TL;DR: My changes, and updates for (mostly) personal social media use
I’m very much looking forward to making Microblog my digital center of gravity in the new year. I came back to it in the spring after trying, then quitting it, back in 2018. I relied on it, a lot this year. I expect to be more active in 2022. But, I’ll still be around in other places.
- Twitter (but only if you’re a professional academic or into national security)
I don’t “do” resolutions, but this year almost made me
I haven’t done a new year’s resolution in over a decade. I forget where I learned it, or heard it first, but I concluded that if you want to resolve to do something, then resolve today. Waiting until the new year is—or, at least, can be—a form of procrastination. It wasn’t Seth Godin, but he once wrote something similar, namely that the most important blog post is the one you write, today.
Moreover, resolutions usually fail, or at least they did for me, because they often aren’t clearly defined SMART Goals. “Lose weight,” or “read more” don’t work because they lack a measurable objective as in “lost x-number of pounds by summer by working out at least three days per week and cutting out fast food runs.” None of this is particularly surprising or revolutionary to anyone who’s read books on contemporary goal setting.
But a new year is a time to reflect, to take an inventory of one’s time and attention. It is a natural break, and it is natural that we all are reflecting on our lives in a semi-collective way. As much as I am loath to read yet another year-in-review post, I am also eager to see what changes and lessons others have learned over the last year.
This year seems to me to be especially reflective as the end of the pandemic seems to be within eyesight. All reasonable estimations that I’ve read think that after this current omicron wave subsides, we should be more or less done with it. To be fair, they said that before the Delta variant. Hope spring eternal. If those estimates hold, the pandemic as a social phenomenon will have lasted 2 years (give or take when the first wave hit one’s region of the world). I’ve noticed a palpable sense among almost everyone that January will be a sort-of collective psychological ending to this whole thing.
Sure, we’ll still have to take reasonable pre-caution, and governments may still yet impose various restrictions which may or may be be sound policy; and yes, thousands of people are still going to die from the virus. But even with those caveats, many folks—liberal, conservative, pro-vaccine or anti, religious or secular—seem ready to use the New Year as a mental demarcation point. I welcome that.
Reflections on the year
I got sidetracked from a lot of professional and personal projects. Although I managed to get my first peer-reviewed publication during the pandemic, my book manuscript lingered, and my leisure reading and music listening more or less collapsed to name a few. I ceased being more deliberate about my media consumption and, as a result, I was spending more time aimlessly when I already knew that these apps are designed to do precisely that.
But although I was aware of the friction, I think it provided a way to feel connected even though I was becoming less connected. And besides, I was connecting with old friends who I had lost touch with during my doctorate and early years of marriage. So, I ignored the friction to an extent.
But the friction, man. It took some time to identify what has been bothering me about social media. Much of the social media landscape has changed, often (not always) for the worse. Twitter is an example. Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t think it’s anything the company is doing. Rather, the social landscape has shifted. When I signed up for Twitter in late-2008, it was because a good friend messaged me that there was a taco truck in LA using Twitter to broadcast its location throughout the day. I demurred the thought of microblogging until then. All the way from Philadelphia, they were the first account I followed.
Now, Twitter is mostly a public forum for elites to yell at other elites. (Indeed, the collective yelling distorts reality and doesn’t represent real life.) You’re expected to be “on brand.” That’s fine, but it wasn’t why I originally signed up. I considered quitting it, but I accept that there’s some utility to be had, provided that it is a different value proposition than 13 years ago.
So what am I doing if I’m not making resolutions? Well, I decided to be more deliberate about my digital habits. I synced my Twitter with Microblog, I’m experimenting with Mastodon, and dramatically cutting down on consumption. I’ll still be on Twitter, but mainly to interact with colleagues and friends I’ve made there.
I am, joyfully, deleting Instagram. Long story short, my wife convinced me because I like taking photos but I wasn’t sharing them outside of niche sites like Flickr. Niche in the sense that outside of dedicated photography circles, few know about it, even now. But where IG was a great place for photography, the center of gravity of sharing photos is elsewhere. I spent the better part of the other day getting my archive to import to Microblog (thanks, @manton).
Eg., I recently unsubscribed from well over a dozen podcasts, maybe two dozen. Now I have three, tried and true. Between work and the kids (really, just the kids), my disposal free-time isn’t what it used to be. I love that—but I had another friction point in my life (namely feeling guilty about missing this episode or that interview, ignoring the episode for weeks while I do other things, and eventually bulk delete the backlog).
And don’t get me started on email. It took all of December and most of November. But my daily inbox of email is in the single digits. That’s a huge start.