FailWhale make Louie Sad!

Since completing a 30-day break from a lot of things, I’ve been too busy to actually write about the experience. I failed on a couple of things. One of those was no meat and another was no beer. I did well but caved in a few days short of my 30-day mark. There are no excuses for this but a lot of people have told me the 30-day mark is fine on one or two things but to give up a dozen things I enjoy for a full month is so intense that it was bound to fail. What’s remarkable is how I never really had any more free time during this break. I managed to fill it with other constructive items. First of all, I blogged more, read more and exercised more. I also went all in on collecting and cellaring beers and that took up a lot of my month. It’s pretty amazing how adding some of my hobbies back into the mix has actually made it harder to write about the detox as now I’m even more busy than before. One thing was important to write and I was reminded of this by a reader who emailed this:

I’ve just read your post about “your tweets” and was wondering.. So when you don’t spend that much time on Twitter, are you still up-to-date? I mean I get almost everything from Twitter: news, interesting things, blog posts, music some people share, apps, etc. How is it living with much less social media?

This was perhaps the most scary thing about closing Facebook, Twitter and other apps and removing them from my devices. I didn’t just commit to abstaining from posting. I abstained from even opening those apps to see what friends were doing. How did I handle this and how did I keep in touch with the world?

One friend suggested I subscribe to a newspaper. I did this while in San Francisco and it was a great way to start my day. Newspapers don’t deliver to my area so I get by with tablet versions of The Times. The thing is, the majority of my news doesn’t come from social media. I selfishly use Twitter and Facebook as broadcast and feedback mechanisms. Social media serves three purposes:

  1. Syndication of my Photos, videos and blog posts as well as micro-thoughts that aren’t suitable for long form.
  2. Feedback from users on the media I referenced above and answers to questions / problems I have.
  3. Analysis of trends using Twitter Search and other search tools for work and personal research

I am not a use-case for the majority of social media users. Twitter has stated that a majority of their accounts have less than 10 tweets. Most of Twitter’s user-base is lurkers who follow other people. Of my 4,000 followers, only a group of about 200 reply on a monthly basis and the 10% do make up 90% of my Twitter replies. For me to use it as syndication tool is very unorthodox.

I will say that just having social media apps uninstalled was difficult to deal with for the first 2 weeks. I wanted to share things or see what a specific friend was up to. This was very difficult to be barred from accessing those services.

The biggest loss was the comfort of not being connected, not the fact that I was missing out on photos of food and drunken rants. I found out about a new Apple announcement hours later instead of immediately after. My life was no worse off with that delay. I still maintained a twice a day review of my RSS feeds which is under 20 RSS feeds around tech and world news. This kept me up to date but I was very careful about what I did read. Another goal was that I don’t read the same news twice even if two sources were reporting a different angle. Also, I would usually read the original press release instead of the blogger’s take on it. I vowed to send less things to Instapaper and books received preference over blog posts. I missed out on a lot of things this month but, as Peter Gibbons from Office Space famously said to the Bobs after being asked, “We see you’ve been missing a lot of work lately.” “I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing it, Bob.”

I missed things but didn’t miss them.

The key takeaway to my break from information overload was a well received dose of perspective. I don’t need to know everything to stay on top of what’s going on in the world. An hour of NPR, a scan of The Times and a twice a day scan of my RSS feeds and I’m good. I’m also debating unfollowing some people on Twitter. For example, Parth Debar is a friend of mine. He’s a smart kid who reminds me of myself of that age. The thing is, I simply can’t stand his tweets following my return to Twitter. He talks about Apple all of the time like it’s all that matters. He makes little puns and jokes about marketshare and stock prices and half-joking remarks about seeing a non-iPad tablet out in the wild and how insane that is. He’s a smart guy and I like talking to him over DM (which requires I follow him) but c’mon man! Enough about Apple. It’s annoying as hell!

There are a lot of guys like Parth. I was one of them but I evolved and now to talk about Apple that much is just depressing. I didn’t realize just how bad it was until I took off for a month and realized how sensational bloggers are at making things up and how insane fanboys are for debating a blog post that some guy came up with in 5 minutes following a press release that was clearly written in 15 minutes. IT’s just too much!

That’s the biggest thing. It’s the curation of content and realizing your time is valuable. That’s what I got out of this. My involvement in social media hasn’t changed as far as the three use-cases I posted above for how I used it in the past. However, my consumption of social media and news has changed in a huge way.