Play chess vs checking Facebook.

I thought things were bad, but not that bad. Turns out studies of phone usage from 2012 that I read a few years ago are no longer relevant.

Average young adults spend 3–5 hours a day with unnaturally serious faces swiping through social media posts on their phones. Am I one of them? To some degree I was. And it scared the shirt out of me.

I checked my battery usage per app and saw that Facebook was the king of the mountain. I rarely use Instagram (almost never in fact), so I decided to find out if Facebook deserved to be my daily favorite app for a reason. Did I learn anything new or did it make me a better person?

Here’s what I’ve learned from reading an hour of updates on Facebook:

LAX is building a new metro station.
Someone I saw once in my life posted a picture of her daughter who came to visit her.
Sisters came to visit a guy I used to know and they took a picture together.
A friend of mine reposted an article about Prisma, an app that adds creative filters to your photo and everyone is crazy about it.
A friend of mine took a picture of his family at some resort.
Another friend of mine posted animated movie mocking Game of Thrones.
A girl I used to know a few years ago posted someone else’s article about why that person didn’t go to Berlin film festival.
Famous Russian designer shared his design concepts of the future of Russian schools that surprisingly resembled how US schools look today.
An ad from Infusionsoft
A post from LA news portal notifying me that the city will soon ban people from living in vehicles. Again.
Some gadget video form Interesting Engineering channel.
Another #Prisma re-post (makes me wanna puke at this point)
And this:

How much of this is valuable content? How did all this reading, watching, liking and commenting make me a better person or a better professional?

Some might say that I’m friends with the wrong people and I follow bad news channels, but c’mon. All the people I know had similar feeds when I asked them to show them to me.

Facebook’s mission statement says:

Nothing about making the world a better place or teaching young generation to use the power of information to become better at something. Instead, Facebook and other social media platforms encourage ignorance, laziness and arrogance.

Laziness (rest) is our primary function after eating. People are designed to take the path of least resistance. Even you opened this post only to quickly look through it and see how I set chess against Facebook, possibly “like” and “share” the post and move on.

Well, if you’ve come here just for that. Here you go. I installed app. Every time I feel the urge to check Facebook I open app and play chess. Now my app usage looks like this:

Now back to the topic.

Path of least resistance is not just our function any more. Today we have legitimately transformed it into a habit. With the help of social media we spend more than 20 full days a year isolated from the real outside world. 20 days!

Evolution of habits was explicitly described by William James in his 1980 work “The Principles of Psychology”. As expected our habit of grabbing the phone and “checking what’s going on the world” mostly comes unconsciously, automatically. We say “good morning” and wish a good night to our phones more often than we do to our partners. It’s a habit that could evolve into a behavior. And that’s where things get ugly.

Habits can be broken. Behaviors are inherited through social perception of ourselves and our place in the society. Adults can fight it and possibly win. Kids?

Not so lucky.

There’s no final answer to “Are iPads bad or good for children?”. But there’s no final answer to “Is there God?” either. With iPad it’s mostly because it was introduced only in 2010 and after 7 years it’s simply too early to make any serious scientifically proven conclusions.

Some people will always be against iPad in child’s tiny hands (Steve Jobs and I are among those people). What? Steve Jobs? But he created it! Yep. Here’s what he said about his kids interacting with iPad:

And here’s what he said about his kids and technology as a whole:

But some people will show you pictures like this one laughing at you:

The thing is they are missing one major difference between all of the technologies in the last 100 years and iPhone with its social media platforms accessibility.


None of the entertainment mass market inventions in the last century engaged action. Content was pre-made and people could turn it off or on. But they couldn’t do anything with it. Now they can generate content and actively interact with someone else’s content.

Sounds like a great thing. But scroll up and take another look at the content I get from my Facebook feed and tell me again — was time spent reading all that worth it?

I like to take my own pictures proving concepts I write about. So here’s a few snaps I took here in Texas recently.

Count how many people are using their phones and how many are not. Then count how many people who are using their phones are seated. Bingo!

You too noticed it, right? Every time you sit down alone you somehow become braindead and forget how to interact with this world when nothing’s going on around you. You reach out for your metal-plastic-glass piece of progress and start “connecting with the world”.

Did you notice how easy it is these days to express your valuable opinion? Everyone’s an expert. No background or supporting arguments needed. You just have to find the right words to make your comment or post sound sarcastic and peremptory. Checkmate motherfuckers!

In reality you can find many studies that express high concerns about the ability of our kind to critically analyze information in the future. It’s really almost impossible to tell what you think about certain things anymore. There are kazillion posts and triple kazillion comments all sounding so persuading. There are no radical opinions any more. Even recent mass shootings couldn’t convince senate to act radically.

Was this the whole purpose of the open world and freedom of speech? Well, then it reminds of those overcrowded meetings I used to attend at large old-school enterprise organizations. 2 hours later — no decision, but each participant had something to say.

I don’t have a clear plan on how to improve this whole situation yet, but I do have a few advices for myself:

  • Don’t give that iPad to your kid. Learn how to engage your imagination and creativity and use real world objects to help develop your child.
  • Don’t browse social media like you have nothing else to do. If you open Facebook — know what you’re looking for. Find it, process it and close the app. Go back to work.
  • If you find yourself seated and alone — use your phone only to get better at chess, write emails or make important phone calls.
  • If you find yourself seated and you’re not alone — talk, laugh, make stuff up, live the moment.
  • If you feel like “checking” what’s going on in someone’s life — go back to work, you’re not tired. If you’re tired and you need a break — go back to work! When you’re really tired you won’t need anything, but your pillow.

June 2016. Plano TX.

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