The other day I was listening to episode #104 of The Knowledge Project titled Mastering Indistraction, with Nir Eyal, author of Hooked and Indistractable. I recommend you check it out whole since it has a lot of interesting information. However, I wanted to focus on one small piece of information that I could really relate to: the necessity to fight back for our time.
Social media is awesome and has done incredible things to the world, from connecting people all over the world, to being able to see what’s happening in real time. On the other side, we all know too well how it can be a huge time sink. It has happened to you too: you start scrolling on Twitter or Instagram and you realize an hour has flown by and you feel worse than when you picked up your phone.
We blame the big tech companies for their “addicting” techniques, dark patterns, psychological tricks and so on. Let’s be clear: all that is true. They compete for your attention and they use questionable or straight evil techniques to get it, to spy on you, to make you form a habit of it.
There are lots of organizations and governments that fight for our digital rights, privacy, etc, and that’s great. We should support and empower this initiatives because we depend on them. However, these things take time. In the meantime, we shouldn’t stand with our arms crossed and wait until the problem is fixed. We should resist on giving up on our attention and fight back.
What can you do
There’s a long list of things to try and break the distraction cycle. Some of those don’t require extra tools: consider uninstalling an app, disabling notifications, setting limits on when and how long you should use certain app.
On the other hand, in order to have a healthier experience on some apps and platforms, you need to install some extensions or alternative software. I put together a list of some tools I find useful:
- Minimal Twitter — Keeps Twitter clean, removes likes by other people and other secondary elements.
- Distraction Free Tube — Keeps YouTube clean by hiding all distracting elements like comments and suggestions.
- Brave browser — Webkit based browser with Chrome-compatible extensions, without the privacy issues of Chrome and with ad blocking powers included.
- DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials — Privacy enhancements for Chrome.
- uBlock Origin — Ad blocker for Chrome.
- Howto: Remove Twitter’s Trending Topics
- Browse Linkedin anonymously
- Please feel free to help me expand this list!
Sadly, tech companies won’t stop trying to play dirty to get your attention and your data. In the future, you can expect even more distractions than today. So you’ll have to stay alert. It sure looks like a cat and mouse game and it can be exhausting. But what’s the alternative? We’ll have to keep fighting.