The Age of Distraction and what to do about it

Simon Rae

Over the past few weeks Ben and I have been talking about social media and how we utilise it while still maintaining a slow(er) paced life.

We spoke about Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and finished last Monday’s episode with a challenge – to delete social media apps of our phones for the next month. I know there were a few people who really weren’t down with that idea, which is totally understandable (it can be annoying and inconvenient, for sure) but today’s episode might give you some additional food for thought.

We had planned to wrap up the social media series last week and move on to another topic, but a couple of weeks ago I read an article on The Guardian that was too fascinating, and perhaps a little too much like the dystopian fiction I love, to ignore. So we thought we’d spend today’s episode examining the article and the ideas it presents, because it’s a very timely conversation.

The article opens with a conversation between the journalist and a handful of Silicon Valley engineers and developers, who are among the small but growing number of tech employees who no longer use the platforms they helped create. For some, it’s purely the distraction and time impacts of these addictive platforms, but for others it goes deeper. The article examines the ways in which these platforms have been designed to maximise addictability, and the impact that’s having on our behaviour. It was this point that really made me mad, and gave me the motivation to delete the apps and completely reconsider the way I use them.

Ben and I also talk about the specific tools we’ve started using since reading the article, including website and app blockers, as well as the mindset shifts we’ve made that seems to have made these changes easier than they’ve been before.

If you haven’t had a chance to read the article I’ve linked to it below and definitely recommend you take the time to have a read this week. You may just find yourself a little pissed off, like me, and use that anger to make some long-term changes.

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Things to Check Out After Today’s Episode:

  • ‘Our minds can be hijacked’ by Paul Lewis, The Guardian
  • Stay Focusd – the website restricting extension for Chrome – I use this to keep non-work social media time to 10 minutes a day
  • Freedom – the app and website blocking app that stops you from being able to access apps and specific websites on your phone (I use this in conjunction with Stay Focusd so there’s fewer opportunities to find work arounds)
  • SLOW, my brand new book is now available in Australia and New Zealand! (US and Canada, Spring 2018) Head over here for details.
  • Destination Simple is now available in North America! Grab a copy here.

Keep Listening:

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11 Responses to The Age of Distraction and what to do about it

  1. Hey y’all—writing from Houston, Texas! RE: Instagram, a few months ago I came across a Forbes article showing a way to post to IG via your computer: https://www.forbes.com/sites/paulmonckton/2017/05/09/instagram-upload-from-desktop/#1a2c89303068 I do the User Agent Switcher for Chrome that was mentioned and it works fabulously! I was getting so frustrated about posting from my phone and being tied to my phone and making myself only check it via my computer was a life saver. I still have the app on my phone because occasionally I take a photo and want to share it via that method but the mindless scrolling is what I’m really eliminating. I can sit down for 5-10 minutes on the computer and then get off.

    Something worth checking out if you really want to just delete the app permanently.

  2. Thanks for sharing this article. I enjoyed the podcast, as well. I’m very concerned about the addictive nature of these things and I wasn’t even aware of the extent of it! I don’t use Facebook or Twitter, but I did take your challenge to delete Instagram from my phone and I noticed 2 things: 1st, I mindlessly look for it far more often than I thought I did. 2nd, I’m really not missing anything. I really appreciate the ways that you continue to help me open my eyes to important issues that are easy to not think about. No more plastic bags/straws going on around here!

  3. Commenting here a little late – I’m catching up on your ‘poggies ‘ – you mentioned how social media could have an effect on democracy – you should check out a session on TED Talks by Zeynep Turfekci for more on the effects of social media. Keep up the good work.

  4. Thanks for sharing this article. I enjoyed the podcast, as well. I’m very concerned about the addictive nature of these things and I wasn’t even aware of the extent of it! I don’t use Facebook or Twitter, but I did take your challenge to delete Instagram from my phone

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