Digital Decluttering

BSODI finally came to the conclusion that there is just too much incoming information.

Yeah, I know. I was once that person on LiveJournal that kept up on everyone digitally, and I posted huge volumes of text every day. Going back further, I was a lively BBS message board participant. I was a strange fish in high school back in the early 1990s because a huge number of my friends were neither my age or local. I was a master at communicating with people online.

But at some point, it got out of hand.

I’m not sure I can point to a single cause. Maybe I accumulated too many social connections for my monkeysphere. Maybe, through my extremely minor nerd fame as a CONvergence panelist / podcaster / former comics colorist/letterer, I accumulated too many online connections to people I don’t really know at all. Perhaps, since I moved to using a standing desk thanks to a back injury, I now have less tolerance for just staring at a computer screen with no particular goal.

Whatever the reason, I just can’t keep up.

I’ve tried setting daily goals to interact with everyone. I’ve tried keeping clear inboxes on all sorts of social media inlets and outlets. I realize that maintaining a lively online presence means actually interacting with people. People only want to talk to me when I talk to them, and, really, that’s how it should work. It’s not like I’m a genuinely famous person who gets far more random online interactions than they can they could ever respond to personally. These are people I actually know and like. I want to know what’s going on with them.

But there’s just too much. Too many e-mails, comments, likes, pings, posts, blogs, podcasts, channels.

And you know what? If all I’m doing is absorbing and processing e-mails, comments, likes, pings, podcasts… I’m not making things of my own. I’m reacting to the world instead of making shit happen.

And you know what? I’m happiest when I make shit happen.

Yes, I know reacting to the world is important. Art doesn’t spring into existence in a vacuum. Networking is important. Gathering inspiration is important. Most of all, I really like my friends and knowing what’s going on with them. But do you know what? 38 years on this earth has taught me that inspiration is 100 times more likely to strike when you’re out having a beer with human being in actual meatspace than it is when chatting online. The world is potent, folks.

Thus, I’m attempting to keep the digital river from drowning me.

E-Mail: I’ve started using the Rules section of the OSX e-mail program to shuffle incoming e-mails into folders automatically. E-mails from businesses (not spam, but businesses I actually buy from) get shunted into a folder, which I occasionally glance at or dump entirely. E-mail notifications from G+, Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress also automatically get dumped into folders, which I occasionally skim. In theory, anything left should be people e-mailing me directly. (I’m still bad at responding to e-mails, but at least it seems less daunting this way.)

Twitter: Right now, Twitter is the only online social network that doesn’t give me a panic attack. Generally, people who use Twitter don’t expect others to read every single post. Twitter is ephemeral by nature. I can ignore Twitter for a day or two when necessary, and I don’t feel pressured to keep up. Also, Twitter makes it very easy to trim your feed down to what you can handle. I follow some 800 people on Twitter, but I only actually watch about 100 of those feeds thanks to Lists.

Facebook: I’d very dearly love to delete my Facebook account entirely, except that it serves as an invaluable address book. Even if I only talk online to a person once every three years, I know I can reach them somehow. Also, there are a couple (as in, two) Facebook communities that I follow that are quite useful. But I’ve never been able to keep up with reading posts. I’ve tried using the new Close Friends feature to hone down my feed to just a few people, but I still don’t like reading Facebook, so perhaps I need to hone the list down even further.

Instagram: I used the copyright kerfuffle as an excuse to delete my Instagram account. It was fun for a while, as it was ephemeral like Twitter, but I never could remember to check for new posts from others.

G+: I never got into the habit of checking G+ in the first place, because they don’t allow auto-posting, so I can’t automatically pull content from other channels. When I post to, I have to remember to manually add that post to G+, and every time I think, “What a pain in the ass.” Anyway, I suppose I could go through and clean up my circles and just whittle down my feed like I did on Twitter, but that’s a rainy day projeDAMMIT I’M TRYING TO READ LESS NOT MORE.

LiveJournal: Man, I miss LJ. That was one hell of a community in its heyday. Unfortunately, the community collapsed, so there’s just too much noise to signal to justify reading anymore. Thankfully, they do RSS feeds for each journal, so I’ve popped a couple of the survivors onto my Google Reader account.

