Hmmmm. Day two with Day One 😉
My habit is to use text editors primarily for blogging. So, now I’m thinking about how to use Day One. Probably over thinking it. I’m aware that most of my time writing is about sharing, usually via blog. This app seems geared towards private journaling for the sake of recording life moments. Right off I’m trying to bend it to blogging. And still considering whether or not I could do something like this in Notes.
It’s far too easy to get stuck in a game of app hopping. Comparing Day One to Apple Notes and I like the Day One sidebar. The grouping by day is helpful. I can edit the dates if needed. The app includes weather and other metadata that would be a nice-to-have info when looking back.
BUT, unlike Notes, I can’t view across devices. I’m not used to and don’t like the navigation via the arrow keys. I’m used to using arrow keys for moving the cursor in the text. This seems like a weird choice and there’s no setting to change it. Ugh.
Okay, so, I spent the last 30 minutes in Notes. 🤣 If I had a nickel for every time I’ve played this game. But listen Linda, Linda, Honey, I think I’ve got something. I think perhaps I can make Notes work in more ways than one…
To be continued as follow-up post on my blog at Beardy Guy Creative.
Posting versus blogging
I’ve been blogging for just shy of 20 years not counting my static html site in the late 1990s. Ah yes, I remember fondly “blogging” with straight html and ftping updates to a manually updated list of links. Over those 20 years I’ve accumulated far too many categories due to sloppiness and a lack of intent in my use of them. I’m still not entirely clear how I want to use them.
In any case, as I’ve been doing a bit of tidying up I’ve also noticed that most of my posting over the past few months has been increasingly of the “micro” type post. Essentially, 280 words or less which is the limit on timeline posts on Micro.blog. The thing about micro posts, wherever I may have posted (Mastodon, micro.blog, or previously, Twitter), my primary intent is to share with other people. This might seem obvious as that’s the point of social media.
But as I read through older posts I’m reminded that for me blogging is more about the writing down of my experiences for myself as much as anyone else. Blogging is an act of journaling for the sake of writing, remembering, and appreciating the happenings of my life. Sure, I’m posting on a website that I’m happy to have others find and read but when I’m blogging that is secondary to the deeper, reflective process.
Of course it’s possible to do both but it’s easy to fall into the habit of the shorter social posting as it requires less effort. I’d like to make more of an effort at longer posts as they reflect a deeper, more deliberate thoughtfulness on the life I’m living and an appreciation of that life.
Another aspect of this is just the realization that it’s easier to let free time with a screen become a more passive consumption of timelines. In recent times there’s more awareness and discussion of the nature of different timelines in various social media and the hazards of “doom scrolling” and an algorithm designed to keep people “engaged”. I deleted Facebook long ago￼ but continued using Instagram and to a lesser degree Twitter. But then stopped using Instagram only to see my time increase on Twitter. Now I’ve left twitter and am using Mastodon and Micro.Blog.
The common story at the moment is that Mastodon, compared to Twitter, has a much better, friendlier, healthier community and timeline and I think that’s true. Even more so micro.blog where there is a deliberate design to encourage people to engage with one another with actual comments rather than just boosting or liking posts. I think both of these are healthier than the social media that have come before. But they’re still a kind of social timeline where it can become a habit to scroll and react. And while leaving a comment is more thoughtful than a simple boost or like, the timeline is still a primarily social and more consumptive/reactive process.
One of my favorite websites of the early to mid 2000s was Flickr which, unlike the others that came later, never felt like a bad place to be. There are a lot of high quality photos on Mastodon and quite a few on micro.blog too, it reminds me a bit of my time on Flickr.
Overall I’m finding that most of my non-work time with a screen is being split between Mastodon and micro.blog and I’m really enjoying time spent between the two. But I’m hoping to shift a bit more of my time to reflecting and writing with a goal of a better balance.
In my previous post I spent a few minutes reminiscing about my early time on the internet and my webiversary. While I was out for my walk yesterday I was pondering how I used to think of the internet, say, in 1998. The web was just emerging and I, an anarchist activist in my Memphis community, thought it would eventually prove to be an important part of the democratic process. At the time it seemed the roadblocks to a more meaningful democracy were ignorance and apathy. I thought that as the footprint of the web grew, that it would become a tool that would inevitably lead to a better informed citizenry which would lead to a less apathetic citizenry.
Oh how wrong I was.
Of course at the time “social media” did not exist, at least not in the modern, popular form. There was no Twitter, no Facebook, no YouTube. LiveJournal would be the first to gain a foothold in 1999. Others soon followed, Friendster in 2002, MySpace in 2003. But none had the reach of Facebook in 2019 which for many people is the web.
Rather than a diverse web we have a web largely dominated by a few huge entities, Google and Facebook being the best examples. I’m not going to do a deep dive into the many problems that might be explored here. Suffice it to say that the pervasiveness of Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter (in approximate order of influence) have arguably increased ignorance as they have decreased apathy. The dynamic that has been put into play is a citizenry that is emotionally manipulated away from understanding or even attempting to understand present day social, political and scientific facts. Rather than a more informed citizenry engaging in a more active democracy, based upon knowledge and reason, social media, as the face of the modern web, has led to an increasingly fractured and hostile social experience based on rumors, conspiracy theories, pervasive misinformation. I’m using the term social experience to encompass our digital social interactions as well as our “real life” interactions, which is to say, the experiences we have face-to-face in our families, with friends and co-workers.
