Essays on Technology and Culture

The Great Overwhelming

It’s easy to get overwhelmed. The stream demands our attention. It begs us to feed it, and it begs us to engage to with what other people are feeding it. Social media often feels like a digital superstimulus, designed to glue us to the screens in our pockets. And I won’t lie… I’ve checked Twitter while I wrote this.

Naturally, some people are opting out.

It seems every day I am reading about someone else feeling something similar. Someone quitting Facebook, unfollowing everyone on Twitter, deleting their Instagram pictures and account, or closing up shop on their YouTube account. It seems there is just a breaking point that people reach, and when it hits it really hits.

— Casually Norm – “Not What I Signed On For”

The frustration rings true. I deactivated my Facebook for the umpteenth time this month, largely because I hit another breaking point with the noise of other people’s lives. More specifically, I hit a breaking point with the noise of the people I know interacting with people I don’t. I might have to unfollow everyone again when I do come back. [1]

For the ones who quit, temporarily or permanently, I salute them. Opting out is a valid response. I admire the dedication of someone like CGP Grey and his process of dialing down to make his life easier. It may have been temporary, but the idea holds merit. Sometimes we just need to turn everything off.

One of the next great challenges as we move into an increasingly connected future is finding the balance. It’s going to be different for all of us, and the amount of connectivity we can take will vary from day-to-day. Nobody is forcing you to keep a Twitter client on your phone, nobody is forcing you to stay on Facebook. Nobody is forcing you to feed the void that is the social Internet. You choose to do it, and you can choose not to. More importantly, you can choose how you do these things, so that you interact on (for the most part) your own terms.

If that changes, and it might, then I will worry. For now, it’s okay to dial down and remember what is to breathe.

  1. I did reactivate my Facebook for one day, so I could join in the global mourning over David Bowie.  ↩