Attention management tips for web browsing

April 20, 2017 — June 8, 2022

bounded compute
computers are awful
computers are awful together
faster pussycat
incentive mechanisms
Figure 1

Time management for web browsing In particular this involves lots of tips to avoid social media seeming fun.

Humanetech have some simple suggestions which have been useful for me personally, but fall short of systemic fixes, like getting society as a whole out of the social media doomsday machine and solving the coordination problems entailed by that. (FWIW I would happily automate my entire social media identity because it doesn’t bring me any joy.)

What follows are some of my preferred band-aids upon attention leakage.

I prefer minimalist options, using free browser-based website blockers. stayfocusd (Chrome only), leechblock (Chrome/Firefox).

Figure 2: Chris Straub, Comments are conversation

Also you can avoid comments, which are badly designed disaster zones where nothing of true interest happens apart from horrifying disasters of human communication. I use the comment blocker, shutup:

Comments are awful. Shut Up hides them by default, sparing your sanity and preventing you from getting sucked into a world of hurt.

For the sites where discussions can be more constructive — like GitHub, Reddit, or Stack Overflow — you can show comments by default. Shut Up is an app you can install on an iPhone or iPad, and a browser extension you can install in Chrome or Safari.

There are many, more comprehensive options, some of which I have tried. A popular one among my friends is Freedom which I personally found a little too intrusive. Apps like SelfControl hide the minutely engineered social media addiction machines from your productive hours. You could use cold turkey (Windows) for more comprehensive blocking of whole apps etc. See also a (weirdly quiescent) thread on producthunt.

If you want to not just block things but also track your usage so you know how to manage them, there are apps that do that too. RescueTime is one. There is a listicle here of alternatives.

How to Hide Trending Topics on Twitter shows how to delete twitter’s “trending topics” from the homepage so I can stay off-trend. The following uBlock origin snippet helps:

! Hide the What’s happening sidebar on*[aria-label="Timeline: Trending now"]

Disable the Facebook newsfeed, by using a deaddictifying browser extension.

There are other extensions to reduce the addictiveness/advertising. Maybe social fixer is the goods. unfollow everyone removes people from your newsfeed.

Extensions such as habitlab attempt to make sites just a little less sticky and pleasant:

ublock origin has an element picker mode that eliminates distracting things (e.g. removing recommended videos from youtube).