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Eyerollingly boring advice, but quitting (and deleting!) reddit, twitter, facebook, instagram, and maybe even HN. Anything designed with the explicit goal of occupying your attention. Maybe you've noticed that you haven't managed to read a book in a year. There's a reason for that. And none of those sites can give you knowledge of the depth found in even a particularly crappily-written book.

People get all worried about losing their followers & social connections. The social fabric is very adaptable. It does not require public technological codification. You realistically only need fewer than five good friends to be happy; text them. I can guarantee your followers don't care about you at all. The ones who do will reach out to you in other ways.

Since the OP also listed a fallacy, one in the same vein is the endowment effect - where people value things more simply because they already possess them. Consider the example of you holding a stock priced at $200. Now consider an alternate universe where you didn't own that stock but had $200 cash (plus some extra for transaction costs). Would you buy the stock? If not, you should probably consider selling it. This same thought process can be applied to nearly anything in your life: job, significant other, city in which you live. It's good for keeping you out of traps.

I quit reddit a year or so ago. I knew it was getting bad when I felt like my way of speaking was getting taken over by reddit speak and memes. Screw something silly up at work “that face when...”

I worked hard to start reading longer form articles and books again, but my attention span was so crippled! It was a really weird experience to quit reddit and social media. I still get memes from my friends, and I would have found them funny before, but now I’m so out of the loop I find the majority of them to be so half hearted. I guess memes are funnier when you’re reading tons of them and get that quick jolt of amusement.

> quitting (and deleting!) reddit, twitter, facebook, instagram, and maybe even HN.

I've completely dropped twitter/facebook/etc, but have found that I keep coming back to HN and reddit primarily to keep some level of awareness of things that happen outside of my "bubble".

How would you maintain that level of awareness while still dropping those social media platforms?

By scheduling time for them, if you have the available self-discipline. Spending 30 minutes once per day on reddit is enough to keep you in the loop, and if it is on your calendar at a specific time, your chances of sticking to it are good.

Scheduled violations of the rules seem to paradoxically help you follow the rules. Tim Ferris advocates for one dietary cheat day per week, with the idea that it takes incredible will power to give up donuts forever, but almost anyone can put it off until Friday.

Schedule your cheats.

Edit: scheduling is also great for beating procrastination. “I will change my oil at 7:30pm Tuesday” is way more effective than “I need to change my oil soon”

I had a therapist a while ago that spent a lot of time talking with me about how discipline and motivation aren't real. His point was that lots of people lose before they start by feeling like they aren't disciplined or motivated people inherently. And ultimately, the only way to measure motivation or discipline is to measure something else - "I was motivated to stay fit because I went to the gym"

He also spent a lot of time with me on understanding that motivation and discipline are most times just thin wrappers around what people actually want. Thinking less about "If I were just more disciplined I would be able to do this" and more about "If I actually wanted to do this I probably would", and then focusing on what you actually want, or why you don't want something, is probably a much more valuable of a use of time for some people than thinking about motivation or discipline.

I am not posting this to say "If you're a disciplined person, you're wrong" - but moreso "If you're a person that believes you struggle with motivation/discipline, maybe you can rethink those concepts".

I took a Jocko (he's a famous navy seal) quote and made it my mantra, it's similar.

He said "Be tougher."

To paraphrase the context: mental toughness is a choice, and if you aren't as tough as you want, you just have to be tougher. Choose it. In each moment when you are tested.

Thanks for your comment. For a while I had been wondering why I couldn't focus, wasn't able to accomplish some simple long term goals, etc. Be tougher was my fix, and your comment expands on some ideas in a way that makes sense to me.

As other commenters have pointed out, environment and context of an individual are often stronger than the individuals themselves. I thought I was tough, resilient and mindful. Then the pandemic came and I couldn’t choose not to feel stressed and distracted.

I think it's different for everyone, and I think finding what piece is preventing you from moving forward is important. For some people, they just _want to want_ something, rather than actually wanting it. Identifying that you don't actually want something can help you move forward. Whether that means building the skill of "cultivating the ability to do things you don't want to do", or just abandoning a task in favor of doing things you actually want - either is usually fine. Most people just stop at "I am unable to move forward with this thing because I am an unmotivated person."

