How we interact with the internet is a very personal thing. In my life I find that the more time I spend on sites that aggregate content, such as social media, a few things happen: I find new content that is great, new content that’s terrible, I waste a lot of time, and I feel depressed. The happy medium I’ve found is using RSS feeds to aggregate content myself. This gives me most of the benefits with fewer of the downsides.
Not long after graduating from college, my wife and I moved to Taiwan. We were a short time away from the arrival of our first child, I had no real job prospects after graduating with a history degree, and we both missed Taiwan. Going “home” seemed like a great plan. (Taiwan is my wife’s first home and I consider it my second home.) And it was great. My wife was close to her mom through the end of her pregnancy and the delivery.
One of the most amazing things about the internet is hyperlinks. You’re reading something, see a link, click it, and suddenly you’re able to read something new that you didn’t know even existed. It’s like magic. It can also be terrible, yes. Point taken. But I’m frequently amazed at the things I discover when I’m reading a great article and click one of the links in it. One of the problems I sometimes run into is gated content.
I love the idea of replacing digital habits, particularly ones you use a phone for, with analog habits. It can seem quaint, or old fashioned, or even hipster-ish, but I’m always delighted at the great experiences I have when I consciously choose to use a physical object instead of a digital one. Handwritten notes, hardback books, and typewriters. So much fun. Cal Newport, author of the great book Digital Minimalism, issued an “Analog January” challenge.
I’ve recently started a program that involves a lot of online reading. I deeply dislike reading in a web browser. Here’s what I do when I have a lot of web-based reading to do. The Problem Reading in a web browser is a pain. There are ads, popups, sidebars, and a whole list of other things that take away from the content itself. It’s also an inflexible format as far as the reader’s ability to customize the reading experience.
I love to read blogs. There are so many amazing resources available online on so many topics. When I decided to cut back my device time as much as possible, this was the first thing I missed. I wanted the knowledge available on websites, but available to read in a non-screen medium. The simplest solution is to print everything. I don’t want to do that. It’s cost prohibitive in the long term and very wasteful.
I feel lucky that I’m wired to be a reader. From my childhood I spent lots of time reading books and it’s something that I still do. My mother used to kick me and my brother out of the house so we would stop reading so much. I wish I had to do that more often with my kids! In my career this has been so important. Each time I take on a new task or join a new team I assemble a reading list, plow through it, add new blogs to my daily feed, and within a short time I feel more comfortable with the basics of what I’ve been asked to do.