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My social media fast

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Last week (approx. May 7-14), I stopped using social media for an entire week. I logged out of all the sites and deleted the apps from my phone. I didn’t so much as peek at Instagram, which is, with Twitter and old-school Flickr, probably my favorite online service of all time. I used Twitter as minimally as I could, for work only.1 I didn’t check in anywhere on Swarm. No Facebook. As much as I could, I didn’t use my phone. I left it at home when I went to the grocery store. I didn’t play any games on it. I left it across the room when I went to bed and when I worked.

Many people have given up social media and written about it — the digital equivalent of the “Why I’m Leaving New York” essay — but since I didn’t write about leaving New York, I’m going to do this instead.

I used to be very good about using my phone and social media appropriately. More than a decade of working on kottke.org taught me how to not be online when I wasn’t working (for the most part). I tried super hard not to use my phone at all around my kids and if I was out with friends, my phone stayed in my pocket.2

Almost a year ago, after 13+ years in the city, I moved from lower Manhattan3 to rural Vermont. It’s beautiful here. I live in a house in the country surrounded by horse pasture and there’s great skiing in the winter. The nearest town is only five minutes away by car; it has a two-screen movie theater, a handful of restaurants (none of which are typically open after 10pm), two grocery stores, but nowhere to get a proper donut, sushi, or bowl of ramen. (The nearest ramen is an hour’s drive away.) While I was writing this post yesterday afternoon, the power in my house went out and didn’t come back on for three hours, forcing a delay in publication. It’s been difficult to meet people. Folks here are nice, but they mostly remind me of the people in the small town I grew up in (aka why I moved to the city in the first place). I work from home at a desk in my bedroom and some days, the only beings I’ll talk to are Siri, my landlord’s horses, and some days, my kids and their mom.

Social media, mostly through my phone, has been an important way for me to stay connected with friends and goings on in the wider world. But lately I’d noticed an obsessiveness, an addiction really, that I didn’t like once I became fully aware of it. When I wasn’t working, I was on my phone, refreshing Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook repeatedly in an endless series, like a little old lady at Caesar’s Palace working several slot machines at the same time. And I couldn’t stop it — my phone was in my hand even when I was trying to concentrate on my kids, watching a movie, or reading a book. So, I quit for a week to see what would happen. It’s not a super-long time period, but here’s what I noticed:

- Once I’d set my mind to it, it was pretty easy to go cold turkey. Perhaps my Twitter usage and keeping up with the news for kottke.org acted as a nicotine patch, but I don’t think so. Instagram was the toughest to stay away from, but I didn’t crack once.

- As the week went on, it was more and more evident that it wasn’t so much social media as the phone that was the problem. Even now, a few days after the conclusion of my experiment, I’m leaving my phone at home when I go out or across the room when I’m doing something. I’m going to try hard to keep this up.

- Buuuut, when you have kids, there is no such thing as giving up your phone. There’s always the potential call from their school or their mom or their doctor or another parent regarding a playdate or or or. I spend enough time online at my computer for work that I could mostly do without my phone, but with kids, that’s not really an option.

- Not a single person noticed that I had stopped using social media. (Not enough to tell me anyway.) Perhaps if it had been two weeks? For me, this reinforced that social media is actually not a good way to “stay connected with friends”. Social media aggregates interactions between loved ones so that you get industrialized communication rather than personal connection. No one really notices if a particular person goes missing because they’re just one interchangeable node in a network.

- My no-social week, for a variety of reasons, was probably the shittiest week I’d had in more than a year. Total emotional mess. Being off social media didn’t make it any better, but I doubt it made it worse. Overall, it was probably a good thing I wasn’t subjecting my friends and followers to self-subtweets and emo Instagram Stories…I was already scoring enough own goals without social media’s help.

- So, what did I do instead? I wish I could say that I had loads of extra free time that I used to learn Spanish, clean my house, catch up with old friends, cook delicious meals, and finish a couple work projects. Perhaps if shittiest week ever hadn’t been happening, I would have done some of that. Still, I did end up going to bed early every night, read a couple books, and had more time for work and dealing with kid drama.

After the week was up, I greedily checked in on Instagram and Facebook to see what I had missed. Nothing much, of course. Since then, I’ve been checking them a bit less. When I am on, I’ve been faving and commenting more in an attempt to be a little more active in connecting. I unfollowed some accounts I realized I didn’t care that much about and followed others I’ve been curious to check out. Swarm I check a lot less, about once a day — there was a lot of FOMO going on when I saw friends checked in at cool places in NYC or on vacations in Europe. And I’m only checking in when I go someplace novel, just to keep a log of where I’ve been…that’s always fun to look back on.

Mostly, I’ve resolved to use my phone less. Being on my phone was my fidget spinner…this thing that I would do when there was nothing else to do or that I would use to delay going to bed or delay getting out of bed in the morning. Going forward, I’m going to be more mindful about its use. If nothing else, my hands and thumbs might start feeling better.

  1. Yeah, I did not stop using Twitter. Ideally I would have, but Twitter is a huge source of information for this here website and I couldn’t afford to give it up without ditching work for a week, which I did not want to do because I wanted to maintain my normal schedule. But I didn’t look at Twitter on my phone, didn’t reply to or fave any tweets, muted some non-news/link accounts I follow, and limited my usage to “business hours”.

