Digitalis interdictum
January 1, 2020 9:25 AM   Subscribe

The Analog January Challenge. Read. Move. Connect. Make. Join. Connect: "Hold a real conversation with 20 different people during the monthlong challenge. These conversations can be in person or over the phone/Facetime/Skype, but text-based communication doesn’t count (you must be able to hear the other person’s voice). To hit the 20 person mark will require some advance planning: you might consider calling old friends or taking various colleagues along for lunch and coffee breaks."

The blog author has a book to promote, it's true but you can just take the gist here:

READ
Commit to reading 3 – 4 new books during the month. It doesn’t matter if they’re fiction or non-fiction, sophisticated or fun. The goal is to rediscover what it feels like to make engagement with the written word an important part of your daily experience.

MOVE
Commit to going for a walk every single day of the month. Try to make it at least 15 minutes long. Leave your phone at home: just observe the world around you and think.

CONNECT
Hold a real conversation with 20 different people during the monthlong challenge. These conversations can be in person or over the phone/Facetime/Skype, but text-based communication doesn’t count (you must be able to hear the other person’s voice). To hit the 20 person mark will require some advance planning: you might consider calling old friends or taking various colleagues along for lunch and coffee breaks.

MAKE
Participate in a skilled hobby that requires you to interact with the physical world. This could be craft-based, like knitting, drawing, wood working, or, as I’ve taken to doing with my boys, building custom circuits. This could also be athletic, like biking, bow hunting, or, as is increasingly popular these days, Brazilian Ju Jitsu. Screen-based activities don’t count. To get the full analog benefit here, you need to encounter and overcome the resistances of the physical landscape that surrounds you, as this is what our minds have evolved to understand as productive action.

JOIN
Join something local that meets weekly. For many people, this might be the hardest commitment, but it’s arguably one of the most important, especially as we enter a political season where the pseudo-anonymity and limbic-triggers of the online world attempt to bring out the worse in us. There’s nothing more fundamentally human than gathering with a group of real people in real life to work on something real together. This has a way of lessening — even if just briefly — the sense of anxious despair that emanates from the online upside down.
posted by storybored (76 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
If humans wanted to do all this 'real world' interacting, would we have invested so much time, energy, research and development into avoiding it?
It's been two centuries, take a hint.
posted by signal at 9:29 AM on January 1 [42 favorites]


Take a hint

Ha. Point taken, but I'm beginning to worry that convenience beats all for our brains to such a degree that this stuff is genuinely going to be really damaging, as much as articles like these can be a bit preachy.

Food for thought. Outside of work I might struggle with the 20 figure, which is sobering.
posted by ominous_paws at 9:34 AM on January 1 [2 favorites]


I take a little exception to "but text-based communication doesn’t count" even though I get where they're coming from; there's a ton of potential depth to textual conversation in its own right and for some folks it's also for a variety of physical and neurological reasons by far the most accessible and richest channel of communication available. Don't knock text! Text is great.

That (and similar "people are different, needs and abilities are different" caveats on some of the other items) aside, I do like the spirit of this a lot, and I think the idea of trying to deliberately make a practice of some of this stuff is a good and healthy thing.

And taking it more as a map of possibilities than as some strict resolution or dictum is maybe the key thing, for lots of folks: try and do more of this stuff! Try, and maybe fail sometimes but that's okay. Try, and maybe take a beat and come back and try tomorrow instead. But reminding ourselves to keep this stuff on the radar, to push a little bit and see if it's not rewarding to build a little bit of a habit or return to one, can be really helpful for getting out of a stasis.
posted by cortex at 9:51 AM on January 1 [11 favorites]


If humans wanted to do all this 'real world' interacting, would we have invested so much time, energy, research and development into avoiding it?

Humans have different preferences. Last I checked at least some people like reading, talking to others, walking, and hobbying. It's fine if this post isn't for you. Plenty of others to check out. Thanks.
posted by avalonian at 9:51 AM on January 1 [15 favorites]


I easily read three-four books a month on my two plus hour bus commute (both ways combined) every work day. I easily walk 15+ minutes a day when you combine my walking commute and all the hours I spend on my feet at work. Considering all the customer interactions I have every work day I easily talk to more then 20 people in a day forget a month. Skilled hobby? Growing your own food counts right? Join? That’s harder, and admittedly something I’m working on. This seems like a list for people who actually make money, and have had everything else in their lives suffer as a result. I suppose it has utility for them. For those of us who aren’t computer science professionals the digital world is what connects us to others and allows us to decompress from all the physical labor we do at work. Digital detox is for privileged people.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:01 AM on January 1 [39 favorites]


I think this list is great, and the fact that doing all of these would be very difficult for me to achieve really makes me think about how I've currently got things arranged and my priorities.
posted by schroedinger at 10:21 AM on January 1 [4 favorites]


