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August 21, 2015

The minutes, they are so few, and so precious

Lately I've been on vacation (to the extent that one can be on vacation from a semi-retired life), and have noticed the difference I feel between having my iPad nearby and when I don't. A few mornings, I have brought it down into the lower floor where my bedroom is, after finishing the New York Times crossword, and a few mornings I have not.

Those mornings where it's not nearby are significantly better, in a few ways; in particular, I'm more focused and more present in what I'm doing, whether that's reading a novel (this week, those have been The Little Friend by Donna Tartt and The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver, both highly recommended) or playing a few games of backgammon with my son once he's up. That investment of attention feels like the right way to be, to me, in comparison with the distracted and distractible condition that is my mental state when the device is nearby. In the case of the words I'm reading, it feels like they are building up enough to make a tide that carries me away, rather than splashing about in different puddles when I occasionally pop over to Twitter or check email, never gaining enough momentum to feel the transport I truly enjoy.

On the other hand, I need computers in my life. I find I think better when I type, writing a blog post or something else. I write by hand in a journal, but that works well because it fits the fluidity of accessing my emotions and thoughts, and it's not intended for publication in any case. When I am constructing something, I prefer to type, and obviously that's the only way to code. (I gather from some research I saw via Austin Kleon's blog that this is a better use of handwriting versus typing, so that's nice.)

I'm starting off by deleting the Twitter apps from my phone and my iPad, just to make myself a little more present when those things are nearby, which is often in the case of the phone especially. I'm planning on keeping them in "nighttime mode" most of the time as well -- the phone will still ring through, when it's someone I know, and that's the only time I pick up the phone anyway. Same with texts. We'll see how it goes.

I may ultimately abandon Twitter altogether, though I'm not severing that tie just yet. I unceremoniously quit Facebook a year and a half ago because it started to cause me to feel a falseness, that my "Connections" with my "Friends" became a performance rather than any meaningful indication of friendship. I miss the ability to see folks' photos, though I still catch a few via my girlfriend, who still maintains an account and who shares things with me that way on occasion, primarily posts from my family. I don't quite have that relationship with Twitter, right now, but I eye it more and more warily (and wearily) each day.

The thing with Twitter is, it has devolved into a meaningless source of distraction for me, and I don't know how to pare it down in a reasonable way -- I'm not sure it's worth the effort to me. When I joined it, it felt cozy in a way; many of the journalists and bloggers that I knew who were writing interesting bits about games were on there, and it was a way to connect with them. But the connections that I made that way have mostly been of particular interest when I've had a chance to connect with those people in person. I'm really glad to have met so many people through it, particularly the group loosely gathered around Brainy Gamer.

But making connections like those involves a lot of sorting through noise to find signal. These days, following the 800 or so people that I do, I find myself dropping tens of minutes a day pursuing links and keeping up with stories or dialogues that are ultimately the mental equivalent of empty calories; those are fine in moderation, but too much when it's every day.

Overall, the tenor of conversation on Twitter has changed, I guess. I used to be able to have a conversation with someone like Nels Anderson about my feelings about "Mechanical Apartheid" without having some anonymous GG rando to argumentatively question why I might find such a tagline to be distasteful (especially considering I had just made those arguments to Nels). That happens when things get too big, for sure, though the open and public nature of the thing is particularly weird. I'm going to prefer the smaller and more intimate, for a while, I think, like Slack.

So, I guess don't feel badly if I don't reply quickly if you mention me or whatever. For now, I'm keeping the account and will push out notifications when I do stuff that people might be interested in -- I've got that Republic Commando live-streaming to finish, and occasionally I blog a bit, and I still want people to be able to see that if they're interested (including this article) since RSS is more or less dead. And I also do like to have a point of contact where people who are looking for feedback about getting into games programming or whatever can find me easily. I'll probably check in with it from time to time just to make sure someone's not pestering me. It's been mostly something I've enjoyed for long enough that I don't want to kill it off entirely, but my relationship with it has to change; it isn't worth the fraction of my life minutes I've been putting into it lately, and hasn't been for awhile.

When the next thing comes along, be sure to let me know. :)

Posted by Brett Douville at August 21, 2015 01:01 PM