Alert: The demise of my geek website has been greatly exaggerated. After considerable deliberation and reflection, we’ve decided it was a good idea to keep my geek garage around for a little while longer. Check my blog for more details.
Hi fellow geeks (meaning my three friends who follow my blog, you know who you are):
Disclaimer: This is my personal reflection upon the past few years of tech blogging and my hobby, not designed to be a prescription or commentary about anyone else’s habits or preferences.
After messing around here with my WP blog (which changed URLs several times so I’m not what it’s called now, something like mygeekgarage.com), as well as on Twitter (from @Jackventures, @JGotpassport, @callingbubba then @Nokia_Ninja), I’ve come to the conclusion that this ‘hobby’ of mine has become quite a distraction-at first a welcome one-but ultimately one that served little purpose other than to kill my time.
That’s why I’ve decided to shut down my Twitter account, @Nokia_Ninja (yes, you may grab it after it expires), and will close this geek blog, by allowing the URL to expire. The Facebook group “the geek garage” will remain, as it’s small, and a fun place to chat with friends with geek interests.
My obsession with gadgetries, mostly mobile/smart phones, replaced my obsession with cars back in the states, fueled by the folks at Nokia Connects, who first contacted me via Twitter & sent me a trial phone from their marketing program a couple of years back (No, I don’t blame you guys, like an alcoholic shouldn’t blame the breweries). I wasn’t much of a mobile phone enthusiast until I started tinkering with the free Nokias. As a Psychologist, I can see clearly that smart phones are extremely reinforcing, with bright colorful screens, 24/7 connections to the web, endless apps to search from and play with, not to mention FB and Twitter streams; so the tinkering never ends really. I was basically a lab rat in a very enticing Skinner Box.
I found that my tinkering and obsession served little productive purpose in the end (Fine, I did meet and chat with interesting people in the industry…). It did not land me a job at Tech Crunch or CNET to replace my day job, but a little attention and glee from getting tweets from fellow independent tech bloggers, and a free T-shirt from Nokia. I’m a consumer of the product, not a product maker, developer, or engineer. So what I am doing really, other than taking valuable time away from my ‘day job’ of teaching ,and from my family? Hobbies are great, but at some point they can cross over and become a distraction.
So, as of today, my Nokia N8 is on the shelf. I put my SIM card into our ‘backup’ simple Asia dual band phone, a Nokia x1-01, a phone that’s as simple as it gets. No wifi, no 3G, no Edge, no web browser, not even a camera. Just a dual SIM phone with a loud ass speaker and Kindle-like battery life.
I can tell you that after a few days, it was quite refreshing to not have a phone in my hand at all times. I kept it in my pocket, or Thai “man bag,” and it was out of sight while we were out and about and being with people. I didn’t have to worry about plugging my smartphone with the car charger, glancing or swiping at the touch screen for no reason, or using the GPS when I knew my way around anyway (yeah, you do it, too). My phone is now a basic communication device. No more wasted $ on apps, or $ spent on the occasional data connection just to check in on Foursquare or non-urgent emails. Even my wife A has noticed that I’m much more focused and less distracted. I pay more attention to the person I’m speaking with. I am eating meals or doing basic things without the constant stare into a screen. I feel I’m a better role model for M, who won’t have a lasting image of her childhood with her Daddy constantly playing on a phone.
I’m sure withdrawal symptoms will kick in after a while, so I need to keep an eye out for the itch… I know kicking the smart phone habit isn’t easy. Again, I’m not prescribing this for everyone, nor am I saying using a smart phone is BAD, only that it has been BAD for ME.
I’ve been preacheding a life of simplicity, but with my smartphone obsession, it became less so. I would read incessantly about mobile industry news, via Twitter, or Google Reader, then save them to Read it Later, watch new phone announcements from MacWorld or Mobile World Congress, or Nokia World; and listen to endless tech podcasts. And for what ends? Just entertainment. But like any habit, it can become too much and take the place of other important things in life.
If I were a single guy in college, with tons of free time, then yeah, doing unboxing videos and detailed reviews of the latest free SMS app might be a productive pursuit. I might end up without a social life, but have multiple tech blogging gigs, and be one of the fresh faces of tech.
I’m a middle aged (exactly 45, a good mid life point I assume) guy, with wife, child and many responsibilities, and I need to put an end to the obsessing. I’m not saying a guy my age should NOT have a hobby or pursue a career in tech writing. I would like to think I can just turn down the volume knob, but I know myself too well: as long as I have a smartphone that is constantly connected to the web, I’ll be using Twitter, Facebook, and search for apps to no end. I literally go to bed with it, because I had the really nice ‘night clock’ app and customized alarm chime. Oh brother.
Well, we’ll see how this cold turkey experiment will turn out. I do know from my Psychology background, that it’s not easy to cease any behavior, especially one as reinforcing as this one. Smart phones are a great time waster, for idle moments to fill your hands with something to do. So the key is not to “not” do it, but to replace that idle time with something else. Behavior “replacement” is a better fitting term than behavior “modification.”
So, I think I would be better off obsessing about my child’s education, focusing on our long term finances, and travel goals. Focusing on doing chores around the house, and also some fun things, like reading books again, or doing tai chi and playing sports. I could use my time to more actively pursue contract work, which would bring in extra income, compared to tweeting about Nokias.
For me, today’s smart phones do too much, too easily. So, my beloved N8 is now for sale. If you’re in Thailand, shoot me an email (gotpassport2-at-gmail) and it can easily be dropped off or mailed to you. If not sold I will post it on Ebay this summer back in the states.
Basically, here’s what I want to ‘replace’ my smart phone and habits with: A basic phone, for calls, texts, and occasional use of maps if I’m lost. Maps and navigation are tools that have come in handy over the past few years. But, I recently realized that I become too dependent on a GPS, to go to places that I should know better by memory, and found myself missing turns I probably wouldn’t have if I “learned” the route better. The smart phone and navigation replaced my own initiative to think and anticipate. Instead, I’m responding to stimuli (‘turn left in 100 meters’) provided by the phone.
So, when the summer rolls around, I will use the N8 funds for a simpler, cheaper phone, and replace A’s phone (terrible HTC touch pro2, sigh) also with a simple messaging centric phone. Neither of us want a true, always connected smart phone. We both do enough work online as it is, and we both want our non-work pursuits to be more active and offline if possible.
Wait, what about the awesome N8 camera? Will I miss it? Of course, but taking random shots out of boredom only created a mass of photos that I could never make time to manage and organize. So, if I take pictures, it will be with my Canon SX200, a wonderful portable camera with a nice zoom lens. I won’t shoot and upload instantly anymore, which is a good thing. Hey, if I were a war zone correspondent then I’d definitely have a smart phone with a full time data connection. But I’m not, so I don’t need it. I think a basic photography class is in order.. See what I can do with my time now?
Well, there you have it. It was fun playing around with my personal tech blog. Now that I don’t tweet and obsess about tech anymore, I’ve ‘replaced’ it with a psychology related Twitter account, following education and psychology related people. If that floats your boat, find me at @JackBTeaching, or at our mothership @GotPassport of course.
No more Bubba, Ninja, or Jay. It’s now just me, Jack.
Update, Sept. 8th, 2012: After much thought, I’ve decided to keep mygeekgarage.com, and use it to post random thoughts about tech. Here’s why. I’ve also kept my Nokia N8, as I rely on it for internet radio, as well as the navigation functions. So work-wise, teaching is top priority, then volunteering, then followed by my tech hobby (no longer a professional pursuit). Let’s see how that goes.