We’ll Be Fine Without Social Media

This blog post is basically my Twitter replies to my friend Jocelyn’s Tweet above.

If the “fix” is something to replace this bloated social media websites that employ 2039482 people, I don’t think we can do that. But if we seek focused, sustainable, and healthy sites and events, I think we’ll be fine.

I don’t believe the answer is a daily newsletter with links to cool things that our creative friends are doing because it’d be so easy to lose track, then we’re not even opening the email, and it’s just one more thing we archive / delete. I also don’t believe it’s private Slack channels where it’s like a run-away group text, where you leave for an hour and then there’s 234,902,984 new messages.

Because we can’t do the “real life” thing if we’re scrolling through an app for hours a day. That’s not “keeping up” or “staying informed,” that’s taking time away from our creative pursuits! And emailing friends! Calling people. Have coffee with friends.

What we need is hyper-focused print. Video channels. Occasional email newsletters. Gatherings. Retreats. Live streamed conferences for accessibility and budgets (* see also ‘The End of the Conference Era‘).

And any creative media endeavor that’s “hey, this is about ART!” or “MUSIC!” is too broad. No one is lacking for “we interview creative people” podcasts.

Give me magazines and zines devoted to noise rock, pottery, or band posters. These would be small operations, quarterly, sustainable – the exact opposite of Instagram, or any social media outlet. Online things updated multiple times per hour ain’t doing anyone any favors (as well as using unpaid labor for all that attention). It’s time to slow the heck down.

“Aim for the edges,” as Seth Godin says (back in 2015).

“And that’s the secret to thriving on the edges: Build something that people will look for, something that people will talk about, something we would miss if it were gone.

Not for everyone.”

The more it’s for “everybody,” the more it’s for nobody.

Seriously, Just Use SaneBox Already

It’s true – email newsletters are great. But when you subscribe to a few, well, it can be a bit overwhelming. Let me tell you about one of my favorite services I pay for and could not live without. It’s called SaneBox.

It works by making some new folders in your email account, like SaneNews and SaneBulk. So when you get that email receipt that coffee shop that uses Square, you drag that email into SaneBulk. Now the next time you go to the coffee shop, that email will automatically go into SaneBulk.

That means when you pull out your phone, or log into your email after your lunch break, you won’t see that email in your inbox because – face it – it’s not urgent It’s not inbox worthy!

Maybe you’re a writer and you get a zillion press releases a day. Well, you can start dragging them into your SaneLater folder, and the next time you get an email from them, it won’t sit in your inbox.

The important emails, well, you leave them in your inbox. And SaneBox will always leave them there. So then, after a week or so of using SaneBox, when you get a notification on your phone, or a ding on your laptop, you’ll know there’s actually something important in your inbox.

I’ve been through two pretty major life events in the last year, and having Sanebox was wonderful. In this GIG ECONOMY world I still had to check email on occasion, but at least when I saw a notification and decided to check email I knew it wasn’t going to be some stupid 10% off offer from a website that I visited three weeks ago.

And all those newsletters I subscribe to? I drag them all into my SaneLater folder to read, you know, later.

Seriously, give SaneBox a shot. I can’t recommend it enough.

Just Get Started

One of my favorite podcasts is Friendshipping! In their latest episode (listen here on Overcast) they talk about starting creative projects, and wowzers, it’s gold.

I started Skull Toaster back in 2011, on Twitter. Here we are seven years later and Twitter is a bit different these days. So now I’m starting my second Skull Toaster podcast. It’s like an audiobooks version of the Skull Toaster metal trivia I post on Twitter, but without each question being surrounded by nazis and news of school shootings.

Depressing I know, but that’s Twitter these days.

The first Skull Toaster audio program was the Metal Minute podcast. We did 115 episodes, but I decided to end it. Is it a failure? Nah. I learned from the process; the week in and week out of recording, promoting, and publishing a quirky, regularly published podcast. But it wasn’t growing, so we brought it to a close.

So now in 2018 I’m starting a new podcast. I’m on episode #3 and I have no idea if it’ll be a success. I’ve been talking about doing a podcast like this for years (I remember a coffee shop conversation with a Dan Diemer about this, back in 2015 or so), and I could have waited to start it better, or buy a better microphone, or whatever… but nope. It’s out. Episode #10 is gonna be better than episode #1. At least I hope so.

This doesn’t even have to be about podcasts. They can be about your newsletter. Your first tour. A new painting. But you just have to make it, then keep making it.

Tiny Experts of Millions of Things

How many articles do you read in a day? The occasioanl click or two per hour, and maybe you don’t finish the whole piece, but just enough to get the point. Let’s say you do that a dozen times a day. Easy, right? And let’s say you maybe spend about two minutes each time per article. That’s quick.

