February 21, 2016

I recently had the privilege of attending Meet the Pros 2016 and addressing multiple small design student groups in roundtable discussions focused on the question: what do you wish you would have known about being a professional while you were still a design student?

I was at Meet the Pros myself two years ago, and it was a seminal experience in my professional path. I still flip through the small notebook in which I keep notes, quotes and advice that I wrote down during that two-day conference. And while I’m technically not a full-time graphic design professional anymore (I still freelance, but my focus is more diverse), it still got me thinking: what have I learned in the past two years? What would I have benefitted from knowing as my two-years-younger self?

Here’s what I answered, and what I told the design students I spoke to last Tuesday. It was fun to think about and write for me; hopefully it’s helpful for you in some way as well.

Being a Great Person is Just as Important as Having a Great Portfolio

I’ve written about this topic before, but I feel it bears repeating: we’re reminded constantly as design students that the goal of everything we’re doing is to come out of our program with an amazing portfolio. That portfolio, of course, will (hopefully) get us a job. And we have the message drilled into our heads on an almost daily basis: a bad portfolio can cost you a job that you might have otherwise gotten.

But not enough attention is paid to the other side of that coin, in my opinion. An important message gets lost in all the talk of a perfect book full of perfect projects: when it all comes down to it, an employer can’t hire your portfolio; they have to hire you. And you can cost your portfolio a job it might have otherwise gotten.

When it all comes down to it, an employer can’t hire your portfolio; they have to hire you. And you can cost your portfolio a job it might have otherwise gotten.

I was in a Q&A session recently with Dusty Davidson, one of the founders and owners of Flywheel, in which somebody asked him: what should companies be looking for in a potential employee?

If you’re not familiar with Flywheel, it’s an enviable place to work. (Full disclosure: Flywheel is my current employer, but this is far from a subjective stance; Flywheel recently won two Silicon Prairie Awards for Best Culture and Startup of the Year, respectively). They’re a respected company with a phenomenal culture and a highly successful product, built on a firm belief in design.

So one might have expected Dusty’s answer to follow along those lines professionally and to sound like a checklist of résumé items. But in a somewhat unorthodox and casually practical manner, he answered with the following three almost entirely non-résumé- and non-portfolio-related items:

Frankly, I wish I’d been given that list two years ago. I wish somebody had told me that my portfolio wasn’t the only way I could stand out, and indeed, wasn’t the only way I should stand out. That my portfolio wasn’t the one getting hired; I was.

There’s a phenomenal quote that I heard from Marty Amsler of Bailey Lauerman when I was at Meet the Pros: “A good portfolio gets you an interview; a good attitude gets you a job.”

Being the right person is usually at least as important as having the right portfolio. So while you’re working on your book, don’t forget to work on yourself, too. Be impressive. Be passionate. Be somebody other people want to be around.

Your Worst Instructor is Still Better Than Any Bad Client

Let’s be real: we all have instructors we didn’t like in school. And while sometimes that may have been for good reason, if we’re honest with ourselves, a lot of the time it’s because we didn’t like their feedback. But whenever I hear students speak derisively of an instructor (which, it should go without saying, is something you should absolutely never do in any remotely professional setting), I feel compelled to let them know how good they have it right now:

Besides the above, speaking poorly of anyone is a surefire way to throw a giant red flag in the professional world. So just don’t do it.

Instead, realize that your instructors are there to help you succeed. Besides, accepting and acquiescing to feedback you might not agree with is excellent practice for being a professional…

You’re Going to Need Thick Skin (and Zero Pride)

As noted above, real-world clients make all kinds of decisions for all kinds of reasons, many of which are irrational and likely to be against your professional advice. They will tear down your work, give you exactly the opposite of what you need, focus on the wrong things and hold with an unyielding death grip to their preconceived and baseless notions of what the final product ought to look like.

Don’t despair; there is a lot you can do to quell this behavior. If you haven’t read 13 Ways Designers Screw Up Client Presentations by Mike Monteiro (my design hero), you must do so before you ever give a professional presentation. Seriously; bookmark that link right now. Or just go read it instead of finishing this post. It’s fine. That article is much better than this one anyway.

But no matter how good your research, process, rationale and work are, sometimes the client will still be wrong. Sometimes they won’t be able to differentiate between something that they personally like and something that will be effective for their goals. Sometimes they will make the wrong decision even when you find the most superlatively diplomatic and persuasive ways to inform them that they are wrong. And sometimes—sometimes—you have no option but to accept that you and your client simply have irreconcilable views of the project.

Ego is self-sabotage; professionals can sniff it out for the toxin it is, and it will poison every aspect of your relationship with your clients.

