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Using a mild Twitter addiction to get things done (comer.io)
356 points by nkcmr on Jan 3, 2022 | hide | past | favorite | 124 comments

I have tried this many times in the past. The problem I have had with internet addiction is that the phone itself is the cue, craving, response, & reward. I had to resort to locking my phone in one of those timed kitchen containers to make any progress.

It's sad to admit I do this, but the only way I've found myself to make a clear barrier is by having a physical barrier. I've tried shortcuts, VPNs, mindfulness apps, etc. Nothing really sticks if it's on the phone itself.

On-top of that, having to give each device a job has worked wonders as well. My phone is my personal/entertainment device. I don't need it majority of the time if at all. My computer on the other hand is my work device where I do the things I should be doing instead of endlessly scrolling (coding, writing, etc).

Screentime on macOS can show you how many times you pick up your phone and it makes me quite sad to see the numbers before doing any of this. There are other apps that count how many times you open a specific app like https://apps.apple.com/us/app/one-sec-take-a-deep-breath/id1... which reveals the same thing on an app basis.

I realised the multi-purpose device problem one evening when wanting to turn on my living room wifi-iot-light. I picked up my phone to use the light app, saw notifications, checked the news, checked some other things, put the phone down. A few minutes later, I remembered I wanted to turn the light on. Picked up the phone, saw notifications, checked the news, checked some other things, put the phone down. A few minutes later, I remembered the light, picked up the phone, started checking things, and thought wtf am I doing, I've just checked these apps twice already!? Stood dumbfounded and concerned at my obsession, then remembered, oh, the light! Distractions.

I've dealt with this by deleting all messaging apps from my phone, deleting all my socials, and not installing anything that isn't default to my phone. My phone looks like you just turned on a brand new iPhone. I only use it for texts/calls/calendar/email. Email notifs also turned off. Unsubscribed from netflix/spotify/x crap service and deleted their apps.

It's been bliss. I've been considering getting a landline and chucking this thing out the window as it is useless for me. After about 3 months I unlearned my old behaviour and can barely remember what I used to do on this thing 3+ hours a day.

Real addicts don’t need any specialized apps. I have a Pinephone with SXMO and no social/messaging apps (except a weird dmenu-centric Reddit client I never use) but my IRC and HN addictions are still fed by an eternally open terminal and browser (though I can close them with a swipe or squeeze, they inevitably rise again unscathed when I ssh back into the server where weechat lives in an immortal tmux or reopen Firefox and tap “Restore Session”).

This is exactly my issue. My OTP app is on my phone so I have to use it half a dozen times a day. I reduced notifications to the bare minimum (only messaging apps) but just checking one of them deviates me from the thing I was trying to achieve (get the OTP and go back to work) and it’s too late.

I haven’t tried the new "do not disturb" improvements in iOS 15 so maybe there’s something interesting there.

Edit: I just tried with the "at work" setting that allows you to disable notification badges and other things during work hours; let’s see how it goes.

But a second cheap phone. Uninstall everything from it, no data plan, wifi only and use it as a remote control.

>I haven’t tried the new "do not disturb" improvements in iOS 15 so maybe there’s something interesting there.

If only I can have DND on 24/7 and not have the home notif about it that would be golden.

There are OTP apps for desktop operating systems. Hopefully that helps!

Many apps are designed to do exactly this, so you outsmarted them by at least realizing they got to you... so don't feel bad about it. I have the same tendencies, and, at least for the smarthome stuff it is the reason I still want physical (albeit Hue/ZigBee) buttons everywhere (combined with automations based on time/events). I think this is also what the builders of Home Assistant strive for, I really like this piece (it has come up here many times so you may know it [0, 2016].

[0]: https://www.home-assistant.io/blog/2016/01/19/perfect-home-a...

The number of times I've picked up my phone to do something, see a notification, and completely forget what I had picked my phone up to do 5 seconds later is mind boggling.

I started pruning the notifications that I allow quite aggressively because of it, but it's still a very regular issue.

This is your brain crying out for adderral. You could probably show this paragraph to your doctor and get an ADHD diagnosis... ;-)

TIL amphetamines are the cure for iphone addiction

the way I’ve dealt with this issue in the past is to put all my apps into one folder on the Home Screen (iPhone). Then the only practical way to access apps is by searching for them. So you have to remember why you went on your phone in the first place. I’ve slid back a bit, by not keeping on top of notification settings but generally it works.

Disable all notifications, or even remove the apps themselves.

There is absolutely nothing “sad” in admitting this. The great lie of the latter half of the 20th century was this mistaken belief that there is some baseline, normal for humans.

