Every December, for the last three to five years, I’ve purged portions of my virtual (digital and online) life. This is my form of spring cleaning. I do it at the end of the year, since it fits with my mental model of renewal and new beginnings with the onset of the new calendar year. I continue to do it year after year, since a large chunk of what I do is stored and reflected on my computer and on the web. This year, I started in mid-November, and I’ve already reaped the benefits of having a more minimalistic virtual footprint. This will make future ‘purges’ simpler, if not completely unnecessary. Below, you’ll find a breakdown of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.
I’ve been using Twitter in different capacities since joining in 2007, but one thing has remained consistent, it is my de-facto news source, since I mostly follow news organizations. I have been a great consumer of tweets, but a horrible curator. Since joining, I’ve twice-purged thousands of my tweets in hopes of refining my digital voice. The first time was in 2008, and the second time was last night. Here’s what I am doing to assist with my new mental model on Twitter, and how I plan on becoming a better consumer:
- Purge all of my old tweets using DeleteAllMyTweets.com
- Refined my lists to include my friends, co-workers (present and former), news organizations, mobile developers, and other prominent people I respect.
- I will be more social on twitter (e.g., mentioning people, versus mindless sharing to the public at large)
In my opinion, these changes will result in more quality tweets, and better personal experience and immersion in the platform.
In 2008, I invented a Firefox extension that let people backup any album (personal, friends, group, event, etc..) on their computer. In 2011, Facebook shut me down, and in retaliation, I decided to deactivate my account for a few months. I learned that I could live without Facebook, and that there weren’t any real downsides, On the contrary, I had a few realizations in regards to who I actually cared about. Anyway, I reactivated my account 5 months after shutting it down, since I began working for a mobile design and development agency that leveraged the Facebook platform, and because all of my true friends used the platform. I’m still not a fan of the platform for various reasons, but I’ve already taken action to make the experience less annoying:
- Cut down from 800+ friends to ~200 friends
- Created a ‘Close Friends’ list, but turned off notifications, so my devices and Mountain Lion don’t spam me with notifications. This allows me to visit Facebook when I want to visit Facebook
- Removed a lot of old, personal data
- Disconnected a lot of apps from Facebook to decrease my virtual footprint
The point here is to produce less garbage for my friends (and for Facebook to store in their database), and to see less garbage in my stream. This makes my impulse to go on Facebook smaller, and my experience the few times I visit, more enjoyable.
For the record, that Firefox extension now lives as an iOS app
Read Later Queue (Instapaper/Pocket)
I like to read a lot. Sadly, a lot of it ends up being garbage sci-tech news that I don’t retain for too long. I am used to having ~400 items in my Instapaper queue, and this has been the case for the last 2.5 years. No matter how much I would read, I always ended up with ~400 items in my list. Therefore, I’ve changed my mental model on what I want to read and how/when I want to read it:
- Being on top of the tech industry is not that important.
- Since I use Twitter as my main news source, I’ve beat it into my head that reading the headline (e.g., the 140-character tweet) is enough information for most articles.
- Moved over from Instapaper to Pocket - better experience, and a shiny Mac App
This has allowed me to keep my read-it-later-queue down to a few dozen articles at any given point in time, which in turn, has ‘freed’ up a lot of time, allowing me to read more pleasure books and programming books.
I started my evolving music collection in 1999. I had ~8000 tracks around 2009, which meant I added ~70 tracks a month to my library. Many of these tracks never received playtime. I knew that because any track I listened to automatically got rated (3-5 stars). Anything I deemed to be below 3 stars was deleted right away to free up precious hard-drive space. Over the last four years, I’ve pruned my collection down to 2600 tracks - I still added new tracks into my library, but at a rate of 10 per month. This month, I plan on making it smaller, since a rather large percentage of that collection hasn’t gotten any real playtime in a while, and I’ve grown to detest some of the music in the library - the perks of getting older. Some points to take home:
- After 13 years, I know which tracks I’ll keep forever, since some songs have stood the test of time for me - I’m 26 now, 13 years is a long time for me.
- I’m going through the list by Artist, 1-2 letters a day (#s & A-Z). It should take me no more than 27 days to get this done, which is right in time for the new year.
- I curate a music blog, which helps me sustain an ever evolving, high-quality collection.
My fiancée is a doctoral candidate in psychology, and based on my virtual and real-life behavior, she’s informed me that I am stuck in the anal phase of life, since I like every aspect of my life to be organized and under my control. There are definitely upsides and downsides to this mentality, but it’s gotten me this far, so I think I’ll stick with it!