It's not the Internet itself that is the problem. It's not the devices - even extremely convenient ones, like always-connected smartphones. There are particular types of services that are problematic, provided by concrete companies, who optimize their addictive and distracting potential on purpose, advertise them heavily, and make money off the problems they cause. These are well-thought business decisions, made by well-known people. And yet, as a society, we shrink away from talking about them, preferring instead to put blame on incidental topics: the Internet, the smartphones, the engineers building the hardware and software.
I wish for a day when we collectively wake up and focus on the actual root cause, when we come to the conclusion that some business models just shouldn't exist. We've done it in the past, and because of that we enjoy physically safe food, toys, medicine, appliances. But either we've lost our way in the last decades, defaulting to an asinine view that "all is fine as long as there is demand", or the process of understanding and mitigating threats to society takes too damn long. Maybe it's the latter - but that's not good, because the kind of abuse we throw at each other is following the economic and technological growth curves.
 - Or, a related favorite of mine, "the AI". As if wild machine learning algorithms frolicked in the forest, and occasionally came out of the woods on their own, to take over some business or governmental decision process. No human making a self-serving decision to involve an unsuitable ML model in a system it doesn't belong in was ever involved.
 - People in wealthier countries, at least.
- I can't easily delete old posts
- I can't easily control who or what I am exposed to
- In some cases, I have no control at all. For example, on the rare occasion I go to FB, the red dot on the video icon is still begging me to watch FB's 4th-rate YouTube full of random terrible videos. There is no way for me to turn this off, to my knowledge.
- Everything is defaulted to the most intrusive, attention-sucking settings. I am never asked if I want something new. It is shoved in my face and then I have to go figure out how to turn it off. As a willful, tech-savvy person I can manage this, but I imagine that many people just go with the flow and get swept into unhealthy patterns by the relentless tide of nudges.
I don't know if it's feasible or desirable to ban a service like FB categorically, but imposing minimal standards of user control could be a step up from where we are now.
And if FB/Twitter/etc can't be profitable when users are in control... well, maybe that tells us everything we need to know about the true human value of today's social media matrix.
And things like Youtube have honed it to a fine degree. They're a single source for certain kinds of content and using a roku, you CAN'T skip some adds. The Ad delivery is 'well, you can skip some, but you have to watch this Liberty commercial, and hey, skip now skips both ads, but since you've done that, now you're doing to sit through both of the next ads.
Not to mention the video producers have sponsors, and the small ones are forced to shill theirselves through patreon to stand a chance of making a living at it...or at least breaking even on the costs of the content.
If you go to the "Menu" tab you can long press on any of the categories and you'll get the option to turn off notification dots.
I didn't know about this until reading your post and poking around in the app to see if it was possible.
But holy F is the business model, when scaled to $130+ billion yearly revenue, an absolute disaster. Google has taken upon itself to turn the entire internet into an ad-laden funhouse designed to trap you and suck all of your time.
Google is not solely to blame, but they are uniquely delusional and uniquely successful at monetizing other people's contributions, knowledge, talent, and businesses to their own benefit. Google set the standard model for monetization at every stage of the internet's development. Google set up everything to be the central clearing house for information and normalized the expectation that everything you do would come with some kind of advertising interruption.
As far as I am concerned, Facebook and social media and all the other bad things on the internet just followed in the wagon ruts, then paved highways that Google created.
We've accepted the internet and the web as they are because Google wanted to be big.
Now, if Google had wanted to stay small, maybe grow at 5% per year, instead of 23% per year--that's doubling every 4 years btw--, then the internet would not be so full of ads. The internet would not be so much in your face. Datacenters would be smaller, tracking would be less, webpages would be lighter, faster, with more long-form content, etc.
