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Take control over your feeds to regain mindfulness (solmaz.io)
135 points by hosolmaz 10 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 50 comments

This resonated, especially the bit about being particularly militant with smartphone use. I'm now 2 years into using a dumb phone (I have a smartphone on WiFi at home but my sim is in a dumb phone).

The control you have on desktop is considerably greater than on mobile, so my strategy has been to avoid social, email, news on the small screen and instead do this on desktop where I can use better time and attention management tools like getfocus to ensure I'm not distracted.

I wrote about it here [https://variousbits.net/2018/05/11/im-happier-without-a-smar...]. I should write again now, 2 years down the line. Some stuff has changed (dumb phone is now a CAT, I'm now without any social media at all and CV19 has provided some interesting challenges) - but I'm still basically doing the same thing.

My fundamental reasoning is that I live in an astonishingly beautiful bit of the world, I have wonderful kids and wife, and my life is basically superb. To be interrupted by some bullshit notification when I could be looking at my wife or the sea or a sunset is essentially what I'm trying to avoid, and my strategy basically works.

I unfollowed everyone on Facebook which means that my news feed is entirely free of content (conveniently, this includes ads). I now spend exactly zero hours per week scrolling mindlessly through Facebook, but I can still use social login, events, and check in on people if I want to (though TBH nobody in my age group still uses FB).

Edit: script to help unfollow: https://gist.github.com/renestalder/c5b77635bfbec8f94d28

Similarly: no FB or Twitter app on my phone, and a time limit of 15 mins set on Twitter and other "mindless" apps.

Related: turning off email notifications was the best thing I ever did for my sanity.

+1 for Unfollowing everyone on FB. I log in once a week to check event invites. Well not so much during quarantine anymore.

+1 for setting a timer. I give myself 15 minutes to scroll mindlessly.

> Rule #2: No feeds or social media apps on the phone. Your phone is always within your reach.

Lol I'm soooo not a typical person.

My computer is always within reach. My phone is usually on the charger while I'm at home :D, I didn't use it much at all during the quarantine. Why use a 6" screen when I have 24" 4K multi-monitor goodness?

But I agree, I banned FB, Twitter out of my life and even deleted my reddit account. I just lurk on reddit now in a few dedicated groups, that's all.

I do like HN though, as it's usually about actually interesting stuff and good discussions. Unlike Twitter and FB where it's the opposite. On reddit it really strongly depends on the community you're in :) But I never feel like I waste my time on HN, every time I visit it I feel like I've learned something. And I just love the information density. No scrolling through lots of whitespace and superfluous pictures.

Just out of curiosity, would you prefer 24” 4K multi-monitor setup, or a giant single 50” 4K TV with good input lag and latency?

As for the post, IMHO the danger of using your phone to access these is that you’re constantly thinking of the media you’re consuming without any breaks. For example, at universityvI was extremely proficient in distracting myself for hours on end by reading every single comment on HN submissions. I started the day with mindless wikipedia readings and HN and didn’t have much energy/mental capacity to do anything else.

Definitely my 24". I'd have to sit too far from the 50" TV. But I wasn't really clear in my post. I don't actually have 2 4K monitors.

What I have is 1 24" 4K screen in the middle (fairly cheap LG one), and on each side I've got 2 old Eizo L568's, 17" 1280x1024 in 4:3 format. They're almost as tall as the 24" widescreen, but they're low-DPI. macOS deals with this the best by far, on Windows I have scaling issues.

This works well for me as I can have the main content I'm working on in the middle without a split, and on the sides I put stuff I'm monitoring. Like stuff installing on a VM, home assistant, sometimes whatsapp etc. And if I want to focus on something I can just turn them off (each one of them actually uses more power than the one 4K thanks to their CCFL backlights)

But I'm just not a big phone user. I spend a good number of hours at the PC/Mac (and Linux - I use all 3) every day, and much less time on my phone.

Why is this an either or? Just have 4 27" monitors and one 43" 4k with good specs!

