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America’s social-media addiction is getting worse (economist.com)
143 points by seagullz 67 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 179 comments



The biggest concern to me is the attention span most people have today. They can't go longer than a few minutes without checking their phone. It impacts work and leisure. An assignment at work is delayed or low quality because you checked your phone every few minutes, you don't understand what's happening in a TV show/movie because you kept checking your phone, you can't get interested in a good book because you can't read more than a page or two without checking your phone.

I am guilty of this behavior myself and it's something that I've been working on a lot lately. I recognize that this is a problem, but I don't really support the government saving us from ourselves. I think this is something that average person just needs to educate themselves on and make the decision for themselves. It's not impossible to break free from it.

I highly suggest everyone checkout Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. It's a fantastic read.


"I am guilty of this behavior myself and it's something that I've been working on a lot lately. I recognize that this is a problem, but I don't really support the government saving us from ourselves. I think this is something that average person just needs to educate themselves on and make the decision for themselves. It's not impossible to break free from it."

this is pretty much the line that always comes from corporate lobbyists. We have armies of highly paid people that work at companies to exploit every little weakness of the human psychology and put out a ton of fake information. But let's just make this the responsibility of the individual and ignore the amount of manipulation that's done . They did this for smoking and now they are doing it for obesity and social media addiction. I bet the opioid crisis is also blamed on individuals that don't take responsibility for themselves.

As an individual you almost have no chance to escape unless you put in a lot of effort to get better information and even then it's hard considering how much misinformation is being put out.

Why do we allow the creation of a society that's hostile to people so companies can make money exploiting their weakness?


> As an individual you almost have no chance to escape unless you put in a lot of effort to get better information and even then it's hard considering how much misinformation is being put out.

There are a couple of facets here, so I'll address them separately.

For one, it's not remotely my experience or that of my social circles to say you have "almost no chance" of healthy social media use (or abstinence, if that's your thing). It seems roughly as "inescapable" as "not going to the gym" or "not reading enough". I can't even imagine how you arrived at this conclusion. There are plenty of people who are either off social media or very happy with their level of usage, and they got there with sustained incremental effort, just like any form of self-improvement. Spreading the message that you're utterly helpless and your only hope is regulatory rescue isn't helping people, it's actively harmful. To forestall the often-ludicrous charge of "victim-blaming": it has nothing to do with blame to realize that the ultimate consequences fall on you, and that it's a good idea to do what you can to mitigate those consequences.

This isn't independent of advocating for regulatory action. My gut instinct is against regulation of social media, but from what I've seen, there are people out there who think of their social media usage as closer to involuntary addiction than a fun vice to indulge in, so I don't want to dismiss offhand any suggestions for regulation. I just simply can't imagine why you'd want to tell people (or yourself!) that they have no hope of getting to a better place.


“I just simply can't imagine why you'd want to tell people (or yourself!) that they have no hope of getting to a better place”

Sure you can get to a better place and you should try to do so. What I am saying is that it’s very hard and that it’s not your personal failing if you don’t succeed. Some things are easy for some people that are hard for others. For example I have never had weight problems and naturally eat relatively healthily. But I see people who try really hard to not eat fast food but somehow can’t stay away. For these people the constant advertising and availability of fast food is deadly.

I think that we should not allow the seducers to do whatever they want.


> Sure you can get to a better place and you should try to do so. What I am saying is that it’s very hard and that it’s not your personal failing if you don’t succeed.

Agreed, of course. I'd go so far as to so this is a prerequisite for doing anything difficult. But I interpreted the following quote as a considerably more hopeless outlook:

> As an individual you almost have no chance to escape unless you put in a lot of effort to get better information and even then it's hard considering how much misinformation is being put out.

It doesn't take Herculean effort to fix these habits, it just takes a sustained attempt to change your habits, without even pushing that hard. (and of course, there are the particularly-susceptible for whom even sustained effort won't work).

My pushback was against the sentiment often expressed here that there's no hope at an individual level, but it sounds from your second comment like you don't agree with that either.


"It doesn't take Herculean effort to fix these habits, it just takes a sustained attempt to change your habits, without even pushing that hard. (and of course, there are the particularly-susceptible for whom even sustained effort won't work)."

For you maybe. But you have to understand that there are a lot of highly educated, highly paid people trying to figure how to make their products as addictive as possible to as many people as possible. So a lot of people stand no chance because their weaknesses are being exploited with precision.

Do you have no habits that annoy you but keep coming back no matter how much you try too get rid of them?


> But you have to understand that there are a lot of highly educated, highly paid people trying to figure how to make their products as addictive as possible to as many people as possible. So a lot of people stand no chance because their weaknesses are being exploited with precision

This is the leap I don't buy. First of all, it's factually incorrect: you're not being targeted with anything like precision. I worked in AI research before the boom and work between research and product now, I'm likely better than most of the highly educated, highly paid people you're talking about, and ML models aren't the otherworldly wizardry that people think they are. They work well on average; there's no highly paid team dedicated to analyzing wutbrodo or ididntdothis's usage and building a custom model. If you're making a mild effort to recognize and push back against mindless media consumption, you've already moved yourself away from the center of mass being targeted. And frankly, these companies aren't going to chase after you when the bulk of their usage comes from the chunks of the population whose behavior clusters better.

> Do you have no habits that annoy you but keep coming back no matter how much you try too get rid of them?

Honestly? No, I don't. I don't think I'm even particularly good at moment-to-moment willpower either. I just look at it differently. To take my diet as an example, it's almost exactly where I want it to be from a health perspective. It's to the point that my friends assume I'm some sort of iron-willed ascetic continually putting in effort to eat well, but it's completely effortless for me. But it took a literal decade for me to get here, through incremental change and letting my habits (and probably biology) adjust. If I had been in a rush and gotten repeatedly frustrated at my lack of rapid progress, I doubt I would have ever ended up here.

Reducing mindless media consumption and usage is similar (though in my experience, takes far less time), and is helped along by any number of apps and extensions.

This isn't a general argument that this is trivial for everyone, nor that regulation is inappropriate to help the average person who hasn't recognized the problem. What I'm pushing back against is the claim that "there's no hope of escape" for most, barring some extreme level of informedness or willpower. There are highly paid people with decades more experience making junk food hyperpalatable too. But while there's scope for regulation to help the average person, it'd be both inaccurate and unhelpful to claim that "there's no hope of escape" for an individual from the Standard American Diet.


The average person is fighting teams of phds at Facebook, Google, and Amazon that are finding more and more ways to capture an maintain your interest, and to ensure that you can't put your phone down for more than a few minutes.

Honestly I think a comparison to cigarettes is fair. Between the anti-patterns, the machine learning, the A/B testing, and the behavioral engineering, modern phone apps are more addicting than niccotine, and it's no more a person's fault for not being able to control themselves than it is for a smoker craving another cig.

The problem cuts a lot deeper than people having no self control. They are actively fighting intelligent, well resourced adversaries who have a long term goal of getting you hooked.


A comparison to cigarettes is not fair because I can quit cigarettes without any ramifications beyond the withdrawal itself.

Trying to quit overuse of mobile phones while not losing access to their good features (maps, calendar, actual phone) is like trying to quit smoking while constantly walking around with a lit cigarette in your mouth.

"Hey man what are you doing with a cig behind your desk?"

- "I'm trying to quit smoking."


