Friday, May 29

30 Days Notice.



Everybody talks a big game when it comes to kicking the Social Networking addiction. Nearly every week, I see status updates and tweets from folks who are on the verge of swearing away Facebook, Twitter and MySpace forever. They claim it’s taking up too much of their time. It’s hindering their creativity. It’s monopolizing their conversations and becoming their sole purpose for possessing an Internet connection. Where they used to look up information online and attempt to seek knowledge, they now spend their evenings keeping tabs on people they stopped speaking to nine years ago.

Amongst the relatively few arguments against Social Networking on a mass scale, the merits are unarguably limitless. The voyeurism is universally appealing; the split-second communication and instant gratification almost too good to be true. Never before have we been so easily capable of maintaining contact with anyone and everyone we want. Furthermore, it’s an easy way to keep an eye on your outer circle of friends without actually having to speak to them in person or, you know, put forth an excessive effort typically reserved for your handful of inner circle acquaintances.

I had been anti-Social Networking- some would say unnecessarily so- for years. I didn’t like the gaudy, popularity contest-mentality of MySpace, shunned the one-page Life Story of Facebook and the short attention span-rewarding micro updates of Twitter. However, when my first book was published in 2007, I knew that these communication avenues could possibly help me reach a broader audience for my writing, so I hopped on board. Since then, I’ve been on Facebook for a little over two years, and my Twitter feed can currently be seen over on the sidebar of this very page. I got hooked, and in a big way.

I remember having a conversation with Cargirl several months ago about Twitter, specifically if the enormous amount of bite-sized information we take in a on a daily basis is shortening our attention spans to the point of not being able to read (or even write) anything remotely lengthy or worthwhile. Essentially, we were speculating as to if Social Networking was killing creativity in favor of easily-digestible and 24/7 communication. She told me that since she joined the likes of Twitter and Tumblr, she had no desire to sit down and put time into an essay; all while trying to explain to me why I should join the very networks that had admittedly ruined her passion for writing. Her point was that this was to become the future of text communication, which admittedly scared the poop out of me.

My (slightly more optimistic) theory was that Social Networking was the test between whether or not one was a Creator or a Networker. Creators will always find a specific way to create, and Networkers will dabble in anything as long as they continue to meet and communicate with others. Or, to put it in more confusing terms: Creators network to create, and Networkers create to network. You could certainly do both (and they’re both equally respectable), but everyone does one in favor of the other, subconsciously or willingly. For me, everything I’ve ever done on the Social Networking front was to drive attention to my work here on the CDP, or at least that’s what I told myself for the first few weeks.

In recent months, my creativity has been hopelessly clouded by a steady stream of status updates and tweets from celebrities that have no idea I exist (Save Lisa Loeb, who is following me for some unfathomable reason). I take my iPhone into restaurants, cars and even bathrooms so I can stay constantly on top of the lives of other people who are similarly tweeting in restaurants, cars and bathrooms, and so on and soforth, forever and ever until the end of time.

Finally and with a blindsiding force, I realized something last week that made me feel equal parts embarrassed and scared. About 99.9% of that shit doesn’t matter…whatsoever. My day wouldn’t be effected in the least had I not read or participated in any of this stuff. In fact, the only thing that vigorous Social Networking has done for me is take my focus completely away from my primary objective for networking in the first place.

Also, somewhere along the way, I completely forgot how reclusive and turned off by maintaining contact with people I was. My essays used to be the buffer zone between myself and my readers; a chance for us to communicate without direct conversation. A chance for people to find out where I was coming from while being (hopefully) entertained, yet-distanced from me personally. I miss that; not because I don’t love every conversation I’ve ever had and everyone I’ve ever met, but mainly because I seem to be neglecting the one thing I’m even slightly good at. Through my writing I've been able to meet some wonderful people, so it stands to reason that I continue to write so wonderful people will want to continue meeting me.

So let’s get back to the very first sentence of this essay. ‘Everybody talks a big game when it comes to kicking the Social Networking addiction.’ Well, I’m doing it, yo.

