The dangers of constantly chasing content and connections

I have been writing online for a decent amount of time. I am not one of the elder statesmen or anything – I am no pioneer – but I started writing for National Review Online in 2000 and I have been blogging for nearly ten years (ten years in November).

In the early days it seemed so much easier to feel like you were in touch with what conservatives were writing about online.  There were some more libertarian type bloggers and their was a budding group of more evangelical or traditionalist type bloggers and there were the conservative magazines just getting a handle on how they were going to approach blogs and other less formal and more interactive formats. It felt like you were part of a community and a conversation.

But from the earliest days I was almost always a “reactionary” blogger in the sense that I reacted to what I read. I was almost always a thinker rather than a linker and I almost always needed an article or event to inspire me to think and write.

As the web has become more and more social and as the amount of content has grown – seemingly exponentially – this has created a problem for me; one that I have wrestled with for years and years.

My tendency is to surf the web for hours and not really accomplish all that much. Sure, I read a decent amount of articles and engage in some conversations and even mange to produce some writing of my own.  But too often I feel like I am chasing content across the web looking for something interesting or looking for conversations or issues to engage with and not really digging into any one thing or focusing something for any extended period.

I do think my writing has improved, I have built a network of friends and contacts, and I have read some great content and learned a great deal.  But the single to noise ratio just seems too small.

In some small way I think I have an internet addiction coupled with a short attention span.  I see the internet as my connection to the outside world and so don’t want to disconnect. What if I miss some great link or debate on Twitter? What if I miss what my friends and family are up to on Facebook? What if I don’t read that email right away?

And if I am honest with myself, a part of me seeks engagement and feedback and interaction online as a reflection of my self-worth; as proof that I am talented and interesting and worth knowing.  Not all the time or in every situation but this is an aspect of my chasing my tail on social media.

These type of thoughts drive me to constantly be checking my computer.  And when I am reading online I have a hard time not cycling through my tabs; as if in the time it takes to read an article I might miss something happening in social media.

So.  I am once again trying to commit myself to read more deeply and surf less; to make a conscious effort to slow down and read and think and focus rather than flit from one tab to the next never really digesting or grasping the content my eyeballs pass over on the way to checking email or Facebook or Twitter.

I want, once again, to try to focus on a few things and do that well. I want to write longer more thoughtful pieces rather than simply seeking to get more RTs or comments.  I want to discipline myself so that I can focus on what I am doing and reading and not give into the siren call of open tabs and streaming social media content.

I want to try, as I have so many times in the past, to focus on quality not quantity; and to use this as a tool to improve my writing and my thinking. I want to cut back on the amount of time that is essentially wasted online (time spent mindlessly surfing not because I have a task or am engaged in a subject but because my mind is drifting and I am seeking something to capture my interest).

To give this process a little order, and to make it easier for any of you who would like to follow along, here is handy list for where I will be doing my writing and posting;

  • Collected Miscellany is for books and culture writing. Mostly book reviews and author interviews but the occasional links to reviews and discussions as well.
  • I am once again posting to Redstate. This is politics but with a cultural and philosophical bent as well.
  • For photos, videos, and pithy quotes visit my Tumblr blog Sifting through the debris.

This blog will be used for longer essays and be  more focused on my life; my intellectual and spiritual exploration and growth.

The plan is to try this out for a month of so and see if it is working.  January will be  great time to evaluate and set some goals for 2012.

As always, thoughts and feedback welcome.


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