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How to overcome Phone Addiction (cognitiontoday.com)
742 points by Shred77 15 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 298 comments



Some ideas on this topic:

1. Inconvenience based solutions don't address the problem: using apps to restrict phone use, physically hiding the phone etc. Once you leave those carefully constrained conditions, you are more vulnerable than ever. Not to mention the contradiction with the core issue that it's a symptom rather than a cause.

2. Turning abstinence as an ongoing status condition (e.g. "X days since I did Y") is a trap. It sets you up for later failure by burdening you with a perpetually unfinished objective with psychological consequences that only increase as the 'highscore' increases. This could work with things that are less easily accessible like heroin, but it's not going to work with something as easily accessible as a phone or computer.

3. The solution that works with 1 and 2 is probably urge surfing as it tackles the issue directly

4. It's easier to think of it as an addiction to browsing rather than an addiction to the phone itself. You have to catch yourself during any browsing moment in any context to eventually make progress. Be intentional in almost every action instead of going on auto-pilot, although obviously resting at the end of the day is fine. It's more a general philosophy than a hard rule meant to exhaust you.

5. The eventual goal is a rich life where you no longer feel the need to distract yourself


I definitely have a browsing addiction. Learning things as an information junkie is addictive. What’s funny is that when I go for trips in the mountains with little to no internet I do fine. It is less like a chemical addiction and more like a habitual craving. If I have more interesting things to do I will not browse. If I’m bored though...


Habits are related to our environment. Your brain is probably wired to your current living arrangements and taking a vacation- with the added caveat that you know you have no internet- means no behaviors. This is why people can easily get sober in rehab and then come home and instantly relapse.


I actually used this tactic to break some habits when I moved. New living place did not trigger the same habits as the prior one, so long as I was careful to not "install" them again...


I experienced this. When I moved, my sloppiness and classiness improved tremendously. However, I've recently started to notice it getting back into its old ways now that I'm more settled. The benefit is that I'm much more aware of it, and am able to recognize it and address it instead of never noticing it to begin with.


Reminds me of the experiments on rats, where they couldn't even convince them to try heroin (-laced water) if they were living in a natural environment, whereas the rats stuck in cages became addicted to heroin immediately.


For anyone interested in learning more, search for “rat park”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_Park


Extraordinary results, but even the author's graduate student had difficulty replicating them.


and be sure not to miss the Criticisms section of that Wiki.


Sadly that fun story was mostly discredited


>Learning things

Ha ha! That is a VERY generous way to describe it.

I think of it as licking my balls. I think that's more realistic.


> I definitely have a browsing addiction.

I agree. I think what most people have are "News" or information Addiction. Where as news is any update on Social Media, Current Trends on Pop, Music, Movies, Tech, Politics, Economics etc.

There were a few research paper suggesting News being the biggest addiction, much more so than porn. And Smartphone addiction is by nature an extension of this news addiction.

Did my Idol post something on IG?

Did my soccer / football team sign a new centre back?

Did Apple finally released a new Keyboard with more travel distances?

Did X finally win the election?

Did TSLA just broke though the channel and continue their gain in stock market?

New Covid Variant?

Is there a confirmation email for my job? Or you know somehow you are expected to reply your email within 30min with your current employer.

A lot of these are preying on our human curiosity. And Smartphone is only a Terminal, where Internet / Mobile Network is the connection. It is the same before Smartphone with Internet on PC, or good old fashion TV.

We dont have an addiction to any of these devices, we have addiction to those content. And it has been like for that decades, blaming everything on Smartphone is simple and easy enough. But doesn't really help with the real problem.


This is how I got hooked. As someone who grew up pre-internet (realistically speaking) my brain learned to live with libraries, paper calendar, tasks lists on pads of paper, etc. Also, not knowing if someone called until I got home (and not having answering machines or, sometimes, not having a phone in the apartment I lived in, or TV).

When I got access to the Internet, the idea that I could learn things easily, or have a digital calendar, or write messages just removed so much friction. I was working as a cook but getting back into programming as a hobby at the time (started as a kid with BASIC on Commodore computers then didn't have a computer for almost ten years). I first used the K&R book to learn C but the Internet provided access to things outside the scope of the book.

Then, working as a programmer a few years later, I told my boss I'd hit a stretch goal if he got me an iphone to replace my flip phone. I use Android now, it was a different time. :)

Once I got that, it was 24/7. I'm finding balance now but it's tough. I am concious of my six year old always seeing me and emulating my behavior.


Are you learning specific things for a passion, hobby, or job or learning random facts and TILs?


I’m not the OP, but for me it’s a mix, usually aligning more toward the latter, just like this post which was delivered to me as a notification.


Some of it definitely is TIL triggered reading, but most of it is news related ”keep up with the world”.


I use SelfControl on my Mac when I need a serious work session. It always surprises me, when I tab to HN or Reddit and get blocked, how automatic an action it was. I’m never inclined to fight it. It never represented an actual desire to be there. There’s no deep longing to say “no” to. After the first few times being thwarted, it stops for the next several hours.

I still feel the push “away” from what I’m trying to focus on, but it’s not “towards” anywhere in particular. So as long as I divert to something that’s itself not too interesting, I will tire of the diversion and get back to work in short order. It’s only debilitating when the diversion captures me for hours (looking at you, YouTube recommendation algorithm).


I do the same. I even used the terminal commands to change the granularity of the blocks and extend the length.

And the same things happens to me. A lot of times I don't even want or think of going to HN, Reddit, Twitter. I'm just bored or frustrated and, almost unconsciously, I hit the shortcuts for Browser > New Tab > Focus Address Bar > Start typing n, r or m (for mobile.twitter.com).

Some things that helped a lot with this, together with SelfControl, is to change all new tabs to a blank page and disable autocomplete in the Firefox navbar.

That last one is not very good for everything, so it would be better to just delete those automatic sites from the suggestion list. I never really took the time to see how it's done of FF, though.

To change the timings in SelfControl, use (sorry, it is a very very old note in Evernote so I don't have the original source anymore):

defaults write org.eyebeam.SelfControl MaxBlockLength -int [maximum block length in minutes]

defaults write org.eyebeam.SelfControl BlockLengthInterval -int [block length interval in minutes]


You should try Vimium. Shift-o brings up an omnibar and opens your query in a new tab.


Even if it’s mechanical it works. I keep hitting Reddit or HN when I’m compiling or uploading or switching tasks. Blocking it for 8 hours (sometimes for days) really helps me stay focused and get my work done so I can do something actually relaxing


I find the 'frequently visited pages' on safari on a blank new tab get me visiting those sites without intentionally going to them reinforcing the most frequently visited pages rank order.


In regards to (1), sometimes using the phone is both a symptom and the cause (in a reinforcing cycle). In my case, I would use my phone in bed before falling asleep to avoid having to confront thoughts I would have while drifting off since I could stay distracted until I was seconds away from passing out. Unsurprisingly, I would have terrible quality sleep (and I suspect many of the psychological problems mentioned in the article stem from problems phone addiction causes with sleep).

Once I moved the phone to another room at night, I was forced to fall asleep without being distracted. Being alone with my thoughts was extremely uncomfortable the first few nights, but it got better. Now I'm used to falling asleep without distraction and am more in touch with how I feel. So my phone was causing me to become out of touch with my thoughts/feelings which would in turn make it even more uncomfortable to confront them, so I would turn to my phone for distraction and this reinforcing cycle continued until broken. The phone was both a symptom and cause of my sleeping problem, so removing the phone removed the cause and fixed my sleep.


This. My phone usage is linked with solitude on one side, and invasive negative thoughts on the other. I used to think about suicide and revenge all the time. I used to debate endlessly in my mind with people who used to try to list my defects and put me down (I’m white male with education in a leftist city). Now I think about nothing! Memes, variety of chats, news cycle, videos about plane crashes, engineering, building things, what a progress! People who recommend me to drop the phone have no idea what a hell it was. It is like drugs, it is like living in a fantasy where I’m not being put down for a few hours...

except I’m not losing my teeth, I’m just losing time.

From the article, which gets cause and consequence reverse by the way as all articles on the topic:

> This is a huge problem because re-connecting with people in the offline world is a solution that improves the quality of life.

Yeah, no, re-connecting with people IRL is not a good experience as a white male, we have to selectively choose people who don’t think we should first apologize for existing, and it is getting quite hard nowadays.


> The eventual goal is a rich life where you no longer feel the need to distract yourself

Indeed. When you're feeling anxious in your environment or depressed about the state of your life, the phone is a very convenient artifical void filler and one that's often well attuned to an individual's pycholgocial patterns of habit.


> The solution that works with 1 and 2 is probably urge surfing as it tackles the issue directly

So:

1. Feel an urge to browse or notice you are browsing

2. Pause and breathe. Focus on the sensations and thoughts that come to mind, then return to the breathe

Anything else? And is the end goal to stop browsing if you are doing it?

It seems like an interesting idea, if you had some practical steps I’d appreciate it as I’m not quite sure I’ve got it in this context.

Edit: after searching around, found a good summary here. However, still interested in hearing comments from OP or others on how they’ve used this. Seems like a genuinely useful technique and I had not heard of it before.

https://portlandpsychotherapy.com/2011/11/riding-wave-using-...


Here are some more details. I used this to treat browsing addiction. Before that, I had to come to the conclusions outlined in the OP to direct my thinking about the problem. I stumbled on the term urge surfing by accident, and tried it out.[0] This video explains essentially everything you need to know about the topic. I used a guided audio meditation sequence in the beginning as it was harder than I expected it to be. I do not have the link to this, but it should be easy to find one.

