July 21, 2021

Breaking the Tech Chains with Seth Bunev: Episode 170 of the Relate podcast

“Seth Bunev completely cut himself off from most forms of technology for four years. Not only that, but he also traveled during this time, trying to navigate different languages, people, and cultures while being completely disconnected. In this episode of Relate, we hear Seth’s story, talk about the importance of restructuring our minds, and why we must engage in communities.”




Don’t Tell Kids How Tech Affects their Minds — Ask Them

May 21, 2021

Originally published on Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

person with long hair sits on a bed with phone in hand, headphones on, looking a little lostAs awareness grows about the mental impacts digital media can have on youth, there is naturally a growing desire to educate them about these risks and issues.

However, as a young person who grew up with the internet, I highly recommend not telling young people how they are affected by digital media. Instead, ASK them how they are affected! There are numerous reasons for this:


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Intentional Tech Use: How Young People Can Build Immunity To Persuasive Design

June 07, 2021

Published on Alt Ed Austin; first published on INTENTA DIGITAL.

I grew up with the internet. In high school, I regularly stayed up till three in the morning watching YouTube videos. This was normal among my peers—it was also normal to have trouble remembering things, no ability to make eye contact, and be diagnosed with depression. It was obvious to me at the time that these things were, at least to some degree, related to our digital habits.

Why would we do this to ourselves? Well, in the moment, it seemed fun. Somehow, it seemed fun even when my eyes were bloodshot, I had a headache, and I had barely left my room for a week. There was always another interesting thing to read, or watch, just a click away.

While modern digital technologies are powerful, and can have many benefits, some of the less positive effects are increasingly obvious: the eye damage, attention disorders, addictive behaviours, loss of social skills, even loss of a social fabric in which to practice those skills.

It is no accident that young people spend huge numbers of hours on digital media (with US teens averaging about 7.5 hours/day in 2019). Social media and video game companies carefully design their products to be as addictive as possible, because their business model usually depends on maximizing ‘time on device’ to generate data and ad revenue, or encourage in-game purchases. On top of that, there is the cumulative effect of millions of people competing to create the most eye-catching and engaging online content.

As a result, compulsive digital tech use is rampant. If this were confined only to video games, or clickbait sites, the solution would be simpler—complete avoidance would be an option. But pretty much everything on the internet can create unwanted habits, from email to database searching to blogs. It is possible to live without digital media—I did so for four years—but at present that approach limits one’s opportunities, and is not feasible or desirable for most people. Can we have the good things the internet provides, without the disruptive habits?

Until we create new cultural norms that restrict digital tech’s invasion of every aspect of life—or a digital paradigm that doesn’t aggressively leverage human psychology to keep people hooked—we need to help young people develop skills that enable individuals to take charge of their relationship with digital tech. Ways to build immunity to the nebulous thing variously referred to as habit-forming technology, ‘persuasive’ technology, or behaviour design.

The immunity-building regimen I have developed, through research and experimentation on myself and peers, involves three components:


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