Indistractable Chapter 34

In light of my county and state stay at home orders, this chapter title seems a bit odd.

Chapter 34, Spread Social Antibodies Among Friends

Eyal discusses how smoking went from 42% usage among adults in 1965 to 16% in 2018. Though he mentioned that regulation had something to do with it, even smoking in homes dropped significantly. Eyal brought up Paul Graham's point that societies tend to develop "social antibodies", defenses against harmful behaviors the way we're hoping the currently COVID-19 infected people recover and create viral antibodies and hopefully donate some of their blood to help others.

When you're in a group of friends and one pulls out their phone, it's difficult to then ignore the phone in your pocket. Did you get an email? Text? Anybody at work need you right now? Since they're distracted, you might as well pull out your phone to check what notifications you've received. Eyal suggests fighting that feeling and instead engaging your friend to check if they've had an emergency that they need to attend to, seeing as they have stopped engaging with the group. They might have an emergency, so it's wise to not be accusatory when you ask them.

I use my phone for quite a bit. I send personal and work emails, browse the web and a Reddit app, text, message friends on Discord, use Google Maps, write blog posts (rarely), meditate with Calm, take notes and reference them with OneNote, sent and check my calendar, read on the Kindle app when I'm not near my Kindle, take and edit pictures, and occasionally I use my phone as.... a phone.

With all of those uses in one small device, it's difficult to part with it. It's a lifeline of conveniences and contact. However, I've gotten better - I leave my phone in my purse when I visit friends... back when I could actually do that in person. If I'm spending time with friends for hours, I let them know if I'm expecting a work call or email and may have to check once or twice. I would love to be like some people I know, and not have that phone checking habit and use the phone a lot less... but because I bought a great phone so I can do many things with it, it seems at odds to leave it alone most of the time. I'm getting better, but still trying to strike the right balance between having a very useful tool and having a distracting gadget.

Chapter Summary:


  • Distraction in social situations can keep us from being fully present with important people in our lives. Interruptions degrade out ability to form close social bonds.
  • Block the spread of unhealthy behaviors. "Social antibodies" are ways groups protect themselves from harmful behaviors by making them taboo.
  • Develop new social norms. We can tackle distraction among friends the same way we best social smoking, bu making it unacceptable to use devices in social situations. Prepare a few tactful phrases - like asking "Is everything OK?" - to discourage phone usage among friends.

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