Ask HN: How do you deal with information addiction?

78 points | by hidden-spyder 13 days ago

28 comments

  • zorrolovsky 13 days ago
    The trick that worked for me is to be absolutely ruthless.

    I don't allow myself to bookmark "read later" pages again. I have to options: either I read the page here and now, devoting my full focus and attention, or it's gone forever.

    I suggest you read about the power of focus, and also work on the damage that the fear of missing out is causing you. Yes, there are millions of interesting topics and insights out there, but you can only read one at the time. So ask yourself: "if I had to learn about one topic today (or this week), what would that be?". There is no later, there is no tomorrow... it's either now or never!

    • corebuffer 12 days ago
      Interesting concept. I went ruthless too, but in categorizing and leaving the scene asap instead of discarding. Discarding made me feel bad (because I was really losing things I wanted later).

      I used to save everything to "see later" and get lost like you described, but instead I now host a TiddlyWiki locally where I transform what I see in a wiki reference (or discard).

      Doing that allows me to filter out things that are temporary (news, opinions, etc) from things that might be useful later (book recommendations, cool projects, etc).

      The big trouble remains in timeboxing this practice so it doesn't take a lot and become a problem again.

      (I think the biggest lesson I took from that is that most of what we see that is important is time-insensitive. So, doing this work of saving and categorizing over a batch of content in a weekend hour is just fine)

      • yadaeno 13 days ago
        I had to fight the urge to screenshot your comment.

        Do you have any suggestions on where to read about the power of focus?

        • atatatat 12 days ago
          Your diary while on cannabis or mushrooms.
        • scyzoryk_xyz 13 days ago
          I’ve worked out a different approach over the years. I have Instapaper installed and when I come across something that I actually want to read but don’t have the time for I just save it there. Tabs and bookmarks are for relevant and important things. Whenever I am in a spot where I’m bored and seeking a good read, like on a train or something, I reach for and rummage through that pile. It’s a big pile, it’s for entertainment reading.

          I don’t know about the whole learning only about what you’re focused on approach. I’ve often found valuable insights and lessons in places I wouldn’t have looked at if I were optimizing everything with this level of zeal.

          • arnold_palmur 13 days ago
            I think that's a really valuable approach - either dedicate the time and effort now to focus on it or just forget about it. This helps relieve the cognitive burden of your attention minimally scattered amongst N number of different things.
            • mikewarot 13 days ago
              I don't every bookmark things to read later. I bookmark them AFTER I've read them so I can share them with others, should the need arise.
              • adkadskhj 13 days ago
                Man, i feel like i'd miss so many interesting topics. Do you think this same goal might work if you limited it to, say, 10 bookmarks?

                Survival of the fittest, you always compare it to the rest and if it's good enough, it goes in and something else comes out?

              • diplodocusaur 13 days ago
                Deep down, it really is about your own finitude. Fear of death. Not doing enough. Not doing it right. Quest for meaning.

                You can explain it away with 'the information age' and try to find a magic bullet organizational system [0] but it is ultimately a human problem.

                For a practical person, the best bet is to try to orient reading towards a goal so that you bias the random walk into a desirable direction [1]. Or to simply have fun finding connections [2]. And maybe improve things for others along the way [3].

                [0] e.g. 'David Allen - getting things done' [1] visual from 'Richard Hamming - you and your research' [2] 'Isaac Newton - "like a boy playing on the seashore"' [3] poem 'HWL - Psalm of Life'

              • PragmaticPulp 13 days ago
                Start with the obvious: Try going cold turkey. It may or may not work, but you won’t know until you try.

                Do you have a lot of tabs open right now? Close them all. Can’t because you might miss something you need to do? Write it on your todo list and then close the tab. Tabs and bookmarks aren’t your todo list.

                Next, work on identifying your triggers that prompt this craving for new links and new information. Next time it happens, pause and ask yourself why it happened. Were you bored? Frustrated with something? Avoiding another task? Once you start identifying the triggers and circumstances, you can start replacing the autopilot impulse with some deliberate healthy choices.

                Which is the final point: Choose an alternate activity to fill those times. It’s not enough to say you’ll stop doing something. You need to identify something else that you’ll start doing in those circumstances. It could be as simple as going to your bookmarks list and reading the first article at the top of the list instead of going to HN for new links. Or maybe it’s getting up and doing 5 minutes of light exercise. You need to have an alternate plan in place to execute when you start identifying your triggers.

                • muzani 13 days ago
                  Information isn't rare anymore. It's like a bus. If you miss one, another will come.

                  In my experience, articles or comments are never great pieces of information. The best ones will usually lead you to a book or documentary that they sourced the info from.

                  Delete the bookmarks, get the book.

                  • smt88 13 days ago
                    This doesn't sound superficially like addiction. It sounds more like a mild anxiety disorder, something in the family of OCD.

                    You have to start to feel comfortable with the idea that you will miss out on 99.999999% of all the interesting things to know about in this life, much of it useful. You will be wrong and ignorant about some important things, and it will hurt.

                    All of that is OK, normal, and unavoidable. You just have to get there emotionally.

                    Cutting yourself off of the information hose shouldn't feel scary or inefficient, it should feel good or at least neutral. Your brain needs time to rest, absorb, and find satisfaction in things outside of learning.

                    • exolymph 13 days ago
                      > I feel like if I stop, I'd lose out on something that'll be valuable.

                      Internalize that you're wrong. Most info isn't valuable at all. Regarding that which is, most has already been sifted from the dreck by others. Find a best books list that you vibe with and focus your completionist energy there.

                      • _moof 13 days ago
                        This is a bit like asking your fellow patrons at the bar how to cure alcoholism, isn’t it mate? ;)
                      • mikewarot 13 days ago
                        You're describing a hoarding problem. The fact that it's just bookmark in a folder, instead of a room, full of stuff, that you have to know the "trails" to get through makes it easier to ignore.

                        You've stored this pile of stuff, how often do you actually go into it and pull out something useful? How does that reward actually balance with the costs of acquisition and storage (in terms of your time and energy).

                        • dyingkneepad 12 days ago
                          Everything is a tradeoff. I guess it helps if you think about the costs of what you're doing. Yes you will get information, but you will still be spending your time on these, and time is a cost. Also, it is evident that people with information addiction (which often means smartphone addiction) have serious problems focusing and lot of other mental issues caused by their behavior. Read about these, try to find out if something is happening to you. If you want some horror stories about the extreme cases, read reddit's r/nosurf.

                          Perhaps with all the time you spent reading barely-useful news you could have finished that certain book you've been postponing? Maybe you could have worked out more? Maybe you could have practiced that new skill? Maybe stopping doomscrolling will help your concentration?

                          Think about the tradeoffs you're doing.

                          • ve55 13 days ago
                            My partial solution to this was just learning to say 'no' to large amounts of categories of information. It sucks and I'm still discontent with it, but I cannot be an expert in everything, and the amount of time and bandwidth I have is severely limited.

                            I took some time going over my interests and decided which were more valuable to me than others, and then started cutting down on some of the ones that ended up lower on the list. While this may be a practical solution, I am still left pretty discontent with it, because the amount of things I am 'missing out on' is still unfathomably large. Improving the emotional and personal aspects of dealing with this is something that is harder to help with (and likely differs quite a bit between individuals), but I would hope that improving the current state of things is at least a fruitful starting point.

                            • impute 12 days ago
                              One thing I'm trying out now is setting a personal 6 month focus area. So everything I read or consume individually (excluding time spent with family and friends) should be related to this area of focus as much as possible. That means either saying no to everything else I come across that's interesting or just putting it on a list for later in case I choose that topic as an area of focus in the future.

                              I remember visiting the oldest library in California a couple years ago and it was just a small room. At that time, it was conceivable that one could learn all the knowledge available. Now it's just not possible. I think the trick is to figure out up front what you want to focus on and only consume things related to that.

                              • shermix011 8 days ago
                                I use the timeboxing technique daily to maintain a tab on time spent while surfing the net. Also there is a particular workflow that works with me now, for which I use a couple of tools to achieve. I use feeder.co to keep track of my feeds and newsletters. There's a daily folder which I check daily, and for others I subscribe to weekly newsletters so that I get curated content which saves me my time. In the weekdays I just stash interesting articles, projects, etc that I discover among my feeds to instapaper. I have linked the instapaper folders to my RSS reader with RSS so that on weekends I can check my stashed items. On the weekends I go through them all as I have free time on hand and then organize them into Raindrop.io bookmarking tool neatly. So it's, discover, stash, read, and then organize workflow with me.
                                • akshaykumar90 13 days ago
                                  I was in the same boat till recently. For me, it was Hacker News that felt like this infinite firehose. I felt anxiety if I did not read HN some day—like information was slipping away from me forever.

