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Life before smartphones (2020) (mattruby.substack.com)
669 points by evo_9 on Aug 2, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 482 comments



Now I feel old. I remember vividly running around with my first camera, looking for objects worthy of being photographed. The film cost money, so did developing it into pictures. I really had to weigh the pros and cons of taking a particular picture. And in a class of ~25 kids, I was one of three who owned a camera. Not that it was such a luxury item, but most people weren't into that.

These days, (nearly) everyone carries a camera around all the time, and one that is quite probably much better than the one I had in 1992. They can take dozens, even hundreds of pictures without breaking a sweat, and it does not cost anything.

Nostalgia is a very warped mirror. Back then, I did not miss the ability to take dozens of pictures at no cost, because the option did not exist. Was it better? Worse? Neither, I think. But this is the first time I feel old and appreciate it for the history I have lived through. Getting old is weird, but it sure is interesting. (For reference, I'm 40. "That's not old", I hear someone say, but I have never been this old before, so for me it's all new.)


And he doesn't even mention that you could just be outside, and be unreachable and not able to reach other people too.

As a kid I used to play outside a lot, and my mother had no clue where I was, nor could she easily find out. I could be outside all day without her worrying that I'd be abducted or involved in an accident.

Now that all has completely changed, and my mother has too. Some years ago when I walked into the hallway of my house I coincidentally noticed a lot of people in front of my door. So I opened it, and it was the police that was about to bust the door with a battering ram. As it happened I hadn't answered my phone in a couple of hours. After multiple calls unanswered, my mom had called 911 on me. And my doorbell was broken, police didn't even knock.. they wanted the action, probably.

I was just freaking programming with the deep-work-destroying phone thingy on silence (where it should be most of the time, imho).


I wanted to say this. I hate how small the world has become and how we're supposed to be "reachable" all the time.

Some of my friends will freak out if I don't text back in as little as 5 minutes. A particular needy friend once tried to get me to "promise" that I would always return her texts within 10 minutes.

I said "hard no" explaining that it meant that it meant that I could never watch a movie uninterrupted, read a book, take a nap, etc. Also, Driving. I don't answer texts while I'm driving because I literally got in an accident texting (it was a freak circumstance, but these things do happen).

I have purposefully started training my friends by being erratic with my texts/messages/e-mails.

I have another friend who always calls on his commute home and gets offended when I don't answer. The idea alone that someone is obligated to answer the phone is insane. What if I don't want to spend an hour shooting the shit with you because I'm doing something else?

I miss the days when I could just walk away from contact.


My ex wife was like that. One reason she's an ex wife. I lost a job due to her once because she phoned the office after I didn't respond to an SMS while I was in a very tough meeting with a client.

I now have my phone on do not disturb 24/7. I will choose when I participate in messaging. I also disable iMessage on my Mac. If someone comes up to me and talks to me, I may not even respond immediately.

I took this to extremes and a couple of weekends back I actually went for a day long solo hike with zero technology with me at all past a torch, map, compass and alcohol stove. I didn't even have any way of telling the time with me. It was invigorating with the obligation to communicate and steal my attention removed. What was most surprising was the removal of a camera and watch. Rather than being focused on recording my journey and keeping to a schedule I was focused on enjoying it. This has led to considerably more vivid memories and a much higher level of satisfaction. A trip I will always remember.


> If someone comes up to me and talks to me, I may not even respond immediately.

Maybe I’m too old fashioned, but there’s world of difference between ignoring someone contacting you through an async communication channel like SMS and them literally standing next to you and speaking to your face.


I agree.

However, I wish our culture considered it rude to just walk up to someone in the middle of deep work and ask them something - unless it’s really important and time critical. It could be a simple as sending a message first “free for a quick chat?”


My counterpoint would be that before the widespread availability of chat and things like that, it was considered perfectly normal in most workplaces to swing by someone's desk. The modern obsession with "deep work" in some circles is mostly a modern invention. (At least in places that didn't commonly have offices where you could open or shut the door as a signal.)


I should have been more explicit but it does indeed depend on the context. If I’m in the middle of something I will acknowledge the person and defer the question until I’m done politely. But I won’t drop everything and context for ad-hoc stuff.


I agree, though I certainly will finish my thought, typing a sentence or two, before stopping and saying something like "I'm sorry, what were you asking?"


I'd be considered 'young' and would think it at least aloof so I don't think its your old-fashionedness.


There used to be an old-fashioned, well-known hand-signal for this situation. You pause long enough to hold up one finger for a second or two, then return to what you were doing. The polite would then poke around or sit down or return in a half-minute or minute to see if you'd paused. The impolite would get barked at.


So I left one story out of my little rant-- which was my ex-wife would do exactly what you described. She would text and then if I hadn't responded in a few minutes she'd call the receptionist and/or my desk phone. It was infuriating because she rarely answered a text in less than a few hours.

She said that it upset her when she couldn't reach me--and that's one of the reasons she's an ex-wife. Her go to manipulation tactic was this sort of ask for some sort of compromise or make some sort of promise with absolutely not intention of keeping her end of the bargain.


Quick note (probably too late) that the behavior you describe is a classic symptom of something the DSM-5 calls "Borderline Personality Disorder".


My brother who is a mental health professional says she's an avoidant-- but I think she may be both frankly.


Same experience with my current wife. Has yours remarried?


She has not, but she's living with someone. I have not met him, but I can tell he's falling for the manipulation because I'm picking up my daughter from HIM most days instead of her (meaning, he's doing her dirtywork like driving our daughter places).

She was the kind of person, if you weren't doing exactly what she wanted you to, you were a piece of shit. Once I realized what was going on (our early relationship was much, much different, I would have never married someone like this) I stopped paying this game and it infuriated her to not have power over me.

Could I throw something at you-- I am sorry to be rude-- could it be your wife thinks you are cheating or is cheating herself? This was what I think was driving my ex-wife's behavior. One, to verify that I was at work and not cheating, and to make sure I was at work so she could cheat herself.


Man, so many similarities with my life. This were only clear once I was out of her sphere of influence and only then I was able to see the manipulation and gas-lighting.

Now she tries to use our child as a manipulation tool, as that is the only aspect of my life that she has any input to.


Christ. Same here.

The ex moved 45 mins away and insisted I pick up and drop off the child. When I started refusing, she just abandoned the kid at her mothers house, betting correctly that I would comply (which i had to).

We had a legal agreement at my ex's insistence that we wouldn't disparage each-other. Now and then I hear from my daughter how I'm a "bad daddy"-- I have never said a single bad thing about my ex to my kiddo despite her cheating, stealing money, using my family and lying to not only our friends and family but the police to get custody.

If you need support or anything, I'm happy to lend an ear.


We might have been married to the same person... The lying is the kicker.

We had an agreement that the kid will go a certain school, after I bough her half of the house, someone changed their mind. I complied and moved to be in the zone of the new school, then someone changed their mind again. But the 2nd time it is go as court/lawyers sided with me.

I never discuss her with the kid, but I get same tidbits from him as you from your daughter. Children know a good parent, so just do your best. They will love you regardless of what they hear.

The latest thing was her not wanting to handover his medication on handover.


how can we contact each other?


Wow , so many similarities. I don’t know about the cheating angle. It is possible she is but in wouldn’t know when she’s have the time for it.


I am sorry to hear that. If I can be a resource for you at all let me know. It might be better for you to learn from my mistakes than yours.


how do i reach you?


I know its been a week-- had some life happen. My e-mail address is in my profile.


grrr, I meant I haven't seen them together not I haven't met him.


I feel for you. It’s embarrassing, manipulative and soul crushing.


One lives and one learns my friend :)


Once upon a time it was rude to look at your watch at certain events as it implied that you were bored or keen to get home.


The trick is to look at someone else's watch.

Of course, today only old people like me wear a watch. Curses!


My mother’s house is full of wrong clocks. Imagine that terror!


Is that really true, given fitness/smart watch sales?


I thought the same thing, but OTOH most of them have screens set on raise-to-wake so you can't sneak a peek at the time anyhow.


That is cunning.


My other feelthy trick is, for the D conferences, I make sure all the steenkin' badges have the names written large on them, and on both sides. That way, the peanut butter side always lands face up (or face down, if you prefer!). It ensures I never forget a name!


Famously got George H W Bush into trouble during a Presidential debate.


