[Personal Experiment] One Year without Junk Media: Six-Month Update

post by lsusr · 2020-06-18T16:34:14.484Z · score: 68 (27 votes) · LW · GW · 19 comments

Contents

  Sleep
  Education
  Self-Care
  Socialization
  Cleaning
  Stress
None
19 comments

The mediums [LW · GW] of the media I consume affect me more than the content so six months ago I committed to one year without junk media [LW · GW].

Here is a list of the biggest changes I've experienced over the last six months.

Sleep

Junk media gives me insomnia. My insomnia always goes away within 1 week of abstinence. The problem has not returned during 6 months of abstinence.

Even without insomnia, I tend to go to sleep around 2-3 am and wake up around 11 am. I predicted (incorrectly) that long-term abstinence would bring circadian rhythm closer in line with the day night cycle. This has not happened.

Education

Before this experiment it took lots of willpower to study things like physics. I have a longer attention span now. I relax by training skills and learning things.

I had to stop studying quantum field theory [LW · GW] because it has become too addictive. This vice appears limited to theoretical physics and junk media. No other subjects have triggered such intensity of addictive behavior.

Theoretical physics aside, I like getting smarter by default.

Self-Care

I have a garden. I walk more. I write a lot. I cook good food by default. Though self-employed, my productivity at work remains unchanged.

Socialization

Abstaining from junk media seems to increase my socialization from "almost none" to "a little bit" but it's hard to tell due to the confounding effects of COVID-19. Socializing makes me happier.

Cleaning

When I begin abstaining from junk media I usually get a small bump to my tidiness. I predicted (incorrectly) this effect would become more pronounced over time. Instead, my tidiness returns to baseline levels as I acclimate.

Stress

The common thread is lower overall stress. I have lower overall sympathetic nervous system activation. This could be the root cause of my lengthened attention span and reduced insomnia.

19 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2020-06-20T06:04:14.074Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Great to have long-term reports! Very interesting results.

comment by lsusr · 2020-06-20T07:18:20.152Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I enjoy your three characteristics series. It seems like you have been meditating for longer than 6 months. I would be interested to read a subjective report of what long-term effects of meditation (if any) you have experienced.

comment by emanuele ascani (emanuele-ascani) · 2020-06-19T22:10:45.713Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you keep up with news of any kind? If so, how? Don't you have fear of missing out something important which you should act upon (both good news or bad news or not even news but simply information)? Not necessarily politics or general news of course.

comment by lsusr · 2020-06-20T02:38:41.587Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

News is a feed of exceptional events. Important news is called "history" and is impossible to ignore. Unimportant news is called "noise" and should be tuned out. Almost all news is a waste of time due to the Lindy effect [LW · GW] alone.

Even worse, most news is subsidized [LW · GW] by whoever wrote the press release, usually corporate or political interests. Have you ever read The Economist or Ars Technica and tried to guess what special interest group inserted each article into the publication? When these backers are corporations and political propaganda machines I find following the news makes me stupider because it draws my attention to the wrong things.

While surfing news is forbidden, I do allow myself to look up specific information if I have a question I want answered. For example, I have been following COVID-19 since 2019, long before it became big news in the West. I was way ahead of the mainstream news when it came to the single most important story this year. When this virus hit the USA I acted upon it immediately [LW · GW].

I decide for myself what information is important to follow and then I go look it up.

comment by emanuele ascani (emanuele-ascani) · 2020-06-20T08:42:06.423Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Did you discover COVID-19 earlier just due to keeping up with papers?

comment by lsusr · 2020-06-20T08:45:34.120Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not at all. I got early reports from my family. When I heard China was quarantining 10 million people in Wuhan it was obvious to me the disease could become a global pandemic.

comment by crl826 · 2020-06-19T23:07:21.205Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not OP, but I'd be curious what important thing he should act on but miss because of this plan.

comment by emanuele ascani (emanuele-ascani) · 2020-06-20T08:49:05.477Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wouldn't have been this nervous 5 years ago, but it seems to me that the world is socially evolving faster now, and I think it's possible not to react fast enough on a historical event. But maybe I just have become more anxious? One other thing is: many times my life changed due to great fucking information I found while farting around the Internet, but at the same time this comes with all the drawbacks Isusr rightly identified. There is also the feeling that I have witnessed society and even art evolve by staying consistently online, and stopping feels like jumping out of a train. I'm not sure how I should act.

comment by crl826 · 2020-06-21T05:34:21.333Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you tell me how you identify what is are historical events vs just noise?

How did you react to them and what would have been different if you reacted to said historical event a few days later?

comment by lsusr · 2020-06-21T05:46:48.846Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It looks like you might be replying to this [LW(p) · GW(p)] comment.

A historical event is something that will still matter long into the future. Exceptional events with few long-term consequences constitute noise.

