Annoying Internet Advice That Actually Works

We could all be a little more thoughtful and effective with our Internet practices. We’re all tab hungry data monsters, sending too little or too much information, annoying each other and ourselves as a result.

How do we handle this? One option: The Atlantic‘s James Hamblin. Hamblin is a mid-thirties man-boy who writes about the tech best practices for the everyday user instead of high tech people. He’s kind of annoying. Watching any of his videos relays his point of view: to the point, socially sheltered, tech forward advice with a dash of yuck-yucks.

You don’t want to like any of his advice but, still, it’s advice. He has the same snotty-awkward demeanor that people like Simon Rich and Lena Dunham have popularized. But, unlike those people, Hamblin is a doctor with some weight behind his claims. Like Rich and Dunham, it’s easy to dislike him and find the medium by which you are given information (Him.) mildly annoying.

It’s good information, though. Perhaps this is all a personal bias but, after hate-reading and hate-watching some of his work and letting it stew, I can attest to Hamblin’s annoying Internet advice actually working. Case in point: How To Email.

I am was a chronic over-emailer, putting every thought and opinion and joke and thanks and salutation into a single email. I abhor the tiny emails—the self-important subject-line-only email or the intentionally cold single sentence email—but was aware that there was too much going on in my messages. Hamblin’s advice? Cutoff the hellos and goodbyes, stick to three sentences, don’t reply immediately, ever, and check less than you need to but knock out all emails as you can. Simple, right? It sounds dumb but, after practicing what he preached, I’m sold. I find myself emailing without guilt of asking too much or answering too late and, generally, am on top of my shit.

The same can be said of Hamblin’s approach to tabs. We all over-tab. Why do we insist on keeping everything open? His answer to this is something called “Tabless Thursday” (Ugh.) where you limit tab usage to one open tab. He calls this “single-tasking” instead of multitasking, focusing on a single item at a time, following thought linearly instead of fanning thoughts out in tandem. This keeps you focused. “Maybe this is life mimicking Internet?” he asks. He relates this to mini-breakups, leaving things behind, perhaps to return to them again but not to constantly “keep open.” To that, what do you need to be looking at? Not that much. If you—like me—keep your calendar and your (Google) drive open just so you have access to things, what’s the point? Instead, bundle it all up in buttons or extensions to access these things without hogging space. Open up what you need. Don’t over-indulge.

Hamblin’s work with tech reminds of something we should all strive for: simplicity. The more complicated the Internet and technology are, the more of a job they become. Then, technology isn’t fun anymore. It’s a distracting to-do. Ease up on it all and you’ll have some success. Be direct. Get to the point. The more distractions you put in your emails or on your browser, the more distracted you are.

Technologic food for thought. While I’m not a total convert to all of Hamblin’s practices (He still annoys me since he’s so…perfect.), there is a lot to learn from him. You can peruse his work his series If Our Bodies Could Talk over at The Atlantic.

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