Process without production

I’m amazed by how much I’m drawn to throwing myself onto the bed and just scrolling my phone. Not actually reading anything, although I definitely could on Omnivore or lire. Not even engaging with anything on Instagram. And not even looking at videos on TikTok.

No, just brainless and braindead activity of jumping between apps, dumb busywork of not doing anything other than refreshing every single app to not look at anything and then start again. It’s as if I were operating some kind of app training model, a Large Action Model sweatshop where I’m the only one working to keep the lights on. Just drudging away with my thumbs, which, I must say, both hurt because of the way I hold my phone and because of how heavy iPhones have gotten (14 Pro).

This mode of being has the effect of just tiring me out without having ‘done’ anything. It’s like I can feel my brain getting tired from… processing without it really producing anything. Process without production could be a good title.

It’s not even about my attention span getting smaller. I mean, I’m sure it has, but it’s more of a drive rather than a new lack. It’s a compulsion to do that specific mode of not doing anything.

Before, one could be accused of spending all day on Facebook on a desktop (guilty), or swiping non-stop on women one would never meet (guilty), or even going down an epically interesting TikTok rabbit hole (very guilty). But I’m not managing to ‘do’ that. I’m just multitasking between apps without doing any of the things each of the apps dictates as part of its actions. I’m opening apps, refreshing, swiping away, opening another app, refreshing, tapping on something, swiping away, opening another app…

It’s happened more times than I could count: to open Instagram, refresh it, not see anything interesting, swipe it away to close the app, only to arrive at the Home screen and immediately search for Instagram as if it were a different app than the one I was just on. I only realize I do this when I see literally the same unengaging content that didn’t hold my attention before.

I am, it is well known by now, an addicted rat with many pellet-dispensing buttons set to a completely randomized reward system. Only now it’s not so much the apps that do this but the phone itself and its OS.

I am very intrigued by the new Android launcher apps that aim to enact a calmer way of engaging with the phone. Something less colorful and visually sugary. Alas, iOS does not have this, and designing something similar to it is a pain in the ass I am not ready to endure. Although they say iOS 18 will bring much more flexibility…

I’m something of an Apple fanboy and I still can’t believe the poor level of customization iOS provides. To be a monkey tapping away to do things on a personal computer. How is tapping on apps and a virtual keyboard any different from hitting any type of hardware to get it to react?

I recently came across Amber Case‘s idea of Calm Technology and her recently launched Calm Tech Institute. This is definitely something I want to look into. She is incredible talented and smart and I’m eager to read the book and see what they come up with.

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