A good comparison is to junk food addiction, which I've heard described as "an alcoholic trying to quit but being required to have just a couple drinks a day"


It has to be done as a group. Both at family/work/friends circle.

It started with my team at work getting together one day (almost a year and half back - some Trump BS was unfolding) and saying, if it gets too bad lets decide as a group to block ports/sites/apps etc on the company network. Slowly the list of things to block started growing.

It was really surprising how easily one could get consensus, that something specific was too distracting, effecting people and group productivity. Nobody wants to be the guy who says HN is addictive. But once someone says it at a meeting everyone starts nodding. News sites were the first to go. Then video. Then social media and most instant messaging/irc. We have moved to Signal to avoid some of the dark patterns in other IM/chat apps. And everyone is using the google/apple well being apps.

Almost everything is done on email or face to face these days. And almost 70 people now in what we call the noise cancellation club.

Right now things get unblocked during lunch time for 30 mins and after 5pm. There are common areas where things are unblocked, but they are intentionally pretty public spaces.

People of course can use their phones, but the fact that there is this environment available where it has become socially acceptable to be phone free, has definitely made a difference.


Use some sort of parental controls app, lock the phone down so it can do exactly the things you want it to and nothing else. If necessary you can have a spouse or other trusted person set a password on it that you don't know, so you can't just turn the restrictions off.


I consider a big part of the problem to be notifications, and their respective default settings.

Before smartphones (generally speaking), the majority of your notifications were on your computer. If you walked away from it, you were no longer getting them.

Today, you've got a notification blaster in your pocket/purse, which is bad enough for work stuff, but if you participate in social media, it's a FOMO machine too. By default, all of your notifications are artificially urgent.

I'm a little older than the average HN'er, so my attitude in life has been closing my social circles to be a very small group of people with richer interactions, as opposed to enlarging it to a large group with less rich interactions. Because of that, it's been pretty easy to wean myself off of FB (not that it was ever a big part of my life in the first place), and I've never considered Twitter, Instagram or anything else to be that interesting. I will admit that I enjoy Reddit - those cute animal gifs are quite relaxing after a stressful day, but I don't use Reddit the way most people use FB or other social media.

When it comes to notifications, I turn a lot of them off. I keep my work notifications on during the hours I consider myself available (for urgent stuff, people know they have to call me), and tightly restrict other notifications that can be distracting.


A lot of my smart phone usage lately seems to be around managing how much attention my phone can grab from me. I let very few apps send me notifications on my phone. I check it enough without it making noises at me.

And if an app doesn't let me disable notifications then I just uninstall it. Facebook Messenger was awful about this, when I saw there was no "Disable notifications", only a "Turn notifications off for 24 hours" option I immediately uninstalled it. Facebook was even worse, ostensibly you could turn notification types off individually, but whenever they added a new type of notification you'd have to go in and turn that off too, or it'd just forget what other notifications you had turned off and you'd start getting them again. Amusingly uninstalling the Facebook app gave me a nice battery performance boost too.

Another thing I've found handy is in my IM app I have notifications for everyone turned off by default, and only allow notifications for close friends and family. Why should any random person on the internet be able to grab my attention like that?


One regrettable casualty of this is that I've noticed that almost everyone I know is super unresponsive to texts now. I'm not expecting a fully-interrupt-driven ability to grab someone's attention at any time, but ive even seen cases when you're actively in conversation with someone about something concrete (eg details of a plan) and they drop off in the middle of it. I still think this is pretty rude, but its understandable given that they haven't bothered to make their notifications higher granularity (for my part, I've disabled notifications at the Android level for most of the abusive apps, like Facebook)

> Another thing I've found handy is in my IM app I have notifications for everyone turned off by default, and only allow notifications for close friends and family.

I figure the next step in the evolution of norms will be this understanding of granularity filtering down to the non-tech-savvy masses.


Call me old school, but for conversations relating to something concrete and time sensitive, I prefer to do a voice call. I don't trust any text based medium for that.

I use a hierarchy when it comes to prioritizing communications and notifications: Voice > sms > work im/email > personal im/email

Based on that hierarchy, I have different sets of rules as to the types of notifications I get and when I get them.


Sure, there's no accounting for preferences. But for many, a voice call taking the place of every text conversation is a lot _more_ intrusive (albeit in a time-limited, focused way). Shooting off a couple of texts to nail down the details of when you're meeting up for prearranged plans is convenient for calls because it doesn't have to be fully synchronous: send the text, and if the other person responds when you're free, then you can have a synchronous conversation. There's no real analogue with phone conversations other than playing phone tag, which seems like a lot more mental load.


I have an android phone, but it allows you to long-press any notifaction for an app and turn that apps ability to notify of. That is a system feature, not an app feature.

And I know you can permanently turn notifications of for any given contact because I have done so for one who didn't understand that messenger is not for long conversations that should have been on email, just because you typically get a quicker reply.


Can't you just not sign in to social media sites on your mobile phone? If you don't want to delete social media accounts, maybe change your passwords to something you can't easily remember, and only login on a particular computer at home or something.

Honestly, I didn't even need to go that far. Just turning off notifications for Facebook was enough for me to completely stop using it.


I hate sophisticated approach to creating addiction in modern apps just like the next guy here, BUT... you know you can just uninstall the apps, right? You know you can set the phone on airplane mode when you come home, right? You know you can block FB or any other server on network level, right? Pause notifications from WhatsApp for a year... and so on and on and on.

Self-training in a bit of discipline is one of the most valuable things one can do with their life.

I've removed FB 2 years ago and couldn't be happier, the idea of being spammed with notifications like I was before is so alien now. I've paused notifications on noisy WhatsApp groups and go there maybe 1x a month. Removed most chat apps. Life is good. Try it.

I mean, if you want to drop nicotine addiction, you don't keep a 12-pack of cigarettes lying around, right?


Speaking as someone who did quit smoking two years ago, of course you shouldn't keep a (20) pack around, but the difficulty in making the decisions that kill the addiction is the whole crux of addiction. Buying a pack of cigs is easy. So is downloading an app, as easy as deleting it, or throwing a pack in the garbage. Breaking an addiction is keeping the app deleted, it's not buying another pack, and that's the hard part.


Well then the next generation will lack the attention span necessary to earn a PhD and get jobs on those teams. So in the long run the problem will be self correcting.


Or the bar would be lowered to accomodate for that


The PhDs will probably be replaced by AI before that happens, to the extent that they haven't been already.


I just screenshotted the text of your comment and set it as the homescreen and desktop wallpaper of my phone as a reminder to stay vigilant about minimizing my phone usage. Thanks!


> but I don't really support the government saving us from ourselves.

I don't understand that argument. By the same reasoning all drugs should be legal:

Everyone know's it's bad. People get trapped. It has severe consequences for personal health and the society as a whole. But, hey, "it's not impossible to break free from it" by yourself. No need for Government action.

The key metric for me is impact to society. You can do all bad things to you if you want to, and they only impact yourself, but if things have large impact on:

- Social fabric (stability of families and communities)

- Political Culture (erosion of discourse culture)

- Education (lower attention span)

- Healthcare (burnout!)

- Working productivity

It might be a good idea to change the rules to prevent these effects.


