To make it easier to limit my media consumption, I'd like to temporarily revoke my access to certain digital media files. One solution would be to leave a copy with a friend, and delete my own copy until I'm able to meet the friend to get it back. A solution I'd prefer is to encrypt it with a cypher which takes half an hour or so to decrypt, but I would need to write that algorithm myself unless someone knows of an off the shelf solution.*

What is not an option: installing software to limit the computer's actions. Because it would not properly install or run on my computer, and because I would not run untrusted software with administrative permissions.

*My possible solution based on encryption: a key will be chosen and written to disk. Each block of the file will be encrypted separately, using an "almost key". The "almost key" is the key file, with the last N bits of the file altered. When the block is decrypted, the system will need to guess the last bits. Decryption will be retried until it succeeds. The more bits are changed, the more retries will be needed. Thus smaller files would have more bits changed, so decryption time could be kept constant per file. For example, if the key is 0000, that decryption will be tried first with that key, then with 0001, then 0010, 0011, etc. Each block will use a different "almost key", so the guessing process will need to be redone. Average tries * number of blocks will be constant, for a constant decryption time.

  • Wouldn't that encryption software you describe have to be installed, i.e. not meet the condition in your second paragraph? – Glorfindel Mar 21 at 12:34
  • I would write a cross-platform script with fairly simple operation, assuming the necessary encryption libraries are installed. I meant "net nanny" or such programs are not designed for Linux computers like mine. – piojo Mar 21 at 12:50

Several options:

  1. Create a compressed archive of them - use a relatively slow algorithm or have high compression settings. Burn this to a DVD (or some other external media with a slow transfer rate) - delete your local copies. Then to play them again you'll need to copy them back, extract the archive etc. When you want to deny yourself access again just delete the local copies and rinse-repeat.

  2. Copy to an external drive/media and delete local copies - place external media in a timelock container set the timer for a suitable time in the future.

  3. Address the underlying problematic thought patterns rather than treating the symptoms (this is a mindhack rather than a lifehack so not appropriate to discuss here)


You could use the postal service.

  1. Copy the desired files onto removable media. (Delete the original.)
  2. Mail the copy to yourself. (Use appropriate class for delay - Parcel Post is slower than First Class, for example.
  3. Await the delivery of the copy.

Here in Canada, we laughingly refer to high postal rates as acceptable because half of the expense includes "storage."


No tech needed. Be the captain of your ship!

Learn to detect, reflect and counteract your impulses. That's a simple and thus broadly applicable technique. Social media won't be the only storm that's shaking you around.

A more specific how to: Train the required abilities and as a first step delay every action that smells like a reaction and reflect every X-minutes if what you are doing is what you wanted to do. Similarily I overcame that bad tendency myself ‒ now I have blocked a restricted amount of time for social and that's it.

  • 1
    And if the craving lasts more than X minutes, I should do it? (Note that I want the tech to lock me out for hours, not minutes. I'm not sure how feasible it is to delay my impulses by X hours.) ← That's me as a person, but me as a StackExchange user would ask: What concrete specific action are you advocating? Please add it to your answer. – piojo Jun 27 at 13:32
  • By doing the above you will develop the abilities and succeed more often. So yes, you won't conquer that tendency in an instant, but by detetcting the sudden rupture of the impulse and getting a sense of how it feels, you will eventually do so. I could write more, but that ain't feasible. I wanted to advocate that you have the power and only can unleash it. I used tech for many such things, but eventually realized that it's a dead end. Some mistakes we have to make to see the light. Beside that, I guess that tech was a stepping stone. – EssenceBlue Jun 27 at 13:49
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    @piojo Since you replied right away, although the post is a bit older, I suppose social ain't the only tech related inclination you can't resist. Time boxing is also applicable to emails and notifications. But, using more tech to fight tech won't do it; not scalable nor sustainable. A change of mind seems arduous, but compounds through time, thus worth every penny. – EssenceBlue Jun 27 at 14:07
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    It's media, not social media. But your point is correct. As for tech being a stepping stone, stepping stones are still a critical part of the process. You can't advocate the end state. It doesn't ever happen that way. Like the meditation masters that say you don't need to meditate: they are fooling themselves. (They may not need to meditate, as they've already put in the decades of practice that they needed.) Hence I asked what concrete steps I might take? – piojo Jun 27 at 16:04
  • You're right, one easily forgets the path that brought them here. Abstract wisdom can be concise. Concrete steps are manifold and personalized. I already named some, but still. (i) Consume lots of bad media and then let shame and regret sink in and deeply reflect on it and channel those to strenghten the behavior you want instead. (ii) Most important is to be conscious all the time, and there are many ways to train that. E.g. see previous comments, get feeling for how it feels when your mental energies are low (since then you're susceptible to tempations, turning into zombie), if low take nap! – EssenceBlue Jun 29 at 6:39

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