The internet is the way it is because it has been a giant pie-eating contest where the winners have to eat 23% more pie than they did last year. No wonder it's so fucked up.
oooooooooo oooooooooo oooooooooo oooooooooo oooooooooo
Even if ads aren't useful (getting leather belt ads after buying a leather belt... even ads for the same product), the incentive is to continue serving them because the company trying to sell shit is still winning to target all "belt searchers"
Reddit is absolutely in the family of conscious manipulators-- even if it is somewhat less effective at it than facebook or twitter.
Particularly many of the characteristics of the 'new' interface were designed specifically with the intent of increasing "engagement" and they use those usage metrics to drive their further optimizations.
(e.g. infinite scroll, inlining images in the scroll to reduce clicking, aggressively pushing the mobile app and/or login to improve tracking. They've also recently started half-logging-out users who've opted out of 'new', so you have to click login to get your preference honored).
A healthier habit?? The problem may be there's no defined end. What did people in the past who didn't smoke do? Newspaper? Magazines?
Web2.0 introduced more addicting and stimulating sites and apps, but Web 1.0 still allowed me to kill time (on my computer) searching rudimentary message boards, games, and news sites.
The introduction of smart phones gave us a 24/7 portal to the internet world and facilitated the building of these mechanisms.
This goes far beyond Facebook, IG, Twitter, and the other “big name offenders”. The pervasiveness of texting and email deserve a similar finger pointing.
Smartphones are dopamine machines and they allow us to enter that world at any time. Spotify, email, texting, Facebook, Snapchat, games, slack, hackernews, cnn, etc… ALL become instantly accessible on our smart phones and keep our brains chasing more rewarding stimulus.
The issue is not "the problem", whose fault it is, blame. It is responsibility. Who shoulders the cost for the issue of smoking? As it turns out: all of them. Cigarette companies have to put health warnings on their packs. Lighters cannot be sold to those under 18. Cigarettes are highly taxed to discourage smokers from buying them. All three are "negatively" impacted because we, as a society, agreed that smoking is bad and should be discouraged.
Similarly with Facebook, smartphones, and end users.
I mean, this article says as much:
> While there is nothing inherently addictive about smartphones themselves, the true drivers of our attachments to these devices are the hyper-social environments they provide. Thanks to the likes of Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and others, smartphones allow us to carry immense social environments in our pockets through every waking moment of our lives.
The article even opens with a former executive at Facebook talking about how how guilty they feel for making addictive feedback loops that are damaging to society.
The problem is simply the fact that there's always something new to see. It doesn't require evil masterminds. It's a magic rectangle in your pocket that shows you something new every time you look at it. Of course it's addictive.
Things that have amplified my internet addiction I think are access to unfiltered internet, online games, social media and porn at a very young age (since around 6 years old - I am gen Z for reference, so I've grown up with normalised smartphone/social media/gaming addiction), as well as how normal it is to be addicted to these things. The fact that I now (subconsciously) associate using a computer with the aforementioned vices means that I have come to _expect_ the dopamine hit when I use them makes doing actual work (because my job is mostly computer based) even harder.
It has got to the point to where I now do not have internet in my house because if I do, I'll just use it all day (despite having various commitments). I now only use the internet in public spaces, on public wireless. This combined with planning my days/weeks/quarter (this is essential for overcoming internet addiction IMO) seems to have solved my addiction. I still have a dumb phone for receiving calls and texts (SIM card is super-glued in) and a smartphone without a SIM card for navigation - the point is, access to information is limited.
Your example is funny because I think you are saying these things (lighter, generic cylinder) are NOT addictive and focusing on them misses the point- but in my mind, even as a nonsmoker, there IS something primordially satisfying about flicking a lighter and the sound it makes, or holding and rolling a cylinder between my fingers, like a pen or a cigar. That feeling has to be a contributing factor, in my mind.
When you have a market niche - then sooner or later it will be filled. It does not make much sense to blame "concrete companies" - because once you close them they will be replaced by others. You need to make laws that would close the niche of providing the 'particular types of services that are problematic' entirely. And making those laws is difficult - because forbidding something always limits the freedom. There are lots of people here who believe that drugs should be legal.