> By the same reasoning all drugs should be legal

Yeah, that actually works pretty great for Portugal and the war on drugs shows that just changing the rules doesn't work (another example in the same vein: the prohibition). People aren't that stupid that they need someone else to tell them what's good or bad for them. They know that. They just don't act accordingly, and that's the real problem, and you can't just fix that by saying no you can't do X. Everyone already knows they shouldn't do X. Your rules aren't adding anything.


That's not how decriminalization works. Drugs are not legal in Portugal. What decriminalization means is that you don't go to jail if you use or abuse them; AFAIK the government has rehab programs and actively helps you to get rid of these drugs.

It's not like in Portugal you go and buy cocaine and the government expects you to self-regulate; that just doesn't work. Libertarianism works well for perfectly rational individuals, but rationality can't coexist with addictive drugs. Individuals need help breaking from destructive forces that are greater than themselves.

The idea here is not to punish people for using social media, but to punish social media companies for making their apps addictive. Just like in Portugal you can't get jail time if you're addicted, but you certainly do go to jail for dealing.


Plenty of people think that drugs should not be criminally illegal. They would argue that prohibition does more harm to society than the drugs do, and that the money would be better spent on treatment and public health services. Don't forget, the US imprisons more of its citizens per capita than any other country in the world.

So following that line of thought, shouldn't we try to help people who are addicted to smartphones manage their lives and addictions, instead of trying to ban them from using a smartphone?


> I don't understand that argument. By the same reasoning all drugs should be legal.

Do you really believe it's the illegal nature of drugs that keep the vast majority of people from using them? It's the fact that they know it's bad. In the future social media could be no different.

I don't know if I would be in favor of legalization, but Portugal has had reasonable success with decriminalizing all drugs.


This doesn't seem as unreasonable as your incredulity makes it sound. Alcohol is uncontroversially wayyy more dangerous than a handful of illegal drugs, and it's in incredibly wide usage. Same for cigarettes in the past: it took a sui generis effort to dramatically shift culture to lower cigarette's popularity (in the US), and it was fragile enough that a rebranding to "Juul" is starting to undo a lot of that work.

FWIW, from a selfish perspective, I wish most drugs were legal: ; I used marijuana responsibly before it was legal and continue to use psychedelics responsibly, and the reason I don't do meth or cocaine isn't because it's difficult to get, but because I'm aware of how dangerous they are. But I'm genuinely curious as to what could make you think that, for the average person, legality doesn't drive a substantial amount of their attitudes towards usage of a given drug.


You are conflating legalization of drugs with he decriminalizing of drugs by people

it is still illegal to manufacture and sell fetanyl to the public, just as the OP is suggesting regulating the addictive nature of social media/technology.

No one is saying let’s criminalize using smart phones.


How do you regulate this away though? The fact that people like to get the latest news or see likes on their posts is vulnerable to abuse by social media, but it also drives a site like HN for what I'd say amounts to a social good. I'd rather we don't outlaw everything that is addictive, because our reward circuits drive good behavior, too.

There's also an absence of morality in these businesses. Facebook and many others established themselves with a giant bait and switch. Get the users, then put the pinch on them by selling every bit of info and using dark patterns to a point just shy of them quitting. That's an accepted way to do things. There is an underlying attitude that any legal and profitable venture is valid. Caveat emptor, greed is good, social darwinism. I'd regulate against that but I don't see how.

You could form some sort of regulatory body that decides itself what practices are acceptable and leverages fines against those that aren't, but that kicks the can down the road and also entrenches big businesses who can afford to interact with such an entity. Barriers to competition help create the monopolies and cartels that prevent consumers from punishing bad business practices.


> Facebook and many others established themselves with a giant bait and switch. Get the users, then put the pinch on them by selling every bit of info and using dark patterns to a point just shy of them quitting.

Can you elaborate on why you think Facebook was a bait and switch? "They trust me, the dumb fucks" was during Facebook's infancy, and came to public attention years and years ago. More concretely, Facebook has consistently been amoral and user-hostile, and anyone paying even a little bit of attention knew that by, say, 2012. Hell, there were complaints about its addictive (+stalkery) potential when the news feed launched, in 2006! I'm what way is this a bait and switch, instead of clearly signaling the company they were the entire time?


Im referring to the early years specifically, when it had no ads and no obvious business model. They jump started their Network effect by being useful and unobtrusive and then the monetization set in. Still, it's only recently that those concerns you mentioned really became mainstream. The well-informed public is a small sliver of the public overall, because it takes effort to stay informed, and there is a lot of deceptive junk and sponsored opinions to sift through.


Most people still don't really care that much about privacy, and polls continue to bear this out. The bulk of complaints are based on its direct effects on user's mental well-being, as well as perceived damage to the health of civil society.

The upshot is that people don't really see a problem with obtrusive monetization directly (FB ads aren't particularly egregious from a UI perspective), but rather attempts to increase engagement, which of course substantially predate their monetization efforts. The News Feed and related controversy are an easy, early example, as is the promotion of Farmville-style "games" (ca 2009/10), which also substantially predates Facebook's mainstreaming and the bulk of their user growth.


All drugs SHOULD be legal.


That's only feasible if we don't allow predatory sales of the drugs. Non-prohibition works in places where they instead address the motivators for drug use. I don't think it would work if we let companies have big marketing budgets pushing the drugs. Legalize possession, but not marketing.


I also feel like I'm suffering from distractions and lack of focus, but my phone is definitely not the source since I'm still someone who will only check my phone every so often, and am usually I'm too distracted by an article I'm reading on my laptop/desktop to be bothered to look at my phone when it tries to demand my attention.

What is distracting for me is this feeling that the stakes are very high right now and that I can't afford to be missing out on available knowledge. This isn't FOMO about what my friends are doing on social media since I'm really only on here and Twitter, where none of my friends are, but a fear that I'm missing some key piece in a puzzle.

It's more a sense that there are major systemic crisis we are facing that need solving and my brain is consumed by finding ways to think about these crisis and how to evaluate and implement some kind of solution. I don't know if anyone else is also feeling this anxiety as a source of distraction from normal life or if this is just a personal psychosis.

Based on my personal experience I think that systemic complexity is driving up base-level anxiety which is being exploited by media and political entities to profit from anxiety-induced distraction, which only increase the complexity of the systems as every agent becomes further debilitated in their role by anxiety and anxiety-exploiting distractions.

PS - When I say "anxiety", I mean a deep feeling of uncertainty about the future.


My view on this is that the specific targets of your anxiety (understanding systemic crises) is just something that your mind ginned up from a more general anxiety. At least, that's how it has worked for me in the past, and I think it's supported by the relevant science (not an expert tho). There have been periods in the past when I had a lot of anxiety about my career or personal life, and keeping my brain busy with random articles fed a perceived need to gather knowledge that really boiled down to not wanting to give my mind a quiet mental backdrop on which the thoughts you're anxious about can bubble up. It was only post hoc that my brain would construct some motivation for why I was reading all those articles, and it sounded similar to what you're describing.

This is pretty much the purpose of mindfulness practice: to force this quiet and make you contend with the thoughts actually causing your anxiety. I know this sounds like woo, but it's worth at least trying out mindfulness meditation and getting a keener sense of what concerns you. (And of course, it's entirely possible that you know your own mind and your model is correct. I just thought I'd share similar experiences I've had in the past)


> I recognize that this is a problem, but I don't really support the government saving us from ourselves. I think this is something that average person just needs to educate themselves on and make the decision for themselves.

