I was having a tinker with MarsEdit last night, trying to get it to run a preview of my blog posts as I work on them. Still can’t get it working but in the process of reading up on it I read found a very interesting post on the developer Daniel Jalkut’s blog about his attitude to ‘approval seeking’ as facilitated by the likes of Twitter and Facebook. It so closely echoed my feelings on the subject that it could have been written for me or even by me. Here’s where it really hit home:
Many folks use the internet as a valuable tool for research and connectedness, but also as a dubious source for ego-validation. Some of us are more vulnerable than others. How many of the following questions do you care to know the answer to?
How many people are following me on Twitter?
How many hits on my home page?
Has any high-profile blogger linked to me recently?
How many people are @responding to my tweets?
How many comments on my latest blog post?
How early does my name show up in a Google search?
How many people are buying my app/t-shirt/CD/craft?
Who left positive feedback on eBay/Amazon/iTunes?
If you’re interested in the answers to these questions, it’s probably because you are concerned on some level about whether you matter or not. But more specifically, when it comes to the internet and other people you may reach by way of it, all these questions boil down to whether you have pleased anybody lately.
I ticked ‘Yes’ to five of those, but only because the last two don’t really apply to me. Ouch.
Anyway, it was an apt article to come across as I started to feel very similar to Daniel a couple of months ago. I took a hiatus from the likes of Facebook and Twitter so as to get out of the cycle of checking and updating. I stripped down the number of RSS feeds I was subscribed to, sorted out email folders so I can keep the Inbox to single figures, got my most used files syncing automatically between computers; basically a whole bunch of stuff to reduce the amount of digital and online ‘noise’ distracting me.
The proof in the pudding has been that I haven’t missed the stuff I got rid of and can use the time saved overall far more rewardingly. Life was just peachy 5 years ago before the steadily growing methods of communication and my personality is far too addictive to look after them all. Plus, retrospectively I don’t really feel like I’m missing out on anything that’s arguably essential to my modern life.
I miss the variety of interesting links that can come up on some Twitter feeds, but there’s a very high level of noise and sense of having missed something amongst it all. Same with Facebook really – all that status update stuff can get addictive but it’s ultimately just pointless and, well, more than a bit attention-seeking at times, and that’s not a good look on anyone – least of all me. On the other hand, for a lot of folk it’s now practically the only network they use to keep in touch with each other, and it is pretty handy for finding and stalking long lost friends, enemies and relatives. I may have to reluctantly reactivate my account soon and see how strong my will power really is.
No real hurry though, eh? Let’s not rush into it.
But the benefit of the other tidying up has been great too in that there isn’t all that other digital junk that an online lifestyle attracts; unread news feeds, email clutter, file management, all those bloody passwords… I think the sense of calm that came from a practically empty Inbox was the most satisfying, though. I highly recommend it!
I still spend an obsessive amount of time using digital devices, of course, they’re just far too much fun to play with. And now I have much more time to do it. Win!