There seems to be a bit of elitism that gets built into designers on their way through school. (Design is not unique in this way, of course; many creative fields seem to instill a certain haughtiness in their recruits.) But the sooner you can jettison this baggage, the better.

Ego does as much good for a designer as a 20-pound pair of boots does a swimmer. It will do nothing but hold you back, both with professionals and with clients. Ego is self-sabotage; professionals can sniff it out for the toxin it is, and it will poison every aspect of your relationship with your clients.

Ok, I may have gone overboard with the mixed metaphors. But the point is: ego is counterproductive at best and suicidal at worst. Take pride in your work, but don’t be prideful. Defend your work, but don’t be defensive.

Take pride in your work, but don’t be prideful. Defend your work, but don’t be defensive.

Like it or not, what we do—while grounded in many objective principles and disciplines—is still subjective. My view of green is different than yours and your feelings about this typeface are different than mine. Our experiences lead us to different conclusions about what we see. It’s nobody’s fault. Keep the end goal and target audience in mind (your client probably isn’t at this point) and just move on.

Only Do the Work If You Care (and Don’t Care About the Money)

It’s pretty fashionable—downright cliché, actually—to advise people to follow their passions these days (particularly in blog posts). Sure, I’d give that advice to anyone, but this is about more than that. It’s about aligning yourself to the right people and the right goals because that’s what makes the work worthwhile.

Obviously, you probably won’t have the luxury of picking your employer or your clients right out of school. But when and if the opportunity comes along to choose between making more money or doing something you care more about, my advice is to take the second option every single time.

What you fail to realize as a poor design student is that money is a drug. And like any drug, its effect can only last so long. Then you realize that no amount of it actually changes the dismal situation you’re in.

Let me share a couple of examples from my personal experience:

When I was in school, I was lucky enough to land a gig doing regular contract work. I didn’t care about the work itself, but the money was great and the perks were fantastic. And I loved it…at first.

What you fail to realize as a poor design student is that money is a drug. And like any drug, its effect can only last so long. Then you realize that no amount of it actually changes the dismal situation you’re in.

There was a time when, if that employer who was handing me contract work would have offered to hire me on full time, I would have accepted the position with open arms. But when the buzz of good pay and free soda wore off, I realized I was working for people who didn’t share my values and doing work I didn’t care about to further goals I didn’t believe in.

I didn’t actually want to be where I was or doing what I was doing, and money was comically and tragically powerless to change that.

This advice comes with two very important caveats:

  1. This is not a license to be a lazy creative. You don’t always get to do things you care about when you feel like doing them. Do your work anyway.
  2. Success looks different to everyone, and you need to know in advance what it looks like for you. Maybe to you, success does equal a big paycheck. But for me personally, success has almost nothing to do with money (and I would argue it should be that way for any designer; this isn’t a career to take on if you want to retire wealthy).

I didn’t actually want to be where I was or doing what I was doing, and money was comically and tragically powerless to change that.

I wound up leaving that job for one that paid literally half as well and offered even fewer hours. In effect, I made the difficult decision to take a pay cut of greater than 50% at my next internship in order to work at a smaller shop where I respected the work and aligned with the values of the people.

And you know what? It was unequivocally the best decision I could have made. Sure, it was tough. But I was happier, I was doing better work, and because of that, it led to things my previous position never could have.

Some time later, motivated by some tight financial times, I made the opposite decision. I took on the best-paying freelance project I’d ever gotten even though I couldn’t actually get behind the values of the client. And as you may have guessed, I was abjectly miserable. There was a point in the middle of the dozens and dozens of hours of work that I had agreed to and that I couldn’t possibly outsource when I thought to myself, I would actually pay my contract to get out of doing this work right now.

Financial deficiency is an easier burden to carry than creative despair.

The thing is, the work itself wasn’t bad. In fact, it was the kind of work that, under most other circumstances, I might have been doing just for fun. But knowing that my time and efforts were being transformed into a vehicle for furthering goals I didn’t agree with for people whose values didn’t align to mine sucked any hope of enjoyment out of the project. It was supposed to be freedom; it became entrapment.

Design is hard enough work as it is. Don’t make it harder by shackling yourself to people and projects you don’t care about. It’s never worth it. Financial deficiency is an easier burden to carry than creative despair.

School Doesn’t Prepare You to Manage a Professional Workload

There’s little school can do—outside of becoming entirely unreasonable—to prepare a design student for the timeline and workload of a professional environment. In school, you can get away with taking a worse grade or turning in a project a little late or maybe even redoing a project entirely if it doesn’t go well. If you feel like playing video games instead of further perfecting your work, it’s fine. You have weeks to work on it anyway most likely, and you can always revise the project before it eventually goes into your portfolio. The deadline definitely won’t change. It’s possible nobody outside your class will ever see the project. And besides, nobody’s going to hire you based on your GPA anyway. (Trust me; nobody’s once asked me.)

