It has been three and a half weeks since I have unplugged myself from social media and suspended blogging temporarily.
I was rather active on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter before since I had Connected Myself to the Collective last November. Now my Klout score is dwindling again.
This is my first update from the void, about the void. What happened?
I spent a short vacation – hiking in the Austrian Alps. If a mountain isn’t a symbol of eternal solitude, I don’t know what is.
I have recovered my ability to read and write long-winded, technical, analytical, wooden prose. My anecdotal evidence confirms the hypotheses put forward by Nicholas Carr in his book The Shallows: Skimming Facebook postings and science news posted on G+ diminished my ability to immerse in books and to dig mind-altering material such as technical standards and laws. The good news is that this deformation can be undone rather quickly due to the plasticity of the brain.
The bad news is that I lost the zest for or the capability of creating social media compatible information snippets. They should be called information-lets or infolets, shouldn’t they?
I believe the reason is very simple: I have always written, blogged and ‘shared’ in bursts, and after a fireworks of bursts I needed to recharge my creative batteries and gather some experiences or fresh knowledge I could write about.
Having set-up the subversive websites 10 years ago I started penning anything I pondered about another 10 years before. Then I had said anything I had to say about things that mattered to me – and it was time again to just live and and work. In particular, in times of change – personal or career-wise – I felt a need for writing. It remains to be analyzed if writing catalyzes change, if I start writing before I know I want to make a change, or if I write about changes in hindsight.
Currently I am inclined to the latter theory: In the last year I have written about the corporate world and my difficult relationship with it, after I had taken a decision to leave it. This is a recurring pattern I find in texts on my proto-blog websites, too – I post-process painful decisions though a reader who does not know me might conclude that I am mulling on a problem that remains to be resolved.
In any case I write in bursts, and each burst is based on years of experience – with the notable exception of spam poems. I even applied the same ‘logic’ to social media infolets: I tend to share only stuff related to some experience of mine – I don’t want to browse the daily science news to share the coolest stories.
But the trickiest part of social media is the social part, in particular what I would like to call reciprocity. You need to decide on a strategy – and you do so, maybe unknowingly:
Are you going to follow back? Do you handle following (back) in a different way on different networks? What does a Like really mean? Are you going to give priority to creating your own new postings / messages / updates, do you process comments first, or do you read others’ posts first? Do you apply the same twisted way of thinking that got ingrained in your brain after years of corporate e-mail politics (She knows I read her e-mail because I sent a read receipt (accidentally), so now I need to answer her e-mail first before I leave another virtual trace that gives proof of my being online.) Or do you give up, shout out your message – the same on all channels, that is: using Twitter and Facebook basically for announcing your blog posts?
Believe it or not I had even considered to publish these updates on the void on my non-blog websites only – as I am not sure if I can guarantee reciprocity in terms of reading all your posts during my blogging hiatus.
Social media / online culture sceptics say that on reading online stuff we are overwhelmed by the necessity of taking decisions all the time: Should I click that link? This prevents moving information from the short-term to long-term memory, so Google makes us stupid indeed. Online, decision-loaded reading is very different from the meditative and easy immersion in a single author’s thoughts that you follow over hundreds of pages. On adding the social component (Should I like this?) the load on our decision taking faculties is significantly enhanced, I guess.
There is no final conclusion yet, I have no long-term plan concerning social media. Probably there is a way to train your versatile brain to switch between deep reading and decision-loaded reading. Who knows. But it seems the ‘issues’ that made me pull the trigger last month were related to reading, rather than to writing, and they are worse the more snippet-like the so-called content is. So I won’t stop WordPress-ing.
Chances are high that this update will remain the only one for July. I am just finalizing a piece of tech prose – a master thesis. As I tweeted yesterday: Life is great.