coast. (In California, say, east of I-5).

This is definitely something I had to work on a lot (and am still working on) as I've gotten older. Some time After 25 it became apparent to me that I was leaving the house with full armor on. This was getting in the way of my being apart of the world and making me into more of a passive observer than active participant. Now, I think it is much better to leave with the defenses down. Which means a "softer face" for sure. I feel as if interactions with strangers makes most of us humans feel vulnerable in general. But that vulnerability is something to be embraced not warded off. In fact, the only thing that really gets warded off when we attempt to protect ourselves in this way is real life "living" and engagement.

That said my interactions with strangers are still hit or miss, but people tend to be very open regardless and now I have a lot of crazy random interaction stories to tell.

I agree 100%. After purchasing a home and joining the local neighborhood social media scene, it's unreal how suspicious people are of the people and cars in the neighborhood (even ones that belong to residents!). We live in as safe of a neighborhood as you possibly could, and people are still paranoid.

People lament a loss of community and then without irony, get on FB and worry that every unfamiliar vehicle passing through the neighborhood is a potential burglar.

We can try to meet everyone who comes through and have a community, or we can think every stranger is dangerous, but we can't do both. Having a community requires some vulnerability, as you say.

What's really interesting here is that if people actually demonstrated a little social reciprocity by saying 'hello' to each other, they'd realize that security and having a neighborhood feel aren't mutually exclusive.

Think about it - as a potential burglar, which is a more attractive target? A neighborhood where everyone silently ignores you or one where people notice you, make eye contact, wave, and say hello?

tl;dr: Saying 'hello' is a just as effective defensive strategy as it is being friendly to your fellow neighbor.

Well said!

I try to do the same, I certainly walk away with extra pep after those exchanges.

Elevators are a great example, just a quick “have a great day / night” seems to make people happy.

That goes for adults (in some settings) too. My wife and I walk our dogs for about two miles in the neighborhood every morning around 5:00 a.m. or thereabouts. Every few minutes we'll encounter someone else running, walking a dog, bicycling, etc. We seldom know the people, but we make it a point to say "[good] morning" to everyone, and we usually get a response. What's especially gratifying is that we've started to see others saying good morning to other people.

Of course, on a busy sidewalk downtown, you wouldn't do the same — that'd be just weird. But in the neighborhood when it’s quiet, it's a nice exchange of confirmation signals that while we're strangers, we're not just strangers, we're neighbors.

When I'm in Germany (Eifel area) everyone greets you when you walk around the neighbourhood, sitting in the garden or walking the nature trails. Sometimes even strike up a conversation. Age does not matter, everyone at least says good morning /day /evening. Very different as soon as you hit a bigger city though. Mabe not only the phones fault?

Frequency matters. Greeting more than maybe two or three times an hour is quickly getting old, but never acknowledging a face is depressing. People adjust their threshold accordingly: in a dense city environment greeting strangers would put you far above the enjoyable range so you lower the threshold. To people you actually know, or perhaps to people who somehow acted nice specifically to you. People in a place where they don't know anybody at all will often tweak the threshold a bit to strangers that share some standout commonality with them. The opposite happens in an environment with few people. On a lonely road, people start nodding at oncoming traffic or the occasional wanderer, on a very lonely road I've caught myself saying hello to farm animals or wildlife. Lost in the desert I'd probably try to chat up a friendly looking rock. The village is sitting nicely between those extremes.

As a kid in Germany I was taught to greet every person I met on the street. Back then I really really really hated it but now I see it’s a good way to stay in touch with each other.

> One thing I try to always do is smile and/or wave at babies/young children if they make eye contact with you.

While I generally like kids, I can't say I am particularly high on the "loves kids" scale. I honestly can't help but smile & wave at a kid or baby that looks at me. The sense of wonder and fascination in their eyes is incredible.

Yes! Kids are great. I always make faces at them or stick my tongue out and put my hands over my head and they always giggle. It's especially fun when the parents don't get it and think you're a weirdo.