We like to frame this as a personal issue because the individual decides to keep checking social media outlets. On the other hand, social media outlets think of people collectively: they incorporate addictive features based upon correlations between features and desirable usage patterns. This is an incredibly powerful tool since the decisions of an individual is difficult to rely upon, yet the patterns of large collections of people can be modeled and the uncertainties in that model understood. In other words, we are placing ourselves at a serious disadvantage if we insist upon looking at the issue through the lens of the individual.

In a sense, the government has to educate the collective since there is a conflict of interest otherwise. The companies that have the most control over the information that people see are also the companies that have the largest interest in keeping people glued to their screens.


Isn't there a massive conflict of interest being ignored on the government's part? Namely that addiction seems to be the camel's nose into the tent for oversight and power on them.

To be frank claiming that private interests having influence is reason for giving power to the government is like saying that chickenwire is unfair to the foxes because the farmer is exploiting the chickens.

They are chosen to be our servants - not our masters - the power should be separated for a reason.


They are discussing regulations upon businesses, rather than laws that regulate the behavior of individuals. It is an important distinction.

There is a big difference between a democratically elected government and a business. Governments must demonstrate restraint because they ultimately report to the people. Businesses typically demonstrate restraint in order to avoid regulation by the government. If you neuter government, then there are very few reasons for them to demonstrate restraint. In other words, the government is the chicken wire.


My attention span has gotten worse these past ten years and I don't even own a (smart) phone. Don't know the root cause, but it ain't phones. It's probably the Internet itself or at least some of the websites you can find that give you an endless stream of information.


I've made it a point in my life to only look at my phone when I'm legitimately bored, which is pretty much always reading HN since I have nearly all notifications turned off. In other words, if I'm at a restaurant with someone and they go to the bathroom, leaving me alone at the table briefly, I'll just sit there and look around at the world for a few minutes. If anyone sees me doing that and thinks it's weird or creepy, then the very nature of existing is weird or creepy.

It feels pretty good. I'm more at peace with the world when I sit there and take it all in.


I also turn off nearly all notifications. My phone buzzing can cause me a lot of anxiety, so I only want notifications that are actually important (e.g. my wife texting me about something).


The only notification I get on my phone is if someone in my contact list calls me, in which case my phone will actually make noise and vibrate. Otherwise, I check my messages on my own time, which makes the most sense to me because messages are supposed to be asynchronous communication, yet we treat them like they deserve responses ASAP.


> They can't go longer than a few minutes without checking their phone. It impacts work and leisure.

They can't even put their phone down when something is actually happening right in front of them. People have been recording with their phones since the inception of the camera phone, but I recently saw a metal concert where nearly everyone in the audience had their phones out, including those in the pit! These people should be headbanging, dancing around and roughhousing, but instead they just stood there for periods of time mouth a-gape with their phones raised. Do we really need 3,000+ copies of the same concert using up bandwidth and storage? People are so desperate to be a YouTube star in even the most minuscule of ways. They'll view life through a screen if it meant getting a 1,000 views. It must be distracting as hell to be living life and constantly wondering if you should be recording it.


The biggest concern to me is the attention span most people have today. They can't go longer than a few minutes without going outside for a cigarette. It impacts work and leisure. An assignment at work is delayed or low quality because you had a cigarette every few minutes, you don't understand what's happening in a TV show/movie because you kept looking away to light up another cigarette, you can't get interested in a good book because you can't read more than a page or two without getting another cigarette.

I am guilty of this behavior myself and it's something that I've been working on a lot lately. I recognize that this is a problem, but I don't really support the government saving us from ourselves. I think this is something that average person just needs to educate themselves on and make the decision for themselves. It's not impossible to break free from it.


That isn't new - it was suggested that TV would fail in the US because Americans lack the attention span for it!


ᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠ ᅠ ᅠ ᅠ


Really? Thats the same as saying “Oh you have a heroin addiction? Just stop thinking about it and you will be fine for days...”


> On July 30th the junior senator from Missouri unveiled the “Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act”, or SMART Act. The bill would limit social-media usage to half an hour a day (users would be able to bypass the limit by adjusting their app settings). It would also ban addictive features, such as “infinite scroll” (when a user’s entire feed can be seen in one visit) and “autoplay” (when online videos load automatically one after another).

We should never let the government dictate UI through laws. It’s shocking that it’s even being proposed.


Why is it shocking?

The government has always had a say in the UI if it was for the greater benefit of it's citizen:

- Off putting images printed on cigarette packages

- Warning stickers put on microwaves to prevent people from drying their house cats in the microwave

- Forcing speed meters in cars

- Forcing head lights of cars to be turned on after a certain hour of the day

- Lot's of "UX" regulations in casinos and other addictive establishments

- Licenses to sell alcohol which basically influences where people can find and shop alcohol

- Recently the UK has drafted a law which prohibits supermarkets to stock and display addictive unhealthy food close to the checkout tilts (Mars, Snickers, fat crisps, etc.)

Why should it be different on the internet? Social media has a damaging and addictive negative impact on society, so it need's to be regulated to protect citizens from the exploitative patterns which these companies purposefully implement to hook vulnerable people into their system.

I wonder what makes people believe that the internet should be this sort of "law free" place where anyone can implement all the exploitative behaviour which is otherwise forbidden elsewhere?


Don't forget ingredient lists, nutritional information labels, and the newer reference intake labels. Take a look at any alcoholic beverage to see what happens when such labels are voluntary.

Material Safety Data Sheets is another regulation that manufacturers are forced to follow but is pretty damn useful for end consumers also.


There is a certain, rather vocal, section of HN that seems prone to having a knee-jerk reaction against all regulatory behaviour. They seem to pop up a lot in threads like these, or those related to free speech etc.

I see the case for minimising regulations in some contexts, but there are definitely strong cases for the government to come down with the force of an anvil in other contexts.


It's kind of funny, for a bunch of people who ostensibly look for edge cases all day.

Then they want simple one case fits all solution to a complex or intractable problem (and usually the same solution, regardless of the problem).


In an ideal world, all government regulations are well thought out and limited to things that are minimally invasive to the citizen, and still allow the citizen to be free to make a choice. Nutrition labels are a good example of this.

In the real world, many regulations are influenced by corporations to serve their own interests. The food pyramid is an example of this.

Anyone aware of the latter should be skeptical of any proposed regulation, especially in the US. Is it in the best interest of the populace, or was it influenced to be in the best interest of a lobbying organization?


> Take a look at any alcoholic beverage to see what happens when such labels are voluntary.

Amen. I did keto for a couple of years and was shocked at the amount of carbs and added sugar.


>I wonder what makes people believe that the internet should be this sort of "law free" place where anyone can implement all the exploitative behaviour which is otherwise forbidden elsewhere?

Violent crime doesnt happen on the internet. The only thing to prevent is fraud. And that weirdly isnt huge, at least in my life.

Not everyone subscribes to the thought that government makes better decisions than individuals. Having laws are often used for corrupt purposes.


>Violent crime doesn't happen on the internet. The only thing to prevent is fraud.

I couldn't disagree more with these statements. Human and sex trafficking occur through the net, hell you can hire hitmen! Then there's the grooming of underage kids, etc. To say only fraud happens on the net just seems wild.

