My Internet use is likely to be quite different in 2012. For the past month or so, I’ve been evaluating what I do online, and actively cutting down on some stuff. I’ve closed my account with almost thirty services I no longer want to be involved with. Today, that’s culminated in the deletion of my Facebook account.
It takes 14 days to completely delete a Facebook account. It’s a sort of ‘grace’ period – in case you change your mind and want to log in for some reason. My 14 days was up last night. I’ve started the new year as a (delighted) non-member of Facebook. There are lots of reasons for that, and I’m sure there’s a conversation to be had about why to use or not use Facebook. It’s not for me. I hope that doesn’t offend anyone.
But what I actually want to talk about is the fact that this is not an “information diet”. I know that’s a popular thing at the moment, and I can understand the interest in Clay Johnson’s new book of that name, but that’s not what I’m doing.
I’ve been an active ‘zero-inboxer’ for a few years (there are no emails in my inbox at the time of writing – and, on average – three times a day), and I have close to 400 filters set up on my Gmail account that stop me from getting flooded with irrelevant and offensive messages.
I’m pretty selective about who I follow on Twitter – and I’ve managed to steer clear of the worst of the racism, sexism, homophobia, self-aggrandisement, marketing bullshit, celebrity worship and other unpleasantness that some complain of in that medium. There’s trivia, sure – but it’s fun, clever (and often surreal) trivia for the most part.
But – here’s the important thing: I continue, and intend to continue, to spend a lot of time on the internet. The internet is not a cause of “information overload”. It’s not a source of stress for me. In fact, quite the opposite. It’s often the source of delight, enlightenment and enrichment. Most importantly, I do not experience my internet use as the ‘receiving of information’.
For me, the internet is both a tool and an environment. It’s how I do things, and it’s the space within which I do those things.
So – no longer being on Facebook – or, for that matter, Google+, Foursquare, Last.fm, Formspring, Spotify and so on – is not about reducing the amount of information I receive. It’s about being selective about the sorts of things I want to be doing (either deliberately or automatically), and the space within which I want to be doing them.
My main use of the internet is conversation. This blog is about starting and having conversations (at least, that’s a large part of its purpose). My email and Twitter use are entirely about conversation. These are the spaces within which I like to have these sorts of conversations. Places I’m comfortable, feel at home and don’t feel surrounded by things I’m not really interested in.
And of course, information will turn up in my inbox and my dozen or so RSS feeds – but just as I don’t get information overload when I get told lots of interesting things by the people I come into personal contact with from day to day, I also don’t suffer from information overload online. It’s not information in the sense of piles of data. This is the raw material from which stories are crafted, knowledge generated and meaning shared.
I do intend to continually seek to improve the quality of the conversations, and the spaces within which I have them – at least to the extent I can have some input into those things. But I’m not on a “diet”.
In fact, if anything, I’m looking for more delicious, well-cooked meals in lovely, tasteful restaurants. In Masterchef-speak – I don’t want a celery stick… I’m after “big flavours”.