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Nathan Chen Didn’t Bring His Phone to the Olympics

Last week, the American figure skater Nathan Chen, a favorite to win gold in the 2022 Olympics, lived up to expectations. In a four-minute free skate performance that included five quadruple jumps, and a joyous dance break, he earned the medal that had eluded him four years earlier in Pyeongchang.

Many of you sent me articles about Chen. You were less interested in what he did than in what he didn’t do: bring his phone to the competition. As the Wall Street Journal (among others) reported, Chen arrived at the 2022 Olympics without his phone so as to escape the cognitive drain induced by “the urge to scroll for hours through social media.” He brought his guitar instead, choosing to replace dopamine hacking with high quality leisure.

Most of us, of course, are not Olympic athletes struggling to live up to impossible expectations. There is, however, still a lesson to be learned from Chen’s disconnection. A life spent subservient to that small glowing screen is not a life where you’re living up to your potential.

11 thoughts on “Nathan Chen Didn’t Bring His Phone to the Olympics”

  1. No athletes from western countries brought their phones. As widely reported US athletes were told by the FBI to use burner phones while competing in the Winter Olympics.

  2. Amen, modern life is plagued with gadgets whose sole purpose is to divide attention. I have fond memories of using WordStar a CP/M-based Morrow Micro Decision in 1983. Now, my attention is divided between making text with MS Word and endless searching for how to do things that used to be simple in WordStar and WordPerfect. Oh yeah, computers are easier today…not.

  3. The US TEAM recommendation to bring burners is real. Any unsecured smart device or card/passport without RFID protection will be compromised within hours of arrival in China. Simple fact of business there.


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