When I made the decision, I thought I’d back out of it. Chicken out. Make an excuse as to why it was mandatory in my day-to-day life. However, it’s three days later and I cannot freaking wait to pull the plug on my Twitter/Facebook pages and get back to nothing but writing essays for the Communist Dance Party. I’m going to go back to what I do, erm...best?

Besides, I’ve got things to do. I have a wife of five years, a job that’s teetering on the verge of layoff with each passing day, a house that needs vacuuming and a mortgage to pay. I have books that need to be read, a city block that needs to be jogged and a checkbook that needs constant balancing. The fact that when I have friends over- actual, real, skin-and-bone friends- I spent most of my time gawking at Twitter than speaking to them, is embarrassing at best, utterly classless at worst. When my wife is sleeping alone in the bedroom while I sit in the office and look at photographs of people that I’ve been willingly ignoring for the better part of a decade…it almost feels like we should be taking medication for that kind of personality disorder. It’s a pure and simple addiction; we don’t need an angstrom of it, but it’s hard to see the forest from the trees when we're already immersed.

Here’s what caused my own personal Tipping Point. I posted a Twitter update about something relating to the parallel between current Internet memes and the rise of Dadaism in the 1920’s. The point I was trying to make is that the 4Chan kids, LOLcat enthusiasts and even Hamster Dance fans aren’t breaking any new ground that hadn’t already been broken almost a century ago. The only thing that’s changed is the medium. I included a quote by Carl Jung; it was some pretty highbrow shit crammed into those 140 personality-sucking characters.

When I published the tweet, I took a look at the product, sighed, and thought to myself, ‘Man, I could write an entire essay about this theory.’ In reality, the thought of writing an essay about it didn’t even enter my headspace when I started brainstorming the idea, and that made me want to punch myself in the ballbag. What had happened to me? I took an idea that had decent potential as an entertaining exploration of current trends reinventing historical art movements, and instead distilled into a nearly incomprehensible blip on the radar. This is the very definition of ‘hindering creativity,’ and I need to get out while I still have a prayer. This is getting ridiculous.

I know that most of you can balance both. I respect that immensely, because I clearly cannot. If you know anything about me through my writing, you know that I’m all-in or cashing out. There’s no grey area; I have OCD-fueled tunnel-vision, eliminate deadwood by the truckload and burn clutter for kindling. This love affair with Social Networking is over for me, because it has to be for the sake of my creative evolution. I’m not better than it; it is better than me.

So, here’s the deal; pay attention, because it’s going to be pretty awesome:

1. The entire month of June on the CDP will be devoted to counting down the Top 100 Simpsons Episodes of All-Time. It’s pretty neat; I’ve worked hard on it. Also, it gives me a chance to spend June working on my next big writing project. I don't want to drop any hints, but I may or may not have something new for you to purchase by Christmas...again.

2. On Friday, June 26 at 11:59pm, I’m pulling the plug on my Facebook and Twitter pages. Not that I think it’ll effect your lives too much, but you should know if you ever need to contact me for anything. My main online focus will be the CDP and CDP alone; you’ll know where to find me. I'm toying with the idea of leaving my Twitter account active for the sole purpose of instant sidebar updates to the CDP, but that would be it. After all, not every one-liner about poop and monkeys deserves 2,500 words. 1,250, maybe.

3. I want to see if this essay has inspired anyone to do the same, so I’m posing a challenge to all the CDP fans and alumni. If there is anyone out there that is willing to follow my lead and pull the plug on any or all of their major Social Networking ties (MySpace, Facebook or Twitter), I will send the first 3 people to bring it to my attention a free CDP button or sticker of their choosing.

I’ll keep the rules brief and loose (it’s not a huge prize, after all), but it breaks down like this. Just be honest with me, send me some sort of proof that you’ve dropped one (or all) of your Social Networking addictions and shoot me an e-mail (communistdance@yahoo.com). Something along the lines of, “Hey, I deleted myself from Twitter, and here’s proof.” We’ll work it out from there, and no fair falling back off the wagon once you get your free swag. If you’ve been flirting with the notion of finally pulling the plug, now’s your tiny bit of motivation to just up and do it already.

Thanks much. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your weekend. June is Simpsons Month on the CDP.

Comments:
I'm so proud of you.

I could never get rid of my tumblr. To be honest, tumblr is exactly what I need. It is fast-paced and community based. There is instant feedback and a strong support system. Tumbleblogging has really sparked my creativity, toned my wit and helped my control my obsessive tendencies.

I'm not joking.

I pulled the plug on my MySpace a while ago, although I still use a MySpace Music profile solely as a repository for lyrics and poems. I've pretty much burned out Twitter. It was fun while it lasted, but it really lacked community and interactivity. I'm pondering the possibility of ridding the internet of it's existence. I really don't use it any more, except to stalk you and the producer of the 4:30 AM local news on NBC. I pretty much use Facebook to troll, and that's about it. I think both of these sites need a bit of work.

I am not attempting to demerit social networking as a whole, though. I do very much enjoy the Breaking News tweets, which I subscribe to via RSS. But really, I think the right mode of internet communication depends on what and how much you have to say and how often you have to say it. I post about 60-100 tumblr posts a day between my Barack Obama circle jerk, my blog about space and my personal tumble blog. I try to keep the content worthwhile and purposeful, and trying to do that is exactly what I need to fulfill my desire to learn and progress as well as my desire to entertain, rant, show people how smart I am and shamelessly self-promote myself.
 
While I like your idea of networkers vs. creators (and can argue that those categories definitely exist) I don't think it's an either/or proposition. But I think it's like junk food: in moderation it's fine, but it's easy to have one chip lead to a second and then suddenly you're licking the inside of a greasy, empty bag.

But you wrote something recently that made me want to drop you altogether from my twitter stream, and that was that you were using twitter SOLELY as a means to drive people to your blog.

Do I understand that people use social networks to promote? Obviously, and I've been using them in the same way. But I also use them to SHARE information. Sometimes that includes promoting other people. Sometimes that includes being part of a community that rejoices in other people's victories, consoles them in their defeats, and connects to them in a way that yes, is bite-sized, but in a way that I might not get to know them otherwise.

Is everyone on twitter my BFF? Dear god, no. I have over 1600 followers, that would be insane. Have a found a way to manage it (hello, tweetdeck!) and manage my time? Indeed. A lot of my twitter friendships have led to freelance gigs and people who are now a part of my everyday life. Has that increased my readership? You bet. Do I look upon it as one big marketing opportunity? Fuck no.

I think you're talented and funny and I used to read religiously and link you and Will and I would promote you and the book on your show, but after you wrote that on Twitter it really made it seem (notice I say SEEM) like you are only interested in having us as a notch on your stat counter. It's like all of the take with no give.

And I don't really find that interesting.

Good luck with everything!

This isn't really about Twitter or taking time off, because I know how easy a time suck these things can be and have had to find balance personally to get my writing done as well as participate as part of the community.

It's something that has bothered me, not only because of the take with no give part, but I think that if you invested - and it doesn't take a ton of time - in promoting other people besides yourself (I'm not talking about a blogroll) and participating more in the blogworld around you you would drive even MORE people to your blog and be a shitload more successful.
 
I'm very tempted to just copy and paste this essay to my facebook blog, and claim it as my own. Although people might become suspicious when I start talking about my 'wife of five years'.

If you do go ahead with all of this, then you'll gain a lot of respect in my books. I couldn't even begin to think about getting rid of my facebook. I feast off other people's pointless trail-of-thoughts, and can't get enough of being tagged in hilariously irrelevant notes. I guess that's what being a modern 15 year old is all about though. =/.
 
SLACK - I mention in this essay that yeah, the initial point of getting on Facebook/Twitter was to potentially reach a new audience of CDP readers; I completely admit to that. However, I came into the Social Networking fray with that idea in mind because I was ignorant of the overall worth of these sites. Again, I had that idea for about a week or so, which is evident in that I hardly if ever mention the CDP in any of my Tweets (and if you've been to my Facebook recently, you'll see it's just a jumble of those 'Top 5' lists). While I went into Social Networking with the purpose of promotion in mind, my priorities changed almost instantly.

