In my own imagination, my absence from social media has been as pronounced as Kiera Knightly’s lower jaw, but in reality I think I’ve barely been missed. No worries, though. I’ve done this before and know what to expect, though it’s been years since my last hiatus. Still, I’m human to dream of being missed, right? Part of the reason for stepping back this time is that I’m just so busy. Not with busy-work, mind you, but a dramatic expansion of my workload. I have a lot more on my plate these days, and while I like it, it meant taking an inventory of where all of my time is going. It’s like being in an airplane that’s losing altitude. First you toss the empty seats, and then the cargo, and finally the essential supplies. You might even kick the annoying people out, too, but that’s the stuff that only happens in the movies, thankfully.
My evaluation revealed to me just how much of my time was being spent in places like Twitter and App.Net. I couldn’t believe how much of my time I was spending on something as mind-numbing as “checking my stream”. I wrote ‘spending’ but I think what I really meant was ‘wasting’. You can only read so many tweets/posts about RSS services and apps before your eyes bleed and you start to want to become a beet farmer. In the Ukraine.
It’s not always the topics, but the vapid, anger-filled apocalyptic nature of each of them. Everything is the end of the world. Everything is super-bad, or super-good. Everything is the best thing since sliced PSD’s, and everything else is the Devil’s sperm, ready to impregnate our minds and turn us into the worst consumers imaginable if we ever touch the stuff.
Do we really need to panic about how we’re ever going to manage to gather and read all those articles on why Apple is beleaguered or the latest blurry photo of an unknown internal component for the next iPhone? Is iOS 7 (not a public release, but a beta version, mind you) really worth hundreds of designers lining up on either side of the issue like some sort of Dadaist West Side Story, ready to flick open their styli and stab someone? Honestly, it’s not important.
You know what is important? Feeding my kids. Money doesn’t grow on trees, unless those trees are Work Your Ass Off trees and you’re patient enough to give them time to grow and produce fruit. I have to work hard each day to earn my keep in this world, and I’m doing it for a few other human beings I really care for as well. I get an average of seven hours each day at my desk. Less than five minutes is equal to about 1% of my available work time. A half-hour is a massive 7% of my daily income.
So the choice I’ve faced each day is to either spend all of my time doing the work I need to do, or spend most of it doing that stuff, and the rest on things that have no lasting importance whatsoever. This isn’t about being a snob and downplaying the stuff that other people might deem important; this is about perspective, about what will matter in five years or even ten. To me, at least, this is about growing up and being a man.
But listen, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for discussion and community and social interaction. That’s what has made this hiatus so difficult. I miss the people. I miss the conversations. Not all of them or even most of them, but some of them, at least. But I’m not interested in talking and writing about something as asinine as Google Glass and how it’s going to revolutionize the way the top 1% of the wealthiest nation in the world is going to conduct their entitled, abnormally unique lives.
When are we going to talk about something truly important? How many hundreds of hours have been spent just this week criticizing the decisions of companies that, frankly, never asked us and couldn’t possibly care one iota?
The conversation — the Greater Conversation, mind you — needs to elevate. It needs to push us to greater places, inspire us, challenge us to be better and do better and think better. But right now, the Conversation is laying on the bottom shelf in an abandoned 7-Eleven in rural North Dakota, covered in filth and going nowhere.
We have moments, sure, but it’s inconsistent at best. One moment we are waxing philosophical about something deep and full of meaning, and the next we are shoveling yet one more load of fuel into the gaping furnace that is the ego of some sensitive, coddled internet celebrity.
Let’s talk about the things that last. Let’s talk about making lives better around us. Let’s talk about making choices that aren’t about blessing ourselves, but rather about helping others. Let’s talk about the things that would still matter to our great-grandparents, and the things that people will still be talking about when we have grandchildren of our own.
Those conversations are more rare and happen at a much slower pace, though. They don’t eat up our time like fighting over UI changes does. And that will free up time for us to spend on doing our real work and taking care of our families.
I’m sure I offended you, and I sincerely apologize for that. It’s not my goal to belittle anyone reading this, and I fully acknowledge that what is important to one person might not necessarily be important to another. Much of this rant is subjective and open to debate (ironic, I know).
Just understand that you have two choices after reading this: get angry and defensive, or look for the good pieces and find a way to help out in your own small bubble. I’m not 100% right about all of this, so arguing with me about being wrong is pointless. I just want people to be a lot less dismissive than they tend to be. We all owe each other that much, don’t we?
Am I crabby and idealistic? You bet (get off my lawn, while you’re at it). But dammit, we can do better than this, can’t we? Prove it.