Continuing to unlpug

Last year it occurred to me that the inner turmoil I would sometimes experience while reading certain sources on the internet was hardly worth the occasional worthwhile bit that they brought my way. I had already given up nearly all interaction there for just the same reason, so I began to purge my reading lists. Any source that inspired contentiousness in me got the axe, first in my RSS reader and then via unfollows on Facebook and Twitter.

Reader, there wasn’t much left on Facebook and Twitter! In fact, I’ve finally gone ahead and deleted my Facebook account, and in a couple of days I’ll delete my Twitter account, once I’ve downloaded my tweet history (which is almost entirely a set of quotable quotes I wanted to save off somewhere).

Strangely enough, I probably spend just as much time as before reading RSS feeds, but that is because deleting the contentious stuff opened up enough space to add a few prolific but actually valuable sources. I’ve also subscribed to a couple of email newsletters that have a knack for finding valuable new items on the internet. So it’s not that I want to withdraw from cyberspace, merely narrow my exposure so that I can go deeper with sources I find edifying.

Although I can’t quantify it, I think doing this has greatly increased my peace of mind. Just as engagement in the News of the Day can suck you into a spiral of ever-increasing anxiety, disengaging can help you see what’s left more clearly, which leads not only to an improved perspective but allows and even encourages further disengagement. I used to have hope that the new possibilities for connecting via the internet would make life better, and as I withdrew I went through stretches of disappointment and uncertainty because of that—only to reach a point where I’m content with being out of the fray, and looking for ways to detach further in order to make even more space in my life for the things that count.

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2 thoughts on “Continuing to unlpug

  1. I think I’m about six months behind you. Since the election has heated up, I’ve been blocking, muting and unfollowing like crazy in my real life feed. There are certain political candidates I don’t want to hear from or about; I don’t want to witness the arguments friends are having with their crazy relatives; I end up blocking the original authors of most posts that friends post of their friends’ stuff; I block all kinds of kneejerk memes and people who regularly post them; and so on. And yes. It’s made me calmer but there’s practically nothing left that I find interesting or worth reading. Part of the problem with FB, anyway, is that its blocking tools are really unsophisticated. I can block posts by Neil deGrasse Tyson, whom I can’t stand, or I can hide individual items that a FB friend posts by or about him, but I can’t block every post that refers to him, so I can’t prevent myself from ever seeing news about him (which I would if I could).

    I also have an online alter ego who is officially only interested in a very narrow segment of stuff and it’s interesting that her FB and Twitter feeds have almost no contention in them. But they are also not broadly interesting. It’s odd because there’s an entire group of people in my life who are very important to me whom I’d never have encountered without the Internet. But interaction with them has to be strongly restricted as to theme.

    I appreciate the suggestion to go back to more robust use of the RSS reader — I have feedly and I still use it, but as people have stopped blogging the feed has become very narrow. I should probably go on some explorations and expand it again. I still regularly encounter good writing on the Internet but what you are suggesting is that it tends to occur in limited locations that are probably not very surprising or especially hidden. In that sense, the Internet is probably much more conventional (or becoming that way) than we realized — a reflection of our own minds rather than an independent entity.

  2. It’s made me calmer but there’s practically nothing left that I find interesting or worth reading.

    Servetus,

    I’ve been fortunate (I guess!) that I’ve been pursuing more topics of interest than I could do justice to. And as I deliberately unplugged from some very noisy sources, valuable as they were, I discovered that they had been occupying mental space way out of proportion to their value to me at this point. This was partly possible due to how my thinking has shifted since starting to look at my remaining years as the final act—it was suddenly easier to let go of certain interests once I admitted that I would not be acting in any significant way in those areas.

    Just as a few examples, I unplugged from everything having to do with the travails of the modern American church, the shifting landscape in commercial music, and the rise of independent publishing, three areas that still interest me a lot and about which I’m very knowledgeable, but which I’m also unlikely to act in. Doing that has opened up a lot of breathing space for me. On the other hand I’m still following the cutting edge of web development, even at age 62, because I actually do things there, increasingly so. Likewise issues of subsistence farming, mortality, anarchy, simple living, Zen, and non-sacramental faith, all of which are active parts of my life.

    I still regularly encounter good writing on the Internet but what you are suggesting is that it tends to occur in limited locations that are probably not very surprising or especially hidden.

    I’ll follow this post with one that briefly describes my current sources of good writing. And one thing I’ve recently discovered is that some good sources are shifting towards emailed newsletters, a format I like better since they serve up collections of items regularly and infrequently, rather than as a barrage of one-item interruptions.

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