Fewer Tamagotchis, update 1

During the first episode of Lady Dynamite, Maria Bamford suggests to her agent that the thing she’d like to do for her next project is…less. She doesn’t want to do movies or TV or even commercials. She’d like to, maybe, just sit on a park bench in her neighbourhood. That seems like less stress and pressure to her character.

This is how I feel about social media, chatting, apps, and connectivity lately.

For the last fifteen years or so, my online presence has taken up innumerable hours. Most of it is spent talking to other people. Sometimes it’s just me talking to the void. Both can be good things! Both can be productive uses of time. But in the last few years, I’ve noticed things splintering. I’ve seen segmentation, and it seems like everyone is just a little farther away than they used to be.

Maybe I’m just getting old. Maybe everyone is having fun without me. Maybe my patience for online time-wasting has reached a plateau and I need to spend some time away.

This is not me turning into someone who doesn’t like computers or technology anymore. I don’t wish to go back to any sort of previous version of things. Online communication has always kind of sucked. If anything, I’d just like some streamlining. I think I just want one feed. I want one place to chat. I want one place to see new things.

Recently on You Chose Poorly, a podcast I do with Mikey Llorin, I talked about the proliferation of chat apps in my life. If you’d like to listen, here’s part 1 and here’s part 2 of the conversation. Here was the list of apps I have used to chat with people in the last month:

  • iMessage
  • SMS
  • FacebookMessenger
  • WhatsApp
  • Google Hangouts
  • Slack
  • Miitomo
  • Skype
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Tumblr

And that’s just not feasible. This is a crazytown way to live. So I’ve decided to do some pruning. I’d like to start by getting this down to 3. It’s not one, but one is the eventual higher-plane goal. Three will do as a first step.

Obviously iMessage isn’t something you can get rid of if you have an iPhone, but it’s also not something I check. If someone texts me, I’ll get a notification. I consider this swiped off with some tweaks to notification centre.

I only had Instagram for quick posts to Facebook and Twitter. That’s an easy one to cut out. So I’ve temporarily disabled” my account, since Instagram is a Facebook joint and deleting things just isn’t their jam.

Miitomo and Slack were fun distractions, but are kind of tedious. Gone.

Google hangouts is pretty dead, at least among my friends. Logged out. Uninstalled.

And Skype is something I’ll have to keep around for podcasts, but can stop signing into at all times. I can take it off my phone.

So now there’s:

WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Twitter

This was the goal, and for the most part I’ve kept to it. What I’ve learned by trying to go without certain apps for periods of time is how I used different ones for different reasons (this is very Marshall McLuhan). Instagram makes me feel a certain way that Tumblr does not, I have different kinds of conversations on Messenger than I do on Whatsapp, even with the same people.

I don’t have a solution for this. It’s obviously the kind of thing that doesn’t bother enough people to have anything happen, so I’m stuck with a handful of messaging apps. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s been interesting taking a critical look at how I’m using these things to see if I can change my behaviour. But that’s just the thing with messaging apps. You can change your behaviour all you like, but you can’t change anyone else’s, and being with other people is the entire reason we have these things in the first place.


May 31, 2016