This is a huge problem with smart watches.


The only reason I take my phone with me on hikes is for the camera. One day I’d like to get a dumbcamera and leave my phone behind more. I don’t take a ton of pictures but do like to have the option.


I like to enable airplane mode for that kind of situation. Knowing my phone won't alert me about an email/text/call or whatever is very soothing.


Until you have an emergency and you need to call the helicopter, been there


I have a personal locator beacon (PLB) for that. Works even when there's no reception as it's satellite based. 10 year battery life...


Yeah. If you're genuinely concerned about being able to call for help, you should absolutely be carrying a PLB--though I don't. A smartphone may work. A PLB also may work but for higher values of may. Especially in more remote areas where injuries are probably a bigger deal, phones often can't be counted on.


I admit I use the GPS although I don't typically depend on it. (At least for anything serious.)


I do carry bottom end etrex 10 with me but that’s for tracking route later and updating OSM. I’ve never used it for navigation.


I’d like to get to places that I’d want to use gps. Most of my hikes are on pretty clear trails that I know.


This is something I've been personally trying to get better at. As someone who did a lot of instant messaging in the 90s (think ICQ and IRC) I would think nothing of shooting off texts to people whenever I felt like it via SMS. There was never an expectation of immediately being answered back then and I always thought of messaging as 'write it while you remember and don't expect a response until whenever'. If something was truly urgent I'd call.

Except that's not how other people would perceive it. I've since learned that it can be incredibly annoying to others, to the point where some people would actually get distressed thinking they would have to answer the texts. Couple that with a bad habit of sending many short texts (it's how you'd write on messaging in the old days) and you have one REALLY REALLY ANNOYING FRIEND (regrettably I was that annoying friend).

So I guess I just want to apologize profusely from the other side of the fence. I'm trying to be much more mindful these days about whether that chit-chat message REALLY needs to be sent RIGHT NOW, or can it just wait for a conversation at a later time?

I'm trying to be much more self-aware in this regard.


I find it helpful to actively (and when I first introduce myself) online is to also have a disclaimer on how I communicate and to let me know if I need to change my patterns to accommodate someone. This information up front (and regular reminders about my lack of offense at not being responded to immediately) is often extremely reassuring to others rather than a source of anxiety. Because now I’ve ensured we’re all on the same page.


In my view, if people are getting annoyed you're texting them, it's on them. They're the ones assuming you expect an immediate response, unless you're complaining about it. If you're getting annoyed about them not replying, that's on you.


I think for many people, especially parents, they feel an obligation to at least read texts immediately to see if some action is required, and for whatever reason they are not up to the task of setting up different notifications for their kids and spouse.

In my circles text is generally for when you want to get the message to someone right away, and email is for when they should read at their convenience.


> text is generally for when you want to get the message to someone right away, and email is for when they should read at their convenience

I wish messaging apps gave the sender the ability to hint at urgency, like the priority header that some email clients support, and then the recipient would be able to use that (or choose to ignore it) instead of the relatively rudimentary controls typically available today.

A recipient can put their whole phone silent mode, vibrate mode, or ringtone mode; use DND mode, perhaps with a schedule, perhaps with exceptions for contacts; specify a ringtone per contact; mute specific group messages -- all of these have one thing in common, which is that if the sender has something unusually important or unusually unimportant to say, they're stuck with generating whatever type of notification the recipient already decided is appropriate for a typical message from that sender.

Using phone calls for higher urgency and email for lower urgency is usually good enough, but achieving that same effect in-band through a messaging app for continuity of history would be even better.


I did a year long experiment; no phone.

It was life and perspective changing. I hate that because of work and personal circumstances I cant do it now, but there is so much value in completely disconnecting when you need/want to.

We shouldnt feel ashamed that this feels wierd to us ~Xennials(+-10yr) having grown up in a time of landline only pots (and phreakin!)

Frankly, as Snowden recently said, our phones are probably our greatest security threat as a country. Going off the digital grid is almost impossible, but knowing how is a matter of national security...

Which is why breaches like OPM etc are so egregious; because once the data is out there, its too late to take back.

My problem is that listening to Drake and Binney, it seems greed was allowed to take over policy decisions in order to maximize kickbacks while failing to protect americans privacy.


>I don't answer texts while I'm driving because I literally got in an accident texting (it was a freak circumstance, but these things do happen)

I'd like to address this in a non-judgemental way: not answering texts while driving should be the norm. It's not possible to operate a vehicle in motion and text simultaneously in a safe manner.


> "It's not possible to operate a vehicle in motion and text simultaneously in a safe manner."

This statement has been proven true by multiple studies now, many of them coming to the conclusion that texting while driving can be as dangerous or more dangerous than driving drunk.


But disproven by my 20-ish years of safely texting while driving. You have to be smart about it but it can be done safely.


And all the drunk driving studies are proven false by my [unspecified relation family member] who also somehow suffers no consequences. Keep on gambling with other people's lives, it's definitely the important thing you should defend.


Since both behaviors are illegal and carry penalties, it is probably safer to do both at once.


The only smart thing is not doing it. I know people who regularly drunk-drove for 10+ years without accidents. Are they being smart about it too?

Please don't put other people's life at risk because you feel smarter. Don't text and drive.


If you could turn off being drunk at any point when you felt you needed more concentration -- foggy night, urge to speed, narrow turns -- it would be far safer to drive when drunk.

There are many reasons why the chart of auto fatalities is dominated by those with less than high school degrees[1], but one is that accurate risk assessment and good choices matter. For example, "Should I send a text one word at a time once an hour on a straight road going through Nebraska in broad daylight, or should I text continually with both hands in heavy traffic?" The first is a risk easily worth taking, even with other people's lives.

1. https://schultzmyers.com/low-income-missourians-more-likely-...


You did it and it turned out OK, but that doesn't mean it was a safe thing to do.


So the occasional smoker that lives to 100 means smoking is harmless? That’s not how statistics and science work.


Where I live, Ireland, it is illegal to operate a phone while driving and you will get a fine + penalty points on your license if you are seen. This includes holding the phone up to your ear on a call. I assumed it was the same in most countries, at least I'd expect so for other European countries.


I live in California and it has been illegal since 2009, but our society is in shambles as you are no doubt aware, enforcing cell phone laws is the least of our worries...

This was also probably no more than 2009 anyways as I was literally trying to get a date with my now ex-wife.

That being said it was a dumb thing to do.


In Washington, DC, it is illegal to operate a phone. But if you walk three or four blocks downtown looking at the passing cars, you are pretty sure to see more than once person driving and holding a phone.


I agree completely and this was a looonngggg time ago (2009?).


> I have purposefully started training my friends by being erratic with my texts/messages/e-mails.

This is the way. My whole family is like this, and it's awesome. Sometimes people are too busy and don't reply, but no one gets offended. It can be annoying when planning, but overall it's great.

> I have another friend who always calls on his commute home and gets offended when I don't answer.

Similarly, we have a rule that it's not rude to call to shoot the shit, but it's also not rude to send the person straight to voicemail for any reason. It's so nice to just be able to call my sister out of the blue and know that if I'm bothering her, she won't pick up.


> I have purposefully started training my friends by being erratic with my texts/messages/e-mails

I would very much like to do what you say but with a million interrupts a day, it is now or never. If I neglect / defer something now, I would likely get back to it next week. Even for work. I do find time to focus 4 hours on some work activities but those are just the high priority visible stuff otherwise maybe if someone did not remind and make it a priority maybe it was anyways not a priority. But then things slip through the crack once in a while.


> I would very much like to do what you say but with a million interrupts a day, it is now or never.

The secret is to not be interrupted. If you're already reading the text, you might as well go and answer.

If you want to change something you will need to stop being interrupted (close the IM window, put your phone on silent, ...) and check once you have time. If you don't have time for a while, possibly give it a quick skim in case something important happened.

Things will always slip through the cracks. If you attend every interruption, it will once in a while interrupt an interruption itself and you're at status quo. At worst, put things on a todo list.

It's possible to do it.


I make heavy use of email scheduling (and more recently Slack message scheduling) and will often schedule messages to go out in a few hours or the next day. That way, I can get my thoughts down in the moment, but not get sucked into a back-and-forth when I don't have time for it. I work with students and have found that delaying my responses tends set their expectation that they're not going to get a quick answer and train them over time to spend a bit more time trying to find an answer themselves because they can't depend on me for an immediate response.