It can be an uncomfortable process as you realize the full extent of your predicament and the strength of the craving. But after a while, it works exactly as intended. You then gain confidence in knowing that cravings can abate on their own no matter how strong they feel at the onset.

I have used the same broad concept to attenuate OCD symptoms and related anxiety. The counter-intuitive idea behind all this is that by rewarding your anxiety with a certain behavior, you are training yourself to feel more anxiety down the line. Therefore the opposite must happen: putting yourself into situations that directly confront the anxiety and withholding any reward. This is the same exposure and response therapy that is used to treat phobias or generic social anxiety, though obviously without the careful guidance of a trained professional.

[0]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wdsJayLhnM


Thanks, super interesting I’ll try it. And what’s a long run goal for, say, hacker news and device use?

Rich life is a good goal but what does the day to day look like of using the internet as part of that? Or is simply not doing it based on urges enough?


It's all up to you in terms of what you want to do with your life. I can only offer my own experiences and conclusions. Currently, I am trying to pare down browsing as much as possible, but COVID has been a challenge. I'm considering stopping news reading entirely, but that's a different philosophical idea altogether.

On a day-to-day basis, the ideal outcome for me would be to naturally use computers just as tools to make things happen rather than as a self-feeding nexus for various distractions that leave me unsatisfied.

As long as your usage is as intentional as possible, you should be able to naturally gravitate to an agreeable life as defined per your own instincts. Or at the very least, you will not be in a position where your internet usage negatively affects your life. Restructuring lifelong habits is easier said than done, but it's possible.


> 1. Inconvenience based solutions don't address the problem

To some degree. But they do give space for alternatives to start to fill the gap.

For me, a behavior modification strategy called narrowing antecedent control has worked well: restricting my phone and Internet usage to a specific spot in my office. I found I was reaching for my devices automatically throughout the day and night and would waste hours surfing without realizing it.

Obviously, removing the distraction doesn't automatically resolve whatever underlying issue caused the user to compulsively seek it out. But you find you can't just do nothing, so you start to get creative, and alternatives start to appear.


It could be argued that #5 is just another form of distraction. Any form of "rich life" is mostly keeping the death anxiety at bay.


By a rich life, I'm referring to something that needs no further justification. When you are in this state, the need to contextualize, criticize, or philosophize about your experiences almost disappears. Think of a young child in a state of playful flow. Even if you fully take on the anti-natalist conclusion, the experience still justifies itself on its own, as an end in itself.


Which is what you get from computers? The only bad thing about them is the low social status associated with it. There is some weird bias in society that you are a lesser human somehow if you spend a lot of time in front of computers instead of doing more "rich" things like reading books. At least for me all anxiety related to spending a lot of time with computers disappeared once I stopped caring about what others think, I don't think there is anything inherently bad with it other than that.


Being sedentary is not very good on your body, muscles atrophy, joints become stiff, your body tires easier and from there it’s a downward slope. If you have enough physical activity then you need not worry about this but there are other factors. Like muscles all other faculties atrophy as well without use. Physical activity is good for the brain as well.

I think of the computer as a tool at the end of the day. It is a very powerful tool which has radically changed how we do things but it’s still a tool.

Lastly it’s healthy to take a break from whatever main activity, whatever that is - could be being on the computer all the time programming or playing games - so that a different perspective sweeps in.


Talking about health is a rather lousy justification. It's not because of worry for one's health that spending time in front of computers is considered low-status.

My suspicion is it's because of perceived individualism. Computers may provide you with rich and social experiences, but they detach you from people physically around you, and some people can't stand that.


I'm not sedentary. You just have to get up and move a few minutes regularly throughout the day.


Do you think being sedentary is literally not moving at all throughout your day? Doctors generally recommend at least 4-5 hours of vigorous exercise a week, getting up and circling your apartment a few times each day is not equivalent.


No, I go and do an exercise regime every hour, why would you just walk around your home? Waste of time to not exercise hard.


Moving a few minutes regularly throughout the day? You just described being sedentary.


Nah, if you max out your pulse 30 minutes a day you aren't sedentary, and that is just 5 minutes 6 times a day. It is healthier to spread it out like that rather than sit still and do it all at once.


I've also struggled with the stigma against computer-based activities in my lifetime. I'm more interested in the opportunity cost for the individual, however, irrespective of what others think. I've posted here with my own experiences, but they are not necessarily applicable to everyone. I'm certain that many people have a perfectly healthy relationship with computers but given the context of the thread I was writing for those who didn't, that is to say those who sought refuge in them in the face of an unsatisfying reality.

In my case, I'm trying to reverse the flow and build the life I was always afraid of. I've caught glimpse of it here and there so I know it's not just a figment of my escapist imagination but a genuine interest. I know that many activities leave me more fulfilled than using a computer, but organizing my life so that I can engage in those regularly is the same difficult challenge that nudged me to get addicted to computers in the first place.

By all means, if you've found a life that's inherently satisfying, don't let yourself deviate from it!


Personally, I would rather spend my time doing things I find fulfilling instead of killing an hour+ scrolling through Reddit and getting distracted by the internet. I don’t care that if I’m spending all my time on my computer if Im doing things I find meaningful. Compulsively checking my phone and scrolling Reddit is in no way meaningful to me anymore.


Similarly I'd rather spend my time doing things I find fulfilling instead of killing an hour+ talking about the weather with acquaintances. I don't see the difference.


Who mentioned talking to relatives about the weather? Is that the only alternative you have to being on the computer all the time? How about spending some time outdoors?


> Who mentioned talking to relatives about the weather?

Who mentioned spending all time on reddit on new? We can't just take the good non computer activities and compare them to crap computer activities. I don't see why unfulfilling computer activities would be more worse than the unfulfilling non computer activities and vice versa.


Great for you if you can. Many of us have a harder time doing so and end up doing things which we end up regretting. For one I think I spend too much time on HN. I did a few detoxes and eventually sucumbed to it again.

> When you are in this state, the need to contextualize, criticize, or philosophize about your experiences almost disappears.

For me browsing and often gaming fulfills this description of rich life.


So the perfect distraction?


The difference is that you are replacing the negative with something positive. If you don't see your pursuit of a "rich life" as a positive that wins out over the alternative, it may not be as rich as it seems.


Few more ideas:

1. When I quit Facebook, I first started disabling my account but that didn't work, at all. It just brought me back. Every time. I realized it wasn't a feature for deleting account, it was a pressure relieve valve for people who need a quick break because they felt the service had taken control of too large a portion of their lives. FB didn't want people to quit and they didn't offer such feature.

I started by unfollowing my friends. In the process I saw FB's algorithms get more and more desperate in giving me dopamine spikes via the notifications earth symbol. "Friend of a friend is attending an event". Really FB? I then deleted all of the chat histories, sent my phone number to peers and asked them to contact via Signal/WA in the future. I then removed the friends and finally when I got enough of the few public groups I discussed in it was easy enough to let go.

I first changed the email to some 10minutemail account, and then changed the password to something I didn't know. When I then hit "disable account", it was hard for FB to guilt trip me with "X Y and Z will miss you :((" -- there were no friends to recommend. All this sounds like a lot of work, and especially deleting FB's chats histories was, because the web client was buggy or "buggy". The chats kept coming back. But that made me want to delete them even more.

Quitting FB made a huge difference in the quality of my life as it removed 99% of FOMO and envy wrt. my peers' lives.

2. Add the Leechblock extension to your browser. Set the tab to close every time you type the time wasting URL. It's a nice instrumental conditioning.

3. Quit services cold turkey when you can. "Use in moderation" sets you up for failure. This is because the services learn about your habits every day and they become extremely good at guessing what content keeps you in. E.g. youtube has recently switched to a new search function that improves its search results based on your previous searches. It's scarily accurate. Many of my peers said they noticed it too but didn't think too much of it.

4. You are being actively manipulated. The companies deliberately design the applications as addicting as possible. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11dYx_rW_Ks

No wonder a smartphone -- that's a collection of such apps -- is so addicting. Realizing this and the fact the dopamine spikes are artificial, helps you a long way.

This also applies to games. Every "headshot +100 points" is such a tiny dopamine spike. Games didn't used to have those. Your AoE villagers didn't announce "+1 wood" when their axes hit a tree. Consider such features in a game an attempt to manipulate you. If you can't disable the them in game, think of it as the insult to your intelligence it is, and uninstall it. If necessary, once such features are disabled, it's easier to see if the content of the game is a good way to relax and balance out the day's hard work.

5. Disable notifications from every app on every device. Notifications are a massive distraction. "I'll be reachable when it's convenient for me" is a good way to think about it.

You'll be surprised how much stuff you can get done when you don't hang around in group chats, reading headlines, arguing to get Reddit internet points etc. for the entire day.

6. Catch up on the big news via Wikipedia's "In the news" section, not via news sites littered with celebrity gossip, craving for your clicks. It's dry for sure, but there's no better source in catching up with e.g. the ongoing conflict in Tigray. It's also easier to avoid trivial propaganda when majority of stuff is sourced, and people are keen in adding "citation needed" when there is no proper source.


Thank you for #6. I just discovered https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal:Current_events. So much more peaceful to read world current events in this format.


I find it surprising that there's no push for regulating engagement algorithms similar to tobacco and gambling.

