A quick Instagram post leads to 20 minutes of scrolling. A ping on Linkedin ends up costing me 5 minutes of my day looking at people boasting their new job titles online. A lookup of my train schedule somehow derails into rabbithole search about the origins of the Decepiticon known as Astrotrain. Lets face it: The internet is a distraction pit. Aside from housing the grandest repository of information on the planet, it also comes with a set of addictive apps that love to steal all of your time and eat up the last remaining crumbs of your attention span.
I remember when I had my very first PDA….
I remember when I had my very first PDA (You kids: That is short for “Personal Digital Assistant”. Those digital filo-fax like devices that would house your contacts (whome you could call on a separate phone), your calendar and a bunch of other handy applications like mail(and games) that would get you through the day. Via the magic of a serial cable, this thing would sync with your computer and dump swap out all of the updated info you crammed into it, with applications like Outlook Express or god forbid, Netscape Mail.
Incredible as it may seem, these things were quite productive. You would leave with a “fresh” set of data for the day, and dump out all of the updated emails, contacts, calendar requests etc … in the evening. Meanwhile you could ruin your eyes by trying to read a Ebook on them (I read a small library on them and now wear glasses), jot down notes with a tiny pen (and bastardise your handwriting) or just look cool by flipping the thing open like James T Kirk waiting for a beamout.
The time you spend on that device was your own.
The upside of it was: The time you spent on this device was your own. The You got to choose what you did next, not some pesky marketeer-psychologist-algorithm-entity that is shoving the next TikTok vid down your throat. But sync-cradles no longer exist and “being offline” is no longer an option these days. But there is a solution. How about some “middleware”, applications that allow you to enjoy the functionality of the internet without its distractions ?
Let’s try to start with Social Media. Under immense peer pressure I have found that occasionally I need to post some things on Instagram, to prevent friends sending out search parties to find my withered corpse. I hate Instagram and am especially vulnerable to Reels Video’s. I spend precious time scrolling down to the next video and wrack a huge “scroll-guilt” when I see how time slips through my fingers. I like to poke my head out on Twitter but could not care less about political retweets or watching Elon-the-idiot hogging trending topics. So I want to use social media without HAVING Social media. Can I? Answer? Yes! The answer is simple: Buffer. Its a Social Marketing scheduler for businesses but it works great for the average Joe. You can post to your personal Twitter and Linkedin profile just fine. Instagram takes a bit of fiddling, you’ll need to convert your account into a (public) creator or business account. But after that it works like a charm.
So during the day I snap up some fancy pictures, snarky comments or insightful business blabla and ram the posts into Buffr. I can either post them to one (or multiple) channels, or hold the world in suspense and schedule everything for later. All of that without having any of the spammy apps installed on my phone.
One-way Socials. Yeah I know: I’m screaming into the void and not actually listening for a response, am I? That’s not completely true. I selectively pick and choose my moments where I access the Socials via the web. “Checking in” I call it. I glee over likes, read the snarky comments and snap a quippy response in a DM. That way I do Socials when I want to (and not the other way around). I filter out the crap that is force fed by ‘the algo’ and take back control of my phone (and life).
It’s a small step, but an important one if we want to take back control of our digital life and start watching the screen when WE want to, instead of the other way around.