I Hate Life Hacks

Some of you gentle readers are not gadget-obsessed Übernerds, so you may not have encountered the life hack. This term is just over a year old, and appropriating the literary conventions of cheap cultural criticism, I can assure you without the slightest shred of evidence that it represents a growing and hugely significant trend among the technorati. One day soon you’ll wake up to find that some ambitious life hacker has replaced the family photos on your refrigerator with a specialty linux distribution that compiles and runs on a stack of 3×5 index cards.

Life hacks are a modern blend of Hints from Heloise, irritating motivational speakers, and a Turing-complete coffee maker. They are ostensibly little tricks that will make your life better, by teaching you, for example:

  • How to eat the whole Internet in one (really big) bite – automagically download podcasts at night, and listen to them while you work out; RSSify your lunch menus for use in collaborative sandwich applications!
  • How to print on 3×5 index cards – because writing stuff down in a custom-designed box is better than writing it down on a blank card. For some reason.
  • How to stress yourself out for better productivity
  • Where to find software that will save you 5 seconds every week, not counting installation, configuration, and learning curve time, which will amortize to nothing over a period that … um … look, if it takes you more than 5 minutes to install, configure, and get used to new software, you’re not a l33t lifehacker anyway, bug off.

What gets me, I think, is not just the crappy neologistics of it all – I mean, I openly enjoy the word meme, so I’m hardly in a position to object to goofy coinages with no rigorous definitions. It’s the sense that this relentless focus on doing more stuff somehow stands in opposition to being more here. A common thread running through these tricks is that one should rearrange one’s present behaviors to be of maximum benefit to one’s future self: write down your clever thoughts, catalog your media collection, set up a Rube Goldberg-style apparatus to prevent procrastination, blah blah blah.

I don’t give a shit about future-me. I mean, I do, but all things in moderation, y’know? I don’t want to be in the habit of placing every experience in some grand life plan, jotting every good idea down for future consideration, or otherwise constantly expanding my focus beyond the present moment. So phooey on you, life hackers! Nethack is more fun than lifehacks anyway.


  1. Bert wrote:

    I love it!
    “Some of you gentle readers are not gadget-obsessed übernerds…” And that was actually written for a blog post, using a computer (probably laptop), connected to the internet, on a web-based blogging account, by someone with knowledge of motivational speakers and who knows what a Touring-complete coffee maker is, and who uses the term neologistics!
    Ya gotta love the irony!

  2. yami wrote:

    Some of it vanishes when you know my mother, and that she reads this blog too, though but.

  3. Jo wrote:

    Agreed, life is one day going to be shrunken into a little ball of electronic dust. What a waste of a mighty fine planet?
    ah well

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