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How I Found Micro​.blog and Why I’ll be Deleting My Remaining Social Media Accounts as Soon as Possible

I first learned out about Micro​.blog when I start­ed pok­ing around after read­ing @brentsimmons’ account of how Net­NewsWire “came home to him.” I read two posts that he wrote about Micro​.blog, and I was imme­di­ate­ly intrigued. I’ve had my own blog in var­i­ous and sundry for­mats since around 2004, I think—though a huge sna­fu when I migrat­ed my web­site to a new host last year result­ed in my los­ing a whole lot of my old­er posts—but I also fell prey pret­ty quick­ly to the lure of social media. I am now in the process of divest­ing myself of all my social media accounts. I’ve delet­ed my Tum­blr, my LinkedIn account, my Goodreads account, and I am in the process of fig­ur­ing out what to do about Face­book and Twit­ter. I’d like very much to delete them both, and go back to just hav­ing my own blog and, now, Micro​.blog, but there are some prac­ti­cal rea­sons that it might be worth keep­ing one (prob­a­bly Twit­ter). This post is my attempt to make clear what my think­ing has been about all of this.

In 2004, as a new­ly pub­lished poet and trans­la­tor with books and read­ings to pro­mote, and also with a strong desire to con­nect to oth­er writ­ers, I found the pro­duc­tive net­work­ing poten­tial that seemed to reside in Face­book, Twit­ter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Tum­blr, and oth­er such net­works deeply com­pelling. None of them, how­ev­er, ever lived up to that potential—something for which I am will­ing to take my fair share of respon­si­bil­i­ty, since, in my naïveté, I nev­er gave any seri­ous thought to how I ought to be using those net­works. I just sort of assumed, and I’d wager that I’m not the only one, that the net­work I envi­sioned would just sort of mate­ri­al­ize. Not because of any­thing mag­i­cal in the plat­forms them­selves, but because I took for grant­ed that the oth­er writ­ers who were join­ing, the peo­ple I was “friend­ing,” were there for the same rea­son I was: to expand their net­work beyond what­ev­er (not nec­es­sar­i­ly non-vir­tu­al) per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al cir­cles they already exist­ed in.

It was­n’t long, though, before the con­ve­nience Face­book offered—in the var­i­ous ways it allowed you to let some­one know you were pay­ing atten­tion to them (what we used to do when we made a quick phone call just to say hi, or “dropped some­one a line”)—not only became its own reward, but also began to seem like a way of con­nect­ing to all those strangers who had become my online friends. So I post­ed arti­cles and images, car­toons and memes; shared those that oth­ers had post­ed; espoused opin­ions; occa­sion­al­ly had some inter­est­ing dis­cus­sions, both with peo­ple I knew per­son­al­ly and with peo­ple I didn’t; and, in the process of all that, I also active­ly sought out oth­ers on Face­book with whom I thought I had enough in com­mon that we might make a mean­ing­ful con­nec­tion. Before I knew it, I had around 1,500 Face­book friends. With most of them, I nev­er exchanged any­thing beyond the ini­tial “friend­ing,” but here’s the thing: I nonethe­less allowed all that activ­i­ty to inflate my own sense of my own online sig­nif­i­cance.

To put that anoth­er way, I sud­den­ly felt like I had an online net­work that I had to “man­age” (not just on Face­book, though I am going to talk now only in terms of Face­book, since that’s where I lived the lion’s share of my online life). This idea of man­age­ment, of course, implies a cer­tain lev­el of account­abil­i­ty, and so I spent more and more time mon­i­tor­ing Face­book, keep­ing track of what peo­ple were say­ing, find­ing things to say myself—which meant I was spend­ing less and less time doing my own blog­ging, doing my own writ­ing, my own reading…well, you get the idea.

Again, I take some respon­si­bil­i­ty for this, first because this feel­ing account­abil­i­ty was like­ly a result of my own inflat­ed sense of self-impor­tance and, sec­ond, because I nev­er both­ered to learn to use Facebook’s set­tings well enough to man­age my feed in a way that might have made it more pro­duc­tive, mean­ing­ful, and/or ful­fill­ing. Indeed, I found those set­tings more com­pli­cat­ed than it was worth my time to fig­ure out. I was aware that this com­plex­i­ty was like­ly a fea­ture and not a bug, a way to get peo­ple to spend even more time on their Face­book accounts, but I was not at that time think­ing very much about the fact that Face­book was mon­e­tiz­ing all the time I spent there, not to men­tion my per­son­al infor­ma­tion. I just knew that my pres­ence on the plat­form had begun to feel more like a bur­den than any­thing else. So I sus­pend­ed my account and, lo and behold, nei­ther my dig­i­tal world nor the net­work through which I pro­mot­ed by books and read­ings crum­bled. The sig­nif­i­cance of my Face­book pres­ence had been, essen­tial­ly, an illu­sion.

I seri­ous­ly con­sid­ered delet­ing my account entire­ly, except that the page for First Tues­days, the read­ing series I run in the neigh­bor­hood where I live, is asso­ci­at­ed with my Face­book account and I knew that there were peo­ple who got their infor­ma­tion about the series through that page. So, in order not to cut those peo­ple off, I reac­ti­vat­ed my account, think­ing I would also cre­ate an author’s page and that I would post to Face­book only on those two pages. Espe­cial­ly since the 2016 elec­tions, how­ev­er, and the rev­e­la­tions about Face­book that have been made pub­lic, it seems, almost month­ly, my dis­il­lu­sion­ment and dis­sat­is­fac­tion with social media net­works has grown expo­nen­tial­ly. It’s only a mat­ter of time before I am off the social net­works for good.

What Micro​.blog has giv­en me—through its sim­plic­i­ty and the fact that it’s a blog, not a network—is a way to focus my atten­tion more sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly and sys­tem­i­cal­ly on what I want my online pres­ence to be and what I want it to accom­plish. So, for exam­ple, while Micro​.blog allows me eas­i­ly to claim and define a web pres­ence in short, mean­ing­ful posts, both as a writer and, well, as just me, includ­ing my work as a col­lege pro­fes­sor, I still need this web­site and blog to be focused far more exclu­sive­ly on my writ­ing career. I redesigned the web­site myself about a year ago, and I am not unhap­py with it, but I did so from with­in a very dif­fer­ent, far more pub­lic, per­son­al­i­ty-ori­ent­ed vision of what I want­ed my online pres­ence to be. Being on Micro​.blog has made me start think­ing that per­haps I want this aspect of my web pres­ence to be much sim­pler as well, more toned down, more focused on my writ­ing itself. So, I have begun to research Word­Press design­ers who can do the redesign for me. One thing I learned from doing it myself the last time is that I bit off far more than I could chew.

All of this think­ing is very much in flux and I do not know where it will end up tak­ing me. I am, how­ev­er, very much enjoy­ing the chance to be more inten­tion­al about my online life than I have ever been in the past.

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