Although I think it can go off the rails a bit sometimes, one of the most promising aspects of medical research and science in the last 20 years has been a recognition of how our brains work differently, and how much of our behavior is largely out of our control.

And from that comes a wonderfully freeing idea. Specifically, that what works for one person is not going to work for everyone. It’s a blessing to find what works for you (even if it’s “abnormal”), and to have the courage to do what’s best for you.


For those with poor executive functioning, or ADHD, I can really recommend the podcast "Hacking your ADHD": https://www.hackingyouradhd.com/podcast

Ironically, it's less focused on "productivity hacks", but rather a functional self-understanding why we "fuck up" and how to manage our limited brain resources and most importantly: Anticipation of willpower depletion/different moods and mindsets.

Personally, I thing the typical "productivity hacks" blog posts shared here, are quite toxic, as they rarely speak about resources, resting and regeneration, or ask why work anyway? Especially coming from the US, where people work much longer, have less time off. There is a flair of normalizing self-exploitation and walking a path towards burn-out and sickness, and I don't even think most of those blog post are authentic, long term success stories - just farming clicks and subscribers for the attention market. They are much like Instagram distorting self-expectations.

The ADHD community is a parody of the HN crowd in that regard, people share new "super effective" tricks and routines enthusiastically all the time. Finally we found the solution! But sober us knows these tricks will not stick for more than a week or two - and really, we shouldn't be online right now to begin with. The thing is, that improving daily task management is not to be thought of as a project, but am ongoing maintenance process. So in that community, there is also the sentiment of changing "routines" all the time, to keep them interesting and challenging.

So maybe, you even need come up with a new scheme every day. That's fine too. In any case, I dare you to not forget to evaluate your need for regeneration, day dreaming, sleep and pleasure, and anticipate different moods and mindsets you know will be present.

> The ADHD community is a parody of the HN crowd in that regard, people share new "super effective" tricks and routines enthusiastically all the time. Finally we found the solution!

sounds a bit like https://reddit.com/r/thanksimcured

Yeah, but as a monologue.

The thing with ADHD folks is, we constantly seek stimulation/neuronal excitement, so if we manage to do anything, we somehow tricked our brain into enthusiasm, or hit another strong motivator like anxiety, or shame. And working out productivity "hacks" itself is usually some spin-off from a much more pressing task, or self-entertainment. Everything feels super important and like the best idea ever; enthusiasm is the only way.

So naturally, we tend to share tricks and "habits" before they have proven effective - they just felt really important... - as they have not been tested against the boredom of every day. And not everyone in that community is self-meta yet, sees the patterns and gets a bit wary in face of those "good ideas".

Honestly, I think everyone can learn something from ADHD behavior, as we're just the essence of executive dysfunction and impulsivity, the deconstruction of "motivation" (egosyntonic task scheduling) and actionable impulse (actually switching tasks), the deep end of a spectrum. Usually people can relate to our problems, they are just not problems in their lives as much.

Thanks for an insightful post. Is there a specific episode of the podcast you can recommend? Or just jump in?

I can't vouch for the most recent episodes, as I haven't listened to them yet, and I don't mind those interview ones much. Otherwise most episodes had some insights and ideas, I found noteworthy, which resonated with me - and they are always only a few minutes long, even less when you, like me, increase playback speed to keep focus. Very ADHD friendly. Maybe just don't binge them all at once, but have the individual eps echo a bit.

To start somewhere (going by title here), maybe try those episodes about gotchas and pitfalls (lol, they kind of all are about that, regardless of title; the author knows, we tried all the "hacks" already...), about energy management, "Waiting for Inspiration", or the fresh start ones. I think I also liked the "Five Frameworks to Build Powerful Goals", but that one doesn't really demonstrate what I like about the podcast.

Hope there is something for you too <3

Edit on my original post: Jeez. Sorry for grammar and typos. I thing... I was still very tired. Awful.

Also, maybe report back, if you don't mind. Would love to get a reality check, if it's just another fiction of self-improvement, or if others see the usefulness, as well.

I clicked on a random episode, "Exploring ADHD with Eric Tivers". Couple of things stuck out to me, listening to the dialogue:

1. forgiveness - forgive yourself for not being perfect

2. "do I really have this things". It's good to know I'm not the only one struggling with this.

I'll keep on listening, thanks again for the link.

Thank you for the recommendation for the podcast, I am looking for exactly this

Thanks for sharing. ADHD here!

Curiously, it seems to be the backlight that's the cue for me. Anything, a phone, a laptop, a desk screen, can bring me into a distracted state very quickly. I really hope e-ink devices will give me a bit of a relief once they become affordable (which is delayed due to expensive patents, as I understand it).

