After some soul-searching, and a prod from my dear friend and inspiration role model Sam Dorman, I’ve decided to unplug myself from “web 2.0,” “the social nets” or whatever we call the rapidly-expanding tarpit of social networking sites these days.
Long story short: I’m increasingly convinced that the constant stream of tweets, status updates, Facebook wall posts and the like are causing me more cognitive harm than professional or personal benefit. And I deeply suspect that they’re harming us as a society, too. (See “Skinner Box? There’s an App for that!” for more on this.)
I’m not going cold turkey from the internet. That’s not what this is about. I’m going to continue reading email, surfing the web, and maybe taking in a few RSS feeds, since that’s a very convenient way to follow the news. I will continue to blog (and hope to write more in the future since I won’t be as distracted by constant consumption!) I might even keep my Facebook account after paring it down to people who are actually real-world personal friends. But I’m ditching Twitter, unsubscribing from most of my “professional” RSS feeds, and am going to basically pull out of the “real-time web.” Our brains just aren’t meant to work this way, and I can feel it harming my work, my personal life, and my happiness.
“Surely you just need to manage this stuff better, Jon,” you might be thinking. Well, maybe, but if you know me, you know that I am an extremely disciplined person and am about as far from an “addictive personality” as it gets. Heck, I didn’t even have an internet connection at home until 2001, and then only because my wife made me! If I am suddenly finding myself experiencing addictive behaviors with web 2.0 tools, I’m pretty sure it’s because these qualities are deeply wired into the technology, not into my personality. Also, if you think that “technology is completely neutral, it’s just about how we use it,” then please go stop and go read “In the Absence of the Sacred” before deciding whether you really want to pursue that line of argument.
So, in short, I won’t be seeing you on Twitter or Facebook so much anymore. But please do drop me a line, give me a call, let’s go get some coffee or a hoist a pint. Let’s go for a walk, a hike, a bike ride. Let’s play some music together, or cook some food.
And if you’re feeling a little stressed out by the constant chatter of your online “friends,” then I invite you to join me in easing back out and into the sunlight. See you in the real world, person-to-person!