Counter-Programming: Selected Q & A from Reddit

I posted Counter-Programming to the “Get Disciplined” forum on Reddit. Get Disciplined is a great, supportive community with high standards and a lot of quality content (definitely a good choice for a clean information diet). The post was well-received and sparked a ton of interesting comments. I’ve pulled some of the more intriguing questions (along with my answers) below. Enjoy!

Is porn really that bad?

yeahsureokok wrote:

I think this is all solid except the porn argument–I agree excessive use of porn is problematic, but IMO it’s more akin to the argument you make about other forms of mindless entertainment–ok to engage in once and a while mindfully and bad to passively fall down the rabbit hole because you’re anxious/sad/bored/etc. It also depends on how you are using it. Hours of watching at really any time is probably problematic but porn can also be used to deepen bonds with your partner if you guys are kinky and enjoy showing each other gifs you find hot or occasionally watching a video together. I think like everything else the key is to be mindful and think about if it’s serving you.

My reply:

I won’t argue that porn is 100% wrong for everybody at all times. To your point, it’s all personal. I’m sure there are people who can indulge in a way where the benefits outweigh the downsides. It’s not a NEED but neither is beer or Girl Scout cookies and other fun stuff.
But for people trying to break a digital stimulation addiction and establish healthier internet habits, quitting the tube sites is a really important step IMO. We’re trying to decouple screen time from reward center activation, and porn is an extreme example of screen-driven pleasure. Yet, it can be so ingrained in people’s routines that they don’t examine it.


What’s in my inbox?

anarchyman93 asked:

Can you suggest those good blogs and mailing list you have subscribed to ?

My reply:

Sure! Here’s my reading list:

I also regularly visit: Brain Pickings, Farnum Street, and Wait But Why.

Alternatives to reading?

OmegaSeas asked:

One hurdle I’m trying to overcome is my dislike of reading. I realize it’s a perfect thing to do in non-screen time situations but I loathe reading books. Do you (or anyone else) have suggestions of other activities I could do instead of reading?

My reply:

Anything that requires extended focus. Writing or creative projects are good. Drawing, journaling. If you’re into code, building a website or app, even if it’s just for you.

Are there any books you enjoy? Even accessible, enjoyable stuff like Harry Potter, Michael Crichton etc. is helpful for training the reading skill.

Ditching political stuff

chuckus_mangionus wrote:

I agree 100% about putting political stuff in the never category of junk food. It is such a polarizing subject these days and you are likely never going to change someone’s mind by arguing about it with them, so what’s the point? I unsubscribed from all political subs a few months ago and I’m a more happy, positive person because of it.


What if my friends aren’t on board?

DistressedCarbon asked:

I did have a question however; if I compare myself to everything you listed I only really struggle with your fifth point. This mainly seems to be because the majority of people around me currently aren’t in this mindset i.e absorbed by social media/their phones.

It just doesn’t click with me which causes frustration as our interactions seem very superficial (as I don’t intend to “give in” to that mindset and join in). What would you do, interact with those people regardless, or just look for others that aren’t in this mindset and ditch the rest?

I replied:

First — I always try to remind myself that people are going through their own stuff. I get frustrated/judgmental when I see people on their smartphones, but I don’t know what they’re dealing with. And if they’re strangers, it doesn’t effect me. I only feed my ego and insecurity by judging others.

That said, you don’t need to socialize with people if you don’t enjoy their company or share their values. If your interactions seem “superficial,” that’s probably a personal chemistry issue compounded by their digital habits. I’d focus on making friends with people who bring out the better side of you and make you feel positive/energized.

Kindle: Accept no substitute

PrimaxAUS asked:

Is there any value in getting a kindle if you already have a tablet/phone with the kindle apps?

I said (of course):

For me, it’s night and day. It’s too easy to get distracted on the phone, and there’s eyestrain from looking at a bright screen. The Kindle is much less snappy (the highlighting sucks, for example) but I’d still recommend it.

What about the vidya?

A user asked:

What does bother my life is gaming. And I really don’t want to quit. I liked your bit about how you can indulge yourself if you’re deserving. You think I can still game or should I let it go?

I’ve been at the tipping point for so long

I replied:

Only you know what’s problematic and what isn’t. How are you using video games?

At night, I pretty much exclusively play well-crafted singer player games that aren’t particularly difficult (e.g. Skryim). This is like winding down with a Netflix series or fantasy novel. I avoid intense stuff (multiplayer, shooters etc) and I switch to reading an hour before bed, no exceptions.

I do jump on CS:Source throughout the workday, usually right after lunch when I’m digesting and lazy. I am super-productive from about 8am to 2pm, 2-4 is usually a wash, so I’ll indulge during this time.

I’d ask yourself: Do you notice increased feelings of frustration after gaming? Does it disrupt sleep or eating healthy? Does it trigger other unhealthy behaviors (junk food snacking)? Do you postpone doing things that are more rewarding to game?

It’s like the difference between having a beer after a hard workout and eating clean all week, and having a beer with your second Big Mac. Context.

What about listening to music?

A user asked:

My question is how do you feel about listening to music in general or on your commute or while walking or doing chores and stuff? Do you feel like excessive listening to music is a problem? Because sometimes I go deep into a Spotify rabbit hole and do lose an hour or two of my day but it feels good to find new shit.

My answer (this was a tough one):

I go back and forth on music. It’s hugely helpful for productivity and doing chores and stuff, but Spotify can indeed be a time suck. Not on the level of, say, social media, but it’s still distracting.

My compromise: I avoid/limit Spotify any time I’m trying to focus. The urge to jump in and DJ or learn more about the current song is too much. The exceptions are playlists like Peaceful Piano and Ambient Chill, or anything in their “Focus” category. Usually, I find I can tune these out and work without distractions.

I think music discovery is a good fit for commuting, chores, gym time, long walks etc. — when you’re working with your hands, not your brain. I take several long, unstructured walks a week where I put on music and zone out.

One final thing is that Spotify DJ’ing is also a slippery slope to more phone distraction. Perfect example — I’m at the gym, between sets I go to change up the playlist, I notice a text, read it, reply… it’s five minutes later and I’m wasting time instead of working out. The fix here was getting wireless headphones. I love these because I can put on a good playlist and stash my phone over in the corner, or carry it around with me, but I’m less likely to look at it.

Can somebody give me the quick rundown?

Pitsikleti asked:

can we have a tldr please

(tldr is slang for “too long; didn’t read” — it means a one-sentence summary of longer content.

I replied:

phone bad, real world good

Have a great weekend!

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