I experience this when trying to read lenghty text on e-ink devices vs. a computer screen or phone. On the other hand, a kindle or remarkable don't give me as many options to distract myself so a more versatile device might still distract me even with e-ink.

Time will tell but for now it subjectively feels like the light emission (any color) has a very adverse effect on me, unless distraction is what I'm looking for :(

You could try a self-lit e-ink (like Kindle Paperwhite) to determine whether it's the light emission.

I doubt it. I see the same kind of distraction in myself, and it's not triggered on any e-ink reader, whether lit or not. So it seems to be related to functionality indeed.

Important point is that I've never used a web browser on any reader.

> which is delayed due to expensive patents, as I understand it

I keep asking about this since I see it repeatedly remarked on here. Please see my comment history. It doesn't appear to be true. My understanding is that it is about volume, as with almost everything display related.

I will check your comments, thanks!

You may be interested in the Light Phone which uses an e-ink screen. I've been thinking of getting one myself, but can't quite pull the trigger.

I often let my phone run out of battery and put it in a completely different room (not charging). Like your locked box, the only way I don’t get distracted is if I can’t access the device even if I wanted to.

I totally agree with what you're saying. If you simply try limiting it, the brain will just want it.

I think turning it into a "reward" for getting things done puts the addiction in a different light, and at least for me, it has made it easier to respect the barriers I have put into place.

So instead of "no apps allowed!" it is now "hey, do these good habits, and once your done you can have the apps" creates.. (idk I'm not a psychologist or anything), but a more genial approach to limiting the addiction and it feels more effective as a result.

Live this and have a similar system, I think of them as content zones. Two ideas I haven't seen in other comments are:

1. Kindle next to bed for reading (leave phone out of reach/in another room to charge helps)

2. Good book on back of toilet and no phone allowed in there. Helps start the day with a small piece of learning.

I started #2 (sorry) when I was struggling to finish Seeking Wisdom and figured reading 5 mins a day would get me through. Took 3 months but it worked and turned out to be the perfect place to digest dense content like it.

Agree with the other commenters - it's not sad to admit to designing your environment in a way that is conducive to good habits. I use something similar to the timer container method as well. Our brains are plastic, and there will only be more evidence showing how phones have significantly altered them.

I’ve been considering getting an Apple Watch with cell service, so I can just leave my phone in a drawer most of the day but still be a answer 2fa pushes and be in touch in case of emergencies.

But I’m worried I’m trying to fix the problem with more technology.

Anyone try this out?

While I still struggle with reaching for my phone, the watch has made things much easier.

I try and leave the phone in the front entrance. After that, I can still be “connected” with the watch. Messages from my wife, emails if I need to check them and of course phone calls. Lie others have said, I think the key is physically removing the phone.

My part solution is to get an old phone with a small screen. It makes playing many games nearly unbearable and the whole experience much less enjoyable.

Ideally I'd like to get rid of my phone altogether but is hard to live without some things like Uber and email. Has anyone managed this? Work requires Authenticator assumes everyone has a phone too.

With the nicotine addiction the best method fighting it was Alan Carr's in which you don't rely on your willpower but on your perception. There's a monster in you that feeds on nicotine and it wants more nicotine. With each cigarette you make it happy and you depend on it more. Or you're just a fly falling down the tube of a carnivorous plant and with each cigarette you keep saying it's fine. Such analogies change your perception on how you look at nicotine addiction and helps you overcome it. Of course brain's rewarding mechanism and all the other related neurological/psychological concepts are important too but basically when you try to stop yourself from doing something (like, not smoking) then willpower kicks in and the success rate drops significantly whereas with perception you'll have a better chance.

I see a similar problem with Twitter/TikTok/etc addiction. Only with them the issue is, the more you give from yourself to the platform the more you are addicted to it. I'm not addicted to Twitter, for instance. I follow 70-80 folks and am followed as similar but every time I post something I feel the need/urgency (such as nicotine withdrawal) to follow up, either to check the likes or the replies or whatever. Our brains are so dumb and our egos are so fragile keeping the distance becomes a challenge of its own.

I don't recommend anything. Just keep your minds free.

Agreed. Beating bad habits/addictions is a change in mindset and identity. OP's system will work for a bit, and then it just takes one lapse of judgement for OP to inevitably turn the shortcut off for the last time, never to turn it on again. If OP told himself that "I am not a Twitter user" rather than "I have a mild Twitter addiction" it would be much easier to stop, just like the book tells people to think of themselves as "not smokers" rather than "trying to quit." Remember there is no value in Twitter or TikTok; if you think there is, your brain is lying to you.

> Remember there is no value in Twitter or TikTok; if you think there is, your brain is lying to you.