And it is internet and smartphones that created these market niches putting us into that awkward position. It is also practical to focus talk on them - because there are concrete advice on how to configure your (or your children) smartphone (or internet connection) to make it less addictive. It is something that can be done without any collective action problems.
Like you can say people spend too much time on TikTok, but if it wasn't TikTok, it'd be Twitch, or YouTube, or Netflix, or Instagram, or Reddit, etc.
Right, because they're pretty much the same category of service, addressing the same niche.
To both yours and GP's points: it is true that "what is addictive to someone is harmless for someone other". This is true for alcohol, tobacco and gambling too. Yet we know that unchecked, these three cause tremendous social problems - and so we've adjusted both regulations and culture to find a balance between freedom and protecting the vulnerable.
In particular with social media, I don't like the framing of it as "what is addictive to someone is harmless for someone other". The addictive-ness is baked into the product whether or not an addiction is manifest in any individual user. Viewing the addictive-ness of say, Facebook, as a problem only "for some people" rather than as a property of Facebook, shifts blame away from the engineers and execs who purposefully make their product addictive, onto users who find themselves (somewhat innocently) addicted to an the addictive thing.
Don't want to be pedantic but I think it's an important point.
Where is the line? I don't like murder. Is banning murder totalitarian? I don't like unfair elections. Is banning election tampering totalitarian?
Every law and rule in all of society exists to prevent something that someone (or lots of people) don't like. We usually draw abstractions on top of these likes and dislikes - things like "rights" and "morals". Everyone has to draw the line somewhere, so deriding someone for drawing that line "because you don't like it" is reductionist and silly.
One exception might be children since they aren't developed enough to make logical decisions on their own.
IMO government restrictions should be a last resort, not the first option you consider. Additionally, they tend not to work as well as you might think on many things (e.g. drug war, prohibition)
Strange since it's currently an epidemic.
> If you don't want to spend time on a smartphone, don't spend time on a smartphone.
My stance is that is not the appropriate measure.
I'm not the OP, but when I suggest that someone walk away from FB or whatever is causing them problems at the moment and let them know that I did the same, it's supposed to let them know that they do have choices and that it is possible for some people to be able to do that, so maybe they should try it? It's not a lack of empathy, it's a suggestion on how to get out of a problem I very much empathize with.
Of course not everyone can. I have my own problems I consistently fail to nope out of, too.
Everybody wants safety. But nobody wants their smartphone taken away. It's an unpopular move. That's why it doesn't happen.
Anyway, I think that we should take away the incentive of social media companies to be so addictive by banning ads on these platforms.
Take away social media and Youtube, and you might as well go back to a Nokia dumbphone.
Not to mention, the browser, giving access to everything on the Internet - not just social media. This is doubly important for people on the go, and people who can't afford to also own a laptop or a desktop computer at home (assuming they have one).
It is fairly simple to reorganize your time, it does take willpower but once you do it that's all your time back to you.
On the other hand it requires actual effort and practice to be conscious and present in the task at hand after getting used to mindless entertainment, it requires a process to gradually take it back. I worry about the upcoming generations that deal with this in their growing stages.
I'm talking about the day that I decided to "mute' my life. This was back in 2014 (I can't believe it's already been that long). Set my phone so that texts no longer caused alert sounds or vibration, only calls from those in my contacts would ring through, and I deleted crap like Facebook (and didn't log in again for over a year).
It took conscious effort initially, but then you adjust quicker than you think after you realize that exactly 0% of texts you will ever receive actually need your immediate attention. Maybe you the reader get important texts all the time, and I sort of feel sorry if you do, but I never ever do. If someone ever actually needs to reach me they will call, and they are never some rando number not in my contacts.
