New Year’s Technology Resolutions of the Internet Famous

You might have noticed that I spent very little time writing here last year. This was a conscious decision on my part to spend more time on things that I felt were priorities, one of the largest of which was the research portion of my PhD.

Since it is a new year, I thought I’d spend some time reflecting on other technology related resolutions that I’ve seen around the web as well as a few of my own.

Selected 2015 Social Media News and Resolutions

In the past few years, dozens of high profile celebrities who decided to quit social media (or who don’t use it in the first place). I think these are helpful reminders of how difficult it is to handle social media.

To me this doesn’t show that social media is inherently evil, but that it’s incredibly hard to moderate even for those who make a living at it. Just as our abundance of food and lack of physical work makes it hard to regulate our bodies, internet news and social media make information and social reaction challenging to regulate. And while I applaud those who make bold decisions to fully quit something, I am personally more inclined to look for small, but important changes I can make that will help bring my life back into balance.

A few resolutions of my own

Rather than start a bunch of things cold turkey on January 1, I started some of my 2016 social media resolutions in late 2015.

Facebook Changes – For the month of December, I decided I would not post anything myself, but I would check Facebook on occasion to like and comment on things from my friends and family. What I found was that I pretty quickly started feeling like I had really hilarious stuff that I wanted to post and see how many people would like it. Instead, I would tell my little jokes to my wife (and occasionally to twitter). I also found that I checked Facebook less often which tells me that a major reason I was checking it before was just to see notifications of responses. By focusing on responding, I was also able to notice when a friend who lost a loved one and respond to them off of Facebook.

Speed and Mindfulness Changes – In 2015, I’ve experimented with some mindfulness practices, using apps like Calm and Headspace to work on exercising my mind’s ability to focus and slow down. Although I’ve been inconsistent at it, I think doing this even intermittently helps me be more patient and less frenetic. I also find that when I do it in the morning before my family wakes up and then follow it with a brief scripture reading, and some daily planning, the day is much smoother.

Phone Changes – As I reflect back on my recent phone usage, what I am most embarrassed about is where I’ve wasted time. Downloading a little game to fill a few spare minutes turned into falling right into the trap of modern game design which is largely based on addictive patterns. I have also watched myself teeter into overconsuming certain feeds of information (Google News, funny meme sites, etc.). I had considered switching to a dumb phone but for now, I’ve attempted reset my phone to be primarily a tool that I use to perform tasks it’s really good at (podcasts in the car, depositing checks in the bank, directions and maps, workouts, air travel, etc.). This means removing any news type apps and avoiding web browsing. Also, I dropped and cracked my phone at Christmas so it’s become a bit more dumb all by itself.

Paper tasks – A common habit among key people I respect is that they have at least one area of their lives where the go more “analog.” Digital calendars are wonderful and powerful, but I know several people who find paper calender much more manageable. I personally have tried dozens of task apps, but I always come back around to sticky notes. At the beginning of each day, I transfer incomplete tasks from the previous day’s stick note to a new sticky note and then keep that on my laptop. Recently, I moved this all to a small moleskin-like notebook which I plan to use more of and use fewer sticky notes. There are lots of great techniques for this (GTD, Bullet Journal, StrikeThru), but I’m not quite disciplined enough to do any of them 100%. However, I do enjoy a walk to our local Starbucks (my phone tells me its 0.32 miles away) taking nothing but the notebook to work through what’s important.

If you have resolutions or small adjustments you find helpful, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

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John Dyer

In my day job, I work at Dallas Theological Seminary, and at night I write Bible software for countries whose leaders could be called "overlords." This one time, I wrote a book about technology and Christian faith. You can find out more about what I'm up to at http://j.hn/.

3 thoughts on “New Year’s Technology Resolutions of the Internet Famous”

  1. Thanks for that info. Intrigued by bullet journal as I go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth between digital and analog for keeping track of my life. And since I rarely remember to sync by phone w/ my computer, I rarely have important dates on my phone’s calendar as I tend to add appointments to my computer only, which tends to stay at home. I’m not opposed to carrying around a journal, so maybe that will be an answer to that dilemma.

    I have given up social media for at least the 1st 1/4 of the year other than a weekly update on our church’s FB page. At the same time I have given that up, I have currently gone back to writing sermons and Bible study notes on the computer vs. by hand.

    Finally, my stack of books to read keeps outpacing my reading, so no computer reading (articles, blogs, etc.) in the evening and instead a 30 page minimum in the current book.

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  3. I’m actually trying to spend more of my procrastination time in my RSS reader (over addictive games or “research” wormholes)… that’s one of the reasons I actually noticed this post!

    My rationale is that I have more control over my RSS reader than something like a Facebook news feed. I can curate it to make sure it’s valuable and interesting and important things showing up there. If I’m wasting time and getting distracted… well, at least let that downtime be on something valuable that I’ve decided I want to read on purpose!

    Also, re: Facebook, I’ve taken a very different approach… I never go to facebook.com anymore. I only visit facebook.com/notifications or facebook.com/messages (or, better yet, I subscribe to the facebook.com/notifications in my RSS reader…). I skip the news feed entirely.

    It’s both good and bad. It’s *amazing* for Facebook not being a time suck useless distraction, or for Facebook to troll me with linkbait or hot button posts that it’s algorithm calculates will trigger a response from me. I simply refuse to play that game anymore.

    It’s bad though, in that amidst all the nonsense I don’t want Facebook to shove at me… I do miss the important announcements. I hear about them elsewhere though, or my wife sees them from mutual acquiantances… I regret that I can’t control the newsfeed more to be able to see what I want to see, but the tradeoff is absolutely not worth it. The Facebook newsfeed serves Facebook far more than it serves me — I have found a way to route around it without disconnecting entirely.

    I can also relate to the itch of posting Facebook to collect likes and responses. I’m actually quite bitter about it… I post to Facebook occasionally. When I post hilarious conversations with my kids, there are always 30-100 likes, comments, etc. When I post important things rather than amusing things, there is often virtually no response, if not actually no response. (This wasn’t true when I first started using Facebook… I don’t think it’s just me. I haven’t changed that much.)

    I really resent that about Facebook. “Like” culture is binary — the service is optimized to encourage and rewards the types of interactions it can quantify, in zeros and ones, in likes. It discourages more meaningful interaction, especially in recent years. (I noticed a huge difference when they added the ability to like comments…)

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