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Are we addicted to our phones? This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade very deliberately avoid talking about the fate of our democracy and tackle perennial questions about our devices and our (possibly unhealthy) relationships with them, starting with Andrew Sullivan’s recent piece in New York Magazine, “I Used to Be a Human Being.” Topics covered include the essays of Montaigne, “play baseball dads” vs. “phone dads,” whether mobile software and design should take some blame, and the phrase “epistemological shenanigans.”


Paul Ford: Hi, I’m Paul Ford!

Rich Ziade: And I’m Rich Ziade.

Paul: This is Track Changes, the official podcast from Postlight, a digital product studio in New York City. Rich, it’s just you and me today, no guests.

Rich: That’s OK.

Paul: Just talkin’, two guys chillin’.

Rich: That’s OK.

Paul: You know…

Rich: Guests will return.

Paul: To be honest, we have no idea what’s happening today. We recorded this a week ago, and…

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: I’m assuming the number one thing people want to listen to is us talking about technology today, November 8th.

Rich: Absolutely.

Paul: I’ve got a cold to make it even better. Well what do you want to talk about. Do you want to talk about American democracy and the future of the republic?

Rich: Mmmmm….

Paul: Uhhhhhh….

Rich: PASS.

Paul: We did that.

Rich: Pass on that one.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: Um…you know, I want to talk about this piece that Andrew Sullivan wrote.

Paul: Oh, Andrew Sullivan wrote a piece!

Rich: Let’s talk — [laughter] He used to write a lot of pieces.

Paul: He used to write a lot of pieces…I met him once. He’s a nice guy.

Rich: Is he?

Paul: Yeah, I mean, he is…he is a media force of nature.

Rich: He is.

Paul: I used to have stronger opinions about people when I was younger, but now I’m just like, wow, that guy just keeps it going. Good for him.

Rich: Well he didn’t…for, he stopped keeping it going, I think. He used to have the Daily Dish.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: Which was very, very popular, and it would…slam you, I used to use a feed reader.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: Like Google Reader, or whatever it was, and I was like, oh, this guy’s pretty good. I’m gonna subscribe to the Daily Dish. And then two days went by and there were 341 unread posts.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: And I said, OK, what am I supposed to do with this? And I just would read the last five. Because that’s all I could get through.

Paul: This person was the epitome of blogging. Was a very successful magazine —

Rich: Well it’s worth pointing out he didn’t really write, he would always grab a two paragraph —

Paul: It was a publication.

Rich: He would grab a paragraph or two paragraphs. It was like a link blog.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: Where he would maybe give a thought or two.

Paul: He had lots of people writing with him, I think.

Rich: Yeah. It was, it was, it was all over the map, but it was good. It was almost like curated stuff.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: That would come in at a very, the pipe was…is there a name for this? When you blog 30 times a day, what’s that called? You’re a blog — you’re a pioneer blogger.

Paul: Yeah, it’s called a gravy pipe. [laughter]

Rich: OK. Fair enough. Anyway.

Paul: It’s something with aggregation, I don’t know. It’s blogging, nobody wants to talk about blogging.

Rich: Well it wasn’t even blogging. It felt like the ticker at the bottom of CNN. It was just constant…I felt like I was failing on it all the time.

Paul: You know who has time —

Rich: It was really frustrating. And so I just —

Paul: You know who has time for that? Retirees, actually.

Rich: They’re just all over that stuff?

Paul: Yeah, like, I have a, my, my wife —

Rich: We’re putting this in a negative light, which, is it necessary, but…keep going.

Paul: No, my wife’s stepdad is a day trader.

Rich: OK.

Paul: Kind of as a hobby. But, I mean, he’s successful at it. But —

Rich: So he’s staring at that stuff all…

Paul: He’d watch the ticker go across the bottom left of the screen. He’s got, like, Bloomberg TV up. He’s got some charts. And I mean, it’s, his brain’s on fire.

Rich: Yeah. It’s like Bloomberg TV. Bloomberg TV, there’s not a lot of room left for the humans.

Paul: It’s like toolbars in Microsoft Word. It’s like the little pair of eyes peering out from all the charts. [laughter]

Rich: Right, there’s stuff on the right and stuff on the bottom.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: It’s just a lot.

