Matt Metzgar

Substack

I’ve come across some writing on Substack that is really well-done, much better than the low bar set by mainstream publishers. I surely would have used Substack or something similar back when I was blogging more frequently.

Blogging Is Dead, and That's Not a Good Thing

It’s amazing how much the blogging world has changed over the past ten years. While blogs used to hold the majority of the conversations, now they do not. I often see the websites of best-selling authors that have zero comments on their blogs.

Of course, all the conversations have moved to social media. My issue is that these companies are disproportionally benefiting from this arrangement. The participants are the ones creating the conversations and potentially creating value. The companies profit from this while the participants make nothing.

Twitter is nothing more than a website - a large server. The main reason they’re successful is they have created a critical mass and achieved a network effort. I’m sure someone could build a clone of Twitter in a short period of time. For such an unremarkable product, the economic gains seem outsized.

I hope that online conversations will eventually shift back to decentralized platforms.

Stop Reading The News

I’m reading an interesting book, “Stop Reading The News” by Rolf Dobelli.

The book makes a number of persuasive arguments why people should stop reading the news on a regular basis.

The book also challenges readers to go 30 days without news to break the habit. I’m game for the challenge.

I’m already 4 days in, and so far it does seem to be a beneficial change.

DIY Community

Really neat way of creating community during covid: link.

How Long Does It Take to Establish A Healthy Habit?

Good habits can improve long-term health. However, it can be challenging to stick to new habits in the short-term. Plenty of New Year’s resolutions fizzle out by February.

Fortunately, a good amount of research has been done on habit formation. It appears to take around 10 weeks (on average) for a new, healthy habit to become automatic. There is some variation due to how complex the habit is and when it is performed.

A simple template has been developed to help establish new habits:

Make a new healthy habit

  1. Decide on a goal that you would like to achieve for your health.
  2. Choose a simple action that will get you towards your goal which you can do on a daily basis.
  3. Plan when and where you will do your chosen action. Be consistent: choose a time and place that you encounter every day of the week.
  4. Every time you encounter that time and place, do the action.
  5. It will get easier with time, and within 10 weeks you should find you are doing it automatically without even having to think about it.
  6. Congratulations, you’ve made a healthy habit!
How Often Should You Check Your Email?

An interesting study looked at the the frequency of checking email and stress levels.

The control group checked their email at their normal rate, which was about 12 times per day. The experimental group was instructed to check their email only 3 times per day.

The group with limited email checks displayed significantly lower daily stress levels and improved well-being.

There are two other items of interest with this study. First, the experimental group actually checked their email 4.7 times per day on average, exceeding the target of 3 times per day.

Second, even though limiting email reduced stress, participants still found this difficult to do:

“Most participants in our study found it quite difficult to check their email only a few times a day,” says Kushlev. “This is what makes our obvious-in-hindsight findings so striking: People find it difficult to resist the temptation of checking email, and yet resisting this temptation reduces their stress.”

Digital discipline is an important skill than can improve overall health.

Don’t Restrict Screen Time, Replace It

Clarence Bass had a great post this month on why New Year’s resolutions usually fail.

He discusses how people often rely on willpower to stop bad habits. The results are typically poor.

Instead, Bass recommends to forget about bad habits and focus on positive actions instead:

“Better yet, focus on positive action. Forget what not to do. Focus on what you can do.

Don’t waste precious willpower worrying about your bad habits. Focus on realistic positive steps on the way to achieving your goals.”

The same idea holds true for those wanting to reduce screen time. Instead of focusing on restricting screen time, focus on replacing it with healthier offline activities.

Hobbies such as music and art have a long track record of improving well-being.

Time Use Before the Internet

What did people do with their free time before the internet? That’s the question from an interesting new study I came across. It tracked time use for young adults across three different decades.

Some of the results were predictable, such as less reading of books and newspapers. The results also showed there were less in-person visits. Most likely, this is due to the ability to connect with people online.

What interested me the most was the change in non-electronic hobbies. There was a sharp decline.

I’ve wondered about this for some time. With the constant availability of the internet, are young people still engaging in offline hobbies, such as musical instruments and art?

On average, it appears the answer is no.

Non-electronic hobbies such as art and music have a long history of enhancing well-being. Engaging in these offline activities would most likely improve health more than additional screen time.