The same kinds of bad behaviours are being done by companies to profit off of addiction


Not only that, but loot boxes in games targeting children is just rampant.


Britain was looking into regulating (or simply banning, for children) loot boxes.

https://www.theguardian.com/games/2020/jun/07/uk-could-class...


LOL Surprise and other surprise eggs are very terrible targeting toddlers


>This also applies to games. Every "headshot +100 points" is such a tiny dopamine spike. Games didn't used to have those.

Meaningless points popping up on screen when you do a thing is at least as old as Pac-Man.


Hmm fair point. I still feel with Pac-Man etc. the points roll on an odometer you look at the end, it's not a popup prize every time you do something right. But there's plenty of early examples, such as SMB's "1UP".


At least as old as Space Invaders (1978).

Nonetheless, meaningless points popping up on screen where the action is definitely went out of fashion for a long while.

I never cared at all about the points when playing either Mario or Sonic (although they were there, at the top of the screen): the achievement of beating the level was a much greater focus.


to follow up on your good points, any app or device that limits phone use is like telling an alcoholic to hide liquor from themselves. It obviously won't work because addiction is very powerful. There aren't any devices or particular techniques that can guarantee beating it. You just have to be ready to do it


This has not been my experience. Utilities like "StatyFoccussd", "ColdTurkey", "LeechBlock, "SelfControl" have been extremely useful to me. On any day I spend some 10-15 mins in idle browsing, and after feeling bit jaded I set up a block for next 24hrs or so. In the interim when I make attempts to do idle browsing, I am blocked and I don't go out of my way to fight those controls I have setup. It is quite possible for me to bypass the controls that I have setup on the machine which I have full control, but that simple message telling me that I am blocked acts as nudge to restrain myself.

As an additional datapoint, recent versions of Firefox doesn't support the leechblock add-on, and my phone usage increased. But when the Leechblock control was working my phone usage was minimal.

May be my addiction is not strong enough, but the utilities that enforce devices limits do help.


The trouble with Urge Surfing for browsing is my urges to browse are so quickly acted upon that there is never actually a feeling of urge to tip me off. It takes milliseconds for me to spin up a new tab and get onto reddit, and the vast majority of time that means I'm already subconsciously browsing and I won't notice.

For me it took banning the sites entirely, so that when I am met with the "could not connect" screen I realise what's happened and I need to go be mindful so that I can get into an intentional mindset again.


Re urge surfing, I wonder if there’s something like aversion surfing. For me the urge is often triggered by an aversion to what I should really be doing at the given time. Thus not acting on the urge isn’t a complete solution, because it still leaves me with the aversion and has me seek some other avoidance behavior. Unlike the urge, which goes away by itself by “surfing” it, the aversion tends to subsist much longer, because you can’t sidestep the object of the aversion (unlike the object of the urge).


This exists, it tends to be the stereotypical advice of committing to just five minutes spent on the task, or the very first actionable goal. Both are connected to an underlying psychological mechanism of rewards perpetuating a dysfunctional behavior


Thank you for mentioning urge surfing! Googled it up, sounds interesting, never heard of it before; assuming it helps others maybe it will help me too! Certainly worth trying.


Hard to disagree that no longer needing to distract onesself is the goal, but the difference between "be intentional in almost every action" and "be more mindful of actions, including picking up one's phone" is large.

Intentionality in every action is not a useful framing for most people.


#4 is so on the money. Well put.


Yeah, phone is just a way of going on browsing-autopilot-mode. Without the phone I'd be wasting time on a desktop web browser scrolling through HN/Reddit, and many years before it was Digg and Slashdot. I like the advice of being intentional about your reading but eh, I enjoy passive browsing a lot.


I wouldn't say I was addicted to Phone to start with as my job involved interacting with phone all the time, but after I had to shutdown my startup due to health issues I made some deliberate lifestyle changes which has reduced my phone interactions to negligible levels/day and some of which can help overcome phone addiction too.

• Notifications

I have a smartwatch mounted to my desk[1] which displays notifications as an when it arrives and since most of the notifications doesn't require urgent action; interaction with the phone can be avoided. Of course this can work with smartwatch on the wrist too, but having it mounted on the desk limits interaction with the watch itself.

• More email

My primary mode of professional communication has been email for past two years. No voice calls, No chats, No video calls just email. Avoiding real time communication has improved the quality of communication and my mental well-being in general by reducing anxiety.

It does cost me several business opportunities, 'Sorry, I don't do calls, can we communicate via email' has become downright insulting especially during this era of 'Zoom'. But that's the price I'm willing to pay for better mental health.

Fortunately email remains the last pillar against 'Mobile First' ecosystem and environment amidst several attempts to change it.

When the availability of a smartphone is taken for granted from education[2] to COVID-Free Passport, using cellular connectivity is passively mandated (Mobile Number for unique identity, OTP[3]) I don't think it's even possible to someone to throw away their phone without some serious regulations mandating that freedom.

[1]https://abishekmuthian.com/butt-pomodoro-a-butt-triggered-po... (A project which shows the said desk mounted smartwatch).

[2]https://needgap.com/problems/149-remote-education-for-underp... (How the availability of smartphone, taken for granted has affected education - Disclaimer: It's my problem validation platform).

[3]https://twitter.com/heavyinfo/status/1343461028256833538 (My tweet thread discussing mobile number for identity).


I did the opposite from you with emails: Stopped reading them for a couple of years as they had become too stressful. I couldn't face my inbox.

It was because of a small number of overly demanding people that I worked with, I ended up in perpetual fear of overload from having to deal with yet another dreaded message, and the stress stuck after that.

During that time I was still happy to talk with people face to face, phone calls, via chat, etc. It was only emails that I avoided.

Eventually I returned to emails because the people stressing me had disappeared and because I'd found better tools to help filter my inbox; smart real-time filtered views essentially, to help with mental health. It turned email from something to be dreaded to something useful again. It wasn't just filtering out particular people. It was filtering by time and task with some automation.

Now I don't find email stressful, but it's still secondary for me. I'd much rather have a voice call or video chat.

I still don't understand people who love "async only" for work communications. Async is cool for some things, and I relate very much to the joy of not being interrupted. I will happily go for days without talking to anyone, focused on my tasks.

But my email experience had people writing long and argumentative emails that seemed to require hours to reply to thoughtfully (or else consequences), and the back and forth felt like slow-motion difficult meetings where everything took much longer to be said than in a conversation. The adverse effect of those email on flow was much larger than some small interruption from a brief chat.

My favourite thing now if something needs rapid iteration is scheduled voice or video calls about a single issue. I always liked them, but recently they have been rare, so they're a bit of a highlight.

I keep telling myself to get back into being more involved with mailing lists, because that's where I used to be very active. E.g. on linux-kernel a long time ago, I scanned about 1000 mails a day, which was a little tiring but it was ok.

But nowadays when I look at new projects, a lot of them have moved to various chat-like media, which doesn't stress me but seems to require an annoyingly large number of different tools to interact with, and have effectively more limited UI that lacks functionality because it's harder to make custom tooling to handle them.

I like text chats when working with someone on a technical issue, for example debugging some code or a running system with them. Voice chat on headphones is pretty good too, as I can concentrate on things on screen at the same time, like pairing with someone.

I don't like text chats when there's nothing else to do except the conversation itself though, as the timestamps show they go very slowly for what's covered compared with voice, yet just fast enough that it's not possible to pay proper attention while doing something else.

I prefer faster conversations that cover more ground. For those, my favourite is voice, via headphones while going for a long walk.


How about just the using a small phone? The small text size would make it hard to use for too long.


Do you remember life before the Internet?

Because it reads as though maybe you don't remember.

It's not that big of a deal, just put it away.

You need your phone far less than you think you do, just put it away for some occasions, maybe don't take to lunch (or to work).

Being 'homebound' is a great excuse to get rid of it: other than SMS, everything else can be had via the web, and the notebook form factor is not nearly so mobile.

The 'problem' is real but the intensity I think is overblown.

We haven't had phones for the last 10 000 years of civil evolution and 50% of people alive today remember quite clearly a time when we didn't have them and it was just fine.

Finally: "The eventual goal is a rich life" it never was that, that rich. Reading, practising music, walking, watching TV, listening to music - it's not necessarily very 'rich' it's just different for the most part. The romanticized notion of what a 'rich life' is might be a little bit of the problem.


You’re missing GP’s point. The idea isn’t that you can’t live without phones - it’s that going cold turkey abstinence isn’t a good way to kick a compulsion.


I understood his point, I believe that he's way overstating the situation.

I don't think he spoke specifically to the hyper-specific compulsion, but frankly I was: 'just don't take it with you' - or - 'put it away' and that will certainly deny the compulsion.

You'll use it quite a bit less without thinking about it.

It's not nicotene.


I framed my thoughts based on my own struggles. As far as I can tell, I am not alone in this situation.

Ironically, I would instinctively use the same arguments for nicotine that you are using for browsing addiction. On an emotional level, I don't understand why people won't just stop buying cigarettes because I can't directly relate to the addiction. But I know better than to dismiss it or look down on smokers since I have parallel experiences. Just like some generations grew up with the internet, other generations grew up with smoking being far more commonplace than today.


The paper they are basing the opening sentence "phone addiction is one of the biggest non-drug addiction(sic) in human history" on is written by a Doctor of Business Administration, a dean that has "particular industries of interest are banks and non-profit organizations" in his bio and a third researcher with 2 publications total, including the article in question (published 2011).

