How to upgrade your mental software: become aware

Self-awareness can really go a long way. 

Recently, while I was having a relaxing massage, I was overcome with the need to check my phone. There I was, at a wellness spa away from the city, my eyes closed, smelling some kind of aromatherapy, and feeling the touch of a masseuse professional. And yet, instead of enjoying it, I wanted it to go faster so I can find out why my phone rang with notifications.

This, in spite of the fact that I was in the middle of a social media detox. (Although, of course, I cheated several times.)

I immediately realized how attached I have become to my smartphone, even without social media. So what I did was acknowledge this, and then tried my best to enjoy the rest of the massage. That really helped me.

As Madi reminded me, even if all you can do is notice the behavior, that in itself is progress.

The first step is to become self-aware. The rest, if you work on it, follows.


@crystalcamarao (with special thanks to Madi Thomas)


You Don’t Have to Unplug to Manage Digital Burnout

TL;DR: For those of us who work online, a digital detox may feel impossible. There are, however, ways to improve your relationship with tech without removing it from your life completely. Take breaks often, get the bulk of your socializing from irl exchanges rather than social media. Set notifications for things you really need to know about, and then put your phone on do not disturb during your off hours. When you’re not working, be totally present in the experience. 


Facebook is like sugar — too much is bad for you, says a top Facebook exec

TL;DR: Facebook exec Andrew Bosworth articulated his thoughts about recent FB criticisms on an internal network. The highlights:

  • Russian interference was a real thing, but was done mostly through organic posts rather than ads. 

  • Facebook lead to Trump’s election...because he had a fantastic digital campaign. 

  • The psychometric targeting Cambridge Analytica used was ‘pure snake oil’ and that they didn’t have as much pull on the election as the media claims.

  • Polarization is a much bigger problem than filter bubbles.

  • Facebook isn’t a truly addictive thing that degrades people's free will, it’s like sugar. Consume a moderate amount and you’ll be fine. (reality check: FB is designed to keep you on the site for as long as possible. Their metrics are based on co opting people’s attention. Facebook users are not addicted like a substance abuser, but they are still being manipulated to spend more time on the platform.)

‘Techlash’ Hits College Campuses

TL;DR: Google values its employee’s opinions and is a driving force for good. Well, that may have been true at one point, but the company’s ‘utopian’ days are behind it now. More and more, college students are becoming disillusioned from Google, Facebook and other large tech companies. “Now if a classmate tells me they’re joining Facebook, there’s an awkward gap where they feel like they have to justify themselves.” Some recruited students have turned down offers while offering criticism about the companies. Will this cause enough of a rift to make some kind of change?

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Want to connect? Try unplugging.

How do we define what technology contributes to our wellbeing and what detracts? For instance, if you value friendship, it might make sense to go on social media to keep up with your friends. But is this really the best way to foster connection? Signs point to no, interaction on social media is more superficial than irl communication. There is some value there, but don’t accept a watered down version of what you want just because it’s convenient.




Remember, you’re being manipulated on social media: 4 essential reads

TL;DR: It’s getting more and more difficult to detect what’s fake and what’s real in cyberspace. To stay woke and avoid manipulation, Jeff Inglis suggests not trusting anything on social media as the default, until that source has proven trustworthy. Check your own biases, remember that a lot of misinformation is proliferated by bots, and spend the time you used to spend checking feeds physically interacting with people.

I asked my students to turn in their cell phones and write about living without them

TL;DR: One professor challenged students to go without their phones for a week and write about the results. The general consensus he received back was the students realized how much constant phone access had been degrading their relationships. Additionally, students found it significantly easier to concentrate without the temptation of a glowing screen in their pocket.


How Is Antitrust Enforcement Changing?

TL;DR: Tech companies are quickly becoming targets of the FTC. Will this be a repeat of Microsoft in the 90’s? Probably not, because this time it’s more that pure economics. Tech monopolies threaten to screw up democracy and increase the wealth gap, and all of that has public opinion on the FTC’s side. Anti-Big Tech sentiment is becoming increasingly trendy. 

88% of Americans use a second screen while watching TV. Why?

TL;DR: 88% of Americans use another screen while watching TV. At this point, we fear being alone with our thoughts so much that we end up needing a distraction from our distraction. Is this really the best way to consume media?



TL;DR: Nudge is a browser extension helps you use the internet with intention by blocking addictive aspects of sites, adding more friction to access certain urls, and gently letting you know how much time you’re spending. No need to block when you can nudge!

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The best gift you'll ever give

I’m pretty sure you’re busy with the holiday rush (including Madi who is taking a break this week), but I’d like to quickly share this article that should be a good reminder to all of us of how important presence is this holiday season:

Put Down Your Phone: Why Presence Is the Best Gift You’ll Ever Give

“When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Happy Holidays everyone!



Attention Anarchy

In the past, I’ve really beat myself up about how much time I spent on my phone. I realized later that I’m using these apps how they were designed to be used, to extract as much of my time as possible. It’s not a personal failing, it’s reflective of a larger issue.

Hmmm... 🤔
December 17, 2019

I hope that in the future social media will have a business model that isn’t so exploitative. Until then, we just have to do what we can to stay focused on what’s important in an increasingly distracted age. 




How I Broke My Smartphone Addiction

TL;DR: In the app Forest, you plant a tree which dies if you mess with your phone. If going grayscale or deleting apps hasn’t helped your phone habits, gamifying the process might!

When a digital detox isn’t possible

TL;DR: If you rely heavily on technology for work, a digital detox might not be possible. Here are ideas on how to create space between you and your phone without disconnecting entirely.


AIM was the killer app of 1997. It’s still shaping the internet today

TL;DR: In the early days of the internet, you logged on when you needed to. With the dawn of the “away” message, AIM shaped our current always-online culture.

The Hidden Costs of Automated Thinking

TL;DR: Algorithms are everywhere, and we don’t always know how they work. Jonathan Zittrain argues that reliance on algorithms we don’t understand could have dire consequences.

Jack Dorsey Wants to Help You Create Your Own Twitte

TL;DR: Would decentralized social media solve the censorship debate? Jack Dorsey wants to find out.

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No one's pixel-perfect.

My digital detox is over, and I have unrestricted internet access again. I have gotten distracted on some time wasting sites, but only for a few minutes instead of hours. When it does happen, I gently remind myself of what my intention is for being on my phone, and act accordingly. It's important to avoid criticizing yourself for small mistakes, they're going to happen and it's all part of the process of improving your relationship with tech.

Does technology improve lives? Only when used intentionally.
December 10, 2019




Video game addiction is now being recognized—what happens next

TL;DR: Gaming addiction has been defined as a real disorder, but the controversy over whether this classification helps or harms rages on.

Perfectionism is killing us

TL;DR: Young people are becoming increasingly concerned with perfection. Is social media to blame?


Facebook has a theory that hiding ‘likes’ will increase post volume, and Instagram is testing that theory

TL;DR: Did Instagram hide likes because they suddenly realized gamifying social approval was unethical? Doubt it. Insta says they're making the change to help mitigate bullying, but it could just be another tactic for increasing engagement.

Why everybody is freaking out about political ads on Facebook and Google

TL;DR: There is a lot of chatter around what Facebook, Google, and Twitter are doing about political ads, but what if we’re missing the bigger picture? ‘Organic’ disinformation is much more insidious.

The Ethical Dilemma at the Heart of Big Tech Companies

TL;DR: Big Tech is constantly in the news for concerning ethical practices. This article at the Harvard Business Review highlights what is being done (or not done) to shape the ethics of the future.

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