Ep 246: Are Smartphones Bad for Kids?

Transcription for the video titled "Ep 246: Are Smartphones Bad for Kids?".

1970-01-01T03:16:31.000Z

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Introduction

Intro (00:00)

So that's the deep dive we want to do today. Today's deep question is are smartphones bad for kids? And if so, how do we know that? I'm Cal Newport and this is Deep Questions. The show about living and working deeply in an increasingly distracted world. I'm here in my deep work HQ. Joined once again by my producer Jesse. We had a week off of recording together. It's good to have you back. It's good to be back. This is a little known fact about when I solo record. Jesse, you will attest that when we record, we won't take it. You just go live, we just rock and roll, warts and all. Whenever you're not here, it's always two takes. Really? I usually will go about five minutes and then stop and then go back and take another run at it. I don't know why. What did you do back in the day? I'm trying to think. Back in the deep day, when I was early in the podcast, I would often, when it was all audio, I would stop all the time because it was easy. I would just go for a while, but if I get to a question, it would be really common. I might start answering a question and say, "I don't really like that." There's just one track. The software was just me. It was just audio. I could just go back and let me take another run at that. The tradeoff was, I didn't prep. I would just list out a bunch of questions and rock and roll. But if I didn't like an answer, I might go back and take another run at it. Once we started doing video, I swapped out around and said, "Well, why don't I actually do a little bit of work up front?" I prepped more of the questions, but not take multiple runs at it. That's how we've been doing it. When I'm alone now, I do it all in one take, except for I always have to start twice. It's just something about the first time I do it, you're not here, it throws me off. I get going, I'm rambling, and I always start over. Interesting. I don't know what it is. It's not three, though. It's never three takes. Two takes. Jess is not here, it's two takes. I gave a talk the other day at my kid's school. Me and some parents from the middle school, they asked if I would come give a talk about kids and technology, in particular, kids and smartphones. What do we know about it? How do we know what we know about it? What conclusion should we take away in terms of what the school policy should be? What should be recommended to parents? What parents should be thinking about with respect to their own kids? I figured it's sort of a way to have done all this research and build all these slides and only really deliver this information to one roomful of parents. Because I've had this question a lot, what is my take on kids and phones and when they should have phones and is it really dangerous? I thought we could talk a little bit about that on the show today. Yeah, I know that you mentioned it in prior episodes and some fans have been asking for it. Yeah, and then we'll also record this. There will be a YouTube version of this discussion, so if you want to share it with other people who maybe don't listen to the show but worry about this problem, now this information will be out there. We can point to that video when people ask about it, so I thought it would be good. So that's the deep dive we want to do today. Today's deep question is are smartphones bad for kids? And if so, how do we know that?


Understanding Anxiety And Technology

Anxiety Is On the Rise (03:25)

That's what I want to get into. So I have some of my slides here from my talk. So if you're listening, you might want to consider watching. This is episode 246. You can find it at youtube.com/cal NewportMedia or at thedeeplife.com if you don't like YouTube. It's episode 246. I'll explain what I'm saying. You don't have to watch it, but I'm just saying if you want to see some of these graphs I'm referencing, watching the video version of this might be suggested. So as I looked into this question of when did researchers become concerned about kids and phones and why, the whole story seemed to break up into three acts. That's why I called this in my talk a saga in three acts. The first act we can start, I'm going to call it roughly 2012 to 2017. That's the first act of the story, I call it an alarm is sounded. So this is the period where people first began to notice warning signs. This was actually the period in which the potential issues with smartphones, young people, was first brought to my attention. So I remember as a young professor at Georgetown. This would have been in 2012. I was given a talk somewhere on campus and I was walking to the talk with someone who was involved with the student mental health center at Dartmouth. It's called, not Dartmouth, Georgetown. It's called CAPS. If you're watching on the screen you see a picture of the counseling center. And I remember smartphones in tech in general was not in my portfolio in 2012 as a writer. So we were just having conversation. And this person mentioned to me, she said, you know, there's been a big change recently. The number of students that we are now treating with mental health counseling here at Georgetown has jumped up. And not only has it jumped up, but it is disproportionately jumped up to be anxiety or anxiety related disorders. So we're seeing a lot more overall students and a much bigger proportion of the students we see are here for anxiety. I thought that was interesting. She said, oh, what's going on? She didn't skip a beat. She said, smartphones. And that caught me off guard at the time. Smartphones. What do you mean? She said, oh, it's really clear to me anecdotally that the first group of students who have students to arrive on campus having had smartphones during their adolescence were showing up way more anxious than we'd ever seen before. We can now look back retrospectively and see that this was not an isolated anecdote happening at just one university. I have a chart on the screen here for those who are watching. This is from the American College Health Association annual survey. It's showing percentage of US undergraduates diagnosed with a mental illness. And what do we see? 2012, forward a very sharp uptick in anxiety and depression, which are of course quite interlinked by anxiety. So the dark vertical line if you're watching this online is 2012. So what this one person at Georgetown was noticing was actually a nationwide trend. Something changed around 2012. Keep that data in mind. It's going to come up again. I think the issue got brought to the public's attention writ large. So it expanded from individual educators and mental health professionals being worried to the culture writ large being worried about maybe smartphones are causing an issue. I think Jean Twangy really helped make this a national issue in her 2017 cover article for the Atlantic that was titled, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation. The thing about Twangy is that her expertise is in studying differences between demographic generations. That's what she does. How is this generation different than that generation? She's very good at teasing out what's real and what's not. And as she said in this article, and I have it on the screen as well, she'd been doing this for 25 years. She says typically the characteristics that come to define a generation appear gradually and along a continuum. But then I began studying Gen Z. In 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states. The gentle slopes of the line graphs became steep mountains and sheer cliffs. And many of the distinctive characteristics of the millennial generation begin to disappear.


Elliot Aronson (07:46)

In all of my analyses of generational data, some reaching back to the 1930s, I had never seen anything like it. So this demographer was thrown by how different Gen Z was and not just Gen Z in general, but Gen Z starting in 2012. He began to make the connection that I think this has to do with smartphones. Here's another, I think, culture-defining moment. This was also 2017. A big article in the New York Times magazine written by Ben Wadsen is that lose. The article is titled "Why are more American teenagers than ever suffering from severe anxiety?" And it's important because Ben Waugh goes into this article. It's clear from the tone of the article that he is not very hospitable to the technology hypothesis. So seeing this as a standard moral panic type argument, the same thing we always say rock and roll music is going to corrupt the teen's brains, video games are going to corrupt teen's brains.


Benedict Wadassen (08:43)

And he came into it with that frame. But there's a key point in this article where he talks to actual anxious teenagers. And I'm quoting him here, "To my surprise, anxious teenagers tended to agree." They didn't say, "Hey old man, leave our phones alone." They said, "Yeah, these things are a problem." So by 2017, we've gone from spot reports of, "Wait a second, something is changing here." These young people, there's something different going on. And by 2017, we were openly debating, "Is it phones causing these issues?" All right, this brings us to the second act, the Data Wars.


Ben balanced Wish (09:24)

This takes place roughly between 2017 and 2020. This is when researchers began to seriously try to gather or study the data to get a stronger, more data-driven conclusion on this question of, "Is smartphones somehow involved in these increases in anxiety that we're seeing?" This was a period of both proposals and critiques, which is good. This is how new sciences emerge, especially in social psychology, which is, by definition, a complicated field that rarely has super strong signals. There was proposals and critiques or responses to the critiques. So that's why I call this the Data Wars. This was the period in which almost any New York Times article on this issue would say, with big caveats, "There is some data, but it's contested." It's because this Data War period is when the science was actually happening. Let me talk about two troubling streams of data that came out of this period, the critiques and the responses to the critiques. So the first bit of troubling evidence that emerged as we got more serious about this question was simply the timing. That 2012. That was a circumstantial evidence, but a really strong pointer towards smartphones at play. Here's why. There's lots of different reasons you could come up with for why young people between 2012 and 2020 were becoming more anxious. The world felt like an anxious place. We had the financial crisis. We had the financial insecurity that caused. We had the extreme partisanship and unrest that followed in the Trump era. It did seem like a period of lots that were going on. The problem is none of this fit 2012 in particular. The financial crisis was 2006 to 2009. The financial insecurity was felt strongly by the millennial generation. We were entering a job force then, not Gen Z. By the time Gen Z was entering a job force, that was largely in the rear view mirror. There was a lot of political partisanship and unrest that arose later in the 2010s, but that was after 2012. 2012 was the Barack Obama Mitt Romney election. There was not an increase in partisanship there as compared to, let's say, even just a 2008 election in which we had Sarah Palin involved in that movement compared to the contract with for America, Newt Gingrich, and the Clinton era, that type of partisanship. There wasn't something new that happened in 2012. It wasn't also there in 2009. Wasn't also there in 1999. The populist revolutions of Trump, et cetera, that didn't really pick up speed until 15 or 16, right? So, that explanation doesn't quite fit it. Also, as we got more data, we saw these anxiety rises among young people happening in many, many countries.


