The Smart Phone Fix. a counteraction.
I got my first smart phone a year or so before the iPhone came out, and even that I didn't have mobile internet access at first, it still felt revolutionary. I was able to listen to music and podcasts, sync rss feeds to read later, read ebooks and comics and even run some emulators. By the time I got my first android device I was hooked. Soon, I had pretty much all my digital needs covered right there in my pocket. It was awesome!
Then it changed...
It happened slowly, bit by bit, but I lost control over this device in my pocket. The smartphone stopped being a device I could grab when I needed it, and became something that "needs" me and demands my almost constant attention. So many apps, so many notifications, endless scrolls polluted with ads and dark design patterns. This sucks.
So, I decided to take active steps to change this and document my progress on here.
Don't FEED the Social Media Monsters! #
It suprises no one that social media are the biggest offender when it comes to yelling for our attention. Each platform is more than happy to tell you about every insignificant little thing that happens in your social circle in hopes that you will go and check on it. Combined with the never-ending feeds they make for a very addictive way to waste time. So, any and all social media apps had to go. Fortunately in 2020 I pretty much cut all social media from my life... not all, but most. I kept twitter because people message me about my games on there and I had a mastodon app for checking what's happening on merveilles.
Those apps are now gone from my phone and what I needed to use them for is now handled by their respective web clients accessed while on desktop. I check on fediverse once or twice a day, so I never really needed constant access. As for twitter, the app was only there to let me know about any direct messages, so I've instead setup an email notification for those. If someone contacts me there - I'll know and can check it on desktop.
This way I am no longer bothered by any social media in my pocket... but we can do better.
Push Away the Push Notifications! #
I remember when push notifications were a sought after feature! It was a big deal to get an email client with them on my HTC tytn II - it felt so futuristic! I no longer need to keep refreshing my phone email client to see if I got a new email - the phone will just tell me when it happens! But then the future came and corrupted the shit out of this idea. Nowadays most apps buzz and ding only to grab our attention - not to convey anything of importance. I don't need this shit.
So I went through all my apps and disabled notifications for everything except what I need. Which boiled down to email and the messenger I use for close friends and family. Few more apps are allowed select notifications - stuff like Lyft letting me know my driver is here. Android makes you disable each app one by one (and it takes like 3 clicks each, then two more to get back), but I think spending those couple minutes is worth it.
Added benefit of going app by app to disable notifications is that it showed me all what crap I installed and don't really use. So during this time bunch of stuff also got deleted from my phone. Win-Win.
...a month and a half later. #
When I first started this whole ordeal I still had maybe not an urge, but a craving to go and check on things. What if something cool happened on the internet and I am not there? I guess my brain was craving that dopamine drip that those endless feeds provide. Then I would check those feeds on the desktop and realize I haven't missed anything groundbreaking and moved on. It took my brain somewhere around two weeks to learn it doesn't need that dopamine kick.
I no longer miss notifications or the endless content feeds. In fact, unlearning to reach for the phone or check the feeds when I am a even a tiny bit bored is making it so much easier to work on things away from the internet. I am still struggling a bit with staying focused on a single thing while on the desktop (in fact I clicked away from writing this update at least three times so far). I think that poor attention span is a side effect of all this short form writing that social media got me used to, so this is something I want to work on next.