This is us in the future. Tethered. Tied. Plugged in. We’re already halfway there, given how addicted and attached to our phones we already are. Technology’s only getting smarter and more sophisticated, as are the algorithms that run it. Who’s to say that, one day, we won’t just be corporeal bodies (or just brains) plugged into the great WWW? What’s going to stop us from becoming one with the Machine?





Welcome, traveler. Did I startle you? Are musings of being plugged into the Internet too fatalistic? Allow me to greet you once more, then, in a more applicable manner. Welcome to the void, my friend. We’re all just plot points on a data sheet to things like algorithms and social media platforms. Data points waiting and eager to be mined and extrapolated upon as we swipe through timelines and peruse dashboards. At least we’re individual plot points, right?

A lofty, optimistic notion. It’s what’s left of our autonomy, anyway, at this point.

As we hurtle quietly towards yet another year (I’m in disbelief that it’s October already, and in total denial that I’ll be another year older this month — half a century + 1 has really been a wild ride), we have continued to spiral further and further into the clutches of Big Social™ and the corporations that control it. As recently as this week, we were forced to confront our dependence and reliance on social media after an hours-long outage affected Facebook and all its dependencies and subsidiaries (such as Instagram and WhatsApp).

The only reason I knew about it was because an email I was working on had links to it, which a partner explained were not working at the time. If my job and company didn’t have ties to social media (which, unfortunately, all positions and companies do in some capacity…), I wouldn’t have had any idea. I would’ve, much more likely, been blissfully ignorant and unaware. Either way I was completely unaffected, as I have yet to reinstall Instagram when I deleted it
almost a month ago.

Ask yourself, traveler. Were you also unaffected? Or did you panic? Or were you one of the unfortunate business owners who lost revenue — and, effectively, your entire business during that time? (If you are, I am so incredibly sorry. I may hate social media, but I understand its benefits for business owners and freelancers alike. I just wish there was a better way than relying on skeezy corporations like Facebook.)

If you’re part of the masses, I’m sure you panicked on account of not being able to entertain yourself. To “keep up with your friends”. (You have a phone, don’t you? Text them. I need to take my own advice, so let’s be better about this together.) To feed into this “digital economy” we now find ourselves in.

Stop it.

As I’ve implored you before, put your phone down. Stop feeding the Great Content Machine™. Cease feeding the algorithms. Start resisting clickbait, and start resisting the Internet. Respect your time and attention more than you are, and stop allowing empty scrolling and mindless LOL’ing to eat up all your precious time.

Or, as an unlikely ally has put it, “join the attention resistance“.

Enter… The Unlikely Ally

You’ll never believe who I’ve found inspiration (and newfound… semi levels of respect) for, traveler as of late.

…Give up?

It’s none other than Cal Newport.

I’m still skeptical of him given Deep Work, but I will admit to you, traveler, that for a brief moment in time I contemplated purchasing his newest novel, Digital Minimalism, after reading a chapter out of it. I can’t help but wonder if this is the agenda I should’ve been abiding by for my graduate course instead of his capitalist bible from 2016. Who knows.

This chapter, titled “Join the Attention Resistance”, is part of the second half of his book which deals with putting into practice the concept of “digital minimalism”. In other words, these are practices for cutting the unnecessary, hypothetical wires and tethers you have trailing from your brain to the Internet, and for reclaiming your autonomy against those who seek to profit from your attention.

Interestingly enough, Newport connects the “attention economy” of today’s social media and marketing practices to the 1830s when Benjamin Day launched the New York Sun: the first penny press newspaper in the U.S. Aptly named, this mass-interest-focused newspaper aimed to amass large readership while selling for a fraction of the cost (whether a newspaper in the 1830s was 2¢ or 10¢, 1¢ is still a fraction. Hah! Take that, math.). Newport then goes on to explain how effective this methodology was, as this event is what led to the “tabloid wars of the twentieth century” (p.215). This methodology is still employed today, but we as readers have access to this content for free. Think about that. Twitter dot come is absolutely free for all to utilize, harness, and enjoy. If only that truth were as shiny and genuine as it appears.

“In the future / Will I need my mind? /
Or will Google / Take over this grind?”
— KONGOS, “Autocorrect”

How Do I Even Loose Myself from These Hypothetical Tethers to the Internet?

