Nearly a Week With Less Facebook [en]

[fr] Il y a près d'une semaine, sur une impulsion, j'ai supprimé de mon téléphone l'application Facebook: c'était en effet principalement sur mon téléphone que je me retrouvais à consulter mon fil d'actus de façon un peu frénétique, compulsive. Et ces temps, les nouvelles du monde qui ont envahi "mon" Facebook commençaient à me peser. Le fait d'avoir cette icône bleue sur l'écran de mon téléphone à chaque fois que je l'ouvrais pour faire quoi que ce soit ne m'aidait pas à prendre de la distance. Du coup, j'ai l'application Groupes, Pages, et Messenger -- mais pour Facebook tout court je vais sur l'ordi ou l'iPad, ou dans le navigateur sur mon téléphone (c'est moins "agréable" mais ça marche). Et bien sûr, je peux toujours réinstaller l'application! Mais pour le moment, j'apprécie le retour au calme que cette modification de mon environnement numérique m'apporte.

fullsizeoutput_5386The morning after I wrote my last post about being exposed to too much news, I decided to try removing the Facebook app from my phone. It was a spur-of-the-moment idea, prompted by a few death announcements in my social circle on top to all the difficult world news we’re dealing with nowadays.

The fact that I get “caught up” in Facebook, compulsively cycling through my newsfeed and notifications, has been bothering me for a while. Time flies by and I’m still on Facebook.

Where this happens most is on my phone, particularly because I can carry it around all over the place the easiest. I will stand up and leave the computer. I will leave the iPad lying around somewhere. But the phone is always with me.

And the Facebook app is there, on my home screen, staring at me each time I turn on my phone for anything. And I get lost inside.

As you know if you’ve been following me for some time, I’m super interested in stuff like procrastination, change, habits. And I probably have already mentioned an idea I found clearly expressed on James Clear’s blog: environment is key in shaping our habits. If I think about my “Facebook habit”, clearly the fact that this app is so prominently displayed on my screen is encouraging it.

I remember one step of Note to Self’s “Bored and Brilliant” challenge was to delete your favorite app from your phone for a day. I didn’t like the idea. I preferred to think that I could have the discipline not to check my phone compulsively. And I can. But the problem is when I go to my phone for something else, and end up on Facebook instead — or afterwards.

Anyway. I decided to remove the app for the day, to give myself some space away from all the news. I can still check Facebook on my iPad or computer — or even in the browser — but it’s not staring at me each time I pick up my phone anymore.

Quite fast, I replaced it with the Facebook Groups app. I love Facebook Groups and am active in quite a few of them. They are not saturated with world news or people dying. They are not as active as my newsfeed, and therefore don’t lead to as much compulsive reloading. I also unearthed the Pages app so I could post to my pages. And I use Messenger, of course.

I realised that doing this gave me a breather. So I didn’t reinstall the app the next day. Or the next. It’s been nearly a week now, and I might keep things like this. I’ve been through the browser interface a few times, but it’s less seamless than the app, and so you don’t get “sucked in” as much.

Let me make it clear: this is absolutely not about “quitting Facebook” or anything like that. It is about “less compulsion”. About helping myself spend my time with more decision, less automation. It’s funny, I never thought I would do this. Had you asked me 10 days ago I would have said it was a silly idea. Or that I didn’t want to “cut the cord” like that. And I might roll this change back. But just now, I’m finding that being able to take a few steps back from my “TV 2.0” is really helpful.

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The Zeigarnik Effect and Open Loops [en]

[fr] L'effet Zeigarnik, c'est ce qui nous fait finir quelque chose dans lequel on est lancé, ou qui fait qu'on repense à ce qu'on a interrompu pour y revenir. A mon avis, cet effet joue un rôle clé dans ce qui nous attire encore et encore à retourner sur Facebook ou autre: en prenant part dans des communautés et réseaux en ligne, on met en marche toutes sortes de choses dont on veut voir l'aboutissement. J'ai posté un lien, la chaîne d'actions logique est ensuite que des gens vont liker, commenter et partager. Il y aura peut-être une réponse à donner, ou tout du moins, je veux "suivre" pour savoir comment ça fini. Les conversations en ligne, idem: il y a toujours quelque chose qui se passe dans un chat, la discussion ne se termine jamais.

A few months ago, I stumbled upon the Zeigarnik Effect. It is the effect that prevents us from interrupting our teeth-brushing in the middle. Once we’ve started, we feel a need to keep going. It’s really useful.

For me, it was a missing piece of the puzzle that fitted nicely alongside the idea of GTD’s “open loops”. If you have to interrupt something before you’re done with it or the task is completely, the Zeigarnik Effect will make sure your brain nags you about it.

It explains why it’s important to “just get started” or “just do something”. It also explains why having a lot of ongoing stuff in parallel is stressful.

While I’ve been writing this post, I’ve given myself a wonderful demonstration of the Zeigarnik Effect in action. You see, I couldn’t remember exactly where I’d heard about it. I’m pretty sure it’s in one of James Clear‘s posts, because it’s definitely the kind of thing that he writes about, but I’m not 100% certain.

I can remember the context: for a given task, there is a kind of “tipping point” where the Zeigarnik Effect kicks in, and you finish what you’ve started. Knowing where that point is comes in really handy for getting things done rather than just thinking about how we’re not doing them. I remember the example clearly: for flossing, the “tipping point” or “trigger” in question was when he’d torn the piece of floss off the roll.

I’ve just spent… oh, I don’t even dare tell you… way too much time trying to find that article so I could link to it. I found plenty about flossing and the Zeigarnik effect. The worst is that I already spent way too much time trying to dig out that source when preparing a mini-workshop on “time/task management” I gave two months back. And didn’t find it.

You know the irony? I just stumbled upon the article in question! It wasn’t James Clear after all. And you know the funny bit? I thought I’d add a link to a Google search in the above paragraph. Just to show you how much stuff about Zeigarnik and floss I had waded through. To my surprise, many of the links there were not those I had been wading through an hour ago. Maybe I only searched in specific places where I thought the article was, like Clear’s blog. Anyway. I have it! Incredible!

The reason I went down that rabbit-hole was because it was an “unfinished task”. And the more time I spent trying to “finish” it, the stronger my urge to keep going became. Typical, right?

And here we go again: while looking up some old articles of mine, I remembered that the markdown plugin wasn’t working on the new server. I had to hold myself back from downloading and installing it. It would have meant interrupting the writing of this blog post, though, so I guess that is what just saved me. But now I have this nagging “open loop” in a corner of my mind.

(Bear with me while I add it to my running list of things that need to be done so I can stop thinking about it.)

(Oops, while I was there, I quickly checked a spreadsheet to see if there were any new sign-ups for my next workshop. There weren’t. Do I leave the form open or close it now?)

As you can see, there is a clear link here to multitasking, procrastination, and the general feeling of “not enough brain space” that I have a times. It also makes me think about how when I start something, I have a lot of trouble stopping. Hypertrophied Zeigarnik Effect?

Today — and this is what prompted this post — I suddenly realised that the Zeigarnik Effect played an important part in dragging me back to my computer, or my phone (home to Facebook and Google Plus). By participating in online communities and networks (sounds better than “social media” doesn’t it? more human?) I set things in motion that do not end.

An online conversation is never-ending. There are always people in the chatroom. I post a link, it will be interesting to see who likes, comments, or shares it. I stumble upon interesting articles that need to be read.

My time on my phone or my computer is spent creating innumerable open loops that I am then desperate to close, while at the same time opening yet others that will also have to be closed. Whack-a-mole.

It feels like my “tipping point” for feeling the urge to finish something (or at least dive in) is ridiculously early. Am I mixing two things up here? Do we still speak of the Zeigarnik Effect when a task has not actually been started? Is thinking about doing it sufficient in some cases to “initiate” it?

So here’s my next mission: taming my open loops. I can’t remove them, but I can learn to live with them better.

(This was originally the title to this post, but given I’m not sure how I’m going to do that it seemed a little misleading.)

Before writing this post, I googled for “open loops social media” and other related searches, and I now have about a dozen articles to read about “compulsion loops” and the inevitable “social media addiction” (disclaimer: I’m not convinced it is correct to speak about “addiction” in this context). I’ll probably have more to write on the topic… if I manage to get around to reading them. 😉

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E-mail, quand tu nous tiens [fr]

[en] I write a weekly column for Les Quotidiennes, which I republish here on CTTS for safekeeping.

Chroniques du monde connecté: cet article a été initialement publié dans Les Quotidiennes (voir l’original).

L’e-mail, c’est proprement merveilleux, sauf quand on est noyé dedans. Pourtant, il existe un certain nombre de choses assez simples que l’on peut faire pour sortir la tête de l’eau. Beaucoup sont ceux qui en connaissent au moins certaines, bien moins nombreux ceux qui les appliquent: désactiver les notifications automatiques d’arrivée d’e-mail, utiliser des filtres, mettre des répondeurs automatiques, encourager ses interlocuteurs à employer d’autres moyens de communication, par exemple.

Le cauchemar de l’e-mail est à deux dimensions:

  1. la consultation compulsive
  2. la masse d’informations à traiter.

Eviter la noyade est rendu d’autant plus difficile que beaucoup d’institutions (et les individus qui les peuplent) souffrent d’une compréhension très naïve de certains mécanismes liés à l’utilisation de l’e-mail.

Saviez-vous par exemple:

  • qu’en cédant à la tyrannie de la réponse immédiate, on encourage ses correspondants à compter dessus?
  • qu’à chaque interruption, il faut une bonne minute pour reprendre le train de ses pensées, et bien plus pour se replonger dans ce que l’on faisait?
  • que tout programme e-mail est muni d’un moteur de recherche dont l’utilisation rend inutile une grande partie du temps consacré à trier ou archiver ses messages?
  • que la compulsion à vérifier sans cesse son e-mail est motivée par un système (implicite) de récompenses aléatoires — méthode que l’on utilise dans le dressage des animaux?
  • que dans de nombreuses situations, l’e-mail peut (et devrait!) être avantageusement remplacé par d’autres technologies privilégiant les échanges dans des espaces partagés, plutôt que privés comme la boîte e-mail: forums, messagerie instantanée, blogs, wikis…?

J’avoue être sans cesse ébahie qu’à l’heure où l’e-mail joue un rôle aussi central dans nos vies professionnelles, on attend de tout un chacun qu’il ait la science infuse et sache se débrouiller pour être efficace avec cet outil pourtant complexe et délicat à manier. Je ne parle bien entendu pas ici de technologie, mais de culture. Comme avec presque tout ce qui touche de près ou de loin à internet, c’est en effet là que ça coince.

Si vous ne deviez faire qu’une seule chose? Si votre ordinateur vous alerte (son, message) de l’arrivée de chaque nouvel e-mail… désactivez cette notification!

Vous lisez l’anglais et désirez approfondir le sujet?

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