It has been a couple months since my last post here. For my absence, I apologize; for your understanding, I thank you in advance . I didn’t mean to be gone so long, but as it turned out, my break from daily social media use was easier than I’d expected it to be.
I take breaks from social media at least a couple times a year. Usually during the winter holidays; and again at some point during the summer. I need to take these breaks, because when I use social media I’m not able to simply use it as a user. I have to reflect on my use, study it, analyze it, and reify it. They say that if you love film, stay away from film-making. That if you love music, stay away from music production. It could be that the same thing is true of all production media. But my time away from social media also separated me from real connections and relationships.
I believe that we can learn as much about social tools when we turn them off, as we can from turning them on. This was certainly the case this time. Suspending my daily tweeting, blogging, commenting, and facebooking habits created first a vacuum. The vacuum was filled with people, conversations, and new past-times. Some of what I was getting from social media use, it seemed, was in ways generic and transferable. There were other ways than social media to socialize and communicate (of course). Frankly, I much more enjoy face to face conversation than I do rounds on twitter. No surprise there, I’m sure.
But some of what I got from social media was not as easily transferred. My sense of professional relevance; my sense of belonging to a professional culture, as well as to social circles. Social media professionals use the very medium in which they work to also engage with peers. Perhaps this fuels the medium’s ability to generate a lot of buzz about itself — I don’t know. It must play a role.
Outside of social media circles, I noticed very little social media use. I spied a few foursquare check-ins on occasion, which only made me more self-conscious about having checked in myself (I allowed myself to continue using Foursquare). (There is something about seeing another person check in that seems to rob that activity of its individual meaning). But it struck me that most of San Francisco was happily off line and face to face. I enjoyed it. And enjoyed, moreso, getting out of town for weekends hiking and camping. I’ve been lost in the woods now ten weekends this summer — I think I’ll remember them better than I remember blog posts I may have penned in 09.
So it is with some trepidation that I restart regular blogging. I plan to unfold some of my reflections on online/offline as they come up. And I hope that I will be able to frame online social practices with a greater sense of perspective than I have in the past — when, in hindsight, I simply used the medium too much and made more out of it than it deserves (IMHO).
I did spend the past weeks on clients and work. I continue to see opportunities for applications, services, and tools to do far more than they do. It’s unfortunate that the industry relies so heavily on best practices and common experiences. This is owed in part to our need for user adoption; but it’s explained in part also by an unnecessary self-restraint on the part of developers, engineers, and entrepreneurs. We can do so much more. And I hope that we do.
That’s it for this post. I hope everyone’s been enjoying the summer — offline as well as online.