July 11, 2013

You Have Your Tech Routine. But It Will End.

In 1995, as a freshman in college attending Cal, I was rapidly trading emails with my friend from UCLA in a heated conversation, hitting “Check Mail” in Eudora, eventually changing my settings to automatically retrieve email every minute. One of my roommates, annoyed at my behavior, suggested I just pick up the phone and call him instead. But I didn’t. 

Obviously, in the near twenty years since, I have expected my messages to come in practically instantly, and to immediately have my attention - so I’m on top of it. But there might come a day in the future, if you can imagine it, where I send my very last email. For just as we’ve “always” done something one way doesn’t mean we always will. The pace of tech, and one’s changing lifestyle, practically commands adaptation.

Switching to a separate firehose of electronic messaging stimulation, we’re nearly a decade deep into the hyperconnected social media phase. We’re long past the time for education and evangelism, for the most part, on blogging, social networking, tweeting, and YouTube - and you’ve got routines.

While not everyone uses every service, and different people have different approaches, there’s a good chunk of you who can’t imagine doing things a different way, and stopping what you’ve always done. You can’t imagine never tweeting again. You can’t imagine never checking in to the office on Foursquare when you arrive at work, and maybe you can’t even remember the last time you had lunch and didn’t take a photo of it to share on Instagram or Foodspotting.

But it will all end.

I often think of that, especially as I’ve reduced pace here... what would my last blog post say? How will I know that I’m done? What will be the reason I would possibly walk away from thousands of posts in the archives? Could I really close down my Twitter account, or delete my Facebook, or even FriendFeed?

And that goes for offline activity too. In my recent adoption of Fitbit, and regular walks to keep my stepcount high, I think about how long I’ll keep the routine. Will this be the last night I’m walking around the block to get a few thousand steps in, for tomorrow, I’ll be back in front of the television instead, having let my Fitbit power down?

On other occasions, the choice is seemingly made for you. In 2009, I once said I wouldn’t stop using Google Reader every day, even if you paid me $25,000. I guess the joke was on me, of course - for it wasn’t really all that long after I joined Google that yes, Reader was closed, and I’ve turned to Feedly to get all my RSS feeds instead. So outside of my control, one day, my routine of opening Google Reader was no longer there. If Reader had remained, I’d probably be in my same routine, as I always had been, consuming content and sharing it, just like I’ve been doing for about six years.

Meanwhile, the removing of Google Reader, and yes, Google Buzz before that even, meant ranking my social content in my6sense no longer was needed, so I found myself deleting that app from my phone last week, despite our history.

Even when it’s not the company or the service shutting down, it could be a simple measurement of priorities for you against what benefits you’ve seen from the app. For the last few months, I’ve thought about this a lot, as I’ve checked in on Foursquare at places big and small, for the important travels and the mundane.

Am I really a Handmade Hero? No. Last Badge...

While my badges and points racked up, the real world benefits were exceptionally rare. I’d met a few people, and saved a few dollars, but today, I deleted my account. No drama. Just decided I was done. That should save a few power bits on my phone, and a few minutes of each day.

As much fun as it has been to play the role of early adopter and use every service to its fullest, I believe we’re well past the mania time of social networking, services and apps. Being on a platform isn’t the same as using the platform well. And if you can’t find measurable or emotional value to participating in a place, there’s no harm in calling it quits - or continuing to have your eyes open for what’s next, so you don’t find yourself entrenched in the way things have always been, while missing new experiences.

Sometimes that means never joining in the first place, analyzing what you’ve seen and deciding if that makes sense for you. Even though I was an early trial user of Burbn, I never got an Instagram account, and I lived. I never got into GetGlue, and won’t. I never liked Turntable.fm, and I’ve never done a Snapchat. Maybe it’s the graying hairs on my head, or being closer to 40 than 30, but I know time is valuable.

Someday all of this will stop, and when I pick up my head from the computer monitor, will I feel as if I’ve missed something, or will I be happy with the results of what I’ve done?

Disclosures and Disclaimers: Yes, I work for Google, in the Developer Relations team. This post is not intended to represent them or favor their services in place of any of those I just mentioned, obviously.

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