Finding Balance Online

A month ago, I wrote about how I was slowly working to make my phone, and myself, better. I talked about how I was replacing Twitter and Reddit from my home screen with Flipboard and an eBook reader. When I told my girlfriend about how I didn't want to spend so much time on social media, she recommended that I try Pinterest. I've tried getting into it before, but for whatever reason, it never stuck with me. When she told me that the key is to pick one project, make it into a board, and start saving every idea you even remotely like to it, I started to see it's value. Now, after a solid month of relentless pinning (men's fashion, home offices, and pugs), I can open up Pinterest and it's full of stuff that I'm really into. It's the weirdest mix of DIY home design to fashion tips I hadn't thought of to hilarious images of the wrinkliest pugs. It feels like me.

The other big shift was that I started using Flipboard a lot more too. After the death of Google Reader, I spent the last four years searching for the best way to consume news. I tried Feedly and Google Play Newsstand, but those felt a little too cold and didn't always deliver the news I was interested in. I tried setting up my Twitter feed, but I kept seeing the same posts retweeted three or four times a day. Facebook worked for a while (I unfollowed everyone, and replaced them with the sites and blogs I frequent the most), but then I noticed that because Facebook's algorithm kept refreshing the stories in a non-linear way, I kept missing out on important news events and stories. Flipboard for the most part has fixed that. Creating news boards around topics as opposed to strictly the sites I read the most has opened me up to a wider discourse and breadth of knowledge and reduced the amount of noise surrounding them

I did the same with Reddit and Instagram. I decided to stop following the accounts and subreddits I thought I had to or should be following, and instead followed the ones across all my interests instead. These have become the places where I spend the majority of my time online now, and you know what? It's absolutely wonderful.

The more I step away from the screaming mess that are Twitter an Facebook, the more I feel sane and happier. My friends, colleagues, and chosen strangers no longer dictate what I care about. Apps like Nuzzel are meant to help with this. You connect your Twitter and Facebook accounts, and a few times a day it'll send you a notification about the stories your friends, colleagues, and chosen strangers are talking about. It's meant to give you that sense of control, but I found it to be more of a distraction. Sure, to an extent it'll help keep me in the loop, but I've found myself to be more engaged when I actually want to flip through the latest news stories and events, not because people I know are talking about them.

The last month has been a calming reminder that the world isn't always on fire. The political landscape is scary as hell, and burying my head in home decorating tips isn't always the right approach nor the answer. But sometimes you need a break, and sometimes that break comes in form of home decorating tips. We're constantly being bombarded with so much news and content that it's exhausting. It's important to remember that it's okay to rest for a minute, cool off, and take a few deep breaths. It's tempting to segment things and view any and all forms of entertainment as pointless. I mean, who cares what the latest gadget is when the world is potentially ending, right? I do, and I think that it's a good thing to care, even if it really doesn't matter, just to give yourself that break.

For a long time, that's what Facebook and Twitter used to be - fun distractions. They were places where you could post silly pictures and share cool things with like-minded people who share similar interests. I used to check them several times a day, and now that they are the world, and we need new places to escape to, I check them maybe once very ten days. Life is just so much more peaceful without all the noise and distraction that comes from these platforms.

I'm still working on this, trying to carve out my little corner of the internet as it pertains to me - to find things and people that I think matter and interests me separate from the mess of the rest of the internet. It's incredibly tough though, finding that apocalypse-free zone, but the process of it all is already making me happier.

What I'm trying to say is that Pinterest is hella rad, and as long as you can find a proper way to filter all the noise, the internet can be pretty awesome.

New Year's Resolutions That I Totally Intend On Keeping

I've never been one for writing down resolutions for the new year, nor one to actually keep them. Sure, in theory they seem fine, and if you're the kind of person who can actually do what they say that they're going to do, then kudos to you. For me, I like to set goals in the vaguest sense of the word, because then I can accomplish them at my leisure. Speaking of which, it's already a week into 2017 and I'm slacking already on one of my resolutions (which I'll get to in a minute).

The last year was absolutely bonkers. There was so much fear, and so many deaths that by the time New Year's Eve rolled around, everyone was screaming, "just get on with it already!" It was exhausting and even for the strongest among us, made us lose a little hope. However, it's a new year, and that means a fresh start.

I started 2016 with a few simple goals.

  1. Take more photos
  2. Travel
  3. Say, "I love you," more often to more people

I think it's safe to say that I more or less accomplished those. I traveled through India with my parents and subsequently got stuck in Brussels. Over the summer I did a road trip across Canada with my best friend and my girlfriend, and last year was the first time I ever told someone that I loved them as more than just a friend, and she stuck around! So inspite of the tumultuous year that we all just came out of, I feel pretty good about my 2016.

However, 2017 is a year in which I want to do things slightly differently. 2016 was the year I wanted to do more, so 2017 is the year I want to do less so to speak.

I want to take less photos.

Having a DSLR with a fancy new lens and a ginormous memory card makes it incredibly easy to be the guy who takes a zillion photos and keeps them all. I was recently going through photo albums with my mom, and remembered that there was once a time in which you had a set number of photos to take. You either made sure it was worth it, or lived with a blurry mess of a memory you missed out on capturing forever. There's something about that idea that I really like. I want to spend less time taking photos and trying to find the perfect composition, and spend more time interacting with my surroundings.

That ties in with social media as well. After watching the Black Mirror episode on social media and our obsession for likes, favs, hearts and stars, I had one thought - I want to think more and post less. I want to spend less time live-tweeting a movie marathon and spend more time actually enjoying it. Ever since I started dating my girlfriend last year, I noticed a shift in how and when I use platforms like Twitter. Now I use it once every few days, whereas before, it would be multiple times a day. I'm no longer concerned with cultivating my online persona so much as I just want to experience things and occasionally share what interests me.

I want to travel less.

I've done my fair bit of international travelling. It wasn't until after the events in Brussels this year that I really decided to do more domestic travelling. I want to see more of my home - whether it's my city, province, or country as a whole; I want to experience and understand the place that I live in first. I think that doing that road trip over the summer was really just the first step in doing so, and I can't wait to travel less abroad and spend more time at home.

I want to read less.

Less articles, and more books, that is. Ever since I became a Pocket user, my consumption of news skyrocketed, and my love for books plummeted. Following sites like LongReads has certainly helped to get my attention span back, but I find that it's harder and harder for me to invest myself in a novel these days. In 2016, I read maybe five novels total, and I want to change that, which means less time at night before bed scouring Reddit and Twitter and more time disconnecting and reading something less fleeting than the news.

And lastly, I want to write more. I've had this website for nearly three years now, and I haven't done nearly as much with it as I'd like. It's gone through some aesthetic changes, but beyond that, I'm not doing it nor myself justice. Up until now, I was artificially limiting what I'd write about, because I had this idea in my head of what this site should represent. I've left a lot of great ideas on the cutting room floor, because they didn't seem to fit. 2017 is the year that changes. 2017 is the year I write about what truly interests me, and far more regularly too.

There are a lot of things I want to do, but I think that by starting with less, even vaguely so, is a good thing. It'll be a good exercise for me - the withdrawal from my old routine and breaking of old habits to focus on what's good for me. Hopefully, this is something that will work, especially as we roll forward into the uncertain year that is 2017.

I hope you all have an amazing year, and let's make 2017 the best that it can be.

Cheers.