My Next Career Goal: Be Bad at the Internet

My Next Career Goal: Be Bad at the Internet

Before I officially made the big decision to retire from blogging, I took a bunch of smaller steps toward it; dipped my toes in the water, so to speak. You might remember the first thing I did was decide to take two weeks off. After a month, I decided to take the entire summer off. And then I did a bunch of things behind the scenes that were less visible. After hearing my friend Paul say he removed Google Analytics from his website, it dawned on me that maybe I could do the same. Then I did a huge content audit and deleted 200+ posts from my site. And finally (I think this is the last one!?) I signed out of Twitter.

If you are a blogger or content creator, some of that might shock you. I’ve heard actual gasps come out of people’s mouths, when I mention the Google Analytics step, specifically. It’s a tool that keeps track of how many people visit your site, how many pages/posts they look at on average, which country/city they are located and so on. And if you’re trying to figure out how readers find you, so you can create more content that brings even more readers in, and ultimately build a huge audience who might pay you/earn you ad revenue, it’s a great tool! But that’s not my goal (and never was).

Still, when I first heard Paul say he had deleted Google Analytics, I let out a little gasp too. Because it goes against the narrative of what we are told we “should” do. And so, my first thought was that I couldn’t possibly delete it from my site—could I!? The more I questioned it, the more it became clear that I could. For starters, I couldn’t remember why I had installed it in the first place. I also never used it the way you’re “supposed to”. So if it didn’t have a purpose and I never used it, why did I have it!? (Also a question to ask when decluttering!) There was no good answer, so I let it go. Hit delete and said goodbye.

Taking a bunch of smaller steps toward the idea of retiring from blogging was almost like testing a few theories. If I do X, what will happen? Ok, now what if I do Y? And then Z?Thanks to my wild imagination (and anxiety), I envisioned countless things that could go wrong. But in the end, even after taking the final plunge, nothing bad happened. People understood. It all worked out. If anything, it was actually one of the most exciting times of my “career” (is that what this is? lol). Because making the slow, intentional decision to let go of what I didn’t want to do anymore also gave me the time to figure out what I do want to be doing—and being “good” at the internet is not part of the equation.

Before we dive deeper into this topic, I should clarify that I don’t aspire to be a luddite. I love and use technology every day, including my smartphone, computers and the electric standup desk I built last summer. On my phone, I send texts and make calls, listen to audiobooks and podcasts, take pictures and still spend a little too much time on Instagram. On my computer, I write this newsletter, read/reply to emails, do research, write, record podcasts, create graphics, watch videos and so on. I also store things in the cloud, buy products, sell products and manage all of my money online. It is an incredibly useful tool that powers so many of the good things in my life. I am very pro internet!

What I’m no longer interested in is being “good” at the internet. I’ve known this for a long time. In fact, I remember meeting an online friend at a conference and having her ask me why I wasn’t doing a long list of things to grow my site. “Don’t you want to build a big audience or start your own publishing company? You totally could!” When I said “no,” she looked confused and almost frustrated. And it wasn’t her fault for reacting that way. I was at a conference where people were literally there to talk about how to create content that would build audiences and make them money! I was just there for different reasons (to see friends, not attend sessions).

We had that conversation in September 2016, and it took two more years for me to finally realize that maybe being “good” at the internet wasn’t my career path after all. Of course, over the past two years, a lot of other things have changed the way the internet works and feels. Not just in politics, but in the world of social media in general. Some people even believe the internet is terrible now. I wouldn’t go that far, but I did enjoy this podcast interview with Tim Wu. My personal feeling is simpler: the internet is extremely reactive now. It is fast-paced, stressful and requires a lot of energy to keep up with. And that is the exact opposite of living a slow, mindful and intentional life.

So, I’m opting out—at least of the way many content creators use the internet today. In fact, I think my new career goal is to be bad at the internet. When people ask if I’ve read a certain post, or heard about what someone did or said online, I want to say no. I don’t want to keep up with what “my competitors” (that language is so toxic) are doing or which tools they are using. I just want to read/listen/watch stuff I find and then close tabs when I’m done. And I really don’t want to hear about another tool, plugin, or app that can make the internet “better” or easier to manage. I want to use the internet so little that I can’t even imagine needing them at all. Because I don’t want to be known as just a blogger or someone who lives online. I want to be a human who lives + helps in real life.

All of this is to say that, basically, I want to go back to using the internet the way I did when I was a teenager. I want to read/reply to emails, do research, create content and watch videos. And I will keep the few products I have, and of course log on for any workshops we do together, because the internet is the only way we can connect! But I’m done with all the extra stuff that happens online now. That feels scary to type, because it’s the world I’ve been caught up in for the past 12+ years. But there are a lot of people (including friends my age) who have always used the internet this way. Some have never had Facebook. Many have never read blogs. They only open their computers to do work, check email or perform a quick search. Then it’s back to real life with their humans—and that sounds really nice.

There are only a handful of things I’m excited about these days. Getting back into + improving my writing (this newsletter has been a huge help!). Launching a new podcast (already have the skills for that). Learning new design skills (just for fun). Upcoming travel. And spending more time with my family and friends. Some of those things require the internet to work, but they don’t require me to be “good” at the internet. And, as you’ll soon see with my new podcast, they actually won’t require that I spend more time on the internet at all. Right now, I’m making intentional choices and shifts, so I can work online less in order to live offline more.

x Cait

This was originally shared in my newsletter.