But thats already 24 minutes of your day.

What about when you add video into the mix? We easily watch three videos per day, and maybe maybe 2 minutes each? I mean, on average. Cool?

That’s 6 minutes of video per day, and I bet that’s on the low end.

Can we agree that we spend at least 30 minutes per day reading / viewing / skimming things? And that these are mostly micro bursts of taking things in? I’m not talking that 15 minute documentary where you learn something, or the 1000 word article that leaves you in tears. Nope. Just the sort of “content marketing” and “re-written news” that we practicaly trip over and consume every day.

If we figure 30 minutes per day, that’s 3.5 hours a week. Which is 14 hours per month. Almost a full day of awake time in a typical day.

And at 14 hours per month, that’s 168 hours per year, or 7 days of reading and watching.

Seven full days per year we’re staring at our phones, scrolling, squinting, skipping ads / clicking Reader mode, thumbing. Chances are you’re reading this on your mobile device right now.

I KNOW it’s just a minute here, a minute there. Don’t be such a kill joy, Seth! But dammit, this ain’t natural. Multi-tasking is a myth, but multi-consuming can’t be real either.

Have you tried listening to a podcast while scrolling through Twitter, then clicking a story, and trying to read it. How – HOW – do we even think this is normal?

I understand when a friend I’m having lunch with has to reply to work email (GIG ECONOMY, YAY), but please don’t interuppt our catching up with your catching up with your Instagram feed.

I clicked Twitter just now, and was able to take in all this:

That’s just tonight. That’s the last 15 minutes, maybe. But it’s happening around the clock. There are important stories to read, articles that are informative, music being released in different time zones, funny videos being uploads (how many hours of content are posted every morning from the late night shows), it goes on, and on, and on, and on…

And right now I’m adding to it. But I’m hoping to be like some messenger from The Matrix or something, typing on your screen in the middle of the night. “Knock, knock, Neo…”

You don’t even need to delete social media and throw your computer down a well. You just need to do your online work and get the hell away. Your best ideas will come when you’re out on a walk or having a conversation with a friend, not scrolling endlessly through some design inspiration site.

I don’t mean that the internet is bad, but the continual flood of infomration that we keep ramming into our brain can’t be healthy.

While I’m sure ‘Jared Kushner’s many, many scandals, explained‘ is a well done article, does our survival rely upon that information? Will it give us information that we can use to debate the Trump supporters in our life?

Great.

What about the 20 other Trump topics that were brought up today? Can we read those 25 articles, three explainer videos, four wrap-up hot takes from the late-night hosts, and listen to the four daily political podcasts and get their take on everything?

Then we do it again tomorrow? Nay, do it again this evening? When some other bat-shit crazy thing hits the fan?

Breaking up our attention for these hundreds and thousands of tiny interruptions over the course of weeks and months and years might make us tiny experts at a million things, but I believe it’s keeping us from deeper thinking and  bigger conversations with important people already in our life.

 

Stop Paying Facebook to Reach Your Fans

Steve Lambert of the non-profit Center for Artistic Activism wrote a fantastic piece called, ‘Why Facebook Is a Waste of Time—and Money—for Arts Nonprofits,’ and I (of course) love it. With a Facebook account with over 4,000 “likes,” they were only reaching about 3% of their audience.

“This is by design,” writes Lambert, “people think the Facebook algorithm is complicated, and it does weigh many factors, but reaching audiences through their algorithm is driven by one thing above all others: payment. Facebook’s business model for organizations is to sell your audience back to you.”

It turns out that Facebook doesn’t even offer a discount to non-profits to reach their supporters. Classy.

“For now, we’ve found our email newsletters much more effective because at least we know the message reaches the subscribers’ inbox. And while we are no longer investing our time or our donors’ money into Facebook, it’s not a complete departure. We’re letting automated systems repost from our website and from other social networks.”

Emphasis mine. At least you know they got it. Then you can see who opened, and who clicked a link. You can also see who didn’t open your email, and a week later send it to them again. Don’t be dismayed that you don’t have 4,000 email subscribers, or even 400.

When you get 100 people to hand over their email address, then you’ve got a subscriber. Likes and faves are easy, but someone opening an email (in 2018) is raising their hand and saying, “I want more of you.”

 

 

Forever a Student

My 42nd birthday is approaching quickly. That’s 4+ decades of behaviors, instincts, ways of dealing with things that come up. For some things it takes four decades, for other things you learn real quick. For me, wisdom is one of those long journeys of understanding.

Wisdom doesn’t show up one day in the mail, easily openable and ready to use. Wisdom often comes to us through the things that interfere with our comfort – be it an untamed, untethered idea, the person who drives us bananas, or a sunset begging us to stop our productive rush, rush and just watch it.