Paul: Align left, align right, and then there’s just, like, that little face of like, some attractive anchor saying, “Well, let’s talk to Jim in San Francisco,” and meanwhile there are seven charts at once.

Rich: Slamming at you.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: Exactly, exactly. So…

Paul: I couldn’t tell you one chart that I’ve ever seen on TV that I remember.

Rich: Oh…

Paul: They’re just doing it to —

Rich: They just blur…

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: It’s just a blur, right? So he does this, and it’s a gravy pipe, we’ll follow your term.

Paul: Great. I’m worried now that’s something sexual and terrible. [laughter]

Rich: And then it stopped.

Paul: OK. The gravy pipe stopped.

Rich: I’m done. It was successful, by the way. I think —

Paul: Yeah. Andrew Sullivan, like —

Rich: He had a subscription model that actually worked, he had very loyal readers, and then he just stopped. And this is like, three years ago, five years ago?

Paul: OK. OK.

Rich: So the Dish —

Paul: Rich, what are you talking about with all this Andrew Sullivan…

Rich: He sort of disappeared.

Paul: OK.

Rich: And you’d see him on, like, talk shows every so often. I think he’d been on Bill Maher…

Paul: He’s a very, like —

Rich: He’s a TV —

Paul: He’s a real cultural practitioner, like, complicated politics, fast on his feet…

Rich: Correct. And then he wrote a feature piece, I think it was a month or two ago, about distraction.

Paul: Who published it? Was it The Atlantic? Was it…

Rich: It was New York Magazine.

Paul: Oh.

Rich: Which I didn’t even know they did stuff like — I thought New York Magazine was just going to tell me where to eat tapas.

Paul: So you missed the four of five articles that I’ve written for them over the last couple of years?

Rich: [laughter] You’ve written for…sorry, Paul.

Paul: It’s OK. That’s great.

Rich: I will look them up.

Paul: No, yeah, you’d better.

Rich: Um…by the way, I recently read, very late to the game, on your piece about politeness. And it’s a really, really, just, type in “Paul Ford polite” — go into incognito before you do that — type in “Paul Ford polite,” and it’s a beautiful piece on, I think it’s on Medium. I really enjoyed it. Fell a little short for me because I know you, which I thought was unfair to me, but other than that, I thought it was really, really great. So everyone should go read that piece.

Paul: I think that was the equivalent of a Squarespace ad for this podcast. [laughter] Squarespace!

Rich: It’s really great. So…

Paul: I wish we had those ads, because I would just do that for, like, 20 minutes. You know Rich, sometimes I just need to update a webpage… [laughter] I’m sort of bummed that we don’t have sponsors…

Rich: I want to sell my wife’s jewelry.

Paul: Oh, you know, binary options trading is one of the most exciting things you can do alone in your house.

Rich: Are we still recording? I can’t tell.

Paul: Oh yeah, we’re recording. [laughter]

Rich: OK.

Paul: We’re recording. This is great stuff.

Rich: All right. So he wrote a very long piece which I couldn’t get through —

Paul: Andrew Sullivan.

Rich: Because I have a distraction problem.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: There’s a horrible irony here. He wrote a really long piece. Essentially talking about his addiction to his phone or just to tech in general as a full-blown disease, and not just for himself, but as a disease writ-large for all of us.

Paul: OK.

Rich: I’m gonna read you the last few sentences of the article that sort of, he sort of steps back for a second and sort of reflects. He goes, “I haven’t given up, even as, each day, at various moments, I find myself giving in. There are books to be read; landscapes to be walked; friends to be with; life to be fully lived. And I realize that this is, in some ways, just another tale in the vast book of human frailty.” Now…

Paul: OK, so that’s Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine writing about his struggle with his phone.

Rich: Correct. It’s a bit heavy —

Paul: Android or iOS? [laughter]

Rich: It’s a fair question, right?

Paul: Let’s assume iOS.

Rich: I’m gonna assume iOS. It’s just that the quality of the writing, I mean, I’ll assume iOS.

Paul: Yeah, there’s some little giveaways there.

Rich: Yeah. And look, you know, this is, I feel like, this is revisited and revisited, what, every…

Paul: Well this is a…

Rich: Three months?