Google Reader: Speaking of Google Reader, I had to go through and remove most of the blogs I was trying to follow. I love Engadget, Gizmodo, Boing Boing and so many others, but they simply post too often. Now it’s down to a few blogs written by friends of mine, a few photo feeds and webcomics, and Because, really, Jason Kottke snags only the coolest of the cool stuff.

FourSquare: I long ago opted out of all notifications from FourSquare. I’d delete the account entirely, but I do actually like using FourSquare to mark restaurants that I eat at out-of-town. (“Hey, what was that Chinese barbecue place I found last year in downtown Chicago? Oh, look, it’s right here!”)

LinkedIn: I’ve just flat-out deleted my account there, because… fuck LinkedIn. The only thing I ever got out of LinkedIn was a fuckload of e-mails asking me to use LinkedIn. And the fuckers still send me e-mails.

All that work probably still results in a tidal wave of information, so I’ll continue whittling it down. But it’s a start.

Oh, and I also finally got the courage to delete Bejeweled from my phone. Because, sweet Godzilla, where did those 94 hours go?



  1. Man, I’ve been. Having the same conversation in my head. Too much time spent maintaining (or failing & feeling guilty about) .

    I miss LJ too, but a lot of folks twitter or blog (hi), so I feel that I’m still in touch.

    My decluttering thoughts are also turning to the metric shitload of digital content I have backed up. I’m never going to have time to watch it all. And photos. Somewhere in the region of 45k photos backed up. If and when I shuffle off this mortal coil, how will anyone know what to do with them, which ones were important to me? Same with music. I can feel another blog post coming on.

    • One of my To Do items is to write a will. The weird thing is that I don’t necessarily care who gets my stuff if I get hit by a bus; it’s more of a matter of not wanting my family to toss out a Bill Sienkiewicz original because they don’t know what it is. Similarly, I need to figure out a way to open my digital accounts to trusted people if I suddenly croak.

  2. Yep. Yep yep yep. We’re drowning in the gold of our virtual relationships. Kudos to you for taking a stand, painful though it might be.

  3. I deleted Facebook. It’s made me nothing but happier.

    I stop into LJ from time to time. Funny, about half of my LJ Friends list is auto-posting nonsense, to which I say “Dammit, I already read this stuff on its other places!” A daily catch-all of your tweets? Really? That’s using the internet correctly?

    I use G+ not because it’s a “social network”, but because it’s an extension of GMail, which I already use. If someone posts an event in G+, it gets automatically added to my GCal. Being a Google Fanboy doesn’t mean I like G+ because it’s Google (default fanboyism), but because it’s already doing stuff all my other stuff is integrated with. I can “use” G+ without ever visiting the site, since I can reply to posts from my email window. Facebook still requires me to “go to Facebook”.

    My point, even though I haven’t said it yet, is that as these are all channels for interaction, the channels themselves should be a little more transparent. I don’t check Twitter because it’s Twitter, I check it because people I care about are saying things I care about. And I mean, we know this, it just needs to be reminded. I don’t hate Facebook even though I quit, I hated what Facebook was contributing to my life, and rather than pull the teeth required to tame it into submission, I cut it loose. G+ has required very little action from me to become valuable, and even less action for it to remain viable. I’m just luckily the target audience for it.

    So hey, good luck on adjusting the squelch and volume on your internets. It’s a life-maintenance thing I think every internet-tethered person should earnestly do. Otherwise, you’re right. The noise and clutter will ruthlessly take over.

    • I do spit my tweets over to LiveJournal, but I have a purpose to that. I actually use the LiveJournal archive all the time in order to go back and refer to tweets I made on previous days. I use Twitter like a notebook. The Twitter interface is terrible for going backward in time for more than a couple days, but with the tweets on LJ, I can instantly go back and pick the day I want to look at. If I could set those auto-posts to automatically go to private, I would.

  4. i’m going to send this to everybody I now via all the different social media networks so no one misses it!!!!

    I haven’t used half of those media so I may not be in as bad a shape but I totally get what you are saying.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *