Quitting the Internet

Comedian Aziz Ansari on quitting the Internet, deleting a number of apps like email, Twitter and Instagram from his devices:

… Whenever you check for a new post on Instagram or whenever you go on The New York Times to see if there’s a new thing, it’s not even about the content. It’s just about seeing a new thing. You get addicted to that feeling. You’re not going to be able to control yourself. So the only way to fight that is to take yourself out of the equation and remove all these things. What happens is, eventually you forget about it. You don’t care anymore. When I first took the browser off my phone, I’m like, [gasp] How am I gonna look stuff up? But most of the shit you look up, it’s not stuff you need to know. All those websites you read while you’re in a cab, you don’t need to look at any of that stuff. It’s better to just sit and be in your own head for a minute. I wanted to stop that thing where I get home and look at websites for an hour and a half, checking to see if there’s a new thing. And read a book instead. I’ve been doing it for a couple months, and it’s worked. I’m reading, like, three books right now. I’m putting something in my mind. It feels so much better than just reading the Internet and not remembering anything.

I keep thinking about these words because I identify with them a lot. Ironically, I read them after clicking a link on Twitter, but I have been trying to cut back recently. Yes, that’s a link to me saying that on Twitter. I recognize this isn’t looking good for me right now, but progress happens one step at a time.

I’ve noticed as I’ve cut back more, my appetite for more purposeful reading has increased and my creative energy has felt freer. “Being in your own head” more has a way of making that happen. I started to walk and run more recently — I think as a way to literally walk and run away from the screens. I crave that space. I’m going to keep heading in that direction, small step after small step. Purposeful seems much better than aimless.

My Still Missing Reading Habit

A few months ago I posted about my reading habit, or lack thereof. Unfortunately, I haven’t made much of a dent in making reading more of a habit. So before the year ends, I’ll have to make a better effort to include reading in my day.

One thing I realized once I started trying to read more is that I lost valuable reading time when I stopped commuting. I used to read for 40 minutes or so on the train, and now I work from home. So I’m going to try to start reading after breakfast to try and reclaim that time. We’ll see how it goes.

My Missing Reading Habit

Even though I didn’t put it on my list of habits this year, I want to read more. I trimmed my list at the start of the year, but haven’t made any progress. No books completed yet.

When I sit down to read, I stumble from Twitter link to Twitter link, from blog to blog. This counts as reading, of course, but doesn’t add up to something bigger and end with a grander destination like a book. I like reading Twitter accounts and personal blogs because their tied to real people. I don’t have to hold my attention on any one thing, like facts, a plot or a collection of characters, for too long. In reading books, I usually lose touch with these things because I lose my momentum thanks to large gaps between reading. Sometimes, it’s because I try to read multiple books, and sometimes I just get bored.

How do I solve this and enable myself to read more books. Like my other explorations in minimalism, I’m going to:

  • read one book at a time.
  • keep a running list.
  • try to set aside an hour a day, twice a day for reading.

We’ll see how it goes. I’ll try to post an update on this in the summer.

A Text Playlist

I stumbled across a Frank Chimero post from 2010 called “Text Playlist” recently. He says:

… I keep what I perceive to be a more valuable, important morgue file: one made of the best writing on the web I come across. I take this list and revisit and reread it every 4 to 8 weeks. You could almost consider it a playlist of text: it’s very select (I artificially limit it to 10–15 articles), I typically read them all in one sitting, and the order and pacing is very purposeful.

I love this idea, so I compiled my own. I have both books and web articles on my list, so I cheated a bit.

Before His Time: The Untold Story of Harry T. Moore, America’s First Civil Rights Martyr (book): I came across Harry’s story when I wrote about him as a freelance writer, and I’ve never forgotten him. His life and work remind me about focus, unwavering determination and courage.

What Should I Do with My Life? The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question (book): I first read this book after college. It’s a reminder that we all have our own path, and we need to embrace that. Also, what ends up fulfilling us for “work” may surprise us.

Navigating Stuckness (article): This piece by Jonathan Harris has stuck with me from the moment I read it for the first time, particularly this part:

We have these brief lives, and our only real choice is how we will fill them. Your attention is precious. Don’t squander it. Don’t throw it away. Don’t let companies and products steal it from you. Don’t let advertisers trick you into lusting after things you don’t need. Don’t let the media convince you to covet the lives of celebrities. Own your attention — it’s all you really have.

In the tradeoff between timeliness and timelessness, choose the latter. The zeitgeist rewards timeliness, but your soul rewards timelessness. Work on things that will last.

Inside each of us is a little ten-year-old child, curious and pure, acting on impulse, not yet caring what other people think. Remember what you were doing at ten, and try to get back to doing that thing, incorporating everything you’ve learned along the way.

As we get older, things become more complex. We seem to easily forget what really matters. Here, Jonathan reminds me to remind myself what really matters every now and then.

Wake Up Excited (article): This post by Brad Frost helps me get excited when I think that I’ve exhausted all the turns and have nowhere else to go creatively. Nothing just happens, it’s all a process that you must work through. Just keep going.

That’s my list, and obviously, I’m not going to read these, including the books, in one setting. I do hope to add articles and refine the list over time so that I can move the books to their own list, maybe here. These four items come from thinking about the writing that has impacted me most over the past 10 years or so and putting it down in five minutes. I thought I would have a longer list, but there’s always time to add to it.

Five Takeaways from Reading Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

I just finished reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.

It’s an amazing read, and I enjoyed it immensely. Some techies may not appreciate it as much as they could because it isn’t technical. You won’t read about all the ins and outs of making the iPhone or iPad, but you will read about the big breakthroughs, obstacles and quirks of Steve Jobs. That was just what I wanted.

I took away many things from the book and Steve Jobs’s life. Here’s a short list:

  1. Be passionate. You can’t make any real difference with your work or life without believing in what you do. Jobs truly wanted to create great products. It showed in the results he and his team at Apple unleashed over the last three decades.
  2. Mind the details that matter. Details make the difference. Paying attention to how a product looked on the inside, even though no one ever saw it, helped Jobs build products that looked like nothing else.
  3. Be a jerk. Sometimes. Issaacson’s biography recounts many instances of Jobs being a jerk. Sometimes warranted, sometimes not. That persona can prove invaluable when you can’t get your idea or vision through to people any other way.
  4. Focus. The thing that I marveled at more than anything in the book is how Jobs reinvented Apple’s product line after he came back in the late 1990s. It took a lot of guts and vision to say “This is what Apple is good at, and this is what we’ll do,” so to speak. So many companies and organizations fail at this.
  5. What obstacles? Issaacson writes a lot about Jobs’s “reality distortion field.” Jobs certainly set unrealistic goals at times – almost always. However, it was that shooting for the impossible, and ignoring limitations that made him and his team at Apple do groundbreaking things, and make a “dent in the world.”

Have you read the book? What did you learn. Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

Image courtesy of Amazon.com.

Here’s My Media Diet

Color Bars imageWe know that media consumption habits have changed and evolved tremendously.

But have you thought about yours lately? It’s an interesting thought, I think. The Atlantic Wire has a cool series called Media Diet, where staffers interview top thinkers about what they read.

I stumbled across one of the stories, what Jay Rosen reads, via Twitter. It intrigued me, so I decided to write my own, What I Read. So here goes…

Social Media

I check Twitter when I hit the computer in the morning. First, I just check my normal stream for what I like to call accidental knowledge. The thing I love about Twitter is the fact people help me discover neat links and information I wouldn’t have otherwise. After that, I’ll check a few of my Twitter Lists. The usual ones I check are Creative, Internet-Tech and Media.

After that, it’s on to Facebook to see what my friends are talking about and what links they’re sharing. Most of the news I get from them falls into the category of what’s happening in their lives.

Feeds

Next, I check my feed reader. I use two: Shrook and Google Reader. I love Shrook’s beautiful interface for use on my Mac. I’ve used the online version as well, but don’t like it as much. All my feeds sit in Google Reader as well, just in case I need to access my feeds when I’m away from my computer.

What I read there really varies. I check my regular news feeds first. These are NPR. New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Slate and Salon. After that, I attack feeds according to whatever mood I’m in or what kind of project I’m working on. I typically check a handful of the 200 some-odd feeds I follow. Some of the more regular ones I like to read are 10,000 Words, Chris Brogan, Nieman Lab, Romenesko, Dave Winer, Seth Godin, Poynter, Mental Floss, Neatorama, A List Apart, Mashable, The Next Web, Tech Crunch, Smashing Magazine, ReadWriteWeb, ProBlogger and Search Engine Land.

News

On most days, I catch NPR on my local station, WFDD – out of Wake Forest University. If I don’t, I try to listen online. I also check several news feeds via my feed reader. These include the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Sports Illustrated, Slate and Salon. I also follow several news outlets on Twitter, and often hear of breaking news there. I subscribe to news alerts via email from the New York Times as well. Currently, I do not subscribe to any magazines or newspapers. I also don’t watch much, if any, television news.

Television and Online Video

I canceled cable a few months before I started graduate school, and haven’t looked back. I’m enjoying all the free time I have since I avoid programs I’m not really interested in much easier now. I do subscribe to NetFlix, and love all the documentaries there. Some recent ones I have watched include Tyson, Truman and Food, Inc. I’m also a frequent visitor to Interactive Narratives and MediaStorm, always looking for cool, multimedia stories. Lastly, I like to watch my share of Jon Stewart clips.

Books

I love to write, so therefore I read a lot. I recently read Googled, and The Future of the Internet (both for graduate school, among other titles). I also just finished What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I’m currently reading Once a Runner and Bad Luck and Trouble. My favorite authors are Po Bronson and Paul Auster.

Fun Stuff

I watch some television series, thanks to Netflix. I just finished The X-Files in its entirety. I’m also into Mad Men and Man vs. Wild. And you know what, I usually can’t make it a month without watching Strongbad answer some emails. My friends fill in other odds and ends via links on Twitter and Facebook.

That’s my media diet. What do you snack on?

Image by JayLopez.