Simplifying online life

I spend a lot of time thinking about this topic and thought it might be a nice thing to open up to discussion.

Curious what tricks/tips you’ve figured out for making your online life a little bit healthier/productive/happier.

Here’s a few adjustments I’ve made:

-A couple of years back I ditched my smartphone for an old Blackberry and got rid of my data plan. Basically stopped using my phone for anything but texting and calling. Even texting is annoying now. This really helped me get back in tune with being out in the world. Paying attention when someone gives me directions. Revisiting all the music on my ipod and deep listening again.

-I blocked my Facebook newsfeed. This was super helpful to stop the endless scroll into misery.

-I’ve played around with apps that limit online usage.

I’ve been burning many hours on this forum but it seems to be pretty educational for the most part. But still…

If you care to share any tactics I’d love to hear them.


Part of me really likes this plugin/extension because of the vulgar name and the directness of its productivity-boosting communication, which feels like the total opposite of the typical boring, corporate, emotionless messaging that you might find in a standard productivity app:


I try to have different rules for different seasons. When I’m in a writing season, I ditch Instagram and Twitter altogether, because I find them to be “holes in the
bucket”- in other words, teeny tiny creative efforts that end up lowering my total overall creative capacity for the day.

But when I’m not writing, I enjoy social media as much as I want. That has worked for me.


No Twitter. No Facebook. No Instagram. I also deleted my YouTube account. And after 14–15 years, no more Gmail either. Also deleted Google Maps.

It feels great to escape the social silos. Now I’m making stuff on my own website again and communicating on the open web and using my own email account on my own domain.

Simplicity is not carrying around multiple device when one will do. My iPhone was not the problem. It was the 3rd party apps I used to use… until I stopped using them. I spend a lot more time now using my phone to listen to music.


I frequently want to delete Facebook, and even Instagram more and more, but then I think of how impossible it would be to get people to come to my shows, buy my albums, etc.
I don’t have Facebook on my phone, yet I still put the address in safari and regret it immediately. Social media is just that…media. (A million public enemy quotes come to mind).
Someday, I will delete it all.
I get closer all the time.

In like 5 years, I hope to be fishing everyday or something.


Three things that worked nicely for me:

a) Use a completely open source version of Android (FPOpen for the Fairphone), which forces you to only rely on open source apps since they got rid of all the google stuff. 99% of the open source stuff is useful in a very “boring” way. It’s the kind of app you use when you need it and just when you really need it.

b) Use the procrastination powers on Facebook and Youtube. Think: “I should go check my social media accounts… but maybe I’ll do it later”.

c) Sit down and realize how annoying using a phone is for doing basically anything. How long it takes to type even basic sentences, how hard most websites are to navigate, how cumbersome touch-based control is on many apps.
Focus on the weariness and the discomfort, feel the incovenience. Feel how it cripples your hands and arms and your brain. Feel the pain.
Now, every time you use the smartphone, go back to that place of discomfort.


A very tricky topic, and one I think about all the time. I feel like it’s become vital to a good existence for me to take steps to lessen lots of things online.

Definitely a lot less social media. I don’t use Facebook or Instagram at all any more, really—it’s been easy with the latter since it seems to be basically one ad for every five aggregated pics in my feed, and I just keep Facebook around for its occasional, increasingly rare usefulness (getting in touch with someone I don’t otherwise know how to reach, stuff about shows, etc). I find with these apps that, in addition to just wasting time on them, I find myself comparing myself to other people way more than I should.

The much bigger thing for me, however, has been fighting my consumerist habits. I’ve always been a collector/shopper/buyer, and the internet right now is just an endless pit of gear and general product auditioning that sadly has this massive power to keep me from actually making things. The way that I’ve been trying to tackle this habit is to get rid of a lot of equipment that I don’t need/use, focus down, and try to only pay attention to things that are actually educational and useful vs indulging mindless curiosity aka “ooh shiny!” It’s been hard, but it’s working so far—my head is clearer, and I’m starting to regain ground in terms of creative output.

In this vein, the biggest problem site/app for me is YouTube—it’s sneakily replaced television and movies for me. I can’t stand what these modern cultural habits have done to my attention span; a friend and I were just marveling about how hard it is to commit to watching a whole movie these days, which is frankly just an absurd but very real phenomenon. So… lastly I’m just trying to get back to what I used to always love for entertainment: records, movies, books. And, of course, making music.