My million dollar app idea-- which I can't write because the OS's won't allow it... is I'd like fine grained control over my notifications. I used to do the Pomodoro thing and found it quite effective-- Id like to apply the idea to notifications as well.

It would work like this:

A list of firewall rules about who/what was able to send notifications. The firewall would be able to bump up or down the priority of a message, or discard them. Including rules being able to match say a regex inside the text, sender, time of day filtering.

And then at some specified interval (I would use 25 mins), I get all my notifications that didn't meet the emergency criteria in the firewall.

The iOS Focus mode does seem promising though.


I've setup my iPhone to not display any notifications except for the red circles next to the app icon. I move all Apps that create notifications into a separate folder on the last home screen. That way I never receive interrupting notifications, and I have to proactively check my Whatsapp/Mail etc.


> If I neglect / defer something now, I would likely get back to it next week.

As someone that lives life like this, yes, that's the point. If it's really important, they can ping me again and remind me to respond. Or when I have some downtime I'll peruse through my messages and emails again and stumble upon it and remember to reply.


Pinging me again sometimes makes sense (if we have a relationship and it's important) but it doesn't scale well. As someone who gets a lot of outside requests to do things, second and third emails to ask "did you miss my email?" get tiresome in a hurry.

(Sometimes I genuinely missed something interesting but this is rare.)


Curious what your situation is. If it was personal stuff, I would honestly just mute anyone who is too noisy, and then check in periodically. If you don't like them, well they get a large period in between check-ins :). Over time, they come to expect it, and realize it's not personal. If it's work stuff, maybe you could figure out a scheduling system (like a lightweight ticketing system or inbox maybe.)


I am optimistic that I can use the upcoming Focus mode in iOS 15 to start broadcasting my unavailability to my contacts


Agreed. I've been missing this since AIM went bust.

I also wish there were a way for me to send a low-priority message to my wife so that it didn't notify her regardless of her notification settings. We send each other news articles throughout the day but don't really want to interrupt each other. It would be great if there were a sender-side option that could enable this.

I've thought about using a shared document in the Notes app, or just use a different messaging app for low-priority stuff, but it seems like too much overhead. Does anyone else have a way of handling this?


You could create a group with only the both of you in your messaging app and set that group to not have notifications, then you keep the direct messages for urgent stuff. You could even have more than one group to keep conversations on separate topics organized.


Email?

IMO, no one should have have email that sends notifications.


When we're on our computers, email notifications come up unless we're in DND (and even then, they show up whenever your email client is visible regardless).


For me, I have to open my email browser window to see new emails. No notifications. (And no client which I would set to 100% DND if I had one.)


DND should be default and there should be custom sounds for different contacts. Ofc its not our computer anymore, you are not in control. Still, its weird that our digital overlords didn't implement this. Is it copyrights? Are ringtone purchases such good money? I have no idea.


Fair enough! I don't think email threads are best for daily spousal communication, but perhaps for some people this could work. It sure would be easier to search than Apple Messages!


Damn, PREACH.

If it's urgent, the sender will call.


And, even then, unless I am on-call there should be no expectation that I am always available even during work hours.


PREACH. AGAIN.


I feel like not replying is a simpler solution.

Text messaging is asynchronous communication, if someone is expecting an immediate response, they should be calling.


Then it had better be really urgent unless you're one of a handful of people. Even as an older person, I mostly ignore phone calls if I don't recognize the caller ID--and, even then, unless it's a call I know I want to take for whatever reason.

ADDED: Where I work, chat is a more time sensitive than email but basically no one phones out of the blue.


Focus mode is better because you do not get distracted at all by the ping. This allows people to send you a message at any time and you will see it at some regular interval. I'm fine checking messages once an hour but currently they come in at random times regularly. One 10 message ping is much less distracting than 10 pings.

I would much rather someone press a button to say "This is very important, send it now" over calling me where I have to scramble to turn off my music, put my headphones on, etc before answering.


Unknowingly, I've trained my friends and family to assume they aren't going to get an answer immediately. They now text to call when I have time. Or they immediately get to the point: "wanna go riding tomorrow" instead of "hey whats up". Some people are put off by this and others find it endearing, I couldn't care less what they think. My time is my time and I do with it what I please. That means being there for others when they need it, which means being the hell off my phone when I am there.


> Some of my friends will freak out if I don't text back in as little as 5 minutes. A particular needy friend once tried to get me to "promise" that I would always return her texts within 10 minutes.

This is on you. Plenty of people manage it. Try turning your phone of.


I knew an older guy who phrased it that his phone existed for his convenience, not for the people around him.


Soon they will replace the "phone ring" with an electric shock. Mark my words.

Like in 1984. People who want to "spend time alone" are deviant, diseased and antisocial. And must be stopped.


You're missing the tree in the forest. No one is forced to look at their phone, the reality is that people have trained themselves to want it.


It's not just training ourselves, it's companies training us. When people talk about dopamine hits from getting a like on a post, or feeling a buzz from an app, they are explicitly setting out to create a behavioral pattern that benefits them in some way. They are training us like Pavlov's dogs, and while humans are smarter, we do respond to operant conditioning.

At the end of the day, we as people have to react to this environment that's been created, but the people who created it knew what they were doing.


There are many employers who feel they can contact you at anytime.

When I had a smartphone, I never told my employer. I told him I only had a Landline, and I had a chatty roommate.

On the days I felt they might call, I just took the phone off the hook.


> No one is forced to look at their phone, the reality is that people have trained themselves to want it.

Not quite. Tech and social media companies have spent billions to make their devices and apps as addictive as possible.


There are 6 anecdotes in this thread where friends and family apply force to get a person to look at their phone. Social force, but still. Force.

Consider the soft forces of marketing, distraction, conformity, attraction and temptation. They are as real as a twisted arm.


Sure, I agree, it's all very coercive. But I think the point really is... physical force isn't even necessary. We're already addicted


even if you ignore addiction , mobile phones have been integrated into society in so many infrastructure-like roles that they are hardly at all optional or 'ignorable' at this point.

When you live in a world that requires bills to be paid via mobile, rent to be paid via mobile, mass transit tickets bought via mobile, physical location reservation via mobile, as well as any customer service only available via mobile... who cares about personal addiction; normal life isn't feasible without a mobile phone at that point, and very few (if any at all) mobile phones are designed from the premise that they should respect your attention.

The mobile phones that are designed to preserve the users attention are widely incompatible with any functions that the user needs (billpay/specific group apps, whatever) to stay integrated with the systems being forced upon them, so those options are already non-starter.

That means this problem is worth discussing -- non-compulsive normal people as well as compulsive addicts are being affected by the lack of 'respect for attention' that mobile phones have, and this problem intersects with the 'required prevalence' of mobile phones across the world.


The coercive forces are beneath discussion because we're all addicted anyway?

I dunno man. That sounds weird.


And there are quite a few anecdotes on how to prevent people from forcing you, some of them written by me :)

My overall point, however, is that there will never be an external negative reinforcement to look on your phone. We all have it internalized already and that's far more compelling than any external pressure ever could be.


There's been a complete shift in mindset. As a kid during the summer in a semi-rural area, I'd be away for hours. My grandmother had no idea where I was and my mother was at work. At one point, I had a fairly bad fall out of a tree but was able to get back to the house.

In a similar vein, if you were in the wilderness you were on your own. If you were in a group, you could send someone for help. If you were on your own you self-rescued or hoped someone found you. Now, the default assumption is you can call for help--which isn't always the case. More likely with a personal locator beacon but even that isn't a guarantee in canyons or in bad weather.

I was on a sea kayaking trip in Alaska in the early 90s. The guide had a VHF radio but, basically, had anything happened you'd have been waiting for the bush plane to return in a week.


> Now, the default assumption is you can call for help--which isn't always the case.

Exactly. I had an emergency situation where I needed to be taken to the hospital over a decade ago. I had a satellite phone on me, yet it was still difficult to get help due to a combination of satellite coverage (Iridium phones would have periods of no coverage due to satellite orbits) and just having a number to call (great thing about 911 is that it works from almost any phone in the US, except satellite phones).


That's terrifying, I'm sorry that happened to you.