These devices and the services surrounding them don't necessarily deserve all the negative credit we attribute to them. People get addicted to things not just because those things have addicting qualities but because those people's needs aren't getting met in other areas. Technology makes it really easy to tickle those addiction centers in our brains, if you will, so that's the most common way to cope for people whom are missing something. It's not a personal failing (most of the time anyway) because even knowing that you are addicted, or that there's more to addiction than the surface level, is actually a really hard thing.
The other side of the equation is that not being addicted can be isolating in modern society. In my own life I sometimes have a hard time socializing with others, not out of shyness or anything like that, but because most people don't know how to relate to me when they find out that I don't surf social media, binge watch entertainment, or play video games for hours on end. They say "so what do you do with all that free time?" When I tell them that I am spending nearly all that time building things and learning, unless I'm among serious nerds, they don't get how my lifestyle is fulfilling to me. Truth be told, not living vicariously through the imaginary lives of others doesn't have to be boring.
I think there's a few kinds of people; the kind who don't get fulfillment or enjoyment outside of entertainment, and the kind who can be self-fulfilled but also deep down realize that it would separate them from much of society, which can be a scary thing. It might not be a conscious thought, but I think it's probably there.
That one hits the nail on the head. It comes down to what you consider normal. Once you get rid of a bad habit to the point it seems obnoxious both on conscious AND subconscious level it becomes very easy not to indulge.
It works more or less the same way for good habits too, I think.
You can get away with skimming texts on the Internet, indeed you kind of have to with all the ads, inline links, and other visual cruft clamoring for your attention, but that usually does not work particularly well with books, especially if it's a more demanding read.
Reading can be shockingly hard if you haven't done it in a while, but it rapidly gets a lot easier.
I feel the same about tackling internet addiction. The computer is off, now what?
If every morning you wake up and smoke a cigarette right by the window while you brew coffee, then the day you decide to stop there are two forces at hand: first, the addiction to nicotine, but there is also the void left by the activity of smoking.
When you quit social media or whatever smartphone boredom annihilator, what do you do on the bus back home? On the waiting room or queue of whatever place you find yourself at? In any of those small idle moments?
For me I've found the answer to be obvious but not very exciting: I get bored. I get bored and let my mind wander, ideally this means I'm not merely unfocused, but rather at rest mentally, otherwise I dedicate some time to this or that thought that would surely have assaulted me right at the time in which I should be falling asleep. I think society has gotten into an habit of never being bored, I don't think that's healthy.
Some amount of LoFi beats, classical, or music in another language might help a bit even if you feel you need to 'focus in' by just providing a bit more stimulation? I find that without music it's much harder for me to enter my flow state when programming even if I 'stop hearing' the music once I get into what I'm working on.
But everyone's different, that's just something that works for me, but I hope that you keep up the hard work. Focus is hard, and you're taking some important steps to try and restore yours.
I've been trying for years. I was introduced to technology very young, and have been using the internet since I was about 8 to 10 years old. I'm 27 now, I've been seriously trying to improve my focus since I was about 22, but nothing stuck. If intensive meditation cannot help me, I'm not sure if anything can, except maybe some kind of drugs.
I live in Germany now, but unfortunately I don't speak German anywhere near well enough to get a consultation.
A specialist in the UK might be worth talking to. You’ve tried many natural alternatives and nothing helps you with your work. Meditating every day for a year is a big accomplishment and it says a lot for it to not help.
I have been off of social media for years now and I couldn’t go back.
Really, ask yourself if your conversations on social media are yielding something productive to society or if it’s just wasting time.
If you want social, get a group together and meet in person. Go do something.
"I'm taking a break from social media. If you'd like to get in touch with me, email firstname.lastname@example.org or click on [my calendar link](https://calendly.com/) and pick a time for a phone call"
> productive to society
A better question: Are you really deeply connecting with the people you talk to or are you just wandering?
What you’re suggesting is akin to: “why not smoke occasionally to take the edge off.”
It’s about losing mental focus if you ask me. If you’re an occasional user, your mind is still going to be roped in.
They have an army of scientist who’ve proven these facts already and social media companies exploit us all.
