Quiet Habits

Quiet habits for a quiet life

Social Media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit. It seems like it's everywhere, permeating our lives with its presence. Almost everyone you know is on at least one platform and more people are joining every day. But people are also leaving platforms in droves, either permanently or for a short “fast”, for a variety of reasons, privacy concerns, mental health needs, minimizing their online presence, online bullying, a bad breakup, or wanting to spend more time in reality, everyone who leaves has a reason. There are tons of blog posts, tweets, facebook posts, and “stories” about why someone is leaving the platform and why you should, too.

And yes, I'm adding another “I'm leaving social media” blog post to the pile. But I hope mine is a little different. I'm not going to provide reasons why you should leave social media or provide tips for leaving (as I've done in the past). I'm not going to berate you for continuing to use the platforms or list 5 reasons why a certain online platform is evil and will steal all your data. I'm trying not to take a “holier than thou” or “this is how you should live your life” approach to this whole thing. Simply put, this post is not a guide to quitting social media or an essay to convince you to quit. It's a thoughtful look at my own social media usage, how it affects my life, my mood, my mind, and how I'm going to handle taking a break for a while.

First, the confessional. I spend a lot of time on social media. Probably about an average amount of time, maybe a couple of hours a day some days, maybe 30 minutes another. I check or post to a social media site at least once a day. I spend most of my time on Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram. I don't interact with most of the posts I see or people who I follow, but when I see something that really strikes me as interesting I'll like it or retweet it, and sometimes, very rarely, I'll comment. Most of the time, it's mindless, endless scrolling. Sometimes I fall asleep scrolling and accidentally tap a link or like a post that I didn't mean to like. It's a problem.

Now, the challenge. There are numerous reasons for “fasting”. People do it for religious reasons, health reasons, for fun, or for medical reasons. Fasting is usually associated with food, although lately it's been associated with lots of things, especially technology-related things. Fasting, generally, is to go without something in order to gain some reward. Sometimes it's spiritual enlightenment, sometimes it's realizing how blessed we are to have food, and sometimes it's great health benefits. My social media fast is for one big reason: I want to focus all of my time and attention on family and friends this month. It's Christmas time and we have a lot of parties, family gatherings, dinners, and more. I don't want to bury my face in my phone while I'm with family. I don't want to try to get the perfect Instagram shot of the tree or Santa or some presents (although I'm still going to take lots of pictures). I don't want to worry about what someone else got under their tree or what yummy food someone else is eating or cool parties or how much snow some other city got. I want to focus on the tangible, real-time events happening around me. In short: I want to be 100% present and aware this month.

So, for the entire month of December, I will not be browsing Twitter or scrolling Facebook. I won't be double-tapping on Instagram photos or tapping through stories. I won't be worrying about likes or laugh emojis or retweets or followers. I will be focusing on hugs and smiles and laughter and the sound of tearing wrapping paper and the witty banter at family dinner and the smell of fresh crepes and the look of joy on my daughter's face as she opens her presents and the twinkle of Christmas lights and the stillness before snow starts falling. I'll be living in the moment. Feel free to join me. This isn't a challenge or an invitation or a mandate. Think of this as an open suggestion. I don't think it will be too difficult to live without being constantly connected, but I hope the effects are felt and have a lasting impact.


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Something has been eating at me for a while. Something I haven't been able to put into words. A problem. A dissatisfaction with the current state of things. With incumbency in online spaces. With comfort. With the way things are. I think I've finally figured it out, or, figured part of it out. I'm dissatisfied with the way things work for writers online, with basically the whole system. Here's how it works now, in a super-simplified nutshell: You want to start writing. You find a cool domain name for your blog and purchase it. You choose a content management system that's been around for a long time. You pay a hosting company (likely a shady conglomerate company with horrible support recommended to you in a blog post entitled “How to Start a Succesful Blog”) a small monthly fee, install Wordpress, run through a few initial admin things and you're ready to start writing. You might be ready, but your newly created website is far from ready.

So far, unless you're pretty tech savvy, you're already a couple of hours into this project. But now you must find a theme for your website (let me guess, you're probably using Wordpress and hosting on Bluehost?). Now you've found out about site hackers, comment spam, Wordpress security holes, updates, shared hosting slowness, Google Analytics, Google Ads, affiliate links, membership sites, Wordpress admin settings, email newsletters, RSS feeds, social media updates, Medium cross-posting, SEO services, mail servers, etc., etc. Whew! What an exhausting list. And that's not even everything!

After a year or two of posting quality content to an ad-filled site (you've gotta pay the bills, right?), you're struggling to find even 1,000 readers every month.

And you're dumping hours and hours of your precious weekend into managing all the barely functioning pieces of your blog.

And you're constantly barraged with emails about guest posts, posts about your online presence, and sad statistics.

You brought this blog into existence because you wanted to write, right? You didn't want to play the marketing/SEO games, fight constant attacks and spam, manage incoming and outgoing email, update your site, upgrade your hosting plan.

And yet here you are. Most blogs and websites get abandoned in the first couple of years. While this is for a variety of reasons (lack of traffic, lack of time, loss of interest, lack of monetary earnings, among others), I think a lot of these come down to bloggers not having an easy, affordable way to sit down, write, and publish.

