I get nostalgic for 2006 often, when Google Reader was my curated news source. When Google killed Reader, how I used the Internet changed.
I moved to Twitter, and around that same time Facebook was becoming more of a publisher and less of a way to stay current with friends who no longer lived near me.
And that’s where I’ve gotten my news mostly—friends on Facebook post links of what they’ve read, and the people I follow on Twitter (which I try to keep eclectic) keep me informed of stories I might otherwise miss. And in the name of “staying informed,” too often I get lost in the Sea of Endless Scrolling, and I’m not being my best self. Not by a long shot.
As Kevin Roose wrote in today’s New York Times, I’ve developed some routines that have broken my brain just a little bit. But those routines developed, in part, because I teach journalism and popular culture and feel a responsibility to be informed.
I tell my students “If the product is free, then the product is you.” My friend Julie Smith taught me that. All the products I’ve been using to “stay informed” are free, and I am definitely feeling like a bit of a product.
I want to go back to the halcyon days of Google Reader, when I woke up every morning and read blogs and news stories I picked myself. While Feedly has been a decent substitute, I got out of the habit of using it. I subscribe to the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Omaha World-Herald, but I’m not in the habit of going those places first.
While I recognize the value in virtual spaces, the way I’ve been using them hasn’t been valuable. And when I get close to shutting down all social media forever (for reasons like the ones in this Wall Street Journal story), I panic a little bit (for reasons closely related to what Courtney Kendrick realized: it’s about power).
So what to do? Kevin Roose’s article resonated with me, as being practical without being Draconian. So if you are feeling a similar “environmental shock” by how tied you are to your phone, maybe take a small step. Here’s some lock screens from the tech coach Roose consulted. There’s no shortage of TED talks about the insidious effects of too much phone use–Tristan Harris and Sherry Turkle are my favorites. I turned off all notifications three months ago, and I’ve noticed a small difference in how I feel when I pick up my phone–much less stressed, since I’m not bombarded with tiny red numbers all over the place.
I’ll still check my social media accounts–I connect with too many people not to–but I’ve just been too bombarded with cautionary tales in recent months to not make even more changes when it comes to my phone.