Yes, I have noticed the same. I try to put my phone away when I am in public. Kids really pick up on it if you're ignoring them and they have heightened senses of emotion, so it's important for their psychological well-being to know that not everyone is sucked into the machine and actually cares about them. I've always been friendly to children, but after having a few it really makes you appreciate their innocence that much more.

Along the same lines, I try to even just make brief eye contact with strangers after reading that it makes a difference, and recognizing it's something I appreciate when others do. From a recent NPR article [1]:

"Kipling Williams, a Purdue University psychologist, studied how people felt when a young woman walked by them and either made eye contact, made eye contact while smiling, or completely ignored them. Even brief eye contact increased people's sense of inclusion and belonging."

"Just that brief acknowledgment, that brief glance — with or without a smile — made them at least temporarily feel more socially connected," Williams says. And it works both ways. Those that had been "looked through" felt even more disconnected than the control group.

[1] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/07/26/7442670...

Interestingly, I wonder how much different the results would be if it were a man making the eye contact and smiling.

Yes, it sounds like one of those low n p-hacked studies that would vanish if replicated.

You can also ask for directions, where to buy stuff in the neighborhood, is that take out place good etc. For some mysterious reason, it makes most people feel good, being of use to others.

...just wait until their parents report you to the police for "smiling at kids"

I was thinking about something like this recently.

I am a father of two kids. I can be walking on the sidewalk with my kids, and see another parent, maybe a mom, smile and say hello, it's totally fine.

Same situation, but maybe my kids are not with me, maybe they're in school. Suddenly I'm a strange man saying hello at a mom and her kids. A real danger situation! Hold onto your bag, hold the kids extra tight, reach for the pepper spray. But I am the same person in both situations.

But mindful of this, I keep a respectful distance in the latter case.

This is such an exclusively American problem.

The other American problem is completely unsocialized kids. Children are kept with their family or in tightly controlled social environments. They never experience unstructured environments or adults not from their family.

From time to time, a colleague brings their child to work (because childcare fell through, or something), and they get to interact with strangers! It's weird, they are afraid, they don't know what to say, they generally don't know how to conduct themselves. Oftentimes they are distractingly loud, can't entertain themselves and generally annoy everyone within earshot. And since you are not a parent you are not supposed to discipline the little shits!

Soon they are teenagers and enter the working environment, still without social experience. The Apocalypse is on its way.

Kids are sometimes shy. Kids are sometimes loud. This happens irrespective of how socialized they are or aren't. They all go through these phases and they're figuring it out. Please refrain from assuming the worst, calling them "little shits" and maybe consider calming down a tad.

i agree that it's unfortunate that kids are so often isolated from adults. however, "disciplining" has a connotation of force, so you may want to reframe that to redirecting behavior and attention positively. parents usually don't mind the latter.

and to the OP's point, i'm not a particularly social person, but i love smiling and waving at babies. it's as rewarding to you as it is to the baby. =)

New generation bad my generation good! The world's gonna end when those kids grow up.

Disagree. Plenty of perverts in many countries. Do some googling about the guys in trench coats on trains in Japan.

The reaction was typically American, I believe was the suggestion. There are perverts everywhere, but people not subject to American levels of fearmongering don't typically visualise child rape and reach for a weapon when another human smiles at their child.

Well there was a gender thing implicit in my comment and I feel I have witnessed it across cultures. Unfortunately in this case I think for a lot of women the defensiveness is shaped by real experiences.

On the other hand if you remove the question of gender I would have to admit that many in the US are more guarded with strangers than people tend to be in other places I've been.

I believe this was less about perverts than about pervert awareness or whatever it should be called

Your sentiment is not too far from the truth... I often use the nextdoor app for my neighborhood, and the amount of paranoia folks on there display to their own neighbors and people just walking down the street/walking their dogs is astonishing.

Indeed. We have a street WhatsApp and the curtain-twitchers report sightings of anyone “foreign looking”.

I say good morning to most people I see, we are friendly here in South Wales, but I don’t risk appearing on anyone’s microaggression blog or outrage twitter.

We had the moral panic in the UK at the turn of the century about this.

It was a way of selling newspapers.

