So what did I glean in my almost month-long hiatus from my social online world? Not much that I didn’t already know. The world didn’t end. My family will always be more important than Twitter. I can learn without being online. There are bigger fish to fry. Etc. It gave me some time to rest and reflect and recharge, something I don’t often give myself enough time to do. And it gave me the opportunity to rethink some of my approach to the networks and communities I’m a part of online. Nothing earth shattering, and nothing I’m suggesting for anyone else either. But helpful to me, I hope, if I’m actually going to still be here on this blog and in these conversations as I hit the 10-year marker later this spring.
I thought a lot about Twitter, actually, and realized (again) that for me at least, it’s become as much of a bane as it has a boon. (This really isn’t news.) Much of the reason I don’t blog any longer, I think, is the Twitter effect. It’s easier just to Tweet out an interesting idea than to examine it more deeply here. I envy the many people who can do both, but I just don’t have the attention span or the time these days. So, I’m going to try to be much more structured about my Twitter time. I’m using Proxlet to sift out only Tweets with links. I’ve started using the scheduled Tweets feature in TweetDeck. I’ve cut down and really tried to diversify the hashtags I follow. I’m not going to check Twitter 20 or more times a day any longer, which was a habit that I was finding myself getting into late last year.
That all led me to consider even more deeply my time spent online in general. Robin Dunbar’s essay in the Times right after Christmas, “You’ve Got to Have (150) Friends” really stoked my thinking as well.
Put simply, our minds are not designed to allow us to have more than a very limited number of people in our social world. The emotional and psychological investments that a close relationship requires are considerable, and the emotional capital we have available is limited.
That’s not to say that I feel like I have more than a couple of handfulls of “close relationships” online…I don’t. But it is a reminder that even the more superficial interactions we have online are not just intellectual ones. Learning in these spaces requires some of that limited “emotional capital,” and frankly, I think I was getting to the point where I was expending too much of it at the box and not enough of it in my f2f life. I’ve been doing a great deal of offline writing of late, and I’ve found the “flow” that comes from that work to be blissful in a way that my online practice had lost. I still love the feel of getting lost in the links, don’t get me wrong. But at the end of the day, it’s really, really nice to have my hours of work reflected in a substantive piece of work, whether it’s text or anything else, instead of an assortment of Tweets, bookmarks and Evernotes. That’s not to say I’m giving up Tweeting or bookmarking or Evernoting. I’m just trying to make sure that all of that effort turns into something more useful…for me. To each his own.
This morning I found this amazing blog post by Dan Perez, “The Klout Myth and Living Above the Influence.” (Yes, I Tweeted it out.) In it, he makes a highly compelling case, to me at least, to take a hard look at how we spend our time online. It does a much better job than I in articulating the challenge. The message, in a nutshell, is “Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.” It’s definitely worth about 50 Tweets of your time.
I’ve pretty much stopped making resolutions, but I’m hoping that balance for me this year means more blogging, more reflecting, and more creating in general in the time I do give to these important albeit secondary pursuits. As always, we’ll see.
So what are your struggles this New Year as you reflect on your practice? Or am I the only one in reconfiguration mode?
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