1999 Smartphones first introduced (12:05)

We could not pin this on particular American dynamics. What did fit this? Let me just show a couple of graphs here. These are just a couple other graphs that are showing 2012 being a big deal. We see female, especially with female reports of sadness and hopelessness between 2011 and 2021. We see a significant increase from 36% to 57%. I'm also showing US teams with major depression, especially with girls. We see 145% increase as we move from 2012 to 2020. These are just examples of lots of things we're pivoting on 2012. Here's Jean Twanging. She said, "Okay, what does match 2012? It was exactly the moment when the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone surpassed 50%. That's what's changed then. After that point, you were much more likely as an adolescent to have a smartphone. For that point, it was much less likely. None of these other potentially anxiety-producing trends match that date nearly as well." This was the first bit of troubling evidence to emerge. It's circumstantial. There's critiques. I would say one of the big critiques, and I'm showing this on the screen an example now, was this idea that no, no, no. We agree with you that there's not world events or cultural events that matched the 2012 outside of smartphones, but the thing that really changed the 2012 was not smartphones. This critique says it was that this new generation was coming of age and they're more comfortable talking about mental health.


Flaws in 2019 figures (13:45)

This was a big critique in the early part of the data wars. You see rises in depression and anxiety because more people are willing to say, "I'm anxious," or "I have depression." This quote from the New York Times in 2018 is sort of typical of this period. Here's Richard Friedman writing the Times. He says, "Look, there are a few surveys reported in increased anxiety and adolescence, but there are self-reported measures. Some kids are their parents and they're overestimating rates of discord because they're detecting mild symptoms, not clinically significant syndromes." This was claimed a lot during the early period of the data wars. As good science does, it said, "Well, how can we look into this counter hypothesis?" The right way to look into this counter hypothesis is to say, "Let's find stronger proxies for anxiety that have nothing to do with self-reporting." In particular, I put two charts on the screen here. These are both tragic, but they also give us deep insight.


Crime against children (14:37)

The first chart is, "U.S. teens admitted to hospitals for non-fatal self-harm, ages 10 to 14." This gets around the self-reporting process. These are people who tried to harm themselves due to anxiety and these are from hospital records. Look at girls. 180% increase between 2010 to 2020 with the increase getting particularly stark around 2012. Even more tragically, we look to the right, we see suicides among U.S. teens. 2012s jumps up, 134% increase among girls starting around that 2012 point. It was a reasonable hypothesis that maybe around 2012, we've got more comfortable talking about anxiety. We were just picking up mild self-reported symptoms. Unfortunately, the hospital records show these indications rose at the exact same rate. There really was an increase here. Kids are starting around this period having worse mental health.


Aconstruct (15:42)

The second strand of troubling evidence was the correlational studies. Social psychologists often will work with these giant data sets, these giant data sets where researchers will go out and talk to tens of thousands of people and ask them about everything. Then after the fact, you can come back as a researcher and look for all sorts of connections within this data. If you want to know if people who like the color red is their favorite color or more likely to have had back surgery in the last six months, you can just go and look at this data and find those things and look for correlations, etc. They did this. They said, "Let's start looking at this data. We'll look at young people and we'll look at correlations between these technologies and negative outcomes." They began to find lots of strong connections. Here's just one of many, many graphs that were produced in this period. This particularly one looked at UK adolescents with clinically relevant depressive symptoms. The x-axis is number of hours per weekday on social media. The y-axis is percentage of teens who used them on social media that were diagnosed as depressed. As you see, when you increase from no time on social media to 5+ hours, you get a significant increase in percentage of teens that are depressed. This is particularly high for girls where you go from a 11% depression rate for girls who don't use social media to almost a 40% depression rate for girls who use 4-5 hours of social media. We saw a lot of studies of this type. This generated critiques. Other researchers came along and said, "Yeah, you're finding these correlations, but it's easy to find correlations between things.


Przylinkski/Rud Blues (17:23)

The effect sizes are small." Perhaps the most famous of these papers was published in 2019 by Przbilski and Amy Orbin. This is known by researchers in the field colloquially as the "potato study." They went in and looked at one of these big data sets and said, "I'll read them here, the connection is negative but teeny, indicating a level of harmfulness so close to zero that it is roughly the same size as they find for the association of mental health with eating potatoes or wearing eyeglasses." They said, "Look, we looked and found these..." Yeah, you use more digital technology, you're less happy, but the effect is the same we found for eating potatoes on your happiness or wearing eyeglasses on your happiness. Their point being these are so small that they're basically arbitrary. You're finding artifacts in the data. The potato article was cited a lot. Even until very recently you would see major newspapers like The New York Times often saying, "This was very influential," studies show a potential connection between these technologies and negative mental health, but the effects are small. This is the type of paper that caused that. So as good science does, we looked at this. Here's a response to the potato paper co-authored by Jean Twangy and John Heit. It was published in Nature Human Behavior and it was called "Under Estimating Digital Media Harm." In this article, Heit looked at Przbilski and Orban and said, "Well, wait a second. Wait a second, and I'm going to read his words here." The first issue to note is that the potato's comparison was what they reported for all digital media use, not for social media use specifically. Digital media includes all screen-based activities including watching TV or Netflix videos with a sibling, which are not harmful activities. In their own published report, when you zoom in on social media, only the relationship is between two and six times larger than for digital media. Also crucial is that Orban and Przbilski lump together all teens, boys and girls, while many studies have found that the correlations with harm are larger for girls. So Heit is saying, "It's almost like you're intentionally trying to reduce the negative impact. You're only showing the connection between all possible digital media use and negative social harms, even though your data set you were using had social media broken out. And all the discussion has been about social media. In Heit and Twain, He said, "So we looked at your same data set and just looked at social media and you had a much, much bigger response. A response that especially if you break out girls was six times worse than eating potatoes. It was a very significant response."


How to write a paper (20:08)

So I say here on the slide, this is John Heit being polite because when you really read this critique, you're wondering, "How is there any other explanation for the potato paper other than a set of researchers who are saying, 'We want to report there's not really a difference here.' It's otherwise hard to explain why they would choose what they chose and not talk about these other aspects to their paper if they are really just trying to understand is their harm here." All right, so let's get to the third act of this story, this research story on smartphones and kids. I call this third act a consensus begins to emerge. This covers the period of 2020 to 2023, so until today. Essentially what has happened in the past two or three years is the critiques have largely fallen away and a consensus is emerging in the field that yes, especially for girls, there is a strong negative connection between these technologies and mental health. The reason why this consensus emerges, first of all, the critiques as we talked about before, the main critiques during the data war were pretty thoroughly debunked. After the potato paper, it's not like there was a lot of more stronger papers that really made a strong case that there wasn't a strong connection there. The timing argument really seems to have been one for the people who were worried about smartphones. That happened, but then what we began to get, and this is how a lot of emerging literature has began to coalesce around a consensus, we began to get multiple other independent sources of investigation that pointed towards the same conclusion.


Natural Experiment (21:29)

We have multiple different types of threads that all begin to weave around the same answer. That's often what happens in complex literatures that points it towards a conclusion. That really began to happen in the last couple of years. One of the threads was natural experiments. Here's a cool paper written by an economist Elaine Gu. She looked at, in Canada, I believe, the arrival of high-speed wireless internet in a given province from town to town. When high-speed wireless internet arrived, heavy social media use became possible. Then you could have a smartphone and you could use it on the app. She looked at, if we have nearby towns, demographically and culturally very similar, but we end up in this natural experiment situation where one town gets wireless high-speed internet between before the other. Can we compare what's happening with teenage mental health in these two towns and see if there's a change? Yes, there was. Total teen girl severe mental health diagnoses increased by 90% when the wireless internet arrived. It was a nice natural experiment. We also had some direct randomized control trials experiments. Here's a good paper by Melissa Hunt et al. They just took 143 undergraduates and randomly assigned them to either stop using social media or keep using it as normal. It was a randomized prospective control trial. What did they find? The group that was told to limit their social media use showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression as compared to the control groups.


Meta Leak (23:05)

That's interesting. I think maybe one of the strongest forces in helping a consensus come together was self-reporting. Just talking to teenagers themselves. When Francis Hagen leaked all of those data from Meta a couple years ago, what was known as the Facebook files, as the Wall Street Journal called it, one of the big interesting findings in these leaked documents for Meta was the fact that they had done survey on teens and had found that I'm quoting here, "Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression. This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups." The teachers themselves are saying, "Yeah, this is why we're more anxious and depressed. This app, these phones." Other data began to find the same thing.


Impact Of Social Media On Thinking Skills

Australia Study (23:58)

I put up here a slide from research out of Australia. These are Australian teens. By far the number one reason they give for why they think youth mental health is getting worse is social media. I think this was the final smoking gun is that teens themselves are saying, "This is hurting me. This is causing a problem." It is really hard to be a potato study-style skeptic in the face of the teens themselves saying, "Yes, this is causing me harm. We're not teasing out subtle epidemiological effects, a slight increase in the background, cancer rate for the towns that were using a different type of pipe in their water, where the individuals themselves have no way of detecting this change. This is not that. This is a huge, loud, self-observable macro signal. This thing is making me uncomfortable. That ultimately is the big difference between this and past moral panics around youth and technologies. When my grandparents, let's say they were upset that my mom was listening to the Beatles in the late 1960s, if they went to my mom and said, "Stop listening to those Beatles. It's going to warp your mind." My mom would have said, "Get out of here." What she would not have said is, "I agree these records are making me and my friends incredibly anxious. I wish I didn't have to listen to them." That would have been a very different situation. That's why I think this analogy to pass concerns about youth technology really begins to fall apart.


Not as social (25:22)

On the other hand, the teens tell you, "I know this is making me anxious. I don't like that I have to be on it." Why does it do this? Let's look in particular at social media first and then we'll broaden out the smartphones. Why do researchers think social media is causing these negative impacts on mental health? There's a few reasons to come up. One is loneliness. Readers of my book, Digital Minimalism, this will sound familiar because I talk about this in digital minimalism. It's paradoxical at first, but using these social technologies more will actually lead you to feel less social. What's going on here is young people replace in-person interaction with texting and social media back and forths. This purely linguistic communication, just sending texts back and forth to each other or commenting on each other's post, is not interpreted by the social circuits of our brain as being all that social. There's no voice modulation. There's no body language. You're not in the presence of another person in the same room. You're in your room as a 14-year-old all day on text messages and you tell yourself, "Wow, I'm so social because all I've been doing is talking to people." As far as your brain is concerned, you're incredibly lonely because you haven't seen anyone all day. Just psychologists call this social snacking. Lightweight, easy digital socialization, we do that instead of having the real meal and we end up more lonely. We see this in the data. I have two charts up on the screen now. One shows loneliness among teenagers. You see again 2012 goes right up. The other chart shows daily average time spent with friends starting in 2012 for the ages 15 to 24 goes straight down. More time on the phone meant less time interacting in person meant loneliness went up. There's an interesting observation, by the way, that John Heit makes. This got underway around 2012 and it was so pronounced by the time the pandemic came along, the change wasn't even that big. We can see this on this chart. Certainly we continue to have a steep fall in 2020, but we were having a steep fall from 2018 to '19 as well. He pointed this out in a newsletter article he wrote earlier this spring. These effects of isolation were already so pronounced because of smartphones among American teens that the difference of adding isolation through lockdowns actually didn't even make that big of a difference. We were already on that trajectory. Another issue here is performativity, especially with social media, especially with girls. Let me read something here from Gene Twangy. Girls use social media more often, giving them additional opportunities to feel excluded and lonely when they see their friends or classmates getting together without them. Social media levy a psychic tax on the teen doing the posting as well as she anxiously awaits the affirmation of comments and likes. You're constantly worried about what other people are doing and how people are perceiving you. Combine that with a teenage brain. Come on. No way that's going to be positive. The final thing I want to mention here is the amplification of harmful behaviors. Online communities, for all their good, also have the dark side of it allows especially vulnerable teenagers who are trying to find themselves and are open to suggestions and are feeling vulnerable and full of all these different chemicals. It's very easy to get caught in online communities that will then amplify harmful behaviors that will directly reduce your mental health. In a lot of cases, also your physical health. We're beginning to see more lawsuits along these lines. I have a headline up here right now about a family suing meta because they blame Instagram for encouraging their daughters, eating disorder and self harm. There's all sorts of cases like this. This is another source of this connection between reduced mental health and social media use is there's a lot of traps on there. You end up in a community that is cheering on something that in the end is going to make you feel much worse.


Impaired thinking skills (29:28)

Social media is not the whole story. A lot of this data is looking at social media. Some of us looking at smartphones in general. I want to just briefly mention that even if you aren't using social media on a smartphone, if you're a teenager, there's other harms we know are there. Impeded thinking skills is critical. I talked about this in a somewhat recent episode of the podcast. I was talking about Marianne Wolf's work on the development of young minds when they spend more time on screens. The short version of this is deep critical thinking skills require training. Training requires things like reading analog books that you struggle with. You can take time to pause and make sense of what you just read before moving on. Training requires self reflection, the ability to hold thoughts in your working memories and work on it, having that time alone and that familiarity with it. Smartphones get in the way of that training because it teaches your brain to instead move very quick. Look like an L-shaped skim for things that are going to give you in text a quick hit of dopamine or excitement. Be boredom if you have any moments of downtime have something right on your screen. I was watching, Jesse, I was watching this on the flight. It's not my flight to San Francisco, it's my flight to Utah a few weeks ago. I'm maybe like a 20 year old guy sitting a row up in the aisle. I was watching him use TikTok. I mean it was crazy. It's like, because he had his phone out, they'll just be like some weird video. He was watching on average six seconds and then he swiped and another video would come up. That's just all he was doing. The whole time? The whole time before a while. I was watching over his shoulder. Man, glad I'm reading my Ellen Lightman book about transcendentalism and the human brain made me feel good. But the point is, it's so rewarding in the moment that you don't do the activities that would otherwise give you critical thinking skills. So you're just not good at thinking deeply and that's a huge harm. Teenage deprivation is a big deal for teenagers and these smartphones. Look, you give a 13 year old boy a smartphone, they're going to YouTube until four in the morning. When I gave this talk, someone in the audience said there's a lot of middle schoolers there and one of the middle schoolers was talking about how all of her friends who have these smartphones are on them all night. And then they come in the class, they're completely tired. They can't function. They're doing really poorly on their tests, but they can't help themselves because if you have this, it's hard to turn it off. So teenagers are having a huge sleep deprivation issue. It's a YouTube video games and social media scrolling. Solitude deprivation is another issue. I talked about this in digital minimalism as well. Our mind is not meant to constantly be processing information generated by another mind. We need time alone with our own thoughts to recharge and that makes sense of our world. Smartphones can eliminate that entirely from your existence because any moment where before you might have just been alone with your own thoughts. You can now pull out the thing.


Solitude deprivation (32:25)

Over time that makes us anxious. It also harms self development at an age where we need it. If you're 14, you're trying to figure yourself out. You're 15, you're trying to figure yourself out. You need time alone with your own thoughts. Your brain needs it. And finally, we have this issue that smartphones in general minimize quality leisure. So the thing you're doing on the phone gets in the way of the things you should be doing. It gets in the way of the things that's going to be more meaningful or quality or sustainable or connecting more to your friends or your community or build skills or give you confidence. It's easier just to look at the phone and to watch Twitch. And so it gets in the way of something that could be better. This is often missed when we think about smartphones and teens. We'll hone in on the exact activity and say, "Well, my son isn't on social media.


