11 replies

  1. That is pretty smart.

    It reminds me of https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/ which made the rounds a few weeks ago, but I just now go to the print edition.

    I used to be such a tech community enthusiast, but life is so much different back when the main form of community was Usenet newsgroups. (I can still sing the praises of those and the generally smart and polite culture around them… though not enough to fire up a modern reader, guess there are too many other distractions.)

    But I guess the Atlantic piece is talking about “real life” relationships as augmented (or diminished) via online connections, and the “must go offline” is more about the constant pitter-patter of distractions. I know my problem is whenever I ran into the tiniest bit of friction on a technical problem I’m very tempted to just go for the ever-present low hanging fruit of online stuff… I guess more like low hanging junkfood…

  2. Ah Usenet. Loved it. And I could always say that I was researching something for work. Which I was at least part of the time. I can’t remember whether they were moderated, but I don’t recall much if any trolling or flaming.

    The idea of going offline to focus isn’t difficult to implement. Simply turn off WiFi. Unless you must have constant access to a wireless networked device, that should do the trick. Or am I missing something.

    • Usenet for the most part wasn’t moderated, but had a strong sense of what was then called “netiquette”.

      Because of its university (with some corporate-geek) roots, it was a fairly privileged but thoughtful group. Every September a new class of new University students would join in, but they’d quickly be given the lay of the land. And then the lore says that AOL opened up a Usenet gateway in 1993, and it became “the September that never ended”, with a decrease in signal to noise.

      But what was great about it was it had groups for every topic under the sun, and while all of them developed their own subculture, there was a shared sense of decorum across all of them. Also, you could choose your own software/UI to navigate any of them – that’s one of the biggest differences between Usenet and webforums. (I suppose FB groups are somewhere in between, but I haven’t found the same sense of topic-based community in any of those yet…)

      Another positive point was its distributed nature; there was no single “Usenet server”, it was a vast, distributed co-operative effort. A rather conspiracy-minded friend of mine posits that’s why it was somehow repressed or subtly sabotaged, that governments and big corporations prefer single points for monitoring and control.

      I guess Usenet is still a going concern, but it’s not part of my life. Sometimes I’m not positive why I left. A combination of things: various jobs shutting off access, eventually my University shutting off its connection all together (sometimes the justification given was the number of super sketchy binary groups, rather darkweb stuff of porn and warez). And when Google bought Dejanews (the best web interface for it, at least for reading) and rebranded it as Google Groups… I don’t know, life was just too different.

      Anyway, re getting offline- yeah, the ease of it is just what the article mentions. (Of course you might still have your phone nearby, but maybe making it a separate device is a good thing.) My day work requires a constant contact to at least the local network. At times I’ve tried to use localhost-y tricks to disable certain distractions in particular, when I found myself angstily tab-switching back a lot…

  3. There are two types of people (aren’t there always). Those who can focus and stay focused until something external interrupts them. And those who constantly wonder if something new has arrived that they should look at and therefore interrupt themselves. I can’t think of anything simple to help the latter. They need deprogramming. For the former, it’s a question of figuring out what the external interruptions are and turning them off.

    In fact this got me thinking. It’s not necessary to turn off WiFi. I could turn on Do Not Disturb in the Notification Center on my Mac as well as my iPhone and iPad. If I go full screen, there also wouldn’t be any visible distractions on my Mac. Now, if I could only get the dogs to stop barking at anything that moves on the street.

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