Paul: I, I have a little term that I use for these pieces, which I call them “The Bark of the Fox” pieces, because there’s often like a paragraph where they’ll be like, you know, people who use the phone aren’t really having the experience of…

Rich: Life.

Paul: Listening to the bark of the fox out a bay window in their country home. [laughter] I feel that there’s a kind of a subtext there. Like, you know…

Rich: Oh…

Paul: So I’ve read about 4 or 5,000 Bark of the Fox pieces in my life, and I’ve worked at many of the number-one Bark of the Fox purveyors.

Rich: Uh huh.

Paul: And so this is just a Bark of the Fox to me. [EXTRAORDINARY IMITATION OF A BARK OF A FOX] That’s the sound. You’re looking at your bay window, you’re drinking a cup of tea.

Rich: It’s fall.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: I’m assuming it’s autumn.

Paul: You get that Earl Grey, it’s in, like, unusual textile bag, it’s not just paper, and you drop it in there and you look out that bay window — because you’ve gotta have a bay window and a big sofa.

Rich: Oh, I know which Earl Grey you’re talking about.

Paul: Oh yeah.

Rich: It’s like in lingerie.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: Yeah, it’s wearing little pants. You take the pants off. If you’re real serious, you get that, like, metal colander ball that’s like a weird spoon that’s got holes in it, and you put that in there and you think, man, I am doing so much better than those jackasses checking their phone right now. Look at the mist coming in over the —

Rich: What ?are? you reading? You’re reading something on paper.

Paul: Oh, you’re reading, like, the essays of Montaigne. [laughter] You’re all the way back, you’re all the way, you’re at the, you’re at the crux of humanity, and you write a, like, a lengthy letter to the paper about why it’s important to continue to fund liberal arts education.

Rich: Right.

Paul: Right?

Rich: Where are you? Geographically.

Paul: Oh, you’re a little bit north of the city. Could be any city.

Rich: Right.

Paul: And you just, you have a good view.

Rich: Right.

Paul: Cape Cod is good, too. Like, any, you’re looking at the ocean?

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: And you’re just letting the beautiful manifestations of, of literary reality soak through your body.

Rich: Wash over you.

Paul: Yeah, you’re, they’re penetrating — you know, the brilliant words of Montaigne, Shakespeare.

Rich: But here’s the truth: you treated your kids like shit for 15 years.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: You were overbearing, they could never satisfy you.

Paul: Well first of all —

Rich: That’s the irony.

Paul: You took a job at William & Mary, then that didn’t work out, and then you, like, went to this other school, and you kind of moved everybody around, and like, there’s a lot of, like, chips on my shoulder about that particular culture, because I’ve been the guy going, hey, there’s something coming! And everyone’s like, well that’s the worst thing ever. And I’m like, yeah, I love literature. I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it.

Rich: Well you’re in an interesting spot, right? Because you kind of straddle it a little bit, right? You —

Paul: What I did when I started Postlight with you was just, like, say, I’m done. I need to go create a space that’s my own, because I can’t deal with the luddite nonsense out of the publishing indus — the media industry is just like, [Satanic voice??] PLEASE PUT IT BACK IN THE BOX.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: They’re begging, and meanwhile the tech industry is just philistine savages who are like, heyyy, you know, it’s cool when people say words!

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: And you just got these two worlds, and they’re all basically trying to have sex so they can all have money.

Rich: Right.

Paul: And you’re just, it’s just the worst, most disgust —

Rich: Right, and nobody trusts anyone.

Paul: It’s a 20-year orgy with the nastiest — you just can’t even watch it anymore.

Rich: Right.

Paul: I just wanna be out. Except that those are all our clients.

Rich: Well that’s the thing. You know, we debated whether to cover this topic at the beginning of the podcast, and I’m thinking to myself, well, this isn’t good for business, I don’t think.

Paul: Here’s the other thing: I love —

Rich: By the way, Postlight builds mobile apps. [laughter]

Paul: We do a great job. We have wonderful mobile app developers, many of whom are like the most literary and focused, like, reader/writer people that we have in the company.