While I agree that the so-called inherent motivation is an important aspect to take care of, some skills that help remove external distractions and help you focus better could be equally useful. No matter how motivated somebody is, if they have a poor mental hygiene of constantly distracting themselves with social media, or don't have separate areas for work and for entertainment in their apartment, or as a more extreme example, is constantly disrupted by noise, they will likely suffer from suboptimal productivity. Both aspects are worth being taken care of.

I'm not sure why you feel the need to say this, as the purpose of my post wasn't to challenge any of the other assertions in this thread - rather to provide more information.

I'm not going to debate you because there isn't a debate.

Thank you - I am motivated to want what I want - so solve the wanting of the motivation / willpower.

Yeah if I didn't schedule things and have task lists I'd never get anything done.

RSS feed of only the most significant items, e.g. HN over 500 votes, subreddit top 10 in the last month.

If you don't like maintaining RSS feeds https://hckrnews.com is great as well

Or use this service i made https://mailbrew.com and get all of that via email.

You could subscribe to a newspaper or magazine.

I haven't found a mainstream newspaper yet with the occasional gem of thought/ opinion that I've gotten off HN/ Reddit.

Have you tried The Economist?

The economist is like NPR to me.

Awesome content, but if you read pay attention closely, you can basically write the story without reading, because you know what the answers will be.

The paper NYT and WSJ are a great way to go. You get clear editorial contrasts and lots of content. Science Times and other feature sections are always a treat.

That's generally my experience, but I appreciate how most articles in the Economist have 1) an attempt to genuinely outline both sides of the argument, and 2) an attempt to clearly -- "clearly" is relative at times -- take a side in the discussion.

Most of the time that side is going to be the free market technocratic solution, hence the parent comment about being able to predict where the article will go, but even then I feel like I have an idea what the argument is and where the sides are.

Do you find it even-handed or skewed? Like, can you think of an article that would be in support of something Trump (or republicans in general) do?

Sort of. Trump in particular and modern republicans in general are focused on a different set of priorities.

The Economist loves free markets and a more laissez faire. GOP types quack about that stuff but lack in delivery.

The Economist is basically the flag-bearer of pro-capitalist policy, so yes their views would largely be supported by the entire US political establishment.

>would largely be supported by the entire US political establishment

Well that's just the thing! We observe Trump attacked from all sides of the establishment - the left, (some of) the right, and the entire government bureaucracy ("the deep state").

There is a rift somewhere in the system, and we're not discussing it...

It's stated to have a liberal slant, so especially on social issues it would disagree with Trump. It's also explicitly said bad things about Trump's demeanor or attitudes.

However, it does praise some actions that Trump and the Republicans have done with regards to covid19. I overall find that it greatly tones down the extreme takes / perspectives I see on Reddit, and finds lots of nuance

The Economist is definitely not liberal. It's intended to be nonpolitical but its conscious opinions lean conservative. Disagreeing with Trump or talking about Trump in a negative manner does not make one liberal, no matter what US political pundit will tell you.

> It's intended to be nonpolitical

Nonpartisan, yes. Nonpolitical? Absolutely not. The reason for its foundation was (specifically) to campaign against a policy held dear by the government of the day, and (generally) to promote a specific politico-economic worldview, that of free market capitalism with a strong emphasis on cross-border trade. Sometimes this can make their positions appear a little more left-leaning than a classic US libertarian could stomach, such as supporting the existence of the EU, if not every one of its actions; and tending to prefer at least a light touch of regulation on the markets, so long as it keeps the wheels of international commerce turning smoothly. Also, they are at pains to separate their news reporting (usually impeccably balanced and impartial) from their opinion pieces. As an answer to OP's question, I would actually second the recommendation of The Economist as an excellent way to keep abreast of world events while cunningly sidestepping the hysteria and sensationalism of nearly all other media (yes, including most "serious newspapers" these days).


The Economist leans "liberal" in the sense of liberal economics, or UK's Liberal Democrat Party. In the US, this is perhaps better translated as "libertarian."

I remember when Rex Tillerson was appointed to State, and how they wrote a glowing article about how fucking great he was and how he'll improve foreign relations and make international capital work again and bla bla bla.

Four years later he's gone, even allegedly called Trump a "fucking moron" on the way out.

Yes. What you wouldn't find there generally is support for any left-wing, (actual left, not "liberal") policy.

For ads and fake news?

I recommend the book "Digital Minimalism" for some excellent advice on exactly those sort of questions

I agree with eradicating sources of distractions, but I must protest that personally I've learned _far more_ from newsletters/Hacker News/Twitter than I have from books. When I compare the amount of notes I take weekly from those bite-sized sources versus books, the former far outweighs the latter (like 5-10x).

For me HN and twitter are only useful for learning of things, not learning the things themselves. It's easy to get caught in the perpetual 101-level trap. All my actual valuable knowledge has come from reading textbooks & documentation or trying to build something in my own time.

"The smartest person in the room... is the room." -D. Weinberger

I learn more facts about the world and such from BSS (bite-sized sources) but I learn more about myself from books. Facts are useful (in emergencies) but I've found that knowing myself is far more useful. YMMV.

Twitter and reddit, if you tune what you follow correctly, are invaluable for keeping up with the things that are important to you professionally. Especially if you are responsible for security, following the right people on Twitter is the best way to make sure you know about new vulnerabilities quickly.

Twitter and Reddit are flexible enough that you can use them strictly professionally and be better for it.

I envy those who can engage with twitter in a healthy way, but the list of people whom I envy for this is very short. Everything about it designed to draw you outside of your narrow field of interest and thus increase the time spent on it.

I wish more people would maintain separate accounts for professional and personal use. It is annoying when someone you follow for their technical knowledge makes political posts that are very tempting to respond to. I think the key to healthy twitter use is being able to just scroll past those.

As a counter point, I find I learn a lot from Twitter, HN and Reddit. In that order too (ie, Reddit is the least useful). Twitter absolutely does wonders for staying on top of tech trends (especially TweetDeck), and has shown me lots of tools, libraries, techniques, etc that have made my software endeavors much more successful.

I do agree with you overall though. I have a virtual desktop dedicated to social sites, and a separate desktop for work, and I keep myself always aware of what "mode" I am in.

Facebook is utterly useless, I deleted my account years ago.

I find I learn a lot from Twitter, HN and Reddit

Are these learnings useful in your daily life and career? I too have learned a bit from these sites but I really do not know if that knowledge is useful in practice. Sure one can argue that our ability to think and connect things improve, any knowledge is useful etc and there is some truth to it. But at what cost though? Looking at the amount of time I spent on Reddit over the years, anything I might have learned seems miniscule. ROI is so low.

I would say they are for me. Reddit has really upped my vim and TypeScript games for example. Twitter is much smaller bites but still lots of useful stuff IMO.

> In that order too (ie, Reddit is the least useful).

For me, it's the exact opposite. In the case of Reddit, you can filter it down to only subreddits you are interested in, which increases the signal-to-noise ratio significantly.

Twitter would be the first thing I would get rid of tbh. It encourages shallow retorts and memes more than anything else. The only thing I still get from it is news, but Reddit gives you that with potentially interesting discussions on top.

I don't really participate in it, but Reddit's the only place I can easily find opinions about products that're maybe not paid shilling, now that smaller sites and forums are practically un-Googleable unless you already know their names—i.e. they won't come up for a search for anything general that they write about or discuss, unless you include their name, and even then it's iffy. Actually that's also true for a lot of things that aren't exactly products. If I want to know about a vacation spot but I don't want blogspam shill bullshit then I'll probably head to Reddit.

I do a lot of "reddit [thing I want to know about]" in DDG, just to kick the Reddit results to the top over all the webspam. Not "!reddit [thing I want to know about]" because Reddit's internal site search is, like most, worse than DDG or Google.

The virtual desktop idea is really interesting. How did you implement it/which tools did you use?

I use i3 on Linux. But MacOS now has native virtual desktops and I think Windows does too.

Definitely agreed - for anyone that thinks they might be getting too pulled into negative news, reddit upvotes, endless scrolling, video games, etc., https://defetter.com is nice guide - stumbled on it about a month ago.

