In January 2014 I deleted seven of my social media accounts.
I wrote about this little experience, and the post went on to receive more traffic than any post I’ve ever done. I also received a remarkable amount of email and messages from people all over the world who wrote in support and solidarity. It appears there are many of us who feel like the social media rabbit hole is deeper and darker than we first thought. But I also started that post by saying “Hey, if you love social then more power to you.” “Enjoy.” And I still feel this way today.
Now, while out and about in the world I slowly became known as the “guy who deleted social,” which has created some interesting moments over the past year. I’m always amazed by how seriously people take their social, and also how serious they take my departure. I’ve routinely been scoffed at while being asked “Oh ya sure, you deleted your social…how long did that last?” And when I reply, “Still deleted and not going back,” I’m met with genuine looks of horror, bewilderment and in some cases hostility. I also have a fair number of people who say something along the lines of “I’m so jealous.” There are many folks tied to social due to job requirements, and a significant percentage of these people feel like they are being ground up by the superficial treadmill of the social life. And yes, there are many people who don’t give a s$#@ what I do.
So being me I took things one step further.
In December of 2014 I decided to ONLY go online when I HAD to go online, or at least attempt to do this. No more news. No more sports. No more mindless climbing videos on YouTube. No more endless days lost to the magical powers of Will Farrell. No more shopping. Just needs. Need to reserve a book at the library. Done. Need a hotel. Done. Need a flight. Done. Need to see what’s trending on Yahoo….NOT f$#$#@$ done. BLISS. BLISS PEOPLE. BLISS. The plan was two fold. Stop going online for no reason, and the moment I felt like going online I would pick up a book instead.
So. These are the books I’ve read this year. (Yes, if I wasn’t such a d$#@ I would have linked all these.)
1. I am Pilgram, Clark
The Circle, Eggars
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Eggars
No Place to Hide, Greenwald
All the Light we Cannot See, Doerr
Dark Alliance, Webb
Kill the Messenger, Webb
The Interior Circuit, Goldman
Say Her Name, Goldman
10. The Art of Political Trouble, Goldman
In Trouble Again, O’Hanlan
Desert Memories, Dorfman
At Night we Walk in Circles, Alarcon
The Sound of Things Falling, Vasquez
Deep Down Dark, Tobar
The Tattooed Soldier, Tobar
Kings of Cool, Winslow
Don’t Stop the Carnival, Wouk
20. Good Hunting, Devine
Hotel Florida, Vaill
Salvador, Didion (reread every few years)
The Secret Race, Coyle and Hamilton
Lasso the Wind, Egan
Death Grip, Samet
The Emerald Mile, Fedarko
Desert Solitaire, Abbey
The Long Way, Moitessesier
30. The Monkey Wrench Gang, Abbey
The Man Who Walked Through Time, Fletcher
The Cult of the Amateur, Keen
Digital Vertigo, Keen
Collapse, Diamond (Reading at the time of this post.)
The Goldfinch, Tartt (Reading at the time of this post.)
Now, you might be asking yourself why I count my books. Normally I don’t. But what began to dawn on me was “Hmmm, this FEELS like a lot of books.” “I wonder how many books I’ve actually read?” People also ask me if I’ve read anything good lately, and I can never remember titles, authors, etc. so I figured I’d jot them down. My old routine was get up at 5AM or 5:30AM, get my non-morning person wife out the door in one piece and then go straight to my computer with the most potent cup of coffee the world has ever seen. Twelve hours later I would move away from the desk. Now, I get up at the same time, get the same non-morning person wife out the door, make the same heart-stopped cup of widowmaker coffee, but now instead of hitting the space bar I read. I read for however long it takes me to finish my coffee. At some point the coffee will probably kill me, but that’s okay because then I won’t have to worry about anything else, like Kodak stopping TRI-X production, but until then I know I’ve got a new routine that works. I also apply this technique at night. No more stupid s$#$ for no reason. Just read.(And I LOVE stupid s$#%)
The impact of my online diet has been profound. My mind feels like one solid block and not a hundred fragments connected to one of those vibrating hotel beds. I also feel smarter. That might sound strange, and perhaps this isn’t valid, but it sure feels that way. I’ve returned to novel length material and have distanced myself from the informational morsel. No banner ads. No facial recognition advertising. No “SEVEN ANNOYING THINGS THAT HAPPEN AT WORK” lifestyle that permeates the lunacy that is The Internet. Got a second? Hey, surf the web. Bored? Surf the web. Commercial on TV, grab your phone and surf the web. Having an important or personal conversation with a loved one? Hey, perfect time to surf the web! Etc., etc. In some odd way I feel like I’ve been whispered a secret. I walk through the world as if it’s one enormous human zoo and I’m in a bubble looking at these strange species up close and personal. The difficult part is actually spending time with those lost to the system. It’s more difficult now. Watching as they ignore life, the conversations, questions aimed their way as they look up with glazed eyes and go “What?” So, now I am trolling for the disconnected.
I don’t expect anyone to follow my quiet, little voyage. Nor do I think it’s noble, better or pioneering. What I want to share is the idea that less is, at times, certainly more, and if this experience has been so rewarding to me it could perhaps be the same for you. I didn’t even mention art, bookmaking and the guitar, three little things I’ve been deeply investing in with all my newfound mental freedom. As for art and guitar, man do I suck, but I’m okay with that. Made four new books this week as part of a new twenty-book series that will live in a box set edition. I’m greedy people. I think about what I’ve been able to accomplish and I wonder what others I admire would be able to create if they took they time they waste on social and the web and applied to to their work, or a new passion. I wonder. And I wait.
I’d be curious if anyone out there does a short test or experiments with this idea. If you do hit me up and let me know how it goes. Okay, gotta go. There are pages in need of turning.