I really did not have a lot going on in my twitter account. With 27 tweets over a few months, 20 followers and a collection 87 I followed, I was certainly not making any waves. I did spend a fair bit of time collecting those 87 threads to follow and found the experience of being embedded in twitter threads to be oppressive and distracting, though this sense was more of an aftertaste than an in-the-moment realization. I found that Twitter did not encourage habits of thought and attention and focus.
I had read Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers and Deep Work by Cal Newport, and rifled through things written by Jaron Lanier (Jaon and I were both hanging around NMSU at about the same time back in the 1970’s, he in computer science, I in the music world, though I do not remember meeting him, if I ever did). Even before this, I had read The Shallows by Nicholas Carr and listened to (and had many students listen to) the Google Tech Talk, No Time To Think, given by David Levy at Google in 2008.
These books and the talk all reinforced habits of taking breaks from the internet and email, something that was not too unnatural for me because I grew up keeping Sabbath one day a week.
Given the experiences with Twitter and the fact that I was now reading Shoshana Zuboff’s book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, I began having an internal debate as to whether or not I should just get off Twitter. What argued for this was the state of mind I seemed to always edge towards (or even run towards) when focusing on twitter — a state that was distracted and restless and very far from quiet. What argued against exiting Twitter was the fact that it seemed that every once in awhile, interesting people would announce something using Twitter. It was also true that you could discover cool things by browsing Twitter.
The decision to quit Twitter was nudged into action by a combination the internal debate which was slowly moving to a Quit Twitter stance and the part of Shoshana’s book where she talks about Pentland’s Lab at MIT. I was acquainted with Pentland and his lab — in fact, some of my early scientific work was connected to his, in the ares of face recognition. The description of the Lab and his funders and his position in the minds of many that access his expertise, somehow, pushed me across the decision boundary.
So, a few days ago, I deactivated my Twitter account. I believe it will be deleted in 30 days.
I would like to have something like Twitter, only slower, deeper, and much easier to tune or customize. But it also seems to me that if I succeeded in getting what I wanted from Twitter, I would be operating in an asymmetric fashion, one that expected others to behave in a way that I would not agree to act.
So I have decided to focus on internet enabled tools and activities naturally co-existing with quietness, with taking time to think, with slowness-of-response enabling time to think. And of course whatever gets my attention and repeated use must be surveillance capitalism free.
For now, this set of places and activities will be this blog, my arts blog (http://viksekrarts.com), my website (http://geometricanalysis.org), email (several accounts) and things like github and Google Scholar and LinkedIn (for contacts — I never read the LinkedIn posts).
A requiem for quietness can be seen and heard and felt beneath the noise of the mobile device generation. Slowing down to be embraced by the requiem, our own responding stillness opens new paths to explore. Dwelling there, listening to the music of quietness and stillness, alternatives to a slide into a shallow, subhuman future emerge.