I wish I could upvote this twice.

The technique they mention (AVRT addictive voice recognition technique) is actually useful for all sorts of things. “That’s my anxiety speaking. It is separate from me and I don’t have to listen to it”, etc.

You can personify and diminish all sorts of negative personality traits. “That’s my impulse to complain / interrupt / lash out / etc”

How do you deal with FOMO? I don't particularly care about Facebook/Instagram updates but RSS/HN/Twitter have been vital in my learning process. I learn something new every time I'm on these platforms. Personally, I think it's better to moderate your usage of these platforms than completely quitting them.

FOMO was probably the hardest thing to overcome before quitting twitter, after fear of losing my meagre number of followers. There are a few ways to look at this. First, consider the things you are happy to have not missed out on. Can you name them? Can you articulate what you got out of seeing them when they were brand new? Would seeing them a year or more later have changed what you got out of them?

One thing which helped a lot was realizing just how slow things really move. People post very interesting technical things every day, but those are usually the products of maybe a year of intensive offline effort. You don't fall behind by skipping reading those. You do fall behind by endlessly reading those and doing nothing with your own time. Four hours sitting with a textbook in your area of interest is worth more than a month's worth of twitter posts. As a corrolary, you needn't worry about falling behind in general - because of how slow things move, you'll always be able to catch up. It takes probably two orders of magnitude less effort to understand a concept than to research & come up with it in the first place.

As you develop an area of interest and talk with other practitioners, you'll naturally hear about interesting things eventually. The rest is just brain candy you wouldn't have cared about anyway.

You should question whether you really are getting valuable learning from these sources. For example, most product launches / company launches / open source project launches / arxiv research paper announcements / developer conference presentations / AI or ML demos / etc that end up on the frontpage of Hacker News are just noise / junk that gets a flare up of attention and never goes anywhere and doesn’t persist even 6 months later as a newsworthy topic or something someone needs to know to stay current.

The only thing I find unique to Hacker News is much higher quality analytical comments about politics, economics and tech industry labor issues. Almost everything else is in one ear out the other.

This is a good observation. I feel like I tell myself HN is a source of information... but it really is not. You might learn "the news" from HN, but you are not learning per-se. I would point back to another comment that reading will give you more learning. I think a fair number of us may have (temporarily) lost the ability to sit and read un-distracted. I know after about a mere 10 mins with a book in a quiet room, I get antsy.

I learned this very thoroughly one day when I came across an interesting article outside of HN. I immediately went to post it on HN only discover that not only had it already been posted, I had already upvoted it!

If you don't want to delete things, I've found using generated passwords for everything (and not using autofill) is a great way to soft-lock yourself out of things. It's kind of like freezing a credit card in a block of ice - you still have access to it, but you have more steps to rethink your actions

I know this will be ironic as I'm posting...but I'm trying to post less on HN/FB/Reddit. I find myself spending time replying, checking karma or upvotes etc...I get emotionally attached if people like it, or dislike it. I can spend 5 minutes reading an article and multiples of that following up...It becomes a diminishing point of return.

If I do post on Reddit I'll disable inbox replies and just check once a day or something for any replies.

Edit: Also since HN doesn't have a 'disable inbox' type (that I know of?), 75% of the time I'm not logged in. I'll log in if I really have a comment and then log back out.

I don't use reddit, twitter, facebook or instagram, but HN is super important for me. It makes me more efficient because it gives me the knowledge of the community.

HN gives me a treasure of information in so many areas I have found invaluable when I need it.

Just use something like Zotero so when you see something interesting, you just give a quick look at it, and save it without spending a significant amount of time.

And also learn to manage yourself. Without it you will not need facebook to waste your time, you will fantasy dream while looking at the window or staring against the wall.

HN and Reddit are the places I read. Reddit is easy if you configure your homepage to stuff you like. JUST DON'T READ THE COMMENTS, and you have a curated list of things to read and catch up on. Much like twitter, facebook, youtube comments, etc most comment sections are a dumpster fire of recycled ideas, tribalism, and infighting.

But how is the stock market doing in this alternate universe?

don't forget: quit TV and Video Games.

the trick isn't to give up and quit, but to embrace it and build an audience.

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