Rands, on The Builder’s High:
You’re … swimming in everyone else’s moments, likes, and tweets and during these moments of consumption you are coming to believe that their brief interestingness to others makes it somehow relevant to you and worth your time.
The fact that the frequency of these interesting moments appears to be ever-growing and increasingly easy to find does not change the fact that your attention is finite. Each one you experience, each one you consume, is a moment of your life that you’ve spent forever.
These are other people’s moments. …
This New Year, I wish you more blank slates. May you have more blank white pages sitting in front you with your favorite pen nearby and at the ready. May you have blank screens in your code editor with your absolutely favorite color syntax highlighting. May your garage work table be empty save for a single large piece of reclaimed redwood and a saw.
Alan Jacobs, author of The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction (among other things), might teach a first-year college course on attention and attentiveness:
Are digital technologies destroying our capacity to pay attention — or are they just changing it, in some ways for the better? In this class we will try to understand what attention is, why it has been thought important in prayer, study, and personal relationships, and how it may best be nurtured as our technological environment changes. …
I’m inclined to think that every college should offer a required first-year course on attention and attentiveness. Attention is costly — there’s a reason why we speak of paying attention — and as a resource it is easy to deplete though also renewable. Simply to make students aware of the costs and the renewability would be a major service to them, I think.
Trent Walton, on the difference between being known and being known for:
Investing time and effort into being known and knowing others (in my work or in my life) allows me to better do the work that I want to be known for. The online me is only one facet of who I am. That’s okay. I’ll accept your poor substitute on the web if you’ll accept mine. I’d rather spend my time wiping off mashed potatoes.
Dave Lee, with a novel way to keep your Inbox clean:
Recently, I’ve been conducting an experiment. I read/delete announcement-type emails, reply quickly to emails that I’m able to, and then I print all the remaining emails in my inbox. Yes, you read that correctly… I actually print my emails onto paper.
At first, printing onto paper took a lot of mental energy to accept. I’ve been paperless for almost 10 years and I hate physical papers laying around. I also don’t like wasting paper as well. So, the idea of printing emails was difficult to accept. But I wanted an easier way to clear my inbox and I was wiling to try almost anything.
Dwight Garner reviews three books about parenting, technology, and attention, in Resisting the Siren Call of the Screen. It’s a bit snarky, but has a few bon mots, like the phrase “The Full Amish.” Here was one passage I liked from it:
Before she speaks about how to pry our kids away from their phones, tablets and laptops, Ms. Steiner-Adair looks parents quite sternly in the eye. She describes a generation of us who are “unavailable, disconnected or narcissistic.” We spend the expanse of our days … gazing into our phones, scanning for the next text, e-mail or tweet.
The message we communicate to our kids, she writes, is: “Everybody else matters more than you.” Children, she declares, “are tired of being the ‘call waiting’ in their parents’ lives.”
Mark Wilson, in a solid critique of one of Apple’s recent ad campaigns: In 20 Years, We’re All Going To Realize This Apple Ad Is Nuts:
In what should be a warm, humanizing montage, people are constantly directing their attention away from one another and the real, panoramic world to soak in pixels. They’re choosing the experience of their products over the experience of other people several times in quick succession. And Apple has a warm voice in the background, goading us on. …
Ironically, in Apple’s flag-planting ad about design, their marketing department (and at least a few execs) have shown how fundamentally little they understand about the field. Design is at its heart a service for humanity, it’s crafting solutions for people to live with more security, efficiency, or happiness. So the experience of a product will never be what matters to a great designer. It’s always been about the experience of a person using that product.
Jack Cheng, on the writing process, and intentionality in general: Moving Upstairs:
A few years ago, a friend shared with me his strategy for decluttering his home. He and his wife lived in a duplex and decided to gather every single thing they had and put it in the bottom level of the duplex. They moved upstairs, lived in just the top level, and as they needed something, they would go downstairs, find it, and bring it up. Little by little, they repopulated their life with only what was necessary.
I was thinking about this strategy today, and I realized it works because if you have something at hand to begin with, you can come up with a bunch of reasons to keep it, whereas if you start without it and have to go out of your way to get it, you have to ask a different question. Instead of asking, “Why should I keep this thing?” You ask, “What thing do I need here?”
Elizabeth Foss, with an outstanding list of Screen Rules for her family. Here are a few:
- Be intentional. Before you sit in front of a screen — iPhone, iPod, computer, or television, or anything else yet to be invented — ask yourself if this is really the best way to use your time.
- Do not use this technology to deceive anyone. Ever. Always, always be truthful online. Don’t airbrush yourself (figuratively or literally.) If you don’t like the person you are, change yourself for real; don’t invent a new you online.
- If you are in a social situation, surrounded by people or even just one person, put your phone away! Away. Learn to people watch, to read the room, to look someone in the eye and convey genuine interest. Put it away or I will take it away. And, if you see me messing up on this one, please remind me.
- And speaking of “likes:” Sweetheart, your worth is not the sum total of the number of likes your selfie got or the number of friends or followers you have. You are so much more than that! No image, no incredibly clever status update, no blog post will ever, ever come close to capturing the wonder of you. If you ever doubt your value, click the computer closed, put your phone in our pocket, and come look me in the eye. I’ll show you how much you are worth.
- Don’t share too much. A little mystery is a good thing.
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