Not Doing Performativity (33:08)

He's not doing performativity. He doesn't have to worry about online bullying. The thing he's looking at is really harmless. In fact, maybe there's like some science content in it. The issue there is not that what he's looking at is a problem is that because he's looking at it all day, he's not doing the things to be good." So we've got harms with unrestricted smartphone access for young people that go beyond just the specific stuff that social media can do. All right. So where is this all headed? At the national scale, it's an interesting question. Is there going to be some sort of legislative shift that's going to come out of this data now that the consensus has emerged? It's clear that this consensus has been understood and intaked by legislative bodies and policymakers. I think it's now accepted that unrestricted smartphone use, especially for prepubescent kids, especially for prepubescent girls, is very dangerous. I think this has all been accepted now. So where is this going to head? I'm not quite sure. Here's one thing I would keep an eye on. Here's the surgeon general earlier this year. He said, "Wait until your kids are 16 to let them use social media."


16-Thcloservice. (34:18)

This conclusion, I think, is something that a lot of researchers are coming to. I talked to John Hyde about this and he agreed with that as well. If you've made it through puberty, the development as an individual, as well as the social development and everything that happens in that period, if you've made it through all of that before you then get unrestricted access to the internet and social media, you're in a much better position to succeed because you know who you are, who your friends are, what you're interested in, what you're about. You've done all that work. And now if you get exposed to this, it's going to have a much less negative impact than if you get it at 12 or you get it at 13. So if you can wait until 16, this seems to be an emerging consensus. This might possibly be made in the legislation. One of the relevant things to keep an eye on here is the 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act or COPA. The Children's Act implicitly already encodes 13 as the minimum age that you can sign up for a social media service. Now of course, these social media services didn't exist in 1998. The actual wording here is 13 is the minimum age at which you can consent to give up your data privacy, which of course you do when you sign up for an attention economy platform like social media. The original version of this act had 16 in there. The Czech, lobbyist in DC got that pushed down to 13. There's calls now to amend it back to 16. So that could happen. There's other legislative avenues that are being pursued. It's tricky, but this is one to keep an eye on. What would happen if that law was changed? It's not that this would make it really hard for individual young people to get access to social media, right? It's not super enforceable, but what it would give is a metaphorical chair to parents that are trying to tame this metaphorical line. When you have your 13 year old again and again saying, "All my friends have this, I want this, why can't I have it? All my friends have this, I want it, why can't I have it?" For the parents to be able to say, "Because it's illegal," is a very strong defense. You're not putting these parents in this situation of having to be social psychology researchers and understand this literature. You can say, "It's against the law, I'm not going to break the law." You'll just have to learn not to have those friends, I guess. It would be helpful. Something like that may happen.


6 old enough for screen use? (36:36)

Now, what do I conclude from all of this? To me, I would say that 16 age limit is a smart one. I think this is good. I think the data is pointing towards your safest bet, especially if we're talking about young girls is 16 is the age below which you do not want to give a child unrestricted access to the internet. If you give a young person a smartphone, you are giving them unrestricted access to the internet. You can do some parental controls, they'll get around them. They're better at it than you. This is the thing about kids. If we ever went to war, cyber war with China and we needed in a sort of enders game style, brilliant kids that helped save us. Here's how we would win the cyber hacking war. Just tell a bunch of 13 year olds that if you bring down China's whatever infrastructure, you will get unlimited access to Mr. Beast videos. Because these kids become dentist-nidgy style hackers when it comes to trying to get access to these things. The same kids that can't even motivate themselves to take the garbage out. If they think they can access YouTube on their school's Chromebook, they're in their soldering irons. By getting right to the opcode lookup table in the ROM, they become expert computer hackers. You give a smartphone to a kid, you're giving them unrestricted internet access. You can run restricted internet access, they can use social media. Even the definition of social media is getting a little bit hazy now. A lot of the actual performative socialization has shifted from social media onto group text messages. It gets a little bit hazy. We have all these other harms that surround the smartphones, the sleep deprivation, the solitude deprivation. It really seems like 16 is the safe time to say, "Okay, you can just have a phone and I'm not going to care too much what you're doing anymore." Does that mean that's the only age where you can have any type of device like this? Well, can I actually ask John Hyde about this as well? His thought was, "When you functionally need a phone, because I don't know, I'm commuting the school on the city buses like a lot of kids do at my kids school, and you need an ability to maybe text your parents if there's an emergency or call your parents if the bus routes cancel or something like that. When they functionally need a phone, you can get them a phone that doesn't have internet. So when you get to an age where I'm independent enough that having communication ability with me is going to enable this independence, then get them some sort of communication device, but one without internet. 16 is what you can give them a smartphone that has everything. That seems to be the emerging consensus. I think five to 10 years from now that will just be accepted. If you have a child right now and your oldest child is two, you're not going to have to think about this when they become 12. The cultural life shifted. You won't be giving an iPhone to your 12-year-old. That will just be accepted. We're right now in this intermediate transition period where parents still have to make these decisions on their own. As far as I can tell, that's my best read of the literature. When it becomes they're independent enough to function in communication, give them a phone like a light phone, which looks great and context well but has no internet. You tell 16 to give them unrestricted access so you can't have your own iPad or your smartphone until you're 16. They will yell and gnash their teeth. But come on. Everything in the history of the world that teenagers have wanted that their parents don't want. The teenagers have said, "All my friends are doing it. You have to give it to me." This is not necessarily different. I think that's where we're heading. Obviously, there's lots of caveats here. Some kids have a much easier experience with these technologies than others. Parents clearly know their own kids. One thing I'll also point out is I've heard before when I've been on the road or talked about my book is often socially elite people have this storyline that less economically elite people need these technologies and it's somehow a classic to talk about this. That somehow having a 14-year-old not use a smartphone is like a yoga thing. It's like a luxury thing. I can say having worked with lots of different groups, from lots of different backgrounds on this issue, they would say nonsense to them. Everyone is worried about the kids with this. Kids are worried about this and all sorts of different backgrounds, all sorts of different economic classes. I don't think this is a yoga issue. It's just like a teen smoking issue. No teen should smoke. We said, "You should wait until you're 18 to do it." I think it's closer to that than it is to it would be nice to do meditation if you have the time for it. I will see. That seems to be where the data is right now. It looks like policymakers are trying to get behind that. We're getting close to a point where parents aren't going to have to figure this all out on their own anymore.


Age restrictioned to smartphone? (41:24)

There'll be some more of these consensuses. I think your 12, here's your smartphone. Give us another five years. That's going to be considered something. Oh, wow. Don't do that. They still go on social media on their desktop? Well, yeah, but desktops are controlled. Here's the family laptop. You use it in the kitchen. I can see what you're doing. Much different situation. There's a lot of great stuff to do on the internet, but doing it through the family laptop, we know a kid who's really into sports. Their family got a subscription to the athletic. This is great. If I was really in the sports and I was 13, to be able to... One of the activities I was able to do was to go on the family computer and get super in-depth sports coverage. That's great. It's feeding an interest that the kid really has. Another kid who's really in the chess, and they can do these chess games online. Well, that's great, but if all that's done through the family computer, it's like watching TV. You can't watch TV all the time. The parents say no TV now. The TV is in the living room. They're in charge of it, but you could watch a pair of them on a TV, and it's nice. That's what the internet should be for a 13-year-old. There's all these cool things on here that you can do, just like there are cool TV shows you could watch, but you can do them during times when it's appropriate on a machine where we kind of see what's going on. Yep. Even if they have school-issued laptops at some of the private schools around here, there's price and controls on that as well. Yeah, they all get around them. They all get around them. Yeah, the school, it's funny. We had one of the neighbors who's always over, one of the neighbors is, I think, seven, maybe eight, hacked into YouTube on the Chromebook. I'm telling you, these kids that'll stare at you for an hour if you ask them to do a fraction, if they could get access to YouTube, they are building a quantum processor. To break the encryption, based on whatever. But like good news, I have a 108-28 qubit quantum processor I hacked together in the playground, and we're able to break the public key encryption that was keeping us out of Mark Rober videos. They become hackers. Anyways, all right, so that's some thoughts. That's where I think the research lies right now. I think that's where we're roughly heading.


