Tuesday, November 01, 2011
Turn Down the Noise, I'm in a Funk
The short story is, the world got very noisy.
From small user-based bulletin boards to single-author blogs, it seemed that everybody and their ugly dog or LOLCat wanted in on the action to tell a funny joke, share a heartwarming story or post a picture of their dinner. And it's not that I begrudge anyone their opportunity of expression on the Internet. Back in the day I followed lots of blogs: cooking blogs, family blogs, humor blogs, political blogs, cartoon blogs, photography blogs. All of them were fine on their own. Sure, some days were better than others, but over the months and years there seemed to be no end. Everybody had something to say, and the world got noisy.
Then came Facebook, and with it came the chance to reconnect with family you didn't speak to very often, friends that had moved away, and former classmates you hadn't seen or heard of in years. Sharing pictures and reconnecting morphed into an opportunity to publish every last thought or activity to the world. I'M GOING TO 7-11! WHO'S WITH ME? The answer was, "not me," and furthermore I really didn't need to know about the midnight drive for a Shamrock shake, followed by that most newsworthy of activities: eating a burrito on your porch. And it's not that I begrudge anyone their opportunity to bond over frozen fake food and drink. I will be the first to admit I still appreciate the opportunity to stay in touch with family and friends on Facebook. But still, the world got noisy.
Twitter showed up with a 140 character restriction. Shorter, tighter messages were handy for reporting news events in real time, or offering witty comments, or a quick link to a great article or video. But with the brevity of message came the enormity of users, and following a few key people quickly turned into following a few hundred people. It was easy to rationalize because the message was so short, but the Twitter accounts I followed multiplied by the multitude, and the world got very, very noisy.
And then it hit me. I realized, I didn't want to be noise.
Starting back in 2003, it was easier. I had a daughter in elementary school who was a never-ending source of humorous stories. But she grew up, and by the time she hit middle school, the phrase, "You're not going to BLOG THAT ARE YOU?" became a regular part of her vocabulary. But she had a point. I didn't ask her permission to be my writing prompt, so when she asked my permission not to divulge personal stories, I agreed. The downside is that some stories have been lost to my poor memory, but the upside is that she has a blog of her own, and she can tell them -- or not tell them -- for herself.
With the explosion of activity on the Internet came an explosion of noise, and somewhere along the way writing for fun became competitive. Bragging points arrived in the form of a site counter, and deeper analysis could be had by examining various referral points. Blogging joined with Facebook joined with Twitter in a powerful self-promotional unit. Click-throughs were begged-for like Halloween candy and it seemed as if it really didn't matter if you read it or not, you just had to click the button. For some it was and still is a validation of sorts; a wonderful marketing tool that provided the well-needed and deserved opportunity to get noticed and read, but to me, in the midst of this enormous push to be heard, it suddenly, collectively, got very, very loud.
So, I stopped being noise. In early January I stopped, cold-turkey. And for ten months I'd boot up my computer every day and look at my homepage, and my funky winter slipper socks with the pom-poms.... and then open up another screen. And another. Through the long winter, the spring thaw, April showers and May flowers, summer vacation and the start of the final school year for a certain High School senior, I stopped being noise. Lots of things happened; some remarkable, many not. Still, every day I opened my browser my winter slippers sat there quietly and uncomplaining. I always thought I'd get back to them one day, but I honestly didn't know when.
And now it's November, and it's time once again for that somewhat silly but fun NaBloPoMo (NAtional BLOg POsting MOnth) writing exercise, and that seemed like as good of a reason as any to come back. There is no hidden agenda, no contest to win, and in my site redesign (still, perhaps in progress) I'm not even sure the counter made the jump. Of course, if you are reading this, Welcome. I'm glad you are here. While my goal is a daily post for November and December, I'm hoping to keep the noise to a minimum. My plan is to put on my funky winter slipper socks with the pom-poms and jot down a few things before I forget them. If you are here to share them with me, that will make it all the better. But one thing I can promise you: if I'm going to eat a burrito on the porch, I'll keep that news to myself.