Saturday, July 2, 2022

The Art of Bitfulness - Nandan Nilekani and Tanuj Bhojwani

 This book is about keeping calm in a digital world. We quickly get into the dangers of the digital world and how it takes over our life, attention and time. Attention they say is the biggest resource that everyone is after and they will do anything to grab it. The digital world can suck you in and if you are not mindful or rather bitful, you could end up in a bad way.

Tanuj, much younger to Nandan, a storyteller who codes, a chemical engineer from IIT Bombay who trained in humanities, a Fellow at iSpirit Foundation, seems to have done most of the writing. The book is split into three parts 1. The Problem 2. The Individual and 3. The Collective.

December 2020 survey on the average Indian urban smartphone user reveals that on average users spent 6.9 hours on their smartphones every day. 74% get moody when they stop using their phones. 73 % feels compelled to check their phones regularly. 84% check their phones within 15 minutes of waking up, 46 % pick up phones at least five times in an hour long conversation with friends.   

Quickly we realise that it is all about time and we need to manage our time. How to think clearly and what to think about is discussed with helpful advise like 

1. Using note-taking software for thinking
2. Writing/journaling down stuff and how it helps clarify
3. Using bitfulness meditation to take charge of the mind
4. Time blocking - creating specific blocks for specific activities 5. doing important things first by using calendar apps
5. Creating a time budget - deciding where your time should go

Then we figure on how to manage attention

One of the things they advise is to split your personality by

1. Create a new user record
2. Use a website blocker 
3. Use in-built focus mode
4. Batch your notifications
5. Block access to distracting apps
6. Streamline your home screen
7. Merge your inboxes

To manage privacy

1.Use password managers (Lastpass, Keeper, Avira, DashLane, Bitwarden)
2. Use temporary email addresses (
3. Use virtual numbers - phone (Doosra)
4> Get end-to-end encrypted mail (ProtonMail, Hushmail, Mailbox)
5. List of DNSes (Google:, Quad:
6. Anti malwares (Malware Bytes, Avast, Comodo, AVG, Spybot)
7. General do's and don's (don't use public Wi-Fi, Logout of public computers, never re-use passwords, be careful of what you post on social media, cehck privacy settings from time to time)
8. Extra protection measures(Use VPN, use a secure browser like Tor, pay anonymously and securely, delete search history and Google activity regularly, switch to a secure messaging platform like Signal or Jitsi)  

I somehow expected more from the book in a manner that would make it compelling to build some new digital habits and be more bitful. There is a lot of advise and good one too but it is too spread out. One gets the feeling that we have heard this stuff before, most of it is in public domain from books like 'Atomic Habits', 'Mindfulness', 'Inner game of Tennis' and other stuff - creating habits and breaking habits. The part of how one can do stuff on the social media to become more bitful with specific resources as given above (at the end of the book) were helpful. But I do not see myself doing most of it because it is already too cumbersome and that's part of the problem. We know the problem exists and we know what to do - but like addicts which we are, we need it to be delivered in a manner that makes us go - hey, I'll do that one thing right now! Looks like I am an addict already! Something like that.

All in all a worthy effort and I only wish they had stuck to going deep and said one thing to do rather than spread over too many things. 

That said, having read the book, I'll try to do the things I can.   

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