This may in no way weaken the point that some of the brightest minds of today are working on producing digital Skinner boxes, black on top, with humans as the rats, interfaced via phones.

But basing an attempt at a strong argument about the addictive nature of cell-phones on an article with low relevance in scientific fields specializing in addiction could be described as suspect (most citations on g.scholar on the piece could be delineated as in the fields of business and management ).


That is a fair criticism of this article.

Anecdotally, I recently discussed phone addiction with a youngish tenured professor friend in the psych department at a major university. Two things stood out for me:

1. My academic friend really had a limited understanding of the success of machine learning in driving engagement online. How algorithms can and will enhance whatever mechanism they discover to drive engagement numbers. And how our brains are not wired to compete against them.

2. He took exception to the word addiction in the context of phones. He felt a phone could not drive addiction in the same way as a substance.

My opinion is that our academic research is significantly behind due to the sheer speed and exponential growth of phone/app usage.


Maybe your friend is just ignorant if they are purely psych and not well versed in cognitive-neuroscience, which may be the best field for investigating and understanding modern day tech addictions via fMRI brain scans, etc.

I wouldn't expect the field of Psychology to lead research in the area, as you also concluded in your closing statement.


I basically discourage addiction by making things “difficult” for myself on my phone:

- Minimal web bookmarks (i.e. I have to type in most web sites I want to visit; this is just enough of an encumbrance that I won’t flip open things like Reddit every 30 seconds).

- I never install apps meant for content consumption, I use their web sites. (This is usually a better experience anyway, since the vast majority of them are somehow worse than their web sites, packed with ads/notifications/spying/crap that no one should want anyway.)

- Certain web sites I refuse to use at all on mobile. This gives me a much larger and more useful view anyway, and I can enforce sanity with a lot more plug-ins that way.

- As of latest iOS, I shove most apps into the Library so they are not even on my home screen. That way, they are straightforward to retrieve with a swipe-down search but not as easy as just tapping them open. I find that I use them slightly less this way.

- I turn off many notifications, since app-makers have long abused them anyway (as virtual ads, or designed in some way to suck people back into their apps for no reason; I drew the line when apps started outright lying about things, e.g. red dots implying messages that were not actually there, etc.).

- I set it up so that my lock screen will not show most things without an extra step.


Another tactic I find useful is to ban any apps with an endless content feed from my phone.


Deleted YouTube from my phone the other day. Suddenly my phone is boring and I find myself reading books (for the first time in years).


I have to type in most web sites I want to visit

Huh, what browser? Or did you make it not remember anything visited? Don't they all figure out what you want these days? I mean if I type 'r' FF presents me reddit.com, 'n' is news.yconmbinator.com as best match etc. For the sites I visit most, it's actually faster than looking up a bookmark.


Firefox focus would work for this, every session is incognito with no exceptions so nothing would be saved.


I did the bookmark thing too and all I found out is that it’s a bitch to spell yxombinatoe on an iPhone keyboard.


N plus autocomplete


Yeah this site is one of my only bookmarks. :)


I do a bunch of this stuff, too. Notifications are a big one and I highly encourage people to be ruthless in disabling them. There is no use case for receiving an instant notification when somebody happens to mention you on social media that won’t make your life worse.

One quibble: I also uninstalled most apps, but there isn’t a single one of them with a mobile website that’s better. It really is a far worse experience to have to use the website.


This is my strategy as well. My best tactic is device selection. I'm rocking an iPhone SE (4" form factor). (Side note: Big kudos to Apple for fully supporting this phone - my first iPhone)

The small screen and keyboard discourage any extended use of my phone.


certain addictive apps like twitter, I keep off my phone. Happy to spend a half hour at home browsing sites like that, but I don't want to be glued to my phone while out and about.


No notifications on the lock screen is also one that I use.


correlation does not equal causation. Phone addiction or internet addiction is a symptom not a cause. People are escaping to the internet becuase of the world we live in is cold.

There is a new US marine commerical out that shows a kid wandering the street kind of lost in hyper interactive world. The commercial plays off of this internet addiction and data mining product selling. Then clips to them becoming a Marine and finding purpose. Its a good commercial because its actually something that is a problem and that the Marines do have an answer, although with a great cost.

Brave New World predicted this. We are removed from community and it is scary so we find one on the internet and we go all in. The physical problems come with the fact that its not interactive but if there was a VR internet those could go away.

That still wouldnt fix the problem that you might feel closer to someone across the world than someone right next to you. And that a Maga hat and Antifa supporter might be neighbors but want to kill eachother.

My phone is that internet/phone addiction is not a problem its a solution. An escape from forever war all around us. Or you could join the Marines. I guess war is inescapable. Que the cranberries song.


I agree except some things are actually addicting. Phones are dopamine slot machines that fit in your pocket so that you can't escape.

I think it's both. People seek an escape and phone apps are extremely addicting.


Is it bad to feel rewarded for legitimately engaging your brain?

Is it bad for something to be a "dopamine slot machine" if it's only because it actually allows you to consume knowledge more rapidly/efficiently?


Addiction is sometimes described as something that is done repeatedly and is harmful. I can't get by without breathing, so I need to do that pretty often, but as it's not harmful, it's not an addiction.

The answer to your question is it depends... I don't think there is anything wrong with playing a dopamine hitting game on a 10 minute bus ride home from work (it's no different than the buzz from a shot of espresso), but if you are spending so much time that you are harming yourself (physically or emotionally) then that's an addiction.

There was a talk posted a few days ago here by Dr Gabor Mate about addiction:

https://youtu.be/vMstO3U4sVw

(Skip the 10 min intro, then watch at least the first hour)

His views are very different from the mainstream US view of addiction being substance abuse that can be fixed by restricting access to the drugs.


Listening to music is essentially a drug in that it releases pleasurable neurotransmitters. I think we need to understand the positive and negative impacts to ourselves like you suggested.


I don't think so--if the activity fits your life and not the other way around. But that's just my opinion.

Books and pen pals can be similarly problematic for some.


I don't think I've ever acquired deep knowledge or insight via my phone. It's all shallow junk food.


Is that because of the nature of the technology or because of what users choose to seek out with it?

Also consider that a big insight might come from many small insights


Escapism is intensely popular, it’s behind the boom in video games, watching people stream themselves playing video games, super hero movies, scripted tv. OnlyFans let’s you have a quasi-partner who takes your money and gives you intimacy. Instant gratification, and if you don’t have what you want, just blame society for not giving it to you.

What’s great is that if you are a hard worker and have a long time horizon, it’s never been easier to extract huge compensation. Wealthy people want to invest to make money without any effort, and learning hard stuff like computer science, mechanical engineering, biochemistry and pharma development, etc. takes a tough decade of study and practice to get skilled enough to really kill it. But once you are an expert you can produce actual stuff that matters and investors can’t find enough smart and talented people willing to actually do stuff, so the premium paid to those that can make entertainment, life saving drugs, productivity-increasing tech, and so on gets ever higher.

Bet on making stuff for the Netflix box and drugs that keep fat people alive longer, and fun games that distract people from reality.


I don't disagree with your take that escapism is popular, but this can partially be attributed to the capable people you reference building technology that exploits our psychology to encourage further escapism.

I don't understand the desire to bet on things that would personally enrich you and your investments/companies but decrease overall wellbeing. The capable should build that which guides society towards connection and elevates collective goals, not exploit the exploitable.


The market demands this stuff. If human nature is to be lazy, fat, desiring instant gratification, and blaming everyone else for their problems, then someone will fulfill it.

I wrote a “hot take” above and am exaggerating, but I truly feel like the world we live in now makes it so easy to avoid discipline and hard choices. So those that accept that getting nice stuff takes effort and discipline will earn great dividends.


> Phone addiction or internet addiction is a symptom not a cause

Correlation does not imply causation, but that doesn't mean that it can't be causation.


It's not even that they're asserting that there's no causation in that quote, they're rather asserting that the causation is backwards, which is also undemonstrated.


well ok, but while we are on the subject, we have no proof of any causation anywhere in the universe, all we have is the correlation that we've never seen (for example) gravity repel, only attract.


Not really true. If two things are strictly correlative, that means there is an additional factor causing both.

If you eliminate all reasonable additional factors (by controlling variables), you can demonstrate causation. Arguing that there can be unknowable external factors behind everything is not very scientific.

Identifying causal relationships involving humans is difficult due to the excessively multivariate nature of all our interactions, and by extension how difficult it is to "control" humans (as opposed to water, or a wheel). That does not mean it is impossible to ever demonstrate causation.


Leibniz denies the existence of causation in his Monadology[1]. In short, everything acts solely according to its own nature without any interaction with anything else, but in a harmonious way that creates the illusion of causation. That strikes me as a bit far fetched, but it does show that accepting the existence of causation is a metaphysical choice and not necessary.

[1] https://plato-philosophy.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/The-...


> Leibniz denies the existence of causation in his Monadology

This sentence is incoherent unless one assumes the denial of causation is bunk, since it makes no sense to attribute either Monadology in general or the specific claims from it being discussed to Leibniz unless he caused the existence of the work, which clearly he cannot have if there is no causation.


Causation means something more specific than that, and we have plenty of good examples. Any randomized controlled trial can show causation.


>Marines do have an answer, although with a great cost.

Do you mean an individual cost or societal cost?