So now you have to have kids of your own in proximity or grandchildren in proximity to be part of the club of people allowed to speak with a child. Failing that you need a full criminal records check.

During my own childhood I was out and about all hours of day and night delivering newspapers, babysitting, doing gardening jobs, walking/cycling/hitching to get to places generally alone. We didn't have the 'p' word back then and a certain amount of being sensible was expected. Not so long ago I had a chat with my sister about who had an un-natural interest in our childhood selves in the village and neighbouring area. The list was quite a long one, my sister being exposed to by people I considered normal and vice-versa.

We even had Fred West - a notorious murderer - parked up in his van at a local spot. Being lured in to a house or a strange car was just one of those things to watch out for, plus people would give you strange gifts.

But the thing was that we - my sister and myself - were the local community. If anything did happen to us then you could guarantee that someone would call our mum to complain they had not had their paper delivered, or someone would see us enter a house to not exit. For us it would be impossible for us to travel anywhere without being observed. Hitch-hiking was also something we did, but when you know half the cars on the road then you expect a lift.

We actually interacted with the crazies fully knowing that there wasn't something quite right about them. We also told our mum about unwanted advances and strange gifts that came our way. Our mother never got the police involved. In our recent recollections there were a dozen or so where a line had been crossed or other evidence existed. Would the community have been better had there been court cases? Not really, common sense by us and the fact that it was a community worked.

Had the moral panic existed then and had we been locked away lest we meet someone that smiled at kids then we would have also lost out from the kind grown-ups that went the extra mile for us. We could get lifts into town, every school history project was done with the help of some local senior citizen, to earn money we had to do no more than walk out the door and, for every weird person there were a dozen that would be looking out for us.

My rule when walking is I nod or say hello to anyone willing to make eye contact. Of course, lots of people avoid eye contact. Occasionally I get into conversations because of it, and I consider that a good thing. The more connected we are the better.

I used to do eye contact with dogs, against Cesar's advice, since I love dogs, but I got bit by a dog (on a leash) recently, so I avoid eye contact with dogs now.

There's literally an ad on the (NYC) Subway I saw just this morning implying making eye contact is something that is to be avoided at all costs.

Distractions are our lives now. You can choose to minimize them. Start by turning off “new email” notifications. You may not miss much by not knowing the moment an email arrives. If something is truly important and urgent, they will usually use multiple means to contact you, like calling you.

You can also graduate to removing almost all notifications from your phone. I say almost all because the beauty of Slack is that it never differentiated between being mobile or at a desktop (like Skype did) so you might need notifications from your work Slack to appear if you are not really present. Also, get rid of non-work Slacks on your phone, if you spend too much time on Slack on your phone, it could help eliminate more potential distractions.

The next level is to remove all native applications for anything that you think might distract you. It is much, much harder to fall into the rabbit hole of infinite scroll type binging with a mobile web experience. There is just enough friction with mobile web to snap you out of your trance, usually.

> they will usually use multiple means to contact you

like via Twitter or Instagram or Facebook or SMS or WhatsApp or one of your many Slacks or Discord or Google Hangout or your work email or your other personal email or....

There are so many ways to communicate now and that's not necessarily a bad thing but I definitely get communication fatigue.

> There are so many ways to communicate now

Yes, the idea to remove most distractions is to limit those communication mediums that give you near-instantaneous notifications of “activity”. Ignore all communication via all other modes until you decide, if ever, to check. There is a reason why some people communicate solely via Instagram DMs or Snapchat (it is where they live their lives).

I do not use Facebook regularly but I do keep the account. I’ve noticed that Facebook will send an email notification if something important happened, like someone’s parent passing away.

Usually, if someone who you know is calling your phone, it is probably important. Monitoring services like PagerDuty even allow you to “self escalate” from a text message to an automated call, for this reason. PagerDuty uses the same set of numbers so they could be added to a contact if you are whitelisting all incoming phone calls.

"Eliminate distractions" is the command that will accidentally lead the AI to "Kill all humans".

Do Not Disturb mode, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your life will change. No notifications, no vibrations, no dings, no texts, no calls. It's wonderful. You, and only you should be in charge of when you use your phone. Not some random caller or E-mail sender, not some app developer's "growth hacker", not AI running on some service's backend. Take back control of your attention!

