Sat 13 October 2012
Media is moving more and more towards a frictionless mode of sharing, as we've seen with Spotify's Facebook integration. It's a smart move from their point of view, because less friction means more sharing, more sharing means more data, and more data means more targeted ads. And the strategy's working too - many Facebook apps have seen large boosts in engagement due to frictionless sharing.
But let's apply the opposite philosophy to our digital lives. Let's increase the friction between ourselves and these sites, or what I like to call them, time sinks. The amount of value I get by browsing Facebook is nearly zero. Twitter is marginally more useful, but if there really is something which I should know, it will reach me through RSS or through my network of real-life friends. But these sites offer a fake sense of productivity. The first thing I do when I wake up is catch up on the tweets I missed. Next comes Facebook, then Google Reader, then Reddit and before I know it I've just wasted the first two hours of whole new day. This is
not how I want to start the day, but how do I fall into this trap every single time? There's a simple answer - notifications. Those minuscule symbols at the top of my home screen. It's easier for me to swipe down and look at what I missed than to get up and brush my teeth. And this is the root cause to my productivity problem.
That's why, I'm going to put more and more distance between me and social media. The first step was to remove the apps from my home screen. That's when I realized, I can actually delete these apps from my phone! It's a simple idea, but something unthinkable previously considering how much I use them. Unfortunately, I'm dumbing down my phone by these actions, but I'd rather do that than waste my time. With these steps in place, I found that my daily routine changed quite a bit. I didn't have that almost OCD-like compulsion to check my tweets or my Facebook notificiations. Life was a bit more peaceful, I'd read a book on my Kindle instead of mindlessly refreshing Facebook or Google Plus.
The next step was my laptop. Since I now go larger periods of time without these services, I started spending more and more time on the desktop versions of these sites, and effectively wasting even more time than before. Now, I'm not sure if I can go cold turkey and give them up entirely, but today I'm going to take a simple, but what I hope is effective, measure to reduce this waste. Delete the bookmarks. Sounds simple, doesn't it? It is, yet it's worked wonders with other sites before (YouTube and Quora). Today I'm extending that bookmark bar ban to Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Google Reader retains it's place for now, along with Pocket.
By increasing the friction (click on the address bar, start typing the address, wait for it to autocomplete and hit Enter), we give ourselves more time to consider whether this is really the best use of our time. It reduces the number of distractions in your face when you're actually getting work done in your browser. It reduces the urge to "just check if there's anything interesting going on." With those bookmarks there, I had to justify why it's such a bad idea to open them, just for a few minutes. I'd convince myself that I'd just peek for five minutes, and then come back, reinvigorated. But without fail, one thing would lead to another and I'd find myself watching clips of Chandler and Joey on Youtube (I call it the "Youtube black hole, once you get sucked in, there's no coming out."). But with these shortcuts out, I now have to justify the effort of actually typing in the address. And most of the time, I can't (could be because of how notoriously lazy I am). But the fact is, it's working. And I'd advise you guys to do this too, or else we'll find ourselves nose deep in shared links and emo statuses while Mark Zuckerburg laughs his way to the bank.