I think one of the ironies about the human condition is that we value things that we’ve sacrificed toward much more than the things we have not. E.g., Marines have esprit de corps in part because of their sacrifices not despite them.

The strongest connections are often made through hardship. To think we can have that connection without a cost doesn’t seem congruent with how we’re wired


> The strongest connections are often made through hardship. To think we can have that connection without a cost doesn’t seem congruent with how we’re wired

This is the irony for me, my closest friends are people I crunched with at work. Going to breakfast together at 5am was a bonding experience. Staying overnight the day before shipping, etc... I'm not saying I want to force that on anyone but they are actually good memories for me and I made good friends. It helps that they were creative products so we were putting ourselves in them. I don't know how I'd fell crunching on someone else's goal/deadline/project.


A good read is Sebastian Junger’s Tribe. To your point, the UK civilians he interviewed who lived through the WW2 bombings referred to them as “the good ol’ days”


I'd say individual. You are letting people to condition you into becoming obedient killer and believing it's a virtue and worthwhile skill.


The society they are a part of does consider it a worthwhile skill, which is why they’ve created a niche for it.

There may be disagreements on the individual level, but society creates institutions (like the military) and the policies they execute based on their aggregate values. Or in cliched terms, people get the government they deserve


> The society they are a part of does consider it a worthwhile skill, [...]

It only mitgologizes it. That's not the same thing. When they rejoin economy nobody says "let me offer you a job or money or food or a place to live because now you can kill people on miltary command".

The only places where people might find your "skill" worthwhile outside the place that conditioned you are criminal or borderline criminal.


It’s odd to me that you have a concept that the military is somehow not part of society as a whole. For better or worse, the military is interwoven throughout society. It is an institutional construct of society. It is a part of society like other institutions like Congress or the courts. I don’t know that your point of “rejoining they economy” holds up well in that context. People have felt the military is the strong arm of the economy for a long, long time. (If you disagree, look up War is a Racket, coincidently written by a Marine).

The point I was trying to make is that if society did not value that role it wouldn’t exist. Society as a whole has decided there is a need for a standing army, and funds the continuation of it. Again, individuals may disagree but society at large has decided its of enough value to keep in existence. We don’t do this because of it’s “mythology”, especially not to the tune of $700B a year. We can argue about whether society has a misguided value system, but I think it’s very hard to make a case that society doesn’t value the purpose of the military. That’s a high price tag for mythological storytelling.

The veterans I know would likely argue that the skills they were taught in the military go far beyond the ability to kill. I don’t disagree that (in Rumsfeld’s words) the base intent of the military is to “kill people and break their things” but this is similar to the oversimplification that the only purpose of a company is to make money, full stop. The Marines I know spent more time on humanitarian missions than combat missions.


> Again, individuals may disagree but society at large has decided its of enough value to keep in existence.

I firmly believe that's the other way around. Society has ybo say about whether military should exist.

There are always people who prefer to focus on arming themselves and extorting others. Either by threatening or offering protection from threat, which blend together.

People argue whether goverment rules the people, or if the people are actually stronger then goverment and goverment rules just because people will it.

The truth becomes apparent when government and people can't keep stable relationship between themselves and ability to collect tax is threatened. Then the military steps in and supports either government or the people.

That's because the only reason military allows goverments and people do what they do is that it results in steady stream of taxation that military can feed on.

Of course people also benefit from tax being collected in stable and predictable manner instead of military just roaming their country and taking whatever it desires randomly.

Nations, armies and goverments are most advanced mechanisms of keeping human violent extortionists and most dangerous technologies from interfering with the economy.

It's of tremendous benefit to our civilisation, except for two world wars which I hope were enough for militaries to learn that they can't efficiently steal economies to extort from neighbouring militaries.

But nontheless if you join the army you join the organisation that's freeloading on everybody else while sharpening teeth that will be used against them if they misbehave. Until you stay there you are golden. But if you plan to rejoin the rest of the world at some point, time spent in the military will be at best wasted years for you and cause of much damage to your life and psyche at worst due to conditioning and abuse you underwent.

Can you get something good out of it? Sure. But how many ex-military end up in dangerous jobs or without purpose in life outside, treating damage done to them by military with opioids? You probably don't have them in your social circle but I'd say there are at least a few for each one of your ex-Marine friends doing charity.

This belief of mine is mostly based on concept of "monopoly for violence" if you want to read more about it.


But once they leave, veterans don't do that great statistically. And you can't be marine forever.


That’s a good point and probably why there is an increased focus on the transition to civilian life. I suspect the distinctions between civilian and military life are what makes the transition difficult. The #1 thing they miss is the camaraderie, not the ability to blow shit up (although the adrenaline of the job is probably high on the list).

To the overall point of this thread, that lack of connection in society is part of what draws many back to rejoining


Yes, difference make it hard. They also acquire both physical and mental health issues. Mental health issues in particular makes them more likely to end up homeless or in prison, more likely to be violent.

It is not just camaraderie and connection, it is whole different expectations on what you should do. It is difficulty to find and keep job for example. Not having required skills, having trouble to communicate.


The marines come with an individual cost that is frequently less valued than service in the army or airforce.


Marines certainly are closer to harms way generally was the impression I got.

As the child of an enlisted Air Force solidier who served for 20 years, I always thought the Air Force got the worst rap of the branches. The "chair force" moniker didn't help.


What do you mean less valued? My impression is that the Marines are the most respected of the services. (I am not serving nor a veteran of any armed service).


I don't want to tell tales out of school or anything. I've met an ex-marine who suffered damage in training and stories from internet videos all corroborate the general story. The marines are the offensive branch, and the individuals get treated poorly. You get a lot of respect for your title, but other branches have a better quality of life and better jobs available.

https://youtu.be/UMoLKLM8SMg Fun story time by an ex-air force guy who was going to join up to the marines (4:30).


Counter to this anecdote, I’ve met a reasonable number of Air Force, Navy, and Army who retrospectively wished they joined the Marines. I’ve never met a Marine who wished they joined another branch (with the exception of when other branches offered even more difficult opportunities Marines didn’t, like before MARSOC was established)


The US Marines recruiting commercial mentioned:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=bCjEV75F2tM


> And that a Maga hat and Antifa supporter might be neighbors but want to kill eachother.

That Maga hat and antifa might not be as opposed in views if they talked to each other. The problem is that we've reduced friction for finding like minded people so far that it's not worth it to go through the unpleasantness of talking with strangers.


The platform also magnifies shallow thought from a minority of contributors. One of the signals we use to mediate our thoughts is how we think our cohorts feel about something, this is even more true for people without much critical thinking skill.

An individual can have extreme views and end up inside an echochamber that makes them think they're in the company of millions when in reality it's just a handful of others (and probably some bot accounts).


>And that a Maga hat and Antifa supporter might be neighbors but want to kill eachother.

You seem to be ignoring the possibility that these people come to these ideologies because of the Internet, which leads to the hollowing-out of community coherence that you mention.


> That still wouldnt fix the problem that you might feel closer to someone across the world than someone right next to you.

Wait, is it a problem that some have remote friendships that are closer than those physically near them? If so why?

Which isn't too say proximity is bad. It can be a relationship enhancer, and so can distance.


I think it was just an example of how little we can be connected to our local community. It's not bad in itself, and you can likely have both strong remote relationships and strong community ties at the same time.


You say that correlation doesn't equal causation, then throw out theories with no research to back it up.

Could you be a bit more scientific with your argument?


> Its a good commercial because its actually something that is a problem and that the Marines do have an answer

Perhaps we should bring back a year of mandatory military service. Or some other kind of mandatory community service.


Peace Corp or something like that. I can't remember the name of the gorup that was started during the depression that put people to work doing things like building the national parks and other type of things. These groups provided jobs, life experience outside what ever town you grew up in, and could be a good solve for today's situation.


CCC Civilian Conservation Corps


We never HAD a year of mandatory military service to bring back


I would quit my job and drop everything in my life to join a program like that. The Intercept did an episode on it over the summer and I got chills listening to it.


You can join the Peace Corps right now.


Perhaps GP lives somewhere that did. It's definitely not an uncommon thing around the world.


Just slightly older guys then I am had mandatory service. I never heard someone say anything positive about the experience. Mostly learned how to avoid effort in highly controlled environment. Many stories about bullying is various kind.

But purpose was never mentioned, they seen it more of as waste of time.


> "Brave New World predicted this. We are removed from community and it is scary so we find one on the internet and we go all in."

That isn't how I remember Brave New World; it was about amusing ourselves to death with trivia instead of dealing with "important" things, but the sense of community in it was pretty strong - people grew up with and lived with the same local group of people, worked together, played Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy together, orgied together, and took soma to keep them all content. The main complaint they all had was why Bernard couldn't just be happy and join in the community.

Brave New World celebrated the twist-reveal where Bernard learns that exile to Iceland isn't a gulag but is really joining a distant group of people who don't like the society and want to live their own way like he does. I'm never sure if that should be taken at face value, or if it was a lie and the place was really a prison camp, but let's assume it was an honest and accurate reveal - that would be the opposite of your complaint, Bernard was lost and scared at having no community, was pushed toward a remote one he might fit in, and the book is all about how great that is that he doesn't have to waste his life doing just what the people around him are doing and that he can feel closer aligned with a group across the world than someone right next to him, and should take advantage of that.

