In this section, I share some of my favorite articles, blog posts, and other short essays I have read on the world wide web that have resonated with me profoundly, including a short excerpt.
- Think of Your Attention Span Like a Bank Account
“What would it mean to be economical with my attention—to budget it like I budget my money? The first step would be to acknowledge that attention is a resource that I own entirely, but have limited stores of. Next, I’d make a conscious decision about how to spend it. If I were saving money for a trip, for instance, I’d set some goals and look for ways to save. Creating a savings account for attention might function the same way. We’d have to ask ourselves what we’re saving for: Nurturing a relationship? Learning a new skill? Finishing a passion project?”
- The Man Who Knew Too Little
“Right after the election, Erik Hagerman decided he’d take a break from reading about the hoopla of politics. Donald Trump’s victory shook him. Badly. And so Mr. Hagerman developed his own eccentric experiment, one that was part silent protest, part coping mechanism, part extreme self-care plan.”
“In 2019, the digital economy is a vast, interconnected set of technologies, companies, marketers and billions of humans shedding data every second. Google has collected much of that information to help shape world-changing products, while also serving as the fuel for a money-printing advertising machine.”
- THE ATTENTION DIET
“Ninety percent of the most important experiences in life are right in front of you. And instead of distracting yourself from them, as you have been, the Attention Diet will finally free you to face them. Remember: it’s about quality over quantity.”
- Rebelling against attention economy, Humane Tech movement expands
“An ex-Google design ethicist, Harris co-founded the Time Well Spent movement and the Center for Humane Technology (CHT) to combat the “existential threat” of unchecked technological power over humanity, from digital addiction and information overload to Twitter bots and political polarisation.”
- How Selfie Culture Ruins the Great Outdoors for Everyone Else
“Many outdoor enthusiasts voice similar concerns for Canada’s public parks: engagement is growing, but it’s vapid, devoid of the deeper reflection that being in nature is meant to inspire. Whether it likes it or not, the park world is welcoming a surge of new visitors who don’t conform to—or understand—its etiquette.”
- We’ll Look Back at Our Smartphones Like Cigarettes
“If you can taper over the void with a constant stream of distractions—make it just comfortable enough that you don’t have to confront it—you’re in a really bad situation. Now you’re avoiding that self-reflection that you need to actually grow up and to build a life worth living. Also, you can distract yourself enough that you never have to answer that drive to actually fill your life with the quality activities: getting engaged with your community; picking up a skilled hobby; art and poetry; these type of things.”
- Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?
“The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone.”
- 5 Practical Lessons from my 30-Day Digital Declutter Experiment
“By intentionally being ignorant for a sustained period of time about all the interesting and exciting ideas being thrown around the internet each day, I’ve shown myself experientially that I don’t actually care about missing these ideas as much as it seems like it in the moment.”
- Digital Minimalism Review: Gazing Into the Abyss
“Eliminating the constant distractions of digital life only opens up another void. Stare into it long enough, and there’s no guarantee you’ll like whatever stares back.”
- In Search of Lost Screen Time
“More than three-quarters of all Americans own a smartphone. In 2018 those 253 million Americans spent $1,380 and 1,460 hours on their smartphone and other mobile devices. That’s 91 waking days; cumulatively, that adds up to 370 billion waking American hours and $349 billion.In 2019, here’s what we could do instead.”
- People aren’t disposable (or, why apps can’t cure loneliness)
“We live in a time where relationships — all types, not just romantic — are all too often seen as disposable. If it takes more than the bare minimum effort to stay in touch, we melt out of each other’s lives. If it’s not convenient, we give up on ever spending time together. If letting go is easier than holding on, we let go. And it usually is. Letting go has become so easy. We’re all drunk on options. People become static. They become the noise we try to drown out. We’re swamped with little rows of profile pictures, reducing people to still images.”
- Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It
“A dedication to cultivating your social media brand is a fundamentally passive approach to professional advancement. It diverts your time and attention away from producing work that matters and toward convincing the world that you matter… If you’re serious about making an impact in the world, power down your smartphone, close your browser tabs, roll up your sleeves and get to work.“
- How a Month without Computers Changed Me
“It doesn’t take us much time to get used to a way of living and start doing things on autopilot. Our brain likes to save energy, so it turns our extremely voracious conscience as soon as it understands that everyday life can be done without it. As a result, our perception gets dull and replaced by thoughtless habits. Not letting it happen requires leaving the comfort zone, requires entering a new world, where you don’t know anything and have to start from scratch. You could take up a new hobby each month. Or travel from one city to another. Or do without things you are so used to, like having conversations or using computers—just for a little while.”
- The case for slowing everything down a bit
“Our digital lives dispense with friction. We get the answers we seek instantly, we keep up with friends without speaking to them, we get the news as it happens, we watch loops of videos an algorithm chose for us, we click once and get any product in the world delivered to our doorsteps in less than two days… But these technological wonders do not seem to have made our lives or societies more wonderful. Depression, anxiety, loneliness, drug overdoses, and suicide are rising. Productivity growth has slowed. Income inequality has skyrocketed. Politics is more bitter and more tribal. Donald Trump is president of the United States. Something is wrong.”
- The surprisingly difficult art of doing less
“We should be careful, as individuals, not to blame ourselves for things that afflict us, that actually result from these more overarching levels. We’re all victims of the culture in which we live, one way or the other, and so it’s not our fault if we reflect the worst parts of it.
But we do have some freedom as individuals. We can micromanage our lives and our habits. We have to work on our self-control the same way we work on our bodies in a gym. We have to develop the strength to resist these constant temptations.”
- Can You Make It As an Artist in 2018 Without Constantly Plugging Yourself on Instagram?
“Adams says his biggest misgiving with Instagram is that it seems to ‘represent a liquidation of marginal experience.’ Waiting at a crosswalk suddenly becomes a moment to be transformed into content (or to check in on how your content is being evaluated). There’s less time to simply exist outside of production and consumption. Life becomes limned by phone-pickups and the buzz of notifications… It reprograms us to seek out content to be recorded all the time, turning our minds into their own kinds of cameras, knowing that we could always be posting, hoping for the most likes. It also demands a certain immediacy, not only reframing how we see, but how we allow ourselves to process what we’re taking in, possibly turning the artist into a half-baked influencer chasing abridged ideas and images.”
- 27 Simple Ways To Improve Your Mental Health
Most people have at least one harmful addiction. Maybe it’s alcohol, smoking, junk food, whatever. Only you can decide to leave it behind and you can make that choice today. Addiction can seem like a viable way to handle mental health problems, yet they invariably worsen the problem.
. . .
ON WORK + OTHER STUFF
- A man and his hobbies: If you want to be a better person, find something to do outside of work
“Our hobbies should be a form of dissent, a radical expression of our individuality, a celebration of doing things that we’re ‘not obliged to do.’ … hobbies should celebrate [our] independence from labor.”
- How to read more
1. Quit reading books you don’t like.
2. Carry a book with you at all times.
3. Keep your phone in airplane mode.
4. Make regular trips to your local library and/or bookstore.
5. Share books you love with others. (They’ll give you more books to read.)
- Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work?
“Perhaps we’ve all gotten a little hungry for meaning. Participation in organized religion is falling, especially among American millennials. In San Francisco, where I live, I’ve noticed that the concept of productivity has taken on an almost spiritual dimension. Techies here have internalized the idea — rooted in the Protestant work ethic — that work is not something you do to get what you want; the work itself is all.
