I’ve had a blogroll since I first started using blogging software instead of rolling my own site with hand-coded html and php. Even before that—almost 20 years ago, when I was getting set to go to Clarion—I was linking to the websites of writers I knew. Probably a dozen people in my class (or the Clarion West class of that same year), plus a few teachers, editors, and other writers that I had some connection to had blogs, and several others had websites. I made a point of linking to all of them.
I kept it up pretty well for a while, following people to their new sites and new links as they acquired domains and changed software. I figured one big benefit of getting to know a crop of fellow new writers was being able to link to one another’s websites, and then preserve those connections as (to varying degrees) we became famous. But various things—time, differential success, fashions in internet presence—have made blogs and blogrolls less of a thing. At the same time, my interests have expanded in other directions besides writing.
Sometime in the next week or so, I’m going to go through my blogroll and check what I’m linked to. I’ll delete dead links, and shift sites to the “website” category if the blog is there but no longer being updated. I’ll make similar changes to my list of websites. (Note: as part of my “Facebook is evil” thinking, I’m going to be dropping people whose only link is to a Facebook or Instagram page. Sorry, but: Evil.)
If you’re on my blogroll but your site is moved or idle, let me know what you want me to do—link to your new site, keep you on the blogroll (because you’re going to start blogging again one of these days), etc. If you’re not but want to be, let me know that too.
I just finished reading Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, which is excellent: Highly recommended.
One point the book makes is that the faux social interactions of social media—clicking “likes” or whatever—produce a limited subset of the effects in your brain of having actual social interactions. You feel like you’ve connected with someone and they feel like they’ve gotten some social support, but it’s largely a sham: Neither of you gains the real benefits of having an actual social connection. But since you feel as if you have, your impulse to make real connections with people is reduced.
The material presented in the book was convincing enough that I’ve decided to pare down my faux social interactions, starting with two changes.
First, I’m going to largely quit clicking “like” on posts. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like them (or that I don’t like you). It just means that I’m trying to deprioritize faux social interactions in favor of real ones.
Second, I’ve removed the Facebook bookmark from the list of tabs I keep open all the time. I’m not deleting my Facebook account, nor am I avoiding all Facebook interactions, but I’m no longer going to have a Facebook tab open all the time.
I’ll still open Facebook from time to time—perhaps as often as daily—because so many people use it as their primary way to keep in touch. But it’s never been a good way to keep in touch with me (I use it primarily as a way to share links to blog posts like this one), and it’s about to get worse.
This is not going to be the end of the changes I make to start favoring genuine social interactions over fake ones—I want to write a longer post about my reactions to the Digital Minimalism book—but I wanted to mention this now (and share this post on Facebook) in case people would otherwise be puzzled by the changes they see in my behavior.
Often—I’d say usually—when I craft something to post to social media I end up disappointed eventually. In particular, when I want to refer back to it and find that it’s lost in the depths of Facebook or twitter and I can’t find it, or can’t refer to it in the way I want to.
I think I’ve got this problem solved now, via micro.blog, which is social media done correctly.
Use micro.blog like this: Have your own blog that generates an RSS feed. Sign up for a micro.blog, and configure it to watch that feed. It will build a twitter-like timeline out of your blog posts. There’s a clever detail about how it does so: Your regular posts will just be posted with your post title and a link. But your short, status posts—your tweet-like posts—show up with the full content instead of just a title and a link. (You signal the difference to micro.blog by omitting a title on your status posts.)
I set up a micro.blog a couple of years ago (I was a backer on Kickstarter), and was very pleased with how it all worked, with the sole problem being that nobody reads my micro.blog feed. My frustration with that, however, has finally prompted me to do something that I’m always loath to do: Spend money.
I signed up to spend $2 a month to have micro.blog forward my feed on to twitter (and, of course, to support micro.blog). A link to this post will show up with the post title. My status posts are showing up as tweets, just like they’re supposed to.
Going forward I’ll still post to twitter, but generally just replies and retweets. With those exceptions, my plan is to publish all my content here and let micro.blog handle the rest.
Whenever I tweet about a company, I like to go ahead and tag the company in the tweet, so they can see what I’m saying about them. Besides that, I’ve a natural inclination toward brand loyalty (for companies whose products I like), so I like to keep up with what the company is doing, and twitter is a good way to do that. (Not nearly as good a way as an RSS feed, but that’s neither here nor there.)
The upshot is that I’m not infrequently searching for a company’s twitter handle—and just lately, I’m pretty often not finding one. More and more companies are limiting their social media presence to Facebook and Instagram—both of which are terrible choices.
Facebook is very bad. It tries to monetize passing on information! It deliberately holds back information that the company wants to share and that I want to see, specifically in order to pressure the company to pay up.
Instagram may be even worse. It is inherently about sharing pictures, whereas information is often best presented as text. Worse yet, it won’t share links, which is almost always what companies (should) want to do, if they’re trying to tell me about the sorts of things I want to hear about.
Twitter is a bad company that provides a service which is bad in many ways, but at least it will show me all the tweets of the company I’ve followed, tweets which can include text and links as well as pictures.
The photo at the top is of a donut I bought this morning at Industrial Donut—the latest company I noticed limiting its social media presence to Facebook and Instagram.