> You, and only you should be in charge of when you use your phone.

Life happens. Your wife falls and breaks her wrist. Your mom has a heart attack. They want you now, not when you deign to look at your communications. And until you do look, you won't know if it's that she broke her wrist or that she had a heart attack.

If you are disconnected enough from other people that nobody has a valid demand on your attention, then you're part of the problem of social disconnection.

Yet somehow we were able to handle emergencies before mobile phones existed. I’m not willing to sacrifice quality of life 99.9% of the time just to be able to handle the odd 0.1% outlier situation.

People usually can wait. For the rare case where they can’t, there are even ways to poke through Do Not Disturb mode.

iOS has a feature where you can setup certain contacts to override your 'do not disturb' settings. Check that out.

While that is certainly useful, what about local hospitals, police departments, when someone borrows someone else's phone you call you etc.

IIRC iOS also has a feature which allows through someone who rings multiple times in quick-ish succession?

Android does, and I haven't had reason to disable it yet. Should that be necessary, people can leave a message. They might have to, even if they were whitelisted as I don't take my phone with me to the bathroom or to most meetings.

If "something" happens, by the time the police are contacting you it's no longer an emergency.

Responding to an ambiguous worry of an emergency that may never even occur during your lifetime by allowing yourself to be continually interrupted by spammers (traditional call-based and new app-based) is actually a decent illustration of the overarching societal problem.

I found my quality of life greatly improved when I started going to Facebook once a day, no app or notifications. So far it is improving again as I have stopped using Facebook. They sure are desperate to get you back, though, it's been two weeks of twice- or thrice-daily emails.

The straw that broke the camel's back in this case was the behavior of the Messenger notifications. They filled messenger with so many bullshit "friendaversary" and other notices that I stopped paying attention and I missed my real, actual friends who were trying to get in touch with me. Such a transparent Skinner box, I couldn't respect myself if I went along with that kind of manipulation. Then when I found it's basically impossible to disable Messenger it became clear that I had to delete it all. I'll download my data from them and call it a day.

It's such a shame because Facebook put me in touch with a number of people that I only sent a Christmas card to, if at all. But I think the nature of these social networks is that the more addictive and manipulative ones quickly crowd out the decent ones. Metcalfe's Law seemed like a great thing until you realize that the growth has to be exponential to have a chance of "winning".

It's all just never been a problem for me. I see an email in the notifications on my phone and either archive it there or swipe it away so I'll see it when I'm at a pc. I get lots of notifications from various things all day but they're just there and not an issue if I'm doing something else.

The Jews identified this problem and the solution thousands of years ago, hence their weekly Sabbath ritual of disconnecting from work/technology and focusing on their family/faith.

I've got a growing appreciation for rituals that seem silly, worthless or out-dated. If the ritual has survived this long, deep examination is in order before altering or dismissing it.

Yes, but Jesus's revisionist take on it is worthwhile to keep in mind too:

"The sabbath was created for man, not man for the sabbath."

Disconnecting is good for many as a general practice. I myself have a "no technology day" once a month or so. And certainly taking a population recently freed from slavery and instituting a labor law ensuring a weekend was a great idea (whoever thought of it).

But that's the nice thing about weekends - each of us get to spend them as we choose.

If you are feeling disconnected from your loved ones and want to mutually agree to put away your phones, awesome.

But likewise, if you had a rough week and want to lose yourself in binge watching Stranger Things, that's cool too.

Let's not fall back into the ways of every generations before us in how we consider younger trends as we age. Even chess was condemned as corrupting the youth in its day.

A central theme to the success of all life in this world is balance. If you feel out of balance, adjust your own life accordingly to regain it. But it would probably be unwise to assume the balance that works for one works for all.

I doubt any one of us has an identical idea of what living the perfect life looks like. All we can do is figure out what our own version of that picture looks like and do our best to realize it.

I really like Zvi's article on bringing back the Sabbath as a secular tool for disconnecting and ensuring your life is balanced enough that you can survive a day offline: https://thezvi.wordpress.com/2017/10/07/bring-back-the-sabba...

