About a year ago I started cleaning out our house, getting it ready for sale. Dozens of boxes of stuff either went to be donated or to the dump. At one point my garage was full of crap to go to either place, stacked to the ceiling. It's amazing how much stuff you can collect in a decade that you simply don't need.
Even today my garage has about two dozen boxes, unopened since the move. 15 of them are full of books that Maryam collected when she was an English major at Cal Berkeley. Another five hold chinaware that probably will never be opened again since they take too much space in our downsized life.
Life, too, got a similar cleanout. I've been sober just about 13 months now (almost four years away from alcohol, but I kept trying to hide my pain with other things). Getting sober meant taking the pain head on. Not fun, but on the other side I never would have been able to take my three kids on a 9,000 mile road trip this summer if I hadn't done this work.
Which gets us to the final cleanout and what I learned by all this. I started a year ago by going through every single of my 90,000 Twitter accounts by hand. I deleted about 50,000 of them, most because they were dead, no one was publishing to them. I also unfollowed every brand. Then I went through them and built 28 lists, putting them into Tweetdeck, so I could actually see what the heck was going on. Today I am back to following 54,000 but the quality of all of this is 100x better than a year ago.
Next, I dropped into Facebook. I unfollowed all brands. 8,000 of them that I had followed over the years. I unfollowed all people next, other than my friends. 2,000 of them. Then I went through my 4,500 friends by hand and unfriended about 4,100 of them. Just like in the house, we collect social graph members. There was the person I partied with at SXSW 15 years ago, and haven't spoken to since. The billionaire I friended because I thought he might be important to my career. The high school friends I haven't spoken to since. The coworkers from two decades ago that I haven't seen since.
Unfriending them all did cause some drama. Some people were hurt. "I thought we were friends." I knew this going in, but then throwing away something I paid good money for a decade ago hurt the same way.
Then I headed over to LinkedIn. Went through my 30,000 connections by hand. This time, instead of totally breaking the connection (although I did disconnect from about 1,000) I unfollowed anyone who wasn't in the part of the industry I wanted to focus my next decade on: spatial computing, IE, AR/VR/MR/XR.
I finished that a few weeks ago and, wow, now all three services have come alive for me in a new way. First of all, everything I'm seeing is highly interesting.
I find that creatively I'm alive again. My house is clean. My mind is clean. My inbound is clean. Magic is happening in my life.
A few things I noticed this caused. One, because I went down to fewer than 400 friends on Facebook all of a sudden I was seeing small stuff in people's lives, which caused me to call more of them up and say hi, or get together for a coffee. These meetings are magic, and bring far more joy to my life than just sitting and seeing the same people on a screen.
I'm seeing the world in a new way, too, which is leading to a new business and more, which I'll announce on February 1 and new partners, one of whom is staying at my home this week (thanks to being cleaned up, I'm more willing to have people stay with us, or visit).
But I also see the pros and cons of Facebook. Is it as evil as people are making it out to be? No. But it certainly is not blameless, either. And I find I keep thinking about Cake, because of that.
Yesterday I ran into Cake founder Chris MacAskill.
We talked about how he's thinking through how to keep communities free of crap. Tumblr is being forced to get rid of porn, amongst other dreck. Facebook is facing a slew of problems that could lead to not just regulation, but a lack of trust that will limit its ability to launch new products (I'm very excited by Oculus Quest, coming in the Spring, for instance, but how many of the people who left Facebook will consider it? Very few, based on my discussions with them). It didn't just bring us Trump, but continues to justify having hate speech, amongst other negative things, due to its business model.
One friend told me they knew that one of the social services had child porn on it and, even, had members selling children on it (I won't name it because I don't have proof of this and can't provide such without outing who my friend is) and they weren't willing to do anything about it.
That just won't fly with MacAskill, who told me there has to be a better way to build a Silicon Valley content publishing and social network system.
I agree. Now that my house is clean, I see the need for a new place to have conversations about life and industry and I'm going to park my new business' community here.
One other thing? Now I really can see how addicting these social networks are. Partly because of the quantity of new content. This makes it very hard for a Cake to get noticed. If you only have an hour to look at social networks every day and over on Twitter a new thing appears every half a second, like it does on my Tweetdeck, how do you get the time to leave to check out a new place?
I force myself to do that to read a book, for instance, something I also don't do enough of, or meet a friend, or meet a new entrepreneur trying to build something new, like I posted yesterday over on LinkedIn. But with social networks it is hard.
Then you add onto it the feedback of likes and shares and comments. My phone used to remind me of each of those (lately I've turned off all notifications, which helps). The dopamine hit you get from getting a few likes on a photo on Instagram makes it more likely you'll post another.
But I gave up all drugs, so now I'm seeing the drug effect of all that. I'm looking for a place with a slower pace, where we can actually have a conversation without getting into the dopamine hit zone. I've been lurking here, and I just like the conversations and posts here. They feel better. I feel like I'm actually getting fed a decent meal here, rather than junk food served instantly.
One little difference? I spend time thinking about the photos I'm going to post here. That doesn't happen on Twitter and Facebook's affordance is just to post what you are doing at the moment (and Instagram is a whole nother level of disturbing, where you gotta share only visually stunning stuff).
I made this image in a doll shop in Campbell. Old dolls collected from someone's attic being sold again to a new collector. Speaks to the topic.
So, some inspiration for you:
1. Start. How do you clean your house out? You start with one corner of one room. It took me three years from the day I started to the day we moved, but if you never start you never will finish.
2. When unfriending/unfollowing people, ask yourself: is this someone who you will ever invite to dinner, or will ever invite you to theirs?
3. Think about the health benefits. Would you eat junk food every day? If you are, the way you get healthier is to mix in salads, then, fish, then other foods, and soon you'll find you aren't eating junk anymore. Social media and content is the same way. By getting rid of corporate stuff I find my diet is a lot healthier (and don't worry, your friends will still share plenty of corporate stuff with you anyway).
4. By slowing down the feeds you have more time to focus on getting unaddicted by the other stuff.
5. The engagement you do get from then on will be far less (I get 1/10th as many likes on a Facebook post today than I did three months ago) but the engagement you do get will MEAN so much more to you.
6. You'll be setup for the future. What do I mean by that? Well, even on Facebook, playing VR means playing against one, or maybe a small group of four to a dozen or so (like if you are playing basketball in RecRoom). If you have fewer friends, but ones that actually mean more to you, you'll find yourself in far better place in VR and AR (and I'm quite convinced we all will be wearing glasses by 2025 for all work and play). Searching through thousands of friends in VR sucks. Searching through 400 to find someone to work with or play with? A lot lot lot better.
So, welcome to my new clean world. Now, excuse me, my wife is dragging me away from the screens to go for a walk. :-)