In short, the price for failure in school is relatively low, and this is absolutely not the case in the professional world.

In short, the price for failure in school is relatively low, and this is absolutely not the case in the professional world.

Failure in school is a continuum; failure in the professional world is an absolute. There’s no bad grade and there are few revisions to be had; there are just unhappy clients, which can lead quickly to unemployment if the fault is yours.

The timeline is also often very different; as a professional, you may very well be working on a project that is due this afternoon when you just found out about it this morning. That project may have initially had a completely different timeline when the client suddenly decided they needed it right now. You will very likely be juggling any number of projects at once, and if you don’t feel like it or would rather trade in a little quality work for some quality time, you don’t often get that luxury.

Sometimes all your professional projects are out waiting on client feedback and you have nothing but free time. Sometimes you get all of those projects back in the same day and have to find a way to complete them all. School can only do so much to teach you to manage your downtime responsibly in order to be prepared when timelines shift and work comes flooding in. Because of my own failure to learn this (a longstanding personal downfall), I never worked as hard as a design student as I was forced to work as a professional.

School can only do so much to teach you to manage your downtime responsibly in order to be prepared when timelines shift and work comes flooding in.

No, not all design jobs demand insane scheduling, but some do. Hopefully you won’t land at a self-serving agency where they treat their interns like batteries to be sucked of their energy and then discarded, but maybe you will for a while. Hopefully your clients stick to timelines and you can keep the flow of work smooth, but maybe not. Regardless, the kind of time management skills involved in maintaining that balance and still putting out quality work is a much more intense and focused version than school often demands.

It’s very important to practice good time management skills before you have to learn the hard way. Trust me; I’ve put in enough unhealthily late nights and torturously early mornings to know that it’s way better to learn it as a student before your poor habits bite your career in the ass.

Hopefully I haven’t scared you away from wanting to be a design professional. This post admittedly spent a lot of time dwelling on the negative, but if you avoid the pitfalls that I failed to sidestep, this can be a wondrously fulfilling career. Best of luck, design student.

September 4, 2015

Earlier this week, Google unveiled their new sans-serif identity, ditching the familiar serifs for which the company has been known since its inception for a cleaner, simpler look:

Google's new logo on its iconic homescreen.

Among the population in general, and particularly among designers, reviews have been mixed. Some herald this as a fresh new direction, perhaps the emblematic tech company boldly being unafraid to leave behind the conventions of the past to embrace the present and future. Others…well, others thought it might have been better.

That’s an understatement, really. Barely 48 hours had passed since the announcement when, with a cursory search of the word “Google” in Dribbble, I came upon pages and pages full of graphic designers posting their ideas for a “fixed” or “better” version of Google’s new logo. Here’s just a small glance at everything that was out there (believe me—there were hundreds more, and again, this was less than two days after the new identity system was announced):

Designers scrambling to "fix" Google's new logo Designers scrambling to "fix" Google's new logo

To say that this behavior was limited to Dribbble would be inaccurate. The announcement was made on Tuesday, and before the day was even over there were slews of articles, some thousands of words long, popping up all across the internet, many of which filled with righteous indignation over Google’s decision to go with something so supposedly unoriginal, plain, radically different, or just bad (in the opinion of the writer, of course).

Accusations cropped up. Some said Google had copied their new logo from an old Gymboree mark (as though two colorful sans-serif capital Gs ought to look unmistakably distinct):

Others accused Google of simple unoriginality (as though a few cherry-picked modern sans-serif logotypes wouldn’t look similar when they’re all shown side-by-side in black):

While still others thought it was just plain poor, like this typographer.

In the case of Google, I’d like to go on a small tangent and point out that Google is really playing their own game here. In terms of identity, their needs are radically different than pretty much any other company on Google Earth. They don’t really have competitors, at least not like most brands do. Sure, there’s Apple and Microsoft, but for the most part, Google has already won every game it’s playing. Google is the 800 lb. gorilla; it sits wherever it wants. It doesn’t need to worry much about being confused with, or looking worse than, any another company. Short of Google changing their logo to, say, a swastika, people aren’t going to stop using Google products. We’re still going to use google.com for searching (which everyone will still call “Googling,” even if it’s not technically accurate), we’ll still use our gmail accounts, we’ll still look to Google Maps any time we need directions somewhere, and on and on. Even the least plugged-in among us probably still has their life impacted by Google a dozen times a day.

Google’s problem wasn’t that they needed the greatest logo ever; their problem was that they needed a unifying identity system, and that problem has now been solved.

