I found it interesting that you had this to say about Ezra, "How does this person find the time to read and think this much?" because I definitely think the same when I listen to your show or read your stuff online. "Where does PJ find all these great people and stories?" I'd be curious to listen and learn from you about where you spend your time online and how you dig through everything that's out there to find these great little gems to write and talk about.
I am a 64 year old retiree, and I gave Instagram, Facebook, Substack, TikTok a good try, and I found that none of them holds a candle to great books, big difficult books, old classic books that have been around for sometimes hundreds of years: Aristotle’s Ethics, Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, Conrad’s Lord Jim, etc. Every once in a while, I get online, browse for 10-15 minutes, then shut the darn thing off and dig into a good book. Works wonders.
This is the first podcast Ive ever listened to the show credits to. And I loved every bit of it!!!
I haven't listened to the episode yet (will listen when I get home from work while I clean my apartment), so apropos of PJ's (not-so greedy) request, listed below are some of my favorite books I've read in the last two-ish years. I swing non-fiction and devoured Fentanyl, Inc. immediately after listening to the 2-part episode.
1. The Boys in the Boat
2. The History of Love
3. Into Thin Air
4. The Last Days of Night
5. Algorithms to Live By
Downloaded substack after the mention on the episode. Optimistic I’ll enjoy this thing, just want the content I enjoy centralized a bit and easier to access. Open to other options. I’m done with Twitter, threads is fine but still can feel a bit empty after a long scroll.
Really enjoyed the episode, with a mild annoyance for the lack of super easy quick fix life hacks. Sighing acceptance that it really boils down to sleep, exercise, and meaningful connection (probably should eat more broccoli as well).
I deleted my original Facebook account years ago as an anxiety reducing step. A year or so back I created a zero friend FB account to use marketplace and follow some groups. That works well. Holding strong on the zero friend front. Pretty sure people don’t think I’m a bot.
For phone control I try to use the onesec app. Not for everyone but I like the way it forces me to pause and disrupts the mindless clicking the app open for dopamine fix. Not perfect. Often times I have to delete apps for a break when I catch myself feeling sub human. Dang tik tok hooks me. It’s off the phone at the moment.
A big thing that helped my brain that tends to spiral and find comfort in routine and habit was to run off notifications from every app other than texts, calls, and work-related and time-sensitive things. I also, at the request of a therapist, change up the app locations on my phone once a month to random new spots.
For me, this allows me to not be pulled into my phone by constant notifications and if I do open my phone, I can’t rely on muscle memory to jump open apps to spiral in to; it takes conscious effort, and it allows me to ask if I really need to spend more time on my device.
Oh PJ- you really spoke to me this week. I needed to hear this on repeat and maybe tattooed on myself.
One note: you said: “use your printers”
And I would love to ask a super tech support question of:
“Why - in the age of cell phones being so small and holodecks almost being real- do printers suck so bad (still)? It’s like no one has thought: “hey world, I’m going to make the best printer to blow every other printer out of the water! It’ll be affordable! And it won’t jam! And it’ll work after you accidentally bump it or turn it off!” Why oh why are printers so sucky and can we have a contest to make a better one?
I hate paper because of printers and the fact that they never seem to work. Can you help me with this?
Thank you, I really needed this. I just got a coveted Bluesky code yesterday and was so excited to leave toxic X/Twitter… only to log in to Bluesky to find unhinged arguments with author Neil Gaiman about attending an event without a mask. Apparently I needed this episode to realise that I didn’t escape from anything…
To read… “To be taught, if fortunate” by Becky Chambers. A lovely novella that captures the joy of discovery and doing science. (Recommended by a totally biased scientist who loves both those things)
I’m stuck on Instagram since I’ve got friends who I care about that share their art on there. I do a couple of things to keep myself from spending too much time on the app or looking at enraging stuff.
I found an app that blocks you from getting on social media for a couple seconds with something like rotating your phone 3 times or taking a deep breath.
Once I’m on the app, I’ve got a long-running experiment to see how far I can bend the algorithm. Over the past couple years, I’ve been abstaining from liking any suggested content except pictures and videos of bears.
You mentioned in the episode that you want something to do while staring at your phone to turn off your brain. I like the “bear strategy” because it gives you more insight into how the algorithm feeds you content (my friends are getting bear pictures in their feeds now) and it turns social media from an infinite scroll into a virtual pet that fetches you more pictures the more you feed it. Once I’ve run out of bear posts to interact with, it gives me a nice stopping point and it’s a lot easier to actually get off the app.
And I’ve got more books to add to the collective reading list here:
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Ravenous: Otto Warburg, The Nazis, and the Cancer-Diet Connection
I love the podcast! I was a big fan of Reply All and it’s so nice to have you back. I was particularly affected by this episode and it has made me really reconsider my relationship with the internet, social media, technology, etc. My first big move happened a couple of nights ago when I opted to go to a live performance where I turned off my phone for two hours and sat amongst all the other human beings. I realized at some point while I was sitting there in the audience that not only did I travel back in time to pre-smartphone but the performance included a live reading of a radio play, a Felix the Cat cartoon, and a Buster Keaton movie all from the 1920’s and all accompanied by love organ music. So I turned my phone off for two hours and suddenly I was transported 100 years into the past. It was pretty amazing and I plan to keep up my pursuit of living IRL more. Thanks for the inspiration. Keep up the great work!
I deactivated my twitter account after listening to this episode. Thank you PJ and Ezra! A humble request from someone in publishing: when you list books, could you link to Bookshop.org instead of Amazon? It helps independent bookstores.
I’m only halfway through this episode but had to pause and share. I’ve been learning a lot about how what we do shapes us, and I’d like to recommend you check out “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” by John Mark Comer.
It’s an evangelical Christian take on why this conversation is important and has greatly changed the way I approach the internet and screens in general. Check it out.
I turn off push notifications and go between different browsers for different internet use (Firefox's private browser has no memory meaning I have to manually enter a website URL. ) also I have no bookmarks on my opera browser. I save things to the Pocket app to read. That's my best internet hygiene, but I still spend waaaaay too much time on, say, internet comments on celeb drama than Important New Yorker articles. I am Twitter sober though.
My book recommendation is Non-Places by Marc Augé, which is loads of theory but on the right side of dense, for me at least. Unless you just want a read about dropping out of your shitty bourgeois life and doing occult stuff in the woods, in which case read Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner.
I’m excited for this episode. I’m struggling with the same thing. I gave up on X/Twitter because I found the bad was outweighing the good. I’m using Reddit more but finding that I just use it for builds for BG3 or to talk about board games, nothing meaningful. And I don’t feel the same kind of idea that I know people on Reddit.
I’m mostly in a couple discords for podcasts I really like and a Slack with old friends in cities I’ve left behind and that’s so different. I don’t feel like I’m meeting new people or learning from diverse groups. There’s no feeling like the months after George Floyd where Twitter was full of productive rage and kind people were showing me how my worldview was limited and homogenous.
Maybe too philosophical for the comment box, but mostly to say that this is why I listen!
When you mentioned that this episode was coming during the board meeting, I was thrilled. I can't wait to listen. Very much agree with your note at the end of this morning's newsletter that Ezra's short episode from this week, "Israel Is Giving Hamas What It Wants," is extremely worth listening to.
I deleted my Twitter app and killed my two alts after listening to this.
I don't really care about the whole Elon-is-bad thing, but I do just think social media is itself, universally, bad.
My main is still up but I have only opened it as essential (my work requires it at times) and haven't posted anything.