Building a deep life (43:39)

All right, so Jesse, what I want to do is we're going to move on to some questions. I found questions that roughly orbit this. I didn't want to do all questions about kids and smartphones. So instead, I increased the topic that I felt the show was covering, and we're going to talk in general about distractions and technologies and dealing with distractions and the quest to build a deep life.


Sponsorship: GrammarlyGo (44:00)

So we'll be a little bit more general. And then at the end of the show, we'll do books. Books I read in March. We never did that because I was traveling. And technically, we're still recording this episode in April, even though it's coming out in May. So I don't know. I feel like it counts. So at the end of the show, we'll get to the five books I read in March. First however, I want to talk about a sponsor that makes this show possible, and that is Grammarly Go. Now this is a very interesting new product offering from our good friends at Grammarly. Grammarly. So I run a-- I'm struggling to say Grammarly. Grammarly. I've been saying this for two years now, for some reason, my grammar is wrong on Grammarly. Grammarly Go is very interesting because what's working on here is that it uses generative AI to help improve the writing you're already doing in the apps in which you already write. Now for people who have heard my podcast episode recently on these technologies on GPT in particular, know that I'm not a big believer in the storylines that somehow these technologies have changed the entire world and they're intelligent or they're going to right away get rid of all jobs. What I argued in those past episodes is, no, what these technologies are really good at is taking in text and producing new text based on your intentions or things you want. So this Grammarly Go is a perfect case study of exactly where generative technology, AI technology based on large language models, is really well suited. So here's the type of stuff you can do with Grammarly Go. So you're writing in whatever app you would write an email, you're writing in a word processor document, wherever. And you have Grammarly Go sitting there like a assistant who can help you with your writing. So one of the things you could do for example is say, and these are real examples, outline ideas on how to decorate a taco truck. Give me 10 possible captions for this post. You can actually ask for sample text that the assistant will generate for you and you can then look at and integrate into what you are working on. You can also have the assistant Grammarly Go help you improve your writing. So maybe you write something and then say, hey, can you make this sound more exciting? Can you make this sound more professional? Can you make this sound more inspirational? This is the sweet spot of generative AI. This is what it can do so well that it spins your head. And so kudos to Grammarly to integrate this into their product line where it makes so much sense. So you can not only produce stuff, you can work into your writing. It's also a way to just improve the sound or the tone of your writing. It's kind of a cool step forward. And this is where I think generative AI is going to have its impact in these targeted applications to things we do every day, especially text-based things we do every day. And it's going to be like that assistant sitting there looking over your shoulder, giving you that helping hand. It's a really cool, really cool product. So you'll be amazed at what you can do with GrammarlyGo. Go to Grammarly.com/go to download and learn more about GrammarlyGo. That's g-r-a-m-m-a-r-l-y.com/go.


Sponsorship: Blinkist (47:29)

Also want to talk about our old friends at Blinkist. Blinkist is a subscription service that gives you short summaries that you can either read or listen to. It's 15 minutes to read or listen to of over 5,500 non-fiction books. Now what I like about Blinkist is that it gives you an ability to triage your reading life. We're a big believer here on the Deep Questions podcast that reading is critical. It's how you engage ideas. It's how you increase your understanding of the world. It's how you get smarter. The question is how do you figure out what books to read? What Jesse and I do is we use Blinkist. We hear about a book. We'll add it to a list. We want to buy a new book. We'll take books off those lists and we will listen to or read the blinks for that book by getting the main ideas in just 15 minutes. You can assess pretty quickly, "Do I want to buy or read this whole book?" Or, "Do I really need... Do I know what I need to know at this point?" It really helps you decide which books are going to make the big impact and which books you're okay just getting the summary from. There's a lot of ways to use Blinkist, but that's the way we like to use it as our side kick for helping to support the reading life. They also have ways to help you discover books. I like the... They have collections, we're themed collections of books. Hey, read all these blinks and see which ones you want to buy. It's a cool tool. They have a new feature that I want to talk about too called Blinkist Connect. It allows you to get two for the price of one. You set up a premium subscription. You can give a subscription to a friend who you think would also enjoy it. Right now Blinkist has a special offer just for our audience. Go to Blinkist.com/deep to start your free seven day trial and you will get 25% off your Blinkist premium membership. That's Blinkist spelled BLINKIST. Blinkist.com/deep to get 25% off in a seven day free trial, Blinkist.com/deep. Remember, now for a limited time you can use Blinkist Connect to share your premium account. You will get two premium subscriptions for the price of one. Alright, Jesse, I think it's time to get the sum questions.


How to break out of a rut (49:38)

What do we got first? Alright, first questions from Jeremy. Since I recently became a father, I found myself procrastinating on work and even at the office. Like it's been all day on Reddit looking for that one stimulus so my brain could be satisfied. Same for books. I read more books since I've been listening to your show but it always feels like there's something missing. Living in more deep or simple life seems to be a bit dull and I can't shake that feeling. Well, Jeremy, I have a couple things to say here. One is there is a transient duration to what you're feeling. This is a common effect. I felt this as well. When you become a new father, there's a weird combination of things that happen. So one, of course, you're tired. More tired than normal, more exhausted than normal because you're helping to care for a newborn. You also feel there's this sudden reduction of activity. Stuff you might have otherwise done. Now you're not going to your home. You're kind of helping to take care of the kid. But what happens often when the kid is really young is so your home but the kid is just napping or the kid is just feeding. And there is this sense of a sudden reduction in activity. I remember feeling this after our first was born. This sense of I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm here. The baby and my wife are napping. I'm sort of not doing other things. I feel just like you're saying here. It's like things are dull or a little gray or just like a cap. Your affect is cap because you don't have those things going on that maybe give you hits of anticipation or excitement. That's transient and it goes away. The kid gets a little bit bigger. You fall back into a routine. If you have later kids, you don't feel that anymore because then it's just chaos. So when you have future kids, you're just taking care of the older kids and you're way too busy to worry about this. So it's really a first kid phenomenon and it does go away. I always used to think it takes about four months before you feel like a routine has returned after having a kid. And I learned over the many kids we've had over the years is just to treat that first four months differently. Like this is like an all hands on deck, unusual period. Don't extrapolate from this to the rest of your life. Don't extrapolate from the lack of sleep to the rest of your life. Don't extrapolate from the reduction in aspirational professional activities for the rest of your life. It's four months and usually after four months, you fall back into a routine and then you're mentally freed up. So that's one part of it. The other part of it is your vision of the deep life might be too dull. I mean if you're, the way you structure your life is you feel like this is just dull. I don't know. I read books sometimes and nothing's exciting to me. Construct a lifestyle vision that's more exciting. I mean this is how VBL CCP values based lifestyle center career planning works. You start with this vision of a lifestyle that resonates with you. And for you, it sounds like this will be a lifestyle vision that has some definition of excitement. I don't know what that means. It could be excitement that might have to do with non professional projects or activities or hobbies or skills that you're trying to build. It might be excitement in terms of a radical move to a new location that's very intentional about where you're going to be raising your kid and what your day to day life is going to be like. You're in a cabin somewhere as opposed to an apartment in Northern Virginia or it could be a professional vision changing your job and going out on your own, shifting over to a combination freelance, whatever. But if that excitement is something that resonates with you, you need a vision that resonates. You should include that excitement and then you start working backwards. What are the moves I can begin making given the capital I have right now career and otherwise that moved me closer to that vision. And now you have something you're looking at. Now you're making progress and now you're moving towards something that's going to resonate more. So we have the transient effect. It's going to be four months, your new father. Don't extrapolate from these four months. Any aspects of your life don't extrapolate to what your life is going to be like. But as you leave that phase, if you feel like your life is dull, you're living the wrong vision. It's a different vision.


