Well, not really.
What I’m actually quitting is social marketing. (There’s a difference.)
But there’s also a reason.
See, three months ago, I explained why I’m ruthlessly downsizing my life. Although it was partly tongue-in-cheek, that post struck a nerve with a lot of people, and it made me realize that a lot of you seem to feel just as stuck in your own lives as I did then.
So now, two months later, you might be wondering if my little experiment actually helped.
Boy, did it ever… Here’s how.
The Pebble That Formed a Mountain
First, let’s address the irony in that blog title: when I said I was “ruthlessly downsizing my life,” all I really did was remove two links from my Firefox toolbar. Granted, they happened to be the two links I turned to most often for distraction — Sports Illustrated and Grantland — but still, they were just two links. How much impact could the tiny act of removing them from my toolbar possible have?
As it turns out, a lot.
Because every time I had a lull in my day, my instinct to click on one of those links kicked in. And then I’d see they weren’t there anymore, and I should probably get back to work.
Since then, I’ve actually returned to Grantland only once, and I don’t recall having visited Sports Illustrated at all.
Let me repeat that: I went from hyperactively checking sports websites multiple times a day to not checking them at all.
This became easier due to a second choice I made: for the first time in 10 years, I’m not playing fantasy football.
That’s because this past summer, while the NFL and their players’ union were debating whether or not they’d bother having a season this year, I made up my mind that I’d love to experience a winter without the NFL, just to see what that would feel like. So when the NFL decided they were going to stop the lockout and get back to work, I decided I would lock myself out for a year instead. (The current NBA implosion is an ironic side dish.)
The end result?
I have no idea what’s going on in sports anymore.
And I don’t care.
I don’t even miss it.
The NFL can continue, or the NBA can fold, or there can (or can not) be a World Series or a Stanley Cup. If I’m near a TV, I may accidentally see some of it. But I no longer feel any compulsion to check scores online, or to read sports articles, or debate the relative merits of athletes I don’t even know.
I can’t tell you how liberating it is now to not give a damn about who wins a game, or how many yards a guy I’ve never met has earned from the line of scrimmage. (You’d have to try that kind of reduction for yourself to see what it feels like. But it feels great.)
Side note: I once passed former NBA center and now openly gay ex-athlete Jon Amaechi in a hotel convention center. He was being interviewed by a reporter, presumably for a story on his book about coming out. Oddly, there was no one else around — just him, her, and me as I walked through the room. One of the few regrets I have is not interrupting their interview to say “thank you.” I’m not gay and I’m not an athlete, but doing what he did took a lot of balls (no pun intended), and that’s the kind of social interaction I’d rather be having these days: conversations with people who are changing the world in their own way. (Jon, if you ever read this, I’m the guy who gave you a head nod for no reason.)
So, maybe that wasn’t such a side note after all…
Too Much “Me Time”?
The second phase of this experiment was to replace my old distractions with something new. I can’t focus on work forever, and we all need a break.
So I also started binging on Facebook.
And, as a result, I realized something:
I really derive no pleasure from social media anymore.
I don’t just mean social marketing; I mean social media itself.
If it’s not an echo chamber of redundancy, or a divisive line that separates “us” from “them,” it’s an endless stream of [hyperbole redacted on the advice of Scott Paley, who reminded me that if I don't have anything nice to say, I should just skip to the next paragraph].
Suffice it to say: If I see one more Facebook ad for a webinar, I’m going to vomit blood.
I’ve been at this point several times in my career, but I’ve never quit — mostly because I’ve been doing it for years, and I always find one more reason to stick it out in the hopes of finding fulfillment in a sea of feedback, metrics and “conversations.”
But not this time.
This time, I’ve finally decided to quit working in the social marketing field and find a new career. This way I can stop hating the media itself and separate my feelings about the media from my feelings about the way it’s (mis)used.
Because I don’t care about the best time of day to tweet.
I don’t care about helping brands turn their loyalists into evangelists.
And I really, really don’t care about the lucrative speaking deal you just landed based on your ability to repackage common sense into a lifestyle choice.
So, fuck it. Starting January 1st, I’m doing something else for a living.
TO BE CLEAR: This doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m quitting Twitter or Facebook or blogging altogether. I still have personal and creative reasons for using those tools, and just because my professional goals are changing, that doesn’t mean I’m dropping completely off the grid. But I’ve already reduced my Twitter usage, and I barely blog anymore, so this really shouldn’t be a surprise. Plus, I tend to digitally disappear every December anyway, so maybe this year’s absence will just stretch a bit longer than usual.
So… What Now?
Well, that’s the funny part.
I currently have no recurring freelance clients. I’ve written my last few posts for the Abstract Edge blog, which should run before the end of the year. I’ve stopped doing the Freelance 4 Real podcast I started with Mike Sorg. And my web sitcom, The Baristas, just concluded its first season and is now on indefinite hiatus.
This means that, apart from paying down debt and walking Rufus, I have no particular reason to wake up in the morning. I have zero commitments, other than the ones I choose to pursue. And, at the moment, I’m pursuing none.
It’s a little terrifying, but it’s also exhilarating.
So if I don’t update for awhile, don’t panic. I’m still around, somewhere, figuring out my next move. If you really need me, you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 412-628-4231.
I also allegedly have a newsletter, although I’ve never sent one. If you’d like to join the mailing list for something that may never exist, feel free. You never know what might happen. (Hell, I sure don’t.)
Lastly, I’d like to thank Grantland and Sports Illustrated. Had I never become addicted to you, I’d never have had to quit you, and then I’d never have needed to find other pursuits to gorge upon and then quit in the aftermath.
Funny what removing a link from your browser’s toolbar can do, isn’t it?
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