>Not everyone subscribes to the thought that government makes better decisions than individuals. Having laws are often used for corrupt purposes.

This is a pretty general statement. What specifically in the proposed law are you against?


All those crimes happen offline, though. Internet is just a communication channel.


Why do some people have to jump from

Person A: I think in these situations the government action has been effective

To

“Person A thinks thst government makes better decisions than individuals”.

There is literally (and I mean this literally) not a single non crazy person in the world who thinks the government makes better decisions than individuals in general. For one thing, we don’t have AI yet and government is made of individuals. Yet this is your counter argument, and probably what you think people who disagree with you believe and rest their philosophies on.


I must be crazy then, and so are many people. Smoking less, driving more slowly, are better decisions than the alternative; but left to their own devices people will make the wrong decision most of the time.


Isn't this sort of similar to the motorcycle helmet thing? Is it okay to make helmets mandatory by law or are we okay with people being free to do as they wish and so some percentage of us dying because of it.

There's always personal responsibility no doubt - and I'm very big on it -, but at the same time, should we allow corporations to exploit most of the population through addiction?

I don't think anyone can predict consequences of either choice in the short / long term.


It's not that "government makes better decisions than individuals" it's that unorganized individuals do not have the power to change the behavior of large organizations that are out to manipulate the public. Corporations manipulate individuals and entire populations by only providing the means for certain actions to be taken, by using propaganda, and in the case of UI, preying on the impulses of individuals.

By contrast, state power in this instance is exercised after deliberate thought, and in theory, in the interest of the people. This isn't the thoughtful and well informed decisions of individuals vs that of the state. It is that of our weakest, most impulsive moments vs making an informed decision before allowing products to be sold or made available.


Dang


And flouride in the water [0], maybe good for your teeth, health effects on the rest of the body unclear ... law of unintended consequences and all that.

Folic acid fortification of flour too [1]. Protects against neural-tube defects, health effects on aging adults less clear. [1]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_fluoridation_in_the_Unit...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_fortification#Folate


I think it would be great for someone to introduce well-crafted legislation, formed with the input of smart, savvy, educated, and Big Tech-hostile technologists, that establishes some kind of standards board to review and levy fines for things like dark patterns.

This legislation is not that. It is one legislator's policy team throwing darts wildly, with the goal of generating hype for their member, not actually getting anything passed into law.


This is why governmental bodies need to rely on experts in various fields. There is no way we should require our politicians to know everything about everything, but they should be smart enough to recognize what they don't know and become educated and informed. I feel your last statement is sadly, 100% accurate.


Also speed regulations in the form of net neutrality.


That is a good list... I think people think of social media as different since it is a computer program/app instead of a physical product but really there is no difference legally or philosophically!


That assumes that the government should have a say in those things, and that people don't accept the fundamental axiom that the internet is different from everything else.


Many of us find most of your list disturbing as is. So we certainly don't use it as evidence that we'd like it to grow longer.


Out of curiosity, what do you find disturbing exactly? That people who drive a vehicle which is capable of speeds that can easily cause death to passengers and other vehicles around them need to have a device mounted which visibly gives them an indication of how fast they are actually travelling?

Or do you find it disturbing that kids who don't know better yet are meant to be told that if they start smoking cigarettes, which are very addictive, can cause them to die 20 years earlier rather than telling them that it is "cool" which is what the ad industry did before?

Maybe from a complete selfish point of view I can see how it's annoying that I cannot buy alcohol just at any time of the day wherever I want, but the government is not being elected to act selfishly. They have a responsibility towards their electorate, and if something is causing people to get depressed, harm themselves and become unhappy, unproductive and a burden on the state, then it is the governments duty to implement regulation which can help prevent from falling into those damaging habits.


How about the law saying it's illegal to put candy bars in the checkout aisle? When does it stop? You can't just keep doing this forever it's literally insane. How big does the books of donts have to be before we are all criminals? Saying it's the government's job to regulate our lives to give us less bad habits is also an opinion, not some objective fact like you state either. Be careful about projecting your feelings and wants onto others, because once you rope the government into it the people that don't share your view are being trampled on with no recourse.


> How about the law saying it's illegal to put candy bars in the checkout aisle?

That would be a very good thing. Also, limiting the size of sodas. Etc. Don't the US have some kind of a weight problem maybe? Shouldn't it be the job of the government to help fix it?

The problem is not one of "freedom". It's a war waged by corporations against individuals. The role of the government is, at the very least, to protect individuals in that war.


It's not projecting my personal feelings. The government has the responsibility to keep society productive. If something is having a wide spread effect on a society's productiveness, then it's their responsibility to take action. If you disagree with this, then you basically oppose the idea of having elected leaders who are responsible for looking after the greater good of society. What is the alternative though? Non elected leaders, anarchy?


Again, you are spouting opinions as facts. "The government has the responsibility to keep society productive" find me the floating rock that shows that is an objective truth. And even if I DID give you that as an objective truth, it still is very far from your previous assertion that it's the government's job to keep people from falling into bad habits.


>It's not projecting my personal feelings.

>The government has the responsibility to keep society productive

That is very much your opinion.

I'm of the opinion that government should be doing whatever the end result of every member of government acting as the people who elected them want them to act (not necessarily what is best for those people). So what if the people want stupid things, the people should get what they want. It's not government's job to act like a parent.


if you limit the extent to which people are considered a "burden on the state", then the state doesn't have to exert such control over their lives. people are going to feel differently about how to make this trade-off.

speedometers seem pretty important to have (although I doubt cars would be designed without them in 2019 even if it were legal), as do headlights at night and in the rain. I don't think these are unreasonable laws, as they have a very obvious and direct impact on road safety.

I can't really agree with the arbitrary restrictions on alcohol purchases though. where I live, it is illegal for liquor stores to be open on Sundays. how is society helped by preventing me, a responsible and productive citizen, from buying some alcohol on one of my two days off from work?


> how is society helped by preventing me, a responsible and productive citizen, from buying some alcohol on one of my two days off from work?

It's a cost benefit calculation. Laws are primarily not drafted for the responsible and self disciplined people. They are there to prevent the irresponsible or vulnerable people from getting so wasted on a Sunday evening that they don't show up to work on a Monday, then lose their job, then become homeless, then start petty crimes to survive on the streets, then fall into drug addiction, then rob you, a responsible and productive person on a Tuesday when you are at work, potentially even harming your kids which might be already at home just to steal something stupid as someone's phone.

Does the alcohol restriction prevent responsible and productive people from having a beer on Sunday? Not really, if they are responsible then they probably did a bigger shopping the day before and have some extra beers stocked in their fridge on Sunday.

Just to be clear, I am not defending a particular law here, just highlighting that there is nothing inherently wrong with a government wanting to draft legislation in a cost/benefit effective way.

In micro and macro economics the one law that all our economic models are based on is that everyone works for their own benefit, so at least from that perspective it's in the governments benefit to look after the people who elected them, so they will get elected again.


> Just to be clear, I am not defending a particular law here, just highlighting that there is nothing inherently wrong with a government wanting to draft legislation in a cost/benefit effective way.

it's important to note that this is an opinion, not a fact. clearly there are a few people here who don't share that opinion.

personally I think to harm or even inconvenience people who haven't done anything wrong yet is one of the worst things a government can do. it's just my opinion though, clearly there are many people who are happy to grant even more power to the state so it can craft crude laws to protect them.


