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DeClouding

Published 2012-01-18

I suck at Resolutions (New Year’s or otherwise). I lack follow-through. So instead of resolving to do, I did. I took my life off the cloud and disconnected most of the digital noise that distracts me.

Let me back up a little here. Perhaps a year ago I encountered this:

“Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re Facebook’s customer, you’re not – you’re the product ... Its customers are the advertisers.”

By December of this year, I was beginning to suspect that if this were true of Facebook, it was doubly true of Google.

Then Joe Brockmeier of ReadWriteWeb declared 2011 "The year the free ride died"

All of which dovetailed with a growing discontent with my always-on life. The watershed was the week we spent on Lopez Island, with scant connectivity — no WiFi, no 3G, lousy cel service, nothing but the free internet at the island library. I connected twice to my beloved networks, my Instagrams and Tumblrs and Twitters and Facebooks, and found: all that sharing was not as captivating as I had expected it to be. I composed a few emails (so retro!) for family and close friends. And that was it.

But back here in Regular Life, I spend a lot of time away from the computer mentally composing tweets. And every time I see a nice sunset I feel compelled to Instagram it. All of which somehow serves to cheapen the actual moment in which I experience the funny thing I wanted to tweet about or the beautiful sunset I wanted to Instagram.

So...because I’m doing, not resolving to do, I have done two related things, simultaneously:

FIRST: Make myself a customer, not a product. I stopped feeding the “free” services (Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Google) with “content” and marketing data. And I doubled down on the services (Pinboard, Instapaper, Dropbox, iTunes) that I actually pay to hold onto my things for me. I also re-seized the reins of my blog and email and put it back on my (paid!) web hosting provider. (Thus the old-new, bare-bones website.)

SECOND: Focus on whatever it is I am doing at the moment I am doing it, and not reflexively share it with the entire world. I am here now and that’s good enough. Given the facts of my life, actual boredom is a luxury and I should try to savor it with a head full of nothing instead of mindlessly thumbing my iPacifier. If a thing is really worth writing about, or taking a picture of ... it’ll be worth more than 140 characters, and a lens the size of a fingernail.

This isn’t a declaration or a manifesto. I’m not getting Zen-Guy here being all “present” and “mindful” of everything. I don’t have time to be Zen-Guy. I haven’t done anything wild like delete my Facebook account. All my precious accounts are still there, I just ... stopped using them. I had to do a certain amount of technical legwork to sort it all out, and I reckon I will eventually blog about that legwork, if only to get my notes down somewhere. I called this whole process “deClouding,” as in, “the opposite of putting everything into the Cloud.” Maybe there’s a fun Zen-Guy thing going on there with clarity vs. cloudy thinking, if so it was unintentional.

Parting shot: I have basically taken my online life back to about 2006. How weird is that?