Furthermore, sometimes people say things in order to save face when confronted with weakness, and by saying that I only joined Twitter to benefit the CDP, perhaps I was just trying to convince myself to stay motivated with my writing, which completely fell by the wayside in recent months until I was forced to admit it.

I'm not about stats (I considered deleting my SiteMeter, too). I'm about creating a small and dedicated community of non-superficial readers. In fact, since joining Twitter, my traffic has never been higher, but I'm still ditching it because it's taking up too much of my time. Anyone who has been reading me for any length of time should know that I'd rather have 100 people read something I'm proud of than to have a million people read something I pulled out of my ass. It might just be a pride issue more than anything, but when I see some of my dumber essays go more viral than the awesome ones, I just feel embarrassed.

This essay is about admitting weakness. I can't balance a lot of things at once, so here's what I'm going to do to not feel like a loser from now on. I made ridiculous strides in this essay to make sure it was clear that the problem lied with me, and that I in no way felt 'above' this stuff. Anything but.

And yeah, more people would visit my page if I put the feelers out to other bloggers I found creative and interesting, gave them some love and exchanged in some back-slapping. This is the whole point. Since Twitter/Facebook, I don't read blogs anymore. I don't have time, I don't have the patience. Hopefully, with social networking out of my way, I can focus on the creative output of folks and get back to how I met interesting people like you in the first place.

I hope this makes sense. I really didn't want to come off as an arrogant dick in this essay, I just want to write.

DUFF - I hear you, man. It's got nothing to do with age; everyone's on Facebook. I mean, here's this tool that lets you into the lives of nearly everyone you've ever met! I think it's awesome too, but it's doing more harm than good for my brain. I just need to keep telling myself that I seemed to function fairly well without it, and I can do it again if I needed to.

CARGIRL - I think you nailed it with the keywords 'stalk' and 'troll.' Social Networking is great, but I abuse it probably 90% of the time. Sort of like how there's limitless information on the web, but most of us just use it for porn. I sort of have you to thank for this revelation, as you put the fear of a bite-sized, Twitter-esque informational future in me.
 
My two cents as a very casual blogger and crazy-active networker (social and otherwise): What you get out of these sites and applications lies in how you use them - what your intended purposes for them are. I blog to say what's on my mind, and if no one reads except my best friend and my mom? That's okay! I was asked to join MySpace by a friend and former coworker who wanted an easy way to send me quick messages (this profile may go away within the next year, since most of my friends/family have started using Facebook). Facebook was to stay in touch with even more former coworkers, and LinkedIn and Jobster are more for mining those positive professional relationships to supplement my portfolio. Twitter was originally so that I could stalk Neil Gaiman (and he's totally okay with that, I swear...he's promised all of his followers a tea Armageddon some day). But, now thanks to a couple of connections on my "for fun" Twitter account (I have two - the other one ties me to professional organizations and other networking resources in my field), I've been thinking of putting feelers out regarding freelance writing for a few websites. Social Networking can be a great resources if you don't let the need to follow that constant deluge of updates control your life. I have had to set limits. For example, I don't have Twitter updates on my cell phone, since I'm in front of a computer for several hours a day both at work and at home. I understand your desire to focus on your blog, because that was what got you involved in the networking sites that are now serving as a distraction, but I don't know if you're limiting your creativity by limiting your scope? You could be out there on Twitter talking to other writers and making inroads into other ventures. But, in the end, you have to do what works for where you want to be going.
 
I always went by your Facebook so I could see when you posted new blogs. You gotta do what you gotta do I guess. I think it'll be good if you keep the Twitter just to post when new blogs are up.
 
Yeah that comment above was from me. It logged in with my Gmail address I think.
 
I agree with Mike--keeping Twitter around just to say a new blog post is up would be a good idea.

