Mobile Information Diet

Since October 1 of last year, I’ve been trying to make lots of small changes. Too many to list here. One bucket area I wanted to change was how I used my phone, which I use and check too often. I’d wager everyone reading this probably falls into this bucket, somehow. One of the founders I work closely with mentioned to me recently, much to my surprise, that he actually isn’t much of a “phone guy” despite working on an Internet startup. He tries to do his computer work on his real computer. If anything, he wants his phone only to send him information, and otherwise, he prefers to be untethered. For some reason, his statement has stuck with me. His preference is extreme, but made me think.

Last December 20, when I left for holidays to NYC, I disabled all iPhone notifications except SMS and calendar. I even disabled them for TweetBot, which is the app I use the most. Same for my primary email. I felt I was going to my phone enough already, so I didn’t need another layer of distraction to get sucked back in. It’s now January 5 and I don’t miss iOS push notifications at all. I am not sure I will go back to them, ever. It feels great.

The other change I made is more drastic. I am not only addicted to my phone, but I’m addicted to reading. I don’t read “tech news” on the main blogs, but I love to find random links via Twitter and read more niche blogs that surface within the tech startup community. I’m sure many of you reading this do the same. My old habit for reading was to go to Twitter, integrate my Twitter clients with a reading service (Pocket), and save links to read later. I was careful about which links I saved, and didn’t put pressure on myself to read even 50% of them. And, in this process, I realized I created another addictive habit of trying to read from Pocket, but it wasn’t enjoyable and worse I didn’t feel as if I was learning. It was just information, and I wanted knowledge. Information is just a distraction and turns into trivia; when it’s transformed into knowledge, it makes your mind stronger.

So, I removed Pocket from my clients, and removed the Pocket app from my devices and browser. I should be clear here and state that this has nothing to do with Pocket. It’s a great product and service. I will miss it. And, it has nothing to do with finding solace in another reader like Instapaper and/or Readability. Rather, this is a personal choice by me to fundamentally change how I choose what information to absorb.

Right now, I want a more “lean-back, send to me” service for browsing the news on my devices. I’ve written about the different methods various startups are using to target, personalize, and deliver information to audiences, which you can read here. Moving forward, when I feel like reading, I’m trying to train myself to visit either Prismatic or Flipboard, which are based on my Twitter graph already, and leave behind the habit of explicitly putting each link into my reading list.

 

Haywire is written by Semil Shah, and is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Copyright © 2014 Semil Shah.

“I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other.”— Epicurus