The Zero Feeds Experiment

Brain Atrophy

I think I know why our brains hurt. Instead of reading, we’re scanning thousands of text snippets. Headline after headline, tweet after tweet. You and I over-process; the brain-filter is clogged. It’s time to stop feeding on all the feeds, not just social media.


Aggregators

I use three services that collect or curate articles on my favorite interests: WordPress Reader, Feedly, and Google Discover.

WordPress Reader

I’ve considered abandoning the WordPress Reader to force myself into the habit of actually visiting people’s blogs.

The Reader is simple, convenient, and great for consistency. But it makes everyone’s blogs look the same. The Reader lacks a blogger’s personal touch of expression via their theme.

I want to see someone’s blog not stripped of its unique design. Aggregators supply lots of content, but they reduce blog posts to nondescript data-points. 

Feedly

Besides the WP Reader, I use Feedly daily. The name itself is about feeding on feeds!

What’s nice about Feedly is it’s algorithm-free. You can see every single article from every single blog site you follow – in chronological order!

While this means you’ll never miss a thing, the downside is you must track and absorb everything yourself. So I often reevaluate the sites I follow. Some sites are so prolific, it’s like they’re spamming the feed. I sometimes pare them down.

Google Feed

This is content curation at its best. Originally called the Google Feed, the Verge describes the initial purpose:

“Google is hoping you’ll begin opening its app the way you do Facebook or Twitter, checking it reflexively throughout the day for quick hits of news and information.”

Sounds like addiction to me.

Now called Google Discover (yet still labeled “Google feed” in Android settings), this will be a tough one to drop!

On my Android phone, it’s a quick thumb-swipe to the left of the home-screen. It presents an always updated list of news and articles that you’re interested in.

About the signal-to-noise ratio, it’s easily the best feed by far, surfacing a ton of relevant stuff. Better still, I can easily optimize the algorithm settings without leaving the feed. I help curate the content!

I truly discover a lot of articles I’m passionate about in this feed and enjoy it more than Feedly. Leaving this one behind will test me.


The Need To Feed

We are so accustomed to social feeds – and the mindless constant scrolling – that our brains find it hard to think outside that feed box.

Whether social media streams or RSS readers, the convenience of aggregated content brings efficiency. You consume content at speed and at scale – like your brain is a multi-core computer!

But this has problems.

I know from experience that my eyes fluttering over hundreds of headlines and titles also brings fatigue. It’s mind-numbing.

There’s often a feeling of low-grade background anxiety induced by web feeds. I’m sure you’ve felt it too. I sometimes experience a nervous angst, needing to read everything. It makes my brain feel scrambled sometimes. Overwhelmed. All that to hopefully find rare diamonds of information.

design desk display eyewear
Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

Fasting From Feeds

So as part of an experiment, I’ve decided to try living without any feeds!

This shouldn’t be too hard since I’ve been practicing #socialmediadistancing for a few weeks now – and I’m enjoying the calmer and simpler life. I deleted Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp from my phone, plus their bookmarked icons from my browser’s toolbar. My accounts are intact but inactive. It’s a 30-day trial.

Starting July 1st, I will delete the Feedly app from my phone. I will avoid the Reader tab in the WordPress mobile app. And I’ll turn off the Google feed on my Android phone.

Instead, I will manually click to websites or blogs like a net-surfing neanderthal from the 1990’s!

One challenge I foresee here, beyond overcoming the reflex to check feeds, is being forced to slow down. Clicking through several websites will take more time and be tedious. It’s less efficient. But as I’ve written recently, slowing down like this is usually beneficial.

Another drawback to this will be ads. My feeds don’t show ads. But the websites or blogs I like to visit are ad-supported, not subscription based. So I must face obtrusive and distracting ads. I’ll look for ways to mitigate deleterious pop-ups.

The point of this experiment is to see how my brain is affected by starvation of aggregated content. Can my thinking improve if it’s not inundated with hundreds of lines of disparate texts to process? My guess is that the slower pace will cause my mind to relax into deeper, stronger thinking.

After this 30-day experiment runs the month of July, I may post my thoughts about any results.