I used to use Twitter a lot. I "took a break" last February that's still going strong, so I don't think my brain is "lying" too powerfully. There was real value in Twitter for a long time in my case, and I learned a lot there. I object to this framing.

This is also detailed really nicely in Atomic Habits

Alan Carr also has a new book on digital addiction(written by his co-author since he's dead). It's addresses some of the things that make digital addiction different from nicotine addiction(you get nothing from nicotine, whereas there are legitimate uses of tech).

It's good stuff and is a great tool.

> you get nothing from nicotine

Nicotine is involved in neurochemical circuits. Intake (it doesn’t have to be smoking) boosts focus and learning rate.

Solutions similar to the one mentioned in the article never worked for me. No matter how hard/inconvenient I make it to be (put phone outside of bedroom, delete app, etc.), when the addiction hits I will try my absolute best to circumvent the inconveniences. It's not even funny.

I think the best is to fully recognize and understand the addiction, and then try to eradicate the root cause.

For anybody wanting to explore this concept further, Oscar Wilde already did that long ago in The Picture of Dorian Grey.

Essentially, [Spoilers] the more the hedonistic protagonist gives into his desires, the more a physical image of him becomes grotesque. I always imagine this when trying to beat my own bad habits.

I have never been able to use Twitter. Once I follow more than 30 people the feed is quickly overran with total nonsense and I delete the account.

I honestly can't imagine what the feed looks like if you follow 1k people plus. It has to be nonsense at the millisecond level. The signal to noise just scales so badly. There just isn't that much interesting things going on in real time.

This is a cool idea but I am going for a walk right now and listening to an audio book. I am really looking forward to the walk and the book. A tail to keep the flies away I am sure is nice but to me it is just better to delete the flies completely. My walks are the most peaceful part of the day for me. There is no motivation needed if you get rid of the overexcited storm of nonsense from Twitter.

>I have never been able to use Twitter. Once I follow more than 30 people the feed is quickly overran with total nonsense and I delete the account.

It's because you quit before the reward cycle kicked in. The idea behind the scrolling timeline is that you keep scrolling until you find something that interests you (similar to a slot machine). With that reward you continue scrolling and rinse and repeat for the next item of interest.

The reason I was able to quit essentially all social media (FB, Twitter, Insta) years ago was I realized, outside of my very small circle of friends (on Discord) and the thoughts of people on HN, I have no desire at all about what other random people are thinking. After that, it was easy to throw them away.

Not who you are responding to, but maybe the slot machine effect is exactly why it does not work for me.

To me loosing at the slot roll is actually fairly annoying. When I win, it is not a feeling of reward, but disappointment at myself. Infact, all games if chance really get under my skin.

But I can doom scroll Reddit for hours. The big difference is that most posts have some reward, and a few posts have a big reward. But I don't feel like I'm wadding though mountains of garbage.

I imagine this is why TikTok is also doing so well. Most of the videos are at least somewhat interesting. However I uninstall it quickly because of how dumb the content is as well.

Twitter may have some golden nuggets, but panning for them is more painful then the reward.

Twitter, Reddit, TikTok are all using the same mechanism. It's about getting you through the initial cycles as quickly as possible to get you stuck in a longer more permanent reward cycle.

It really has nothing to do with content at the end of the day.

TikTok, to my eyes, has produced a vastly superior brand of heroin. TikTok is the Fentanyl to Reddit and Twitter's crack rocks.

In my opinion, you only get “the overexcited storm of nonsense from Twitter” if the accounts you follow are so inclined. The great experience to be had is in a careful selection of you follow. An example: As a physician I have been following a varied group of epidemiologists, virologists, and clinicians with intimate knowledge of COVID. Some of them reporting findings from their own lab in real time. This same principle applies to quite a vast number of other disciplines that although may not be near your area of expertise, you can still peek on stimulating links and discussions by those who are in those fields. I don’t know of any other platform where such vibrant discussions take place outside of conferences.

Two things that helped me (if it is useful to anyone)

- Use a third party client that isn't a trash fire. I use Tweetbot.

- Aggressively block retweets from individuals, which is supported by the API, so it persists accross clients.

It's helpful that Twitter's interface is terrible, so the frustration building with that eventually forces me to give it a rest if my own faculties don't cut me off sooner.

That and the gifs...oh, the endless, repetitive, gif-only replies...

This is really cool! Tho I've found it really hard to not just disable these self-made barriers when the urge overcomes me. I guess the trick is to create sufficient _additional_ barriers to disabling the (initial) barriers so that it becomes too costly vs. the 'hit' of the initial bad habit. I feel a more realistic blocker might be to increase the latency of these habits, so that they're in that sweet spot between accessibility and inaccessibility where usage is kind-of naturally regulated. Slowly demyelinating those quick-hit dopamine-infused pathways! :P E.g. imagine setting up an ISP level enforced latency for social media. Would that work?

