Very interesting insights from TechCrunch’s Paul Carr.
I think there is much to be said for periodically cutting back on (or eliminating) anything that feels absolutely essential or habitual to you, to gauge how much you really need it.
In the last year I asked myself, “Do I need a house?” Nope. I’d like to have a house again, but I can be happy without one.
Several years ago I wondered, “Do I need a car?” Nope — and I’m much happier without one. Same with printed books: “Do I need several crammed bookcases around to reassure me that I’m smart or that I won’t get bored?” Again, no — I’m far happier with my Kindle and with being able to make better use of limited space.
I doubt that I’d ever entirely quit using social media because in my case it has vastly improved my life in many ways. But in the last couple of months I’ve cut back on it quite a lot — some days I post a lot, but others I don’t post at all (and a post-free day NEVER used to happen to me). I feel less compulsive about it.
However, I have definitely increased my use of two kinds of social media tools in recent months: social bookmarking tools and Facebook…
I’m always finding stuff that’s interesting or useful, and I like to be able to find it again in ways that make sense to me. Also, I believe that public curation is one of the most lasting values of all kinds of internet-based media — it not only makes stuff findable, it makes particularly good or relevant stuff findable.
This is why I’ve usedÂ Delicious for many years to save relevant links — it’s not the most usable or functional social bookmarking tool, but it syndicates nicely to WordPress and thus gives me a way to realize visibility benefits on this blog from my social bookmarking efforts. For me, that’s killing many birds with one stone simply by capitalizing on my penchant for wanting to keep interesting stuff.
But lately, since I’m engaged in some special research projects and a great deal of regular writing/editing/training for clients such as CNN.com, the Knight Digital Media Center, the Society of Environmental Journalists, OaklandLocal, I also want to track useful stuff for these projects that may represent only a highly temporary interest and doesn’t necessarily need to be syndicated to Contentious.com.
For temporary project-related links, I’ve resumed using Diigo — which I used assiduously several years ago as my main bookmarking tool when it was Furl then stopped using entirely, then resumed a few months ago. I had been using the Firefox plugin Zotero to save research-related links, but I guess I saved too much stuff in it and it started crashing Firefox so I stopped using it.
I like Diigo for project-related research because I can choose to make it public and shareable — or keep some projects or items private. I generally keep my lists public unless there’s a specific reason to make them private, since I believe in the value of sharing. Also, I use the Diggo groups feature to collaborate with people on projects.
…And regarding Facebook — despite its privacy challenges, I’ve actually been using it more in the last year. But I use it mainly for personal stuff (connecting with friends, sharing info about me and my life). I monitor my privacy settings there pretty closely. I’ve also been going back and systematically removing Facebook “friends” who I don’t actually know personally. I create groups of my friends there so I can check in separately on my closest friends, my Boulder friends, my Bay Area friends, my family, colleagues who also are friends, etc. So for me, Facebook has become a particularly good channel for maintaining personal connections.
I still use Twitter, and I mix it up between personal and professional stuff there. I like it, it benefits me, I see no reason to leave — but I’ve channeled some of that energy elsewhere. Twitter is not a good archiving mechanism, so if I find something I really want to save I’ll often put it in Diigo or Delicious. If I also tweet it, I’ll clarify what other people might find interesting about it; whereas for Delicious and Diigo, some of my notes and categories might really only make sense to me.
I’ve been writing fewer blog posts of my own (like this) mainly because I use Delicious to post interesting stuff here. Not everyone likes that format, but it works well enough for my purposes here. I’ve been doing so much writing for clients and other projects that I frankly rarely have the energy for writing for my own blog.
My remaining personal energy for writing tends to go into my personal journal, which is on paper. Really. It’s the only paper left in my life that I really enjoy handling.
…All of this is the long way of saying I applaud Carr’s choice to leave social media, since it works for him. Almost everything in life — and especially in media — is, in fact, optional. It’s always good to challenge assumptions and explore options, whether additive, subtractive, or shifting. And I challenge anyone who feels compulsive about social media to at least take a vacation and then see what you really need and want. Life is too short to stay stuck in any rut or take anything for granted.