- The Modern Trap of Turning Hobbies Into Hustles
“Whenever I have some time to myself, I panic. Unstructured time — especially spent alone — is phenomenally rare in my life and I feel an overwhelming obligation to make good use of it. I should get some laundry done. Meal prep. Ask each item in my dresser if it brings me joy. Figure out how to fold a fitted sheet. Paint my nails. Work on the play I’m writing. Do a face mask… How did we get to the point where free time is so full of things we have to do that there’s no room for things we get to do?“
- In Praise of Indulgence – An Essay
“In a world where the proper understanding of the word indulgence becomes self-evident, one can reap easier the benefits of a more effectual mode of being. A mode of being that is characterized by intent, awareness and a pragmatic strategy that will allow us to dissipate modern conundrums we all face.”
- Why Walking Helps Us Think
Since at least the time of peripatetic Greek philosophers, many other writers have discovered a deep, intuitive connection between walking, thinking, and writing. “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live!” Henry David Thoreau penned in his journal. “Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”
- What are the most valuable things everyone should know?
If you only read one list for the rest of your life, let this be it. “Tell the truth. Do not do things that you hate. Act so that you can tell the truth about how you act. Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient… Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.”
- Against the Insufferable Cult of Productivity
“‘Is information overload killing your productivity?’ asks a representative business story. The answer is to adopt yet more productivity strategies. The labor of work is thus extended to encompass the labor of learning how to keep up with your work (specialized techniques, such as ‘Inbox Zero’, to manage the email tsunami) as well as the labor of recovering from your work in approved ways.”
- Want to Be More Creative? Take a Walk
If you are unable to think of a catchy, creative way to present sales data or begin a newspaper column, take a walk. A brief stroll, even around your office, can significantly increase creativity, according to a handy new study.
- Everything About My Writing Process
My process is: “I write.” Like, I sit down, put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, and I make words. It’s the same way “going for a run” mostly involves “putting shoes on” and then, you know, “running.” That’s 99% of it.
- Charisma, controversy & cocaine: a look at the strange world of gurus
“My question is, what is this doing to us? If everyone can find supporters, does that mean everyone can find verification that their ideas are true? Are we all moving towards a point where our beliefs become increasingly divorced from reality? What’s the price we pay for escaping uncertainty and doubt? What are we losing when we outsource our thinking to other people, purely because they sound convincing?”
- Why are modern men obsessed with self-improvement?
“Immortality is the latest obsession in Silicon Valley. The fashionable pastime for tech whizz kids is to attempt to ‘cure’ death — and conquer their own mortality. It is the ultimate narcissistic pursuit.“
- Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed
“The 8-hour workday is too profitable for big business, not because of the amount of work people get done in eight hours (the average office worker gets less than three hours of actual work done in 8 hours) but because it makes for such a purchase-happy public. Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work.”
- The Case for Working with Your Hands
“The escalating demand for academic credentials in the job market gives the impression of an ever-more-knowledgeable society, whose members perform cognitive feats their unschooled parents could scarcely conceive of. On paper, my abstracting job, multiplied a millionfold, is precisely what puts the futurologist in a rapture: we are getting to be so smart! Yet my M.A. obscures a more real stupidification of the work I secured with that credential, and a wage to match.”
- Want to love your job? Read this article
“The answer isn’t escape from a ‘voluntary prison,’ but a new way of thinking about how we spend our working days and breaks—making today matter, both on the job and during time off. The quality of our lives depends, in part, on our perception of existence. Or, as William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet when the Danish prince called his land a prison, ‘There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.’“
- On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs: A Work Rant
“The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger (think of what started to happen when this even began to be approximated in the ’60s). And, on the other hand, the feeling that work is a moral value in itself, and that anyone not willing to submit themselves to some kind of intense work discipline for most of their waking hours deserves nothing, is extraordinarily convenient for them.”
- 22 lessons from Stephen King on how to be a great writer
“Writing should be a fully intimate activity. Put your desk in the corner of the room, and eliminate all possible distractions, from phones to open windows. King advises, ‘Write with the door closed; rewrite with the door open.'”