I think the Amish have an interesting take on technology too.

They do adopt it - but very slowly and only to enhance their community.

Fascinating article by Kevin Kelly on Amish Hackers:


Back in my day when you passed someone on the way to buy your morning paper you would say "good day sir" and tip your hat. These kids don't even read the paper anymore. And they're all like, "what is up" and "how is it hanging". What does that even mean? I'm not even convinced they're using proper grammar to say these things.

And what the deal with likes on facebook. Too busy posting pictures of what they're eating to listen quietly to the adults discussing aunt Joann's ridiculous choice of hat. Seriously, it's August so she should really know not to wear a green hat when we all go to watch the 10 hours of reruns of Survivor.

EDIT: 'News' article on the web complains about technology trying to steal our attention from 'the true reality' and it does this by employing a click bait title and pairs the message proper with multiple visual ads.

> I'm not even convinced they're using proper grammar to say these things.

But "good day sir" lacks a verb and subject/object, so it's not even a sentence. On the other hand, "what is up" and "how is it hanging" are proper interrogative sentences, as far as grammar is concerned anyway.

Darn youths!

The title giveth, the body takes away. Articles like these have been making the rounds for maybe 6 ears now, and I cannot see how this brings even a moderately non-stale perspective to the fray .I checked the date, it's from today. Must be a slow week at SciAm.

Yes. It's an odd phenomenon. Some messages of this form seem to live and recirculate for years, perpetuated without much analytical thought.

I often get preached at about how bad social media is. The irony is that I don't have any, and the people preaching at me do.

My best theory: I suspect both online and offline, people "parrot" ideas 90% of the time. They hear an idea, repeat it without much thought, if it resonates well they repeat it more.

I think the reason people do this in-person is the same as they do it online. They say things not because they have deeply reflected on all the ramifications and sincerely believe and live by those ideas. They say things "to get likes."

So there is this common idea that social media is creating sort of "fake" social interactions where things are said and pictures are taken in pursuit of social reward (likes, follows, engagement). But this behavior isn't really caused by social media, in fact this is just a digital representation of a behavior that people have been doing for a really long time.

This is a completely fresh perspective to me and I find it very interesting, there's a good chance that you're right.

I don't think it is that odd at all. It is a bit like how people brag about how drunk they get, how stupid the things they did while drunk were, how hung over they are. They pretend like they are confessing but they are really bragging. Same with smoking/vaping. Same with people who relish in the toxic drama they invite into their lives.

I believe there is some dark psychology behind all of this. I think we test each other not only on how virtuous we are, but in what ways we are morally deficient. Being addicted to social media is one way we give ourselves permission to indulge in types of negative behavior that existed long before computers existed. These kind of articles are a tacit justification of those behaviors.

The answer is in the first sentence of the fourth paragraph.

"As I explain in my book..."

This is advertising.

Why does it have to be "non-stale"? Is this need part of the "new is better" dopamine cycle?

It's enough to be valid, or thought provoking.

My thoughts on this were provoked on this identically, years ago. Again. And again.

Have a look at the posts you've liked, what you've submitted, etc. Are they all brand new developments?

Because surely that's not the case with 95% of what's posted on HN, and that's not a bad thing.


Yes, I know what that xkcd is; it gets posted all the time too.

No, sorry, beating a dead horse still isn’t justified.

Doesn't that make it a replication of previous articles? Authenticity doesn't oblige originality

You otoh offer nothing of substance

I think stating the article is unoriginal is a valid critique. The article is saying digital distraction is affecting society. We know that. Telling people they shouldn't be so distracted isn't a original thought and therefore reading the article is a waste of time. Despite the authenticity of a publication I wouldn't want to read 10 articles saying the same thing. There is some expectation of originality. Right?

> Despite the authenticity of a publication I wouldn't want to read 10 articles saying the same thing

I agree in a mundane sense, repetition is not exciting, but the sorts of large scale messages such as this one, need to be repeated across many sources of information (has Sci Am ever run an article in this before? Not the same as if Huff Post does) before it's taken seriously enough, by enough people, for something to change.