I would recommend one simple rule that has had a huge impact on me:

No mobile screens (phones, tablets, laptops) in a bedroom

I no longer lay on my phone at night. I sometimes stand in the kitchen and browse before I plug in to charge for the night, but when I go to my bedroom, I got to sleep or read a book. In the morning I don't reach for my phone. I lay there and stare or get up.

It took about a week for the urges to go away.

Look at this guy with his fancy home that has more than one room

I guess we could make a rule of no screens in and in reach of the bed. If your room is small enough to reach every surface from the bed you'd need a tall shelf or something to store it.

Or if the bed is the only suitable work surface add a 'work' blanket and 'work' pillows on top of it.

your houses don't all have more than one room?

Not all homes are houses!

I've known few people in Toronto who live in single-room apartments with floor plans similar to this: https://thecrossways.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Floorpla...

Splitting one in Vancouver with my gf atm. It's worked out for a year so far and it's a great way to keep possessions low.

Here in the UK we call these studio flats. Really good for living more minimalist but not so great if your partner moves in :(

An excellent point! Also, the layout of that bed with the pillow away from the wall is driving me quietly nuts.

Yes, it is important to remove the things which you don't want to do. But it is important to set yourself up for the things you do want to do.

Humans with iron deficiencies often find themselves compelled to chew ice[1]. Humans often have other unmet needs, such as the need for deep intellectually-stimulating conversation. I know very few people want to randomly drop what they are doing to have a 2-hour conversation about game theory. So, I've found Calendly useful for helping satisfy that need.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pagophagia

A good way is to ban algorithmic feeds. Just use RSS and you'll reach the end of the feed. No endless scrolling.

This also gets rid of everyone who thinks twitter, reddit and facebook are useful aggregators and/or worthy of a monopoly position. HN is getting increasingly wonderful as the other platforms decay. Someone showed me a facebook discussion/argument initiated by someone trying to sell a surplus (he called it) of 27 chicken eggs slightly above supermarket prices. I'm in my 3rd day of recovery from it.

You can actually follow hn, reddit, and even social media with some tools on RSS. I have a vote and comment threshold for HN threads for my personal feeds, for example.

I came here to say this too.

Not to be dismissive of the point at hand, but a short story. I had decided I wasn't getting as much value out of a particular RSS feed than I'd thought I would, so I right-clicked the name, clicked delete, and it was gone. It was so delightfully anti-climactic.

No "are you sure?" confirmation, no "{name of feed} will miss you!" guilt tripping, nothing behind the feed trying to cling onto you for engagement, nothing in the program trying to understand _why_ I deleted it and trying to build a model of me so it could recommend me better things... it just deleted. Because I told it to. This used to be the norm, but now after years of social media usage this freeing feeling felt weirdly foreign.

Anyway. So that's how I'd found myself reflecting on how enjoyable using RSS felt, though I use social media for similar purposes (find interesting things to read)! Reading the article, RSS seems to satisfy most of these rules, so perhaps I'm not alone in feeling like RSS might cultivate a more mindful experience.

> No "are you sure?" confirmation, no "{name of feed} will miss you!" guilt tripping, nothing behind the feed trying to cling onto you for engagement, nothing in the program trying to understand _why_ I deleted it and trying to build a model of me so it could recommend me better things... it just deleted. Because I told it to. This used to be the norm, but now after years of social media usage this freeing feeling felt weirdly foreign.

So true!

I dread the day the trick using Search to force Twitter to show a chronological view of just the people I follow will stop working:

- without replies: https://twitter.com/search?q=filter%3Afollows%20-filter%3Are...

- with replies: https://twitter.com/search?q=filter%3Afollows%20-filter%3A&s...

They already send irrelevant notifications (sometimes even about tweets that I already read & even retweeted with comment) if they feel like you're not engaged enough.

> Rule #2: No feeds or social media apps on the phone

Your phone is always within your reach. Access feeds only on your laptop, in order not to condition yourself to constantly check it. Don’t install social media or video apps on your phone.

