08/01/2022

2022/01/08#p1
# 16 comments: click to read or leave your ownReply by email

A lot of people have been reassessing their relationships with social media at this time of annual resolution making.

One of the rallying cries has been Cheri's No Social Media Club which makes a lot of interesting points, chief among them those who claim to be quitting social are the first to share it as though their followers require an explanation.

Cheri, however, doesn't dive into the usual 'Ive quit so you must too or you're a bad person' hyperbole that such posts normally devolve into. Instead, she takes a far more philosophical look.

She ponders her blogging and whether that is just the same attention seeking quitters despise dressed up in fancy clothing:

"Might it be emotionally healthier to disappear entirely, to take up full residence in the flesh-and-blood world, to keep my damn thoughts to myself?"

I quit social media in stages years ago, today is the fourth anniversary of finally deactivating my Twitter and Facebook accounts, 1 but the same questions still hound me. Why do I blog? Why do I share? What is the point?

Bloggers will tell you it's because they must, they feel compelled to do so. Cheri writes:

"Writing is how I think. These essays turn a vague swirl of emotions and opinions into something I can work with."

I can relate to that but, the question remains, why share? Where does the need to post such thoughts to the public web come from when those thoughts could so easily be contained in a private journal? As she says, writers wish to be read; sharing under the guise of 'being useful' is a way to get the words out without feeling or seeming desperate.

Why?

It's something asked a lot of themselves by many I'm sure.

I'm old enough to know a time before the prevalence of personal computers, before the web, before social networks, before blogging. I can remember what life was like without resorting to a slab of glass and metal in my pocket for entertainment. Considering Cheri's post, Jan-Lukas writes:

"I wonder what it would be like if I don’t share so much on my blog, what it would be like if I had never started sharing anything on the internet in the first place?"

How the mind boggles!

I have stepped away from online life more times than I care to remember, usually due to mental health reasons. Not only did I stop any activity on social media but also stopped blogging. The real kicker, however, was that I stopped writing, entirely, not even in private; crashing from overshare to nothing — not even exploring my thoughts with myself.

During my most recent hiatus, I removed my RSS feed from micro.blog meaning that, even if I did post, I was cutting off my primary avenue for response — the majority of replies to posts come from there.

Micro.blog is a strange, hybrid beast: a blogging platform, yes, but also a quasi-social network. When anyone posts to their hosted blog that they are quitting social media they are invariably met with the question "Isn't micro.blog social media?" The reply is equally invariably "Yes, but ..."

Personally, I use micro.blog primarily as a distribution tool and extension to onsite comments. It is increasingly rare that I visit the site itself and look at the timeline. As a blogging network it is a wonderful resource but it is inescapable that the social element plays at least an equal role which is sometimes hard to reconcile when you have sworn off such things elsewhere.

I often wonder what would happen were I to remove my RSS feed from the service, what impact would it have on my blogging. The amount of engagement would drop. Significantly. No question about it. Does this worry me? If so then it demonstrates that I write for, and appreciate, an audience even when claiming to write for self.

"Writers wish to be read ... "

Is that wish so compelling, the need for peer review and input so strong, that we, I, cannot dispel it? The oft repeated refrain is that we are social animals and crave human contact, even when virtual. But does this need to come from such sources as timelines? Of course not but, despite protestations, convenience usually wins.

Online life has been irrevocably altered, it's fabric unpicked and sewn anew into forms that no longer fit and styles we might no longer desire. As much as we may pine for the old ways and gather in corners of the web, clutching at the past, we can never go back. The genie is well and truly out of the bottle.

So what to do?

Dive in and to hell with the consequences? Drop out entirely and live in a constant state of FOMO?

The decision is different for all. We each have our tolerances and thresholds. We all have limits on how far we are willing to go, what compromises we are willing to make. We need to be comfortable with our own position — that is all we can control, to think otherwise is foolish and only misleading ourselves.

To echo Cheri, I write to think and this, in turn, influences deed. I write to understand myself, my opinions, my faults and flaws. I write to document and to decide. I write in public and in private but the line between is not always so clear, the reasons for falling one side or the other are not always obvious.

I don't know why I will share some thoughts but not others, why I feel the need to reveal something intensely private, something so deep, but not more mundane affairs. Perhaps I seek answers or reassurances that I cannot find within my own thoughts, independent corroboration or validation.

Who knows?

Yesterday's entry in The Daily Stoic was profoundly relevant to these thoughts and I was immediately struck by it:

"The proper work of the mind is the exercise of choice, refusal, yearning, repulsion, preparation, purpose, and assent. What then can pollute and clog the mind's proper functioning? Nothing but its own corrupt decisions." — Epictetus

It befalls each of us to identify and eliminate those decisions we see as corrupt. For some that might be using social networks, for others it might be participating in any online life and the only way to remove the mind's pollution is to drop out entirely.

I knew there was a lot to unpack here and if you have made it this far then I thank you and commiserate in equal measure. These thoughts went in directions I wasn't entirely anticipating — a perfect demonstration of using the written word to explore how I feel.

For all the pretence, blogging is a performative endeavour and some kind of audience is likely required for it to flourish and thrive, the size of that audience and means of engaging with it, however, are open to question.

I feel drawn to removing my RSS feed from micro.blog (at least for the time being) not to cut myself off from the people there but to better define that audience, to channel efforts where they are needed most and better identify why I do any of this, why I persist with throwing words into the ether (and I will, there is no thought of stopping) and seeing where they land.


