Challenges in quitting Twitter and Facebook

On Kommons, Tal asks:

You recently quit both Twitter and Facebook. As someone who works in Internet and media, what challenges have you faced? Will you come back?

Quitting Twitter has been a mixed bag. The most significant challenge is not being able to influence the news innovation zeitgeist as directly or as visibly. This isn’t to say I was all that influential to begin with; rather Twitter has better mechanisms for understanding how what you’re mindthinking resonates with others. Retweets or click-throughs indicate whether you’re on point, @replies show whether people want to engage in conversation on a given subject, and who’s following you is a sign of your reputation within that community. It isn’t quite the same publishing on a personal website where the subscription mechanism is RSS, interactivity is limited to longer-form commenting and trackbacks, and there’s no way of presenting who reads you.

I suppose the second most difficult challenge is tracking conversations. There were 100 or so people whom I’d pay the most attention. The real-time nature of the platform, coupled with people being logged in all the time, creates a space like a large ballroom where you can go ask someone a question at any time. I can still hear snippets of conversation by subscribing to a limited number of people by RSS, or paying more attention to roundups like Nieman Lab’s, but the experience is only 50% as engaging as it used to be.

On the flip side, there are two things I’ve been fortunate to escape: the increasingly loud echo chamber any time a bit of news breaks is artfully manufactured and the circular, inward obsession with “social media” on “social media”.

Quitting Facebook was easy, except for a bit of hate from the girlfriend. The only use I’ve been missing people for is looking people up; that Facebook is a structured people database is quite nice. There should be an open equivalent based on microformatted websites.

The honest truth is the first few weeks weren’t tough at all; not spending all my time on (mostly) Twitter and (less so) Facebook meant I’ve had a lot more time to work on new releases for side projects, read long-form, and hang out with my girlfriend. The last week or so has been difficult, I feel disconnected from the hive mind, but I won’t be back until there’s an open, interoperable protocol for real-time publishing I can run on my own server. It’s pretty awesome to be able to look up and reference your content from a few years back.

The river must flow. You can build a dam but the water will find an alternate path.