Theoretically, if I hold to my original setup today would be the last day of my social media vacation. This is the 28th day since I queued up a bunch of “send later” tweets and Facebook status and then shut all that crap down. I did violate the embargo last week to announce the news about CREATE South becoming sponsored by the Horry County Arts and Cultural Council, and then shut it all down again.
Here’s the deal. While I acknowledge that Twitter has upsides, I believe they come at too high a price for it to be a tool to draw my attention all day every day. I don’t anticipate ever returning to my previous levels of usage. A lot of the Twitter critics from big media, the same people that criticized bloggers 5 years ago, focus on the unseemliness of the hoi polloi enjoying the same ability to communicate as them. Screw those people, they can bite my ass. My criticism is the opposite. I see value in ordinary people having the channel to communicate, however I find the act of following it closely all day every day to be detrimental to peace of mind. Operative word: peace.
To use Twitter anywhere like the intended pattern involves a twitchiness and jangliness, like the shakes you get after your 7th cup of coffee. Either you are scanning it over and over manually, or you have something that notifies and interrupts you when messages occur. Either way involves Twitter taking your attention at frequent intervals, and usually for ephemera.
I stand by my original statement that there are only really three use cases for when I need information from Twitter right now: 1) when traffic is backed up between where I am and where I am going; 2) when I’m looking for someone with whom to have lunch; and 3) when I’m at a science fiction convention and I’m trying to find the room party that my friends are at. Everything else can wait, and it is detrimental to my life to be notified frequently. The act of getting notified reduces my life enjoyment more than the information increases it.
So, even though I’m coming off of Twitter/Facebook prohibition, I’m retreating from ongoing usage. I’m not sure if that means I only look at them at certain relatively infrequent times, only on specific days, or if I just say screw it and shut it down most of the time until I just feel like participating in them. For years I’ve been arguing with Steve Gillmor (I’d link to him, but links are dead) about the value of real time data streams. He finds them amongst the most important and salient bits of digital life. I’m finding them amongst the worst aspects of my modern life. Most people, myself at the head of the list, flatter themselves by feeling the need to be this connected. Most things in the world don’t need you, you don’t need most things in the world. I now choose to sacrifice connection for peace of mind and the satisfaction of being present in my daily life.
I’m choosing to live at a slower pace. I haven’t looked at a 24 hour news channel in 6 years. I’m clamping down my social media usage. Somewhere between Cory Doctorow and Ted Kaczynski is a happy medium, and for better or worse I’m falling on the latter end of that compromise.