Resist! Resist, resist, resist! Be strong, traveler. Put that damn phone down. Have an iPhone? Turn Screen Time on and track your weekly (and daily) usage. Allow it to guide you and enlighten you as to what needs improvement. Spend too much time on social media? Cal’s got a remedy for that. Get too distracted swiping and tabbing between apps? Cal’s got a remedy for that, too.

Like any problem, the first step in solving it is to admit that there is one. Once you’ve recognized the strength of the tethers from the Internet to your brain and attention, you can slowly begin to thin them and whittle them down. Let’s look at some of Newport’s suggestions from Digital Minimalism. While you’re at it, go fashion yourself  a good ol’ embroidered patch to stitch to your denim jacket. You’re part of the resistance now, soldier.

Delete Social Media From Your Phone

It’s time to ghost your apps.

Oh, stop panicking. No, you don’t have to delete social media! Just remove it from your phone. Newport mentions how attention engineers (yes, this is a profession in today’s day and age) have invested significant resources in making their mobile apps more appealing, more addicting, more enticing. Given that everything in the twenty-first century is mobile-centric, mobile apps are the most lucrative platform — hence the amount of time, energy, and funds that go into app development and fine-tuning.

In order to combat this, force yourself to uninstall/delete these attention-suckers from your device altogether. Without their presence on your phone, you’ll be less enticed to open them. How can you open something that no longer exists? How can you pay attention to something if you no longer have access to it? “Because you always have your phone with you,” Newport explains, “every occasion becomes an opportunity to check your feeds” (p.223). If you remove these apps, you remove the opportunities. Despite how tedious and “less convenient” it is, you  can still check these platforms by signing into them from a desktop browser. This allows you to exercise more control over your usage, and allows you to use social media on your own terms.

Well, if I delete it, I’ll just reinstall it. Well, you’re right — nothing’s stopping you from reinstalling it. But allow me to relay two significant points that Newport mentions.


Those who deleted social media apps ceased to use social media altogether.


Those who continued usage via desktop browsers developed a more sophisticated relationship with social media, using it as a high-value tool.

Still not convinced? Let me give you an anecdote: I uninstalled Instagram from my phone and removed Apollo (a Reddit app) from my home screen almost a month ago. How many times have I used either, you ask? Apollo: 0, Instagram: 1. And Instagram I logged into my account via Google Chrome on my phone. I have had no desire to reinstall Instagram, and I have not touched Apollo — regardless of its lingering presence.



Ever wanted to call your computer what it is: an oversized calculator? Now’s the time to make it so! Fred Stutzman was so overwhelmed by the omnipresence of tantalizing distractions that he created and founded Freedom, which acts as a virtual blinder so us workhorses can focus on what’s in front  of us — and nothing else. Newport mentions Stutzman and his creation because it illustrates the practice of stripping your devices of their multi-functional purposes, and focusing on one in order to get necessary work done.

Turn Your Devices Into Single-Purpose Computers

Computers are just oversized calculators, anyway.

Freedom (or an alternative, SelfControl) allows you to blacklist (or “block”list) websites in order to prevent yourself from accessing them during scheduled periods of time. Need to write an intensive paper? Add social media sites to your blocklist and whatever else you find distraction. Need to do some research? Block everything but potential resources. Whatever your needs may be, forcing yourself to keep away from distracting, tantalizing websites via device limitations may just reinstate that productivity you’ve been seeking.

Newport explains that the multipurpose, multi-functional nature of devices nowadays has forced us to equate “general purpose” with “productivity”. We have since forgotten that just because we can do a plethora of things at once with our all-powerful devices, doesn’t mean we should. He also goes on to explain that using apps like Freedom aggressively can allow you to set up an intentional schedule, which blocks specified websites by default — only allowing for their unblocking at certain, scheduled intervals. But… let’s be real — baby steps, first.


Use Social Media Like a Professional

Curate your feeds with filters like a true data professional.

“Wait, Spongebob! We’re not cavemen. We have technology.” Oh, so true! If you’re already on Twitter, why not use TweetDeck? “Use Social Media Like a Professional” references an interview and conversation Newport had with social media professional Jennifer Grygiel. They employ TweetDeck in order to curate their feeds, filtering out the “garbage” by utilizing a concept known as “thresholding”. Thresholding is essentially the curation of your feed via strict filters and parameters, which allows you to block out the white noise of the Internet.

