Note: I'm back on Twitter here https://twitter.com/strategic_doubt. A few friends asked me to rejoin to let people know about new posts. I'm doing my damnedest to stay away from it except for that purpose, and to discuss stories that are actually important. The piece still stands. I'm still not a journalist, but I've realized that journalists need all the help they can get.
This is a short note to say I decided to leave Twitter, at least how I've been using it.
Why? Two reasons.
First: screens want time and attention, and our lives are made out of time. It is not news that we're living in an attention-based economy. My late mentor, Dr. Les Gasser, really loved this quote from Herb Simon that captured the situation succinctly almost fifty years ago:
In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it. – Simon, Herbert A (1971). Designing Organizations for an Information-rich World.
Have you ever been in a noisy restaurant or bar and everyone starts talking louder and louder? Before you know it everyone is shouting.
Some people like environments like that. They thrive in them. And there is nothing wrong with that. There are many problematic aspects of our collective technological civilization – putting it mildly. There are also risks to pathologizing everything, too.
There is nothing wrong with Twitter. It doesn't even have to be a noisy bar. For me personally, it was becoming that. In the attention arms race, it was getting more than its fair share of time and therefore of life. So, why keep it up?
Second: I want to change my relationship with writing about UFOs. I've occasionally toyed with ideas of writing about the subject more seriously, including for different outlets. Other people, very generously, have offered to pay me and publish my work.
It hasn't been sitting quite right. Appropriately for a Twitter goodbye piece, here is something that best gives voice to my hesitation:
This describes me.
The problem: I'm not a journalist. I'm a software engineer. Before I was a software engineer, I was a writer. I'll always be a writer. If anything, I want to write more.
But I don't want to try to professionalize writing about something that is already overburdened with promotion, marketing, and fantasies of journalism.
What I'd prefer to do is write about this as just one more interesting thing, and give away these words for free. There are thousands of free words on this blog. There will be more, and those ones will be free, too. There won't be ads. There won't be a Patreon.
I don't for a second fault others for trying to recover some money from the time they put into this subject. There are also some very good (real) journalists who cover this topic. There are lots of Patreons and projects out there well worth following and supporting – I donate to some myself.
I just don't want that relationship with this subject. I want to give these particular words away to anyone who takes an interest in them, for my own reasons. So that is what I'm going to do.