It’s amazing how those mindless online activities fill up little gaps everywhere, to the point of making me feel like I suddenly don’t have time for anything anymore. It really opens up if I deny the impulses.


Thanks for starting this topic.

I try to draw a line between making things simple and making them healthy.

  1. In public forums, I avoid random acts of negativity, I express gratitude, I offer support and condolences, I work hard to not prejudge, I accept people as they are.
  2. In private forums, I act honorably, honestly, and appropriately.

More generally:

  1. I stopped using Facebook. I keep the account so I can leave a message for my late father each year on his birthday and to peer in on the lives of my family.
  2. I embraced Lines as my digital home.
  3. I began a zine that I share with members of my extended digital family.
  4. I don’t use the internet when I can/should be spending time with my wife and kids.
  5. I support artists online by buying music on Bandcamp.
  6. I gave up blogging.
  7. I avoid excessive use of YouTube.
  8. I avoid Reddit.

Well, I just turned 50 two weeks ago, so presbyopia and osteoarthritis do make it harder to use the phone for any amount of text…

More seriously, though: My response here is kind of ironic, since the thing I have most had trouble with is participating in forums. (More on that below if you really want to read it.)

There was a time, about five years ago when I realized that some of what I was doing online really had become addictive behavior. Ultimately, I had to work to understand my own emotional state when I found myself engaging in an activity and that didn’t bring any any real pleasure but only satisfied an urge. It’s good to ask yourself what you are thinking and feeling at the time when you feel the urge to do something like that. This occurred with me at a time when I had a job that was not particularly pleasant or engaging.

I found this TED talk to be essential in understanding addiction. I can’t recommend it enough if you haven’t seen it.:

It may not be easy to accept, but the big gestures, like deleting an account or canceling a service won’t help as much is the steady, mindful, consistent application of principles.

I think the only account I’ve completely canceled was Reddit. That site was just too broad and there was always an endless supply of places to join in. (I only joined it because at the time, there was a discussion hosted there for participants of NaSoAlMo.)

I never joined Facebook so I can’t give any advice about that. Same for Instagram.

Some practical advice for other services, that you might extend elsewhere:

Twitter: When I’m about to follow someone new, I always check their profile to make sure I really want to see all their tweets (not just the one that made me consider following). I almost always end up turning off retweets.

YouTube: Turn off autoplay. Never click on a YouTube-suggested playlist.

Wikipedia: It can be a real sink for me, because I use it as a reference but then I find things to correct or improve or just find new things that are interesting to me to learn about. Using it on the phone actually helps, since editing articles is so much harder and I can just look something up and be done.

Quora: Several years ago, I backed away from Quora because it has the ability to push questions from other users to me. When I go on there now, I usually just dismiss those questions unless there is something that I really feel like I’m in the best person to answer.

TED: Before viewing a talk, consider whether you can get by reading the transcript. If there are no graphics to view, I find can just read the transcript and get the same thing out of it, but much faster.

On forums, I really have to restrain myself from responding to everything that I have an answer for.
For example, I bought a new synthesizer and joined the forum for users and support. Before long, I was there writing a treatise on tuning theory, complete with footnotes. I joined this forum just because I wanted to participate in the Disquiet Junto. Fortunately much of the discussion here is a total mystery to me as I don’t own or use any of the the tools that seem to be the focus of much of the discussion. Lately, I have to be careful not to check in too often on the political humor/news analysis site Wonkette. Aside from reading the articles, they have a very active, reasonably-well-moderated (and often quite funny) user comment area. I try to deal with that one by scheduling my visits.


I was about to go on a big tangent about deleting Facebook and Instagram from my phone, which certainly has been great.

But a huge change for me this year has been joining a meditation center. The center in my part of Minneapolis is free to attend (donation). As a non-religious person looking for community and a peaceful place to be, it’s been life transforming.


When I was in my early twenties I stopped using the internet all together for 2 or 3 years. I had basic tv channels and radio. Because I wanted to learn to play music, mainly keys and sampling. It did make me focus and I got a lot done, stuff I’m still building on now that I would not have had if I did not make mental space to learn it earlier.

I would go to the internet cafe if I needed to do administrative life stuff.