You started out as a writer and suddenly you're either juggling 15 different tools and services to keep up with the current blogging “requirements” or you're looking at paying someone else a lot of money to do this for you. Either way, you just want to get back to writing great content and interacting with your readers in meaningful ways. After all, that's what being a writer is all about: bringing valuable content to the eyes or ears of readers (or listeners).

And ultimately that's what I've been struggling with. I didn't start writing online so that I could become a content manager or a web developer or a businessperson. I'm not in the business of managing content or a brand or a marketing campaign.

I'm participating in the longstanding tradition and art of writing. And yes, like any artist, I want visibility (and I'd like to make some money on the side if people are getting real value from what I create) and I crave knowing that people find value in what I do. But I refuse to split my time between 20 different projects that are a “requirement” to participate in today's blogging/marketing garbage heap. Yep, I said it. Most articles published online are content marketing garbage that is not intended to uplift, inform, or entertain. Their sole purpose is to sell something. And the irony is that these posts are usually on sites plastered with ads that also only exist to get you to spend money. And money is the goal, right? That's what many people (ironically, many of the same people who create these online courses and garbage blog articles) want you to think. Don't get me wrong, I'd like to make money from the art that I create and the value that I provide. But if money was my only motivator and goal, there are much better ways to earn it. I, like many bloggers, have a day job that pays the bills.

I don't want a “media empire” or a “million-dollar website” or a million followers or to be a social media influencer or to beat the SEO game. I want to write what's in my head and my heart and then edit it so it's valuable to my readers. I want to get an email from a reader that says, “Thank you for writing this, it really made me laugh (or cry, or think differently, or change my habits).” That's real value. I'm not a marketer or content manager. I'm a writer and I will continue to write the best content I can. If it's good, I believe it'll be shared with the relevant audience. If it's not, I'll hear about it. That doesn't mean that all great content gets shared all the time. It's an uphill battle to get your writing in front of reader's eyes, but I believe that eventually, every writer finds their audience if they consistently write and publish great content. Great content gets shared and remembered. Garbage content gets skimmed and forgotten and lost in the endless pile of articles on the Internet.

Online writing is experiencing a shift. With the rise of new platforms like Ghost, Medium, and others, there is a new breed of writers and a new way to earn a living from practicing your craft. Value is being assigned in new ways and the old ad-based, click-based, view-based system is slowly dying out. The days of garbage writing are over. The days of readers supporting artists that they love, care about, and relate to are coming into maturity and I can't be happier about it. There's still a lot of work to do. A quick online search will tell you that content [marketing] is still king and that the SEO hackers and sites plastered with ads are still winning the majority share. We have to vote with our views and our clicks, and if possible with our wallets. Block their ads. Don't read the crap. Abandon the sites that hound you with ads, pop-ups, sign up forms, autoplay videos, and site notifications. Downvote them into extinction and allow the new generation of writers and writing to emerge from the ashes.

I hope to provide the highest quality content possible on this site for as long as possible. There won't be ads here. There won't be affiliate links to random products (I'm still going to post links to writers and content that I love, and some of them will help me make money to keep this blog running). Everything here will be valuable and uphold the mission statement of this blog.

Enter Write.As. I found Write.as a while ago. Probably through a search for blogging platforms. I bookmarked it, tried it out, and moved on. This past week, I rediscovered it and fell in love (despite its minor flaws and quirks). The service provides not only a simple way to publish anonymously but a super simple way to write a blog as well. It fits all the important criteria that I ranted about on Twitter.

I don't think there is a “perfect” writing platform, just like there isn't a perfect car or house or pair of jeans. But Write.as certainly comes close. Most importantly, it fits my needs and isn't trying to fill every possible use case (like most CMSs and site builders nowadays). The most beautiful thing about it is that I can log in and immediately start writing. I'm never bombarded with updates, stats, plugins, spam, etc. I simply log in, write, edit, and publish. The company is small but has a great business model that's working. And they have wonderful guiding principles (something more companies need nowadays) And as a bonus, it's super affordable.

So, dear reader, you've made it this far and are probably wondering “Well, what now? What should I expect from Quiet Habits going forward? What's this blog about? Why should I come back for more?” And the answer is that there isn't an easy answer. The fact is, I've been pretending to try to become an expert in habits and life changes and minimalism for too long and I don't want to be an expert. Yes, those things are still my focus and interest. But I don't want to write list-style posts or give advice like I know what I'm talking about. I want to write about my experiences in these spaces like the messy human being that I am, mistakes and all. So, don't expect a change in topics, just a change in approach. Expect higher quality content that may be longer and as frequent as possible (quality over quantity, right?) on the same topics that lead you here in the first place.

As for the technical side of this blog, it'll be hosted and run using Write.as for the foreseeable future so that I can focus more on writing and less on all the other stuff. And I can promise you everything you read here will be authentic, well-written, interesting, and worth your time. I don't sit down in order to create fluff so I get more web traffic and boost my Google rank. I sit down and write because I need to express my thoughts and I want to add value to the lives of others.

I'm also toying with the idea of recording these posts and making them available as kind of a podcast/audio-blog. Basically, I'd just be reading and recording my blog posts mostly verbatim for those of you who prefer listening to online articles over reading them. Let me know what you think about the idea on Twitter @quiethabits or via email nathan “at” quiethabits.net.

As an aside, I promise to not write too many more of these “I'm changing everything about my blog and here's why” blog posts. Your regularly scheduled program will return shortly. ;)