Freakonomics Radio recently rebroadcast a year old episode with Aziz Ansari. I’ve always been a fan of Aziz as a role model and generally all around decent human being. His Master of None show on Netflix is also excellent. I’m copy pasting my favorite part of exchange between him and Stephen Dubner, but check out the episode in it’s entirety.
DUBNER: I’ve just asked Aziz Ansari one of our FREAK-Quently Asked Questions. It goes like this: What’s something that you own that you should probably throw out but never will? Considering that his new book, Modern Romance, is about finding love in the digital age, his answer might surprise you …
ANSARI: I’ve been trying to throw out my email address, in a way.
DUBNER: Are you like Hotmail or something?
ANSARI: No I had, like, an email address, like a work email address, and I would just get so many emails. And then when I started filming my TV show I just set up a thing that said, this email is dead. I’m not checking email. If the world’s gonna end you can call me. And I had an assistant on my show and I was like, you can call her. She’ll tell me what’s up and we’ll figure it out. And you know what you realize is, all that shit people email you about all the time, all day, none of it is important. None of it is pressing. And if you just focus on the work you’re doing instead of focusing on it for like two minutes and then getting distracted to answer some question that isn’t pressing at all, you do a worse job. So I found that I’m much more focused when I don’t have those little questions. And then at the end of the day I just have someone fill me in on everything or I call someone on the phone. Or I call someone in the morning. And then I can focus on what I’m doing throughout the day, and my head is much clearer when I do that. So I’d love to just throw out, if I could throw out the Internet as well, that’d be great. I never read anything. I’ve never read all these novels that are like these beautiful stories that have continued to have a resonance with people for so many generations, like beautiful works of art that I could read at any point. But instead, I choose not to read them. And I just read the Internet. Constantly. And hear about who said a racial slur or look at a photo of what Ludacris did last weekend. You know, just useless stuff. It’s like, I read the Internet so much I feel like I’m on page a million of the worst book ever. And I just won’t stop reading it. For some reason it’s so addictive.
DUBNER: So that’s interesting because…you’re a pretty disciplined person overall. It sounds, like you do a lot of work…Do you think that you really wish that you didn’t read the Internet all the time and would read books instead? Or do you think that, you know what, you just like it and you kind of feel guilty about it and so you say that because it sounds like the thing that you want to be true, maybe?
ANSARI: Well I’ve thought about this stuff a lot. Here’s what I’ll say. I’ll say, the times where I haven’t read that stuff, the stuff that I normally read on the Internet, just nonsense blogs or whatever, the next day I’ve felt like I’ve missed nothing. You know? I deleted Twitter and Instagram off my phone. I mean I use them to like post stuff but I don’t have them on my phone. I don’t have, like, a feed. I don’t follow anyone. And I used to read that stuff a lot. And now I don’t read it. I don’t see those pictures. And I don’t miss it. And I feel like a lot of people do a lot of this stuff. And if they cut it out I don’t think they’d miss it that much. I really don’t. I mean when I don’t check in on those blogs and stuff, if I miss it I don’t go back and, like, if you don’t read your blog for a week, right, do you go back and like, not your blog in particular, I’m saying like a blog that you check, right? If you don’t read it for a week, right, and you come back, you don’t go back and read Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Cause you’re not reading it for the information. What you’re reading it for, and this is just my personal theories about this stuff, what you’re reading it for is a hit of this drug called the Internet. The phone world. You just want a hit of it. Like when you scroll down and you see a new blog post you’re like oooh! That gets your brain excited. It’s like, oooh! There’s something new! And you click it and you read it and you’re like, oooh, but it’s garbage… Somebody dropped an N-bomb. Great. Alright. I mean that is kind of a cool story, but, but you’re just searching for this new thing. When you look on your Facebook feed and you see these pictures it’s like, none of that shit really matters. You just want to see a new thing on there and it just gives you something to do. I’ve sat at my computer. I still do it. And I go on like Facebook or whatever and I’m like, what am I doing? I’m going on a loop with these same four sites for no reason. I’m not genuinely interested.
And, now, the BEST part:
Like, here’s a test, OK. Take, like, your nightly or morning browse of the Internet, right? Your Facebook feed, Instagram feed, Twitter, whatever. OK if someone every morning was like, I’m gonna print this and give you a bound copy of all this stuff you read so you don’t have to use the Internet. You can just get a bound copy of it. Would you read that book? No! You’d be like, this book sucks.
Email sucks. Check it twice a day. The Internet is the worst book ever. Put it down and cut your losses. When we browse, we’re looking for a hit of dopamine. As we keep browsing, it takes more and more to give us the same rush, so we keep chasing it, but it’s vicious cycle, as it will never be as good as the first peek.
The Internet is a drug. Use it wisely.