Something I have done (accidentally at first, now on purpose) is to not respond to messages (personal) quickly, most of the time. People adjust to that rather fast and stop worrying so much. People in my circles know now that I am rarely going to answer within a few hours and expectations are adjusted. So then going outside for a few hours with no phone is no longer a "thing" - you just do it and people will expect you to get back to them when you do.


I do that too. My phone is still on silent most of the time. It is funny the reactions you get when people aren't yet used to not getting a quick response. They are sort of outraged and questioning: "I called you, but you didn't answer??".

Also I go outside without a phone on occasion. That feels like you leave a burden behind, and you are somehow more free. The phone is that easy thing you just grab to do a quick check of something on Wikipedia, or you happen to notice a notification. It is a distraction-device, keeping you busy. And among strangers, feeling less comfortable, well you can grab your phone and start staring at it. This behavior is like with smoking. Just like the relaxed cigarette cowboy in the ads, but now you casually light up the screen and be cool.


I like to run, but take the phone with me because it's my tracking device and music while running. I've been trying "do not disturb" mode, and it seems to be a positive. I don't get intermittent notifications that someone is trying to reach me - I don't want to be reached right now. The DND mode has probably been around for a while, I've just recently (last few months) gotten used to actually enabling it. What will be nicer is (eventually) have the device learn the times you don't want to be disturbed (beyond 'sleeping'). Or perhaps I'll just leave it on all the time....?


I’m getting a smartwatch with watch only runs, it has tracking, Bluetooth for headphones and can preload Spotify playlists.

It has WiFi but no cell phone. Really looking forward to just being out for runs, with no possibility of contact or checking notifications etc.


I do this with my WearOS smartwatch (gen 4 Fossil Sport). It works pretty well overall, although I had to find a third-party app (WMusic) to allow copying music to the watch and playing without an active connection to the phone.


I just got an Apple Watch, and am planning to experiment using it without the phone.


Maybe at that point a sports watch would be a good alternative? Something like Suunto, Polar, Garmin


Maybe it's an age thing. Maybe if we're coordinating an imminent get-together, but for the most part no one I know expects anything other than a telephone call to be immediately answered and even then understands reasons why it might not be.


Seconded. I made the step a few months ago, too; I turned off all "last seen" and "read"-notifications as well as uninstall my mail client from my phone [0]. I also intentionally did not respond as fast (at least on cold conversation starts). Once people get used to the fact that you might not respond in a few hours, they stop worrying so much about it when it happens.

[0] I know I still have IMs, but mails tend to be things I need to do at a computer and seeing them only stresses me with things to do for later.


> And he doesn't even mention that you could just be outside, and be unreachable and not able to reach other people too.

Or you could be at home and ignore the phone. People used to arrange a time to call or know when to call. It used to be considered impolite to let the phone ring more than 4 or 6 times unless the call was urgent. People never expected you to call back after an unanswered call, since answering machines and caller ID were rare.

> Now that all has completely changed

I find the change immensely frustrating. It isn't so much the expectation of others for an immediate response that bothers me as an internal desire for an immediate response from others. Sure, those feelings may only pop up when something genuinely important pops up. On the other hand, the other person doesn't know that until they check their messages.


>Or you could be at home and ignore the phone.

Although my experience, especially pre-answering machines, was that a phone call was something that many people felt absolutely had to be answered no matter what you were doing.


What the actual...?

One would hope the cops at least apologized for nearly destroying your front door all because you didn't answer the door. It's not like they had a warrant for your arrest or something!


Except that law enforcement is explicitly immune from having to pay damages to property in the course of their duty.

We had a SWAT team destroy a fence with an armored vehicle during a standoff and they were just like, "not my problem."

Apparently they don't want to have to make decisions based on cost.


Makes sense. Seems like the incentives will be problematic either way.

Personally, I'd just have the state cover it, but explicitly not have it come out of the police budget. A reimbursement check or tax credit could work.

In the event that malice is suspected on the part of any involved party (police department, property owner, 911 caller, home invader, etc.), it would be on the state to press charges and recoup its loss.


Depends on country I guess. In Sweden they usually pay for the door.


My home insurance would cover police damage unless I was the person they were after. It’s still likely I would have to cover the deductible. You could probably take the presumed criminal neighbor to small claims court and try to get back the deductible. I’d bet any decent judge would be sympathetic to the home owner.


Did you read the part where his mother made the 911 call?


So? Why should "my son hasn't answered his phone" escalate to an armed response?


I didn't see anything about guns drawn or anything like that. Presumably if they were police in the US, however, I assume they were "armed." That said, I frankly expect this would not be the reaction in most places. That would probably be more along the lines of "If you still haven't heard from him in 48 hours give us a call back." It seems weird that police would come to break down a house's interior door when there were no other indications of e.g. someone armed barricading themselves in a room or in distress in some other manner.


He said they were going to break down the door. Police in the US will never do that without guns drawn. Maybe he was confused about the exact circumstances though.


Yes. So she should pay. :-)


I have a somewhat similar anecdote. At a previous job, I would frequently work late nights and weekends (honestly more for fun than anything). Around the end of one week, I ended up pulling a few consecutive all-nighters.

Unbeknownst to me, my mom on the other side of the country had been calling intermittently throughout those days (I keep my phone on silent). After a certain point, she called security at my apartment complex to check in on me. Of course she was then informed that my room mates hadn't seen me in several days.

By the time I noticed and returned the missed calls, apparently my mom was just about ready to call the police.


I’m sorry man. I’m on silent 100% of the time (though I could imagine turning the ringer on for a specific phone call)

Almost everyone texts or emails and I’ve never had anyone freak out if I didn’t reply quickly.


>Almost everyone texts or emails and I’ve never had anyone freak out if I didn’t reply quickly.

email/text response time is very much a metric on many employee evaluation systems.

you might not have gotten anyone to 'freak out', but I guarantee that slow response times will get you lower performance reviews at many establishments.

(should it? absolutely not, I am entirely against the practice.)


Email is not used in my job. There’s some texting but mostly face to face.


This is the worst change in my opinion. People assume the worst if you don't answer the phone. This also ruined instant messaging for me. Some people get angry or interpret something weird into it if you don't reply within 30 seconds.

It really depends on the crowd, some people don't mind and get on with their lives and don't answer until next week. I love these people.


> And he doesn't even mention that you could just be outside, and be unreachable and not able to reach other people too.

Because he's specifically talking about smartphones, not cell phones. He's talking about the information and attention economy, not the more simple highly available reachability.


lol my mom _always_ found out. how? no idea. but she did.


Regarding photos:

People our age only have a few childhood pictures, and they are warped by time on analog media. Those pictures of us as a kid look really old because they are naturally filtered. Soon people will wonder WTF old-pic filters are for, and some historian will have to explain why it's blurred and the colors are faded. Also why did people have clothes for each decade?

Our kids, by contrast, have had pictures taken of them every week at least. With metadata so you know where you were. And they're digital images that won't fade. When our kids are 40, they can look at an archive of how they looked pretty much every week of their lives. Not only that, they can already search the archive for particular situations.


> "Our kids, by contrast, have had pictures taken of them every week at least. With metadata so you know where you were. And they're digital images that won't fade"

They might still wonder "Why only 8K resolution?! Why aren't they in 3D and interactive?!"


I think years from now people looking at old photos will marvel at the high resolution for such old pictures. Starting around 1999 they'll see fuzzy 1.2 MP digital pictures, but then over the next ten years picture quality improves and teh amount of pictures increases. So from 1999 to about 2009 will be the "fuzzy ages".


This seems at least somewhat cultural. My family was big on photo albums so nearly everything had at least a cheap disposable camera picture taken. It wasn't to the extent it is now but you still got multiple pictures per year for birthdays, holidays, school awards, extracurriculars like ymca sports, etc.


Yes, my grandmother has photo albums of all her grandchildren that she likes to bring out when we go to visit.


And because you only have a few rare childhood photos I expect you value them highly. The next generation, who will inherit thousands of photos of themselves and their lives, will feel no rarity or shortage, and probably won’t value them as much.


Google uses AI to pick out the highlights from the junk. Loads of factors to use like the geotag to show this looks like a holiday, this is a photo at the beach vs this is a boring photo of a desk.

So there is a load of data but ever improving AI will get better at showing you the cool stuff.