> Laws are primarily not drafted for the responsible and self disciplined people.

And yet, they still apply to us. Your benevolent intentions do not invalidate our stake in the restrictions that are imposed upon us.

Many people find constant paternalistic intrusions on the part of the state to be a legitimately worse cost than a marginal increase in behavior by bad actors. Exercising authority over petty matters may be a free action in your utility calculus, but it adds up to a significant irritation and a material quality-of-life burden to those of us who value the freedom to simply buy a beer when we want to.

Please consider this point of view. Society is not a sterile engineering problem to be optimized in terms of concrete inputs and outputs.


[flagged]


Or you could just respond to the man's question? - instead of responding childish


No, and I didn't long to live in a race to the bottom dystopia either.


One of the rights we explicitly give the government in the Constitution is to regulate our trade and commerce.

From that lens all these regulations make sense, including the social media regulations proposed.


Check your source. I believe the constitutional power is to regulate interstate commerce. There is a conceptual difference (or there used to be). Traditionally, this power isn't supposed to apply to all aspects of the market -- just those aspects conceptually bounded by trade that is between states.


Yes, but you're selling your attention to Facebook across state boundaries (in 49/50 states).

But my more serious answer would be that everybody is harmed by inconsistent trade rules between states. It just makes doing business harder. The commerce clause was thought up when considering a much less centralized nation composed of many isolated markets. Today even the much less tightly bound EU has a pretty strong level of trade uniformity, enforced centrally. So I think that everyone benefits from a relaxed view of the commerce clause, and that this isn't a real infringement on our rights.


While others find it as a reasonable middle ground between banning things outright(which never works anyway) and letting everyone do whatever they want even if it harms others.

You are living in a society after all.


It's a wonder to me why more middle-ground approaches such as what you stated don't get proposed more often.


Because nobody ever got virtue points from their "base" for proposing a middle ground.


On the other hand it’s shocking social media companies use every psychological tool at their disposal to get people to share their private info as well as getting them to engage with them as much as possible. I’m shocked they’d do this!


When industries don't self regulate and cause harm to societies, then yes the government steps in to prevent harm through regulation.


> The bill would limit social-media usage to half an hour a day (users would be able to bypass the limit by adjusting their app settings).

The Economist is putting it mildly. The Act is quite short and accessible, so well worth reading directly: https://www.hawley.senate.gov/sites/default/files/2019-07/So.... More on that half an hour limit, from Section 4 (paraphrased):

- Opt-out 30 minutes a day time limit

- The time limit gets reset every month, so you have to keep opting out

- A nag pop-up at least once every 30 minutes showing how much time you've spent there that day

If this passes, using the (US) internet will become much more annoying.

(Section 7, which says the FTC gets to make up new rules later, looks a bit suspicious to me too, but I'm not clear on the degree to which that's just standard operating procedure for American politics.)


Think of getting a car approved for road use involving a pointing mechanism that isn’t a steering wheel... and then you let me know how successful you expect to be.


This happens all the time and is completely normal. It’s just the first time it’s happened in the context of a web browser or mobile app as far as I know.


As strange as it is I think there is something to be said to limiting social media's most addictive features. These things are designed to be as addicting and unhealthy as possible in order to absorb as much of our time and energy as possible.


Well, if he removed endless scrolling, which should be listed as a deadly sin somewhere in the bible, I might humor him.


What I never understood is sites that put links only available in the footer -and- enable endless scrolling.

Worst thing ever.


Without that, why would you need the end button on your keyboard?

/s


I'm pretty sure India's is worst but nobody is performing these kind of studies in India. We will learn damages when it's too late.

It's exactly like pollution nobody gives a damn here about it. This is going offtopic but check pollution data for India its same as that of China. At least China has proper facilities for measuring the air quality.


> check pollution data for India its same as that of China. At least China has proper facilities for measuring the air quality.

I have checked. It is not the same.

World Most Polluted Cities in 2018 - PM2.5 Ranking | AirVisual – https://www.airvisual.com/world-most-polluted-cities


Note that this is the case when we have limited data points. If we do full fledged studies we would reveal severe issues with pollution in India.

Coming back to social media there's a growing number of foreign youtubers who react to Indian media. The ammount traffic they are receiving is phenomenal. This though not a correct indicator definitely highlights growing social media in India.


If you don’t believe there is enough data points then why did you ask us to check the data?


The link above shows that 20 of the world's top 25 polluted cities are in the India. (The rest are 2 in Pakistan, 2 in China, and 1 in Bangladesh.)


Usage of social networks in India currently looks like what the usage of social networks in the US would've looked like ten years ago if smartphones would had been so widespread as they are today. (Now that was a hard sentence to type)


How about America's TV addiction, or even talk-radio addiction? Or even, you know, the actual addiction addiction of the opiate crisis?


"According to a Nielsen report, United States adults are watching five hours and four minutes of television per day on average (35.5 h/week, slightly more than 77 days per year)."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Television_consumption

Nielsen may be biased though.


That seems... REALLY high; nobody I know has that kind of time. Does the older, retired crowd really spend so much time in front of the tv to bring the average up so much, or is there something else? Maybe house-spouses (is that the PC term for man and woman inclusive house-wife?) that leave the tv on all day (but aren't necessarily watching it)?


>That seems... REALLY high; nobody I know has that kind of time

Netflix drops a series of something and you have millions binging it all in a sitting the first few days. Take Stranger Things, Netflix revealed that 40.7 million accounts watched at least part of the series in the first 4 days.

It's not uncommon for me to see in my Facebook feed, almost daily, people saying "I completed SERIES what do I watch next?".

The number doesn't surprise me at all, especially given there are people that are streaming stuff like Netflix most/all day at work on their phones with them propped up, then going home to watch something with their partner or binging an entire season on a Saturday.


Totally believe the numbers (30 hours a week) quoted in parent posts. The CEO of Netflix said something to the effect of "our biggest competition is sleep -- and we're winning."


> Does the older, retired crowd really spend so much time in front of the tv to bring the average up so much, or is there something else?

You have no idea. Politics aside, there is a reason Fox News is above and beyond the most watched cable network (4th behind NBC/CBS/ABC/Fox which are all free).


I know many people that have the TV on 24/7 "in the background" when they are home, even if they are doing something else. Rewatching the Office for the 100th time or something similar. I am not surprised by that number at all.


That seems insane... I get off work around 4:30pm and get home from the gym around 6pm. I make dinner and it's basically 7pm and then I have leisure time to read a book, work a personal project, or watch TV. I aim to go to bed 10pm. I never spend 3 hours watching TV and I'm not sure how some of these people are doing more than that! The weekends could skew the numbers, but even then I don't watch it that much.


> get home from the gym around 6pm. I make dinner

These are 2 things that apparently large parts of the population do not do. Instead they grab fast food on the way home and watch TV until bed. At least that's the responses I get anytime I say people should work out every day, and eat healthier by spending a few minutes cooking.


We gotta realize HN isn't exactly representative of the population.


Retired people, children, and the unemployed.


In many homes the TV is on by default as background noise but people aren't really watching, or at least not giving it full attention.


woah, that would be an extremely high number. That is almost as much as I spend on my internet addiction.


TV addiction is a very good point. If they're banning infinite scroll, then they should ban broadcast TV - viewers should have to deliberately press a button to continue to the next show. I personally would actually be very cool with that.