> "An escape from forever war all around us"

The forever war was 1984, and that's not about Winston joining the Marines to find meaning in his life, it's about using the two minutes' hate to reinforce tribe membership by uniting everyone against a hate figure/group, and the strong (IngSoc) beating down the weak (objectors) until everyone is stamped into the same shape (boot on human face / industrial machine moulding stamp), the reveal at the end of 1984 isn't that Winston joined the Marines and escaped the forever war like Bernard escaped the trivia, it's that Winston came to love Big Brother and agree with everything good that Big Brother is and was and always would be, it's the equivalent of Bernard taking the soma and blending into the society and agreeing it was right all along, it's one or other of your Maga hat and Antifa supporter becoming overwhelmingly dominant, the state enforcing it, and the other being subsumed by it and liking it until there isn't anything else.

> "internet/phone addiction is not a problem its a solution. I guess war is inescapable."

Hence the Yin-Yang forever circling each other. There's no solution to whether white or black is better, or whether matter or energy is better, or whether hot is better than cold, both books posit an end - one that is either agreeable or disagreeable to the reader, but an end nonetheless - real life doesn't have ends it has circles, loops, repeats, back and forths, changing fortunes, ups and downs, births and deaths.

Maga hat and Antifa supporter both love their America, and their America doesn't include murdering thy neighbor. They might "want to kill each other" but each would like the other one realising how dumb they are and changing sides.


> their America doesn't include murdering thy neighbor. They might "want to kill each other"

Well, you can find a lot of message boards in which they fantasize about doing this. And it sells a lot of weapons. But the energy barrier is high; people like Kyle Rittenhouse cross it only rarely enough that they can be dismissed as isolated incidents. It's not every day that someone blows up a telephone exchange. Just another isolated incident.


> people like Kyle Rittenhouse

Don't forget the people that shot at him and tried to stomp his head in.


He went looking for a fight. A fight he had no business being anywhere near. I have no sympathy for Rittenhouse.


> Que

[Helpfully] I believe you meant "cue."

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cue


> a Maga hat and Antifa supporter might be neighbors but want to kill each other

There's even a dedicated reddit for this fallacy.

https://www.reddit.com/r/ENLIGHTENEDCENTRISM


> My phone is that internet/phone addiction is not a problem its a solution

Funny that you've mistyped "phone" instead of "theory".

Must be a Freudian phone.


Given this is Hacker News, I await the solution of LSD-assisted therapy to counter phone addiction to be proposed soon.


Lol I'm not proposing an LSD-based solution, but I do have a relevant anecdote from my first trip.

We were on the beach sitting on blankets, and my phone somehow got lost in the folds of the blanket while I was coming up. For the next ~4 hours I basically forgot "who" I was, being deprived of a phone that constantly shows me my friends, notes, and pictures. Eventually, I did find my phone and it was the weirdest experience ever to look at my phone and slowly start "remembering" who I am.


It sounds like you're correlating forgetting who you were and the phone, but you should be correlating the LSD and forgetting who you were. These drugs de-activate the "ego" forming parts of the brain, the parts that make us feel like an author/being/center of it all.


While it's certainly true that LSD is the primary reason I had ego semi-dissolution in this experience, I'm saying that phones serve to reinforce our understanding of ourselves by "interrupting" our raw conscious experience with memories and data that we correlate with our self. On other trips where I had my phone, or when I was at home in an environment I've known all my life, I had virtually no ego dissolution at all.

That's a pretty good short story plot.


ha, this reminds me of Manfred Macx forgetting who he was without his digital glasses and associated suite of external agents in Accelerando


Please invest in my new startup - we provide an app that recommends LSD microdoses to address your milliphone exposure count.


Might want to rethink your business model, unless you can get around the Apple store guidelines forbidding encouragement of drug use[0]

I'm afraid it's a pass from me on investment. ;)

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25605880


Tomorrow on Ask HN:

Which PAAS (psychedelic-as-a-service) would you pay the most money for?


Alcohol delivery services are already a thing everywhere, Berlin has "cocaine taxis", now all that's missing is pot delivery once it finally becomes legal...


I'd heard of weed maps but cocaine taxis seems like a brazenness I couldn't imagine working on either side, vendor or buyer.


I know a woman who managed to sell cocaine out of a taxi (in the US) for 8 years without being caught.

It's a great way to sell drugs because you can always claim that whatever is stashed in the backseat was left by one of your passengers.


Telegram has already got you covered.


https://aurynproject.org/pala

re: the business and yogafication of psychedelics

Quite a long story but I found it thought-provoking.


Wow that was profound to say the least, highly relevant to tech and entrepreneur crowd thank you for sharing!


LSD actually cured my surfing (while I was taking it). I'd just be consciously aware the whole time that I was sitting at a computer, trying to distract myself.


Yes, but LSD is only effective when coupled with fasting.


I am doing n-back cold water swimming to convert white matter into gray matter.


If you take enough of a psychedelic it becomes harder to read the screen ... so there is that.


It was on the front page earlier today, and still is.

Why bother stopping a bad habit? That takes effort. Much better to play Russian Roulette with mind altering substances.


The other discussion is about using psilocybin to treat depression, not phone addiction. They are different disorders and should be treated as such.


While you make a good point, I think the therapeutic dose to LD50 ratio of mushrooms is vanishingly small, meaning they are relatively safe

(Assuming you are referring to the article about mushrooms)


Well, except when people start jumping from buildings.

I know two people, one of whom successfully jumped from the 3rd floor of a building and another that had to be restrained from doing so. It's a real risk, although I personally have done psychedelics many hundreds of times and never felt the urge to jump even when climbing trees, building exteriors, etc.


I want to do it on the beach, I'm afraid of running into the ocean and drowning. What would you say is the probability of this scenario occurring for a first time trip?


I've been with dozens of people on their first trip with acid that I knew was acid. And I've had dozens more experiences with people thinking they were taking acid when it was really 25I or something even worse (if it tastes like something, it's not acid). When I was younger taking any drug anyone could get their hands on, I was usually in the latter camp. And I think very few people are privileged enough to not be in the latter camp as you don't tend to have much control over the drugs you get. Most normal people might get like one "acid contact" their whole life and they're taking whatever he has to sell them.

If you're in the former camp (taking real acid), I have a truly hard time believing the anecdotes of bad things happening. And I think most anecdotes are actually stories from the latter camp. Just take a small dose and know that you can take the edge off with a beer if you really needed to.

But if you're in the latter camp where you don't even know what you're taking, I'm not particularly surprised if something bad happens.


Although my original comment was specifically about the toxicity of mushrooms, as somebody who’s never tried any of these drugs I’m curious if there’s a distinct difference between the type of trip with LSD vs mushrooms? Is one more likely to induce a violent trip for example?


They are different, but maybe not consistently so for everyone. The visual distortions might be similar but the feeling will probably be different.

I get a certain uncomfortable bodily sensation on LSD, to the point that after fifty or sixty experiences with it I no longer use it. I strongly prefer mushrooms and suggest mixing them with small amounts of MDMA for an incredible experience.


That's basically what modern medicine tends to do, just in a more structured manner.


“Phone addiction” is way too broad. A lot of this criticism of phones appears out of the fact that a phone can be used for a wide range of activities. If I said someone “spent the day doing some research for work, journaling, watching TV, chatting with friends, playing a game, looking at photos from a friend’s trip, then reading local and global news”, then that sounds like a healthy balanced day. But if I described the above as “they were on their phone for 7 hours straight” it sounds unhealthy, even though it’s the same.

It would be more useful to break down more specific problems: anxiety from not checking notifications, mental health from comparing your life to perfect social media, etc. Those can be targeted and fixed.


More specific diagnoses are best left to the professionals.

However, perfection is the enemy of good. The more complicated you make the diagnoses and more specific the criteria, the more difficult it becomes to engage with the concept.

For the average smartphone user, the criteria for identifying potentially detrimental smartphone addiction needs to be as simple as possible.

> But if I described the above as “they were on their phone for 7 hours straight” it sounds unhealthy, even though it’s the same.

Being on your phone for 7 hours straight is not healthy, regardless of what you're doing. Much better to do work and research on a proper screen that you're not holding 9 inches from your face, and much better to sit with proper posture instead of craning your neck at a smartphone.

The problem with trying to divide everything into ultra-specific categories is that addicts are very good at rationalizing away their problems. For example, someone addicted to social media might justify it as keeping up with their social life, and someone addicted to 24/7 news headlines would justify it as keeping up with current events. Give enough leeway, and an addict can easily justify away 90% of their smartphone usage as beneficial, all while letting a smartphone take away from other, healthier activities in their life.


Even if you call that a "balanced" day, that's 7 hours straight of using a tiny mobile device, when you could use an actually ergonomically sound device with better I/O speed and higher resolution, i.e. an actual computer. People would get those tasks done faster with less strain on their body if they used a different machine.


Half of that I can't bare to imagine doing on a phone; the other half I'd really rather not, though platforms used (especially chat and photos) may necessitate it.


One thing I've done to combat this is to aggressively tamp down on things that vie, or worse yet, call for my attention. I leave my phone permanently on do not disturb mode (pagerduty and immediate family are the only exemptions). I use greyscale settings to limit my interest in phones in the evenings. And, if you send me push notifications for ANYTHING I didn't expressly request (like a status update on a pending uber), I'll manually disable notifications in the system settings for the app.

The greyscale one in particular is fascinating, and I can feel the effect immediately if I disable the greyscaling in the evening. The colours are like candy for the sensory system. Instagram is downright boring in black and white :)

I wonder if there is some way to configure the same black and white mode on my laptop between certain times.


