Always on (and off)

It is lunch time here is San Francisco, on the first Monday of the new year and if the unending torrent of emails, Text Messages, Twitter DMs, WhatsApp and Slack updates are any indication, the holidays are finally over. There are incoming emails asking for appointments, meetings and opinions — and just like that a sense of calm and control that had enveloped me over the holidays has evaporated.

I found myself responding to all these incoming demands on my attention, fractionalizing it with every ding, ping and notification. Or as one of my favorite authors, Bob Lefsetz said, “if you’re not overscheduled, if you’re not time-constrained, if you aren’t overwhelmed with choice and obligation, you’re dead.” Is this the new default of our world? And then I remembered what best selling author/writer Dan Ariely wrote, “in 2016 I am going to try and figure out what my priorities are, and then direct my time in a consistent way with my priorities.”

That is a good way to think about time allocation — though, obviously demands of life and work won’t make things easy. One could however, strive to read, much fewer posts from my peers in the venture business, spend less time catching up on frivolous twitter conversations about “deals” or any of our industry’s inanities that passes as news. Last two weeks were a good reminder that breaking news is fairly pointless — you can do a quick catch up at the end of the day, you are not going to be poorer or richer because of it.

Those of us who have lived on deadlines, this whole notion of thinking-on-my-heels is second nature, and perhaps that is why I was drawn to the staccato style of writing that blogging demands. But last two weeks made it easier to put that kind of rushed-to-the-web thinking aside and take a deeper, slower approach to writing . The last two weeks have been particularly good as slowing down meant not using Twitter, Facebook and email in a typical manner.

Ed Aten calculated that people are scrolling an equivalent of about 1.3 million miles every day on Facebook — a good way to measure our collective dependence on Mark Zuckerberg’s baby. That is crazy obsession and from the looks of it, that can’t be healthy. The funny thing is that if you don’t go to FB or Twitter or Instagram for a few days, they send you an email, trying to lure you back — which is a sign, that you are (and should be) in control.

If over the holidays there was one singular epiphany, it was that Internet is finally the utility it was supposed to be. The always-on networked state is unsustainable for us humans – however, the network itself must stay on, almost always. It is no different than the electricity network. Just because there is current in the system, doesn’t mean we should blast the music, turn on the television and switch on the lights, all the time. There is a time for how, when and where we use the current. The Internet too is heading to that point where we as individuals need to figure out how, when and where to use the network.

January 4, 2016, San Francisco