Rich: Yeah. Also worth noting: we are building, we can’t reveal it just yet, a really cool new meditation app.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: Which is sort of..kind of…fixes this, if you think about it.

Paul: It’s not the phone, right? What is, what is the actual addiction. It’s not to the object.

Rich: You know…

Paul: It’s to the compulsive affirmation. It’s the compulsive need for affirmation from the community that is on your phone.

Rich: Well there’s, there are psychologists who have a theory about this. They’re, like, evolutionary psychologists who say, look, we are always seeking out what we don’t know because it, it’s the tiger in the bushes, right? That bit of information is necessary for us to survive.

Paul: Right.

Rich: And we just don’t know what’s coming down the pike. And so, so we need the next thing, badly. Like we always, we have an innate addiction to the next thing. And what we found is, if you check in on information on a 12-hour period, really very little interesting stuff is gonna happen, but the pipe is the pipe, and we just fill it, right?

Paul: Well we’ve created systems for manufacturing that, right? We manufacture drama, we manufacture anger, we manufacture news…

Rich: Dude, two days ago I found a video on Facebook of this monkey getting his hair brushed, and every time the brush hit his hair he’d close his eyes in ecstasy?

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: And I watched it, like, four times.

Paul: Oh, that’s so good, right? Here’s the thing, so I would actually —

Rich: That’s what it’s come down to, I guess.

Paul: I wrote a piece for the New Republic last year, and I described myself as an ephemeralist. Someone who cares about all the noise and detritus that shows up online. I celebrate it. I love the old advertisements. I love the weird random serendipitous moments. I love literature, I love the canon of literature, I love the multicultural canon of literature, I got an English degree in the 90s so I was in the middle of all that stuff, like learning about how there was a giant world of people who were publishing all sorts of things and it all needed to kind of get into a pot and stew. I love it. But when it comes down to it, if you give me the contents of a great bookstore or Internet Archive, I’m gonna choose Internet Archive for a couple hours, because I’ll find things that I could never, ever have imagined there —

Rich: Sure.

Paul: Versus things that are usually already culturally pre-approved.

Rich: Right.

Paul: I found once on Internet Archive the Chinese government used to broadcast propaganda in English, and I found this piece of audio from the 60s or early 70s about how they created a computer that could prove Maoism as a superior form of…I mean, and it’s just this nice sort of plummy American voice just sort of like, you know, the computer is demonstrating the truth of the teachings of Chairman Mao.

Rich: Right.

Paul: Then you gotta go unpack that.

Rich: Right. Process complete.

Paul: Yeah. And like, my, the thing that happens in your brain when you find that is you’re like, I gotta go understand what the hell happened.

Rich: Yeah. Right. And then go on a little expedition at that point.

Paul: And Wikipedia doesn’t have it.

Rich: But, you know, look, I’m gonna pause this for a second. You’re a bright guy.

Paul: Thanks.

Rich: You’re brighter than most people walking down the street, all right? Let’s just lay that out there.

Paul: I…whatever.

Rich: Bullet one.

Paul: OK, fine.

Rich: Bullet one.

Paul: Let’s take —

Rich: Bullet two, you’re a curious person. And you seek out these weird corners. Most people do not. Most people, there’s like, a little bit of sort of dried drool on the corner of their mouths —

Paul: Let’s not even say that —

Rich: As their thumb jogs up the screen —

Paul: Listen.

Rich: And there’s just all this nonsense coming at them.

Paul: Most people, most people are in a position —

Rich: You have to admit —

Paul: Wait, wait, it’s not just that they’re sitting there drooling. It’s not the main focus of their life. And so they are in a position where they’re more passive about the things they consume. I’m very active about what I experience.

Rich: Question: you’re at dinner. Been totally cool, obviously. You’re talking to the person across from you at dinner.

Paul: Yeah, the answer’s mashed potatoes. [laughter]

Rich: No phones, obviously.

Paul: OK.

Rich: Totally civil. Person says I’m gonna go to the restroom. They get up and go. What do you do?

Paul: I check my phone.

Rich: Within…two seconds, right?

Paul: It depends, actually. Sometimes I don’t now. Sometimes it’s, eh, don’t check your phone. Go look around —

Rich: Who are you talking to?