Agree, although [there's no telling what's new to someone else][0], so if a message is important enough there can be value in its being repeated in different times and places. Just because I've read a hundred and one articles about e.g., strong passwords, doesn't mean my friends have the first clue.


I think digital spaces have added an additional dimension of social reciprocity.

Just one tiny example is the "courtesy like" when having a friendly interaction on twitter. It's like waiting to go back inside your house until your guest has fully driven out of your driveway and gone away.

Healthy technology is additive, not subtractive of our existing lives. And I think it's natural for us to have digital equivalents of analog reciprocity.

  So, yes, some people don’t hear back from me as quickly as 
  they used to. I hear all the time from people who are 
  genuinely upset with me about that.
To me, the problem is that with immediacy people come up with all sorts of new less-than-healthy ideas of reciprocity and social mores. In this case, the expectation of immediate reply because it's possible -- someone could not have that thought before the 1990s & ubiquity of cellphones, and more realistically it's within the last decade that that kind of expectation could even be possible.

Title doesn't match the article, which appears to be about social media manipulation techniques making people feel disconnected and sad.

But "death of social reciprocity?"

According to my own research set to appear in the second clause of this sentence, sad people are apparently still thanking the Fortnite bus driver in record numbers.

Yes but how many of them would donate a spare kidney for him if he really needed it.

People risked their lives for each other. I’m not sure that it’s the same case with people who like your selfie.

Is it just me or others also feel that this is only exacerbated by having 'always in ear devices' like AirPods (or any other earbuds for that matter)? Why is it not considered rude to have them on while you're having a discussion with someone?

Don't worry, plenty of us would consider that rude :) It's really the same as checking your phone during a conversation. Is it useful for me to give you my full attention if yours is constantly changing channels?

YES it is 100% rude and weird imo. I was having a conversation with someone at an event, asked him a couple questions, and he only took his airpods out after a couple minutes. It felt weird and disrespectful. I told my colleagues about it and they agreed with me.

My favorite one lately, which is kind of the opposite, but at least as rude, is people having conversations on speaker phone as they're walking around in public. I don't really need to hear your conversation with Verizon customer service, bro.

It is rude, that didn’t change. People take out their earpods when they talk to me (or me to them).

It is. Is this common behaviour somewhere? Where?

One of my coworkers did this the other day during daily standup. He had his airpods in while he talked.

It is considered rude?

The problem is, social reciprocity is /expensive/ ... and like anything else expensive, it's been eliminated in today's society.

Say what you want about Wal-Mart, but Sam Walton wanted his stores to have a more 'neighborhood' feel, so he employed greeters to stand at the front of the store to say hello to shoppers as they entered. A small gesture, but eliminated in the name of 'cost savings'.

For most businesses these days, labor is one of your largest - if not your largest - direct cost. So it is a natural target when thinking how to increase profitability.

That's just talking about direct $$ cost... I think this article also touches on the fact that 'expensive' is also measured in attention. It's a lot easier to get a dopamine hit by checking your phone rather than a spontaneous interaction with another human being. You know what that little badge on the phone means, the outcome from a random conversation with another human ... is a little less certain.

> am Walton wanted his stores to have a more 'neighborhood' feel, so he employed greeters to stand at the front of the store to say hello to shoppers as they entered.

The reality is, alas, not quite as wholesome:

The idea of having dedicated greeters at the front door of a store may have come from an employee of the company, Lois Richard. She was working in the early 1980s as an invoice clerk at the Walmart store in Crowley, Louisiana. The Walmart store in Crowley, which had opened in 1980, was experiencing shoplifting and had a significant "inventory shrinkage" after two years. The initial idea was to have an employee standing at the door in order to try to decrease shoplifting. After a shoplifting sting conducted by the local police showed that piles of merchandise could have been taken away, Lois Richard pitched the idea the next day to her manager and it was accepted.

Having someone who visibly sees each patron when they enter and is physically present at the exit likely reduces shoplifting more than enough to pay for the position. They're basically security guards.

