Calling for the Death of Consumption Guilt

How often do you lament the fact that you can’t get through all of the stuff in your reader? I know I’ve done it.

Do you feel guilty when you unsubscribe something or unfriend someone in your network? Why?

Consumption of content is not a democracy. Giving of attention is not a democracy. We each have to decide what we find value in, and leave the rest behind. If that’s one blog or no blogs or five Twitter followers or a hundred, it’s up to us. And there is no standard that’s fit for everyone.

Mark Schaefer and Tom Webster have been discussing whether the social web is an economy of favors, and to a certain extent in the content realm, it might just be. We look at people reading our blog or following us on Twitter as some kind of personal validation that we have something important to say, or simply that people like us enough to pay attention. And the quid pro quo – you comment on or share my post and I’ll share yours – simply isn’t doing us any favors to ensure that the content we’re reading makes a difference in our work, our lives, or our minds. (This goes for that silly “why aren’t you following me back” thing, too.)

The firehose we complain about is a monster of our own making.

We have this irrational fear that by not being up on everything, we’ll be connected to nothing. Which is outrageous. By merely participating online, we are immersed in a great sea of information, and from there we can choose what – or if – to consume. And the relative sameness or related nature of so many of the things we find and read means, very simply, that we just don’t need it all.

Justin Kownacki issued the Read It All Week challenge to get us to examine our reading habits more closely as well as what content we actually consume and get value from. I jumped the gun on Justin a bit and did something a bit extreme but cathartic: I nuked my reader. All of it. I unsubscribed from every single blog I had in there.

I kept a note about a few that I might want to revisit. But the rest? If it’s worthwhile, I’ll find it again. If it’s really valuable content that made a difference to me, I’ll notice its absence and perhaps seek it out again, on different terms. I might discover new content that fits my current state of mind. And at every turn, I consume the content. It does not consume me.

Our tastes change, as do our ideas, and the way we take in and use information. We need not be shackled to a wave of words, people, and information that doesn’t fit our lifestyle or our work. And it’s about time we evaluate our own motivations for this quicksand we’ve voluntarily walked into, and stop with the melodrama when we’re the victim our own choices, or when our behaviors aren’t reflected in those of others.

The beauty of the web is that we can each bend it to our will. Won’t you join me in taking control of your own online universe, and ceasing to apologize for what that means for you?

I look forward to your comments.

Amber Naslund

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