I think any sufficiently motivated person would be able to scroll no matter what (your example can be bypassed by a VPN I think).

When I was quitting some vices, just interrupting the automatic Bored->browsing transition was enough to get me to make other choices

I also found this by just blocking things like HN in my /etc/hosts file. It's amazing how often I found my myself staring at an error page and then wondering why if I didn't make a conscious decision to go there. Habits can be unsettling like that.

I only access HN from my mobile now, which I put out of reach when working.

Neuroscience nit - you’re likely depotentiating synapses rather than demyelinating axons.

> E.g. imagine setting up an ISP level enforced latency for social media. Would that work?

It depends on what you mean. Do you mean some sort of mechanism on the ISP's account page that lets you delay certain sites? IMO that sort of functionality would be better self-hosted, though I'm not sure of any open-source projects offering such functionality at this time.

If you are proposing a mechanism where the user does not have control, no it would not. The whole point of net neutrality is to not slow down certain sites. Even though Ajit Paid fucked that up, I imagine people would not be very happy if an ISP slowed down certain popular websites. I imagine said popular websites would be used to speak out against this too, paradoxically.

It can easily be done at OS level, forcing you to wait 30sec to 1min to open Twitter. Want to disable the timer ? Sure, it's possible in the settings, you just have to wait 1 min before being able to disable it.

I configured screen time in iOS, but it just don't work, I know the code.

Using the method in the article, it should be possible to restrict access to the Shortcuts app itself to certain times (for example to between 5am and 6am ;)), so that the original shortcut can’t be disabled at any time.

I can confirm that screen time doesn’t really work unless a different person controls the code.

So I checked and you can’t choose Shortcuts app as a trigger.

But I can understand why. This could be a recipe to break a device.

On Android, you can achieve just the "scheduling" aspect of this (restricting access to certain apps to certain times of the day/week) by using the "Digital Wellbeing" area of the Settings. Enter the "Focus Mode" settings, and you can add "distracting" apps to a list, and then set the Focus Mode schedule to disable the apps on that schedule.

Yes you can get around it by tapping a button, the intent is more to make you realize that you are checking Twitter, rather than 100% preventing you from checking Twitter.

Can do this in iOS also, Settings > Focus

Shortcuts is my favourite new thing in ios. I only wish there was some way to get screen time data. I have never installed these endless scrolling apps in the first place, but I find myself using the mobile web version more and more. The data is there within screen time but no reliable way to read that from API or shortcuts. The app time limits are not in steps so I find them insufficient as a barrier.

What's the best way to learn Shortcuts? I've made a couple of ultra-simple things, but get stuck with anything slightly more complex.

For example, I have a spreadsheet where I want to log my workouts. I have a shortcut that opens numbers and adds a blank row and that was easy to make. But now I want to add the current date in column A of the new row and I've never been able to figure that one out.

With some of this stuff there's specifications that can be obtuse. It takes some research to discover what iOS expects an input to look like.

For your shortcut, without knowing the specific step you're stuck at, first get the current date. You'll then want to format the date using the Calender->Format Date block, setting the custom format to what you need based on these rules: https://www.w3.org/TR/NOTE-datetime-970915

I don't have Numbers, but maybe figuring out A1 spreadsheet notation might help.

My general tips: use a whiteboard or a notebook to sketch out your pipeline, study other people's Shortcuts to learn new tricks, use the alert and exit blocks to debug stuff and finally, make sure you're coercing/casting data into types that Shortcuts can use (Scripting->Get Type will help).

There's actually worthwhile evidence on how the new internet works to keep you addicted.

I suggest reading through tiny habits by bj fogg (who's work is largely influential in this space) and turning it around to protect yourself from any addictive impulses you may have.


I just listened to a 40 minute summary of this book on Scribd, after reading your comment. This will be helpful. Thanks for sharing.

Have you read Atomic Habits? If so how does this book compare? seems very similar

Tiny habits is written by an actual researcher. In fact Dr Fogg can be considered a founding father in this space.



There's also value in prevention.

For example, I've never used Tiktok in my life. I can't get addicted to it when I don't know what I'm missing. So I've internalized it as "silly teens dancing" and a "Chinese data grab", regardless of whether that is accurate.

This works for me. Clearly, nothing of importance happens on Tiktok, as in the real world I never hear anybody about it. So at best I would be missing out on entertainment, but I don't have a lack of that, I have too much of it.