So you’re saying that some social graces have a positive side effect of reducing crime? How is that not wholesome?

In other words, stop using abstract digital tools to interact with people, and just interact with people.

Presumably the people I'm interacting with now won't be annoyed by my use of digital tools to do so.

The problem is the abstract digital tools allow me to easily find and interact with people I find interesting, share common interest with, etc., often on the other side of the country than myself. Which is something I've found difficult in real life.

People find different things interesting, the ideal way to find your tribe is to find where your tribe congregates and move there

I have a diverse array of interests. In terms of technology interests I would be at home in San Francisco it seems, but I also love off-roading and shooting guns and all of that.

For what it's worth, you'll find people in San Francisco who like to shoot guns and, presumably, go off-roading. I was surprised to be invited to a gun range last time I was there for work.

Here's the thing: my tribe congregates on the Internet.

I think this trend started way before digital media. Since TV a lot of people spend hours every day in front of a screen which is their main source of information about the outside world. Business also has been becoming increasingly impersonal. You are beholden to shareholders you don’t know and shareholders demand things from people they don’t know. You can’t give feedback to job applicants for a vague fear of being sued. We are afraid of strangers talking to children or even us.

I am not sure if this trend will be positive or negative long term but I think social media is just another (accelerated) step in that direction.

Nah, technology is pretty cool for this shit. Everyone likes their friends' posts. It's like an acknowledgement - I see you and I like that I do. iMessage reactions and FB messenger reactions are the same. I think if I looked through my group chats, most messages have reactions. And Find my Friends? You have that shit broadcasting and you'll run into each other all the time.

I feel so thoroughly connected with my friends. They're like a mesh that catches me when I'm down and bounces me back up. And it's so easy with tech.

This article resonates with me. As of late, social media has been a negative for my life. It is terribly distracting. I pay attention to who interacts with my content more than I should. I just deactivated Instagram (user ~#66,000 so I signed up in the first few days) for the first time this week (after deleting the app many times) and it has been very refreshing.

I like that they bring up distractions. The addictive nature of online media is an issue, but that isn't the only thing going on.

People are hyper sensitive now, and at least here in the US, there is a sense that 'someone one is to blame, and that person needs to be punished'... and that sense is way stronger than the sense of 'is this person even guilty'.

Where I'm from, I give hitch hikers rides all the time.

Since I've lived in the US, I don't. If the hitch hiker was to have drugs on them, and we got stopped, I could easily be liable for this, and go to jail and lose my right to be in the United States. Those are some high stakes. Especially since I don't have a $250,000 lying around to pay for a criminal defense attorney.

And lower stakes happen everywhere. The other day I was hiking (with my expensive hiking gear) in some back-country trail and I watched as first the dad took a shot, then what appeared to be the mom. So I offered to take the picture of the whole family. The mom yanked her camera to the side when I offered (as if afraid I'd steal it) and tersely rejected my offer (a single, cold and distrustful "NO")

One day I sat down at a restaurant and there was a really nice new cell phone on the seat. In my home country, I would have taken it, and waited to receive a call from the owner to give it back. Not so in the US. I wouldn't want to be accused of stealing it. Instead, I called the staff to take it away. Maybe they stole it? I don't know, but I don't want the liability.

When you do away with presumption of innocence, there is a strong chilling effect.

One thing I've noticed is that people often don't hold the door open anymore when you're following them out of a building or room, because they're looking at their phone.

I thought the article would be focused on these sorts of things, but it seemed to be more of an advice column. Not what I was expecting.

For anyone interested in this topic, i would strongly recommend Cal Newport’s book digital minimalism

This article lacks substance and is painfully anecdotal. I was expecting something more from SA.

Reciprocity is one of the mechanisms people use to part you with your money. Sellers use it, charity uses it, scammers use it. No wonder that people tend to dial down their reciprocity if they can.

It's worse than that. It is all baked into our daily tools. Even HN as a community and a forum aids in distraction. Pretty much any community that lets you form an echo chamber around yourself (all social networks, and communities including HN)commands your attention by making you interact with people who think like you. If this were done in real life it would be much different, but the online medium of it falls short in the tangible relationship department.

