Going all 90s online

I’m slowly reducing my online profile, and general informational inputs. Don’t worry, it’s deliberate.

A few weeks ago, I read Deep Work, by Cal Newport. It was inspiring stuff, even if the ‘I can make you a far more productive cog in the economy!’ salesy elements did grate a little. But I’ve since applied the principles in the book really successfully to my personal writing. 59,000 words in the past six weeks is a rough doubling of the typical word counts I was producing before, for example. I’ll write a post at some point about that.

But the other thing that came out of my reading this book was a re-assessment of how much time I was spending on things that might broadly be described as ‘feeds’ of various sorts. I’ve always been a big RSS user, but in the last few years I had also (re)added Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit and Youtube. Not to mention a very large number of podcasts.

I did a bit of a review of what I was looking at regularly across all of these different things and it was a fairly staggering amount of information on a weekly basis. Keeping up with all of these things is essentially a second, unpaid, full-time job.

I had already deleted the Facebook and Twitter apps off my phone and tried to access them only through the browser. A few weeks ago I also deleted Instagram, which had gone from a nice, fun, small-scale social network that reminded me a lot of what I liked about Flickr back in the day to (yet another) algorithmic firehose of ads and weirdly ordered posts. I was seeing less and less of the kind of thing I signed up to see, and more ad-driven shit, frankly.

Today I deleted my Facebook account, for the second time. I had been consciously reducing my usage for a while, but it felt like deleting it outright was a good and necessary step to take. I had been using Facebook basically as an event manager and messaging system. But I’ve got email for the former and a dozen different options for the latter. So I canned it, after downloading my data. Turns out my privacy tweaks had actually done a pretty good job of misinforming Facebook about what was important to me. Apparently, Facebook thinks I’m into prog rock and eating. Cracking insights, there. I’m going to hang onto my Twitter handle and leave that up, because I haven’t been using that really for a couple of years anyway - maybe two or three posts a year.

Along with that, I trimmed my podcast list down from about 10-15 hours a week of episodes to perhaps 2 or 3. I love podcasts, but just like the author of this article, it was starting to worry me just how much time I was spending drowning out my own thoughts with smoothly produced audio.

I want to basically go back to the late 90s or early 2000s, informationally. I used email and websites a few times a week, consciously, as a choice, rather than as the default on my phone whenever I’m standing still for a few seconds. I had a dorky Nokia mobile with a tiny LCD display and I read a lot of books. The news was in newspapers.

I’m really glad I grew up before the widespread advent of ubiquitous mobile internet access, so that I can remember what it was like and try to recreate it, even if only a little bit.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with all the time I won’t be staring at the internet. I might try and write here a bit more often, but we’ll see.

Written on March 29, 2018