I do use Twitter, where I also had the excuse to "stay on top of my industry". It's bullshit. Every industry has hundreds of weekly newsletters you can pick from that summarizes anything of significance.

You don't follow these experts for their insights, you're addicted to the timeliness and unpredictability of it.

Twitter is dangerous, it gets you addicted to hate and outrage. Uninstall it and never look back.

The simplest and most effective hack I’ve found to curb my Twitter usage is to just log out every time I’m done browsing and set a time once I log in on how long I want to spend scrolling. If I’m logged out, it prompts me with the login screen and I have to really decide if I want to spend time on social media at that moment.

I’ve done something similar but without tech. I used my coffee addiction to form a meditation habit. I made a rule for myself. No second coffee until I meditate. My meditation habit became very regular.

[Disclaimer: newbie here]

Wow, I had never ever opened the Shortcuts app. But I had heard about IFTT [If This Then Than] which sounds like a similar app.

Is there a website to help us find existing Shortcuts workflows? Or a tutorial to (let's say) put a new reminder in a google calendar automatically[]?

[]: my current need, that seems not to be covered by the Reminders app itself :-(

Reddit has a very active Shortcuts community.

I myself have spent dozens of hours on Shortcuts. Maybe I can help point you in the right direction. What do you want to accomplish?

My issue is not knowing where to start. The basics are uninteresting and the rest is a mystery.

All I found on YT were either superficial introductions or productivity simps. Neither is what I'm looking for.

I've been coding since I was a little kid and my first encounters with Shortcuts were intimidating.

The thing that pushed me to learn it was perennial laziness. Anything that I see myself doing repeatedly becomes a target for automation.

To specifically learn Shortcuts, I started by just throwing blocks in and seeing what they did. Another way may be to get other people's Shortcuts and then start rearranging and messing with what they created. It depends on how you learn.

For your specific case, my approach would be to make sure my iOS calendar and Google calendar were linked. You can then use the Calendar->Create Event block, trusting that your iOS calendar will sync itself with Google. The other step, which might intrigue you due to additional technicality, is utilizing the Web->GetContents of URL block to make requests to remote APIs. You could conceivably make requests to the Google Calendar API with that block, and have it trigger on device-specific events.

Wow, I think this is a really good solution if it works for the author. Using same cue's to trigger more useful action.

I've been fighting with bad habits all my life. Sometimes successfully.

The social media addiction is the hardest to fight.

Here is what works for me (not at all times): 1. Remove social apps and only use browser 2. Enable two factor auth and only keep two factor app on your laptop 3. Change password using password generator and don't save it.

With all the above it makes it really hard to log into the social network.

Now when you are done with the social media app, replace it with something useful: I replaced it with Google Books, and now whenever I have an urge I open a book instead and read it. Much better than meaningless scrolling. Alternative app - Google Keep. I use it for writing blog posts.

Can imagine extending this to Oura Ring (or similar) data

"Sorry, your heart rate is already too high, no social media for you"

> All this is nice, but obviously, it can be bypassed. Nothing stopping me from simply disabling the automation, then no more nagging.

That’s the problem with this solutions for me. If I don’t have the willpower to stop myself from using the phone, what’s preventing me from disabling the nag?

The only thing that’s ever worked for me, and it’s amazing, I highly recommend it and should do more often, is go somewhere where there’s no internet connection. No celular signal, no Wi-Fi. A single weekend can do wonders.

> iOS, by itself, weirdly does not have any APIs for looking for workouts in its own “Fitness” app like this, so the top block is a third-party app..

No need for third party app at all!


Point for me with all these blockers is the time before you access the app. You can get your mind together in these couple of seconds and decide that it's not good for you to go mad scroller mode again and instead close the app.

Love this way of thinking about mild addiction. This is the basic premise of a web extension I made.

It’s blocks addictive websites until you’ve finished your to-do list. But crucially, when you try and go on those websites it redirects you back to your to-do list.

It’s a little rough round the edges but it could be useful to anyone suffering with this problem.


Obviously it’s free, no ads, no data collection etc. the Firefox version is having issues at the moment.

Hello. I just recently built a website blocker Firefox extension so I wanted to check your productivity tool out. The UI is really good and I left it a 5 star.

If interesting in feedback; 1. It seems to only run the block/reroute to to-do list logic when a page is loaded. If the user is already on their site and then adds that site to the blocked list and has to-do list items, it won't be blocked immediately. I don't think this feature is vital but might align better with expectation. 2. Maybe show the to-do list and blocked sites button on the main extension popup, rather than having to go -> to-do list -> blocked sites 3. Maybe on/off button in case user has some sort of issue and needs to quickly access a site that is blocked.

Thanks, that means a lot. That’s very good feedback, I’m working on a new version at the moment with a lot of UI and accessibility improvements.

I think you’re right about the blocking issue. Anything that helps redirect people back to what they really want to do is important. There’s so many little hacks like the one OP came up with that can help, and lots of room for more apps that make these hacks official.

Personally, I save TikTok for each night when I sit on a reclining bicycle in the gym and exercise for an hour or two. I've stolen the weight routine from Flywheel so it isn't all legs either.

I do watch some Chinese lessons and electronics repair and cooking recipes and finance tips on there as well as the lighter content, though, so it isn't all pure entertainment.

Since the author prefers walking, maybe another option would be to put Twitter and TikTok just on an iPad and mount it to a treadmill.

Ah, if only my "self" would be so docile.

I used to have a few of my vice sites blocked on the "Hosts" level on windows. Unblocking this had enough friction for my self to not do on a whim, but them we came to the realization that Google Translate (with "Show Original") can be used to get Google to show me the site from the unblocked google domain...

To my shame I actually did that absent-mindedly over and over, and that was the end of that little experiment.

A restriction I put on myself early on that has served me VERY well:

No social media on the phone, period. Also, no notifications from anything that doesn't come directly from a human I know personally, to the extent possible.

Don't worry, you can still waste huge amounts of time on the computer too, like I do. :) Seriously, I'm relatively comfortable with my facebook/twitter use, though even that I need to adjust.

Uninstalled twitter off my iphone, a great way to reclaim your life and your sanity, also noticed my stress levels dropped ;)

Switched all my social stuff to mobile web apps only. I have a web app shortcut for Twitter but it doesn't notify or bug me. (Same for insta, LinkedIn, hacker news, reddit).

I clear cookies on exit too so I gotta log in every time.

They are there if I need them for something specific or if I'm really truly board enough to open my password safe log in, get the 2fa txt, reset my timeline to chronological . . ..

I found the shear amount of obnoxious notifications that would trick me into opening the app or the low barrier to entry to be more than I wanted. And the WebApps that log out every time do a lot less tracking.

Won't work for everyone but it's been pretty good for me.

Ive also given longer form writing a first class experience, my news papers, Kindle, Patreon, pocket, overdrive have replaced the spots where I had social apps.

Having similar problems. Most of us do, I suppose.

Complex solutions or these "digital well-being" things do nothing for me.

Instead, I install as few apps as possible and use the web version instead. My browser regularly flushes the cookies, so I gave to log in for most things and it resets all the recommendations.

To top it off, no charger in the bedroom.

There's no such thing as an addiction to a normal stimuli. Addiction is a medical word that should be reserved for people dealing with the problems associated with taking chemicals that directly alter wanting/desire in the brain. Even "gambling addiction" is just a relic from an uninstrumented past and really should be removed from DSM-6 at this point.

Saying that internet addiction exists (something you won't read about in credible professional journal) is done by for-profit institutes that want you to pay them to talk about and handle "internet addiction". Or by useful ignorants with unrelated incentives.

I get that this guy is just joking around about "addiction" and his approach to dealing with his own motivations seems realistic and useful. But when people start calling something "addiction" and meaning it it inevitably leads to the use of violent force by governments and restriction of freedoms. The "internet" is not addictive and even pretending it is only emboldens the ignorant and malicious.

> There's no such thing as an addiction to a normal stimuli. Addiction is a medical word that should be reserved for people dealing with the problems associated with taking chemicals that directly alter wanting/desire in the brain.

You're mixing and matching metaphysical claims with prescriptions about how language should be used. When you say "there's no such thing" or "exists" with respect to types of addiction, what exactly are you saying?

I'm saying that the neurological substrates of addiction are not being manipulated by normal stimuli so it's not addiction. It is not a dissociated wanting divorced for liking caused by direct activation of the substrates that encode wanting. It's just enjoyment of a normal stimuli and people prioritizing what they enjoy.

Medicalizing that, pretending there's no personal agency like with dopaminergic drugs, will cause more damage than letting people do what they enjoy. Calling things addictions inevitably justifies and leads to legislation that brings in the use of force and coercion to control people's behavior.

Thank you for the clarification.

I am not a neuroscientist, but might normal stimuli produce similar responses in the brain to chemical ingestion? If that were the case, we would still have a pathology that needs treatment. Despite what we call things, I am confident the addiction model for treatment would still work in many cases.

If the addiction model works to treat certain phenomena called "addictions" under that paradigm, then I am not optimistic that the meaning will ever change. You have your interests, and medicine has theirs.

Natural language is littered with layman's terms that are inconsistent with reality. Some, like "gender" and "race," have meanings that are so incoherent that any real discussion requires 1,000 words of linguistic stage setting. I think with "addiction" the toothpaste is already out of the tube.