Slackmistress--as much as I heart you, I completely and wholeheartedly disagree with what you're saying. I don't think there is anything wrong at all with joining a social networking site to promote a blog/website/whatever. If you genuinely don't care what other people are saying and doing and want to use a service to your advantage, why should you have to pretend you give a crap what other people are saying/doing?

I have been on Ryan's case for years about networking and getting on board with other bloggers, but he has always been very clear about the fact that he is first and foremost a writer, and therefore spends his time as such. He does not go around to blogs he vaguely likes and schmooze for readers. I know that a lot of the time that is what it takes to bring a blog to the top, but Ryan has simply never done that. If he likes a blog, he reads it...but he doesn't actively seek out similar bloggers to exchange links with and promote traffic. It's never been that why, and I don't know why it would cause someone to "lose respect" for him because he chooses not to do that. In my humble opinion (which is worth very little), I find it more respectable to take yourself off the social networking radar if it means better quality content than to waste time pooping out content that is significantly worse than it once was but driving traffic to worse content by networking.

If it's a choice between networking and quality content, I'm glad that we'll continue to see quality content on the CDP...even if it means 10 people choose to read it.
 
Hathery said "pooping"...

(snicker)
 
I've toyed with the idea myself, because Spork Nation has suffered terribly since December. I started the curren tjob then, and it burns my hours and creativity to the point where Facebook is all my puny brain can deal with...then, on my days off, I'm conditioned to return to Facebook...
 
You know, CDP, you've commented a couple of times on my blog about how you respect that I don't write short posts just because that's what people want these days. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person my age with a decent attention span and I'm getting really tired of hearing friends say, "I have a terrible attention span. I just can't concentrate on only one thing. My brain is too creative for that; I need multiple things at once to keep me stimulated," like they're proud of it. It's just not a mindset I've ever understood, and I think part of that is because Facebook is the only social networking I've gotten into, and I really only use it at work, not, you know, on my OWN time when I could be doing any number of more interesting things. Do some people naturally have short attention spans? Sure. But I do think there are a lot more people out there with an inability to read more than 300 words on any given subject than there used to be, and frankly it kind of disgusts me. Worse than not being able to concentrate on someone else's thoughts for any length of time, is the seeming inability to spend any time with one's OWN thoughts. It seems like so many people are so consumed in constantly texting and using their spiffy phones to check Twitter and Facebook and god knows what else all the time that they never just spend time sitting and THINKING anymore. If this keeps up we'll have a society full of narcoleptics, so dependent will we be on constant outside stimulation in the form of superficial, surface-level-only communication.

I've certainly never given my blog the dedication that you've given yours, despite good intentions when I started it, but my blog has never been as central to my life as yours is to you, either. The things that keep me from blogging are, for the most part, things that I feel are truly worthwhile endeavors, so I'm OK with writing less than I would otherwise hope. But if it's just crap that's getting in your way of creating, then sooner or later it comes time to wipe your ass and move on. I'm sure social networking works for some people, but I think that for most people it's really just a huge waste of time and energy that alters our expectations of communication in a way that I don't think I like.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go call the nursing home orderly to bring me my jello so I can rant to him about kids his age.
 
Amen, CDP, amen. I refused Facebook, Twitter and MySpace from the get-go. I do have a Blog, but it's been neglected for a majority of this year and will eventually go bye-bye, I'm sure. I do not have cable TV or the Internet at my home, and I rarely miss either. Post-haste, I'm aiming to spend more time with friends & family, enjoying the Calif. weather, being creative, exercising - anything that means something, that's healthy & satisfying on every level.

You're making a bold move, and I give you kudos.
 
CDP was my FACEBOOK




I have always enjoyed your essays and have been a staunch supporter of your blog for quite some time now. I have to chuckle to myself though because what has kept me coming back time after time was the social aspect of your blog. You have always been an excellent host ready to acknowledge and engage people who took the time to post a comment. Nurturing a dialogue with your readers. I must say I have met some really great people through your site.

In defense of the almighty Facebook, it was never designed as a vehicle to express their creative writing skills. It was an easy way to keep within touching distance of the many aquaintances you meet in life. I am honored you are now one of them.
 

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