An online hamster illustrating my life from 2008-2013.
Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan of the long running blog, The Daily Dish, announced his retirement from blogging and the closing of the blog.
I like the Dish. I am not and was not too fond of all the intricate details of the Washington D.C. political scene, but I very much liked Mr. Sullivan’s perspective, breadth of blogging interests (Hello, beard of the week!), and insights into worlds and cultures that I don’t live in. And that is what the best of blogging does no matter the subject matter, it gives the reader a personal view into a world(s) or culture(s) or interest(s). In particular, Mr. Sullivan and his team gave me insights and views into many worlds. Thank you, Mr. Sullivan.
It is this quote in his going away post, that reflects a similar trend in my own life that I have not written about much here on this/my blog:
“The second is that I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully.”
I have been online daily since 1994. I have been creating websites and various bits on the web and internet since 1996. I have been receiving my primary income from web work since 2000. In the late summer of 2010, a large tumult occurred when the internet start up that I co-founded and spent up to 16 days in a row without a day off coding for failed and I had to ‘pivot’. While my pivot to mobile web and app development made a great deal of sense at the time, it took a toll. By 2012 I realized that I was burnt out – burnt out on web design client work, burnt out on bigger project contract work, burnt out on trying to get my own app ideas out of my computer, and just plain emotionally and psychologically burnt out.
In real life, I got sick – weekly or more migraines, bad environmental allergies, insomnia, bad stomach acid issues, etc – my body was sending me several large notice to cures and I felt pressured by work ethic guilt to not listen. In real life many wonderful and well-meaning friends and web colleagues encouraged me to get back up on the saddle and find another music or mobile start-up to work in or write that tech book on mobile user experience or… or…
In 2012, I traveled, I came back home refreshed, some family stuff hit the fan, I traveled again hoping to regain my perspective, then the family stuff really hit the fan. I found myself trapped in 2013. Sick, stuck, angry, stuck, working on a couple of mobile apps that would never see the light of any app store, broke, and did I mention angry and still sick?
A little over 9 months ago, I pulled the plug. I gave notice at my overly expensive apartment, I lined up a few house sitting gigs for family & friends, I stopped checking and posting to social media sites more than once a day, and off I went to figure out how to slow down, to live, create, and thrive in the actual world again.
I did something that I have wanted to do for years but never could allow myself to do in my rush to always be on and always be useful/working, I started reading fiction again – both in paper book and ebook form. And shooting film on two actual real live film cameras, as well as a weekly photo walk with my Nikon D800 DSLR. And went out to look at the stars as much as I could with my binoculars. And I discovered the wonderful world of online fan fiction.
It sounds odd but the world of online fan fiction helped me to remember what I loved so much about the internet in the beginning and middle of my life on the web: folks from anywhere and everywhere gathering together in communities over specific interests and sharing their d.i.y. creations to their online friends in those communities. The creations may not be polished, they may not be shiny, and they may never have a business plan or V.C. backing, but they are really the best of the web.
Much like Mr. Sullivan, I wanted to slow down, get off the web hamster wheel and figure out how to live again. Sorry if there has been much silence in the public facing parts of my digital life, especially on Twitter, but I don’t regret the last year of silence. Like Mr. Sullivan, I am also a human being before I am a person on the web, I am a creator before I am a web worker, and I am a creator and a human being and a friend before I am a social media __________*.
One of the things that I am looking forward to in the supposed future of the internet of things – a digital life that is an embedded, ubiquitous, and mundane part of every day life rather than a screen that demands all attention. To quote the old Nokia taglines, it is the act of creating with the technology and connection to people that makes the digital life interesting, not to be subsumed into it.
Good luck to Mr. Sullivan in his reading, writing, and personal life endeavors. Good luck to me in attempting to find a good work / life balance between creating for earth monies and creating for the love of it.
* Given how much I truly hate the words that social media and marketing industry folks use for people with high to medium numbers of followers on the major social media sites, I won’t be using the term(s) to describe myself. My hate for one particularly gross term, that starts with an ‘i’ and ends in an ‘r’, is the subject of a whole blog post to come.