Smartphone Use And Its Consequences

How to replace doom scrolling (53:48)

So build one that's more exciting. All right, who do we got next? Next question is from Jeff. In the absence of having a known activity to do next, I often get trapped, doom scrolling in somewhere or the other. For example, if they're shutting down from work or having an experience, they're poor night's sleep. I'm too tired to focus on reading, so I end up scrolling Reddit. Well, Jeff, what we need to do here is work on your cognitive wiring. Right now, your cognitive wiring has learned looking at this screen, seeing Reddit comments gives me this little bit of hit of something. And that's what you're jonesing for. So anything that's not that is taking a lot of energy and intention from you. So if you're at all tired, it's like, well, that's just what I'm going to do. We're used to this from the addiction community. This is my, when I'm stressed, I pick up a cigarette. When I'm sad, I pick up a drink, right? All of these addictive behaviors that historically you build these connections in your brain that when you feel a certain way, you go to the behavior. And when you look at these solutions to addiction from the addiction community, often they're built around replacement activities. Okay, you need something else you do when you're stressed instead of picking up the cigarette and you have to figure out how to make that habit replace the original. Right? So you might see a lot of heavy coffee drinkers among those who have just quit a substance, another type of substance abuse. They're replacing the activity with something else they can go to or carrot sticks used to be a big one. Or you see a lot of people leaving a substance addiction who get really fit because their exercise is replacing. They have to have a replacement activity. These connections get really strong. Now the behavioral addictions created by things like doom scrolling Reddit are not nearly as strong as substance addictions. There's no chemical here that's crossing the blood brain barrier and messing around with their actual neurotransmitter uptake. So our challenge here is not as hard as stopping smoking when you get stressed, but we have the same principles. So what I would do is a look at replacement activities, high quality leisure activities at all different levels of energy requirements that you pursue and build in the habit and find enjoyment on. Some that require very little energy at all, some that require more energy. And then two, add some obstacles to the current addictive behavior. I would say practice the phone for your method. When you come home, you plugged that phone in in your foyer of your house. It's there if you need to go look something up, but it's not right there in their pocket when you're in the armchair or at the dinner table or you're trying to watch a TV show. You would have to get up and go find it to go to Reddit. And you would have to read Reddit standing up in the foyer and you're like, I'm not going to do that. So you have a little bit of an obstacle and then you invest in trying to find these other activities. Like moving to fun books, paperback books, finding 1970s era pocket, paperbacks of spy thrillers, things that don't take energy to read that you get used to thinking they're fun. It could be listening to the radio where sports on the radio, yard worker craft, magazine reading, TV watching, walking with an audio book, different types of exercise, all sorts of activities you can through practice and intention have them build up connections of this is what I do when I'm tired and on board and I get a lot of fulfillment out of it. So you got to go find and cultivate the alternatives and make the behavior you're trying to get away from a little bit more difficult and then give it two weeks, takes about two weeks and you will find a very little interest in doom scrolling. But I do I put on the baseball game and the radio and if it's a little earlier, I like to go for a walk and listen to a funny podcast. It's not that hard to get these alternatives, but you do have to do a little bit of work. Jeremy and Jeff got a lot of J's here. All right, let's break that trend. Jesse, who's our next question from? Is this the guy with the J name? Next question is from Shelly actually. There we go. You have talked about unrestricted smartphone usage not being a good idea for kids. Do you think heavy smartphone usage by retirees can worsen their cognitive skills? My mother is 65 and their smartphone usage has really shot up since they retired. It's really common. You hear about this a lot, people's parents of our generation, their parents retire and for the first time really begin using a smartphone, they don't have nearly as much to do. There's not as much structure to their activities and they get really caught up with online all the time hitting that dopamine. It's like the kid who is raised without having access to sugar and when they first get the college and have a meal plan card are buying Twinkies every day at the convenience store because it's like, wow, I didn't realize this stuff tasted so great. I'm going to eat these every day. It is a big problem. I hear about it a lot. If you're retiring, then obviously, yeah, keep that in mind. You need to more so than you had to when you were working and raising kids and doing all this other stuff. You have to more than you did back then really structure your leisure time. What do I want to do with my time? I think using the deep life buckets are a great way forward. Here's the aspects of my life. Now that I'm retired, let me work on each, but Keystone habits and rules in place and then overhaul one by one, these aspects of my life choose at least one bucket to make a radical investment in. So where you make a radical move to support that bucket, you should always have at least one where you're doing that. So if it's constitution, you're like, I'm going to be one of these super fit 70 year olds. Or if it's contemplation, you might get very seriously involved in your church or whatever it is, right? You got to put a lot of energy into that because idle hands are the devil's playground and that's going to be the case whether you're 65 or you're 16. So I'd be careful about it. Now if it's your own parent, it's not what you can do. I mean, you could gently tell them about digital minimalism and etc. But you know what was Dave Ramsey calls it? Was it like diaper or bum wiping syndrome or something? It's like, if I change your diaper, I'm not going to take advice from you. So it's very hard. Look, if you're 70, you know someone who's 75 and is on their phone all the time now, you can also say they've earned whatever they want to do. I mean, if they've had a long life, they've done a lot of things and if that's what they want to do, I'm not going to stop them. But if I myself was retiring, I wouldn't want to end up, I think that's in some sense a waste of these years. So if it's yourself getting older, really focus on structuring, building around the buckets, it's more important now than it's ever been. If you know someone who's older who's on their phone too much, you know, you can tell them about this type of stuff, but I just want to expect much changes. All right, who Dave Ramsey gets these calls all the time, by the way. Yeah, I would thank parents. Like my parents are doing their finances wrong. And his answer is always like, you're not going to be able to change that.


Wasting away in smartphone land (01:00:29)

Or my parents are eating unhealthy. Yeah, it's like you're not going to be able to change that. Yeah. That one, you're going to have to let their friends do that. Their parents aren't going to listen to you. How did you see, by the way, speaking of Dave Ramsey, my old friend, Ramit Sethi, has his new finance show out on Netflix? I saw he came out with a book and I listened to a podcast on the Vine.


What is Rams best show, Barabassity Rouchelle Felix Patrick? (01:00:52)

So he has a new show, How to Be Rich, sort of a big splashy Netflix show. And it's like a Dave Ramsey type thing. He goes and sits down with couples who are having financial issues and like helps them with it. That's what his podcast is about too, right? Yeah. So there's a TV version. It's kind of stressful. I would be so bad at this. You know, I have a very limited quota for how long I want to be around other people. You know, I'm not extroverted and they have to like work with all these really tense situations where like he hasn't told her about the money he's spent on this and they're also upset. I would just be crawling for the exit, but Ramit's great with that type of stuff. He's big into like living a life that, like designing a life that wouldn't be hindered by money and then trying to design the same as your value-based career-centric planning. Yeah, he's my, I've known him since like 2004, 2005. And I remember Ramit was the first person to tell me, he's like, I have this friend and his name's Tim Ferriss and he wrote this book and it's really going to be big and I think you should read it. I remember that. He was buddies with Tim back then. His brother's cool too, Manish, entrepreneur, cool family. Oh, and I wrote about Manish as one of my books. So it's all all connected. All connected. All right. Let's do another question. Here we go. All right. Next question is from Ryan. Your audience knows that you're not prone to adopt software devices just because they're new or make a claim to improve your life. Could you give some guidelines on how to think about adopting new technology or software? It's like Ryan, my default approach is just to avoid new things. If I can avoid it, I will. If I can collage together something, I'm already working. That's what I'll do. And then if I finally decide to use something, I'm very likely to stop using it. I'm like, oh, I'm kind of using this, but my default is to get frustrated and to not use it the fall away from it or to stop using it. I'm not a big believer in the techno utopian vision of cybernetic productivity, that with the right combination of tools and human, you unlock these new levels of production, I often feel that the chore of organizing information and action and making plans, you know, it's a utilitarian chore. It's a roach or it's not that interesting. You need some sort of system that can keep track of the stuff, but simplicity and low friction is what's really important. That's something you can just do repeatedly. You don't have too much friction to get in the way. The difference between a good system and a bad system is a difference of four minutes in your daily planning. It doesn't really matter. And so the overhead of trying to optimize technology tools is often worse than just you have something that works good enough. I got an email the other day. I forgot exactly what the wording was, but they're talking about like how could you be leaving all this productivity on the table that if you, they were upset with, I guess, that I was using incompatible technology systems when I track my tasks that have Trello and Google Docs and whatever, a Google calendar and other things, you can have a seamless system they were saying. Everything kind of connects together and you could automate certain things and how could you give up all that productivity. Here's what that's giving up. The difference between I spend three minutes or six minutes on Monday morning making my plan for the day, it doesn't matter.