Or the biggest of all, the sugar addiction.


If anything, most internet has use has to be at least somewhat more stimulating and engaging than passively sitting on the couch for hours staring at a screen.


Oh man people are addicted to reading the ideas of strangers.

The end is near /s

Although the real dangers are that those ideas shared could be bad.


I don't find the data precise enough to make conclusions. Yes, we spend more time on social apps, but it's also our main way of communication. I wouldn't be surprised to know that 80% of the time spend is in private conversations. We are just switching from classic apps (SMS, email, WhatsApp) to messaging in social media apps.


Also just because the app is open on my screen doesn't mean I'm looking at it. Bad science is bad, only one upped by the bad reporting.


One important part of solving this is allowing apps which provide the ability for an individual to bind his future actions. If there should be any government policy, it should be to make these tools which help augment individuals' own strivings for self-discipline.

It would be really nice if Apple would re-allow content-blocking apps on the iPhone.

https://support.freedom.to/en/articles/2259444-freedom-app-s...

It would also be nice if someone would develop a subscription service like SelfControl.app, but which took recurring payments in order to support an engineer making continual improvements. https://github.com/SelfControlApp/selfcontrol/issues?q=is%3A...

-------

By the way, there exists some similar fintech for substance addictions: https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/next_step-card-...


I think the approach of "have more self control" is doomed to fail. We have a social media addiction problem because there are literally teams of scientests using machine learning, A/B testing, and other techniques to get you hooked onto the app.

If you want to break the addiction, the only thing you can do is abstinence from the apps that employ these tactics. I don't think that you can win against adversaries that literally make a living out of getting you to keep clicking.

Media like HN is fine, self control techniques work here because YC isn't doing all of the same dark patterns and addiction strategies that are being employed by facebook, youtube, twitter, snapchat, etc.

If you realize you are addicted to one of these opiate-like apps, you really have to choose cold-turkey.


> Media like HN is fine

There might not be anything purposefully done to get you hooked, but link aggregators have some "innate" features that your brain really likes, such as getting upvotes and discovering cool stuff on a random basis.


I really don't understand these confident assertions that it's literally impossible to change unhealthy usage to healthy usage. Do you mind if I ask why you're so sure that there's no hope at all for incremental movement towards healthy engagement? Leaving aside the fact that I can think of plenty of counterexamples, I've seen this line of thought over and over and I have no clue where it came from, beyond handwaving about all-powerful ML algorithms.


> It would be really nice if Apple would re-allow content-blocking apps on the iPhone.

They did, didn’t they?


Yes, they did. I paid for a lifetime subscription to freedom just for this.


I went to Disneyland for the first time in 20+ years and it struck me how much people stare into phones. In lines of course, but also in the middle of rides? Just didn't seem healthy, like we are running a huge social experiment which eliminates talking and paying attention to those around you.


I hadn't thought of that because I hadn't been to a theme park in years, since smartphones took off. Wow. I couldn't imagine a line full of kids staring at phones. Lines were always tedious, but we joked around and generally entertained ourselves through it. Man, we are becoming a dull bunch of people.


And if these companies had their way users would be spending every waking minute on their platform, collecting that sweet sweet ad revenue. That's what happens when primary business success metrics are engagement and hundreds of micro-experiments are run every day to make these platforms addictive as possible.


Imagine a Star Trek episode where they go to a planet were everyone is staring at a personal device and not interacting with each other. That's what walking into a bar in 2019 is like.

We're living in the part of the dystopian movie, in the beginning, where they explain the timeline of how everything got so bad.


Addictions are good for business.

Addictions are predictable & can be channelled to make profit. Like they say, "Make hay while the Sun shines". Whole private business community rides on such waves of addictions(good/bad).

Some successful businessmen with guilty conscience do charity.


Is Youtube a social site now?

I think it should go in the other corner where it says 'TV Addiction'...


>Is Youtube a social site now?

Absolutely, go pick a video at random from a YT account with more than say half a million subscribers. Go look at the comments, go look at the 'community' tab on one of those accounts pages and look at the engagement in their non-video shares as well. Go watch one of these accounts when they do a live video and the chat is often flying by faster than you can read more than one or two lines.


My solution to this problem is simply that these websites shouldn't exist. A network of more than a thousand or so people can't reasonably give you any real sense of community. All these sites have a commonality: they are ad supported, so in order to end this the consumer ad industry must be collapsed, block ads and avoid purchasing products advertised to you. Once the ad industry is collapsed such sites will either be paid for or will be setup to facilitate a genuine need. This will maximise the benefits and avoid creating a constant stream of broadly irrelevant and useless information.


What makes you think that people don't value those sites enough to pay for using them? People pay huge sums for cable packages which is essentially a monthly fee for "make the time go by more quickly". Social media is similar in that regard, so it might just be worth money to them as well.


If people valued the existing sites enough to pay for them they'd already be doing that, it would simply be a more reliable stream of income.


There is no option to pay instead of getting ads. I'd happily pay for Google's search sans ads/tracking and their focus on the dumbest user possible, but I can't because they don't offer the option.

I do agree that most people won't prefer paying with money instead of attention, but that doesn't mean they won't prefer paying with money over not having the service.


There have been countless services who've attempted this model, none of them suceeded, in fact I can't even remember their names off the top of my head because no one bothered.


That's while they are competing with free. It's hard to compete with free. It's much easier to compete with non-existant.


Sure, but free is the defect state in the Prisoner's Dilemma. If Google provides a paid option, they'll still be competing with their free option. If they switch entirely to paid, Bing immediately starts advertising as "the free search engine".

This dynamic is even more powerful for network-effects-driven platforms like Twitter or fb


Sure, but the premise was that it would go away if you took away ads as a funding model. I doubt that FB would simply fold and say "oh well" if, by some miraculous law, ads were no longer an option for funding. And Youtube (which is counted as social media here) already has Youtube Premium/Red, where people (at least in some countries) can pay to get an ad-free experience and some extra content.

When people perceive a value, they'll pay an appropriate price in some way (be it by spending money or watching ads), that's all I'm saying. And they appear to value social media or they wouldn't spend that much time on it. So if you remove "just watch some ads" as a payment form, I'm pretty sure that at least some will switch to handing over money.


Ah I see, by "remove" you mean remove at an industry-wide level, eg through regulation. Sure that's a classic solution to Prisoner's Dilemmas


I pay for YouTube premium to turn off the ads. It's worth every penny.


I doubt that anyone will ever figure out a reliable way of blocking ads on the major social media web sites and mobile apps. It just doesn't seem technically feasible due to how the platforms work and the way ads are directly integrated into content.


Legally ads have to be marked as such, so it will definitely be possible somehow. Additionally, 'good enough' is acceptable, it might be a constant fight but one side has less stamina than the other by virtue of the fact that they're limited by market logic.


Regulation the usage of private websites and something as specific as infinite scroll on an app is ridiculous. I understand we regulate things like cigarettes and alcohol, but I absolutely hate the idea of government getting involved in regulations of software and the internet. I just don't personally think that if I'm going through multiple private businesses (phone manufacturer, ISP, social network) that I should be restricted by government regulation on something as mundane as spending too much time on Reddit.

That being said, that's my personal opinion.