Another way I like to approach it is in the moment I’m about to dismiss someone or something, I instead think: So you are my teacher today. What am I being asked to learn from you?

From ‘THE WISDOM OF THE THINGS WE DISMISS‘ by Caitie Whelan

My four year old MacBook Air was acting up recently. I got that spinning beachball while I was in the middle of some important work (so important I can’t remember what it was). I caught myself wanting to launch into the response that I’ve seemingly been programmed with since I was a young boy, even before we had personal computers.

A feeling of hopelessness, “why me?” This computer problem, in this split second, was bullshit. The worst thing ever. Not fair.

That happened in a second, and in the next second I flipped the script. I made myself laugh. I celebrated like I just scored my dream job, or a unexpected check showed up in the mail. I raised my arms, smiled, dug deep and laughed in the face of my “world ending” computer problems.

Yeah, weeks later my laptop is fine, the work got done, and no one died.

That day the spinning beach ball wasn’t my enemy, ruthlessly mocking me. It was my teacher, and I was the student.

Anyone Can Contact You

Listening to Roderick On the Line episode #275 (here, at the 41:00 mark), Merlin Mann talks about the old method that ANYONE can contact you – email, phone, (and recently) Twitter – and maybe how we need to step back away from that. It’s not working.

  • Anyone can interrupt your dinner
  • You can receive an email on a quiet Sunday morning
  • Your lunch date can be ruined by 1000 angry replies

This open communication can be weaponized, with bots, and scripts, and RTs. If you piss off the hive, they’ll come after you. Then your phone is buzzing, buzzing, buzzing. Your inbox is now filled with sewage. Twitter becomes unusable, breaking under the stress of what it was not intended for.

I’ve been near someone whose tweet went viral. Whereas our phones are mostly a comfort, it felt like a thousand angry demons were pushing their way through their touch screen, buzzing and flashing. The small rectangle on the armchair of the sofa became the trap in Ghostbusters.

Buzz, buzz. The chaotic force from the internet; “it’s in there.”

Let’s Raise Money for Students Run Philly Style

I’m running the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia this May, and I’m looking for your help in raising $500 for Students Run Philly Style, an organization that mentors kids with running.

Kids these days are doing incredible things, like winning gold medals, making rad things, and talking with more sense than most of our elected clowns in office.

So hey, I’ll run 10 miles in May, and you chip in a few bucks to help make a kid’s life better, deal?

I started running in July of 2016, after a few years off the bike and feeling sorry for myself. I fired up one of those Couch to 5K apps and got my ass moving, and holy shit, I run now, and I love it. It taught me a good lesson: do something with consistency, and in time you’ll see results. I’m not talking just about the 40lbs I lost, or that I can run 20 miles a week, but it gave me a sense of accomplishment, and helped me get through a pretty serious funk.

So if running can do that for little old me, imagine what it could do for a some rad kid in Philadelphia? Your support buys shoes and pays for entry fees for races. You’re gonna help some kid feel like a million bucks! Donate here!

Kickstarter is a Grand Ending

Seth Godin started a podcast called Akimbo and I’ve listened to his first episode at least three times now. I’ve been reading his books since the early 2000s, and watching his videos. He’s got a podcast now? Boom. Subscribed.

“In order to have a Kickstarter to succeed, you need to begin with a following. You need to begin with people who trust you. A Kickstarter is the end of a multi-month or multi-year effort to earn trust and attention. It’s not a Grand Opening, it’s a Grand Ending.”

Listen to Seth talking about Kickstarter right here.

I got hired for something like that years ago.

Someone put together an entire movie, and needed like $10,000 to really launch it or something. Did they already have a Twitter following of people passionate about the subject of the film? Nope. Did they have a Facebook group where they chatted with people, shared behind the scenes footage, and listened to people’s tales?

Nah.

They made social media accounts AFTER it was done, not before. They wanted to get the word out to a bunch of people they didn’t even know, so they’d give money to a person they never heard of (until they needed money).

Companies Come and Go

As I’ve been thinking about leaving Patreon, an email from Derek Sivers popped into my inbox and alleviated all doubts if I was doing the right thing (emphasis below is mine):

“Don’t be dependent on any company. They come and go.

Think long-term. You’re going to be creating stuff, making fans, and building relationships for the rest of your life — much longer than these companies will last.

It’s so important and easy to have your own website. Instead of sending your fans to some company’s site, send them to yours. Get everyone’s direct contact information, so you don’t have to go through any one company to reach them.”

Sure, have your music on a few sites, but don’t let that be the ONLY place where people can find you. Have a home base.

Cut the shit that “no one visits websites anymore.” That’s because you all stopped updating your sites in 2004 and told everyone “check us out on Facebook,” which means now you can only reach 12.6% of your audience unless you enter your credit card information. How’s that working out?