I used to block HN on my smartphone through a simple URL block rule. HN was only available on my laptop for me. I felt way better because every time I saw the message “page blocked” I realized that I had landed on HN subconsciously. It developed into something like a reflex. Pick up the phone, open browser, surf to HN. Nowadays, I have turned it on only for specific times of the day. But honestly, I feel like going back to blocking it completely again.

>Your brain has a limited capacity to process and hold information. Schedule a certain hour of the day to receive it, and don’t surpass it. Example: No more than 30 minutes of social media, restricted to 10–11 am.

Suggestion: schedule your social media time for the afternoon or evening, and do high-value work during your freshest, clearest-thinking brain time - morning and early afternoon, or for night owl hacker schedule folks, late at night.

I'm trying to do pretty much everything it described and have to say the most important part is Rule 3 combined with Rule 4 i.e. one has to limit his/her purposes. Once you can do that, the rest just follow along.

Throughout my life I have been wasting tons of time scratching surfaces here and there but never applied the little knowledge gained or went deeper. A complete waste of time I must say.

> Rule #5: Schedule and limit your exposure

I wrote a simple Go program to email me weekly updates of the RSS feeds I follow. It runs on AWS Lambda with weekly triggers from Cloud Watch and sends emails using AWS SES. [0]

If you are following a high number of feeds, it is a life-changer to go from the mentality of "let's see if there is something new" to "let's wait for the email on Monday".

[0]: https://github.com/ege-erdogan/rss-email-lambda. You have to setup some environment variables and then set up the cloud services.

If you use Twitter, you should use tweetdeck[1], not Twitter as your UX. I create lists grouped into categories like "Pandemic", "Tech", etc. Lists can be public or private. Assign accounts to lists. Add columns to your Tweetdeck and introduce additional mute words for each column.

This gives you AFAIK a chronological feed without a bunch of random things injected into your main feed. I find this a very satisfying way of using Twitter.

[1] https://tweetdeck.twitter.com/

outside of the 5PM to 9AM schedule, also consider:

uninstall slack, MS teams, etc. uninstall MS office altogether decline meetings. ask for justification for your time. barter your time with people that would book it.

keep a calendar use these products in a browser on a timed interval, and set a limit on how long you have to respond.

Uninstall? That's a bit heavy.. Lot of work setting all that stuff up again every time.

PS: If you use an Android mobile you can use a Work Profile and switch all your work stuff off with one click. If you use a computer you probably have a separate one for work which can also switch off easily :P

> switch all your work stuff off with one click

How do you do that? I wonder if it's possible with "fake work profile" like when using Island. I can't use a work profile without using gsuite right?

Normally work profiles get created by an MDM application but I believe it's also possible to create one locally. I know the appaloosa app can do it.

You definitely don't need gsuite. It works with any MDM. We don't use gsuite in work but O365 and it works fine there.

Do people not use separate machines for work?

Something I've started doing many years ago that allowed me to cut back on "wasted time" was reading websites/feeds/blogs only once per day. I automated it and eventually built a product around it, since a few people asked me about that routine.

It allows you to receive a daily email with a digest of the news about the day before. The "news" will be any update on any website, or blog you follow (including public twitter accounts).

It's News, calm [1].

Bringing calm and tranquility into people's lives is something I strive to do in every product I work. Hopefully you'll find it useful.

[1] https://news.calm.sh

I can't get behind the last two. I know they can be beneficial, but they can also be damaging.

I follow a few people with whom I disagree with fundamentally and I don't block anything they say, nor any other topic. I just don't want my social media to turn into an echo chamber.

Reading stuff I dislike helps keeping me grounded and reminds me that people who disagree with me are still people, flesh and blood, instead of faceless others.

I feel like many, many problems could be solved if more people remembered that. If nothing else, it could reduce polarization.

Maybe I should rephrase it, or make an addition. We do have a societal responsibility to acknowledge and respect opposing views. And I do keep following people who keep it civil and respect the discourse and the medium.

The ones I unfollow are generally shills, people who make absolute statements, demagogues that heavily depend on rhetoric instead of substance. Unfortunately, Twitter's format pushes people into this behavior too. In that case, I block, in order not to become a conduit for these people's toxic messages. I block out of responsibility for my own and my followers' sanity.

