Leaving Facebook

A month ago I deactivated my Facebook account and I haven't used it since.

In the larger scheme of things this is a relatively inconsequential decision, and one that I may even eventually reverse. But for the benefit of my future self, and for anyone else who's interested, I thought I'd inventory my thinking behind this change:

1. My time spent on Facebook was minimal, especially since I deleted the app from my phone a few years ago. But it was almost entirely time I was not spending on things that actually matter to me. Any effort I put in to keeping up with my feed felt like it was actively distorting my understanding of how the real world works, how people are actually doing and what they're actually thinking and feeling. Even as distractions from the real world go, it was often more unsatisfactory and harmful than helpful.

2. I continue to be uncomfortable with Facebook's "walled garden" model of connecting people, content and conversations. I've nothing against the company or the people who work there, and actually admire their technical innovation, scale and impact on the world. But as someone who genuinely wants to see people truly own and control their online presence, I can't in good faith spend time contributing to something that undermines the open web. When I tried being just a casual observer without engaging, it didn't work. Which brings me to:

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Forty

I turned 40 years old this week.

Friends have been kind to say that "you don't look forty" (whatever that looks like) and thankfully I don't feel "old," even if I don't often feel young any more.

I do notice the occasional sign of what might be aging.

I find myself increasing the font size on my various devices and apps, and at an appointment this week my eye doctor used the language of "you can't outrun it forever" instead of the past variations on "you're young, no worries."

A few weeks ago I butt-dialed two different people over two days.

The distance across which I can walk to retrieve or do something without forgetting why I started walking in the first place is decreasing. If it involves going to a different floor of the house, forget about it.

My hair has more strands of grey than ever before.

And my ability to sleep through the night without needing a visit to the restroom is all but gone.

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Legacy: what will I leave behind?

What will I leave behind when I'm gone? What will be my legacy?

I'm not sure what is a "normal" amount to think about such things, but I do think about them.

Perhaps losing my father at a young age and then attending his funeral initiated some premature awareness that people could die and that there might be some variability in how they are thought of and remembered. As I came to terms with the existence of my own mortality, I more than occasionally wondered what might be said of me at my funeral, and how I would be known from that point on.

Of course it's an incredible privilege to even think about legacy, and dwelling too long on it can bring out the worst impulses of ego and self-importance. To have had incredible opportunities and access to resources over the course of my life and then still try to control how the world works even after I die...well, that would be crazy.

So I try to use any "legacy thinking" as a way to keep me focused, especially on the important things I want to do in life and the kinds of relationships I want to have, instead of as a vehicle for self-inflation or unnatural self-preservation. I also use it to keep perspective:

Big Picture

On a geologic time scale, I won't really have any personal legacy. I will be one of many billions of people who lived in a time when humans inflicted substantial, mostly harmful changes across the planet, killing off many other forms of life while altering the climate, poisoning the water, bringing up oil and putting down trash and toxic chemicals, and just generally making a mess of things while we wait for the sun to implode and swallow the Earth.

Hopefully I also live in a time where a shift in human attitudes about the planet we occupy eventually leads to some reversal of those trends, and maybe our descendants will despise us slightly less than they could have otherwise. But as much as I want to believe that I personally can make a difference in reducing this harm, I don't currently hold out hope that my lifestyle choices will be worth much when measured across the millennia.

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My new team at Automattic

Starting next week, I'll be shifting my focus at Automattic and joining our "WordPress Concierge" team.

It's a small group of talented folks who build custom WordPress sites for influential people and organizations across a bunch of different industries. I'll be creating and supporting the sites we work on while also helping to help the team scale up its internal tools and processes. I'm excited to flex a different mix of skills and ship some new kinds of things.

It's hard to believe that it's already been more than three years since I joined Automattic and began working with the VIP team, where I'm wrapping up my time this week. That role has been full of its own interesting and rewarding adventures that have taken me deep into the heart of the systems and tools that power the modern open web.

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2016 Year in Review

With another year gone by, I'm again sharing a few reflections on how 2016 went. (Previously: 2015, 2014, 2011.)

New house, staying in Indiana

Sky TrainWith a big shift in my wife's professional life and an intentional wrapping up of most of my local commitments that required regular attendance at in-person meetings, this year found me as physically untethered to the city of Richmond, Indiana as I've been since I first came here in 1995. We spent much of the year asking whether we should stay, or take the opportunity to explore living in new places outside of the U.S. midwest. (Someone even started a rumor that we'd already moved away.) I reflected a lot on why I've stayed in Richmond this long, what we'd be giving up if we did go, and what we'd gain by living somewhere else.

There are changes happening locally and regionally that concern us, and there are times we want our daughter to have more diverse experiences than we can find in Richmond, so we know we'll keep considering these questions. But we decided that our wonderful community of friends and family, the difference we feel like we can make locally, and the opportunities we still have to see and live in other parts of the world all added up to staying in Richmond right now.

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Figuring out what to write

I've started about five or six different posts this past week, but none of them have made it to "Publish." No matter how firmly I was convinced when I sat down to write that I would make it through to the end, one of these blogging insecurities always managed to creep in. I was even trashing drafts of tweets, sure that I would just waste some of the most frequently wasted digital space. Ugh.

I want to write about elections and politics in the U.S. But I have spent so much time reading other people's commentary and I'm in such a dark place about finding any hope in political systems that I just don't have anything all that constructive to say.

I want to write about the people I know who have recently died of cancer, or who are struggling with it right now. But I don't have the patience to find words that move through the anger and sadness toward something good, or even useful.

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