It's already at the point where you have to spend lots of time to manually make them rare (pare them down to no more than a hundred or two per year, max) or rely on ML to generate highlights for you, for things like photos of kids.


Google photos does a great job of this. They assemble albums of "This is what you were doing this week 6 years ago". They are pretty cool and a regular source of "oh wow I remember that"


> And they're digital images that won't fade.

They might not fade, but they are augmented by noise filtering algorithms, HDR and other tech that still subtly affects the picture quality and perception.


This is so true for me, only had yearlies and occasional family events. It’s really cool to be able to look back through the years of pics I’ve taken of my kids.


Looking back, I wish everyone had taken pictures of everyday life (probably with an Instamatic). Christmas pictures, awards, meh. What I really want are pictures of the halls in high school, street racing, parties with giant bonfires and beer.


One thing I noticed when looking through my parents' (pre-digital) home videos and photos from my childhood is that 90% of the subjects are me, and 10% anyone else, while what I want to see is the inverse of that. I want to see everyone else, mostly.

I try to keep that in mind when snapping photos or taking videos of my kids, and pan over to the oldsters in the room from time to time, even if all I want is to record the kids.

> What I really want are pictures of the halls in high school, street racing, parties with giant bonfires and beer.

Can confirm that a couple really, really long shots with the camera rolling for no particular purpose and capturing normal stuff happening (mostly just the audio) were among the best parts of the home videos, IMO.


Nobody ever takes pictures of normal things. If you just looked at photos you'd think all my male ancestors ever did was fell trees and pour concrete and all the women ever did was hang out together drinking coffee and smoking.


The play _Our Town_ addresses this a little: given the chance to go back and relive any day, you should choose an unremarkable day vs a momentous one.


I feel like the optimal living-documenting ratio was right before the advent of digital cameras: photography was accessible enough, but there was enough disconnect between the event and the record to be present. Now it's much easier to live through the phone's what-you-see-is-what-you-get viewfinder [1].

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27697921


Related to this: it worries me that on vacation it seems my relationship with sight seeing is mainly through the phone's camera. I'm constantly seeing opportunities to take pretty snapshots, I worry that people "get in the way", I wonder about the sun messing with my photo...

...and in the end I forget to enjoy the view. Before digital cameras and mobile phones, I would just marvel at the view and enjoy it. Now I only really see it when I'm back home, flipping through digital photos (and sometimes not even that, how many photos we take that we never look at again?).


I like making photos of landscapes as a hobby. I have a big dSLR camera, nice digital p&s, and my phone. Every time I go out (eg. on a hike) I have to force myself to consider if this is a "photo trip" or a "leisure trip". Am I going to be switched on, take a ton of gear, and be trying to make photos? Or am I going worry less about it, try to enjoy the moment and maybe grab a few non critical snapshots with whatever I have (usually just phone).

Even when going someplace new as a tourist, it's tempting to worry too much about photos. If I really want to play the aspiring travelling landscape photographer it would be work, a lot of it.

With a modern phone camera, for the purpose of a "I was here, I did/saw this" snapshot for posterity, it's pretty hard to mess up a photo so bad that it is worthless as long as it's pointed in the right direction. Take a few shots, but don't worry too much about quality or quantity.


There's been some studies on the effects of this which have been mixed for-or-against [1-3].

I do a lot of photography and this is a conundrum that many in my circle are aware of. My solutions:

- Use a (pseudo)rangefinder camera like a Leica or Fujifilm X100/X-Pro with an optical viewfinder. Even pre-digital SLRs would subject you to, in the moment of photographing, looking at the photograph. With an uncoupled optical viewfinder, you look at life [4]. While the photograph is a powerful simulacrum, it is not life itself; the wall-sized print of the sunrise from the top of Mt. Fuji that hangs in my living room is merely a visual paraphrase of the experience.

- Shooting film and the friction that goes into handling, developing, scanning, and (hopefully, eventually) printing brings some of the Benjaminian aura back to the visual record [5].

- Reading about Japanese aesthetics, specifically the notions of imperfections and impermanence, has helped me be more present and aware of the transience of the moment [6].

[1] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/09567976135044...

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S22113...

[3] https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/74825

[4] https://youtu.be/kueqi8A3LQc?t=254

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Work_of_Art_in_the_Age_of_...

[6] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/911856.A_Tractate_on_Jap...


There were people like this before digital cameras. My father was one of them with his Canon A-1 SLR.


Agreed! But before phones, taking a camera and gear with you was so much trouble you often decided against it. Now taking a phone with you it's the default, and this makes taking photos frictionless, which brings me back to my original point.


This is a problem for historians as well. What you want to figure out is how average people lived, but all the historical texts that survived describe the feats and feasts of the 1%.


As a high school yearbook editor and photo editor in college I think you got a lot of fairly day to day photos. You don't get that in the professional sphere as companies (probably even today) aren't that big on random photos of the workplace.

I have a deliberately created Year in the Life type book from a company I used to work for that was made a couple of years before I joined the company. But it's a very atypical work.


If you haven’t seen it, you might really enjoy this project. Someone once took a polaroid every day for nearly 20 years.

https://photooftheday.hughcrawford.com/


I remember back when I got my first digital camera, people would routinely ask me "ok but how do you look at the pictures? Do you just print them out?". Looking at them on a screen was almost unfathomable.

Nowadays, a physical album seems to have taken the place of your camera in the 90s. Not quite a luxury item, but you'd have to be "into that" to go to the trouble of making a physical album.


I once sent a friend a photograph I had taken of them on black-and-white film (Olympus XA with Kodak Tri-X). They were flabbergasted when they asked for the full-color version and I told them it didn't exist.


The difference is that we spend all of our waking hours in front of screens of differing sizes


Not all of us. I too grew up when screen time meant a few hours of TV a week, tops. And having a connection to another world of opinions or clubs or virtual activities is better than the past without them.

My kids have limited screen time, not unlike my parents pushing me outside to play. Until they have mature impulse control and a variety of experience I'll continue to guide them. But without all the judgemental 'lessons' and talking down to that I experienced.


There isn't any evidence that screen time negatively impacts teen's well being: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-018-0506-1


One thing I've noticed is that while everyone can take photos and video anytime they want to, many folks simply forget to. How many people have you seen who have timelines of only selfies, food, and/or cats/dogs. I've been making a point to take just a few photos or videos while spending time with friends after a show and many of my friends are thankful when I do and share them (directly, not online and tagging them).


> These days, (nearly) everyone carries a camera around all the time, and one that is quite probably much better than the one I had in 1992. They can take dozens, even hundreds of pictures without breaking a sweat, and it does not cost anything.

...and despite that, pictures of UFOs are as awful as ever. ;)


I tried taking a photo of the moon a while ago on my phone, and I couldn't really get it to look decent. I don't know if most smartphone users even know how to adjust the exposure setting even if any of that helped. And if they saw something as interesting as a UFO, I don't think they would figure it out on the spot either. I'm not sure if automatic settings would cut it on a fancier phone.


I’ll settle for bad video from tons of angles.

Today if you hovered a UFO over any city over 1000 people you will get endless footage of the event.

I’m waiting for said event.


It is because of focal length. Although phone manufacturers started to put “tele” cameras, primary camera is wide. Wide lenses mean there will be more coverage but things will get smaller, which happens with moon.


Back in 1992 when I was 10 years old we went to Disney World with my family (as a middle class Mexican family, that was one of 2 out of the country trips in our childhood).

My brother (2 years older) and I had a mechanical camera with rolls of I think 12 or 20 photos (with this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/110_film ) . We've got at most 30 pictures of that trip in our family albums. I wish we had taken more pictures as my memory of the trip has faded away quite a bit.


I had a Polaroid Swinger. Few of its pictures survive to this day. "It's more than a camera... it's almost alive! It's only nineteen dollars... and ninety-five!" In those days this was not cheap. And... after _every_ picture you had to carefully take the photo by the edges, then open the film canister of the special Polaroid photo preservative and take out the foam sponge and carefully wipe it across the photo a couple of times for complete coverage and then wait half a minute for it to dry before doing anything with it. Sorta lessened the spontaneity of owning a Polaroid.


> but I have never been this old before, so for me it's all new

How poetic


There was a short doc about a young analog photographer who said that the freeness made him hoard shots. And that the film development plus the necessity of choosing shots made the whole activity a lot deeper for him.