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Slow Movement Growing Fast

Halt The Caffeine Hustle

In many stock photos, you see a mug of coffee with a laptop or a book. Computing, reading, and writing…these require focus of mind. Caffeine is stimulating. Yet the thing that I’m buzzing about now is…calming down.


Calm Weekend

Over the past weekend, I got to stay home alone while my wife and kids visited family. Being married with five kids means I’m not used to being alone. It’s a strange sense at first, feeling the house so quiet and vacant.

But by the third day, my nerves calmed. My thoughts stilled. I went about daily tasks with no sense of rush. Many times, I just paused between to-dos. Everything was simple, slow, and quiet.

Later, I realized I was pacing myself. Sometimes my pausing in the middle of the day was just because I could. Other times it was intentional. Although I knew the next task I wanted to do, jumping to it right away was unnecessary. I recognized the need to rest in the midst of doing things.

The luxury of time and space was a gift during my mini-staycation. A taste of tranquility. A sense of serenity.

Am I terribly busy right now? No. Nor would I ever want to be. Because that’d be terrible.

This isn’t the first time I felt some slowing down. And it’s not just me who felt this recently. When we all hit the brakes in March to stay home due to Covid-19, extra-curricular and regular activities disappeared. Did you find more free-time than usual?

My weeknights we’re totally free and open. I didn’t have anywhere to go or anything extra to do. And you know what? I really liked it. In fact, I still do. This new slower norm is an extended pause that does us all some good.


Busy Body

In our industrialized society, you and I are busy going to and fro. We’re like machines on an assembly line, constantly doing things. There’s an expectation of maximum performance without hesitation or rest. Everything must be done by yesterday!

Words to describe our busy state are: hectic, frantic, frenetic, frenzied, stressful. Do any of these ring a bell for you? Fueled by espressos in the express lane, our bodies are running in overdrive on overtime.

It gets worse.

Manic Mind

In our computerized culture, you and I are always on, multi-processing endless feeds of info. Most of it is noise; we try to find the good singal. If our bodies weren’t busy enough, our minds sure are. When we try to sleep for the night, it’s like we reboot immediately instead of shutting down. Insomnia isn’t uncommon.

Fitting terms are: robotic, hyper, auto-pilot, buzzing, anxious. Sound about right? Our minds are racing. Moving too fast, we start the next thing before we finish the previous thing. Multitasking like a computer is the status quo.


Hasten The Slow Down

So what should we do about this? First, we must realize the crazy-busy lifestyle is ingrained in our culture. Cityscapes and schedules are always moving, going, and doing. Seldom is there time for just being.

With that, we should note our own tendency. Some people thrive on busy-living. For others, the constant straining is draining. So if you’re in the latter camp, it’s vital to note that you and the culture are running on different tracks. This causes a push-pull tension.

But trying to affect societal change sounds like too much work; you would be very busy! There must be a way to do your life at a healthy pace, slower than the culture. I think there is, and you must find it for yourself.

About a week ago, I intentionally changed my daily routine to focus on some things I’d been neglecting. They are a high priority, but I had let distractions take over. And it occurred to me that I really don’t have enough time to do all-the-things.

I can’t do all the things.

This notion was a reality check for me. It’s not a lazy cop-out. It’s accepting a real limitation. Time and energy are scarce resources, but there’s no shortage of things you or I can be doing. It’s easy to overflow your life with too many to-dos.

We’re human beings, not human doings.

This reminder helps me be still at times. Our non-stop pace kicks up much dust, to-dos flying around in a whirlwind of debris. When still, the dust settles. Then you can breath clean air and see clearly. You can focus on your priorities.

Balance that with understanding: sometimes you need to hurry, but that shouldn’t be the norm. I’m not sayin’ we should be lazy instead of busy. But there are moments when you crack the whip because you need to get movin’.

Since our society errs on the side of constant motion and commotion, there is a counter-cultural slow movement growing; I wish it’d get here quicker (irony noted). It kind of overlaps in some places with Minimalism and Homesteading. It also shares some traits of Mindfulness.

