If I could find a good quote, I’d put it here. Something smart from some science fiction writer about the future – about losing ourselves in documentation, about how our technology captures us and keeps us from enjoying life. Something from Le Guin. Something from Bradbury.
Instead, all I have is a few words about quitting things.
Last year I quit using Facebook. It changed things, but not in the way I expected. I assumed I was going to have more time to do things; more attention and focus.
I still don’t have those things. Quitting Facebook didn’t make the day longer. It didn’t sharpen my attention. To be honest, Facebook wasn’t even really my problem. It’s a sharing and documentation system – it’s hard to blame it for my squishy inability to let go.
Still, losing the system mattered. I found myself losing connection with tons of events and updates. I no longer knew what was happening. I would learn things second-hand. I was out of the loop.
It could be argued that I was already hearing things second-hand, though – the Internet itself serving as the conduit, my life collecting a series of updates and images and feeds, everything being filtered not through the eyes of experience but through selective representation. Only the things worth squirreling away were presented. I didn’t live: I collected and posted.
My relationship with social media is less about communication and more about collecting. Each experience becomes little more than a pin on a map – a single point of data free of any connection, the metadata stripped away. I had lists of past vacations and folders of photographs. I had a pile of Foursquare data that I could view a year later on Timehop. I had touch points but no feeling.
Getting rid of Facebook – which in turn forced my hand on several other social apps connected via Facebook – allowed my mind to ease off a bit. I stopped collecting, and became more deliberate with the few social networks I still enjoy. I’ve started writing again – the one data collection method that actually enhances my experience of an event or feeling.
More than that, I’ve finally been able to get a bit of clarity. I know that engaging with the web – posting status updates and making Twitter jokes and checking in on Foursquare – doesn’t approximate a life lived. Experiences and relationships and laughter and rage and the bruises I get from the knees of my children – these are a life lived.
I knew this. But I never acted on it. Until I had no choice – until I pulled the trigger and stopped judging things based on whether they’d make a good post.
It’s more clear, now, when I stop and think, “What makes this moment worth documenting?” knowing that when I put that thought into the world it’s not just another pin on a map.