How do smart people handle Computer Technology? (01:04:18)

What matters is like the 60 minutes I spend actually trying to do something good. Do I give it my full attention and don't contact Swiss? That makes a difference. Whether it takes me, I automatically have things jump into my, you know, notion board or I manually move it. Who cares? We're talking minutes out of thousands of minutes that happen in the week. So to me, new stuff is annoying. So I'm usually relatively reluctant and then once I let it in, I let it fall back out unless it really earns its place. And then if it does, I'm really loyal to it. I would say the latest tool that's really earned its place, technological tool, that's earned its place in my life in the sense that I didn't use it before and now I use it regularly is probably Scrivener, probably the writing software Scrivener. Had enough advantages over just using Microsoft Word that it's stuck. I came into it tentatively, but I've now written a full book in it and probably a dozen New Yorker articles using it and it's stuck. So it really earned its keep by doing something nothing else was doing in a way that consistently made my life better. That's what I'm really looking for. And if it doesn't do that, it's probably not going to, probably not going to stick around. Yeah, I got some pushback from we did that notebook fallacy piece. Yeah. Where I said like, look, professional idea people don't spend very much time managing or tracking or building systems to control their ideas. The proper organization and controlling and categorization and linking of ideas and digital systems is just not something that professional thinkers actually spend much time doing. And there's sort of like a correlation between that. There's a lot of people who like to do that and did not like that claim. That's true. Professional thinkers have plenty of ideas that they know it's all down to execution. Yeah. Yeah.


What are the advantages of not using tech? (01:06:06)

In fact, not having a system can be an advantage because if an idea sticks around, I didn't write it down anywhere, but it won't go away. That's why I finally convinced myself, all right, maybe this is the one I need to act on. So like for like a movie producer, a screenwriter, a director, the idea not leaving them actually is what they're looking for to see if an idea is good. So in some sense, having some sort of complicated ziddle cast and system that's constantly showing them things that could be interesting to making connections would defeat the point. Mm hmm. All right. Let's do one more. Let's keep rolling here. All right. Last questions from Patrick. Thanks for your work. I got into it by my doctoral supervisor handling me, handing me a world without email, which changed my life. Now I feel more intentional about my choices than ever before. Here's my question. What advice do you have on staying deep when traveling to academic conferences? There's a little bit more background on here. Patrick is a PhD student, maybe a postdoc now, and he's starting to travel. I guess his timing was such that a lot of his education had been during the pandemic where things were virtual and now he's traveling again. So he's wondering about it. I traveled a lot in my academic career, especially as a grad student, all throughout grad school into my postdoc years. Traveled the world because what happens is advisors don't want to go to all of these places to present papers because it's a pain. That's what grad students are for. And so I spent my 20s traveling all over Europe and South America and Canada and the US presenting papers and traveling on the cheap, et cetera. So I have a big experience with it. I don't say Patrick, don't worry about being deep while traveling for conferences. Here's my advice. Wander, whatever city you get to, wander the city.


Advice to Ph.D. (01:07:48)

I've spent a lot of time wandering a lot of cities around the world. Meet people at your conference, socialize, learn who people are, relationship building. It makes it a much more interesting experience. Bring along what I call optional deep work, something you can work on if you have time but it's not necessary. It's not my productivity depends on me finishing this while I'm at conferences. I would sometimes find myself in that situation like a grand deadline and I had to finish at the conference but I prefer to have it be optional. If you do deep work while at a conference, find a really cool place to do it. This was a big challenge of mine. I love finding really cool places to write when I was traveling around the world.


Adventure Travel And Personal Growth

Adventure travel (01:08:31)

Off the beaten path, I can sit on a bench overlooking the river in Paris. I remember riding on a rooftop bar in Bologna. I've really enjoyed this. I've been to find interesting places to work. Then finally, my whole thing when I was traveling to Patrick's for conferences, bring books. You're excited to read. You've got the plane ride, you have this downtime, you're waiting in the airport. Bring a new book. This fun. I can't wait to read this. Enjoy it. Academic travel can be fun. Don't overproductivity assize it. You have plenty of time for that. Speaking of books, Jesse, I want to get to the books I read in March 2023. Before I do, I want to briefly mention another sponsor that makes this show possible. That's our friends at stamps.com. With stamps.com, you get a post office in your office. All you need is a computer and printer. They even send you a free scale so you have everything you need to get started. If you need a package pickup, you can easily schedule it through your stamps.com dashboard. If you sell products online, stamps.com will seamlessly connect you with every major marketplace and shopping cart. When you want to ship something, you print the postage at your home, you stick it on, you schedule a pickup, they come and get it. That's all you need. This prevents you having to go to the post office, wait in those long lines. You're there for an hour and right before you get up front, the one staffer who's been slowly servicing everyone goes on lunch break. No one would describe the post office right now as a shining exemplar of highly efficient customer focused, smooth operation. Stamps.com means you get to avoid those frustrations. If you run a small business that ships anything, you got to consider stamps.com. It's been around for over 25 years. It has been indispensable for over 1 million businesses. It also works with UPS in addition to USPS and gives you big discounts on shipping for both those providers. Put your business up for success when you get started with stamps.com today. Sign up with promo code DEEP for a special offer that includes a four week trial, free postage and a free digital scale. No long term commitments or contracts. You go to stamps.com, click the microphone at the top of the page and enter that code DEEP to get all of those promotions.


My Virtual Workout Coach (01:10:58)

I also want to talk about our good friends at MyBodyTutor. I have known Adam Gilbert, the founder of MyBodyTutor since 2007 when he used to be the fitness advice guy for my study hacks blog. He's been around doing this for a long time. His company MyBodyTutor is 100% online coaching that solves the biggest problem in health and fitness, which is the lack of consistency. They do this by simplifying the process of getting healthier and more fit into practical sustainable behaviors and then giving you daily accountability and support to stick to your plan. You are assigned to coach, you report to the coach through an app every day. They give you advice, they give you encouragement. If you need to adjust something, I have gone on a trip and what am I going to do with my workout routine? They're there to help you. They just do this when you get there. Let me give you a body weight thing to work on. Oh, you're struggling with this part of our eating plan. Here's my suggestions. You get all that accountability of a coach, but because it's online, you avoid that massive expense of actually having some sort of personal trainer that's coming to your house. I think it's a great idea and it is a very successful company because it's good at what it does. I want to be healthier. I want to be fit. I actually want to stick. MyBodyTutor is what's going to help you get there. If you're serious about getting fit, Adam is giving deep questions listeners $50 off the first month. All you have to do is mention this podcast when you join. If you have questions, Adam wants you to call our text. You can find his personal cell phone number at the top of every page on MyBodyTutor.com. That's MyBodyTutorT-U-T-O-R.com. Mention deep questions to get $50 off.


The Colorado Kid (01:12:39)

All right. Jesse, let's do some books. Let's do it. All right. So these are the five books I read in March 2023. We're recording this in April so it still counts. You know you're going to hear this in May. The first book, a short novel by Stephen King called The Colorado Kid. You know where I found this was a drug store in Clearwater, Florida. I was looking for another book to read. I wanted something more fun as in a CVS in Clearwater Beach in Clearwater, Florida. They had a small book section, which was all Daniel Steele. And for some reason, they had a hard case crime edition of The Colorado Kid by Stephen King. So it's this cool sort of short, it's called an anti-mystery because it's a hard-boiled mystery type novel, but they never get to a solution, a sort of postmodern. And so you're learning about this case, about this body that washed up on the shore of this small island in Maine. And there's these two hard-nosed old newspaper men and they're telling it to their intern, this young woman. They walk into the story and these clues kind of pile up and no resolutions reached. And so it's an anti-mystery, it's kind of deconstructing mystery. I love that hard-case crime. They do this beautiful cover art. They re-released all of Michael Kriton's books he wrote under a pseudonym in med school. They call them the med school files, the med school books, all of the cool covers. Anyways, it was fun. I read it on the beach and enjoyed it.