Paul: I mean, I just —

Rich: When you say that, when you say that to yourself, like give yourself —

Paul: To myself.

Rich: There’s gotta be something else going on in the room.

Paul: I often, I’m talking out loud, actually, when I’m doing this, like, don’t check your phone. No, I mean, there is something else going on around the room. I don’t know about you, but I actually find, like, material processes really interesting. So I’m like, how did they build that? What’s that? What kind of plaster is that? What —

Rich: I mean let’s face it, 98% of the time you pick up the phone.

Paul: A little less, but sure.

Rich: If you’re on line, waiting for something.

Paul: Sure. I’m not gonna argue, yeah. Very often —

Rich: Bad or good?

Paul: Well what the hell is bad or good in this? What epistemological shenanigans are you up to here? I mean, who cares?

Rich: I don’t know. I mean, there’s…

Paul: What’s good? Like, bad is because I checked my phone and I didn’t have a, like, beautiful experience looking at the silverware? What was I, what did I miss?

Rich: OK.

Paul: Bad because I should’ve been thinking about the person going and like —

Rich: Should you be reflecting?

Paul: On the person who went to the bathroom and is now —

Rich: No, just —

Paul: Like, passing urine through their body?

Rich: Reflect for a second.

Paul: What’s there to reflect on? I need my phone to tell me. No, I mean, you could. When’s the last time you reflected?

Rich: Um….

Paul: I reflect all the goddamn time, man.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: I’m like, on the bus looking out the window.

Rich: Honestly, can I, you know I have two little kids?

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: And usually if I’m playing with them, there’s just all that open time.

Paul: That’s beautiful.

Rich: And you just, you’re in this place where it almost — there it feels really…off.

Paul: I’ll tell you where I fell guilty is like, my kids are now five, and so I go to the park and they’re kind of on their own. Like, they wanna do loops on their scooters.

Rich: Are you on the phone?

Paul: Yeah, and I sit there and the other days are, there’s like play-baseball dads and there’s phone dads. I’m a phone dad.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: And I’m like —

Rich: Wait, what did you say? Play-baseball dads? Meaning you’re playing with the kid.

Paul: They’re dads who’re like, “Let’s play some baseballlll.”

Rich: Yeah, and they run around with them.

Paul: What I need to do is get my fat ass a soccer ball.

Rich: OK.

Paul: And, like, keep the phone in my pocket.

Rich: And I gotta tell ya —

Paul: But then they’re on their scooters, I’m like, c’mon guys, let’s play soccer, and they’re like, [vague mumblings about scooters in an apparent imitation of Paul’s children].

Rich: Right. Can’t scoot with your kids.

Paul: So I’m sitting there like a jackass holding a soccer ball, looking at my phone.

Rich: Yeah. Do you worry about —

Paul: Yes.

Rich: Well, you’re a worrier. I get that part. Kids. What’s your, what’s the screen time for your kids?

Paul: Incredibly low.

Rich: How, like, is there iPad screen time.

Paul: No.

Rich: None?

Paul: None.

Rich: And your children are five?

Paul: They’re five. There is usually, on the weekends, there’s like —

Rich: Not even educational stuff or anything? Zero?

Paul: No. Read a book.

Rich: See, we are, you are, and I am, actually, because they barely use the iPad, an exception. I let them pick the music on the iPad. That’s about it.

Paul: No we do —

Rich: That’s very unusual.

Paul: The school just gave us a book-reading app that’s got like a hundred Scholastic books in it. They’re really into that.

Rich: Interesting.

Paul: So they get to use the phone for that. They get to use the phone to play games, like…

Rich: How much TV?

Paul: Very little. But it adds up over time. But like, on the weekdays, basically none.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: On the weekends…sometimes a movie night. Sometimes a, they get to watch —

Rich: Also very —

Paul: Cat in the Hat. You know…

Rich: Yeah. Also very low.

Paul: But like a couple hours here and there.

Rich: So you’re not of the view that…

Paul: Really like 40 minutes at a time, too. Like, if they get 40 minutes in a day, that’s kind of it for the day on the weekends.

Rich: OK. So you’re pretty strict about this. Because parents, that TV is a babysitter, right?