  1. I stopped using Twitter at the end of 2016 and had never really used Facebook. I wiped my accounts a year earlier but left them dormant — especially in the case of Twitter I was too attached to my username to give it up straight away. I rejoined Facebook later (as my family uses Messenger for chatting) but never view the timeline. 

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stevebrady says:Reply to stevebrady

@colinwalker Absolutely love reading this and I share so many of these thoughts. Thanks for putting in black and white.

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Colin Walker replied:

Thanks Steve. It was interesting to see what came out.

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matti says:Reply to matti

@colinwalker One way to think about writing for a digital audience from a sociological perspective would be that you wanting to write is an emergent property of being part of a (digital) social structure. What you write, why you write is less dependent on (only on) you and more a question of you being made to write by that structure. In other words: You are not the first mover in your writing. Removing mb from your blog will surely change what you are writing about, but that’s because you change the structure you are a part of. I would think that it could be an interesting thing to explore but I don’t think it will make a huge positive difference in your relationship to your public writing. IMHO interrogating the relationship as is could be more beneficial. Also: I would miss your voice on here!

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Colin Walker replied:

I think that's what I've already been doing. It is a strange, largely one-sided relationship with m.b — I push to the feed and can respond to replies without leaving the blog but then almost never reciprocate. I am not invested in the timeline. I follow some via RSS and occasionally dip in to m.b in order to reply (if other options aren't available) but there is generally a disconnect between my actions and the audience there; it feels somehow selfish. It also emphasises the point about convenience: it's easy to dive into a timeline and have everyone in one place bit that comes with immense distraction and irrelevance, even there. I much prefer intentional following, RSS feeds or visiting sites directly.

What I write is unaffected by m.b itself. If I am influenced by those on it it is because I follow them elsewhere or follow someone who shares a link rather than by any engagement within the timeline. It sounds a bit crass but that is the reality of the situation. I want my relationships on the web to be more bi-directional and that's not going to happen by me engaging with a timeline.

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patrickrhone says:Reply to patrickrhone

@colinwalker I really enjoyed your take on all of this as well as the original post from @cheri. Good job everyone!

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Colin Walker replied:

Thanks Patrick 🙏

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matti says:Reply to matti

@colinwalker I hear you. I don’t think it’s selfish. Expectations in and around social structures are a funny thing: You seldom guess right. Similarly intentionalities are what you make of “being made to do” something (else), IMHO. Whatever you decide to do: I enjoy your writing and don’t expect reciprocal behavior.

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Colin Walker replied:

Thanks. Much still to think on.

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manton says:Reply to manton

@colinwalker To add to @matti's reply, I don't think it's selfish either. By blogging, you're making the web a little better. By having your posts in Micro.blog, you're making the timeline a little better too for people here. Whether you engage with the Micro.blog community often or just every once in a while is a personal choice, and most people go through phases of being more or less active.

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Colin Walker replied:

Thanks Manton. I know you've said that before but it means a lot.

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Colin Walker replied:

And I must say that your dedication to supporting the IndieWeb, so that I can reply on my blog but still have the replies show up in place on m.b, is much appreciated.

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crossingthethreshold says:Reply to crossingthethreshold

@colinwalker Thank you to both yourself and @cheri for putting voice (or written words) to these thoughts. They have certainly been going through my mind, and though I too use writing as a way to think, I have not written my way through these thoughts yet. You said, These thoughts went in directions I wasn't entirely anticipating — a perfect demonstration of using the written word to explore how I feel. And I appreciate you for writing them, and others words that you write, whether you reciprocate elsewhere or not. Your gift to us is the sharing of what you do share - something that you could just as well keep to yourself should you choose. Through sharing your honest ruminating, my own world is enriched.

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Colin Walker replied:

Thank you David 🙏

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pimoore says:Reply to pimoore

@colinwalker This was a really great and thought-provoking post, Colin! It’s human nature to question why we do the things we do, and everyone is different in terms of what—and where—they feel compelled and comfortable sharing. I echo @manton in saying it’s not selfish at all to share your posts on the timeline but remain in a less active role. Once again, everyone’s different and has different goals for their writing. At the end of the day, however, you’re still sharing your thoughts and words with others and having an impact. Through that sharing I believe we all experience a real-world version of a collective consciousness or mindshare, and despite our sometimes unique views we often come to discover we’re not so different after all.

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Colin Walker replied:

Much appreciated Pete.

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2022/01/08#p2
# 2 comments: click to read or leave your ownReply by email

Changing my homescreen layout reflects how I like to think about my phone — as a task oriented tool. It is the same approach that I took with Niagara Launcher on a previous device:

Niagara Launcher task oriented setup

I've made a couple of tweaks to the new look and think I'm now settled. I had to add an additional widget for the date and easy calendar access, and renamed a couple of items:

Final 2022 homescreen

I'm not using the favourites row at the bottom of the screen (the image is cropped) as I find it difficult to get to all icons there one handed — I've got reasonably small hands. Having all items further up actually (ironically) puts them within better reach of my right thumb.

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amit says:Reply to amit

@colinwalker Nice! Even I like to keep my home screen minimal. What's the launcher that you use? I have been using Ratio for the last few months and have loved the way it works.

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Colin Walker replied:

It's the standard One UI launcher. See here for details.

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Colin Walker Colin Walker colin@colinwalker.blog