Tech & advertising is a supernormal stimulus.


alisonkisk: "what is the "proper" term for unhealthy urges that are extemely difficult to control?"


For Android users I can recommend using the "Unlauncher" as home app. It's a simple and minimalist text only launcher that limits maximum 6 apps on the home screen and so all the shiny and addicting icons and animations are gone. You can find it on F-Droid or Github.

Focus Mode on iOS keeps getting better and better. I use it aggressively to limit all kinds of things, not just social media. It gets annoying when I need to legitimately open a locked app, but the benefits have been extremely worthwhile.

Wow, such a simple idea but I can totally see how this works (for me).

Struggling with a 'mild' scrolling addiction myself and this might be a nice middle ground between deleting apps alltogether and not having guard rails.

About a year ago I broke the Facebook doom scroll habit by setting an iOS shortcut to open a HN in a browser instead. Now I habitually doom scroll HN. Adding an element of incentive is a much better idea.

I did something similar to stop myself from constantly browsing YT and Reddit although with simpler rule:

- Opened on main page or just a subreddit? It's for mindless browsing then! Therefore `window.stop()`

It's a small thing, but turning my screen to greyscale reduced my daily screen time by 25% and didn't impact any functionality. It just makes it slightly less interesting to use.

I like this. I have really terrible willpower, to be able to set rules for what I want to do without having to consciously make the decision each time sounds great

Exactly, yes! I said this on a related thread yesterday, but the "secret of willpower" is less in the direct application and more in the timing. You have to set yourself to up not rely on just willpower at the moment of decision. Apply it ahead of time.


Does anyone know how to use a moderate-to-severe HN addiction to get things done?

The same pattern described in the article should be applicable to any time sink. Also, there’s several great threads here mentioning HN explicitly.

Occasionally, I’ll use HN to break past writer’s block. I’ve noticed that if I can find an interesting thread, where I might have something interesting to add, my brain flips from consumption mode to output mode. I’ve started using this as a calibration mechanism; how inclined I am to reply to a thread I’m interested in tends to be an indicator of where my mind is on the create/consume spectrum.

Side note, really like the layout of the site. Nice.

How do people do this kind of scripting on Android?

I haven't used it in a while but I believe the app Tasker should be able to do something similar to what's described in this post.

Probably using Tasker or similar apps.

There is a much simpeler, though less flexible, way to block certain apps and websites... namely the iOS ScreenTime setting.

I have those on. For both of them (Twitter/TikTok). ScreenTime is a great first step by the platform itself (iOS) to help folks do this themselves.

The difference between my post and ScreenTime is it leverages the brains gravity to the apps as a driving force of good habits.

Also, one small flaw in ScreenTime makes it almost non-effective: it allows bypass with one click. When you've run out of screentime it will do its block, but then it allows you to bypass really quickly. If it simply made you jump through a few more hoops (Go to homescreen, Settings, ScreenTime, App ScreenTime config, bypass for day; for example) to bypass I think it would be respected way more (at least by me, can't speak for others).

Doesn’t work, too easy to turn off or to extend by another 5 minutes indefinitely.

Had my spouse set the screen time passcode (can be separate from the iPhone passcode) to prevent me from extending

I think progress would be to use terms like 'mild' and 'addiction' in different sentences.

great piece. Shortcuts are pretty cool, I find the ssh function super useful.

Twitter is addicted to you.

What will it take for Twitter / TikTok to take responsibility?

There was a minute when big tech cared to take responsibility with screen time / internet addiction concerns. But somehow through the pandemic that has disappeared when we need it the most.

I think it will require an extension of the "right to disconnect" policies being made that give the user a choice in how much content they want from each platform.

It's unreasonable to think this is an individual's problem at this point. Maybe in the early 2000s. Tech is designed to be addictive for many reasons (social, behavior, etc) and those creating the tech need to take drastic action.

Instead of OKRs that increase screen time, ad revenue, etc. Maybe they should have goals to cut individual's time on a screen for the good of humanity rather than shareholders.

Big Tobacco never took responsibility; why would Big Tech? Partaking in these apps is a personal choice, if you want to be a BUMMER[0] addict that's on you. At the same time the state should have a responsibility to warn people of the dangers, in the same way that they did for Tobacco. There's already enough public health data and studies on the human brain showing just how harmful these apps are.

[0] Behaviour of Users Modified and Made into an Empire for Rent (https://www.amazon.com/Arguments-Deleting-Social-Media-Accou...)

I deleted my twitter account. I realize I miss out on some stuff but the wasted hours per week were really starting to add up. Its just not worth it.


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