I agree with the idea of establishing deeper connections: but take them offline and have a cup of tea or video chat. There’s simply better options.
However I found that missing one day of it and not spending any cash to those games helps with getting out of it.
Even though I try to control my attention when I'm unaware my finger always slips to the new tab opening a page for quick dopamine shots.
The other is prof. Andrew Huberman's podcast. He recently did a 2-hour episode on dopamine. The segment on smartphones and how they alter our dopamine circuits starts at 01:15:28
- Disable phone notifications
- Create checklists of small things you want to do
- Work in cafes and places with background noise/other people
- Schedule activities with others
As a quick example, one suggestion is to not reward yourself everytime the same way. Let's say, you really enjoy running with music. Sometimes just toss a coin whether you get to listen to music while running or not. In other words, reward yourself intermittently. It is far more likely to sustain the baseline excitement/dopamine levels over time. If we reward ourselves all the time the same way, the baseline levels tend to drop.
I'm explaining it poorly, but Huberman and Sapolsky add a lot more colour to this.
This is principally because the medium (it is some combination of the personal computer and the smart telephone) is not strictly new in its ability to engage the user. Industrial citizens spent a great deal of their time viewing television prior to the internet era, what is new is the rapid feedback those seeking to engage their audiences have. The A/B test, use of user data, et cetera, these are all mechanisms by which the software developer increases the attention-commanding power of his software.
But of course, the software developer is not typically interested in or aware of the psychology (a complicated field) and is instead focused on outcomes. In reality, the software developer is conducting large scale psychological experiments on how to best entrance the user, but the language used for this process is more of business and technique than it is strictly of science.
This is all that men have been able to make themselves happy. And those who philosophize on the matter, and who think men unreasonable for spending a whole day in chasing a hare which they would not have bought, scarce know our nature. The hare in itself would not screen us from the sight of death and calamities; but the chase which turns away our attention from these, does screen us.” (Pensees, Blaise Pascal)
Just get rid of the smartphone. You really don't need it. On balance, it's probably not making your life better. We tend to focus on the few benefits and ignore the all-in costs. I tossed my smartphone a while back and was expecting disaster. It never came, other than a few mild inconveniences. If you absolutely need to, get a cheap android just for work that gets shut off and put in a drawer at the end of the day.
The most pernicious thing about the smartphone is that we've convinced ourselves that it's 100% impossible to live a happy and productive life without it.
Recommended if you're interested in knowing s bit more.
> smartphones and the social media platforms they support are turning us into bona fide addicts. While it’s easy to dismiss this claim as hyperbole, platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram leverage the very same neural circuitry used by slot machines and cocaine to keep us using their products as much as possible.
This is hyperbole and it's not wrong at the same time. You know what else uses the very same neural circuitry as used by slot machines and cocaine? Reading a boook. Talking a walk. Petting your dog. Existing.
Dopaminergic populations of cells existing in a dozen different functional populations among the brain and project nearly everywhere. And if they're trying to claim that reward prediction circuitry is 'hijacked' they're going to need to show some evidence. Cocaine hijacks the brains reward prediction circuitry by directly acting on the dopamine re-uptake proteins. There is nothing intrinsically addicting or anything at all that can "hijack" the reward prediction circuitry in a smartphone screen. It is simply another stimuli filtered through your normal senses going the normal routes. It is NOT hijacking anything.
Tech bros need to stop talking about neuroscience like they understand it. For the most part, they don't and it leads to embarassing and dangerous claims like this article makes.
> Trevor Haynes is a research technician in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School.
I think it's not hyperbole to assume that algorithms which maximize user engagement time will hijack all sorts of neural processes involved in forming habits.
Trevor has multiple articles attributed partially to him while affiliated with Harvard Medical School?
And yet people will prefer slot machines, cocaine, and to some extent social media once they get addicted. Does that not indicate that while they use the same pathways, they do so in a much stronger way?
So is this: