On May 14th 2019, the #DevDiscuss community gathered once more. The topic? Digital health and addiction!
Over one hour we shared stories of how we dealt with digital addiction ourselves, strategies we used, and striking a healthy balance online. A lot of great info was shared, so much so it's hard to summarize into a single article.
If you couldn't take part in the discussion and still want to see what was written, please read on!
The first step of addressing any problem is defining it. As developers, we tend to be more familiar with digital addiction than many, buy just as vulnerable.
Jacque Schrag@molly_struve @_jessicode I realized I hit the point of being digitally addicted when leaving my phone behind felt like I was missing a limb. I could feel myself wanting to check stuff every few minutes. That feeling goes away, but it's scary how normal it feels. #DevDiscuss01:45 AM - 15 May 2019
This can be due to our design knowledge, higher exposure to different tech, or our own job demands.
@jmdembe @kylegalbraith The speed of the tech industry is both a blessing and a curse. Because we can theoretically keep up with everything via the internet the expectation is that we should and are doing so. That’s not particularly healthy. #devdiscuss01:24 AM - 15 May 2019
Or, ironically enough, our participation in Twitter chats 🙃.
This exposes a wider problem of digital addiction is an occupational hazard for developers, and we should take it seriously.
Jessica Dembe 👩🏾💻This digital life thing is a double edge sword. One the one hand, being digitally engaged pays better than my first two jobs out of college. On the other hand, there is a heavy price to pay if I log off or disengage from tech/digital life. #DevDiscuss01:16 AM - 15 May 2019
Even if it's just the risk of staying online too much after said Twitter chats.
To be fair, Impractical Jokers videos are too hilarious to pass up, even at 11 pm!
Arguable the simplest, and most effective, way to fight digital addiction is turning off notifications. Most distracting are the ones for email and social media. Those who turned them off rarely regret it.
Second, avoid automatic notifications or subscriptions whenever possible. Anything worth getting notified about is worth manually turning notifications on (and off).
One idea is only get notified on ones you hit the subscribe button for. My rule of thumb is any automatic followings or subscriptions are a bad move. #DevDiscuss twitter.com/elizschafer/st…01:34 AM - 15 May 2019Elizabeth Schafer @elizschaferDoes anyone have any suggestions on how to manage Github notifications? I've started filtering them in email, but it's still too much to process. What I want is some kind of dashboard where I can see everything important at a glance. #DevDiscuss
This all falls under the "pull, don't push" rule of thumb. By not having information shoved in your face, you only look for (or "pull") the info you need.
For the notifications you keep, they should all be silenced when powering down and sleeping. Whatever it is can wait until morning.
You can even disable all Internet access at night to remove any possible distractions.
Similar rule here. I also have some @freedom_app rules that phase out distracting sites around 8pm, and an hour later cuts off all Internet access. #DevDiscuss twitter.com/karaluton/stat…01:16 AM - 15 May 2019Kara Luton @karaluton@thepracticaldev I also automatically have do not disturb set to come on my phone about an hour before I go to sleep and stay on until an hour after I wake up. It’s crazy how much this has helped me and it’s something so simple #DevDiscuss
People also touched on the media they consume each day. It was usually Twitter content, but this can apply to media like news articles too.
The best tip seems obvious but is easy to forget and can be destructive: avoid outrage-fueling content.
Andy George@realandygeorge"What do you do for your digital health?"
About a year ago I made a conscious decision to leave 'political' twitter and try to follow only those in tech/infosec, especially those who exude positivity. It has made my twitter experience FAR more healthy and enjoyable.
#DevDiscuss twitter.com/ThePracticalDe…01:22 AM - 15 May 2019
Hayley DenbraverQ1: Don't "hate" follow things. I used to follow some accounts that would consistently make me upset/outraged. I don't want to be in an echo chamber, but nothing good was coming from following these people. #devdiscuss twitter.com/ThePracticalDe…01:11 AM - 15 May 2019
(Yes, this includes outrage politics).
James Turner@mrturnerj@RealAndyGeorge I nearly responded to political tweets about a certain election in a certain country of mine - so glad I didn't!
One of my big motivators for using Twitter was following other developers and people in tech, learning things. I want to keep viewing Twitter that way.
#DevDiscuss01:26 AM - 15 May 2019
But as one wise tweeter pointed out the next day, there are strategic times to engage with trolls. Pick your battles wisely.
One way to control your media diet is curating digital content into a single, third-party platform. Platforms like Twitter are designed to suck you in. Pulling tweets onto a platform without the addictive design, like RSS readers, lets you have your cake and eat it too.
My biggest move for digital health is controlling sources for my digital media diet. I try to only get articles, tweets, and newsletters from as few sources as possible. Those sources should be controlled to avoid extra content leaking in. @feedbin is great for this! #DevDiscuss twitter.com/ThePracticalDe…01:04 AM - 15 May 2019
We can build better overall habits that discourage digital addiction too. One that saves the most time: don't rush to answer every email.
In fact, don't rush to the phone at all in the morning. I keep it in another room while it charges overnight. This removes any risk of checking it in bed and keeping my brain awake.
I encourage any habits for getting more sleep overall, which improve every other facet of our lives.
dracarysNot sleeping != being able to find solutions to issues you’re stuck on
SLEEP 👏🏼 TO 👏🏼 GO 👏🏼 FURTHER 👏🏼 #DevDiscuss twitter.com/thepracticalde…01:56 AM - 15 May 2019
One major downside of digital addiction is damaging potential habits for learning new things.
A useful habit to beat this (or a counter-habit) is making a "to learn" list outside of social media. This helps shift us away from seeing social media as our primary source of information. If something on Twitter jumps out at you, save it somewhere else and avoid getting sucked in.
Lastly, schedule extra blocks of time to not use your phone at all.
Someone mentioned a less-than-courteous (but useful) way to enforce this rule...
@kylegalbraith @DashBarkHuss @ThePracticalDev I LOVE asking someone a question right when I can see they are in the middle of something on their phone, makes them squirm a little and usually you can get them to put it down that way. Not tactful but effective #DevDiscuss01:37 AM - 15 May 2019
If you have a hard time keeping your phone away, focus more on a non-digital project or hobby. It can be anything you find fulfilling and doesn't involve your computer screens. I've found making laser or vinyl cutter projects at the local maker space great myself.
This discussion was all about fighting digital addiction. But we shouldn't forget the good things digital activity does for us too. As developers, our digital identities are a big career asset.
Digital identity is also a big part of your reputation and networking possibilities.
If you have no footprint, or an outdated one, you’re likely losing out on opportunities. And once you’re a part of it, it’s hard to step away and come back without losing track. #DevDiscuss01:07 AM - 15 May 2019
It's great for networking, finding new colleagues, and even new friends.
Lindsey Kopacz 🐞@littlekopeI will say, I've made so many great friends from the interwebs.
However, I notice myself picking up my phone a lot while I'm with my partner, and it bothers me. I should be more present.
#DevDiscuss01:27 AM - 15 May 2019
So remember where the line is between "healthy digital activity" and "digital addiction" lies.
Doing a twitter chat to engage with lots of smart people in your network is fine 😀
Staying online afterwards to yell at people talking politics pointlessly at 1am is not fine 🙃 #DevDiscuss twitter.com/laurieontech/s…01:37 AM - 15 May 2019
So if you need to duck out of #DevDiscuss early, this shows no one will judge and there's no reason to feel any FOMO. We're all managing our digital habits and addictions, and hopefully doing better each day 😊.
See you all next Tuesday!
If there are any tweets from the discussion you think should have been included, post them in the comments below!