Reinventing the Wheel

This morning I was pondering social media, data leaks, websites, and what the future holds for the internet.

With social media, I’ve been thinking about the Delete Facebook movement and the role Twitter plays in our society. Will I delete my Facebook account? Will I say no thanks to Twitter? What value do I get from social media that I don’t get anywhere else?

I have a lot of friends who get a ton of value from Facebook. But for myself, I am spending less and less time on the site. Not because my data has most likely been taken without my permission, but because I don’t care about 99% of what is shared on the site. Because I don’t contribute to the conversation, it is a platform of ads, opinions, and sensationalistic “thinking.” If this is how I feel, why do I stay?

I get a lot more value from Twitter. It is still a platform of discovery and connection for me. I have taken the time to curate a diverse list of people to follow. I learn about film, technology, coffee, art, animation, cinematography, design, podcasts, and so much more. Sure there are the things that drive me crazy about the platform and as those things increase in scope and intensity, I ask myself the same question as Facebook: why do I stay?

Perhaps I stay because I get the illusion of connection? Maybe it’s because there is the fear of missing out on something important? It’s most likely because I am addicted to the sensational rush of getting likes, hearts, and comments. I stay because the alternative seems more difficult. If I leave social media, how will people stay connected with me? How will I share what I think? How will I get the word out about a new project without social media?

As I think about these questions, I am led to even deeper questions: Am I willing to invest the time to reinvent the wheel? Am I willing to take the time and effort to create a system of thought and promotion that I control and maintain? Am I willing?

What does reinventing the wheel look like?

Instead of passively consuming information fed to me by algorithms, I will actively search based upon my needs and curiosity. Sure, searching still requires algorithms and tools created by others, but I initiate the process according to my terms. Perhaps this desire to control my information consumption will lead me to create my own automated tools of curation? While these tools may never be used by others, the process of learning and applying knowledge obtained through research and continual application has endless possibilities.

Instead of broadcasting superficial thoughts and ideas into a platform I have no control over, I will create content on my blog or website with increased intentionality, purpose, and depth. It will take more time and effort to write 500 words over 280 characters. Less people will discover and read what I have to say. But as I write and think without the distractions inherently built into the mechanisms of social media platforms, I can feel a difference in my own internal sense of satisfaction. My vocabulary changes. I am more thoughtful. My expectations are also different. While writing this post, I know that I may never get feedback or hear how it impacted someone. I am okay with that. Compare that to the feeling of rejection and sadness when something I write on social media doesn’t get likes, shares, retweets, or comments.

Instead of embracing the message of unlimited possibilities, I will allow personal and systemic limitations to define my work. When I first discovered the internet, it was magical. You could do so much with so little. The same holds true today. You can do so much with so little. You can even do so much more with today’s technology than in the past. But what we lack today is the imagination and inventiveness that came with the limitations of the past. In everything I do, I am striving to allow limitations to enter the picture: time, attention, ability, desires, motivations, purpose, and economic considerations.

So, is reinventing the wheel a good thing? A bad thing? Is it okay to stay on social media? Is it okay to leave? It ultimately comes down to how your choices impact your life and the lives of others. Don’t leave it up to someone else to decide what you should do.