It's Time to Question Our Time Online (with helpful suggestions for alternatives)
- Parris House Creative Community: This is my initiative hosted on Mighty Networks, which is an independent platform for creators to set up communities around interests, causes, and more. This community is growing slowly, which feels right for it, now standing at around thirty members across the US and Canada. We have free-with-membership workshops and Zoom meetups and discussion topic areas including fiber art, writing, general discussion, biz and studio, homesteading topics, genealogy, wellness, travel, and more. It is $9.99/month and you can try it out for three days free here: https://parris-house-creative-community.mn.co/
- Creating Space with Meryl Cook: This is an absolutely lovely creative journaling community created and hosted by Nova Scotian fiber artist Meryl Cook. Thoughtful and moving weekly journaling prompts via email are followed up with a once-monthly live online session with Meryl for discussion and a deeper dive into the material. For more information on this go to: https://merylcook.ca/creating-space/
- Jean Ottosen on Ko-fi: Jean Ottosen, another Novia Scotian fiber artist, provides a bonanza of rug hooking information and instruction on her site, hosted on Ko-fi. Ko-fi is another independent platform for creators to offer valuable content and community free of the pitfalls of traditional social media. Jean offers her content in three tiers: beginner, intermediate, and advanced and it is copious. Not only do you get to learn from Jean's encyclopedic knowledge of the art, you get to know Jean too, who is one of rug hooking's treasures. For more information: https://ko-fi.com/jeanottosenstudios
- Bright Collective and Making app: Some of you may remember Making magazine, the beautiful quarterly publication that I had the honor of writing for several times. The print magazine is no more, but the creative and energetic women who produced it now have the Bright Collective and Making app online and on your phone! Bright Collective is an online zine filled with every possible creative topic plus there's an interactive online community built around it. The Making app provides access to all of this plus classes that you can take online and then keep in a recorded version within the app. I will be teaching for the Making app this spring. For more info: https://makingco.com/
These are just a few online options that are intentional and value driven. I think if you join at least one online space that is not owned by one of the big social companies or driven by the traditional data-harvesting, attention-selling business model you will quickly find out how different and valuable online participation can be. These options are different because they are run by individuals or small organizations that care about your wellbeing and want to provide an ad-free, troll-free, data-mining free experience with the primary purpose - not the bait - being human connection.
As promised, here is a great book recommendation if you want to reduce the time you spend online in a passive, mindless manner and bring your internet use into a more intentional mode.
I loved this book. It is well written with a historical and philosophical context to why we need to be pulling away from the addictive, mindless use of internet content and social platforms. It's not just a lecture, though. It provides useful, actionable suggestions and methods for making our internet use more valuable and intentional. Newport has another book called Deep Work that is also helpful especially if you are old enough to remember the days before all of this digital distraction and before the deification of "multitasking" (which, by the way, we aren't wired for). If you have ever even briefly wondered why it can be so hard to concentrate or even converse deeply now, both books are a great read.
No one likes an intervention. No one likes to be told, "You're doing it wrong," or even that "There's a better way." However, I think we can clearly see that "traditional" social media platforms have had both intended and unintended consequences that have been damaging to our society, culture, and democracy. That is not to discount the positives of connection these platforms have offered. It's just that if someone presents me with an offering that is part healthy and part poison, I'm probably going to pass and look for the all-healthy option. Every option I've provided here I am personally either running or subscribed to. I hope to see you in one or more of those, or if you have others that you love, drop a note in the comment thread and let us all know too.
- Elizabeth Miller