If you need help finding ways to catch your breath amidst the rush, check out the Slow Movement. There are many sources of slow-life inspiration online. When you’re not too busy, just do a Google search.

Slow Reader

Another good way to slow down is to read a book. Much of my calm weekend, I was absorbed in a good book on my kindle paperwhite. In the past few months of lock-down, I’d spent so much time playing video games; I forgot the simple pleasure of a good read!

Reading something longer than a Tweet or blog post is engaging and engrossing, yet it is such a simple thing to do. It is so quiet and calm! I love the minimalism of my kindle and the act of reading on it. Profound and provocative ideas and worlds come from reading both nonfiction and fiction.

If you’re a slow reader like me, all the better for slowing down.

Calm Road
Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

Dare To Decaf

I dare say, maybe slow down on the coffee. Don’t get me wrong, caffeine addiction is a nice hobby of mine. But I’ve come to rely on it a lot just to keep up with things. Otherwise, the only thing slowing down as I age is my metabolism.

A few weeks ago, I reduced my coffee intake. It was an experiment to see how calm my nerves would get. It worked! Once I survived the sleepy morning stage, I felt more chill than usual. But a few days later, I had a mean headache. I figured since I’m not a crazy person, at least one cup a day isn’t bad.

And one cup a morning. And one cup in the late afternoon.

So I’ve got work to do. Guess I won’t be in too much of a hurry to do it.


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Human Being Or Human Doing

You’ve probably heard this distinction before: human being versus human doing. We’re all human beings, but we’re also super busy, always doing something. So call us human doings.

Yet the busyness gets overwhelming and makes you want to stop and just be.

It’s worth noting that ‘being’ and ‘doing’ are both verb forms and relate to action. When you’re doing, you’re active. But being is like a passive activity. When you just be, what exactly are you being?

Maybe you are being still. Maybe you are being quiet. You’re being inactive instead of active.

Some people are uncomfortable saying that they’re doing nothing. It feels unnerving. Or it sounds immoral; you’re being idle. But what’s wrong with being idle? That answer depends on other distinctions, such as lazy versus busy, or resting versus working.


Here’s a real world situation I experienced that made me think about this doing vs being thing.

For my day job working in an office cubicle, I get a one-hour lunch break. And I often thought about what things I could do during that one hour window besides inhale some calories. How much could I get done!? If I planned well, I could have a very productive lunch break running errands.

It got exhausting!

Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

This “productivity” habit made me stay busy and feel hectic. It was not a lunch break because I was not taking a break from work. Sure, I paused my day-job tasks. But I myself did not pause. I kept on working on personal tasks. My mind kept racing to do the next thing on the to-do list. I kept doing things. I was a human doing.

Now my default for lunch break is to actually take a break! I break my work flow. Instead of doing something for lunch, I prioritize doing nothing. I just be.

I am intentional about letting my mind and body get some rest. So I’m doing nothing in order to do something: rest. And of course I do eat some food. That’s part of rest in the form of replenishment. And better rest helps you do better work later!


What do you do to relax?

Notice that question is asking about doing something. But that something is a relaxing/calm thing instead of a working/busy thing. The opposite of being busy is taking it easy, which is not the same as being lazy.

Some people listen to music. Maybe you read a book. Vege out watching a movie. Play sports. Go for a walk. Put, “Do nothing” on your to-do list.

How do you go from hectic-frantic, crazy-busy, to just quiet-calm? What helps you unwind or decompress? Wine and a good book? Binge watch some Netflix? Is it an attitude or an action – or both? Feel free to leave a comment!

-Jason

Ebb And Flow Of Anxiety

You know how thoughts and feelings come and go. My general anxiety is like that. I have long stretches of ‘normal’ it seems, then a season of anxiety will settle in. For weeks or days at a time, my anxious nerves will buzz quieter or louder.

I’ve had anxiety attacks that are acute and short lived. And I’ve had ones that are debilitating with a long fall-out, which means I work extra hard to recover back to near ‘normal.’