We were first to market. It took 8 days to launch. If someone else had launched first they might have taken all the media coverage.

comment by emanuele ascani (emanuele-ascani) · 2020-06-21T08:42:50.544Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There haven't been historical events that prompted me to react earlier than everyone else for now (not even covid, my city has never been the center of a big enough outbreak and I just abided to the lockdown rules. I can imagine that an earlier reaction could have been better if I lived in another country/city). The historical events that are important to react early to are probably the ones that would put me/my family/everyone else around in relatively sudden danger: war, political instability, coups, dangerous diseases, and probably other stuff. Things that happened just a handful of times in now developed countries during the twentieth century (maybe they won't happen again, but...).

comment by crl826 · 2020-06-21T20:10:33.237Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

So you can't step away from media because you might miss some historical event that you have to react quickly too, but that's never happened?

Do you think that you would find out about war, political instability, coups, dangerous diseases even if you didn't have access to any kind of media?

comment by emanuele ascani (emanuele-ascani) · 2020-06-22T08:12:14.944Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, I would find out, but later.

I'm inclined to think that if junk media (social media, news) were only useful for news, completely disregarding them would be probably the best action. Considering every other use though, I'm inclined to think the optimal is being able to reach a compromise of 20m per day maximum, although I'm not sure if it is possible without getting addicted. If it isn't it just might be best to get away, but I'm unsure.

comment by Pongo · 2020-06-20T20:39:38.860Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you use any aids (like site blockers) to achieve this ban, or are you able to set this as a personal policy and then follow it?

comment by lsusr · 2020-06-20T21:08:56.816Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I modify my /etc/hosts file and use a block site plugin on my web browser.

comment by Self-Embedded Agent · 2020-06-21T08:25:07.111Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your experiment sounds very interesting. I would like to follow in your footsteps.

Could you detail for a digitally illiterate how you did this?

How long should I keep it up before I will feel results in your estimation?

What site plugin did you use?

comment by lsusr · 2020-06-21T09:21:26.105Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're not the first reader to express interest in doing one of these. I should get around to writing a manual. The digital tools are a tiny part of the overall project. Discipline is surprisingly unimportant too, in the long run. Succeeding in a project like this is all about understanding how habitual behavior works.

That said…

Could you detail for a digitally illiterate how you did this?…What site plugin did you use?

I use Block Site - Website Blocker for Chrome™. Uninstall your videogames, social media and news feeds. (Do not delete your videogames' save files.) Logout from social media on your phone if you cannot uninstall the apps. (There is no need to cancel your accounts.) Don't worry about the /etc/hosts file. It's for 1337 h4x0rz only.

If you want to listen to music on YouTube then create a separate account solely for music. Install Adblock Plus - free ad blocker. Adblock is very important! Don't skip it. Listen to music for a few hours. Whenever you see a recommended video that isn't music, click the "⋮" menu and then "Don't recommend channel". Keep clicking "Don't recommend channel" hundreds of times while listening to music until the YouTube algorithm understands what you want. Non-music videos are like weeds. You will never completely eradicate them but you can reduce them to a small fraction of your overall recommendations. If you click on a non-music video accidentally that's not the end of the world, but try to click away quickly so YouTube doesn't recommend more videos like it.

Do not listen to music on YouTube via the YouTube smartphone app. Install the Brave adblocking browser and listen to YouTube music through it instead.

How long should I keep it up before I will feel results in your estimation?

It depends on how much junk media you consume. For me, I always feel significant results within 24 hours. Since I don't know your specific situation, I'd feel comfortable saying within 7 days…if you cut out everything on the list [LW(p) · GW(p)] plus personally addictive poisons[1] and you go a full week without any exceptions.

Different results happen on different timescales. Increasing my socialization, cooking and self-care happens within days. Curing my insomnia can take up to a week. Studying quantum field theory took several months and may not generalize to you at all.


  1. A friend of mine reads fiction novels to abnegate so he has to stop reading fiction when he abstains from junk media. ↩︎

comment by Self-Embedded Agent · 2020-06-21T16:32:18.187Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

One problem I have in keeping this kind of regime is that I often find myself going around my blocking software, e.g. through using private browsing. Do you have a recommendation for something that works more generally?

Have you tried software like RescueTime? I have used it in the past and was happy about it (it is a more comprehensive system than just plain blockers; also tracking what you are wasting time on; allowing differeent levels of usefulness etc)

https://www.rescuetime.com/

comment by lsusr · 2020-06-21T19:59:24.729Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The fundamental problem is there is no way you, as system administrator, can force yourself not to disable your own blocking software. This is a question of psychology, not technology. Blocking software can provide friction at its best.

Modifying your /etc/hosts file is a general solution, if you use Linux. I never bothered to find out if there is a good nontechnical solution since the /etc/hosts file works well for me. If someone else was your system administrator then that person modifying your /etc/hosts file might get around the "disable your own blocking software" problem.

I have never used RescueTime. I prefer open source software that lets me control all of my own data.

Warning: Infohazard

The Tor browser can get around modifications to your /etc/hosts. However, regular so-called "private" browsing cannot.