What I’ve Read

Some of my favourite articles, blog posts, and other short essays I’ve read on life-tech balance that have resonated with me profoundly, including a short excerpt.

  • You can be woke without waking up to the news
    “If you’re using news or social media to wake up, try this instead: When you wake up, don’t pick up your phone. Head to the bliss station, play with your kids, write in your notebook, draw, pray, meditate, take a walk, eat breakfast, listen to Mozart, get showered, read a book, or just be silent for a bit. Even if it’s only for half an hour, give yourself some time in the morning to not be completely horrified by the news. It’s not sticking your head in the sand, it’s retaining some of your inner balance and sanity, so you can be strong and fight.”
  • 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.”
  • Google’s 4,000-Word Privacy Policy Is a Secret History of the Internet
    “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.”
  • 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… 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.”
  • 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. “Me thinks 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.”
  • 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?”
  • 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.”