> I feel like many, many problems could be solved if more people remembered that. If nothing else, it could reduce polarization.

IMO the platform design and parameters cause this polarization. It's not enough to educate people outside the platform, when the platform is a hotbed of viral messages, and the dominant strategy is to be an "asshole", according to the etiquette of the outside world. On the platform, however, it is what makes your account successful.

One idea is to define strict rules of digital etiquette. Kids could be taught these starting at a young age. You could also enforce them algorithmically on the platform.

Mostly agree with all the points, but you should still be careful not to construct an echo chamber for yourself by only allowing what you like to see / read and banning everything else.

I have historically followed all the first five rules (even the one about not having ALL social media apps at once in my phone, only some of them) so the last rules "block generously and ruthlessly" and "mute words" end up looking quite childish after the first five because you naturally won't put yourself in those situations if you followed all the others. If you consume shitty content in huge volumes of course you will need to control the smell eventually.

One thing that really helped for me was stricter banning of mindless browing on my phone, on IOS(using ScreenTime with a password I don't know), I block:

  * Email
  * Browser
  * Any feed apps
  * Games
If there's any ability to distract myself with my phone, I'll relapse to bad habits. But with this in in place, I just forget where my phone is and it's mostly just a place for messaging and podcasts.

These days I often lose my phone, that feels like progress.

I actually blocked the feeds on my main development machines so that I am not tempted to visit them when I commit to work.

I left them available on the phone, but perhaps I should block them too. Outside of HN, most sources of content are just trying to exploit my lack of focus for data gathering and the like.

PS: I quit social media years ago and that is a huge positive IMHO.

I can't agree with rules #6 and #7. That's how you'll end up living in a bubble. Possibly even become extremist.

That's interesting because my intuition points in the opposite direction. By blocking emotive content I am less exposed to things that will swing my views towards extremes. I bet there is whole field of research on this topic that I know nothing about. I wonder what the consensus is amoung those that study these things?

I think in some ways we end up living in a self-made "bubble". Chances are we might get saturated with our own "belief templates" (for me this has been the case.). But then, no idea if it's statistically valid. There might even be a whole cognitive research on this particular topic.

Or just get rid of them all.

You'll be surprised at how irrelevant almost all of it is.

Did you not find this post through one particular non chronological feed?

I'm not sure if I consider HN a 'feed', or rather, any more so than any other news source is a 'feed'.

I don't have it installed, I don't get notifications, I don't really miss it when I'm gone, I don't care about my account, I don't maintain any status.

I find links to interesting articles.

Block generously and ruthlessly is advice I follow.

It has made reading Facebook tolerable.

Uninstall apps. Login on website. And put login behind 2-factor.

Banning words seems the wrong way to go about it.

I get what you're saying, but I think that blocking certain words can allow one to make sure they don't get side tracked by common click bait articles. This blog post gives an example with ISIS, which used to be constantly in US headlines a few years ago, yet it never affected the vast majority of Americans. Instead, it made viewers anxious and spend an extensive amount of time reading and discussing a topic that really didn't have an affect on them. That time could have been placed else where in their lives, such as learning a new skill or developing personal relationships: things that would actually affect their lives, and in a positive way.

A common argument against muting words that I see is that it is forceful ignorance, but one must be aware of a concept before deciding to mute that word. That means that no matter what, before someone goes blocking something like "ISIS", the would have had to read about it and noticed that their media feeds have become a click bait ring of nonsense around it instead of actual information.

Also, even if you don't use social media, if there is something that is actually important and requiring your attention (such as the current police brutality focus in America), it will make its way into your life. I don't read the news or use social media, but I knew about COVID when it was coming because it was such a large issue that it couldn't be avoided unintentionally.

The way I handle stuff like the ISIS example is to stop following the fear mongering sources and to simply scroll by those headlines. Words banning is lot's of work when you don't have a centralised place to manage them and might lead me to misuse it.

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