I Gave Up

On New Year’s Day 2020, I quit all social media, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I trashed 13 years of networking & history so I could focus my energies more towards fostering in-person relationships instead of political doom-scrolling.

Immediately afterwards, two-thirds of my work team got fired, and the world went to hell. All physical get-togethers ceased, and we shifted to 100% virtual encounters, and suddenly every relationship required twice as much effort to maintain. I continued to abstain, hoping that things would quickly pass.

Now 20 months later, I’m tired, depressed, angry, and afraid — all at the same time. And until my daughter can get her own vaccine, I’m not willing to spend much time around other people (many of my co-workers & friends feel the same way). So I’ve relapsed and can once again be found on Facebook and Twitter.

You are welcome to judge or mock me, but be sure to give me a pass. Like many of you, I’m lonely and my soul has been worn down to a nub. Rejoining those sites is a play at improving my health, and hopefully I can better handle this latest bout of online participation. One change I am fostering is to follow fewer people, to be less concerned with my follower or like counts. I’m slowly adding back people as I adjust. You’re welcome to follow me back, but please don’t be offended if I do not immediately return the favor — I’m trying to find the best balance between signal vs. noise, and social media is unfortunately biased towards the unhelpful latter.

Stay safe!

Framing Priorities

On today’s “Before Breakfast” podcast, host Laura Vanderkam shared a great way to frame priorities.

Instead of asking myself yes/no questions, instead structure them as “Would you rather?” questions instead.

For example, don’t ask, “Do I want to hit the snooze button?”  Without an alternative, the answer may always be yes. Instead, I could ask myself, “Would I rather hit the snooze button — or get up and run?”

There’s no right answer — some days, it make sense to get a few more minutes of shut-eye. But since snoozing is invariably lower in quality than a good workout, the latter often wins out.

Fateful Decisions

While listening to last week’s Slate Political Gabfest, John Dickerson shared his answer to the following Twitter question:

A couple of ideas came and went in my mind, before I settled on sharing something previously-untold that had decades of consequence.

It was the last week of my senior year of high school. This was before texting or even email, so I was likely saying final goodbyes to lots of peers.

One of my classmates, a tomboy named Micha, was planning to immediately leave for summer school at Texas Tech. Up to that point, we were closer to buddies than friends, but we were acquainted enough that we decided to become pen pals.

That moment turned out to be the start of the longest friendship of my life, spanning 24 years until her untimely passing. It transcended mere friendship, as we felt & acted like siblings. Pretty darn trajectory-changing, if you ask me!

A Better “Write Every Day”

There’s another way that blogging makes my writing better: writing every day makes it easier to write every day. When I was a baby writer, I thought the injunction to “write every day” was purely aspirational, like “do an hour’s aerobic exercise” or “eat five helpings of vegetables.” I deeply regret the years in which I waited for inspiration to strike before writing (as I regret the years when I didn’t get adequate exercise or nutrition) because of all the practice I missed and the habits I waited too long to develop.

Cory Doctorow, The Memex Method

The last sentence struck me hard. I’ve had this blog for nearly as long as Mr. Doctorow, yet by becoming fallow it’s lost its power to drive my current & future thoughts.

The last sentence was enough to inspire me to write something, anything, maybe as a germ for future regular authorship.

Rules of the Internet

Some wisdom I’ve complied over the 20 years since I first discovered the internet:

  1. Never read comments
  2. Never respond to comments
  3. A website’s usefulness must always be greater than its beating
  4. Everything is about porn
  5. Avoid using Facebook Connect as your means to authenticate into anything
  6. Never “Like” your own posts
  7. Don’t use hashtags on sites that don’t support them (like the “old” Facebook)
  8. Don’t believe everything you read (websites often exaggerate)
    1. Don’t spread unconfirmed shit
    2. *Everything* is cuter/hotter on the Internet vs. real-life (don’t trust anything)
  9. If you want me to respond: Phone > Email > Text Message > Twitter Public Reply > Facebook Wall Post > Twitter DM > Facebook Message
  10. Never be the first to upgrade
  11. Log into only one account at a time
  12. Don’t write anything you aren’t prepared for anyone to read, especially the subject
  13. If you’re going to lie, make sure your Foursquare check-ins support your story
  14. Don’t rely on non-anticipated use cases (ex: Tweetbot 3 ridding itself of lists-as-default views)
  15. Be brief and to the point
  16. Don’t use tweet lengtheners
  17. Don’t use Facebook Notes
  18. Just don’t

Interestingly, I remember when I first discovered the web. It was Spring 1996, I lived in Bruce Hall at the University of North Texas. Across the street was Chilton Hall, an academic building with both the closest and least-frequented computer lab on-campus. One day I intended to go Gopher some information and instead discovered a nifty little application called Mosaic. Soon after, I got sucked into the world of Netscape Navigator, and the rest of my online journey was history.