TL;DR

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The Useless Agony of Going Offline

Excerpt from this article:

In his book, Levy, who also teaches tech and mindfulness courses at the University of Washington’s Information School, writes that most people who attempt this sort of experiment successfully complete it, and that they often “feel good about it.” He offers examples of individuals who noted that a day unplugged represented “one of the best days I had had in a long time,” and who “welcomed the silence and the relief of pressure.”

…Good on those folks, sincerely. But I hated spending three days without computers. And I feel no deep shame about this. I don’t think my disdain for the logged-off existence was due primarily to the fact that I’m addicted to social media, or cannot live without my phone, or have morphed into the prototypical “Distracted Man.”

Levy writes that when we choose to cast aside “the devices and apps we use regularly, it should hardly be surprising if we miss them, even long for them at times.” But what I felt was more general. I didn’t miss my smartphone, or the goofy watch I own that vibrates when I receive an e-mail and lets me send text messages by speaking into it. I didn’t miss Twitter’s little heart-shaped icons. I missed learning about new things.

During the world’s longest weekend, it became clear to me that, when I’m using my phone or surfing the Internet, I am almost always learning something. I’m using Google to find out what types of plastic bottles are the worst for human health, or determining the home town of a certain actor, or looking up some N.B.A. player’s college stats. I’m trying to find out how many people work at Tesla, or getting the address for that brunch place, or checking out how in the world Sacramento came to be the capital of California.

What I’m learning may not always be of great social value, but I’m at least gaining some new knowledge—by using devices in ways that, sure, also distract me from maintaining a singular focus on any one thing.

Top 10 books about the dangers of the web

Excerpt from this article, which offers a comprehensive reading list:

I’ve read a lot on shaming, revenge and involuntary pornography and the darknet… So here are my top 10 books on the dangers of the web:

1. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson…

2. The Dark Net by Jamie Bartlett: After reading this absorbing, fantastic book, I understand more about what the darknet is, and am therefore a little less terrified of it…

3. Cybersexism by Laurie Penny…

4. The Intrusions by Stav Sharez: It surprises me that Sharez is one of few current crime writers to give the online world a significant role in his story…

5. Follow Me by Angela Clarke… It features a baddie, dubbed the Hashtag Murderer, who taunts police by posting clues on Twitter…

6. In the Shadows of the Net: Breaking free of Compulsive Online Sexual Behaviour by Patrick J Carnes, David L Demonico, Elizabeth Griffin and Joseph M Moriarty…

7. Cyberphobia: Identity, Trust, Security and the Internet by Edward Lucas…

8. Butter, by Erin Lange: Dark, sad, but also funny, Lange tells the story of 400lb “Butter” who decides to go out with a bang. On New Year’s Eve, he will select a menu and eat himself to death live online. Disturbing, outstanding.

9. Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy, by David Leigh and Luke Harding…

10. Life: Love, Lies & Identity in the Digital Age, by Nev Schulman: Nev Schulman of Catfish fame takes his expertise and concerns about online relationships to the page, offering advice and warnings to his fans.

 

You Won’t Finish This Article

A person browses through media websites on a computer on May 30, 2013.

Excerpt from this article:

I’m going to keep this brief, because you’re not going to stick around for long. I’ve already lost a bunch of you. For every 161 people who landed on this page, about 61 of you—38 percent—are already gone. You “bounced” in Web traffic jargon, meaning you spent no time “engaging” with this page at all.

So here’s the story: Only a small number of you are reading all the way through articles on the Web. I’ve long suspected this, because so many smart-alecks jump in to the comments to make points that get mentioned later in the piece. But now I’ve got proof… Schwartz’s data shows that readers can’t stay focused. The more I type, the more of you tune out. And it’s not just me. It’s not just Slate. It’s everywhere online. When people land on a story, they very rarely make it all the way down the page. A lot of people don’t even make it halfway. Even more dispiriting is the relationship between scrolling and sharing. Schwartz’s data suggest that lots of people are tweeting out links to articles they haven’t fully read. If you see someone recommending a story online, you shouldn’t assume that he has read the thing he’s sharing.

 

 

On the Declining eBook Reading Experience

eBooks

Excerpt from this article (thought this was a good one, as a big advocate of real books):

When reports came out last month about declining ebook sales, many reasons were offered up, from higher pricing to the resurgence of bookstores to more efficient distribution of paper books to increased competition from TV’s continued renaissance, Facebook, Snapchat, and an embarrassment of #longread riches. What I didn’t hear a whole lot about was how the experience of reading ebooks and paper books compared, particularly in regard to the Kindle’s frustrating reading experience not living up to its promise. What if people are reading fewer ebooks because the user experience of ebook reading isn’t great?

Luckily, Craig Mod has stepped into this gap with a piece asking why digital books have stopped evolving. As Mod notes, paper books still beat out digital ones in many ways and the industry (i.e. Amazon) hasn’t made much progress in addressing them.