A Filter For Internet Participation


[preface] It’s been over a year since I’ve written in this “Letter Home” format. It’s a warmly familiar return to the design I used to relate my mixed bag of sentiments from my 2011 journey. During that travelling phase, I wrote a letter each week. My goal for this year is to write one letter per month – a bit of communication, without being burdensome. And so it begins.

Communication has been on my mind lately, and more specifically, how I converse on the web. As an active participant in the vast universe of 21st century communication, I have access to a myriad of platforms: email, Tumblr, Pinterest, a personal website and more. It’s difficult to know where to devote my energy, and what the return on investment will be. At the moment I’ve decided to tinker. One of these experiments involves taking a step back from Facebook and Twitter for a few months. The idea behind this – or at least part of it – is to eliminate distractions, and sharpen my focus on a book project that I would very much like to complete. But I’m also very curious to measure the impact of “absence” on social media. In the sheer volume of data we receive, I’m wondering if my abstinence will be noted to any significant extent?  If not, then perhaps it’s time to reassess how I engage with that messy thing we call the Internet.

These thoughts have been brewing for a few months. In October I watched a video featuring one of my intellectual crushes, Mr. Jonathan Harris, speaking at a PSFK Conference about his personal quest to humanize the Internet, or at least how he relates to the Internet. I was particularly struck by one idea he outlined about moving from the current frenetic state of cyber behavior to more intentional forms of participation. For Mr. Harris, this entailed a transfer from disposability, curation and self-promotion to timelessness, creation and self-reflection. I suppose I saw many of my own behaviors on the list of frenetic actions.

Self-promotion is considered an important factor to “get ahead” in the competitive virtual race. It’s vital in constructing a cyber-community, but also in breaking through the tsunami of sensationalist Internet rubbish. Admittedly, self-promotion has served me well. I tooted my own twitter-horn, and it has led to a certain amount of online success. Yet, after four years of slogging through the cyber trenches, I’m unsure if self-promoting behavior is what I want my default Internet strategy to be. I yearn to bring more depth than a Facebook status update about the delicious dinner that I just happened to throw together (drenched in the subtext that I’m effortlessly skilled and endlessly creative), or a calculated Instagram selfie that features my latest hipster haircut (which might just get a 20 “likes” if I capture myself at the most complementary of angles). I don’t want to pander to the lowest common denominator. Which is all fine and dandy, but still leaves me with a greater question: how do I make my cyber contributions add up to something more meaningful?

Perhaps it starts with the cessation of shouting for the sake of being heard – something I’ve been guilty of in the past. My grandma used to encourage us to monitor what came out of our mouths. She said: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” When I translate these sentiments into an adage for Internet behavior, it reads: “If you don’t have anything valuable to post, then shut the hell up.”

My approach is to apply these intentional words – a type of filter – to what I share on the Internet. I must ask myself: “Does what I’m about to share have value beyond my own self-promotion?” It’s a big question, and one that is difficult navigate on my own. In fact, i t would be great if you could help. I ask for your assistance with keeping me inline, while I continue to tinker with my presence online.

And maybe together we can make this Internet vortex a bit more meaningful.

Thank you,

Victoria, British Columbia


PS: If you’d like to receive these monthly letters via email, please subscribe via that little box on the right side of the page.




UPDATE: I recently read my horoscope on the wall of a cafe. It related to my decision to lay off the gas, so to speak, of cyber participation.



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10 Responses to “A Filter For Internet Participation”
  1. Safa 1 February 2013 at 11:51 AM #


    Exactly. I think that there is so much information out there that it becomes a challenge to filter what interets us, what we can relate to and what we choose to invest our time with. For example, when I walk into a bookstore, its clear to see that 50 shades of grey and diet books are the top sellers!! 50 is popular because its so easy to read, sexy and I think got so popular becaue of word of mouth! Diet books, well people are obbssessed by these things! and self help is a huge theme as well!

    At the end of the day! I think that if an audience can relate to you and if you entertain them and teach them about life or even show them a new perspective its a good way to go and word of mouth is the best marketing tool :)

    Look at the writer of 50 shades! She used to write bits and pieces on her blackberry on her way to work would bring them together on her computer at home and it became a huge hit! now they want to make a movie out of it and it was even her “mid life crisis” so she thought she would put all her fantasies in a book! I find her story very interesting because she did not expect to have such a succesful turnaround and it is a hit!

  2. MC 4 February 2013 at 10:08 PM #

    Hi Daniel,
    thanks for this – great reflections!

    I read an article 1½ year ago, it stuck with me. I think it’s in the same vein of what you are expressing in your letter. Here is a quote from Jaron Lanier, in the July 2011 issue of the New Yorker on blogging, texting, tweeting:
    “If you listen first, and write later, then whatever you write will have had time to filter through your brain, and you’ll be in what you say. This is what makes you exist. If you are only a reflector of information, are you really there?”

  3. Roger silva 6 February 2013 at 4:38 AM #

    Hi Dan;

    Just wanted to let you know I miss ya on Facebook !
    Hope all is well!

    • danbaylis 6 February 2013 at 10:54 AM #

      Hey Roger! Thanks for the sweet sentiments.

      Til soon!

  4. Joe 12 February 2013 at 2:39 PM #

    Great to see another post on the Conversationalist!

    While I can see why you have taken a break from Twitter until the Spring, my music collection has suffered as a result haha – your #sundaysong tweets were great for finding new artists, especially Dan Mangan whose album I’ve been listening to loads since you tweeted his song Road Regrets.

    Btw, would you ever consider another trip? I remember reading that at some point you would consider charting westwards, and go to Japan, Botswana, Senegal etc. Is there any chance of another Conversationalist adventure?

    • danbaylis 12 February 2013 at 4:02 PM #

      Heya Joe!

      I’m so happy to hear that you tuned into the #SundaySong! I was convinced that nobody was listening. Dan Mangan is really lovely.

      You pose a very good question! After the memoir of the 2011 trip is complete, I’ll begin to formulate my next adventure. I’m not sure it will be as ambitious as the first journey. But I’ll certainly be sharing whatever I choose to do.

      Thanks for continuing to come back here.

  5. Daniel John 7 May 2013 at 10:59 AM #

    Thank goodness you are back on the internet darling! <3

    I don't participate on the internet really for self promotion, although I do put up pics of myself sometimes but not often! I use it really for talking to people and amusing myself! I have health problems and mental health problems and it's a wonderful for being social when life gets difficult. But I don't use it to get ahead of anyone else or advertise myself. It's not marketing for me! A friend forced me to join Twitter in 2008 and people followed me and I just followed people back and it led to thousands. But I never collected that for a business or marketing reason! It's totally just a fun thing for me :)

    I do take internet breaks every so often! I don't think I could do as long as you and I rely on it too much! However my end goal is to enjoy life as much as possible and the internet has to be a secondary thing! I know plenty of families and relationships broken up because someone is constantly on it all the time! It's addictive and time consuming!

    A friend decided to use Buddhist ideas in her life and she told me about the Buddhist idea of "intent". She uses it on the internet constantly, before she posts anything she asks herself "what is the intent in posting this?" I use it too now and it's amazing how many stupid updates or bitchy comments you don't post! changed my approach to my postings :D xx

    • danbaylis 7 May 2013 at 11:44 AM #

      I think your friend and I are thinking very much along the same lines — “What is the intent in posting this?”

      One of my objectives is to be really clear with this intent.

      But I like your end goal too: “to enjoy life as much as possible”!


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