At school, I got in trouble for writing my essays on paper, when they were to be typed. I had no way of communicating with my friends who were all using cellphones and IM, so I just talked to them at school if I saw them. If I wanted to play video games, I went to the arcade, and since I had no car, it was always a fun adventure getting there and back. From the perspective of others, I was becoming an outcast. From my new perspective, they were the outcasts - out of touch with themselves, mindless robots in an artificial reality.
I spent my time reading books, writing my thoughts down, sketching ideas, taking walks, observing humans and nature, introspecting, and developing my personal philosophy and plans for the future.
Eventually I grew out of the phase, bought a bunch of new stuff, including a new computer, and got addicted to the Internet harder than ever. It led to a lot of great things - getting better at programming, participating in a bunch of online communities, making money, sharing my work and thoughts, and finding inspiration from others. However, there is always a nagging feeling that my younger self is questioning my lifestyle.
No matter how far in the zone I am, how much effort I take to remove the distractions from my environment, how secluded a place I go to get away from it all - I cannot reach the level of clarity and the perspective from those days. Just knowing that sweet feeling that awaits once I am jacked into a live connection again, and hit the browser tab, is enough.
The crux is not a culture of distraction - it is that our culture, especially our technology, is too heavily skewed towards consumption over creation. To make full use of our humanity, we need to be able to take the time to look inside ourselves - we need to allow ourselves to be distracted from within. The Internet by nature creates connections outwards - perhaps balance can be restored by finding its inverse. An Intronet?
A computer, much like paper and other creative mediums, is an impressive tool for exploring and expressing the inner self. An Intronet may actually be a cultural shift in computing rather than a technological development.
Many have discarded psychodynamic and other long form therapies for practical reasons (expense, indefinite time commitment), but perhaps regular time slots for forming connections by exploring inwards — rather than from new information from the world — is the key to achieving balance.
Mindfulness, meditation, and so on are also included in this. Psychodynamic therapy happens to offer a verbal approach.
With this in mind, it feels like the sentiment expressed by the author of the posted link, yourself, and many others (including myself) might just be a constant of humanity, no better or worse now than it ever was (much like many other things; for instance adults saying that teenagers are more disrespectful than ever, which is a feeling that the ancient greeks expressed several millennia ago).
Also related, the idea of Degrowth (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degrowth).
Perhaps, but I don't buy it. In my opinion, our technology has enabled us to "create" on levels never seen in history. The ability to "have an audience" at your fingertips has provided everyone and their mother with a platform to generate media, be it music, literature, movies or graphic art.
I know it's superficial, but it still gives me a buzz to wake up in the morning and see a bunch of up votes and replies to something I wrote the night before. It's equally frustrating when I say something I think is smart and it gets ignored.
Damn you internet, validate my existence!
I don't think it's about validating your existence. I think it's that internet communities are gradually replacing more traditional forms of interaction. We, even introverts, still crave some amount of interaction; if we don't get useful interaction elsewhere, we can maybe get it online.
HN, and email, and everything like it becomes a lot less important to me if I've spent the day having fun with other people. (Counterpoint: I also wind down on HN after a stressful day of dealing with other people.)
I eventually got my phone back thanks to a honest taxi driver and on occasion, I've simply left it at work choosing instead to go home with only my trusty iPod.
I haven't done this in the past two weeks and think I'm about overdue. As for Hacker News as a distraction, I love this infinitely useful HN newsletter by Kale (@duck). Avoid HN for the week and dedicate one day of the week to just reading through the stories posted in the newsletter. I've noticed I tend to pay more attention to the posts and there's less chance of me making impulsive comments.
--Blaise Pascal (17th century)
Also, in social settings, I've noticed I'll check my phone if I'm alone, or near people where conversation has ended. Part of that is a mini-escape, and another part is caused by insecurity/peer pressure. If you're all alone doing nothing, you have less perceived worth than if you're all alone doing something.
I don't think it's possible to create a distraction-proof UI that is also user-friendly.
You can build a distraction-proof UI on a computer, but all parts must cooperate. If a single one annoys, the UI has failed. This is difficult to do if the UI's foundation, its OS, doesn't play along nicely. That's probably the way to do it, build a new OS, or train an existing one into submission.
"I see there are wireless networks available. Would you like to connect to one?" (...currently connected to a wired network, concentration lost...)
Life is a horrible place underneath fishing, video games, Twitter, hiking, stamp collecting, sports, coding, horticulture and everything else we’ve invented. It would be impossible to live with the knowledge that you’re going to die and have nothing to take your mind off things. That’s why solitary confinement really is torture.
I had the “get rid of all my possessions” phase too. I sold everything and lived out of a 28-liter backpack in South America for 18 months. What did I learn? That everyone just wants a distraction. Often with some combo of drugs, booze, sex and music. Yeah, sometimes I climbed mountains or got cultural and moved in with a local but it was all done to keep my mind off death.
It’s all the same crap. Even criticizing others for their preferred distraction is in itself a form of distraction.
I like cheap red wine, vicodin, and PlayStation myself. Sometimes I suck down caffeine and crack open Knuth to read up on data structures but I don’t feel it’s any better than the former. Whatever keeps the dopamine flowing is fine by me.
If a company that banned non-enterprise smartphones during work hours was more profitable than one that did not, if the difference was great enough, the banners would quickly overtake everyone else.
This is where culture comes from.
Is Google Making Us Stupid?