Positive engagement without a critical examination of the merits of a thing is pablum. It’s an interesting post with food for thought, but narrowly applicable. Personal attacks and turning on the firehose of shit is bad- but so would be FPP after FPP where the only comments are “good post”. Personally I do spend too much time on my phone, which is why I bring books on the bus. I am genuinely interested in suggestions on how to join IRL groups though- that eludes a lot of us I think.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:21 AM on January 1 [7 favorites]


What constitutes a real conversation here? I mean, accepting the author’s premise that what we’re having right here and now isn’t it. Does it need to be one on one? Does it need to go beyond pleasantries, and if so, how far?
posted by eirias at 10:31 AM on January 1


READ - MOVE - CONNECT - MAKE - JOIN

Call it The Resolution Problem. New year, think big, commit big ... fail big. I figured it out years ago as a swimmer. I'd always book off doing my lengths for the first two or three weeks of the year because the lanes would suddenly be jammed with the Resolved. But it never lasted. Things were generally back to normal before Groundhog Day.

Which got me reflecting on my own resolution failures (a fresh batch every year) and the notion that maybe the point wasn't just to leap into everything new all at once as of Jan-2 but to view these options as guidelines for the coming year. So yeah, by all means read move connect make join -- just don't think you've got to take it all on at once. Take your time. Think (and feel) it through. Don't burn out on it. View it as more of a fall back strategy (ie: okay, I've got a few spare moments this evening, maybe I should read something instead of hitting Netflix) as opposed to a dive in commitment (ie: omigod, I must read something tonight even though I'm exhausted, and call somebody who's probably also exhausted, and make something, I haven't made anything for three days now! And I still haven't joined anything. I'm a failure. At everything!).

and so on.
posted by philip-random at 10:36 AM on January 1 [8 favorites]


READ .. wait, do you mean CUT DOWN to only 4-6?
WALK --- THIS!!! *** Walk every single day, *** without a stop for 20-30 minuets. Walking evangelist here, this will change your life.
CONNECT -- twitter counts as does mifi, this is my connect for the month
MAKE -- um, like a birdhouse.. an IoT artificial intelligent online birdhouse that streams to millions and makes $18K a month, ok good plan
JOIN---I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members
posted by sammyo at 10:36 AM on January 1 [5 favorites]


I initially though that this was for *each* month and I was baffled at how I was going to manage that many weekly groups!
posted by mkuhnell at 10:42 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


Apparently, writing a letter like you'd do in 1750 but on the computer or your phone is "more digital" than doing a phone or skype group call. I guess the author still thinks telecoms have manual switchboards with human operators.

Do books read on my ebook reader count as analog or as digital?
posted by sukeban at 10:44 AM on January 1 [3 favorites]


Yes! Start the new decade with an escalating and self-imposed nervous breakdown!
This a great plan!
posted by thatwhichfalls at 10:44 AM on January 1 [17 favorites]


This is all just my normal life.
posted by octothorpe at 10:48 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


I seriously can't get over the author thinking that writing a letter with your fountain pen on nice paper, putting it in an envelope and sending it through the mail doesn't count because it's not analog enough, unlike Skype.
posted by sukeban at 10:50 AM on January 1 [4 favorites]


lol at people who think they can just issue "challenges" and people have to do them
posted by thelonius at 10:57 AM on January 1 [9 favorites]


This is exactly my daily/weekly routine, except often I run, and (admittedly), I often listen to books/podcasts/music when I walk/run. Sometimes I walk and talk with people, more in a "let's chat in nature" sense than a Sorkin sense, but there's plenty of the latter too, especially when I'm in the office.

Note: I am an extrovert with a lot of FOMO and I mostly work (write) from home. Not doing these things, for me, is a fast track to losing my mind.
posted by thivaia at 10:59 AM on January 1 [3 favorites]


ANNUAL PUT THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE CHALLENGE
posted by Burhanistan at 11:00 AM on January 1 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: The accumulated filth of all their twitter and screen time will foam up about their waists and all the bloggers and pundits will look up and shout "do these weird tricks!"... and I'll look down, and whisper "No."
posted by Reyturner at 11:05 AM on January 1 [10 favorites]


For those of us who aren’t computer science professionals the digital world is what connects us to others and allows us to decompress from all the physical labor we do at work. Digital detox is for privileged people.

You have a point, but I think you oversimplify. This post is far from being "narrowly applicable", as you say in your followup. It may not apply to your situation, and some unknown number of people in a similar socioeconomic-cultural-etc. situation, but that still leaves vast groups. (I'd also wager that your reading habits, specifically, aren't the norm for the majority of less privileged people.) And while privilege factors into this, it's not like less privileged people would be immune to disconnecting from the analog world; what starts out as harmless decompression can go too far for them, too.

I'm in Finland, and I concede that our social safety net is a privilege unto itself, but I have several lower income folks in my extended circle of friends who (like me, the accursed upper middle class computer science professional) are much too attached to their screens. My increasing screen time at the expense of some of the items on this list has almost certainly contributed to my degrading energy levels and mental health situation over the years. I've had conversations with said friends about this very topic, and they have felt the same thing. This blog post didn't arise in a vacuum.

I seriously can't get over the author thinking that writing a letter with your fountain pen on nice paper, putting it in an envelope and sending it through the mail doesn't count because it's not analog enough, unlike Skype.

I'm sorry to have to ask, but are you being deliberately obtuse? It says right there: "you must be able to hear the other person’s voice". It's not about being old-timey for old-timeyness' sake, it's about having the experience of seeing the person as you're talking to them, because that's a discrete human need that isn't entirely filled by text-based communication. Of course, face-to-face is superior to Skype, but concessions need to be made in this day and age.

It's not like the blog post shouldn't face any critical analysis, but this thread so far isn't that. Too many MeFites have a tendency to drop in a thread to just shit on a post that they feel isn't relevant to them or their interests, and that's always been one of the most fucking toxic elements of this site.
posted by jklaiho at 11:09 AM on January 1 [38 favorites]


I doubt I've had a real conversation with 20 different people in the whole decade, and tech isn't the reason.
posted by rodlymight at 11:12 AM on January 1 [7 favorites]


It says right there: "you must be able to hear the other person’s voice".

It's also a rather idiosyncratic understanding of "analog" and "digital".
posted by sukeban at 11:13 AM on January 1 [6 favorites]


good god the ableism of this pains me.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:40 AM on January 1 [23 favorites]


Ah, authenticity! Analog interactions are authentic. Digital ones are fake! How very Holden Caufield of you!

I have no problem with someone if they want to do this. I have no problem with someone if they dont want to do this. I have a problem if this is something that you want to wear as a badge of honor.

One of the best observations an old mentor of mine had was that resolutions tended to be: Stop doing these bad things, or Give up time without understanding the impact on your existing schedule! Both of these thoughts have seemed generally untenable since that observation. I like the thought of self improvement, but - like all things: do it in moderation. And don't vilify texting.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:45 AM on January 1 [4 favorites]


It's not about being old-timey for old-timeyness' sake, it's about having the experience of seeing the person as you're talking to them, because that's a discrete human need that isn't entirely filled by text-based communication. Of course, face-to-face is superior to Skype, but concessions need to be made in this day and age.
Fair, but I think the author is too dismissive of text-based communication in general. I read his previous book, Deep Work, in which he wrote (regarding a Facebook group for short fiction writers):
we can assume that these friendships are lightweight—given that they’re based on sending short messages back and forth over a computer network.
I imagine I'm not the only person on this website who has deep friendships which were either primarily formed, or are primarily maintained, by sending short messages back and forth over a computer network.

It's a shame because I think this attitude undermines what is fundamentally reasonable advice. As a remote worker, I now understand the value of face-to-face conversations; and I do feel a detachment from my local community that might be helped by joining an in-person group. A nice goal for the year.
posted by wjt at 11:45 AM on January 1 [4 favorites]


(I'd also wager that your reading habits, specifically, aren't the norm for the majority of less privileged people.)

Ok- so I'd suggest gently that implying that less privileged/lower income people don't read that much is... not perhaps the best. It may be true of some people and that's fine, but I take the bus with a lot of people both in my situation and in less fortunate situations and I see a lot of books, newspapers, e-readers etc. Also yeah, Finland is very much not America. And frankly, gentle criticism that points out some intersectionality fails is not threadshitting. Upon preview: Also yeah this has some un-examined ableism to boot.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:49 AM on January 1 [16 favorites]


It says right there: "you must be able to hear the other person’s voice".

It's also a rather idiosyncratic understanding of "analog" and "digital".


I thought the "phone/Facetime/Skype" loophole was a bit odd.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:50 AM on January 1


For those of us who aren’t computer science professionals the digital world is what connects us to others and allows us to decompress from all the physical labor we do at work. Digital detox is for privileged people.

For those of us who spend 9 hours* a day managing (repressing) our emotions while dealing with endless bullshit, the "digital world" is exhausting and staying offline is self-care. After a long day of dealing with the results of the fucked up policies, the last thing I want to do is come home and feel obligated to "like" all the hot takes that scroll by. The only 2019 resolution that I didn't keep was to rejoin Facebook, but that didn't happen and I may just resign myself to missing events from my local hobby groups.

*Technically 8 1/2 hours because I spend a half hour hiding in the stairwell to eat lunch and that part of the day is pretty good.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:51 AM on January 1 [7 favorites]


To expand on my previous comment, if there is one objective fact that accepts no discussion it's this:

Humans had a deep, abiding want, or need, for little glowy screens with a camera that let them take pictures of their breakfasts and comment on other people's breakfasts.

The cellphone is by far the human communications technology with the fastest and most wide reaching, in geographical, class and gender senses, adoption in all of recorded history. This is not accidental.

With every new method of communication, some people (usually belonging to the dominant group) will decry how it's making us lose our 'humanity' or something, as the obligatory XKCD I posted above, or this one, point out. Humanity, in turn, always neglects to care about these critiques and goes straight ahead and loses whatever they're supposed to be losing with gusto.

e.g.: Writing:

This will provide a forgetfulness in the souls of those who learn at the expense of memory, since they do not remind themselves by themselves internally, but because of a dependence on writing they are reminded externally by foreign impression (Socrates).
posted by signal at 12:02 PM on January 1 [5 favorites]


Socrates

that's Plato's character "Socrates" btw
posted by thelonius at 12:09 PM on January 1 [4 favorites]


I had a little too much indulgence in my 2019–not material, but letting myself stay too comfy. For 2020 I’m going for more of an 80s-movie-training-montage vibe. Not sure even that can get me to join a group that meets weekly (!) though...
posted by sallybrown at 12:18 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]


that's Plato's character "Socrates" btw

plato's dnd OC that everyone agreed to pretend was real for literary purposes!
posted by poffin boffin at 12:19 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]


People preaching digital detox self-help crap and posting it on a website can go jump in a digital ditch.

I guarantee you this asshole will post another self-help thing about how great the fucking internet is this month.
To take advantage of this reality, I recommend that for the duration of the challenge that you dumb down your smartphone by following the rules I outlined here (summary: use your phone only for calls, texts, maps, and audio — as Steve Jobs originally intended).
So I need to talk to 20 people, but not text them, but only text with my phone like Steve Jobs wanted, but instead should video chat because that's more meaningful?

Yeah, fuck off.
posted by lkc at 12:35 PM on January 1 [8 favorites]


OK, to maybe try and move this in a more positive direction, my counteroffers would be:

READ — I read stuff I enjoy, think I might enjoy, or that challenges me in ways I am willing to take on. Don’t get hung up on length or profundity or whether you are listening to it for accessibility or convenience. I count podcasts as reading.

MOVE — I try to get at least 30 minutes of continuous walking a day; it seems to be really good for your health and improves my mood. A series of injuries stopped me, and I’m trying to build back up to it. Don’t worry about making it a spiritual exercise; use the time to catch up on audiobooks or podcasts (see READ).

CONNECT — I write postcards and letters pretty frequently. I text and send emails. I don’t do social media. I have a friend in another country who I Skype with. I have about four people in my life who I am willing to call on the phone regularly; It turns out I don’t really like talking on the phone to most people. I try to get together physically with friends at least once a month, which is about what I can stand. I have friendly conversations with coworkers, And try to be pleasant and kind with service workers and other people I have brief interactions with. I don’t fetishize the length or depth of these communications; I talk to people for a living, and I have only so much energy for it.

MAKE — I try to cook at least once a week, and focus on cleaning chores like doing the dishes, keeping the cat box is nice, and sweeping the floors. I do a lot of imaginative creating, I don’t think the physical activity is the key here.

JOIN — Maybe? I organize a group that meets most weeks, and I do a lot of organizing at work, so the idea of wrangling people in my free time is not the most exciting. Does posting to MetaFilter count?

I realize that I vary quite a bit from the dictates of the original list, but they seem to work for me. What works for you?
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:46 PM on January 1 [7 favorites]


In short, rather than complain about his list, tell us about your takes on his five categories.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:49 PM on January 1 [10 favorites]


READ - I read the New Yorker every week, the NYT headlines and sections that interest me daily, and a lot of things that cross my feed online. I also read a metric ton for work, mostly professional press and journal articles, often social history books. What I need to do to achieve analog nowness is read more for recreation - things that don't have to do with work, maybe a bit more fiction and poetry.

MOVE - Here's where I need to cement some changes this year. I've been trying to start a morning 20-30 minute yoga practice, and also need to work in more walking. I"d really like to start running again but I need to ramp up to that, Couch to 5K style. I love walking and can occupy my own mind, but also like to listen to podcasts while I do it, so I don't plan to make changes there.

CONNECT - Another area for some growht this year. After moving twice in the past 3 years, I've got a very disrupted social network, with most of my close friends far away. I am excited about meeting people and making friends where I live now, but it's a slow process. I've started volunteering at a local park, and will be trying to connect up with some old acquaintances here in the New Year. I also hope to finally stay on top of sending postcards and birthday/occasion cards. I was a champion letter-writer before the Internet, and am sad I have let it almost all go.

MAKE - I make lots of things, cooking daily not least, and have some cool projects lined up - little fabric baskets for around the house, some papercraft. I also garden and do some creative journaling. Making music has dropped almost completely out of my life this past few years - that's something that could also help wiht CONNECT, as there is a good pickin' scene nearby I haven't stepped into yet.

JOIN - This is an area where I actually need to hold myself back a little. I tend to throw myself into new communities, and when I join something very often I find myself with duties and responsibilities. And to be frank, I don't want any more of those. I don't want to chair any committees, run any events, or organize anything beyond showing up for the thing. So while I do hope to join some things and meet people regularly, I want to be one of the "filler" people, not an organizer, in anything new I take on these days.

These are all good things to have in your life, if and when you can. SOme stuff I am working on really reinforces that social connection, even when it's difficult and when it may take unusual form, is as necessary to human thriving as food and sleep. Thanks for reminding me to think about them.
posted by Miko at 12:56 PM on January 1 [5 favorites]


voiced automatic ju jitsu texting.

I wanna be a pirate with a helicopter drone on my shoulder and 30 pieces of Bitcoin.

IMO, texting is more utility then conversation, not that it can't be done but context is lost.
posted by clavdivs at 1:06 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]


Humans had a deep, abiding want, or need, for little glowy screens with a camera that let them take pictures of their breakfasts and comment on other people's breakfasts.

I think the more accurate statement would be "Humans had a deep, abiding want, or need, for social connection and validation, that modern society makes it difficult to accomplish; and a little glowy screen with a camera has been hard-sold as the way to get that back."
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:16 PM on January 1 [11 favorites]


While accomplishing all these thing simultaneously would be difficult for me (job + kids = almost no time), if I combine that with quitting Twitter (on my to do list), I might actually make some noticeable progress. I would add “write” to this list as well: journaling, writing emails/notes to family and friends, blogging, or whatever. Just putting pen to page daily would be useful.
posted by johnxlibris at 1:22 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]


The blog post is distilling an entire book down to about 500-1000 words. Maybe read the book before leaping to conclusions based on a summary likely lacking a lot of context from the book?

Oh wait, this is Metafilter. Never mind.
posted by COD at 1:24 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]


Jeesh, gang, just take the author’s challenges as suggestions to consider for your own life. If one resonates with you and is practical for making your life more fulfilling, then adopt it. If not, then no big deal. (For me the book reading and joining don’t make sense, but the moving more does.)

Perhaps resolving to respond to posts like with nuanced discussion and constructive criticism rather rather than hate-on and snark would make the Metafilter a more interesting and enjoyable forum.

Btw, Happy New Year to all!
posted by haiku warrior at 1:24 PM on January 1 [21 favorites]


johnxlibris, I think that could go under MAKE, if we discard some of the limits he creates.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:25 PM on January 1


Hold a real conversation with 20 different people during the monthlong challenge.

Remember kids, following a woman down the street telling her she'd look better if she smiled counts as conversation, once she breaks down and starts telling you to go away.

Just remember every conversation is a good conversation, even if the other person doesn't want to converse. And it's harder for them to block you too.
posted by happyroach at 1:27 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]


Remember kids, following a woman down the street...

Okay, is there anywhere in this post you see the author recommending harassment? Are you unable to tell the difference between "conversation" and "harassment?"
posted by Miko at 1:53 PM on January 1 [12 favorites]


If it's in the LINK it must STINK -- my Metafilter credo.
posted by value of information at 1:57 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]


following a woman down the street

What in the name of all that is holy are you gibbering about

More broadly, welcome to every mefite with an absolutely crushing new year's hangover, all of whom have apparently shown up in this thread with their sunny takes on the article
posted by ominous_paws at 2:03 PM on January 1 [14 favorites]


Greg_Ace: "I think the more accurate statement would be "Humans had a deep, abiding want, or need, for social connection and validation, that modern society makes it difficult to accomplish; and a little glowy screen with a camera has been hard-sold as the way to get that back.""

It's not a "hard sell" if you live in a third word country with no landlines, intermittent electricity, no personal computers and no non-mobile internet.
For billions of people around the world the cell phone is the first chance they get to access the 'modern society' that many westerners take for granted and seem to need lists of challenges to 'escape' from.
posted by signal at 2:29 PM on January 1 [5 favorites]


The phrase "third world" is both archaic and problematic and I'd be wary of conjuring that up to support your need to have a grump at this relatively insignificant blog post
posted by ominous_paws at 2:35 PM on January 1


Um, they're IN Chile so maybe don't police their language while ignoring their larger point about the importance of cell phones and the internet to the global south?
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 2:40 PM on January 1 [6 favorites]


Happy New Year, everyone!
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:44 PM on January 1 [11 favorites]


Because the article suggested cutting off cell phone access in the global south, right? Good grief.

Happy New Year!
posted by ominous_paws at 2:46 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]


ominous_paws: "Because the article suggested cutting off cell phone access in the global south, right? Good grief."

I say that where, exactly?

Love from signal, somewhere in the third world.
posted by signal at 3:28 PM on January 1 [4 favorites]


It's not a "hard sell" if you live in a third word country with no landlines, intermittent electricity, no personal computers and no non-mobile internet.

Sure it is - the hard sell came at the governmental level where people talked about whether we should invest globally to build public infrastructure or, hey, just let the privately owned, mega-corporation device manufacturers and data companies dig into this gold mine.

Obviously this small set of paragraphs is the very most important thing to attack and pick apart today. Enjoy your terrible, small-portioned food, folks. I'm off to look ahead to a good 2020.
posted by Miko at 3:38 PM on January 1 [4 favorites]


Miko: "Sure it is - the hard sell came at the governmental level where people talked about whether we should invest globally to build public infrastructure or, hey, just let the privately owned, mega-corporation device manufacturers and data companies dig into this gold mine."

Which relates to the actual discussion, how?
posted by signal at 3:45 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]


This describes my job and life. I work in a library, and yes, I agree with those who comment that they'd love to spend all day reading. So would I, so would I. Not how it works though. As a member of the circ dept. I talk easily to more than 20 people a day. I read back and forth to work, when I'm on public transit, spend all day walking around at work, and also run several times a week, I'm an artist as well, so I create art, and I go to a 12 step group.

However, I really hate when people tell me how to live my life.

You're not the boss of me!
posted by evilDoug at 3:52 PM on January 1 [7 favorites]


The blog post is distilling an entire book down to about 500-1000 words. Maybe read the book before leaping to conclusions based on a summary likely lacking a lot of context from the book?

It’s the author’s very own distillation of their very own work, no? If one can’t draw a conclusion about the work from this summary, what’s the point of discussing it at all?
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 4:06 PM on January 1 [8 favorites]


Sure it is - the hard sell came at the governmental level where people talked about whether we should invest globally to build public infrastructure or, hey, just let the privately owned, mega-corporation device manufacturers and data companies dig into this gold mine.

There are plenty parts of the globe where it'd be a dream if people at the governmental level could talk about this. Plenty more where, while people at the governmental level were busy endlessly figuring this stuff out, thinking how to milk the privately owned, mega-corporation device manufacturers for access, or just ignoring the whole thing altogether, those privately owned, mega-corporation device manufacturers who had the capability went head and did it. Terrible, eh? Billions couldn't sign up and hand over their money fast enough, the ignorant fools.

Not that this has anything to do with the "unsolicited advice category" of fpp, but tacking on a rant about the evils of the privately owned, mega-corporation device manufacturers and data companies that nobody, including anyone here, is willing to truly give up isn't needed. Which I guess does relate to the fpp after all...
posted by 2N2222 at 4:51 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]


Ableism means no article ever applies to my situation and further serves to remind us that disabled brains and bodies are never part of the equation.

hard second, these are never going to be aimed at me

my personal life, i think something like the make category would be useful to help combat the amount of time i've been spending dissociated. even my "skilled hobbies" are digital, so doing something physical with my hands/body would be grounding. learning guitar's one i'm already attempting. after the rest of the categories, i'm almost annoyed he didn't assign us strict guidelines for this too, lol.
posted by gaybobbie at 5:15 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]


It's also a rather idiosyncratic understanding of "analog" and "digital".

Any sort of text-based interaction is in discrete chunks. You type a thing, you read a thing, you type a thing. This challenge is about trying to have more real-time conversations that are continuous. You can see the person's face as you talk and they can see your reaction to them as you listen.

Obviously some people can't do that and others don't want to. That's true for any sort of challenge like this ever.
posted by straight at 6:39 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, that last sentence was wrongly dismissive. It sucks that there are people who are always left out in conversations like this and someone saying, "Hey, don't forget about the people who can't do this" is in a completely different category than someone saying, "I don't want to do this."

I should not have said anything that would imply those reminders of ableism are unwelcome.
posted by straight at 7:18 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]


The author’s challenge clearly is not applicable people with certain disabilities. Over the last 2+ years I have had the privilege of working with several people with tetraplegia (quadriplegia) as my research group investigated robotic assistance for activities of daily living for persons with C4-C7 spinal cord injury. (C refers to cervical vertebrae.) This challenge is largely irrelevant to those with tetraplegia except potentially reading and conversing by phone/Skype.

As a mostly able-bodied person (significant hearing loss, mild asthma), I don’t have the perspective to avoid hurting the feeling of those with disabilities when offering advice or even offering advice that is relevant. Perhaps someone with relevant experience could make suggestions for those like me who want to do better.
posted by haiku warrior at 7:20 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]


the irony is, because i've started knitting/spinning/crocheting in the last decade, my book-reading has fallen off a cliff. I do much better with long reads and fanfic, simply because the screen is on. (audiobooks put me to sleep unless it's non-fiction, and similar problems with reading fiction e-books - i'm apparently one of those readers whose eye takes in the whole page and then work through the paras then sentences). I'm trying to read more on public transport this year, but let's hope!! in the meantime i better get started on improving ways to hold a book up.
posted by cendawanita at 7:27 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]


READ- the challenge as stated is irrelevant to me (I read more than that). I am struggling to come up with a parallel challenge to attempt.


MOVE- I appreciate genjiandproust's counteroffer that emphasises the movement over making it a disconnected spiritual exercise. Maybe once you're already exercising enough you can add back "exercising without any music" but I find that torturous. And I really need to work on this one, so adding additional barriers not necessary. But committing to a 15 minute walk completely alone every day, sans phone when I feel like it, would be a big stretch commitment for me and I'm tentatively willing to try it.


CONNECT- I feel like everyone responding with conversations with customers, harassment etc, is ignoring everything implied by him using "real" to modify conversation. I assumed he meant meaningful, significant conversations with a give and take about topics you care about. I don't think I have twenty of those a month each with different people. I do feel that's a bit of a weird goal though--I'd rather have multiple real conversations with a smaller selection of people. "call your family and friends" is fine as my counteroffer.


MAKE- all meaningful commentary, mostly about physical exercise, keeps being overwritten by discovering, every time I read the word MAKE, that apparently I had a longing to make stuff with modeling clay that I had zero awareness about. So, uh, good to know. (I make stuff already! Yet every time I read capital letter MAKE my hands start twitching for clay this is surprising and weird for me)


JOIN- haha yeah this isn't feasible with my schedule right now but it's a nice dream. That said I joined a weekly Skype dnd group and it is NOT the same as in person meeting but it's still something. And I am trying for monthly meet ups, which is slightly more doable.
posted by Cozybee at 9:17 PM on January 1 [6 favorites]


I sent this guy's challenge to ten of my friends, but I still got acne.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 11:39 PM on January 1 [4 favorites]


Mrs. Fizz & I are going to try our best to incorporate some aspects of this into our lives. We've said as much to each other the last few months, the need to withdraw from screens, to read more, etc.

One thing we both decided is that we're going to learn a bunch of card games. Going to try a different two-player card game every day this month and see what sticks. We learned Gin Rummy last night.

I hope everyone can set some kind of meaningful goal for themselves and then accomplish them. Happy New Years fam!
posted by Fizz at 4:19 AM on January 2 [6 favorites]


It's funny...I had a viscerally negative reaction to this January Challenge even though a couple of years ago I upended my life in pursuit of vaguely similar goals, which has generally made me much more connected in my community and definitely has resulted in a more grounded lifestyle.

I think it's because I'm just plain burnt out on turning my life into a series of metrics. 20 real conversations, 15 minutes of walking, 4 mockingbirds, 3 French hens, 2 turtledoves and...this song is just way too long. I cannot begin to imagine what I will feel like if my friends start earnestly Calling Me As Number 14 on their list. Why am I not #7/20???

Our family did talk about goals last night and it felt...hollow somehow, like we missed the forest for the trees. My husband and I were talking about it afterwards and I think it's partly because it was a bit forced, but also...we kind of feel like our family right now is about presenting an alternative to Constant Goal Setting...even as we want our kids to be able to follow through on their dreams. There's a tension there.

This isn't really a complete thought but I think the emotions this post has brought up, for those who are struggling with self-care or with barriers, etc., are really interesting.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:36 AM on January 2 [13 favorites]


That’s a very interesting perspective, warriorqueen, especially as it relates to kids. Aspirations, goals, and metrics are often complementary, but they can be toxic. I’m thinking specifically of how children and teens can quickly turn “I didn’t achieve this metric X in my pursuit of my goal of Y” into “I’ll never reach my aspiration of being Z” and “I’m a failure.” Adults do this, too, but kids are more vulnerable to that kind of unhealthy thinking.
posted by haiku warrior at 5:05 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Which relates to the actual discussion, how?

The discussion is about how the forms of interaction that internet delivered via phones enables came to dominate social behavior - which is the context surrounding the points made in this post.
posted by Miko at 5:20 AM on January 2


I don't normally make resolutions. However, I was thinking about how I'd like my life to be this year and decided I won't post any negative-tone/snarky/asshole comments and instead will engage with people helpfully and positively or not at all. Anyway, it's already making me pretty happy. Happy New Year, I hope you all find meaning and satisfaction where you can. Now lets go hang out at the library or wherever your cozy place is and not stress about having to talk to 20 people in person.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:28 AM on January 2 [5 favorites]


one time my trainer at the gym was like "do you have any goals for the upcoming year" and i said "i'd like to talk about drugs on the internet less this year" and he just sighed longsufferingly and said FITNESS GOALS

anyway that's my story about setting goals bye
posted by poffin boffin at 8:49 AM on January 2 [13 favorites]


I’m thinking specifically of how children and teens can quickly turn “I didn’t achieve this metric X in my pursuit of my goal of Y” into “I’ll never reach my aspiration of being Z” and “I’m a failure.” 

For 'gifted' children and teens, just substitute 'my' with 'your' throughout.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 9:33 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


I didn’t adopt any of these as resolutions, but I did think about it when impulsively asking a coworker I like to lunch today. Like warriorqueen I am interested in my knee-jerk thought that 20 is a ridiculously large number. It might be, but lunch was fun either way and this put the idea in my head.

I made one resolution that is anti phone (when I want to check my phone compulsively, try fidgeting with a worry stone instead) and one that is pro phone (mindfulness meditation on the bus, 4 days a week or whatever is a little less than the number of days I ride, using an app for guidance). They’re aiming at the same thing with different tools.
posted by eirias at 1:38 PM on January 2


There is a whole lot in the blog (as well as in some of the links the author provided) and the comments here to unpack.

I am just going to comment on a few, as others have already done a great job of digging deep.

Homo Neanderthalensis:
I easily read three-four books a month on my two plus hour bus commute (both ways combined) every work day. I easily walk 15+ minutes a day when you combine my walking commute and all the hours I spend on my feet at work. Considering all the customer interactions I have every work day I easily talk to more then 20 people in a day forget a month. Skilled hobby? Growing your own food counts right? Join? That’s harder, and admittedly something I’m working on. This seems like a list for people who actually make money, and have had everything else in their lives suffer as a result. I suppose it has utility for them. For those of us who aren’t computer science professionals the digital world is what connects us to others and allows us to decompress from all the physical labor we do at work. Digital detox is for privileged people.

That's interesting. I also read (at least) the equivalent to three-four books/month. It has moved from books to longreads, profiles, etc. But, I believe it falls under Newport's idea of: "The goal is to rediscover what it feels like to make engagement with the written word an important part of your daily experience."

Well. Except the rediscover part. I never lost the engagement to read.

I walk a lot for work. Probably two hours of my day are spent walking. The funny thing is, not to disagree with Homo Neanderthalensis, but I do it precisely to keep people up and running on their computers. During those walks, I can't be connected. I can see the point on digital detox for privileged people.

I, too, typically interact with 20+ people a day. If the argument is "real" conversation (and I will even handicap myself and not include family), my job makes that easy since most of us are working towards a common goal. I'm bemused that phone/Skype/Facetime are acceptable ways to reach this threshold, as those are ways I struggle with the most. (Sure, I hear their voices. But, I don't see body language, nuance, etc. and I spend more time trying to stay engaged in the conversation.)

https://www.metafilter.com/184921/Digitalis-interdictum#7850993:

To expand on my previous comment, if there is one objective fact that accepts no discussion it's this:

Humans had a deep, abiding want, or need, for little glowy screens with a camera that let them take pictures of their breakfasts and comment on other people's breakfasts.

The cellphone is by far the human communications technology with the fastest and most wide reaching, in geographical, class and gender senses, adoption in all of recorded history.


I am not saying this in a snarky "citation needed" sort of way. But... do you have anything to back this claim up? Cell phones have been around at least 30 years. Smartphones a little over a decade. But, the smartphone did not just come to fruition due to consumer demand. It's technology that goes centuries back (phone, camera, storage media, battery) that was finally miniaturized enough to all fit into one device.

On to the author:

To take advantage of this reality, I recommend that for the duration of the challenge that you dumb down your smartphone by following the rules I outlined here (summary: use your phone only for calls, texts, maps, and audio — as Steve Jobs originally intended).

I do not understand this argument from authority. Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone and so now we can only use it the way he thought smartphones were best? That's...facile, to be polite. (esp. when the first iPhone also included a stocks app, clock app, notes app, camera, email app, web browser...)

But, why stop there?

I thought about it for a second before recommending a simple hack that I’ve been experimenting with recently and finding useful:

Use your smartphone only for the following activities: calls, text messages, maps, and audio (songs/podcasts/books).

I suggested that my students try this for one week while studying for their exams. I further suggested that they actually record on a calendar or in a journal whether or not they succeeded in following the rule 100% for the day. One slip to check social media, or glance at email, or look up a website, and they don’t get to mark the day as a success.

They can still do all of these online activities, but only on their laptop.


I will cede that "I thought about it for a second" is probably hyperbole. But, were I in college still, I would prefer an answer that had more thought given to it. Regardless, I am struggling to see why looking at e-mail or a website is worse. I am required to do both for my job multiple times a day. The only difference between doing "all of these online activities" on my phone instead of my laptop? The phone fits in my pocket and doesn't cause undue back pain from lugging it around all day.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 7:32 PM on January 2


The point is that they become a habit you do whenever there is a bit of friction in your life, and you break that habit by not instantly pulling your phone out unless there is a text, call or you need to change the audio.

Most people don't examine their habits from time to time, and Digital Minimalism is written for those who want to interrogate how they're using technology. He's not saying it's for everyone.

I do not understand this argument from authority. Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone and so now we can only use it the way he thought smartphones were best? That's...facile, to be polite.

Cal tells the story of Steve Jobs who didn't see the point of adding the web browser. It was only added last minute and he protested. He wanted literally an iPod + phone. He's relating how Steve Jobs badly misunderstood the appeal of what he created initially. Anyway, the book is for people who want to do what he's proposing. It seems like it's upsetting people here.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:36 AM on January 3


a non mouse, a cow herd: "The cellphone is by far the human communications technology with the fastest and most wide reaching, in geographical, class and gender senses, adoption in all of recorded history.

I am not saying this in a snarky "citation needed" sort of way. But... do you have anything to back this claim up?
"

There's this article from 2012. There's the fact that there are 1 billion more cellphone connections than people., and more people have cellphones than ever had land lines.
posted by signal at 4:20 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


if anyone wants to try the connect part but is coming up.short of people interested in real time talking, feel free to memail me. I'm disarming. have been working remotely and on some solitary projects; real time human interaction, as someone above pointed out, is really key..
posted by elgee at 10:10 PM on January 5


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