I deeply believe that we need structures and limits otherwise it's too easy to become metaphorically obese.


Probably depends on the person, too.

I do take significantly more pictures than I would with a film camera, but this also affords me the freedom to take the pictures right there and then, and not agonise over whether "a shot is worth it".

And yet, I don't end up with thousands or even hundreds of pictures. Almost a full year of 365 challenge somehow taught me to look out for actual good shots, and not obsessively hold the shutter button to everything.


It's weird, that even though I have a camera with me all the time now, I take way fewer pictures than I did in 1982.


I wish my parents had smartphone camera when I was small because amount of pics/video I capture of my kid and feel so excited about the thought that he could view his entire childhood . I remember few things from my childhood but it would been really fascinating to view that


As my first camera was a Kodak Disc, I have the nice experience that literally every digital camera has been better than my first film camera.


I can second that - My first camera was a 110 toy camera (I once got a flip flash for it!). My second camera was a point-and-shoot APS camera. Even many of the photos I took with my early Sony Ericsson phone cameras (K800) were better


Smartphone cameras are nowhere near analog photos, there is just no way to make a good camera so small.


I don't know - smartphone cameras are at least as good or better than disposable cameras were. The same can be said for the quality of camera most folks had. I remember that little camera that took 110 film.

And oh, I've seen many: I worked at a pharmacy, where one of my duties was developing film and helping folks print digital prints. As digital cameras grew better, cheaper, and more widely distributed (thanks in no small part to smartphones), regular film just dropped sharply.

A few folks care, and will sometimes get a fancier digital camera if they can afford it. The vast majority of folks, though, don't seem to care as long as they have the pictures. Realistically, all a lot of folks want is an instant point and click.


You can still do that if you want. Some people like the limitations and finality.


Exactly! We're never old, we're new, constantly. :)


Old is owning a PlayTape Music Machine.


What I miss more than anything else is having an attention span. Years of abusing social media has left my brain pinballing all over the place. I am a collection of unfinished thoughts. Even as I write this, I can feel my mind needing to latch onto something new.


As a parent, I've been watching this play out in real time among other peoples' children.

Most parents I know are deliberate about limiting screen time and ensuring their children don't substitute screen time for other activities. It's actually not that difficult to do so as kids are really good at finding entertainment in their environment even without electronics.

However, some parents give their kids all the tablet, TV, and phone time they want. As they grow up I can see them failing to learn how to play with others their own age because they'd rather reach for a screen than make an effort to do something. They can be frighteningly grumpy when separated from their electronic devices and can even throw tantrums until their parents cave in and give them more screen time.

FWIW, I've also watched parents reverse this trend by slowing weaning their kids off of screen time and substituting other entertaining activities. It doesn't take a whole lot to nudge people in the right direction, but putting that phone down and doing literally anything other than stare at a screen can be a difficult first step to take.


I'd argue that I've been watching this play out in real time among other... parents. It is actually sad when you go outside and start noticing that people are glued to their phone screens, including parents who would rather look at their smartphones rather than their kids. I can tell you that little kids notice that they lost the attention war to their parents' smartphones.


I've made this argument before, but in relation to dating.

You'll never be more interesting than a smartphone. It's virtually impossible. You're a single human, and that device contains the entire world. If you meet a woman, she has her friends on there. She has her instagram account. Snapchat, TikTok, whatever. You are instantly contrasted against the entire world (against only the highlight reel) and you don't match up. And you never will. You're dull and uninteresting. Just wait until you find yourself swiping on Tinder while your date is in the restroom. No one is immune.

The same is true for children. I'll never be as interesting at a Twitch stream or a flashy YouTube channel. Because no one is "on" at all times. Even at my most interesting, I'm not edited down.

I'm glad to have experienced life before the internet and cell phones. We'll never be back to that point and we may not be fully aware of what was lost for some time yet.


I met my girlfriend of one year on bumble, she seems to think I am more interesting than TikTok (which she enjoys) or Youtube or Instagram (where she has a decent size following.)

Honestly I think if you are feeling this way then you might want to traverse deeper into your relationships, if someone is looking for an entirely shallow relationship than this could certainly apply.


This does not jive with my experience at all.

Maybe it's because my age bracket still remembers flip phones. Maybe it's because I'm upfront about my own tech habits. Maybe it's because I swipe left on profiles that have linked IG accounts.

Whatever the reason(s), you don't need to be as interesting as an app, because you are not an app. Plenty of people just want to connect and relate with someone else, and there's nothing more relatable than not being able to live up to the standards of a glossy influencer ad campaign.


I really don't know about that. I struggle to find something interesting online most of the time and when I'm actively hanging out with friend I only use my phone to communicate or check on things occasionally. I'm not gonna sit around and just browser social media while hanging out. Now if there's dead time and nothings going on we may all be looking at our phones for a bit. But even then I'm increasingly less and less enticed by social media where as years ago this was much less true.


I am so thankful I met my wife before smartphones came out. Heck, I met her the year before the WWW came out. I’d so hate to be in the dating market today.


I agree this is sad. However, as a child of the 90s, I lost the attention war to my parents' TV. Maybe I just had absent parents, but I feel like most parents haven't been interested in their children for a while now.


Probably never were. It’s only lately that parents are expected to watch their kids every step until they turn 18. Back in the day you’d just tell them to go throw rocks in the well with the other village kids and come back at sundown


I've started weening myself off of everything that's instant-gratification. No reddit, no imgur, no short-format news stories or list articles. A week ago I drove 9 hours for a camping trip and spent several days without my phone and smart-watch. For several months I've made a point to walk at least an hour a day (to go about 5 miles) without looking at my phone -- but I still wear my watch to track the distance. I still feel like I have to have some form of audio going in the background - maybe something educational, maybe ASMR - while I'm browsing hacker news. If I play a game, I still choose one without a narrative so that I can listen to a podcast while I play. I'm not sure that any of these habits are beneficial.

I think Nicholas Carr had a great point in The Shallows (2010) [1] -- our brains have a lot of plasticity, even into late adulthood. The way we use the internet probably has a much larger impact on the way we think than we are currently willing to acknowledge. There is a healthy way to integrate electronics into our daily lives, but I don't think many of us have found it.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shallows_(book)


I’ve been suffering the same thing over the last few months. A helpful technique for me has been to swap out my smart watch for a dumb watch, and to put my phone in a drawer unless I intend to use it.

I also heavily limited the types of things Facebook will send push notifications for. It used to be that if I got a notification, it was because one of my friends actually interacted with me in some way. Now I get a bunch of junk notifications that I feel are designed to pull me into the app and not really inform me of anything, to get me back to scrolling a feed. Like I’ll get a notification that someone I don’t know made a post in a group I’ve been in for years without ever getting a similar notification in the previous years. So I basically turned off everything that doesn't involve my actual friends doing something relevant to me.


It’s funny because for me a smart watch is the perfect compromise - you still get a bunch of the useful features of a smartphone like navigation, timers, a calculator, music, Apple Pay, etc but with none of the really damaging web-based attention black holes.

I often go out with only my watch, and it feels so freeing to have only the good side of technology accessible.

I am very strict with the notification settings, otherwise the constant buzzing on the wrist would be worse than a phone.


>I also heavily limited the types of things Facebook will send push notifications for.

That answer for me would be everything. (Except messenger which basically one friend uses for me because of where she lives.)


I recently quit all social media. There was a bit of withdrawal but I can confirm that my attention span has started coming back.


Apologies for asking the obvious, but then why are you here? :-P


Haha good question. I wouldn't consider HN social media, as it's more nuanced discussion around topics, although the lines are somewhat blurry. I think of social media more like Twitter and Facebook.


I know, I was half kidding


Do you visit Reddit?


I switched from visiting Reddit from the web/phone client to a Gopher proxy with Lynx (in order to view the submitted sites in the posts):

gopher://gopherddit.com

Also, my NNTP list:

alt.ascii-art

alt.folklore.computers

alt.os.linux.slackware

alt.sys.pdp10

comp.infosystems.gopher

comp.lang.forth

comp.lang.perl

comp.lang.perl.announce

comp.lang.perl.faq

comp.lang.perl.misc

comp.lang.perl.moderated

comp.lang.perl.modules

comp.lang.perl.tk

comp.lang.postscript

comp.misc

comp.unix.programmer

comp.unix.shell

fj.life.in-japan

rec.arts.int-fiction

rec.radio.amateur.dx

rec.radio.amateur.moderated

rec.radio.amateur.space

rec.radio.shortwave

Sometimes I interact over NNTP on https://synchro.net (they have a web/BBS interface too). As the pace is much slower, I can comment once or twice a week and everything is still good.