Now I have an iPad, for music producing and video, ebooks. A phone with internet, the cheapest android. That I use for whatsapp and calls. I only started using whatsapp a couple years ago and did not have a smart phone for maybe ten years, just a desktop pc.

Atm I mostly have to watch my youtube consumption, the algorithm has gotten very good at keeping you watching. Only part of that is useful new information or discovering channels that educate or relax you. I do use the algorithm though because it recommends channels I do want to watch.

For me the “rule” with social media is that I use it only to be social, not to babble or listen to people babbling about the mundane or profane. Everything that gives me a warm feeling, talking with people I know, or following a select few artists on twitter and instagram. So you stay connected with the zeitgeist and get new ideas, to avoid getting stuck in the mud and live with too many patterns build up in the past, and give your neurons the change to make some new connections and learn better patterns.

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It’s a good idea to mute threads when they get out of control, rather than adding fuel to the fire.


So relate to all of this, especially the endless trap of auditioning (which replaces doing actual work). Being aware of it is half of the solution.

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I have yet to figure out how to mute anything here on llllllll. Help on the forum software (and even the name of the software in use) is not exactly easy to come by.

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For those of you that struggle with Facebook I really recommend blocking your newsfeed. That’s been the most helpful for me. That way I can go to FB and just see if I have messages but I don’t get caught in the scroll. You do miss out on births/deaths/social events, etc. as most people, it seems, use that as their main place to announce things socially and that can be a challenging thing but I try and rely on the idea that if someone I really care about dies, has a baby, releases a record, etc. then I’m going to know because they’re my friend and I should be in touch with them via phone/email/etc. Not always the case but…

I run a creative retreat/recording studio in the countryside in Ontario and I have pretty strict cellphone ban in the studio (if I’m producing/engineering). The amount of times I’ve had to ask the drummer if he’s ready for a take and his phone is on his snare drum and he’s scrolling through Instagram as if he isn’t about to make something he claims is important and that will, hopefully, last forever. It infuriates me and depresses me.

I guess one weird fallout I’ve had with ditching my smartphone is that when I’m in public it’s impossible not to notice how bad everyone is addicted to their phones. Everyone buried in them wandering the streets, out for a pint, having conversations with friends…It’s magnified now that I’m not one of them. I actually sneak off to text as it makes me feel really guilty/gross to even pull my phone out in public. I’m grateful that my life/occupation allows me to, for the most part, be sans phone in the world. I carry the old one with me in a backpack if I’m on tour/traveling in case I need to access traveling information but finding more and more often that I’m just getting more confident with asking people for help and having a conversation.

I use a Blackberry Torch. I can type on it fast enough. Not so fast that you want to write long essays. Usually I’ll just call someone if it’s going to be more than a few texts. And, as far as I can figure out, it’s not supported by Blackberry anymore so I can’t get any apps on it. Needs a charge every few days. Doesn’t drop calls. Works great. I recommend for anyone that wants to switch. I did the T9 thing first and it was brutal. haha.

I think a lot of my issues stem from the fact that in a perfect world I’d not have social media. My wife and I struggle with it as we both have music careers, and the studio, and it continues to be the main place for us to advertise our tours/records/studio. I do fear a complete erase of these platforms would hurt us in that regard, at least for now…

Thanks for all these. Keep em coming! Love this.


Look for a blue circle on the right hand side near the scrolling. The forum software is called Discourse.

edit: it can also be a grey circle and can show at the bottom of the thread.

Thanks. Took me a second to find the blue cirlce… It disappears when you get to the bottom of the thread. I did find out it was Discourse 2.4.0.beta1 by pressing Ctrl+U (view source).

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Getting Facebook off my phone, then quitting it entirely, was helpful.

I find I substitute other things in a similar time slot – they don’t get their hooks in as much as Facebook did, and I wouldn’t call it “unhealthy” as such but they still keep me poking idly at my phone rather than being fully present where I am. It’s usually Instagram, or ironically here, or MW. Places that I really don’t need to stay on top of on a minute-to-minute basis; I won’t miss anything if I wait a few hours. :wink:

So I’m removing the Instagram shortcut from my phone, as well as the quick links from my broswer as a reminder to myself.

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i hid the facebook app and turned off notifications at the end of March. didn’t make a big announcement, just did it for myself. super easy step to take.

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I deleted the facebook app and only check it occasionally using the safari browser. Better for me, but also stops all the weird background processes an app can run.