Paul: We’re lucky because we have twins, though. They occupy each other. They fight, they wrestle, they play, they talk, they draw.

Rich: Got it.

Paul: They’re up to stuff. And Abe, they have different personalities, which actually moves things. Like, Abe’s like let’s go to the park, Ivy might be like, let’s hang out, but like, we’re going to the park.

Rich: Right.

Paul: So there, it gets us out of the house in different ways.

Rich: You know, as I was reading his article, I just, I feel like there is an article about the telephone and how it’s gonna ruin humanity, right?

Paul: Look, it is addictive, right? Absolutely —

Rich: No, my point is, in 1930.

Paul: Oh, there was always —

Rich: Somebody wrote an article about the telephone and how it’s gonna ruin us.

Paul: People who can’t step away from the telephone.

Rich: Right.

Paul: Teen girls won’t stop talking.

Rich: [laughter] Right, right. So you have to wonder if this is just how we react to anything.

Paul: Well, no, look, the actual compulsive behavior is a genuine compulsive behavior. It’s bad.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: It’s damaging to this person’s life. Andrew Sullivan is saying I lost control over my relationship. Now the relationship, the phone enables the compulsion. The phone is not the source of the compulsion. It is a vehicle that allowed him to go out and get affirmation and signal in such a way that it was very stimulating. You know what happens to me, if I have a hot day on Twitter and people are yelling at me and I’m yelling back? You know what I do? I erase it for a couple days. I just take it off my phone.

Rich: Really?

Paul: Yeah, and it’s a huge sense of relief, and then there’s like, I call it “come crawling back,” but the reality is that I’ll think of something funny and I’m like, oh, I got 36,000 followers, let’s, like, let them —

Rich: That’s the trigger to get back on? See you engage. most people don’t engage.

Paul: I just like to have fun. Twitter’s fun. Like, it’s a good place to make really dumb jokes.

Rich: Right.

Paul: And it’s also a place where I listen to people who don’t look like I do, or don’t have my job. Like, I go there and I listen to people who are pissed off about stuff, or have, you know, I follow a bunch of sociologists, like, I love it for that. They’re in the middle of their own world, man. It is like, they’re up to stuff.

Rich: I’m gonna confess something: I have trouble geting through long articles.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: I lose patience. I’ve gotten too used to smaller units of information.

Paul: That can really happen.

Rich: And it’s happened to me. And a book is a challenge.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: I’ll admit that. Unless it’s a topic that is just, I’m just in love with, that I’m just so committed to.

Paul: From childhood, if I’m bored by a book I just throw it away. I don’t care.

Rich: OK.

Paul: So like I’ve never had any sense of obligation towards long stuff. Most long stuff is boring as crap.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: Like just, forget it. Who cares?

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: There are occasionally amazing things that are longer. I mean, I published a very long magazine article a year ago called “What is Code?” Right?

Rich: I found it very engaging.

Paul: OK. But like, I heard so much from people. I got hundreds and hundreds of emails, and a lot of them were like, wow that was really long, I couldn’t quite finish it.

Rich: Really?

Paul: Yeah, I don’t care.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: I don’t care. I’m the writer. Who cares?

Rich: Well, a lot of writers care.

Paul: Yeah, writers care about too much.

Rich: But do you feel like you’re conditioned to only deal with smaller bits of information? And is that bad?

Paul: I consume information constantly at all times. It’s probably that’s my compulsion. I do get, I get insanely bored when I am away from a source of stimulus.

Rich: OK. I’m disappointed in my attention span around information.

Paul: Well are you really? Do you wanna change it?

Rich: I do.

Paul: Oh. Well how would you change it?

Rich: I don’t know. I think maybe, like…

Paul: You just read longer things and then you, you probably do put your phone in your pocket and read a book on paper.

Rich: Paper. Interesting.

Paul: Well because, you know, when your phone literally will send you 25 notifications when you read three pages, that is not helpful.

Rich: That’s another thing, man, it’s like I’m reading the thing and the phone’s like, knocking on the door every two minutes.

Paul: Yeah. Same with —

Rich: Dude, the —

Paul: Honestly, I can’t watch —

Rich: The meditation app is like, time for your things.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: Time for your session.