I hate to say it, but the big nasty "R" word might be the only way to curb the disease of distraction by limiting notifications and psychologically abusive features.

The extend of psychological abuse for attention seeking is so great now that most if not all of us are in some way affected, even if we deny it (myself included).

Major offenders: - Twitter - notifications, likes, comments, emails, notifications in tab titles - FB - notifications, messenger, likes, comments, friend recommendations. - Slack .. good luck making those little notification circles disappear if you are in a number of different channels - Linked In - constant emails, people who have looked at your profile, messenger you can't close

It's also going to get worse. As automation grows, more and more people will find themselves occupied with bullshit jobs, the kinds that look to expand and capture a piece of the attention economy. There is a good chance you, the person reading this right now has a bullshit job. You may even know it and acknowledge it, but will ultimately justify it as necessary and a force for good (sorry, it's probably not). It's a tragedy, but a lot of talent, time and life is being wasted on increasingly larger number of bullshit activities that add absolutely nothing (except $$) and take away everything (time).

I should know all of this as I work in a bullshit industry, doing bullshit things, taking people's time & money. I am not happy about it but I see no real alternative in the foreseeable future. My job involves figuring out how people think, what will make them buy and then making them buy crap they don't need or in more quantities than they need it.

Personally, I have made significant effort to cut down on distractions but I still fail by coming to HN. I can't help that discussions here are engaging and make me think. Twitter is another platform I have tried quitting many times but find myself too curious to see what's happening and checking again. I've managed to cut Reddit down to 1 sub, but even then it seems really difficult to quit that last piece. I still check LinkedIN occasionally but don't expect much from it, nor do I care about what's being discussed. FB is totally out of my life, including messenger so I have made some progress there. Slack also totally gone. I completely uninstalled it and direct people to email. Speaking of email, I am almost always at inbox zero thanks to a ton of filters. Stuff still gets through from spammers and occasional subscriptions that want to push crap I don't care about, but I manage to zap those with the "mark as spam" button quickly.

Could it be the information bombardment made you impenetrable to the real information? For example, since I found really important information and sources I value, no bullshit sources distract my attention. I don't watch TV, I don't visit popular news websites (including HN, made an exception today), I'm not captured by any social net service.

I feel like I'm still half-blind and thus see no clear way out of the prison, just like you. I'm a really honest man and the fight for the real world requires an advanced pretentiousness skill which I lack.

I am not sure how you got that out of my comment. What exactly is real information? Personally, I think people who only get their news from "trusted" sources are actually closing themselves off to a variety of different opinions, however disagreeable. I do not feel bombarded with information because like you, I don't watch TV. Everything I read is selective based on what I want to read, not because it just happens to be there. Take twitter or HN for example, it's not like I'm clicking all the articles and leaving comments on all of them.

One could argue that by getting your info from a few selected sources you are actually just absorbing their information from whatever few sources they have and are not seeing the full picture.

Would you be willing to share those sources?

They are not something private and hidden, it's more like a diamonds lying in the road dust because people are just too busy to stop and take a close look at something, unless it jumps right into them in a form of a colorful advertisement picturing a women with big tits offering you to try something. Basically those are random people, random articles/books/lectures I encountered and considered helpfull.

I don't have much to share with english-speaking folks, most amazing "sources" I got acquainted with speak russian. I really enjoyed George Carlin, he provides some helpfull insights for starters.

I'd like to check out these russian-speaking sources if they are online.

You could check a pretty well-known economist Khazin e.g. worldcrisis.ru.

The big R = Ritalin?

That's surprisingly plausible/feasible.

I think R = Regulation

The text refutes the title, whats going on. Anyway, another article about how it is "destroying society". But there is no mention on what really destroys society. Try smiling to an adult and u re the weird one. So much for saying hi or chatting, ewww unless you re physically on the high end of the scale. Like others have said, you can only react to kids , and that's only if you re not a man outside a certain age range. Frankly this doesnt sound like an interesting book.

For anyone interested in this topic, I would strongly recommend Cal Newport’s book digital minimalism

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