Its January 1st, 2016 which means I’m back from my December hiatus. As ever, it’s been refreshing to step out of the stream of social media for a month, to do more offline things, to be a different version of myself.
I’m going to take my time to come back online slowly. I’ve actually already started semi-secretly blogging again; I’ll send a newsletter out this Sunday; the Twitter app is back on my mobile devices. Things are getting back a version of normal.
A very Happy New Year to you and those that are important to you! My family and I are looking to a an exciting, healthy, and prosperous year. I hope that describes your outlook, too.
If you read this blog and we’ve never been in touch before, please do drop me a line. Just say hello! I’d love to hear from you.
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ll be spending the month of December away from personal, published, digital output. This includes personal emails, my Thought Shrapnel weekly newsletter, the Today In Digital Education (TIDE) podcast, blog posts, comments, and (even) the super-secret Slack channel I started this year with some pretty awesome people.
I’ll still be replying to work-related emails, so you can get me on my Dynamic Skillset address. If you’ve got my phone number (lucky you!) I’ll be replying to text messages, too. Other than that, I’ll be enjoying a different way of being that doesn’t involve a) thinking in 140 characters, b) expressing myself via animated gifs, and c) treating my brain as a way to connect together what other people are saying.
In terms of consultancy, I’ve got enough to keep me going for most of the first half of 2016, but do let me know if you’ve got projects you think I might be interested in around digital skills/literacies, badges, and/or educational technology!
Otherwise, see you on the other side. Have a great festive period and, for those of you in the northern hemisphere at least, keep warm!
Every year, I spend a couple of months away from social media, personal email, and blogging. It’s an attempt to allow a different version of myself to take the limelight.
In past years, the months I’ve chosen to take off have been November and December. These months coincide with the nights drawing-in up here in Northumberland. In 2015, however, I’m experimenting with a small change; this year I chose August and December as my ‘months off’. While I’ve definitely found benefit in an single, uninterrupted eight-week stretch, my situation is slightly different this year.
In April, I left the Mozilla Foundation to set up Dynamic Skillset. While I was fortunate to have a lot of freedom over my working patterns at Mozilla, I’m now fully in control of my own schedule. It’s a wonderful feeling and one that I feel I’ve spent my career (so far) working towards.
The August experiment worked well. In fact, it was during August that, after consulting with family, friends, and a financial advisor, I decided to experiment with a four-day working week. It’s too early to draw any firm conclusions, but so far it’s been a revelation.
One day, I hope to be in a position to completely disconnect during my #BelshawBlackOps period. In financial terms, that would mean being able to support my family using the money I earn in just 10 months of the year. Things are going well, but that’s probably a while away yet — especially at four days a week!
As it is, during December I’ll still be available via my Dynamic Skillset and client email addresses. But I won’t be reading or replying to any personal email. Nor will I be writing anything for public consumption. And, perhaps most importantly, I’ll be off social networks.
From December 1st, for a month, I’ll be pausing my personal, published, digital output. This means no Thought Shrapnel weekly newsletter, no episodes of Today In Digital Education (TIDE), no posts or replies to comments here or on any other blog, and no replies to non-work emails.
Questions? Ponderings? You’ve still got a couple of weeks to put up with my digital detritus! Let me know your thoughts.
I’ll ease myself back into social networks over the next few days and weeks, but I just wanted to share some of my reflections on my changing attitude to Twitter in particular. I’m now over eight and a half years into using this particular social network; I can remember when people used to liken it to a café where you could overhear (and drop into) conversations with like-minded people. I think that’s still the case to some degree. However, to extend the metaphor, it’s now less like your favourite hipster coffee hangout and more like a gaudy tourist trap. The signal to noise ratio is all wrong.
This reminds me of what Warren Ellis, someone I’ve only recently started following, posted recently:
My internet generation has a ton of (aching, bruised) muscle memory for communicating and reading in several windows and apps across a couple of devices simultaneously. The new silence has my muscles twitching, yelling that we’re being lazy, but it’s just because nothing’s happening and nobody is talking. I read a thing the other day saying that the drop-off in new Twitter users is down to the fact that it’s now so loud that it’s lonely.
Waiting for my muscles to learn peace. My Twitter is DM-only now — I took my mentions/replies pane off, and only read my information lists. Think of it like rubbing painkillers into the internet.
Using Twitter solely for direct messaging is extremely tempting, especially now they’ve removed the 140-character limit. But, for now, I’ll simply fire up Tweetdeck on my Mac while resisting the urge to re-install the Twitter app on my smartphone. After all, during the past few weeks I’ve managed to learn again, as I always do during these self-imposed strictures, how to be alone in public without looking at a screen.
I have to say that I prefer the #BelshawBlackOps version of me. I think others do, too. I’m slightly more conservative when removed from the (admittedly self-created) vortex of left-leaning sentiment. I’m also more certain during these times of what I do and don’t like, and I’m more likely to show an interest in people rather than trying to show off to them.
During August I endeavored to meet for coffee with a good number of people while I was down in London. One blogger and author shared their concern that what we’re doing these days is simply an advanced version of content marketing. Brands are attempting to become more like people, and people more like brands. It’s hard to argue with that logic.
Now’s not the time to make any big promises or for grandstanding. But what I am going to commit to is providing more value to those following me. What I mean by that is to focus on the upper level of Bloom’s (revised) taxonomy — connecting together people and ideas to create something new. I think that’s much more useful than being the 15th person in your Twitter feed today to share the same link.
If you’re already a subscriber, then you don’t need to do anything. If you’re not, I hope you’ll take this as an invitation to sign up.
Finally, my sincere thanks go to you for reading this blog, or indeed any of my work. I think sometimes we forget (or at least I do) just how much of a privilege it is to be able to publish immediately, without censorship, to a worldwide audience of people.
Update: further to the Warren Ellis quotation above, I hadn’t caught up with one of his most recent post, in which he’s even more eloquent on the changing nature of social networking