Screen Apnea — 7 Takeaways No. 117

This is your reminder: Breathe!
This is your reminder: Breathe! (Image:

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1. “Screen apnea”

Three Steps to Refresh from Tech Overwhelm – Dr.Susan Pollak – (10% Happier Newsletter)

It surprised me to see this was a nearly three-year-old article, but it applies today as much as it did when the pandemic started. When we’re at our computers — apparently particularly when we’re in the ubiquitous Zoom calls — our breathing becomes shallow, to the point of possibly reducing our cognition and increasing our fatigue.

Over a decade ago, researcher Linda Stone noticed that a majority of people (possibly eighty percent) unconsciously hold their breath, or breathe shallowly, when texting or emailing. She called it “screen apnea.”

The solution, of course, is a form a mindfulness:

notice and relax; enjoy one deep breath with a full exhale; and add in a little compassion for yourself and for others at the end.

Do this: Breathe.

2. “The thing that we love about the internet”

The Law That Made the Internet – Hank Green – (YouTube / vlogbrothers)

There’s a very important case being heard by the United States Supreme Court right now regarding section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That’s the section that says an internet host or service, like, say, Ask Leo!, can’t be held liable for content posted by third parties on their sites, like, say, reader comments. Green’s position is that it’s enabled many-to-many communication and publication on the internet. My position is it’s allowed not only my site to allow comments, but honestly, to exist at all.

But nothing is perfect.

… we probably shouldn’t be trying to figure this stuff out based on 26 words that were written in 1996. It should be decided by passing new legislation that considers the internet as it exists now, which is pretty different from when there were “interactive computer services”.

Any new legislation passed by current lawmakers has me concerned. The pace of technological change far outpaces our ability to legislate it — unless, that is, legislation prevents progress altogether. (Which essentially hands the forefront of technological progress to any country willing to be less restrictive.)

Do this: Pay attention to the results. It could affect you, even as a passive internet user.

3. “A good writer will almost always discover new things”

Why Write? – (Farnam Street blog)

I know many writers. Some write simply to publish or share their thoughts and opinions, not to grow or expand their skills or knowledge. Some write because they think they’re supposed to, again, without meaningful direction or purpose.

The most effective writers aspire to use writing as a path to growth.

Writing is the process by which you realize that you do not understand what you are talking about. Importantly, writing is also the process by which you figure it out.

This is not something AI can accomplish. And it is something that, as the article concludes, will be disproportionately rewarded.

Do this: Figure it out.

4. “Baidu is about to steal my first name”

On “Ernie” – Ernie Smith – (Tedium)

I started down this rabbit hole because it was light, somewhat humorous, and reflected an issue I think we’ve all wondered about. Consider all those folks out there with names like “Siri” (legit first name), and especially “Alexa” (I ran into an Alexa working at a restaurant … to say it was horrific for her is an understatement).

But then I learned the term “hypocorism” — Greek-derived, it means “pet name”, sort of. It’s that transition of Ernest to Ernie, Leonard to Leo, and so on. We don’t think of them as “pet names”, perhaps “informal name” might be a better concept.

Of course anthropomorphizing technology is nothing new, and using human, or human-adjacent names will not stop soon. From “Link Everything Online” to “Enhanced Representation through kNowledge IntEgration”, to just plain old “Bing”, I don’t know whether to sympathize with the Ernie’s of the world, or to congratulate them on their name’s newfound popularity.

Do this: Be kind to your server, especially if their name is Alexa.’

5. “Procrastination is not an inherent human trait. It’s an emotion-regulation problem.”

6 Habits That Are Secretly Making You Miserable – Nir Eyal – (Nir and Far blog)

Honestly, the hook for me was this line, which described the last three or four days for me:

You wake up in the morning irritable and groggy but determined to be productive. Yesterday didn’t go well.

Yeah. I’m in this photo and I don’t like it.

The items in the list are really no surprise, but what’s critical is how little we think about them. The list services as a an important reminder, particularly since so much of it is under our control.

Do this: Review the list, periodically, and be honest about how you’re doing.

6. “1.5 billion years having sex”

What if you experienced every human life in history? – TED-Ed – (YouTube)

This is one of those odd thought experiments I’ve had for years: what if reincarnation was real, was not bounded by time, and (here’s the kicker) there was only one entity simply getting reincarnated over and over as every human to have ever lived? That’s the premise of this video. It’s very similar to a short story called “The Egg” (which, I’ll admit, inspired my own “Skeptical to the End“).

The video heads down an aspirational path:

There’s no way to know what will happen next. But what’s clear is that your potential is limitless. So, how will you spend this life? And what can you do to work towards a better future for all your lives to come?

I mean, if you knew that harming someone else was literally harming a different incarnation of yourself, wouldn’t you behave a little differently?

Do this: Treat others as you would want to be treated.

7. “It’s not all in your head, but…”

The Pain in Sprains Lies Mainly in the Brain – Don Akchin – (The EndGame Newsletter)

Particularly as we age, chronic pain seems to be a constant, or at least not-infrequent, companion. There’s certainly an industry dedicated to selling us solutions.

The concept that our minds are more capable than we think (so to speak), particularly when it comes to pain, is an interesting direction. I’m reminded of an episode of Star Trek (TOS) where Spock “wills away” pain by sheer effort of his presumably powerful, and logical, mind. This isn’t that, but it is an interesting direction for pain management.

In the first randomized clinical test of PRT (Pain Reprocessing Therapy), two-thirds of patients who underwent therapy reported being pain-free or nearly pain-free after four weeks. The reductions in pain mostly held up a year after the treatment.

OF COURSE your milage may will vary, contact your medical professional(s) first, and so on. But this seems a fascinating and perhaps under-appreciated potential approach.

Do this: Explore alternatives.

More links & thoughts

  • Conspiracy & Me – Rob Hardy documents his descent into conspiracy thinking after 9/11, and his recovery after the 20th anniversary. Some insightful thoughts on causes and damage of conspiracy thinking.
  • Teaching children how to focus attention – I didn’t go deep because I don’t have kids, but on the surface this seems like an incredibly valuable observation for those who do.
  • Meta Rediscovers the Cubicle – I laughed. Truly one of the greatest benefits of working at Microsoft when I did was the private (or semi-private) office. Open office plan to cubicles is hopefully the first step away from the distraction and insanity.

What I’m Reading

In progress:


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