Ok, the title is partly a joke, specifically “the treatise” part. As I work on this blog, there is a real struggle going on. How do I reclaim my time and try to spend as little of it as possible online, and yet stay relevant in order to get at least a few eyeballs to my site consistently? This started as a hobby really. I just want to blog in order to bring about change, in myself and my readers. I don’t consider myself a great writer like Anne Lamott or Toni Morrison or even Leo Babauta (who is my blogging hero, by the way) but anyone can put thoughts down on paper, so why not.
The truth is, no one can “just blog” anymore. Stiff competition out there! You have to make your site look amazing. You have to market it. You have to advertise on social media platforms, the more the better…? Maybe. Email subscriptions, SEO, affiliate marketing, monetizing, Google Adsense… One has to learn a whole new language!!
The truth for me is that it is still a hobby. I am fortunate that I do not have to try to make a living out of this and I appreciate that a lot of people are needing to do so out of their blogging careers.
So I made the conscious decision to just follow my heart and do what feels right.
- I will keep publishing posts as long as this remains a fun activity for me and as long as I think I have something important or relevant to say.
- I will try to keep to a schedule of 2-3 posts a week, but will not beat myself up if I do less. God has a way of laughing in our faces and turning our world upside down when we make set plans!!
- I already have a Facebook page. I have about 3 Twitter accounts and honestly, have never quite managed to understand “Tweeting”. So it shall remain silent in my life. The only tweets shall be from the birds outside my window.
- I will not get hung up on “stats”. It is a siren song! For those not familiar with what I am talking about, bloggers can have a look at the back of their sites. You can see how many people have visited your site, subscribed, shared your posts. You can even see where the traffic is being directed, i.e via Facebook or other social media shares. I am sure there are a thousand other pieces of analysis, but like I said, no point in my wasting my time on figuring that stuff out.
- I am NOT going to do anything that is considered “conventional wisdom” when it comes to blogging, unless I have given it a great deal of thought and it passes my “feels right” test.
I now want to circle back to the concept of digital minimalism. I am sure we all have gradually become aware of our dependency on our smartphones. Some love technology and do not think it is a problem. Others, probably of my generation and older, sometimes long for the “good old days” when we picked up a hand phone to talk to our friends. Or wrote a letter by hand, placed it in a stamped envelope and went to the mailbox or post office to send it off. There was a phase in my life when I had pen pals in countries abroad, it was exquisitely exotic!!
I remember my parents getting telegrams when I was a child. It almost invariably contained bad news about a relative’s passing. On the heels of a sense of nostalgia comes the acceptance that we are never going back to that era. It is the same feeling one gets after walking out of watching a silent, black and white Charlie Chaplin movie.
For myself, however, I feel like I have been kidnapped by my device. I do not like my level of dependency on my smartphone.
I have been trying to keep from looking at my phone every few minutes. All the usual icons for email and Facebook and Instagram are on it. It is SO easy to get sucked in really!!! Let me just check my email, I say. Next thing I know I am on Facebook, endlessly scrolling looking for….what? Am I really interested to see who posted what or how many likes a post got? Am I looking for where I can comment, “like”, “love” or leave a “sad face/laughy face” emoji?
At the end of it, I look up and realize 30 minutes have gone by and nothing I read has made me a different/better/worse person in any way.
This podcast where Rich Roll interviews Cal Newport confirmed my uneasiness. Cal is a professor of computer science who does not have a social media account. He clearly enunciates how technological companies figure out how to attract and keep peoples’ attention on their sites for hours. We do not pay to use Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any of the thousands of other tech services out there. We are NOT their customers. They are catering to the companies that pay millions of dollars to advertise on their pages.
“Their main goal is to increase traffic to their sites and keep people on there as long as possible.”
What really got my attention was hearing Cal mention how these companies took a page out of the book of casinos in Las Vegas. The scrolling feature on social media accounts was designed based on the slot machines. It is designed to keep you “hooked longer” and even become addicted.
Does it not spook you out when you happen to be shopping for something casually and then the ads for it start popping up every page you look at? We are filled with wonderment at how the tech companies do it, but also of unease, a feeling of our privacy being invaded somehow or worse, like “something out there can read my mind”.
Plain and simple, I do not like being manipulated by companies or anyone for their own gain.
Tristan Harris was a product manager at Google and left when he felt that Silicone Valley companies have become more about “brain hacking” than just entertaining or helping people. You can see the 60 minute episode with him and others who are exploring these phenomena here.
“There are many hands out there that would love to dip into our pockets.”
The reality of it is that we live in a capitalist society. It is up to each one of us to take back control of our lives and our time. We need to become mindful of how it is we want to spend each and every precious moment of our relatively short lives on this planet. I do not think we want to look back and say to ourselves “I wish I had spent less time on useless pursuits on my cell phone and more time face to face with my loved ones and gorging on the beauty around me.”
The irony does not escape me that you will be reading this on your phone or computer. I wish I could just print up hundreds of copies of my posts and mail it out to subscribers. I am glad that physical books are still around and as popular as ever. If we could hold on to some of those “old fashioned ideas” and continue to decrease our dependency on our devices any way we could, there is still hope for humans.
I will remove the icons from my phone that will make it more an instrument of sending and receiving calls which is it’s primary function after all. I do love the camera feature as well, so will use it to take pictures but only a few.
I would love to remove or block the text message features but that is primarily how I communicate with my sons, so will leave it be for now.
I will leave my cell phone outside my bedroom before I go to sleep.
I will continue to be on the alert for whatever changes I can make to decrease my usage of devices.
Hopefully, you have some takeaways from this writing that has affected you at some level and roused you to take a look at your digital media habits. Hopefully, you can also create a pledge for yourself, to take back control of your life and spend your days with a focus on your unique values.