I wonder if there is some way to configure the same black and white mode on my laptop between certain times.

If on Linux: https://www.reddit.com/r/linuxquestions/comments/ko29dw/mono...


> The greyscale one in particular is fascinating, and I can feel the effect immediately

came here to mention greyscale - I took the greyscale challenge back in 2017 and never went back. I would catch myself pulling out my phone for no other reason than just to look at it, greyscale basically cured that habit. many people have reported similar experiences w/going gray.


Anecdotally I’ve come to hate my phone: I leave it at home as much as possible.

Same for all social media. This is the only site I use that could be categorized like that.


Agreed.

I find that having a phone is like having a menu that has too many options. You just never seem like your happy with what you're choosing. There is something nice about not having an infinite library of music that you can skip every song to get to the next song to skip.

It's not all bad, but you definitely have to be mindful. One thing I miss the most about my younger years is being able to ride in a vehicle and just look out the window at things. Now I find myself going to the same tired things on my phone...


My personal solution for this was to lock my phone in my cars glove box and never take it out except for in the case of an emergency. It was just enough work to go get it to make me not bother with it for casual use but easy enough to grab in the case that I really needed to make a call (or get directions somewhere). Worked like a charm for me and I noticed an almost immediate improvement in my mood and generally felt less distracted in life. I feel now that I have broken the habit of looking at my phone I could probably keep it closer but I just don't care enough to walk out to my car and grab it now.

I will still say I use my laptop more to do stuff I might have done on my phone but it feels like less of a problem to me since I don't carry my laptop around with me everywhere. I just do what I might have normally done then put the laptop away and don't think about it again. Having just a little division between my online life and real life is just enough to make me feel sane again.


> Your online and offline behavior gets more integrated and you don’t know what you did in the digital reality or the material reality.

Not sure if it's just me, but this is getting very hard to separate during quarantine. I often remember conversations that happened over text as having happened in person. Perhaps my mind is accounting for the lack of face-to-face interaction.


Definitely not just you.


I have come to think that the key point of cutting down on this browsing addiction was to have something better and more interesting to do. Something you can show to friends or to yourself afterwards, some tangible and original, whatever that is (from a GitHub project to a sculpture or an article on an interesting topic). It might just be, in the end, a motivation problem.

As argued by many in the comments section, forceful, explicit counter-measure (like hiding your phone or installing a block app) can be good temporary solutions but aren't efficient in the long-term. The problem may live deeper in ourselves, as some fundamental lack -- my point is maybe we're inclined to do this because we're kind of lost as regards to what really drives us.


I agree in that if I really have something to do then I'll do it. I got into some personal project in October and worked 6-12 hours a day on it for 3 weeks. I wasn't distracted by HN. Conversely the last week I've probably spent ~6 hours a day just mindlessly wasting time on the net, mostly HN, like right now.


I’m waiting to watch or read the first story to postulate making smartphones illegal like drugs. Chinese Triads smuggling phones across border, massive gun battles between rival “phangs” fighting over turf, etc.


Phones aren't addictive on their own, and I can prove it in one step: just disable any ability to connect to the internet for a whole week and tell me your phone usage during that time.

If nobody had phones the interest in them would fade for anyone being given a phone, because let's be honest here: how much content are you dealing with that hasn't involved using internet to access somebody ELSE's stuff? News is other people doing things, learning is other people teaching us, chatting is with other people, etc.

I can perhaps see a sci-fi take on internet usage being given out through world-government prescriptions, rationed access to the "escape world". Which reminds me of the setting for Ready Player One and its slums, just without the fanservice and with a much more realistic and grim vibe.


Unlikely unless it starts becoming violent and challenges the government's monopoly on violence.

It's not that drugs are of concern to citizens but the people involved in the supply side are essentially directly challenging the government in a market that it refuses to regulate.

Whoever holds control over the apparatus for distributing violence the most efficiently and at large scale ultimately dictates the laws. Anybody posing a challenge to this basic low common denominator will become a target of the State which declares itself as the sole monopoly over violence.

This is why I believe countries fight all the time, it is simply not enough to hold monopoly over your own borders, to maintain its "large security apparatus" it needs new threats otherwise it stops growing, losing momentum and many groups declaring their own autonomous zones will find it easy to challenge the government as we saw in Syria and Arab Spring countries.


Why would anyone do that? Smartphones make a whole lot of the economy a whole lot of money. I imagine there'd be a much bigger fight that over say, drugs or even AR-style rifles.


Well cocaine makes the economy a whole lot of money too...


Go on..

Would be a nice retcon to those pre-90s science fiction novels to explain why they don't have phones in them :)


Is it the phone people are addicted to, or the media available through it?

Especially Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp and Twitter. All of which seem designed to cultivate obsessive compulsive behavior in their users with social proof, intermittent rewards and a builtin hedonic treadmill.


Isn’t that a difference without a distinction?

If the headline were about television addiction would you question if it’s the TV set or the shows?


Watching TV stations was the only purpose of TV set, while social network apps are just one of many purposes of mobile phones. Many people do not use such apps, but still use mobile phones.


Social networks are only one of the problematic class of apps. Games, texting, news and some other app categories were also called out in the article.

So I guess I agree - the problem isn’t the hardware but then nobody really ever thought it was. I think that’s why my tv analogy works.


We didn't have these issues back in the early 2000s. Cause of price and the average person didn't use a computer as often as they do now. That's because there was barely anything to soon them then.


I myself spent a lot of time on the computer back then, mostly playing computer games. And I remember how everyone talked about how addictive and bad computer games were.


I remember skipping college classes to play World of Warcraft. Then my graphics card crapped out. So I skipped classes reading psychology books I got from the library. Turns out, my problems were depression and social anxiety, not video games.


I'm lucky that I didn't have issues like that. For me, it was just entertainment, nothing too detrimental. But maybe if I had a computer in my pocket, it would have been different.


Absolutely. 99% of bullshit like "game addiction" is just a symptom of depression or similar, not some distinct phenomenon with a novel cause.


They can build upon one another. So because someone is depressed, they become addicted to something that makes them forget they're depressed.

Hi there, millennial here. I spend hours and hours on live journal, flash game sites, and various web comics in the mid-2000s. I think I spent basically the same number of hours per day on the internet I do now. Just now some of it is work instead of teenage entertainment/dithering, and a lot of it is on a phone.


For whatever reason I never got into games. I learned to program and found that to be fun and rewarding. Started in the mid 1980s. Back then, there were games for home computers and home gaming systems, but they were pretty lame. Arcades were still a big thing then for gaming. Kids would spend a lot of money in arcades, one quarter at a time. I never saw the appeal.


given that most phones are designed in such a way that running anything other than curated apps on it is fairly difficult the distinction is quite blurry.

The phones and the operating software they run are built to discourage anything that isn't media consumption or passive app use.


Here’s what I did to counter my phone addiction. I was mostly addicted to social media apps and it got worse as I wouldn’t go without spending at least 2hrs on these apps. So in order to counter my addiction I ordered a kitchensafe box to control my addiction.

Now I just lock my phone for certain amount of time and try to do something else or engage myself into new things such as reading, learning new skills and etc

For me kitchen safe has worked and it has helped me cope with my phone addiction and allowed me to stay away from my phone before going to bed which has improved my sleep quality


What would you do if you got a phone call while it was in the kitchen safe?


My phone is in the kitchen safe most of the time as well. I've bought an Apple Watch recently and I was mightily afraid it would increase my phone addiction even more. Instead, it got way better and I keep my phone/watch in silent mode 99% of the time. Sudden notifications won't happen anymore and I definitely won't be starting to type out text messages on the watch or start browsing the internet. Important events, such as phone calls from 'favorite' contacts will still get through though and I still have the option to make phone calls in case of emergency.


I’m just curious to know can you make calls using Apple Watch


Yep! You can accept and make calls with an Apple Watch, even with the non-cellular version, as long as your phone is in bluetooth range. It even works without being connected to headphones, although I can't recommend that for long calls.

With the cellular version and the appropriate mobile contract you're not bound to the iPhone bluetooth range anymore.


Oh okay Well you just made it easier for me. I’ll definitely get an apple watch to stay connected with calls whenever I lock my phone in kitchensafe

Thanks


Well it depends honestly before going to bed I put my phone into kitchensafe box and set the time for atleast 2hrs so I can fall asleep without looking at my phone.

During the day if I’m working I’ll put my phone into kitchensafe for like 30 or 45mins so I can focus on the task without looking at my phone.

As far as calls are concerned if they are important they’ll probably leave voicemail and I’ll get back to them right away

Lastly I usually keep my phone locked at night before going to bed as It helps me stay away from it


I think if you are someone’s emergency contact than leaving your phone in a kitchen safe is irresponsible. My strategy for fighting phone addiction always allows me to hear and answer a phone call because it’s the defacto method of communication during emergencies.



Thanks! Just watched the film (on Wikipedia).

Oh the vileness, the violence. I'm now completely convinced marijuana is the devil's lettuce! Don't just tell your children, TELL EVERY CHILD!

EDIT: to add, people, watch the 1938 release, the 36 has poorer image/sound quality.


Just Say No (to clash of clans)


phone addiction seems to be just a single subset of the addiction/improvement feedback loops we have in most industries: food addiction, sugar addiction, clickbait addiction, social media addiction, 'app'/phone addiction, video game addiction, and many, many more


This article and the HN thread were two of the most informative and entertaining things I've read in a while. And it led to some immediate action. I deleted Instagram (the only social media app I had) and I deleted or unpinned the browsers. I already had all notifications turned off. Honestly, if you're going to do just one thing do that. My friends who haven't honestly look like Pavlov's dogs.

