(aka, looking for a quieter online life)
Spring has sprung. Even in the tropical climate of Hawaii, it has been noticeable in the last couple of days. The temperature has risen, this was a cold winter. Even out of State visitors were noticing that - sometimes cold for a Hawaii residents is still warm for a visitor! The rain appears to be lessening and the warmth of the sun feels so good as it works its way through to the marrow of my bones.
Changes are happening elsewhere in my life. These have been slower paced than the recent seasonal changes, but they are there. A few days ago I completed the edit and transfer of my website from the Weebly platform, to the more minimalist Blot. This has been part of a more wide reaching process that started around autumn of last year when I stumbled across the social and blogging platform, micro.blog. As can happen on the internet, I was searching for something unrelated and came across micro.blog. I was intrigued, I think in part as it appeared to be speaking to something that I was unknowingly looking for.
I was signed up to a lot of social media sites. The reasons were varied - keep in touch with family and friends, virtual networking, publicizing my business, and there was probably a bit of peer pressure or fear of missing out in there as well. But my social media presence was bothering me. I was bothered by the feeling of needing to look at my phone, an action that was constantly being reflected back to me as I saw people around me picking up their own phones…just to checkin in case they (I) had missed something. I had a sense of never being able to keep up with the online world, and in truth not really wanting to. I felt as though I was living in a virtual world that I simply did not enjoy or maybe not even belong to, and I knew that it had a hook in me that was pulling me back in.
Don’t get me wrong about these online connections. In the same way that I enjoy meeting people and enriching the circle of my own awareness, so in this digital age I enjoy meeting kindred spirits online, having good conversations and widening that circle. But therein lay a problem that I was having with social media. At the risk of brushing all of social media with one broad stroke, I was missing enriching conversations. I felt as though I was spending a lot of time trying to keep up - I was looking out for the likes, the best hashtags to use to create more likes, who was following me and what were those other people saying and doing. In the middle of this were some good conversations and connections, but they were getting lost for me under the other hooks of social media.
Micro.blog unexpectedly brought this to my attention.
I knew what was going on for me, but lacked the discipline to put it down. Or maybe I was telling myself that I had to suck it up and run with it?
Discovering micro.blog peeked my interest. No likes, no hashtags, no seeing how many people were following me, community rules. In short, in the words of founder Manton Reece,
It prioritizes both a safe community of microblogs as well as the freedom to post to your own site.
My curiosity was aroused and I signed up for a free trial. Yes, free, as in there is also a paid option. To reap the full benefits of micro.blog, you have to pay for a hosted site. The costs help to maintain the service, means that there are no ads on the service (even when you are trying it out), and I believe goes a long way to help keeping those who do choose to use the service being folks who want a more civil, argumentative free conversation.
Leaving the Old Behind
Initially it felt odd not to see who was following me, the lack of hashtags, not knowing what was going on beyond my immediate surroundings. Then that omnipresence of “what am I missing," became something that I had to let go off, and with time has become something that I’ve forgotten about. My attention span feels as though it is returning. I have returned to more long form reading - articles, blog posts, reading details of the news instead of just headlines - my RSS reader is what I am checking now.
Towards the end of last year I closed all but one of my social media accounts. I still have a Twitter account, held onto mainly because of easy access to software support, but I sense the hold on that slipping.
A Quieter Web
And so back to my Weebly site which is where I started this post. I have never been comfortable with the design process of building a website, and was really wanting something easier to manage - read, less need to worry about look, colour and images. I have wanted something simpler and more minimalist, but which could still get a message across - in essence a website service that was quieter. That I believe is also what I was really looking for in my online life.
While micro.blog is both a social and blogging platform, when I found Blot through micro.blog users it felt closer to what I was looking for from a website platform.
At its heart, Blot publishes what is sitting in a particular folder in your DropBox account to the web. Pictures, and videos can be added, but it is essentially text based with formatting taking place, like micro.blog, via Markdown. That taste of simplicity is what pulled me in and a month ago I signed up for an account. I am very happy that I did.
With micro.blog and Blot I now feel more in control and ownership of my personal online content. My online life has become quieter, but richer.