Simple Framework for Digital Well-being

Nov 16 2020

It is easy to imagine that we are sliding towards a dystopia. It seems inevitable.

There is endless digital content competing for our attention. Our devices can be bottomless time sinks. And both the content and devices keep getting better at siphoning off our time.

But hope is not lost. Here I present a simple approach for getting our attention back and staying mentally healthy in the digital age, inspired by Dr. Peter Attia's nutritional framework . It is easy to remember. It is easy to act on. It is easy to spread.

In this framework, there are three levers you can control:

  • Elements : What you consume or don't consume. This is analogous to your diet
  • Timing : When you consume. This is analogous to fasting 
  • Quantity : How much you consume
  • And it is simple to apply: always pull one, often pull two, occasionally pull all three .

    Pulling the element lever could mean categorically not consuming sit-coms, deleting TikTok. Pulling the timing lever could mean "no screens 2 hours before bedtime". Pulling the quantity lever could mean allowing yourself a maximum of half an hour of YouTube each day.

    This framework leaves out philosophical baggage and value judgment on how best to spend your time. It doesn't prescribe what information diet to follow, or how to live your life.


    Inspirations from Health & Nutrition

    Some say our evolved preferences are being hijacked by technology. And that it is our primal brains fighting planetary-scale computing power and algorithms. The odds are stacked against us.

    Well, this is also the case with food and nutrition. We can't help but prefer sugary and fatty food. And "junk food" is everywhere. Obesity is a global health issue.

    But we can study the problem and learn more about ourselves. We can figure out solutions. And as individuals, we can choose to live more healthily.

    Over the years, many consumers have become more health-conscious. This shift in preferences is reflected on the shelves of grocery stores, and in the menus of restaurants including fast-food joints. And there are all sorts of effective exercise routines and fitness protocols that have sprung up.

    In the digital realm, the future isn't gloomy either. There is hope. We can take control of our own attention.

    I will dive deeper into each of the three levers in future posts.

    Hope you enjoyed this post. Let's stay in touch.