By chance I came across this post Ryan Murphy at Fulcra which, in a way, touches on some of this dynamic but from a different direction. He starts with a quote from Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World. I’ve mention this book by Sagan before and this quote fits well here too:
I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time—when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…
Murphy, in his post, mentions a thread on Reddit about the growth of anti-intellectualism and conspiracy theories. I confess I’ve not read through that thread yet so I’m not sure what ground it covers but Murphy ends his post with:
People in the Reddit thread point out that these seemingly recent trends have been taking root for a long time. While this is true, it’s also true that (just like seemingly everything else) these phenomena have been moving much faster and growing much larger in recent years. Which leads to a curious tangent: how do accelerated scales of change play on our biases? Does the interaction between these biases and our accelerated experiences change our perception of the world?
I think the answer to his last question is yes. The accelerated experience is a part of the dynamic. I deleted my Facebook account in 2015 after being on it for 5 or more years. Almost every family member and friend that I can think of are still using Facebook. According to Statista, there are 190 million active users in the U.S. Wikipedia’s Facebook page provides an excellent overview of the influence that Facebook has had including its rapid rate of growth and the many issues/scandals/controversies that have surfaced.
It seems obvious that the processes of modern social life have, in just 10 years, become deeply influenced by social media, specifically Facebook. What is less clear are the long-term implications and effects as well as the response to this new dynamic. As of 2019 there have been numerous serious scandals that have been broadly reported by the media and thus far the company seems immune with the user base seemingly uninterested. From the 2016 elections and likely to the 2020 elections we see far reaching affects in U.S. electoral politics but also on family and community relations.
We’re just over a decade into the online social media experiment and while we seem to have shed some of our apathy, our new-found enthusiasm for engagement is less informed. We’re allowing ourselves to be tweaked by algorithms designed to manipulate us so that our attention and our data might be sold at great profit. Why? We say it’s for baby pictures. We like the fun memes about animals, the clever jokes and pranks. We tell ourselves it’s our way of staying connected. But the social media software engineers behind the scenes will tell you that your engagement, your attention is more about dopamine and social reward.
Rather than a diverse World Wide Web that leads to an informed humanity and better democracy, we have a comforting interface that is designed to stimulate the chemistry of our brains into a range of emotions that will keep us clicking and tapping, consuming but not actively thinking. A tool for keeping us entertained so that we can be sold and, to some degree, controlled.
I’ll end with a modification of Sagan’s quote updated for 2019:
...when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our smart phones and nervously consulting our social media feeds, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…
Over the past year I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable with Facebook and have finally decided to abandon it. It was Salim Virani’s article Get Your Loved Ones Off Facebook that finally sealed the deal. I’m not going to spend anytime reiterating what he has written. If you’re on Facebook you really should read it yourself. What I intend to do here is detail how I am transitioning away from Facebook by replacing it with different services.
I’ve been a regular user of the internet since 1997 so I had 10 years of experience before joining FB. Remembering the days of the internet before Facebook is an interesting exercise. There’s no doubt that FB provides a convenient access point for sharing anything and everything via timelines, groups, and messaging. From images to video it’s all just a click or two to post or view content from practically any internet connected device.
A few resources for staying in touch. The most obvious is the old standby email. Make sure you collect the email addresses for folks you want to stay in touch with. And make sure your email address is available to those who may prefer email.
Chatting without FB Messenger is easily accomplished via free services and apps such as Skype. With Skype I can have private text, video or audio chats or group chats from my Mac or iPhone or iPad. Also available for Windows and Android. Individual texting and group texting is yet another option which is increasingly easy to access from a variety of devices and operating systems. In our home we’re using Macs, iPhones and iPads to message with each other as well as anyone with a cell phone. Twitter is an interesting blend of messaging and wall posting and might as well be in the mix.
The Facebook “wall” is also replaceable though it requires a bit more effort for everyone involved. For the sharer it requires setting up a blog which is fairly easy to do and free. Free options include Google’s Blogger platform (the home of this blog), WordPress, or paid options such as Typepad. Here’s a nice list of free and paid options. When you set-up your blog you have a variety of options such as allowing comments to articles as well as visual/design customizations via themes. A nice change from Facebook’s persistent blue graphics everywhere.
Then there is the process of gathering up the blog feeds of friends, similar to friending people. This part is not as easy as it is in a closed ecosystem such as Facebook. One of the easiest ways to get started is via a free service such as Feedly. Set-up an account and then begin adding the feeds of friends blogs. This is accomplished by clicking the “Add Content” link in the Feedly sidebar then copy/pasting the address of the blog into the field. Feedly will look for the rss feed for the blog and give you the option of subscribing. Done. I’ve been using RSS for 10+ years so I’ve got a fairly large list of sites that I read, or, in some cases, skim. Feedly allows for easy organization of feeds by topic areas via folders. I’ve got a folders for a variety of interests: astronomy, science, Apple and tech news, general news, design and most recently I’ve added a “Friends” folder in which I will place the feeds for any Facebook friends that have a blog. You can access your Feedly via web browser or a variety of rss apps. On the Mac I prefer accessing via web browser, on my iPad or iPhone the free Feedly app is excellent.
What about photos and video? Photos can be fairly easily added right to your blog’s timeline via upload from whatever device you’re using. Or, if you prefer a dedicated photo service Flickr is a free service that offers plenty of space (1 TB) for sharing photos. A nice side benefit of flickr is that it is in itself a social medium which encourages following and commenting. Flickr photos can also be posted to blogs. Video can be easily accomplished with YouTube or Vimeo, both of which offer the option to embed video in your blog.
There’s no doubt that developing your own ecosystem takes a bit more work but it comes with the benefit of greater control of content presentation and independence from Facebook’s data collection machine. Well, not quite independence because it is becoming quite clear that it is nearly impossible to be clear of such collection but why make it easy?