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Random thoughts from a summer vacation
I’m not sure what got into me (sun, ocean, alcohol, common sense) but I just spent less time online over the week than at any time in the last three years. No I didn’t’ go cold turkey, posting an occasional tweet and more than a few Instagram pix, but way less then normal. Instead I actually read books Karl Marlantes’s (Matterhorn, Robert Penn’s It’s All About the Bike, and Mitchell Zuckoff’s Lost in Shangri-La), stared at the ocean, and cycled a lot of glorious miles. Unlike Chris Brogan, who has actually argued we should take advantage of these slower paced holidays to beef up our online presence, I got into a different kind of rhythm. More along the lines of Robert Penn’s description in his book about the pursuit of happiness, the kind where forgotten songs and random thought drift through your head.
Here are some of them, the thoughts that is.
For most people, Google + means nothing
Those of us who live online, hopping from one new platform to the next – Twitter, Quora, Instagram, Percolate – may have spent the past week coveting a Google + invite so as not to feel excluded from the latest cool kids’ party, but out in the real world, no one cares yet. Get away from your laptop and smartphone, or circulate with people who don’t live in New York and work in digital marketing and guess what? They never even heard of it.
Social media doesn’t always bring us closer together
Ironically while social media connects us to strangers it isolates us from the people we’re closest to. I got a taste of my own medicine last week as I watched my daughter disappear into her Facebook and YouTube communities, half unaware of my presence. Now I know what my family feels like when I’m saying “uh huh,” but staring at one of my screens. You should wonder, too, when you spend an entire afternoon posting Instagram images of your family get together, whether or not you’re actually there.
I don’t really need to own a TV set
It’s been 19 days since I turned on a television. Never once have I wanted to. Nor have I missed it. Got to agree with Clay Shirky’s argument in Cognitive Surplus that freedom from the big screen (mostly passive compared to the two small ones; at least until this gets here) is our greatest source of productive time.
Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Foursquare, Instagram, Quora, Posterous: pick two
Maybe three. One reason that it’s hard to go offline if you take seriously content generation, sharing, and community, is that you feel obligated to be present. This responsibility (addiction?) gets amplified the more platforms you use. The aforementioned Brogan manages to do it, but the rest of us humans have to narrow our commitments. I’m thinking about what mine will be. Probably here, Twitter, Google + and Instagram to start, with one of them destined to fall by the wayside.
No one really misses you
Chances are pretty good that if you go a week without writing a post, issuing a tweet, sharing a picture or updating your status that no one would even notice. They have enough other detritus drifting through their stream(s).
So go ahead, take a break. It will all be here when you get back. Thoughts? Please share. Now that I’m back online, I’ll respond to all of your comments.
I've found myself socially spent as of late and have decided to take a break from the daily SM grind and metrics. You are absolutely correct that SM "isolates us from the people we’re closest to". Thanks as always for being such a creative inspiration - even while on break.
But there goes your Klout score up in smoke Edward!
Good for you. I agree with your post. We are in a media/tech bubble. I was at some neighborhood parties this summer being the only person on twitter. No one was facebooking from their phones. They all ate and drank and talked and swam. Just like normal people! lol
I have been dating someone in the mad river valley of Vermont who doesn't have a TV but she has an organic garden and her town has no traffic lights and it is pretty freaking amazing to hang out in the forest/mountains (though we do have netflix streaming and hulu).
Hope you enjoyed your time off! Cheers!
I think you're on to something, especially for our day-to-day lives. In fact, even though I got my Google + invite I held off from getting started for the simple fact that it I simply don't want to go down that slippery path right now. A little over a year ago I began limiting my time in the social sphere because as you point out it disconnects us from the moment we are supposedly in. I used to walk the globe with a camera in hand (I still do, I must confess) but one day realized that my obsessive photo taking was taking me out of the frame. It's an odd paradox and I think it aligns with my digital-social engagements, that photo taking is an effort in preservation, to hold on to some moment of beauty, to capture feelings, emotions, observations, events and to want to share those experiences -- ahh instagram -- but also here and there on Facebook, Twitter, Quora, what deep need it taps to share, to preserve through thought -- word, image and action -- and meaning. All very powerful and valuable and expansive but benign, insignificant and limiting too.
I'm going for a ride....
It's a good idea to take a vacation from social media and technology once in a while. It reminds one of the time before they existed and simple pleasures, such as the ones you mentioned. No one really misses you, yes, and perhaps you won't really miss them.
Very, very true points here! I agree with you completely -- it's a rare vacation where I actually spend my time "beefing up" my online presence. I always prefer to step away, catch my breath, and relax with family and friends. If I log into social media platforms, I do so on my time and because I want to. Usually, that's before I go to bed. I'll scroll through Facebook, chat with a few friends and RT some content on Twitter, and unless something really catches and holds my attention I'll leave it at that. My parents and grandparents have the best viewpoint when looking at social media and online interactions: a lot of it just isn't "real life." Why waste precious time on it? And your last point is so true -- as much as we'd love to think otherwise, the online world doesn't collapse if we don't tweet for a day. Thank you for the great reminders!
I used to be much more married to my Twitter & Google Reader accounts. I treated them like an email inbox, I felt I had to review every last item or I might miss something important.
Now I treat both more like streams, I drop in and drop out whenever is convenient & use lists to filter. If at the end of a busy week I've got 100 unread items in my Google Reader I just click on "Mark all as read" and forget about it. It's important to have some downtime.
The really great stuff is always reported & tweeted about hundreds of times, so there really is no risk of missing anything important.
"the pursuit of happiness - the kind where forgotten songs and random thought drift through your head"............... Edward what a wonderful week you had being a bit unplugged! You had a true holiday of water, books and bicycles. I'm so proud of you.
Your photography skills are enviable. Those are beautiful images you created in that week. Art, each of them! Thank you for the photo tour of your Cape.
I have to ask, why do you like Google+? To me, it's a mess. Here's a blog post I wrote explaining why. Very curious what your reaction and that of your readers would be to it.
By the way, totally agree with limiting social places. For me it will be Facebook, Twitter, my blog and maybe Quora. Is an RSS reader social? Because I will keep that too. It's how I track your blog and the few others I follow. Oh, and email, can't forget email!
@michaelgass I know what you mean. Of course, then I get back to the office and realize I have to learn about Percolate and Shuush and turntable.fm and all the rest. I do it to a large degree because it's my job, but there are days when it gets exhausting.
@Howie Goldfarb And I was just working on a post about how important influence is about to become in the next year or two. Silly me.
@jasonmusante Yeah, I need to add the button.