Finally, Gopher and Gemini sites. A really slow pace, no ads, no likes, no bullshit.


Haha you have to help me here. Could you please help me understand what gopher is and NNTP? I do not know whether I should feel dumb, too young or too old for not knowing :)


Too young, those are pre-WWW things. NNTP are public mailing lists (proto discussion forums, though right now the proto is mostly used for fully automated luxury piracy) Gopher was supposed to be alternative to HTTP/HTML.


Wow haven’t thought about Gopher in forever. I still prefer to interact with the command line instead of the GUI for most things. I’ll have to give that a try.


Sometimes, but it is intentional, and not reflexive.


It’s easy to quit, but how did you manage to fill empty time that you’ve suddenly gotten?


For me, the idea of needing to fill the time is one of the symptoms of the problem. Empty time is perfectly fine.


I'm learning how to play the banjo.


Me too, congrats on completing that second sentence. :)


This one is a tough one and I can relate. I haven't been able to finish a book or work on any labs or FOSS work in years now. I reach for the phone even when I get a moment of downtime. The addiction is strong and now I as learn to be more mindful I realize how common place it is for everyone.


As a parent I've flip flopped between leaving my phone in the bed room / office during the day to flipping through TikTok while my kids crawl over me because my brain is so fried and all it wants is some dopamine hits to help get through that day.

Thankfully, crawling out of the first year of our second child and sleep, routine, etc. is all getting easier (not being in COVID lockdown helps too) and I'm finding it more common for myself to leave my phone in the bedroom while I enjoy my day with the kids.

I've also realized that the sole reason I bring my phone to the kid's park is in case I need to contact my wife, or vice versa. I've been tempted to get a smart watch w/ cellular just so I have less bulk to carry around, but a "dumb" phone may be just as sufficient ...


Just makes me think: When I get to this point (rarely if ever though with social media), I feel guilty. I possibly spend too much time on the computer, but I give myself these options if I am going to continue to use it (during spare time): learn a new thing related to my interests, write toy programs, or put it away and spend time with my wife, all if not at work.


There's something to be said for leaving your phone at home, driving to a park, and just walking around for a few hours.


Yeah, mindfulness is promoted as a cure for that but I’m not sure. Right now I’m pretty mindful in random daily occasions but it just gives me more depression and overthinking. When I’m turning that off for some days I’m… more happy? But still miserable. I don’t know what to do


I try to walk phoneless more and more just to zone out entirely. Free mind holidays, no login required


> What I miss more than anythi

And then I collapsed your comment. It’s worse than I thought.


What to do to fix this?


I got mileage out of replacing habits of checking social media with reading longer-form articles. I picked up the idea from books on habits (Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg, Atomic Habits by James Clear). To replace a habit, it helps to understand the prompt that causes it. When I feel tired, or worried about something, I found myself opening social media apps.

Behaviour-wise, following the prompt, I've replaced checking Reddit with checking Hacker News (similar enough to work, without getting too engaged with the content). I've also replaced Twitter with curated Tweetdeck streams, and Facebook for the news feed with newspaper apps (a free one like AP could work, though I pay for newspaper subscriptions).

Cognitive-wise, in terms of thoughts, I also recognize that social media is designed to hijack your attention and maximize engagement, so I've chosen to frame it as a negative (versus a neutral) habit for my own personal goals.

In short, replacing the habits with similar ones with better consequences, and understanding why I'm doing this has helped.


Nice. I am battling this problem the same way as you. I replaced reddit/fb with Hackernews / curated Twitter but I think it is slowly getting too toxic as well..


It’s like an ear worm. The fix is more music, but of a different type.


In general, you can train attention like it's a skill or exercise you practice. Stuff like mindfulness meditation is training of attention.

If we're talking about how social media shortens our attention span then it may be prudent to reduce usage.


> What I miss more than anything else is having an attention span.

I need to look for more examples of the art of the future. The one paragraph short story (4chan greentexts I guess), the 20 second hit single.


The second paragraph is funny to me:

> I memorized phone numbers, jotted things down in notebooks, had conversations with taxi drivers, talked to random people at bars, wrote checks, went to the bank, and daydreamed.

I did all of these (except the phone number one) in the last week.

More than technological advancements or anything else, all of this nostalgia is really just about getting old.

"The human civilization peaked when I turned 12 and started declining when I crossed 25. I pity today's youth." – every generation ever.


Have you been to a college campus in the last two or three years?

There is a serious smartphone addiction problem. It is seriously worrying to see so many of my peers craning their necks, starting at their phone for hours on end. On the bus, in class, while hanging out, it is an observable fact that everyone is almost always on their phone.

I personally believe we are in a watershed moment for human civilization. The harms of this smartphone addicted world will snowball down into later generations who have never known a life without every need catered for and every boring moment seized by entertainment.


When I was an 9 year old kid (~ 1991) my dad bought a book ( https://www.amazon.com/Video-Kids-Making-Sense-Nintendo/dp/0... ) to understand our "addiction" to Videogames... My dad seriously thought that it was going to doom our generation.

Fast forward 30 years, and we are doing OK. Things are different, but OK for us. "Videogames" have been replaced by "games" and we take them for granted and don't pay that much attention.

My take is that, for Generation Alpha kids, all the technology will be like bicycles or cars for us: It will be ubiquitous and they will all now how to use it. So there won't be any question about their use.


Only 44 percent of millennials between the ages of 23-38 were married in 2019.


No correlation.


Oh! Well, if that's the case, then forget I said anything.


Is any of this backed by real facts or just your "kids these days" observations? Today's youth is better suited for dealing with smartphones and the overall connected world than we could ever be. All the people I know with real technological addiction problems (whether to smartphones, social media, scams, online radicalization or anything else) are like 45+.


I kind of think of this picture when people get a bit overzealous on blaming the phone for everything: https://qph.fs.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-8e4223c6702a14f56c69c0...


Funny, however: a newspaper that learns about what you like and can infinitely supply the most engaging material is not the same as a newspaper that doesn't.


https://stareintothelightsmypretties.jore.cc/ have you seen this? Also really recommend reading "what the internet is doing to our brains" by N. Carr


> All the people I know with real technological addiction > problems (whether to smartphones, social media, scams, online radicalization or anything else) are like 45+.

Exactly. No one is safe. Everyone I know in my age group (15-26) can not exist without opening up their smartphone every 5 seconds to check social media or watch YouTube.

There was a good documentary about this topic called The Social Network. You may have heard of it. I think it is a good starting point to this way of thinking.


I like how you quoted the post without reading it.


> There was a good documentary about this topic called The Social Network.

Are you talking about the movie about Mark Zuckerberg? Because this movie is not bad, but it's definitely not a documentary.


Maybe the GP was thinking of the documentary/drama: The Social Dilemma


Yeah sorry I meant the The Social Dilemma.


We don't really know how this turns out in the long run. These kids do have an IRL social life, even if they're constantly staring at a screen.

I wonder how they will live their day by day when they are pensioners and their old friends which they haven't seen in decades still will be around inside their phones, asking how they're doing, how their day was.

Then they'll make a trip and visit them because they are nearby. Not much different as it was in the past, but better connected.


Have a look at this counterargument: https://www.sadanduseless.com/evil-iphones/


The principal purpose of a newspaper in the olden days was not to seize your attention, trap you into scrolling onto endless feeds, or relieve one from every moment of boredem with YouTube.

These are two completely different things.


As a one-time sub-editor, that was exactly the purpose. The medium has changed, but the aim hasn't, much. Newspapers used to provide information, opinions, diversions, and a guide to the TV listings for when you were tired of reading your newspaper. I got in trouble occasionally for writing overly cynical descriptors of what was on TV that evening and generating upset letters to the editor.


Also not the principal purpose of the iPhone.


But the principal usage for sure.


I was expecting to read that article from mid-1800s or early 1900s lamenting how everyone just sits there in trains, public transports, etc. Just reading their newspapers and not paying attention to their surroundings or socializing.