Yeah, people are in touch with each other. I’m glued to my phone on transit because I’m catching up with my friends who I haven’t seen in days, something I can’t do at work. Fucking insufferable, the paternalism.


Well said.

Another factor is that not everyone, especially women, do not want to leave themselves open to strangers to bother or even harass them. The best way to do that these days is to be busy on your phone, or to put on some ear/headphones in public. Looking busy is almost a must on public transit or else you risk looking like prey to unwanted solicitations.


I helped crack down on my own social media usage by getting a feature phone for calling and a really cheap low-end smart phone ($40) for those times when I really need an app for something.


Are they using social media more and more additionally to watching TV, or is it shifting more towards social media? And if it is: is social media worse than TV, and why?


The use cases expand and contract year over year, iterating towards ones that create longer sessions without necessarily being dopamine like addictions

Just pointing out that people merely use a service for X minutes doesn't tell what people are doing

Over the last year the instagram service added IGTV, which can be replacing TV and youtube for some people, for example

These can be completely exempt from the messed up frustrating picture feeds and the use case of attracting likes.


It's strange that people still believe in internet addiction.


I applied to the most recent winter YC batch with the idea of, I want to help people put tech down and plug back into the world. Sadly, they weren't interested as it won't make 1 billion dollars in a few years for them to make bank on.

I think purely the attention companies get at demo day would have been a very powerful thing and I know there are countless tech types the world around that are fed up with technology in front of them all the time (and it's nothing new, I knew a programmer in the late 90s that got rid of his computer, then his game consoles, then his television because he just didn't want to be around the stuff outside of work). I mean, look at how many CS types buy hobby farms or talk about someday buying hobby farms. Look at a lot of the van life and tiny home types, same kinda thing.

I would love to help people take a step away from tech, if anything just to help myself.

Here's a snippet of something I wrote in 2017, it's probably the first time I really put thought into ME and tech

>In 1995 when I discovered the internet we got 60 hours a month, shortly after we got 120 hours a month. If the weather was nice you didn't give a shit about the internet, you were outside. If the weather was bad you'd connect to the internet, get lost in the text of a MUD. I remember the first time I saw an image on a website, the first time I saw video on a computer.

Here's another bit, this grows and evolves in me almost daily

>I've got 21st century burnout. I'm not alone, I know I'm not. I've got two friends that are of a similar mind. I want to live in a world where community is a thing, where life is simple, where the only real concerns are who's bringing what to the block party or what book I want to read next.

https://www.ryanmercer.com/ryansthoughts/2017/2/13/i-miss-th...

What's really crazy is just look at video games, the time we spend in video games is dumbfounding

>ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY SIX BILLION HOURS A YEAR. That's 17,808,219 man-YEARS spent on video games annually. 17 million years wasted every year playing video games. Seventeen MILLION.

I break that out, using great works we've done, to show what we might accomplish if we just put down video games

https://www.ryanmercer.com/ryansthoughts/2016/8/2/humanitys-...

And that doesn't include the obscene amounts of time people, hell I, spend on Instagram, Facebook, HN, Reddit, Tinder-like apps, sending gifs and memes in a dozen message/chat threads.

We've gotta do something about this.


"I want to help people put tech down and plug back into the world"

But they are plugged to the world, and more so than in the past when they were limited to people around them, books, newspapers etc.


They're plugged into the highly curated social media shares of people they went to grade school with and haven't seen in 15 years, or worse they're plugged into the curated 'life' of complete strangers.

This is leading to anxiety, depression and even suicides

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/social-media-use-incr...

https://www.psycom.net/social-media-depression-teens

https://adaa.org/social-media-obsession

https://blog.pcc.com/social-media-self-esteem-and-teen-suici...

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/social-media-contributi...

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2019/jan/30/social-media-u...


Anxiety, depression and suicides are nothing new. I don't blame on either ordinary or online social interaction. Instead I think social interaction is healthy, given it has a good quality, whether it's online or not.


Yes - anxiety, depression, and suicides are not new. But the rates have risen drastically.


A quick search gave me the information that death by suicide is going down. If there is an increase in anxiety and depression, I see no reason to blame social media. If used in a good way, social media make us feel well.


This is quite a visible moral panic as we can see people glued to their phones in public places, e.g. on the train or bus.

I am not a Facebook person myself but I see no harm in someone spending their time commuting on a train using Facebook instead of something more worthy, e.g. reading a newspaper.

Behind closed doors people plug in to regular TV programming and spend hours on games consoles. There are only so many hours in the day and people who spend hours on social media are spending less time watching regular TV.

Instead of moral panic we need some better numbers. For instance we have unemployment numbers, we could also do with numbers of how many people lost their lives to Facebook/X-Boxes/YouTube/trawling Wikipedia this month.


> This is quite a visible moral panic as we can see people glued to their phones in public places, e.g. on the train or bus.

The part that disturbs me the most about these conversations is how everyone assumes (and I'm guilty of this too) that when people are "glued to their phones" it's for something superficial like social media. When I'm glued to my phone, I'm checking work email, photos of my kids that family is sending me, paying bills online, researching some side project, making plans for an upcoming vacation, etc.

I don't think people would equate the vacuousness of 'doing it for the gram' with managing your finances. But when we see people on their phones, we just sort of assume they're doing something wasteful. That shouldn't be the default assumption given that you can run your entire life, business, etc from a phone.


It is not hard to do a bit of shoulder surfing on a packed train. In fact it is hard to avoid even if you have your eyes fixed on your phone!

If I see a game on a screen or a movie playing then I am reasonably sure that that person is enjoying some down time rather than learning a part for a Shakespeare play, studying for their Mathematics degree or entering their tax returns.


I don't think anyone believes that there is no productive use of a smartphone, but I imagine the vast majority of people using smartphones in public are not using them productively.


I fail to understand how "reading a newspaper" is more worthy than reading facebook. Both are used for pushing some propaganda and to sell ads..


Newspaper articles, especially pre-internet era, require an attention span longer than 3 seconds to get through. Content had an editorial process, a physical body was held accountable for content. There are tons of differences that make a newspaper a better media for your brain to consume.


Most people I saw reading the newspaper on the subway were reading either a cheap tabloid or the free paper distributed on the subway.


I aim to not read news throughout the day. Any breaking event is usually poorly reported and gets a lot of things wrong. I prefer to wait until the next day and read the online WSJ copy of the day's paper. I believe it gives me a better idea of what's going on in the world that what others get through social media.


I prefer to wait a few years for the documentary, to really fledge out those details.


More worthy is hard to measure. Newspapers have to follow a process in order to publish, including gathering sources, reporting, etc. A Facebook post has none of that.


I do still read regular newspapers (print versions in digital format). The quality difference to online news media is gigantic. Depends on what you consume of course.


It can certainly be harmful when people are walking down the street glued to their phones. Anecdotally, I could not tell you how many times I've seen someone almost walk into traffic, into a stationary object, or into another person on the street because they were listlessly scrolling through (facebook|twitter|instagram|whatever) rather than paying attention to their surroundings.


>, into a stationary object,

Way back in 2008 London was padding lamp posts to protect people that were staring at their devices

https://www.engadget.com/2008/03/06/padded-lampposts-for-dis...


On the same page you link to they debunk this as a PR stunt: https://www.engadget.com/2008/03/17/padded-lampposts-in-lond...


A PR stunt that worked because people are actually walking into lamp posts/traffic.




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