Joe schools DAG (01:14:13)

Nice. So, you're in Dipidus. Why would that book? This 2003 release from hard-case crime, why would that show up in this random CVS, but it was there? And so I felt like it was a sign. And I also read The Unsetlers by Mark Sunding. This is one of these books where you have a sort of very literate, Harper-style writer who sets out on sort of a personal quest. And in this case, he goes and spends times with people who lived very unconventional lives, sort of simple, intentional lives of various types. And it's him spending time with these people and then reflecting on his own life, so it's part memoir, part observation. And it was kind of interesting. Yeah, I bought this book a long time ago and then just took it off my library shelf and read it. And I enjoyed it. He spent time with some people living very simply in Missouri and some urban farmers in Detroit, among some others. It was good. Does it motivate you to get your cabin? You know, the weird thing about it, and I think it's just the uncanny valley, is that when he was hanging out with other young people, like people are our age or younger, they kind of annoyed you. But when he was talking about the generation before who had moved to these farms or whatever in the '70s, it was fine. Like, yeah, these people are doing what they're doing. But when it was like other young people, it maybe feel a little crumudgingly. I mean, I'm Mr. Deep Life and there were cases where I'm like, "I think you need a good job." You know, because there's some of the top stuff, these people that were like, "We put on capes and bike around the country to try to raise awareness about bringing together the earth." And some of it felt like there's people super far adrift. Yeah. Not like, "Okay, here's what's in." They didn't go through a Deep Life systematic exercise, I'd say. There's a lot of big swings happening. And so it's just like you feel like some of the young people, I know people like that. They always have a big idea and it's kind of weird. But then some of the people are really cool. But Mark's a great writer and it was interesting. It really got me thinking. But it was that book that led me to my next book, which was Living the Good Life by Helen Scott Nearing, which we did a whole deep dive on a few weeks ago. I forgot exactly what we called it, Simple Life or something like that. But I read that after The Unsettlers. And this was the same idea, like Helen Scott Nearing, leaving Manhattan and moving to this farm in Vermont and homesteading.


Living the Good Life (01:16:44)

But because they're depression era people, there's this, they're not people you know and then you can come at them with an objective remove and it's much more easy to sort of find aspiration and draw an example out of them. So anyways, that book was cool. It was written in the 50s and I did a whole deep dive on it. So Living the Simple Life or something like that? Yeah, so look for that episode if you want to find out more about it. I bought an old version of that. I felt like I needed a, I got the 1974 edition. Those type of books like the Read and the Original editions. I read a novel CJ Box, had a somewhat recent novel called Shadows Real. I think I bought this in an airport somewhere. I like CJ Box. His whole series is a game warden in Wyoming. Joe Pickett. And it's cool. I like the Wyoming stuff. Someone's got a lot going on. Stolen Falcons. Black Lives Matter protest. Murderous henchmen seeking stolen Nazi memorabilia which has shown up in Wyoming and ended up in the possession of Joe Pickett's wife. All of this happening in the same book. It was fine. So stolen Nazi memorabilia, that's stuff that the Nazis stole like while they were in power and then.


Stolen Falcons Sequel (01:18:00)

No, GI. When GI took when they raided the Eagles Nest, Hitler's whatever. And I guess there was something, I don't want to spoil too much, but there was a photo album that a GI brought home to Wyoming, to where Joe Pickett lives. And it got passed down to his son. And there's something incriminating in there for, I guess a political leader now in Eastern Europe. He sends these henchmen to Big Sleep County to go get it back. And they're kind of murderous and kill a bunch of people. But anyways, someone drops it off at the library. Joe Pickett's wife is a librarian. So she has it and they're coming too. They're kind of lurking around the house and all this type of stuff is going on. It's interesting. CJ Box has got into some Twitter, Twitter countries aren't real controversy. But he's moved more, there's more politics in his book. Not super right-wing politics, but like right-of-center politics. And then he's getting pushed back like, "Why is this like, why is this so right-wing or something?" And he says, "That's Joe." He's like, "These are the," for what's he trying to say? He's saying, "These are the politics of, this makes sense if you were a game board in Wyoming. This is not my politics. This is the politics of the world of the books." So he's in this interesting back and forth. I was like, "Wow, this is interesting. There's a whole plot line in here about Antifa." And in the book, it's all really overprivileged white kids from rich households who are like dressing up in stuff and are completely hopeless and are being manipulated by this evil guy who stole the Falcons. So it's like the whole plot line, this whole like anti-antifa, it's like pro-Black life matter, anti-antifa. All this stuff is in CJ Box. When I think of CJ Box as typically like Joe Pickett is, "There's been a murder in the woods and he's in the game board." And so I don't know, CJ is going in interesting places. What was it written? That's pretty recent. Because it's all, it takes place during the, it must take place during the, when we're all those protests and riots and stuff was 2020, right? So it has been written after that. I don't read a lot of CJ Box. I always liked the idea of liking genre books, detective books or these type of books. And I just, I never really get into, I never really have gotten into a series. Like the last genre writer I really just read everything was Michael Crichton. When I was young. But these new ones were like, "Here's the character." You know, it's like, "Haronomous Bosch and Connolly" or Joe Pickett and CJ Box. And here's the character and every year there's a new book and it's this character. I really love the idea of being really into those, but it just doesn't click with me. Even the good ones, like CJ Box is fine. You know, Connolly is much better. Like Michael Connolly is great at this. But I just can't get into, I've read some. It just doesn't, I don't know why it doesn't do it for me. It's like fantasy. Like I should like fantasy books and I have a hard time. And I blame Brandon Sanderson. Somehow his fault. Like I should be a fantasy book fan, but you know, I don't. I get bored. I don't do much.


Exploring Utopian Vision And Literature

Gogglearts utopian vision (01:21:15)

Like, thou is the wizard's staff will smite the dwarf or whatever. And I should love that stuff. And I don't know. Maybe it's just fiction. I'm just not an accomplished fiction writer. How many of the Stephen King books have you read? I have a hard time with King. Because they're so long. And he, you know, he, all of his good books he wrote on Coke and it's all like stream of content. And just like, boom, it's all over the place. It's this really interesting approach, but it's like not my style. So I like the short ones. Like the Colorado kid is like great King. Yeah. But I read like 300 pages of fairy tale and finally gave up. It's really, it's a very interesting tone. It's very accessible and conversational. And I don't know. It just feels too like it's just going and things are spinning out ideas and doing this and that. And I don't know. It's not my style. I like a tighter, a tighter thing. But I should like Stephen King. You know, I mean, I'm telling you, there's all these books I should like.


Name of the Wind (01:22:07)

I did read name of the wind. I did actually read all of name of the wind and I did enjoy it. So kudos Brandon Sanderson for name of the wind. I did read that and it was good. And I read half of the second one and then I sort of lost steam. I think it's an issue I have with fiction. But my last book was also fiction. So I have three novels on my list. The last one was Haven by Emma Donahue. And it's just a novel about the monks who inhabited Skellig Island off of the west coast of Ireland. So there's this like desolate rock where there's a real monastery that was built on there during the medieval period.


Haven (01:22:47)

And I saw it. I was out there. Years ago, I spent some time in Dingell on the west coast of Ireland, which is real near real near to there. And it's a real place, a real monastery. They used it the film scenes from the rise of Skywalker. So like the place where Luke Skywalker is like hiding away on that island, that's Skellig Island. And so this is a fictionalized historical fiction. So it's a fictionalized account of like the original monks. And it just starts in London, Ireland and they sort of make their way out there and they try to tame it and inhabit it. And that's the book. That was pretty good. It's got to be cold out there on that island. Yeah, it's not optimal. Not optimal. I looked up the reality. So in reality, they used it seasonally for a while. Like the actual way it turns out is they would they raise sheep on it and they would use it seasonally. It's not far from land. So the monks would come out there and they would stay on there during the summer because they would keep sheep there. But they wouldn't live there full time. They wouldn't live there in the winter. They'd come back to the mainland. It turns out to be the reality. And then at some point they built some more permanent stuff and then the Vikings just... You know how the Vikings do. It was good. I gave it like a seven out of ten.


Discussion On Startups

This week in Startups (01:24:00)

It was like fine writing, not great writing. I think that's pretty good. Yeah. But like a great novel but also better than Shadows Reel by C.J. Box. On the scale, there is no Falcons being stolen or murderous Nazi henchmen. That was a pretty good book. But I'm not thinking I've got to recommend this to everybody. But I am proud of myself for reading three novels. Yeah. Like for me, it's uncharacteristic. All right. Well, anyways, speaking of novels, I'll just do a novel. But we should wrap it up. Thank you everyone for listening to today's episode. We'll be back with another episode next week. And until then, as always, stay deep.


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