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.