There seems to be a growing number of posts extolling the virtues of a embarking on a “digital sabbatical” every so often. While I see the overall value in completely disconnecting yourself from the fire hose of the internet, I feel that we would not need such measures if we would truly evaluate every aspect and manage our expectations of our internet usage.
It seems that we choose to carry smartphones and be constantly connected by 3G, 4G, and WiFi wherever we go. Why should we be so surprised by the mass of content and distraction that comes with that choice? We should make conscious decisions about every input that we allow into our lives and the manage the expectations that we want from them.
I carry a Blackberry Torch from my job as the IT Manager for a small municipality. I need to stay fairly connected so that I can keep tabs on my many servers. I get my work email on it, as well as send/receive text messages with it. I also have an iPod Touch that I use for personal email, twitter, Reeder and other connectivity things. I have different notifications sounds set up for all types of incoming. Typically, I don’t jump up and check any notification sound that I hear. I will wait until I take a break from what I am doing until I check it, unless I am waiting for a response in email or twitter. I have learned to control my impulse to run up and check/answer any and all notifications that come in.
Another way that I manage my sanity with my social feeds is that I am very deliberate in my counts. I know that a lot of folks think that it is cool to be having thousands following them on twitter, Facebook or whatever. I have never felt the need for that. I keep a very close eye on my twitter follower and following counts. Twitter is my preferred social media. I have a Facebook account, but I do not post to it very often and keep an even closer rein on that Friends list (more on that later in the post). Currently, I am following 91 and have 189 following me on twitter. Of the 91 that I follow, 69 are actual real people. The others are music groups, podcast feeds or news feeds that I read. Even further, only about 20 of those that I follow, do I consider friends (real life or internet) that I would like to meet in person and have a relationship with outside of twitter.
I use twitter as a tool for self-improvment. I follow people who do things better than I do so that I can learn from them. I want to write like Patrick Rhone, Randy Murray and Aaron Mahnke. I want to learn to be a proper pen geek from Brad Dowdy and Ryan Roossinck. I follow blogs and sites that these folk recommend because they have seen value in it, so I may find value in it as well. I like to be able to keep up with the conversations taking place at any time. I used to follow almost 300 people, and when I didn’t check twitter for 4 or more hours, it took me more than 10 minutes just to catch up. Now with my more curated list, I only miss 20 or so tweets (unless the CEO of your favorite computer company resigns while you are in the doctor’s office!).
As I said, I do have a Facebook account. The way I use Facebook is mainly for keeping up with family and friends that are spread across the country. I have 55 friends on Facebook, and that is an ever changing list. It is my family, and extended family, along with out of town friends, but they are all people that I know in real life. I also have some fan pages, especially ones that I like that have Facebook giveaways. I mainly monitor Facebook at this point in my life with it. It is much better for sharing photos of my son’s baseball team to my sister in California than anything else out there. When I do post to Facebook, it is usually as an additional post to twitter through Selective Tweets service.
In this age of constant connectivity, we have to be more deliberate than ever to make sure that we don’t succumb from the firehose pointed squarely at us. I have never felt the need to deliberately disconnect myself from the Internet because I feel that I have complete control of everything coming at me.
Would you rather take regular digital sabbaticals, or curb your intake a little more?