The following was sent to subscribers of One Great Read, an email newsletter I send out periodically. Check out the archives and subscribe if you would like to receive them via email in the future.
So, about that once-a-week thing… Don’t worry though. I figured out a better system for choosing reads for this list and I have a bunch of them all queued up and ready for you.
Unless you completely avoid news, which BTW is really good for your health, you’ve likely seen a lot of news around Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Shortly after it all happened, I was going through my todo list and came upon an item that read, “Request your personal data from Cambridge Analytica. It was from last year. Needless to say, I hadn’t gotten around to checking that todo item off my list.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how I’m consuming and participating in social media. The thinking is also related to my efforts to pay closer attention to how much time I’m spending on my phone, but I’ll save that for another post. I was among the first users of Twitter in 2006 and until the last few years, I really enjoyed it. The 2016 election was a big turning point on so many fronts, but I felt and witnessed it most acutely on Twitter. Make no mistake, even before the election Twitter had been struggling with an insane amount of hate and harassment on the platform. Many of us expressed frustration that Twitter didn’t seem to care, or at the very least weren’t willing to move quickly to address the issue. It’s clear they prioritize growth over all else and removing people from the platform doesn’t serve their business needs. I don’t believe they’ll have much of a business for much longer. But I digress. To put it simply, I’m just not happy when I use Twitter anymore. It makes me miserable. No matter what lengths I go to, I find it increasingly difficult to avoid vitriolic political conversations, noisy retweeting and hot takes on everything that’s happening in the world, every minute it’s happening. That’s not how I want to spend my time.
I’ve tried many things to see if I could somehow find the Twitter I used to love, but it’s so clearly gone that I’ve all but given up. Over the last year or so I unfollowed nearly everyone, added people I care anything about into public and private lists and set my tweets to delete every 14 days. I’ve been using Twitter mostly to share links with the few thousand people that follow me, the vast majority of whom do not engage with anything I post, so why bother anymore? The way I look at it, whatever small amount of energy and effort I put into Twitter is energy I could be putting into something that is mine, on a platform I control, that will live on as long as I pay the domain registration and hosting bills.
Up until today, the last thing I posted of any substance here was almost three years ago. Back when I started blogging, there were no social networks. Blogging was very social for me. I was going though my email archives this week and thanks to my digital hoarding, I have all of my blog comments in my email. Reading through a few of them, I couldn’t help but be nostalgic. It was nostalgia for the community and the conversation. I miss it. I used to experience it on Twitter, but that’s long gone now. I love writing for many reasons and I’ve continued doing it mostly in the form of journals that I don’t share publicly. I do miss writing for the web though. I miss the healthy feedback loop. I miss the conversations that can come from sharing ideas with other people. I’ve been scared to leave Twitter. I’ve been even more scared to start publishing on my own domain again. The thing that has really been holding me back from blogging again is what Dan Cohen refers to as ambient humanity in his post, “Back to the Blog”.
Human beings are social animals and centralized social media like Twitter and Facebook provide a powerful sense of ambient humanity—the feeling that “others are here”—that is often missing when one writes on one’s own site.
It’s worth reading the whole thing, but the quote above really resonated with me in a big way. There hasn’t been any sort of technical reason keeping me from getting back to my blog. I’ve actually kept the blog alive all this time, if for no other reason than having it serve as an archive. Over the last year, I consolidated posts from other blogs that have disappeared, migrated posts from Tumblr and made sure to keep my WordPress installation up to date. I’ve had my own domain for nearly twenty years and throughout many of those years I’ve been publishing and now I think it’s time to return. Even if no one reads it, it’s about investing in me.
“There’s no more urgent reason to write. you’ll not only improve your communication, you’ll learn to think more clearly as well. The person who most benefits from your writing might be you.” — Seth Godin
As I’ve been thinking about beginning to blog again, I’ve been exploring Micro.blog. It’s is one of the more interesting efforts I’ve seen lately and I’ll be cross-posting my short posts there. You’ll see a couple of them below this one. I think of these short posts the same way I used to think of tweets. If you’re on Micro.blog, feel free to follow me there. If you want to read everything I post, I suggest doing so via RSS. It’s no coincidence that RSS is seeing a resurgence. I’ll probably do an extensive write-up on how I use RSS soon. In the mean time, create an account on Feedly and add this site.