                                  This is what I did:

                                  - Rely more on my Twitter timeline. I follow <200 people and have my timeline show tweets in chronological order and I am able to "catch-up" once every day. I only check it in the morning.

                                  - Subscribe to some link-aggregator newsletters, like hackernewsletter, that sends a weekly digest of interesting links every Friday.

                                  - But most importantly, just come to terms with information overload that we all are living through right now and it's ok if you miss out sometimes. If it was important, you will come across it later. :)

                                  • grillvogel 13 days ago
                                    sorry but this seems like horrible advice. twitter should be completely removed from the equation
                                  • luthfur 12 days ago
                                    One way to deal with it is by being a producer instead of a consumer. That way you are forced to curate what you consume based on what benefits your "production".

                                    For me that has been to start a blog, build an app etc.

                                    Another approach is to go deep instead of wide. By that I mean, as you read, capture and take notes, start spending more time with your notes instead of capturing more.

                                    • grillvogel 13 days ago
                                      just remember that:

                                      >In the current, digitized world, trivial information is accumulating every second,preserved in all its triteness. Never fading, always accessible. Rumors about petty issues,misinterpretations, slander. All this junk data preserved in an unfiltered state, growing at an alarming rate

                                      http://junkerhq.net/MGS2/Text.html

                                      • chrisco255 13 days ago
                                        Take a long camping trip or hike in the woods, and shut off your phone or leave it altogether. Take a burner feature phone (non-smart phone) if you must, for emergencies. Go for a week, go for as long as you can get away with. Tune it out. Do this regularly. You'll feel better out in nature and the anxiety will subside.
                                        • joshxyz 13 days ago
                                          I got rid of my phone. That forces me a time out from all of it.
                                          • vfulco2 13 days ago
                                            I've accepted the firehose is just too big and let the thought of staying on top of everything go. For example, these days I am intensely studying AWS serverless tools while working away on an MVP. The torrent of news, webinars, AWS hosted reference examples, client highlighted examples, third party consultants and tinkerers contributions is overwhelming. Focus on what value added info is best for you in the intermediate / long term. And don't forget the world's propensity for too much vaporware.
                                            • forgotmypw17 12 days ago
                                              I stick to text content, and I bookmark straight to my blog, with title and URL citations.

                                              This helps me in at least two ways:

                                              I turn something that's mostly consumption into easy/frictionless content production.

                                              And also, it encourages me to immediately assess the information I'm reading instead of lazily taking its correctness for granted.

                                              • icythere 13 days ago
                                                I learnt about this (similar) topic about 4 years ago: Rolf Dobelli mentioned something in some section in his book "The Art of Thinking Clearly". It's not about the technology, but the same idea may be applied. Since then I have given up many "good" things.

                                                That's a good book and I think you may learn something from it too.

                                                • greatatuin 13 days ago
                                                  RSS works well for me. Don't subscribe to too much and when you've read it, you're done for the day.
                                                  • RMPR 10 days ago
                                                    This past thread[0] might also be useful.

                                                    0: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27640587

                                                    • rattlesnake45 12 days ago
                                                      I just made an email where I send information, ie links of articles I find interesting.

                                                      Later on I will look over the titles and the main takeaways from the article.

                                                      Basically I just keep the links and if I ever think about the topic I search for it and then read.

                                                      • aristofun 13 days ago
                                                        Just like any addiction its not a cause but symptom.

                                                        Find a cause — what are you running from into addiction?

                                                        Either it’s some trauma or mental disorders or anything else, your investment in fixing this gets you much much higher returns than any anti-addiction techniques

                                                        • blocked_again 12 days ago
                                                          • mkbkn 13 days ago
                                                            A great colleague/mentor once told me:

                                                            OHIO - Only Handle It Once.

                                                            • guest159835 13 days ago
                                                              LeechBlock. But router level blocker would be better
                                                              • cpach 13 days ago
                                                                Poorly.