As a person who, in a very small bit part, has helped to build the internet, I am surprised to find that I am terrified of it.
I am embarrassed to admit that I got sucked into unhealthy rabbit holes online today. I started the day well, getting up at 6 am and programming on a new tool I am building and handling emails that came into my company. Then around 9:30 am I went to take a little refresher nap and brought my phone.
An hour and a half later, with no sleep, I gave up. I had spent that entire time looking at all the usual news sites, then social media including TikTok- which is probably the most addicting site of all.
I should have been working. If any of my employees had done this there would be hell to pay. I did not miss any meetings or anything, but I lost a lot of productive time and now that I am coming back to work I feel already mentally drained. And I am sorry to admit this has been happening more frequently than I would like.
I have a lot of willpower (founded multiple successful companies) and am losing control of my ability to put my phone down. My wife, a former NCAA Division 1 athlete with a lot of willpower, can’t put down Instagram either.
When I drive on the highway, probably one out of every three cars I look into has a person driving it with a phone in their hand. We all know it is incredibly dangerous to be looking at a phone while driving… yet we still do it.
Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, news sites, and all of the other apps have been optimized to the point where our human brains can’t resist the cravings they induce.
I am going to opt for outside help and set up my router to block all of these and see if that helps. The problem is that I still can just go around the router on my phone very easily by turning off Wifi. I am also going to try to make a rule for myself that inside my house my phone must always be plugged into it’s charging wire. And my charging wire has to be by my workstation and never in my bedroom. I don’t think these measures will be enough. Any other suggestions on how to fight back?
I am frightened for myself, frightened for all of you, and even more frightened of what the future will bring my children.
FOLLOW UP NOTE:
I have now blocked every social media, news, and streaming site on my phone. I am basically trying to turn it into a tool that only allows email, phone, and text messages. I occasionally do need to look something up online in a store or something. I do occasionally get an article that really teaches me something (maybe 1 in 10x on Hacker News, 1 in 30 on NyTimes / WaPo / Bloomberg, 1 in 50 on Twitter)… it would be nice to get that benefit without mindlessly slogging through the cruft. Maybe a “garbage time” ability that gives me 30 minutes a day of that stuff so maybe I will be more choosey about what I pick…
BUSINESS IDEA: Someone who created a phone that allowed you to restrict yourself (or your kids) better would sell a LOT of devices. I would love to have an old phone that locks out all apps except like a math and spelling trainer for my kids. For myself, I would love a device that allows me to block all data sources (wifi and cell signal) except specific sites / functions I choose like work email.