  1. Still one of my favorite tweets is from Scott Simpson: “My new standard of cool: when I’m hanging out with you, I never see your phone ever ever ever.”

  1. Haha, you’re getting a mini leaving NYC essay anyway. Suckers!

Tags: Facebook   Instagram   Jason Kottke   NYC   Swarm   Twitter   WWW
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deezil
3 days ago
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The way he talks about "the kids mom" and the crappy week... maybe he did well with the week away for other reasons.
Louisville, Kentucky
mellangatang
3 days ago
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Wow, a whole week?!?
Whup Tee Doo...

Nobody cares.

Google Home is playing audio ads for Beauty and the Beast

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Today some Google Home owners are hearing something extra when they ask for a summary of the day ahead from the smart speaker: an advertisement for the opening of Beauty and the Beast. Several users on Reddit have noticed the audio ad and Bryson Meunier posted a clip to Twitter. The ad is delivered using the regular Google Assistant voice, so it blends in seamlessly with the other information — but some people still aren’t happy about it. "My Day" configurations are weather, commute, calendar, reminders, and news, and I definitely haven't searched for the film either.

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mellangatang
67 days ago
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Dear Google,

Do you want me to use Alexa? Because shit like this is what makes me use Alexa.

Sincerely,
Everyone with a Google Home
freeAgent
67 days ago
This makes me glad to have gone the Echo route. The most awful part of this story is how Google denies that this is an ad. That's clearly false.

Top-notch trolling: Reasons To Vote For Democrats

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The #1 bestselling book on Amazon right now is called Reasons To Vote For Democrats: A Comprehensive Guide. It’s by Michael Knowles, costs $8.03, and is filled with 266 blank pages. I have to admit, that’s pretty damn funny.

The most exhaustively researched and coherently argued Democrat Party apologia to date, “Reasons To Vote For Democrats: A Comprehensive Guide” is a political treatise sure to stand the test of time. A must-have addition to any political observer’s coffee table.

The follow-on joke is never as funny as the original, but you can also buy a blank book called Reasons to Vote for Republicans. (via buzzfeed)

Tags: books   politics
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mellangatang
73 days ago
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I used to have a book entitled Ronald Reagan's Remembrances. It was full of blank pages, too.

The Best NAS for Most Home Users

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two top pick NAS on desk

After testing a total of 13 two-bay network-attached storage (NAS) devices over the past two years, we found that the QNAP Turbo NAS TS-251 is still the best home NAS. It’s one of the fastest we’ve tested, it offers hardware that’s more powerful than that of most NAS devices in its price range, it has upgradable RAM, and it comes with flexible, powerful software that does everything most NAS users need.

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mellangatang
75 days ago
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I'm just waiting for my 8 year old Drobo to die so I can get a Synology...
dreadhead
74 days ago
Do it before your Drobo dies and you loose everything on it...
fxer
75 days ago
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My synology 212+ is great, replaced evernote among other services
Bend, Oregon
mxm23
75 days ago
Agreed. Love my DS1315+
dreadhead
74 days ago
I got a DS412+ a few years ago to replace an old drobo, I looked into building my own but decided I did not want to worry about the hastel that came with it. From my perspective it has been well worth it.
sonarun
74 days ago
I purchased a 216+ last year and upgraded the ram. It has been an incredible machine to work with and very powerful for decoding Plex streams.
dreadhead
74 days ago
Mine struggles with 720p content with plex at times but works well enough.
zelig2
74 days ago
I tried a bunch of NAS units out about 5 years ago and settled on a Synology DS1511+. It does struggle on transcoding which is why I direct stream everything in Plex.

Donald Trump is hosting a Reddit AMA during the Democratic National Convention

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is holding an "Ask Me Anything" session on Reddit the night that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are set to speak at the Democratic National Convention. The AMA, which was announced this morning, will be held on July 27th at 7PM ET on Trump subreddit r/The_Donald.

Reddit has become a significant platform for campaigning over the past few years. Obama became one of the first major political figures to hold an AMA during the 2012 election season; unlike Trump's upcoming AMA, his session took place on the official, larger, more general-interest r/IAmA subreddit. Likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton showed up on the site earlier this year. Trump has an extremely active Reddit...

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mellangatang
301 days ago
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I can't imagine this will end well.

MonoCharge: Wireless Charging Reimagined

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monocharge-006

A year after their successful Apple Watch band campaign, Monowear is back with another Kickstarter. This time, they are looking at bringing a portable wireless charging station for iPhone and Apple Watch to the market.

Enter MonoCharge. It’s a Wireless Qi charger for iPhone, and it integrates nicely with the original Apple Watch charger (includes a custom cable organizer). For a $99 pledge, you can get a Wireless Qi Charger, the Apple Watch Charging station, and a Qi Charging iPhone case.

Click here to learn more about the product.

Buy Now

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mellangatang
306 days ago
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$99... That's pretty damn expensive nowadays. I could get 7 or 8 Qi pads and put them all over the house for that much.
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