For HN, I use 'noprocast' with maxvisit at 10 and minaway at 160. HN has become the home page of the internet for me. Is both entertaining and informative and therefore very addictive.


I do following which reduced my phone usage drastically.

1. Delete social media apps and use web version instead. (like twitter, facebook, linkedin.)

2. By doing step 1, you may overuse web version of social media platforms also. To prevent this, use a website blocking application. I use BlockSite. Make BlockSite password protected, so you cannot update/remove blocked sites easily.

3. Use a long password to unlock your phone.

Today, I do not use social media at all. I just check once a week wikipedia's main to page for the latest news. Entering a long password introduces a 5-7 seconds delay to open your phone and to surf on internet. So because of this 5-7 seconds overhead, i usually decide not to touch my phone if it is really not required. But without this overhead, since it was too easy to surf on internet, i usually decided to do so and spent lots of time unnecessarily.

And for hackernews, I was checking https://news.ycombinator.com/best frequently. Then i have developed, www.hntoplinks.com (hacker news aggregator daily/weekly/montly...) 7 years ago, but eventually started to spend too much time on my own web page and finally added subscription feature. http://www.hntoplinks.com/subscribe So I have subscribed for weekly and monthly and annual top news. I receive an email on Monday morning 7AM, before starting the week. I just go through links and it gives me a good overview of the week. I do not use https://news.ycombinator.com/ and www.hntoplinks.com directly anymore.


I'm addicted to the internet, not my phone. I used to spend 10+ hours a day on a desktop. Then that time was split between my desktop and a laptop, after I got my first one. Then smartphones came out, and it's now split between a laptop and my phone. Hopefully the next phase is phone/wearables. I'm sure there are still people spending that much time on desktops to mess with VR, since you're still tethered to a computer.


I find it easier to channel my internet use into creative, and productive outlets on my computer than on my phone.


I’ll second this. Here’s an anecdote from just this morning:

I sat down at my desktop with my coffee. The first thing I did was fire up Unity and Visual Studio to continue some work on learning about networked multiplayer games. I spent about 2 hours reading API documentation and prototyping different things. I came away feeling like I had learned something and was making progress on a thing I care about.

After that I picked up my phone. I spent an hour scrolling through different news sites and jumping between apps. I came away feeling depressed, anxious, and like I just wasted an hour of my life on meaningless information consumption.

I’m sure some people have the same experience on a desktop/laptop and others can use their phone for creative endeavors, but for me, personally, the differences in experience between the two environments is quite stark.


I am really curious if this is markedly different from concerns people had about children wasting their time away reading books, as seen in Don Quijote for example.


Compared to games today, books normally aren't developed with individually profiled feedback loops and tenfold teams with psychologists and behaviorists trying to optimize them.



Where to start. How about the idea that the phone is the tool or channel that has an appeal for behaviors that are addictive, rather than the cause itself. It can be loneliness, habit, peers doing it, it can be escape, there are a zillion thing "the phone" does. And yes, SV has learned to exploit the attention triggers. Saying it's phone addiction, while true, simplifies the problem with the description.

When I was growing up, before computers were in your pocket, the computers were big and under the desk. The big and under your desk computers had connections to BBSes via a modem and a landline, and later, the Internet. It's the same thing, except the big computer doesn't fit under the pillow at the bedstand. There was addiction to that in a similar way and for similar reasons.

It's a social tool being exploited. There were people addicted to the landline phone and talking for hours every day, it was just nothing remotely as harmful by comparison to craning your neck down as you look at some attractive person's video in their bathing suit from their palace in the Caribbean and feel envy and hollow when comparing your circumstance.


After grappling with phone addiction for quite some time I found that reducing my phone time just shifted my procrastination habits to my computer. These procrastination habits are then worsened by the fact that I am, like many HN users, more efficient at using my computer than I am at using my phone.

I've learned to be okay with dicking around on my phone, but with some caveats:

* All notifications are turned off. No exceptions.

* Phone is only turned on when I'm home alone and not working or doing some focused activity. - Exception to this rule is that I can use my phone for its actual utility outside the house (e.g., phone calls, maps).

Rather than banning distraction altogether, I accept that it's inevitable and dedicate my phone to it. I find that this strikes a balance where I can spend quality time alone while still allowing for the occasional indulgence.


I’ll repeat a recommendation I’ve made before: reinstall your smartphone’s OS, don’t restore from a backup, and install as few apps as possible. Start bare. Then get on with your life and see how little you can get away with on your phone.

A lot of apps I still had on my phone were installed in my “enthusiast” stage of iPhone living, and they never went away. Once I started over, I was just fine minimal-ing my iPhone life.


Can’t remove the browser though and this is my biggest timesink.


Not sure what platform you’re on, but searching “disable safari ios” yielded some measures.


Anecdata of course but most of the people on my Facebook feed who constantly post status updates are not the most mentally healthy. In fact a lot of them write about their mental health struggles in these statuses. Which I suppose is good in their transparency and openness but I'm not sure the act of posting is helping. In fact I find it deeply narcissistic.


One thing that proved very useful for me was to decouple impulse from habit.

Instead of immediately jumping to HN or "yet another youtube conference video for some language I'm only tangentially curious about", I use a browser extension (Leechblock) to give myself a lot of time (an hour) at the end of the day.

This trick works in two ways

1. when I feel that urge during the workday, my emotional brain thinks "oh boy! a whole hour of this at the end of the day! I can totally wait because it will be an hour!" 2. when that hour comes, I find I only browse around for maybe 10 minutes before I get bored.

ymmv but after trying to go "cold turkey" for the longest time, this was the best solution I could figure out. I genuinely like the info on HN / certain parts of youtube, but having them as some emotional relief mechanism that I would get a "hit" from myriad times each day was the unhealthy part.


> 1. when I feel that urge during the workday, my emotional brain thinks "oh boy! a whole hour of this at the end of the day! I can totally wait because it will be an hour!" 2. when that hour comes, I find I only browse around for maybe 10 minutes before I get bored.

This happened to me when I moved all my YouTube / News-Aggregator consoomption to checking RSS feeds[0] once a week - I went from watching hours of videos a day to almost none. And those blog articles look a lot less compelling when you aren't using them to escape from schoolwork.

[0] https://lukesmith.xyz/blog/a-guide-to-using-rss-to-replace-s...


Still waiting for someone to come forward and identify social media's role in intentionally stoking this as it relates to their business model and contributing to a public health and safety crisis.

I browse social media for hours sometimes. It leaves me feeling extremely empty and worthless. Get some hobbies. There are plenty of things to learn during lockdowns that you don't need to be glued to a phone for:

  1. Walking and exploring
  2. Working out
  3. Cooking
  4. Build something
  5. Go meet other people
Sure, browse Facebook in the morning but I can't imagine having to be glued to it for hours every day anymore. If I find myself in that position, I try to do the above things. There's just too much to do and too much learn to be glued to social media.


Created an app for myself to have a clear intention before using a phone. https://acture.app Works well for me.


>>1. Do you collect any data?

>At the moment, we do not collect any user data from apps. On this portal Google Analytics is used. Also you can check privacy policy page.

Great app idea that I would be interested in using, but this isn't very reassuring. I'll have to pass.


The app itself still does not collect any kind of data from user. It works without internet at all.


Just want to point out that Hacker News has an excellent setting you can enable to limit your session frequency and length. I've found it very useful.


Been using this low tech phone with good results:

https://www.thelightphone.com/


That's three hundred dollars!


What's time/attention worth though, if it works?


If by the ridiculously overloaded and value-judge-mental word 'addictions' is meant repeated behaviors that some people don't approve of, no doubt we all have have at least one.

I have several addictions. I like to call them 'reasons to live'. Music is one. Some people may wish I'd be cured of my addiction to breathing. In which case I wish the same for them; we'll see who wins.


Interesting. For all the issues listed, the one thing I did not see mentioned is the effect on long term memory. I wonder if it is simply discarded in the way discard the fact that we used to, out of necessity, remember phone numbers and now we do not and thus considered just a cultural change.

Then again, having near constant access to almost all human knowledge can render a man rather unwilling to retain information.


My girlfriend just broke up with me because I couldn't stop looking at my ex's Instagram and it affects that I can't let her go.

I know it's not the platforms to blame, it's still on me, but it certainly didn't help that they are so damn addictive. It's crazy that in 2021 things like this depend on who's seen what and when.

She just walked out the door and then I see this post.


on android, you can set your phone to grayscale (night time mode). This helps with the fact that the bright colors subconsciously lure you in


^ This.

Especially Samsung have built-in some excellent tools for helping managing screen time.

Myself I am terrible with Twitter/Reddit and can easily waste hours there, but my S10 locks the apps after 45m usage per day.


iPhones also have a greyscale mode under accessibility:

Settings, then choose Accessibility > Display & Text Size > Color Filters. Turn the Color Filters toggle switch on, and Grayscale appears as the top option


> He took exception to the word addiction in the context of phones. He felt a phone could not drive addiction in the same way as a substance.

I am genuinely curious about how your friend perceives gambling addiction? Can gambling drive an addiction response? If so, what is different from gambling and the stimulus provided by phones? Random rewards with unknown odds.


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