My anxiety flared up recently. Yesterday it was a persistent negative gnawing inside. And as usual, I kept quiet about it. But today, I’m surprised yet relieved; that anxious worm is gone. I am calm. No inner turmoil.

It’s uncanny. The most remarkable times are when the anxiety is present and then disappears during the same day. The anxiety can be carried over from the previous day or start in the middle of the night. Then hours later, it suddenly dissipates without a trace. It may sound weird, but it happens quite a bit.

The relief that follows is such a contrast that it makes me step aside mentally, wondering how long it will last. Often, I look within and think that the anxiety is still lurking somewhere inside me. “Can it really be gone?”

It’s like one moment you’re in a war zone with danger all around. The next moment you’re napping on a tropical island, peaceful as can be. It sounds strange even to me, but I’m describing my anxious reality as best as I can while trying to avoid being overly dramatic.

Usually, I don’t like to talk about my anxiety. It’s a difficult subject. I don’t like feeling as if I’m stuck in a relationship with it. I guess today, I felt like opening up a bit because I felt so much calm and not fear. Like a lucid moment. Yet it’s still hard to know what to think a lot of times. That’s the reality of it.

I know there are others who struggle with anxiety. I don’t think you have to struggle alone. But I understand it’s hard to open up and be vulnerable because the anxiety attacks make you want to fight or run away in defense. You put up your guard instead of opening up. I tend to do that same thing.

Anxiety And A Weighted Blanket

Alright, I’ve struggled with anxiety, and many others do too. It’s no easy thing, and I don’t think there are any quick fixes. But there are ways to get help, ways to cope or manage.

One thing I’ve wondered is if a weighted blanket would be helpful. It may sound silly, like an adult security blanky, but I’ve heard seriously good things about them. Like they’re legit. And while it seems they’re becoming more popular, I think it’s more than just a fad.

There are some good articles online about scientific studies giving credit to weighted blankets, acting like a big warm hug! Here’s sort of a random few:

Deep Pressure Therapy (harkla.co)

Weighted Blanket Therapy (medicaldaily.com)

Deep Pressure Stimulation (appliedbehavioranalysisedu.org)


I got one!

So, my wife bought me a weighted blanket for my birthday over a week ago. In fact, I happened to get it the day I awoke from a bad dream in the middle of the night with an acute anxiety attack. Apprehension, fear, pounding heartbeat, dry mouth, heavy breathing, couldn’t go back to sleep, the usual. Talk about timing!

I contemplated (fancy word for “thought about”) taking some medication to ensure calm to sleep the next night. But I didn’t since I got the weighted blanket! I was quite thankful and eager to try it out.

The blanket I got is a 20 pounder! It’s by Sharper Image and came from Bed Bath & Beyond. The reviews on Amazon are overwhelmingly positive. (I don’t get paid for ads or links.)

After sleeping under my new weighted blanket nightly for about 2 weeks, I’m really liking it and don’t want to sleep without it. But I also think I need more time to use it and really see how things go.

One concern I had was if it would make me feel too hot. It will if you pile on too many other blankets of course. Otherwise it’s not stifling or stuffy. And it doesn’t make me feel smothered. On cold nights, it’s especially comfy.

It makes me feel snug, tucked in, secure. After that night I awoke with an anxiety attack, I’ve not had any more bad anxiety episodes. (My anxiety overall in recent months has been better, milder, or quieter, so that’s something to consider.) But I admit I’ve had a few unpleasant dreams. Then again, I’m pretty sure that means I’m getting deeper sleep since I’m dreaming at all. I’d say that’s thanks to the blanket.

The best, and hardest, part of the weighted blanket is waking in the morning. By then I feel so cozy that it’s much easier to stay asleep. Getting up outta bed is extra hard. Also, falling asleep seems, for me, about normal, maybe a little easier lately.

Of course, my weighted blanket is not replacing anything else I do to manage anxiety; it’s an additional thing. But who knows, maybe over 6 months of good restful sleep, my body and mind will be settled into enough calm so I’d need nothing but the blanket.

Have you thought about trying a weighted blanket? Do you already have one, and what are the results? Sound off in the comments for the rest of us to hear! Thanks, y’all!