Internet Health Advisory

I’m the “computer guy” in my family. Which means I’m often asked about what to buy or use, if an offer online is legit or a scam, and what to do when something breaks – always the guy when something breaks. 🙂 Most of my advice is reacting to someone’s inquiry. Yet this time friends, I have an Internet health advisory to share with you all. You didn’t ask for it, it’s my opinion, but I love you and think you should consider it.

Over the last year I’ve examined how I use the Internet and am trying to to better. Social media, a never-ending stream of terrible news 1, and always more things I could be reading/doing than there is time for, have motivated me to consider how I approach my consumption and participation on the web.

First bit of advice, get off social media. Bookmark a few sites to check. Sign up for an RSS service and throw a few URLs in. Foster Kramer writes 2 in a “An open memo, to all marginally-smart people/consumers of internet “content””

“By going to websites as a deliberate reader, you’re making a conscious choice about what you want a media outlet to be—as opposed to letting an algorithm choose the thing you’re most likely to click on. Or! As opposed to encouraging a world in which everyone is suckered into reading something with a headline optimized by a social media strategist armed with nothing more than “best practices” for conning you into a click.”

Get off of the services that try to tell you what to read and find the things that you want to read.

Second, make and find smaller communities. Either by pruning your friend list (do you need to know what someone you went to high school with – who you haven’t talked to in 20 years – had for lunch?)3, following a more selective group of people (and never brands), and turning off notifications for every bloop and beep these services try to innodate you with.

This article on “tiny, weird online communities” resonated with me and I hope it encourages you as well.

“The mainstream social internet is so big; everyone is connected to everyone, over a billion on Facebook alone. The consequences of connection — fake news, radicalization, massive targeted harassment campaigns, algorithmically-generated psychological torment, inane bullshit — were not part of what we were sold. We don’t really have the option of moving our lives off of the internet, and coordinated boycotts of our monstrous platforms have been brief and mostly fruitless. But many of us found ways to renegotiate the terms of how we spent our time online. Rather than the enormous platforms that couldn’t decide if, let alone how they had contributed to the election of a deranged narcissist or the rise of the virulently racist alt-right or a pending nuclear holocaust, why not something smaller, safer, more immediately useful?”

In the XOXO Slack the excellent Andy McMillan commented on this article with, “That’s a point I reflected on quite a lot in 2017. We’re really not built to handle this kind of ongoing awareness of every way every person on the planet is suffering.

Andy’s right. It’s good to be aware of what is going on in the world. It’s good to try to push yourself to be a better, more emphatic person, but at some point too much is too much for any one person. Don’t do that to yourself.

I spent more time in Slack than Facebook or Twitter this past year. I spoke up more in the communities I’m involved in online. 4 Sure, I’ll still post a few things to social media to let folks know what my family is up to. But most of my positive interaction with folks has been through smaller, tighter-knit, communities than sprawling Mega Malls of Madness. I don’t need marketing folks spewing “How do you do fellow kids?” stuff at me on Instagram and Facebook. I’d rather join a small community and listen and talk to folks interested in the same thing.

Third, pick up a phone, invite some friends over, go outside. A few years ago a good friend would organize gatherings of friends. It was an event I always looked forward to. A few good friends together in a room for an evening playing cards, board games, and experiencing each others company. I’ve decided to not wait for an invitation (I know you’re busy Ted and I love you!) and start hosting more get-togethers myself. Just this past weekend I had about 10 good friends going back years show up and hang out. It was great. No matter how close you are to someone over the Internet, nothing can replace being in the same room together.

So friends, as we enter the year of 2018, please consider this advisory from your computer guy. I know it’s hard. I know it’s easy to fill the little moments of boredom with one more scroll. If we’re honest with ourselves, what do we have to show for it, and what could we have done with that time instead?

You want an easy start? Invite me to the next poker night. 🙂

Image via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons

  1. Not in journalistic quality, which is a problem in itself, but in the context of what kind of events news is reporting on.

  2. (via Kottke)

  3. Yes, I realize I’m overusing the whole “lunch” trope. I hope you know what I mean here.

  4. Another bit of tangential advice – always punch up, never punch down when talking to others. Encourage over discourage. Life is too short for negativity.

On Kindness by Cord Jefferson

Conversely, waking up each day and devoting yourself to being kind, even and especially to people who are not kind to you, is actually incredibly difficult. It is arduous and deliberate work, and the doing of it will at times make you feel small and foolish. What’s more, in the end, it will on its own merits almost never yield a person awards or honors or riches.


Photo by Ginny – Licensed under Creative Commons

Kottke’s Intro to Joanna Goddard’s “Motherhood Around the World”

 “On sleep camps: Government-subsidized programs help parents teach their babies to sleep. I haven’t been to one (though I did consider it when we were in the middle of sleep hell with our daughter) but many of my friends have. The sleep camps are centers, usually attached to a hospital, that are run by nurses. Most mums I know went when their babies were around six or seven months old. You go for five days and four nights, and they put you and your baby on a strict schedule of feeding, napping and sleeping. If you’re really desperate for sleep, you also have the option of having a nurse handle your baby for the whole first night so you can sleep, but after that you spend the next few nights with your baby overnight while the nurses show you what to do.”

Jason Kottke does a great job introducing Joanna Goddard and her series “Motherhood Around the World“. As a parent in America who grew up in a time where it was normal for us kids to be gone all day – out of sight and without technology – I often struggle with what is “normal” or “safe” for kids in these modern times. Joanna’s series helps put some things in perspective and is a great read. The above quote is from a mom in Australia. From Joanna’s introduction,

“Every Monday, we’ll feature an American mother living abroad in a different country around the world with her family. (First up today: Norway!) Honestly, the interviews have been FASCINATING. While working on them, I kept running into the living room to tell Alex the surprising things these mothers were revealing. Thank you so much to all the incredible mothers who shared their stories”


Children Should Not Be Shackled

“D.C. Public Defender Andrew Crespo remembers a 2011 case where his client, who was 8 at the time, was led into the courtroom in 2-pound restraints. The boy, who weighed about 60 pounds, sat in a chair with his feet dangling. Prosecutors said the boy allegedly touched a little girl inappropriately at his birthday party hours earlier and he was arrested for sexual assault. Before the hearing, Crespo said, his client kept whispering: “My mommy said I can still have my birthday cake. I can still have my cake, right?” Crespo recalled. The charges were later dropped.”

Jesus. This hit really close to home. My daughter is 8 and I could see her acting very similar. Haunting to imagine your own child in that situation. Maybe I should become a public defender.

The groups working to correct this overreaching and repugnant behavior are the National Juvenile Defender CenterD.C. Lawyers for Youth and the D.C. Public Defender Service.