Jennifer also carefully selects who they follow on their social media accounts, creating a narrowly-focused timeline which only takes a few minutes to go through. Facebook is only reserved for close friends and family (a close social circle), serving as a public window into the lives of people who matter most to them — and that’s it. Instead of allowing social media to be a pitfall in which you find yourself trapped, this section of the chapter suggests that you use social media as a tool for extracting high-value content that serves a significant, specified purpose. Curating isn’t only for professionals, anymore. Go get wild with filters, and allow yourself the catharsis of purging if you’re so inclined.


Based on the German Slow Media Manifesto, this suggestion relates to ingesting “slow” media as opposed to fast, rapid media — which is media in the form of “breaking news”, or news as it happens, while it happens. Sound familiar? Stop refreshing your Twitter feed, and stop refreshing the News trends. Have you ever been wiser from ingesting news every five seconds as you consume snippets of news as they become available? Or have you noticed that waiting until the next day and reading through a well-thought out and cohesive article on the matter brings more value?

Embrace Slow Media

Forget snail mail, let’s become the snails.

This is the idea of “slow” media: consuming quality content from trusted and respected sources after the news has broken. Checking breaking news on the web can also lead to a ritualistic perusing of the rest of the Internet in whatever automatic pattern you may have developed, which perpetuates the cycle of ingesting fast media. It also perpetuates the usage of the Internet and social media in a non-productive manner, which we’ve already identified as a behavior we want to stop (hence why you’re reading through this post, dear traveler!). Instead, go so far as to designate specified time during the week where you’ll catch up on news stories — instead of siphoning it straight from the garbage chute as it spews. Newport also suggests following up with stories and content you find thoroughly interesting, but, again — baby steps. I understand the value of maintaining the rounded edges of a personality, but god do I not care enough about anything in the news as of late to be bothered to follow up on it. Sorry, Newport — maybe I’ll get there one day, but for now I’d much rather build up my art skills than read the newspaper and do nonessential research in my spare time.



Dumb Down Your Smartphone

“Dumb” is the new productive.

Ever wanted to own your own hedge fund, or be a hedge fund manager? Well, I don’t have tips for that (sorry for the clickbait!), but Newport mentions (through someone he refers to as “Paul”) that a common trend amongst these individuals is to own a “dumb” phone, or an old-fashioned flip phone that makes calls and receives/delivers text messages (more often than not these “dumb” phones are models targeted towards the elderly!).

Owning a “dumb” phone is about as close as us average civilians will get to feeling like a hedge fund manager, but Newport argues that we’ll all reap the same benefits — while we lose the ability to perform “smart” functions (like Googling something on the go, or checking social media, or navigating along), we’ll detach ourselves from this reliance on our devices, which will improve our mental health and abilities. Newport also mentions a KickStarter project for a device dubbed the “Light Phone“, which might be a more accessible option for the masses. Refreshingly, Newport acknowledges the existence of those who may not be able to reap the benefits of is suggestions (such as healthcare workers who make house visits, or individuals who live in Brazil, where Uber and 99 are essential for traversing the city of Curitiba), which is why I’m keen on his mention of the Light Phone — even if it sounds like a product placement advertisement.


Go Forth! Reclaim Your Autonomy. It’s Our Right, After All.

Have you identified your reliance, your dependence, on social media, the Internet, and technology, traveler? Are you tired of feeding the Great Content Machine™ and allowing it to collect endless on endless amounts of  data on you? For those of you who are ready to rebel, let’s recap the main points of Cal Newport’s “Join the Attention Resistance” methodology:


Delete Social Media From Your Phone


Turn Your Devices Into Single-Purpose Computers


Use Social Media Like a Professional


Embrace Slow Media


Dumb Down Your Smartphone

The beauty of this list is that Newport (consciously or not) listed them in order of increasing difficultly (and decreasing accessibility, if you will), so choose whatever suits your lifestyle and needs, traveler. I myself have begun implementing the practice of removing social media from my phone, but I admittedly need to be better about it. Nevertheless, these are helpful tips for us as human beings to reclaim our innate right to our own autonomy.

A wise ‘bot once said that “freedom is the right of all sentient beings”. We’ve slowly (but surely) been trading our freedom for convenience, for connection, selling our souls and autonomy to the Big Social corporations. Our brains have undoubtedly been rewired, “hacked” by the attention engineers in order to spend all our free time perusing through mindless, valueless content as we feed into the attention economy.

Let’s join the attention resistance and start using our brains once again, traveler — while we still have control over them.

  1. Newport, C. (2019). Join the Attention Resistance. In Digital minimalism: Choosing a focused life in a noisy world (pp. 213–248). essay, Portfolio/Penguin

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