Calm on the web?


I spent the better part of yesterday and today staring at greenery. Foliage, trees, just the stuff in the back yard. It's been a long time since I've just sat there with nothing much to do. It was delightful and refreshing, in large part because taking two days off from thinking about work of any sort was a luxury relative to the past 4 months. is probably as good a place — maybe a best place — to mull over the question of how hard it is to find a relaxing place online. Too quickly relaxing turns to addicting, waiting for new messages and endless doom scrolling.

(I put away the phone this weekend. That certainly helped.)

There are certainly sites that have content that speaks to peace and calm and such. From Introvert, Dear to zenhabits or tinybuddha, there's plenty of content out there. But I suppose there are far fewer that make you feel relaxed through their use, through the mechanics of the whole thing. The basic mode of interaction, certainly for any commercial venture, is to convert visits to “engagement” (silicon valley talk for “addiction”) and network effects (another Valley-ism, meaning also addiction or, less harshly, digital serfdom).

(The one site that I did peruse, that calmed me somewhat this weekend, was Tropical Fish Hobbyist, of all the things. I haven't had a fish tank in many years, and I found reading about corydoras oddly pacifying.)

I would like to see more sites whose use encourages calm. I appreciate a meditation app or something like that. But what about something that is peaceful to use for other purposes. Is there an email client, for example, that is built around the idea of making it a calming experience? Not simply managing the clutter, but such that you could find that peaceful? (Or is email simply so stressful that such a thing is impossible.) Are there peaceful alternatives to all the major apps? (no, of course not). I sit because it's impossible or because not enough of us want it and the VCs can't make a profit off it?

One site that comes immediately to mind is Sift: I particularly respect what the folks with Sift are trying to do, making reading the news more zen by making the experience more calming and less stressful. I also love what the folks behind the Sift folks, at All Turtles, do more generally. (Seriously, check out their podcast — it is always fantastic:

There's surely more. But also, I suspect, not enough.