Well, it was a visual version. But if anyone has a link to the article I remember, I would appreciate it.


Not what you asked for, but a related XKCD: https://xkcd.com/1227/


My recollection is fuzzy, maybe that was it? Thanks for sharing that one anyway!


If this is true, the watershed moment was actually the introduction of the television. Multiple generations have grown up glued to it and influenced by it. Before that it was radio. But each time a new technology vies for our attention, it does it differently, and a new successor comes up that changes things yet again. It is most likely that we cannot predict what the future holds from all these changes as each time it has a slightly different form and effects.

I predict the next one is a contact lens with a ticker-tape of entertaining information, and machine-learning driven "ad placements" which are phrases/sentence structure designed to call one's mind to a product's slogan without directly printing it.


> More than technological advancements or anything else, all of this nostalgia is really just about getting old.

The other side of this is that only people who are older can actually notice when things have changed. So, of course it's older people who talk about it the most.


I don't pity today's youth. I do pity myself for not having young knees anymore...


Amen!


I don't get the sense that the author is trying to say that the past was better. Although I could be misreading you and you're not intending to say that he is. I suppose this is another consequence of getting old.


Old fart here. The world seemed a bit of a mess when I was 12 (1976). Some of the worst architechture in the history of the planet https://www.google.com/search?q=70s+architecture&sxsrf=ALeKk... . I like modern stuff - roll on the singularity.


A couple of stand-out memories from the olden days (and I don't consider myself particularly old):

Getting a call in a restaurant. Only happened to me once but I certainly felt like a VIP.

Carrying a tiny map book of London around with me while cycling around. Missing turn after turn until finding there was a canal which basically took me from the center to my uncle's house.

Arranging to meet a friend and then being late. Really late. 1 hour late. He was still there, waiting for me.


Yeah I remember waiting for people - I got a smartphone at 16, in 2004, something like that, so it's hard to really imagine how it was for adults...

My parents told me they spend evenings at the phone booth talking to each other - but even that is ultra convenient compared to my grandparents sending letters :D

But I think it's better anyway - we sample mating candidates more, we cycle through faster, we can stop and try anew nearly any time until 50, and with some difficulty above.

I mean my aunt had a crushing divorce when she had 3 young children and stayed alone working with all 3 until the internet arrived and she could find a partner much faster...


>But I think it's better anyway - we sample mating candidates more, we cycle through faster, we can stop and try anew nearly any time until 50, and with some difficulty above.

On the other side, we self report more isolated, depressed, friendless and dissatisfied than ever in the past decades, have record levels of depression prescriptions and opioids, and people get discovered dead after a month or so when somebody complains about the smell...


Before opiods, we had cocaine, valium, morphine, and so on... We just didn't keep so many records back then, especially during the times they were legal. With Valium, folks got it from their doctor.

Did we track depression before like we do now? Were folks comfortable talking about it or would they lie when they self report?

I'm pretty sure that in the past, folks got discovered dead because of the smell.


Is it worse or are we just getting better data on it? It seems just as likely that these states simply went unreported due to having nobody who was interested in listening. Might be that the quiet desperation has always been there, but now it gets voiced to a receptive audience.


How reliable are self reported results across years or even generations of confounding changes?


Combined with empirical observation, what we've used to call "having a look for yourself", they're quite potent. That said it's not like hard numbers like prescriptions and case stats haven't got up, including numbers of people living alone, etc.


> My parents told me they spend evenings at the phone booth talking to each other - but even that is ultra convenient compared to my grandparents sending letters :D

No need to get to the grandparents' generation, I was the letter writer of my family :) I wrote letters to uncles/aunts/grandpa - mostly at the command of my mum or grandma and sometimes for myself. I remember rushing to the window when the postman yelled and dropped letters through the grill - sometimes there would be more than one! The excitement was palpable - now we sigh with annoyance at the barrage of nonsense and spam that flows into our inbox. Truly a case of quantity over quality.


I remember feeling that way when I got an email back in the day, because it was a pretty rare event.

These days, I feel like that when I get a physical letter that isn't sent by a machine.


In 1989 I wrote a letter (i.e., mailed) to a friend from grad school (ASU) pursuing her studies at a Northern UK university. I sez we will meet you at the center of Piccadilly Circus at such and such a time, on such and such date. She wrote back, "of course." This took a month or so. We flew over, and showed up. So did she. I still remember meeting up: it was no big deal.

We had also written to Czech friends from grad school (U FL) that we would show up in Olomouc on such and such date (Jun 1989, interesting times). They were visiting relatives and we showed up. And were whisked off to 5 days of whirlwind touring the soon to be de-Sovietized Czechoslovakia.

We hosted quite few Eastern Europeans in the '90s, all arranged over snail mail. There was a sense of responsibility that we don't really experience today when dropping in on travels. All the modernity in the world, and nowadays we occasionally get ghosted, even after making repeated prior arrangements using the latest hottest smart phone technology.

I will say this: google translate + maps are the two great inventions we appreciate most. The rest is a solid meh. We have a theory that maximized immediate convenience has an unanticipated effect of atomizing and devaluing some relationships.

Per the parent, I too remember those paper maps while cycling. As in, riding from the Portland Airport to Arcadia and down to LA, using a tour guide, quite tattered at the end. Most of the times before an extended trip (100+ miles) I would memorize the route the night before. This worked fine for 25 years.


I (legally) smoked on a plane!


Some time in the 90s I caught what I was told was Alitalia's last smoking flight from Australia to Italy before it was phased out. Christ, it was horrendous. There was a smoking section up the back of the plane, but try telling that to the smoke. It was like being fumigated for 24 hours. Hard to believe that was real now!


smoking on a plane sounds like simultaneously the most wonderful and most terrible thing ever

similarly it was amazing to smoke in bars, but it's great to not have smoke filled bars


Oh boy. Was on a school trip to Greece in the mid nineties. ~35 teenagers and some teachers as guides and chaperones.

We were 16+ so basically drinking free booze on the plane while smoking our hearts out. We actually drank all the beer on the plane. It looked like a smoke bomb went off.

It must have been the flight from hell for other passengers. Completely unimaginable right now. Thank you Sabena Airlines for this core memory of my youth and not having us arrested in Athens.


I mean it does sound crazy to me now. But back then it was just a fact of life that both smokers and non-smokers didn't spend much thought on. I flew before I picked up smoking myself, and it didn't really feel something unusual, precisely because it was common everywhere.

There have to be other daily habits now that going to be seen as disgusting in a few decades too. Maybe things like eating non-cloned meat.


It was interesting especially juxtaposed on current reality. I hated smoking (ok I hated 2nd hand smoke as a non-smoker). But somehow, it was the right of the individual to smoke; when, where, and how they pleased. It didn't matter that other people in the space shared the air. Compared to present when the world is looking to bend over backwards to avoid putting smoke in someone else's air on a plethora of different topics. Many, that I've never contemplated. Like, for instance, I never thought I could get yelled at for using what I thought to be the correct pronoun while saying "yes sir, thank you". I'd think they'd just recognize my attempt canned politeness and say "you're welcome" and recognize why people think of them as a "sir" during casual brief interactions (because they were wearing men's clothes & had facial hair).


Common in restaurants as well. It's downright bizarre to think about now, but I remember as a child, at family restaurants like Friendly's and Howard Johnson's (which itself is an anachronism), being asked by a cheery-faced hostess whether we wanted "smoking or non-smoking".


I assure you non-smokers spent plenty of thought on it.


You don't need to assure me, I had a chance to experience it first hand both as a non-smoker and as a smoker.


You can still do that in Japanese bars and restaurants


Smoking in bars still exists in many places in the US. Granted in Texas for example, in jurisdictions where it's still legal, seems like at least 90% choose not to allow it by choice of the business owner.


Smoke smells different on a plane, for some reason.


I know that's the way we say it, but maybe I've seen Airplane too many times to ignore the potential difference between literal and figurative for anything plane-related. So I just pictured you taking a drag, wind in your hair, sitting on the wing of the plane and yet somehow not falling off as it went along it's way.


Smartphones or not, being very late for planned meetups definitely hasn't changed as a concept.


Nobody waits for an hour though. With no contact I think I'd leave in about 20 minutes now.


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