Timesucks suck

As many of you know, I’ve been out of work for 2-1/2 years now. Luckily, due to the generosity, forbearance, and tolerance of HWMBO, I have continued to be fed, watered, housed, and loved over this amount of time. However, during that time my online involvement has become more and more of a distraction.

Consider. Most days I get up at 7, make breakfast for HWMBO and me for 7:45 am, and then see him off to work around 8:30am. I then start looking at email, which takes an inordinate amount of time most days. Even evaluating an email and almost instantly deleting it takes time. Around 10 or so I start reading Live Journal blogs, and when I’ve caught up with them I read Facebook. This takes me through to lunch. I haven’t included IMing with various friends here and far away. I often do this while I’m reading other things.

In the afternoon, I’ll continue to catch up with arriving emails, do some memorisation for my Masonic duties, have a coffee break, and then go to the supermarket to shop for dinner.

I cook, then wait for HWMBO to return from work. We have dinner, then I return to the computer and catch up with everything until bedtime. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

There are occasional changes to this routine—I go shopping further afield for various things, or go out to sit in a park somewhere and be with people, or have a coffee at a coffee shop rather than in my kitchen. However, my routine doesn’t vary much at all. I have a large number of New Scientist magazines and Church Times newspapers which are waiting to be read. I get a new one each week, add it to the bottom of the pile, and try to read some of the one on top. I have books that I want to read. In fact, I would even like to WRITE one eventually. But this routine of mine conspires to frustrate any interactions other than online ones and any activities other than reading tweets, FB statuses, and blog entries.

So I’ve decided that I have to pare down my online activities to as much as I can do in two hours in the morning. This will involve:

  • Removing one of my Twitter accounts, only leaving the one devoted to professional activities;
  • Filtering my Facebook feed to remove some people and feeds out of which I don’t get a lot of food for thought;
  • Paring down the blogs I read with a filter so that I only see things that I know will interest me from people who I like.

I will try not to unfriend anyone, but use filters intelligently so that I can dip into items that I haven’t read when I have some time.

This whole situation, of course, is not unique to me. I’ve had three Facebook friends disappear from FB in the last month or so. Other Live Journal friends disappear from blogging for months or even years at a time. I have generally neglected Twitter in the past couple of months and don’t believe I’ll lose a lot by just disappearing from there for a while.

I will Tweet once a day for the next several days just to alert people that I shall be disappearing from there and referring them to this blog entry. I won’t be mentioning it on Facebook; I will just apply the filters so that what I read is cut down to a manageable size. And my filter on Live Journal will take away items that I just look at occasionally and pass by. Real bloggers and interesting people will still be in my filter and get read and comments filed.

All this brings into question the concept of “friend” as it relates to our online presences. I think that this concept was first attached to blogging. The idea was that no one in their right mind would be interested in reading a blog from someone whom they did not know personally, so obviously someone who follows your blog would be a real friend.

Of course, the first bloggers didn’t realise that a blog, besides its value in telling your real friends what you thought and what you were up to, would also be a vehicle for writing essays about life, the universe, and everything. The blog thus became a literary device, and people whom you had never met would want to read your blogs. Other blogs became compendia of news stories or opinions on certain specific topics, and the personal aspect of a blog was lost in favour of an impersonal voice broadcasting to anyone who wanted to listen.

Then Facebook and Twitter, among other social media sites, appropriated the word “friend” to mean “this person who wants to keep up with what I’m saying but whom I may never have met”. Now I have hundreds of online friends around the world, few of whom I’ve ever met, but all of whom Facebook, Twitter, and Live Journal call my “friends”.

Sometimes these days I have to qualify the word “friend” as “meatspace friend” as that is the best way to define what a real-life friend is without devaluing the relationships I have with people online.

As to what I’ll be doing instead of Tweeting and posting statuses in Facebook, who knows? Perhaps the time is ripe to write that book I’ve been thinking about.

Over and (partially) out!

4 Responses to “Timesucks suck”

  1. dendren says:

    “meatspace friend”… nice term!

    it’s always good to pare down the online stuff… not that I’m exceptionally good at it but in theory I like it 🙂

  2. into_the_wild says:

    continue writing via LJ!

  3. chrishansenhome says:

    I’ll try to do so. Thanks!

  4. spwebdesign says:

    What would you write about? (Or is that a secret?)