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Powerless over the Net
September 7, 2012 8:55 PM   Subscribe

Many writers are using software to fight what they call Internet Addiction that is interfering with their work. Zadie Smith thanked the programs, Freedom and Self Control, in the acknowledgements of her new novel,NW, which has a character who is addicted to online message boards. Other writers, including Booker short lister Will Self, prefer to use typewriters instead of being tempted by the Web's lures. Scientists have recently linked internet addiction with a nicotine addiction gene, although there is no consensus on whether it is addiction or habituation.
posted by Isadorady (84 comments total) 67 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh my God, what a bunch of sad sacks. Addicted to the internet. Jesus.
posted by indubitable at 8:58 PM on September 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


holy shit what time is it
posted by indubitable at 9:00 PM on September 7, 2012 [49 favorites]


And here I am two days before a paper is due.
posted by mattoxic at 9:00 PM on September 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Looks like "Freedom" is for Mac or PC, and "Self Control" is just OSX.

The problem with self imposed limitations is there's always a way to circumvent them. I could disconnect my modem and put it in the basement, but I still know it's there and can hook it back up again anytime. Imo, punishment for not meeting one's goals (like BeeMinder) is a better way to self motivate.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:04 PM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Freedom is very popular with the writers in my office. Well worth the money.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:05 PM on September 7, 2012


...there's always a way to circumvent them...

Oh yeah?

profile > preferences > Close Your Account > Password [Enter reason] (optional)

Close Your Account [Red Button]

*poof*

See if they let you back before the date you give in your reason. Begging and bribes won't work!

Also, goodbye until 2013.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:11 PM on September 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


The only way I've found. to stop doing something is to do something else that's slightly more compelling.
posted by solarion at 9:12 PM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh thank GOD I'm not the only one.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:12 PM on September 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Anyone struggling with distraction while writing would do well to check out the Alphasmart Neo2. It's a great device, and using it has shot my own writing production through the roof. All my first drafts are written on it, and editing is done in Word. It's incredible how freeing this damned thing is, with its utter lack of anything but six lines of text on a green LCD screen. That 700 hour battery life isn't a typo either, I have (according to my Pomodoro sheets) over 100 hours used on it, with the battery indicator showing 87% remaining on the cheap AAs that came installed in it.
posted by Sternmeyer at 9:13 PM on September 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


Jessamyn West on the subject.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:16 PM on September 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's not that the internet is so compelling.

It's that sometimes you sit down to write and you will do anything, anything, anything to avoid the anxiety of having to put words on the page. It's a compulsion like chewing off your own foot to get out of a trap.

I may have to switch back to Windows (currently I do almost all my writing on Linux because I can't distract myself with Netflix!) just for Freedom. (Leechblock seems to lose its settings whenever I shut down the computer -- I need to look into similar extensions for Chrome. Or just turn my wifi off.)
posted by Jeanne at 9:16 PM on September 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


When I was a young Splunge I spent time at a friend's house with a portable typewriter and a bottle of Dewar's White Label. I was writing a science fiction novel. I also always had a box of Nat Sherman Queen cigs. Lovely brown paper. No filters. The liquor was an affectation. But the cigs were real. Addiction? I was addicted to the thought that what I was writing was real.

Go figure.
posted by Splunge at 9:18 PM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Y'all are stopping me from writing my great novel.
posted by arcticseal at 9:18 PM on September 7, 2012


I think I finally quit my reddit addiction after I was banned from r/circlebroke for posting as a unicorn. My message to the mod was that I would "Face god and walk backwards into hell" and then deleted my account.
posted by hellojed at 9:20 PM on September 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


Scientists have recently linked internet addiction with a nicotine addiction gene

I'm so completely fucked.
posted by loquacious at 9:22 PM on September 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


Future writers will brood over their collection of cat pictures, slowly killing themselves with image macros the way they once brooded over Scotch and slowly killed themselves with cigarettes.

Writing workshops will be filled with stories about catoholic writers gathering themselves after another binge on I Can Haz Cheeseburger, using Hair of the Cat on r/aww to ease the pain, adding funny text in Impact font even as they can feel themselves dying inside.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:25 PM on September 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


there is no consensus on whether it is addiction or haBITCHuation.
posted by goethean at 9:26 PM on September 7, 2012


People will truly turn to nearly any excuse for why they have poor self control and poor work discipline.

I had a supervisor once who, for *any task* would give a deadline. His argument was that "deadlines make you more productive". so literally you'd be burning a CD for the guy - one-hour deadline. Fixing his keyboard not working? Two hour deadline. It reminds me of this.
posted by dethb0y at 9:27 PM on September 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Internet and nicotine addiction linked? The only way I'm more fucked is if the gay pasty white gene makes it worse.

(Though I am inspired to turn hellojed's story into a short film.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:27 PM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I use Self Control. It's excellent.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:32 PM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The best way to manage your internet addiction is to break it up with frequent cigarette breaks.
posted by mannequito at 9:40 PM on September 7, 2012 [16 favorites]


People will truly turn to nearly any excuse for why they have poor self control and poor work discipline.

Please don't do this.
posted by psoas at 9:41 PM on September 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


The best way to break your internet addiction is to close your StumbleUpon account and remove it from your browser.

Because there will always be one more funny page you haven't seen.
posted by Malice at 9:43 PM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


People will truly turn to nearly any excuse for why they have poor self control and poor work discipline.

The problem with this theory is that it doesn't have any basis in fact when observing people with addiction issues.
posted by Malice at 9:45 PM on September 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ghostride the Whip rubbed his eyes as he settled in, the Word doc he'd quit his job for half-forgotten under a pile of pictures on the Desktop. The pain was eyestrain coming back, he knew. It would keep coming back until he quit doing this to himself. Every morning, like clockwork, the old demons rose.

His wife wandered by in her fading, ratty robe, giving him a contemptuous look. She understood addiction, but wouldn't face it.

"Maybe if you quit staying up late looking at cat pictures, your eyes wouldn't get so dry," she said, the nag half-hearted, an old routine turned just routine. She couldn't understand. Wouldn't.

Ghostride ignored her as a calico kitten flicked past, the pose perfect, and he felt the old creativity stir. Photoshop opened as it always did and he positioned it, tense with effort as he sought...yes, hello Impact, my old friend. A little Dylan for inspiration and the cursor just so. Words welled up as they hadn't in years.

MAYBE IF U QUIT STAYIN UP LATE LOOKIN AT KAT PICTUREZ, UR EYEZ WOULDNT GIT SO DRY.

His somber face cracked a ghost of a smile. Perfect. Imgur awaited.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:45 PM on September 7, 2012 [24 favorites]


Really the only way I get anything done is to have money or reputation on the line.

Everything else is just killing time together.
posted by The Whelk at 10:04 PM on September 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


You Should See the Other Guy: "I use Self Control. It's excellent."

Yeah it was. But I had to give it up.
posted by Splunge at 10:05 PM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also when I turnd off the Internet I found I was really really good at like, sitting on the bathroom floor rocking back and forth for an hour to avoid working.
posted by The Whelk at 10:06 PM on September 7, 2012 [29 favorites]


When I'm trying to write is when I get the most yard work done. The kitchen and bathroom always look much cleaner, too.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:10 PM on September 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


This post was deleted for the following reason: Are you trying to run me out of business? This place wouldn't exist if people ever logged off! -- mathowie
posted by Ghidorah at 10:10 PM on September 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


All of my most current projects don't have concrete, outwardly imposed deadlines.

As a result I'm learning so much about French cooking and spending an obnoxious amount of time at the gym.
posted by The Whelk at 10:12 PM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I still vote typewriter.
posted by deanklear at 10:22 PM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


It doesn't matter a damn if it's physiologically addictive or not, whether some gene or chromosome or whatever is behind it -- if it's got you by the throat, it doesn't matter a damn. Splitting hairs. "Oh, no -- I'm not addicted. Yes, yes, I do sit here seventeen hours a day, gaping at the screen, my face slack, streamer of drool running down, rubbing the glop out of the corner of my eyes every couple of hours. But addicted? Pfffft -- don't gimme that jive."

One of my best friends is an addictions counselor, has been in the field for over twenty-five years -- she literally considered doing an intervention on me at one time, jerking that cord out of the wall; my life was of course mostly through that wire. She was right of course but somehow I conned my way through, slid out of her wrathful grasp.

All you've got to do is look at how many posts someone puts up here on this community, follow the timeline of their favoriting this comment or that one; thank goodness you'd find me clean as clean can be, white as the driven snow, but there are plenty of shady people here, living their lives in those blue shadows, and those green ones ...

***

The problem -- and it's a real problem for me -- is how much there is nowadays, and more every damn day; even if I don't live in an online community (as much as I did before -- hello bipolar world chat and forums) there are movies and books to read online (or have someone with a great voice and professional manner read them to you, free, if you can get your head around that one), there's youtube and flickr and metafilter and fucking wikipedia -- how did I live before wikipedia? -- and wikisource and craiglist and reddit and gmail and gvoice and gcalendar and greader and ebay and my bank acct and my library card and my cell phone acct. And on this machine there is chrome, opera, firefox, and TONS of extensions and add-ons for all of those, plus internet explorer lurking somewhere, though it's a big point of pride for me that I've not used it since the day I got this puter, got online to download Firefox and closed IE and it's kept closed, too, does that mean I'm not an addict?

And that's not counting freecell and irfanview and whatever other garbage is lurking on this amazing piece of technological wonder, 32gig of music, six gig of Joe Frank shows mp3'd, copies of movies that I love, in fucking HD; even that last, if you (I) consider it, that's just astonishing. And so it goes, on and on and on and on and on. And then on some more. These past few days I've gotten on a DFW kick and I've listened/watched tons of vids of him and read him and as I'm writing this I can't help but think of the main focus of Infinite Jest being a piece of media that is so seductive that it just takes peoples brains and turns them into goo, and while in my case it's not one particular piece of media or entertainment but rather the whole goddamn pile of it all; DFW has got me pegged fairly accurately. Guy was a seer.

Quite frankly, I'm amazed that I get away from this thing at all.

I've been trying to read Little Big Man and it's just great but it has been awfully slow going -- guess why. Not because I have to plow through it -- it's wonderful writing, it's great fun, too, what a story! But no, it's not that, it's that this keyboard and screen is too damn close at hand, and too goddamn seductive. What the fucking fuck is this, I can't even read a great book that I like and enjoy and it's fun, what is this about?

I guess you could say it's about an addiction.

But I'll never say that.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:43 PM on September 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


In his book The Procrastination Equation, Piers Steel describes a very useful technique: reserve your workspace for working. If you need a break and you want to check MetaFilter, for example, don't check it from your desk--instead, get up, go somewhere else, and read it on your smartphone.
Most usefully, you can make your place of work itself a cue, so that focus comes automatically as soon as you sit down [emphasis added].

This strategy requires dedicating your environment exclusively to labor. To do this, work in your office until your motivation leaves you and goofing off becomes irresistible. At this point, do your web surfing, your social networking, your game playing somewhere else.

... If you keep work and play in discrete domains, associations will build and attention will become effortless--your environment will be doing all the heavy motivational lifting. Three studies have investigated the effectiveness of this technique with students, and found that the use of dedicated work areas decreased procrastination significantly within weeks. ... Without this segregation between work and play, you get conflicting cues every time you sit down at your desk, one indicating that you should research your report and the other egging you on to check your Facebook page.
Steel has lots of other good suggestions, but I thought this was the most powerful one.

The Internet tends to destroy the physical boundaries between different social environments. Re-establishing those boundaries (or at least fencing off your workspace) is one way to counteract this.
posted by russilwvong at 10:58 PM on September 7, 2012 [26 favorites]


on the morning of the first day of sitting a crucial 10 day exam at home, my perverse procrastinating mind worked out how to temporarily circumvent active Self Control without needing to reboot. Took less than a minute for the idea to occur to me and to test it out to see that it worked and so needlessly complicate my life by undercutting a tool I'd be using for months. Good times.
posted by Bwithh at 11:00 PM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ok already, I'm downloading SelfControl for Linux now. I'm not going to run it, mind. I'm going to read through it and see if I trust it first. Maybe add 'Write new version of SelfControl to the TODO list'. Certainly add 'Evaluate SelfControl' to the TODO list.

(bah)

Also thanks.

As for Piers Steel's suggestion, that'll work for me just fine as soon as I get another computer as nice as this one. I'm sure that Piers - like everyone called Piers - has (at least) two lovely computers, one for work and one for play, but the rest of us have to find alternative solutions.
posted by motty at 11:03 PM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


motty: Steel suggests that if you don't have two computers, try setting up two different logins, one for work and one for play. Make them look physically different, e.g. with different background wallpaper. When you want to take a break, switch from one to the other.
posted by russilwvong at 11:14 PM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


By the way: talking about procrastination on MetaFilter is a bit like holding an AA meeting in a bar.
posted by russilwvong at 11:15 PM on September 7, 2012 [48 favorites]


Ok, so I installed this, and thirty seconds later I was trying to circumvent it and in the process I think I accidentally invented a netbook that also functions as an electronic vaporizer.
posted by loquacious at 11:19 PM on September 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


I had to design some software today, and I decided to grab an old-fashioned pencil and notebook, and go work in the lunchroom, far away from any computer. I got SO MUCH work done! No email distraction, no hum and glare, no hardware cluttering my workspace.
posted by mantecol at 11:53 PM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


motty, it's also in the Ubuntu Software Center (or was anyway), and the latest code is on Github at zengargoyle / selfcontrol (shameless self-link). The latest code has some patches for Unity's ******-up scroll-bar craptitude. While it was developed on Ubuntu 10.04, I've had decent reports of works just fine from Ubuntu 9.04 through 12.04 and various Debian boxes that I use now, and installing the source (instead of a .deb from Ubuntu) will probably work on any Linux as long as the few dependencies are avaiable.

I keep hoping that somebody will magically package up the latest code from Github and get it into the Software Center as I'm loath to become a proper Ubuntu dev. :P
posted by zengargoyle at 12:19 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


What a bunch of weaklings. "Self control" is not a goddamned program, it's something a functioning adult should possess as part of being a fucking grown-up.
posted by Decani at 1:44 AM on September 8, 2012


I am working on a whole new business model - one that will find a way to effectively generate revenue from user generated content. My tipjar is available here.
posted by infini at 1:49 AM on September 8, 2012


Oh, Decani. Bless.
posted by motty at 1:56 AM on September 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


What a bunch of weaklings. "Self control" is not a goddamned program, it's something a functioning adult should possess as part of being a fucking grown-up.

What, like controlling angry outbursts where someone makes rather extreme blanket statements about people dealing with complicated issues like the ability to focus and get real work done even if that work primarily exists on the exact same medium that's distracting them?
posted by loquacious at 2:06 AM on September 8, 2012 [17 favorites]


Scientists have recently linked internet addiction with a nicotine addiction gene

I've only had to quit a moderate-to-serious social habit, but stopping that was freaking child's play compared to dropping the laptop and getting my ass off the couch.
posted by ominous_paws at 2:54 AM on September 8, 2012


What a bunch of weaklings. "Self control" is not a goddamned program, it's something a functioning adult should possess as part of being a fucking grown-up.

And maybe exercise every so often before hitting "post", eh sweetiecakes?
posted by ominous_paws at 2:56 AM on September 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I started (years ago), by installing some greasemonkey add-on that blocked facebook and a couple of other sites.
I uninstalled greasemonkey.

I installed Leechblock on Firefox.
I downloaded Chrome.

I quit Facebook.
I joined Google Plus. (And metafilter).

I gave my ethernet cable to someone else to babysit.
I needed to look up references, and do work related emails.

I finally, recently, accumulated so many different browser add-ons and scripts and weird settings and what not in so many different browsers on so many different computers that I can't REMEMBER what I need to get around in order to get to the Bad Places of the internet while working.

And I've published one book this year already and have another one in press, plus I completed four academic papers in the past six weeks.
posted by lollusc at 3:07 AM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


[Decani, you need to cut it out with the explosive shitty thread crapping. Stop calling people names, stop dropping in to say how little you care about something, stop commenting if you have nothing to share except how much contempt you have for people who are interested in the post topic. Seriously. Stop it.]
posted by taz at 3:23 AM on September 8, 2012 [13 favorites]


It seems as though every decade, distractions have gotten more seductive, at once stickier and more powerful.

But we haven't seen a corresponding building up of our willpower and self control, unfortunately.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:34 AM on September 8, 2012


*flics her Bic*
*inhales*
posted by infini at 4:03 AM on September 8, 2012


I strongly endorse Alphasmart devices, except for the Dana, which is just a pain in the ass. I'm also a fan of manual typewriters, and by fan, I mean that one closet in my tiny apartment is entirely filled with twenty-six lovely old manual typewriters that I use to write and to fulfill my deep biological need to clean and lubricate things. It's an obsessive thing, I'm sure, but there's something to the way a typewriter carries you along without allowing for the mind-killer of on-the-fly editing—you have to fight the compulsion to fire up the time machine and go back to fix this and tweak that and get the other thing just right, but on a manual typewriter, that's not an option. In the end, you just hit the page with the red pen here and there, finish your writing, and go back for the next pass the way writers always did before the invention of the turnkey time machine.

I find the "how to keep from being distracted" trope for writers a little odd, though, in the same way that I have to laugh when I open up books of advice for writers and find countless chapters on what to do when you don't have any ideas. If you don't have any ideas, stop writing. If you never have any ideas, you're probably not a writer, despite how romantic and wonderful that career path seems to you. Sometimes, distractions are just the tools we use to create another plausible reason for why we're not accomplishing things. Sometimes, we just aren't going to be what we want to be.

Granted, I am an internet addict. It's amusing in its way, because I'm not a person with an addictive nature, and don't care much for drugs, liquor, sports, religion, or deeply involving television drama. I'm not addiction prone, but the invention of tabbed browsers was celestial in the way that the invention of erection drugs were a revelation to the recreationally depraved.

Right now, I've got six tabs open, and I blip around those, chasing the furry mess of the monkey mind, and drop in and out of this comment, even. There's a pathos to it all that's been irritatingly present for me of late, because I'm having this little motivational meltdown over the fact that, while I have a great home and a great job and am getting a lot of writing done, I wake up alone, walk to the train, do a solitary job on my own in an old clock tower, then walk to the train, walk through the little town where I've lived for forty-two of my forty-four years without developing a network of local friends, get home, play with the dogs, then sit at the computer until it's bedtime.

It's all natural, of course. I'm not very good at being social, but I can type like no one's business.

I'm of an age where my contemporaries are either more ambitious than me or are settling down into family life. People that used to be my indefatigable partners in crime, chasing after that elusive perfect road trip or the one and true walk down an unexplored alley or just enjoying hours of aimless philosophical banter now exist solely on the telephone, in conversations peppered with asides to hyperkinetic children—"Yeah, I was thinking of taking the train to—no, Morgan, I told you to put your clarinet on the table and sit down. Yes, there. Where is your permission slip for tomorrow? What do you mean you can't find it? I'm not filling out another, Morgan. No, if you can't find it, you won't be on the bus with the rest of your class. I am serious. Don't pout at me! Who's responsibility was it? Anyway, Joe, sorry. Where were we?"

In the old days, it was more difficult. Balancing on the edge between alcohol poisoning and a Pulitzer was a physical, involving chore. Being an aging lothario, fucking one's way through a coterie of doe-eyed young grad students as a means of "gathering material" and consequently avoiding the task of actually processing that material was hard work. Now, all the excuses you'll ever need are right at hand, or in your pocket, even. I ought to be working, but you know, I suddenly have this urge to read up on the retrofuturistic hydrofoils of the former Soviet Union. If you are a junkie for interesting information, there has never been a greater time to be alive, and if you're a writer or an aspiring writer, you will be a junkie for interesting information as a symptom of your compulsion. When it was a matter of hitting the library to find a book on the subject of retrofuturistic hydrofoils of the former Soviet Union, there was an inhibition built into the system, but those days are gone.

Now, it comes down to self control. Opting for a mechanical means of imposing self control is still self control. The world changed very, very fast when the internet came about, and it's not unnatural that it's taking us a while to get a handle on it.

Sometimes, tempering an addiction with curation is a worthy thing. The curated mental play space of metafilter has been a boon for me, in that I don't need to sit at wikipedia and click the random article link over and over. There is a community of people who, like me, also love neat stuff, and the collective selection of it goes a long way in reconciling my desire to discover amazing things with my competing desire to open up more time in the real world to do real things. Sometimes, that's writing, and sometimes, it's just actual, uncomfortable, messy, complicated social interaction. Finding a balance in how to use an extraordinary resource without drowning at the well is the talent of the best writers, artists, makers, and adventurers of the future.

You can opt out, and those in my small circle who have done that are my secret heroes, but it's not easy, and these interim means of locking yourself out of the cookie jar are useful in the way that losing the key to your chastity belt is useful—you'll have a changed focus, at least.

I've been unusually dedicated to aimlessly sailing the digital sea of everything this summer, and it's enough to make me think that I've really got a problem, except that summer is, and has been for some time, the season of searing hot despair. I roast in the heat, marinate in sweat that pools in my eyes in painful, salty stinging waves that feel like I've been crushing potato chips into my eye sockets, and the sweltering Maryland blast furnace of roiling wet air just melts my soul. In the autumn, I can turn to my bicycle instead, and fill those moments when I don't want to write or work by climbing onto the leather seat of a three-speed upright simple machine and rambling the back streets of this little nowhere town where everyone's inside, transfixed in the blue-white glow of screens.

I can lament the easy distractions of the digital world, most accurately from my own experience, but instead, I tend to think of this as a way of weeding. Imagine the Twilights and the other horrors out there that are being aborted in the minds of writer-romantics while aspiring authors yield to the temptation of yet another tumblr, and pause at the well, over and over, instead of foisting more torrential cascades of awfulness on us—like a billion NanoWriMo novels all silenced at once, a bullet is dodged, and for me, well, it's less competition.

The wolves are always out there, slinking around the periphery and waiting to pick off the hapless, so if one is serious, and not hapless, self control, external controls, and necessary means are all out there to fend them off. If you're driven, and if not writing is uncomfortable for you, the tools are there.

As for me, I'm swearing off the distractions until the heat dies down. Metafilter, ten minutes of facebook a day, tweetery when I'm feeling a wry bon mot coming on, and, say, unlimited porn, but only on tumblr. I mean, how much porn can there be on tumblr? Fuck yeah.
posted by sonascope at 4:48 AM on September 8, 2012 [19 favorites]


This kind of links back to Foci For Analysis' Slow Web thread. Anyway, my attempted solutions include printouts for manual editing, legal pads/pens for writing, and wifi-free cafes/writing locales. Get away from the Web. I think any productivity manager actually on my laptop is pretty much DOA for me.
posted by carter at 5:43 AM on September 8, 2012


Whatever, I can quit at some point in the future.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:51 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Before the internet I was 'addicted' to books, or really any reading of any kind, "Hey, the back of this cereal box has words on it!" I don't really feel the difference between reading books and reading 'the Internet', except I don't have to compulsively read the same Internet over and over when I can't get a new fix.
posted by muddgirl at 6:03 AM on September 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Moral panics are addictive.
posted by srboisvert at 6:23 AM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


A classmate from the IA Writers' Workshop wrote on his blog that the writing space should NOT be the same place as the internet space.
posted by brujita at 6:26 AM on September 8, 2012


I used to be addicted to coding. But since I was paid to do it, it wasn't called an addiction. When there was an office party and I couldn't leave my terminal, they called me dedicated and gave me more stock options. It's like the war on some drugs. There are the good drugs (productivity) and the bad drugs (fun).
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:31 AM on September 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am right now reading this thread instead of getting started on my work for the day.

Hmm.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:31 AM on September 8, 2012


I am right now reading this thread instead of getting started on my work for the day.

That's boring, look at this cat video!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:36 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Before the internet I was 'addicted' to books, or really any reading of any kind, "Hey, the back of this cereal box has words on it!" I don't really feel the difference between reading books and reading 'the Internet', except I don't have to compulsively read the same Internet over and over when I can't get a new fix.

This is maybe the truest thing I have ever read here. Now the "what is there to read" includes "everything ever". I bet there's even a dozen pages of cereal boxes to read, for the old school.
posted by jeather at 6:41 AM on September 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


I am right now reading this thread instead of getting started on my work for the day.

That's just dumb. I'm reading it while I'm doing my work ...
posted by carter at 6:43 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Before the internet I was 'addicted' to books, or really any reading of any kind, "Hey, the back of this cereal box has words on it!" I don't really feel the difference between reading books and reading 'the Internet', except I don't have to compulsively read the same Internet over and over when I can't get a new fix.

Oh yeah, at least I don't get stressed and spent all day re-reading the same 800 page novel for the tenth time anymore cause AI can't deal with any new or novel sensory input anymore.
posted by The Whelk at 6:54 AM on September 8, 2012


Different logins for work and browsing is an interesting idea... maybe.

The problem is that the internet is so damn useful when I'm at work - especially if I'm at work. Stuck on a Python script? I could reach for the dead-tree reference on the shelf behind me and hope that the limited index has a match, or I could type my problem into the search box with the near-certainty that there will be an answer on StackExchange or something. Problem solved - and with the 3 minutes I just saved, I can have a quick glance at, oh I don't know, Metafilter.

Then 15 minutes later I've forgotten what the program was supposed to be doing. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

(Election season is the worst, I say. The worst.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 7:16 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Before the internet I was 'addicted' to books, or really any reading of any kind, "Hey, the back of this cereal box has words on it!" I don't really feel the difference between reading books and reading 'the Internet', except I don't have to compulsively read the same Internet over and over when I can't get a new fix.

I used to read shampoo bottles when stuck in a truly dire situation, such as using the restroom at someone else's house and they didn't have the foresight to have a collection of well-thumbed magazines and easily digested books for me to peruse. "Hmmm, lactoperoxidase...I have no idea what that is."
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:26 AM on September 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


My procrastination enders:

1. My mortgage

2. My wife "Where the FUCK is the next chapter?!?"

They both work equally well.
posted by jscalzi at 7:26 AM on September 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Arbitarily Promise things to people within a certain time line and you to can use your near crippling sense of responsibility, duty, and embarrassment to good effect!
posted by The Whelk at 7:28 AM on September 8, 2012


My procrastination enders
This from a man who once taped bacon to his cat. He is an expert, folks.
posted by Celsius1414 at 7:32 AM on September 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


talking about procrastination on MetaFilter is a bit like holding an AA meeting in a bar.

There are times when I am in a bad mood where I feel like a lot of my life's work til now managing communities, helping people learn to use technology, preaching about closing the digital divide, is slightly less nefarious but no less problematic than Joe Camel. Usually I cheer up quickly.

I took a week off (from MetaFilter, and just checked email and the rest of the web for 30 min a day or something) and while I didn't feel that huge sense of relief people sometimes talk about, where the internet is some horrible time suck that you're happy to be rid of, I did feel a bit of mental reprioritization of the different weight I should give real-life interactions and online ones.

It's a deeply personal thing. People who have trouble with procrastination find the internet to be a formidable draw for them, similar to fast food and people who are inveterate snackers. Enabling and not creating. I think. The seeking mechanism, which I feel is sort of what the Atlantic article is about, is a strong motivator and stronger than other ones that we're used to. It's the thing that keeps you plugged in to Game of Thrones the same way you're plugged in to Reddit or MeFi or Fark or Ravelry. "What happens next?" It's super complicated when it's also your job but it feels weird to see the "addict" word tossed around, though I know they don't do it lightly.
posted by jessamyn at 7:51 AM on September 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Stayfocusd on Chrome is very good. The trolling about having self control is not altogether irrelevant, since you need self control to not bypass the willpower aids. I can pop open a different browser if I really need to use blacklisted sites after the timeout but I don't.

One strategy may be to read procrastination & willpower books instead of productivity books if those make you go hmm very useful but end up not being much help. A procrastination book may say hey it's ok to use willpower aids, go for it, our studies say yes.

With respect to the two computers idea, a netbook isn't too much $$ if you need a portable typewriter. I don't mind the small keys since I can still type faster than I can think. Disable the wifi, and it's a typewriter. A rule can be to only look up reference material on your phone instead of the netbook -- takes a while so that's aversive.

But the bottom line is putting in the "butt in the chair" hours being productive.
posted by saber_taylor at 8:20 AM on September 8, 2012


All I can say is, thank God I will probably be dead and/or retired before someone invents a holodeck. I would enter and then never do anything real ever again.
posted by ymgve at 8:47 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have trouble with these internet-blockers since my major procrastination problem right now is on a web development project. No internet, no work. It's easy to get distracted when your work is so diverse. I have 3 windows of CSS references, now I need some clip art of clouds and some paper textures, I'll do an image search, oh hey cat pictures.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:50 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now apply a bacon texture to that cat.
posted by maudlin at 9:29 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


BaconCat.com

Dammit I just got a phone call from the client and I promised a new version by 7PM.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:38 AM on September 8, 2012


I think if you have a problem staying off the internet enough to do your actual job -- the one for which you are paid -- something is definitely up. But being drawn away from something that you enjoy for its own sake, but which is just harder than reading foma on TV Tropes or following twitter drama or what have you? Easy thing is easy. As the internet increasingly makes the arts a thing that anyone can do and no one can get paid for, what will keep us from drowning in content is the internet's own ability to distract people who might otherwise be making more internet.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:44 AM on September 8, 2012




> By the way: talking about procrastination on MetaFilter is a bit like holding an AA meeting in a bar.

True story. A guy I know who is big on AA--keeps the red book handy 24/7, goes to ten meetings a week, goes to regional cons--told me that when you go to a big regional AA meeting the hotel bar is going to be packed at midnight on Saturday with AA guys and gals getting absolutely shitfaced.

Another completely unrelated true story. After we had the thread the other day on internet porn I dug out my copy of Kandel to try and get a grip on this idea of ubiquitous addiction to things where the term addiction would never have been used back in the '70s or the '80's. The thing is addiction is very poorly defined. Even for nicotine or alcohol or heroin some people have a really huge problem with it (as in, terminally ill) and other people are completely unfazed. And I don't believe anybody knows why yet. Kandel's book is 1400 pages long and he has three pages on addiction. This is not because the topic is unimportant. The topic is more important than almost any other if you are one of the many unfortunate people (every one of us knows more than one) who is terminally ill with addiction to alcohol or cocaine or one of the other particularly nasty drugs (when abused.) The reason Kandel has three pages is that nobody really knows what the fuck they are talking about when they use the word addiction.

I have friends and relatives who have drunk themselves to death and I can see where somebody might think it is a little disrespectful to use the terminology "internet addiction" or "pornography addiction" or "high fructose corn syrup addiction". Some kinds of addiction can kill you dead. Internet "addiction" cannot.
posted by bukvich at 10:29 AM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I recognized some time ago that I have basically rewired my brain to give me little dopamine hits every time I check my blackberry or pull up facebook or read Metafilter on it. Whenever I'm bored, or anxious, or feeling restless, my immediate desire is to check my blackberry, and I feel better. It's partly just a distraction, but it's also that calming dopamine hit.

A few weeks ago, I was doing something where I wasn't going to be able to have my cell phone for several hours, and had to give it to someone else to hold, and I realized that that was the thing I was most anxious about -- not having my blackberry and the related access to the internet -- even though the situation actually involved some larger personal risks of harm or injury.


The irony is that I think about addiction and related issues, like dopamine circuits, all the time for my actual job. Which I'm not doing when I'm reading Metafilter...
posted by gingerbeer at 10:39 AM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Zadie Smith should forget the novel writing and lurk moar.
posted by colie at 11:45 AM on September 8, 2012


Some kinds of addiction can kill you dead. Internet "addiction" cannot.

Are you sure about that?
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:51 AM on September 8, 2012


Scientists have recently linked internet addiction with a nicotine addiction gene

CNN: Sources have confirmed that using the internet leads to lung cancer.
posted by DigDoug at 5:26 PM on September 8, 2012


I recognized some time ago that I have basically rewired my brain to give me little dopamine hits every time I check my blackberry or pull up facebook or read Metafilter on it. Whenever I'm bored, or anxious, or feeling restless, my immediate desire is to check my blackberry, and I feel better. It's partly just a distraction, but it's also that calming dopamine hit.

This describes me pretty well. I'm not exactly sure what I think about it though. I'm not sure whether it's bad or good or whether it's even along that axis.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 2:10 PM on September 9, 2012


I was cured from my Metafilter addiction for a while when that pretty stable Mac Cider wrapper for Skyrim came out! hello, Metafilter
posted by yoHighness at 4:31 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


RedOrGreen: The problem is that the internet is so damn useful when I'm at work - especially if I'm at work. Stuck on a Python script? I could reach for the dead-tree reference on the shelf behind me and hope that the limited index has a match, or I could type my problem into the search box with the near-certainty that there will be an answer on StackExchange or something. Problem solved - and with the 3 minutes I just saved, I can have a quick glance at, oh I don't know, Metafilter.

I do use the Internet from my workspace, for work, but I've been successful at training myself to get up and go to the lunchroom to check MetaFilter on my iPod Touch if I need a break. As usual, when you're working on a new habit, it seems to take about two weeks before it becomes automatic.

I've tended to cycle through various Internet-control techniques over the years. Each time I switch to a new technique, it makes me more consciously aware of how I'm using my time. But after a while, it wears off, as I get used to the new routine, and I need to switch to something different.

So far, Piers Steel's suggestion of reserving your workspace for work is the most effective technique I've used.

Charles Duhigg's recent book The Power of Habit (previously) talks about the cue/craving/routine/reward habit loop. (The latest neuroscience suggests that habits are stored in a very old part of the brain, the basal ganglia, completely separate from conscious memory and decision-making.)
Experiments have shown that almost all habitual cues fit into one of five categories:
  • Location
  • Time
  • Emotional state
  • Other people
  • Immediately preceding action
If I remember correctly, location is the strongest of these categories.

bukvich: I have friends and relatives who have drunk themselves to death and I can see where somebody might think it is a little disrespectful to use the terminology "internet addiction"....

Sorry, you're right. Procrastination is nowhere near as severe a problem as alcoholism. Maybe a better analogy would be one of those secretly refilling bowls of soup, where you can just keep eating and eating without realizing that the bowl is never getting any emptier. Social interaction and intellectual curiosity are definitely good things, just like food is a good thing--but the fact that the Internet can provide them in unlimited quantities is something new that we're still figuring out how to adjust to, both as individuals and as a society.
posted by russilwvong at 10:45 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


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