Paul: Let me tell you something: I can’t watch a movie on my phone. Like, I have, I come in on the bus, I have time to watch TV or whatever. I can’t watch a movie because I’ll get 35 notifications during the course of the film.

Rich: Notifications are terrible.

Paul: It’s a disaster.

Rich: Notifications —

Paul: And they’re hard to turn off, because that is actually where the compulsion is enabled by the crappy software. Because —

Rich: It’s deep in there.

Paul: You should be able to say, you know what, I need to chill the hell out.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: The phone should have a big freakin red button where you’re like, hey just living my life, it’s the living my life button, and you hit that thing —

Rich: Go quiet. And it is —

Paul: Hang out.

Rich: There is a privacy thing in iOS. There’s the…

Paul: The phone is a bad friend, like.

Rich: What is the moon? You know the moon when you slide it up?

Paul: That’s do-not-disturb.

Rich: What does that mean.

Paul: Don’t disturb.

Rich: No more notifications.

Paul: It’ll turn off. Yeah. But that —

Rich: Is that what that is, though?

Paul: It also won’t ring the phone. It does other stuff, too.

Rich: Oh. OK.

Paul: Look at how little we know about this.

Rich: Yeah, it’s bad. It’s bad. I don’t know what I can gain control of here.

Paul: The phone is a garbage friend at a party who continually interrupts everybody.

Rich: And he doesn’t shut up…

Paul: No!

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: And it’s sort of, because we’re all, we’re basically all now, like, sitting around the table kind of bracing ourselves for the friend to say something.

Rich: We really are.

Paul: So instead of interacting with each other, it’s not that we’re staring at our phones, we’re kind of just waiting for the phone to ruin the night. It’s like the friend who shows up, and you’re like, God, please don’t, please just, keep him away from the wine. Keep him away.

Rich: Last question: do you go places, do you say, I’m gonna go, I’m gonna go pick up some produce, no phone.

Paul: I do. You know what it feels like is that scene in Star Wars where they’re like, Luke, you turned off your navicomputer? [laughter] And he’s like, don’t worry, I got the Force with him.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: I’m just like, wow, holy crap.

Rich: Do you really do it?

Paul: I’ve done it.

Rich: Really?

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: Not often.

Paul: Hard with kids.

Rich: OK.

Paul: Also because my wife is gonna ask me to get something at the store, and the store’s not gonna have it.

Rich: Asparagus.

Paul: Yeah. I’m gonna be, like, OK, you know, I could get you the —

Rich: Well it’s a tool, right? There’s that part of it.

Paul: I couldn’t get you the orange and yellow can with the hearts of palms, but there’s a red can.

Rich: Right.

Paul: She’s like, no, not that.

Rich: Yeah. Well, I mean, I wanna close this by saying, Andrew Sullivan, he’s got some nerve.

Paul: Yeah, being addicted to having —

Rich: He used to write to me 26 times a day.

Paul: Now he writes you a really long article.

Rich: He writes a long article — well he left for a while. He probably wrote this article right after he left, and said, you know what, I gotta wait a little bit before I put this out, otherwise I’m gonna look like a hypocrite.

Paul: Look, do you wanna focus more? Because that would be good for our company.

Rich: I do wanna focus more. I do.

Paul: All right. The first thing we gotta do is stop having so many damn meetings.

Rich: How many meetings we have — we have a tool that’s similar to Slack called Flowdock that we use.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: It tells me I have 65 things I haven’t, I need to catch up on. I’m behind on everything, like —

Paul: Well like, people make fun of me, they call this forensic management.

Rich: Diving into places and learning more, yeah. OK. All right. I don’t know, I feel like this was a, this was sort of a self-exploration, to some extent.

Paul: There’s no answer.

Rich: There’s no answer. But if you’re looking for answers, do you know who you should call, Paul?

Paul: Postlight.

Rich: Postlight. A digital product studio in New York City.

Paul: You can get in touch with us at

Rich: Yup. And we’d love to hear from you. And if you have a moment, rate this podcast.

Paul: I’m Paul Ford.

Rich: Rich Ziade.

Paul: If you wanna visit us on the web,, and if you wanna read more,

Rich: Have a great week.

Paul: Bye!