So in terms of branding, Google doesn’t really have to listen to anybody, least of all an upset designer on the internet.

But tangent aside, and not specific to Google: any time a new design comes out, there is bound to be discussion about whether or not that new design—pardon the pun—misses the mark. Sometimes this discussion will be heated. Sometimes it will even become such a cacophonous outcry that the brand behind the design decides it might be best to take a step back. (Gap, anyone? For the record: I don’t think it was as bad as everyone else did. So the aborted logo redesign was plain. What is Gap, exactly? Gap sells khakis and business-casual button-ups. If that’s not Helvetica in clothing form, I don’t know what is.)

I’m not necessarily saying Google’s new logo is the greatest thing ever (though that’s beside the point: Google’s problem wasn’t that they needed the greatest logo ever; their problem was that they needed a unifying identity system, and that problem has now been solved.) And I’m not saying all the feedback that emerged from the design community was unwarranted or inaccurate. That typographer above makes some reasonable points. Many designers did.

But the problem was, they made these points and registered these reactions instantaneously and without regard for what makes graphic design more than subjective window dressing: the how and the why.

Emotion vs. Thought

Graphic design is a tricky thing. It’s both art and science, subjective and objective. It’s part left-brained rationality and part right-brained creativity. It’s a merging of thought and emotion. And this is what makes reacting to graphic design such a careful balance of immediate reactions and delayed reactions.

When we present designs (and especially redesigns or entirely new names) to clients, we always tell them: register your immediate reactions, think about them and remember them. But don’t put too much weight on them and don’t let your immediate reaction kill an idea before it’s had a chance to grow on you, because—and this is important—the human brain is wired to reject things it isn’t accustomed to.

You know why movie sequels are so popular? Because people want things that are new, but they don’t like things that are unfamiliar. So it is with design; we say we want things to look fresh and new, but our brains really don’t like anything we’re unfamiliar or uncomfortable with. It’s just part of human nature. That’s why we lash out at new logos and new identities; like it or not, no matter how consciously aware we are of it, there’s an animal part of our brain that screams out “I don’t like it!” like a toddler refusing to try a new food.

The human brain is wired to reject things it isn’t accustomed to. You know why movie sequels are so popular? Because people want things that are new, but they don’t like things that are unfamiliar.

But fortunately for our primitive brains, time changes perception. We all have things we didn’t like at first but grew to love as we came to understand them better. (For me, pretty much every one of my favorite albums is one that I didn’t like at all on first listen, while most of the albums I loved right off the bat I now find completely uninteresting.) Every time Pepsi changes their logo it seems like a radical shift for a little while, but before long, it looks weird when you spot the last version in the background of a movie.

We’ve all tried something we hated at first or met somebody we didn’t like at first impression, only to realize over time that either we were wrong, our perceptions were wrong, or we’ve actually changed. Design requires this type of delayed reaction. It requires you to live with it and get to know it on a deep level, not just a surface emotional reaction.

Emotion screams out at first impression. It’s irrational and unhesitant, but it’s fast. Thought takes time. It’s careful and logical, but it doesn’t happen quickly.

And that’s one reason why you shouldn’t be writing scathing blog posts about new logo designs or remaking them to “fix” them within the first hours of their existence. But there’s another, more important one:

The Message You’re Sending

Even if you were able to immediately and completely process a new design at first glance and be ready to write a comprehensive blog post about it on first impression (and just to reiterate, you can’t. But even if you could), there’s still a good reason why you shouldn’t.

If you’re a designer, you undoubtedly tell your clients the same thing you were told as a design student, namely: no matter how simple the end product, design is hard work, and aesthetics aren’t the whole point. To come up with something that looks good, something somebody likes, is at best tangential to the main point. We’ve all chanted the mantra a thousand times: design is about more than appearances. It’s about problem solving and communication. And problem solving and communication generally require days, weeks or maybe even months of intensive research, ideation, brainstorming, creation and revision.

Whether the result of real problem-solving design work is something anybody likes is beside the point. The question is, does it succeed at meeting the project goals? Does it solve the problem?

And you don’t know the answer to that question.

Whether the result of real problem-solving design work is something anybody likes is beside the point. The question is, does it succeed at meeting the project goals? Does it solve the problem?

You didn’t see the brief. You weren’t there for the meetings. Odds are that you have only a casual knowledge of the client in question. You didn’t see all the ideas that were pitched and you weren’t part of the discussion on why some failed and others succeeded. You didn’t weigh the advantages and disadvantages of this color or that font. You didn’t present the final iterations, you didn’t hear the client’s feedback, and you didn’t have to find a way to merge each and every last one of those requirements and limitations into a single, cohesive entity.

That gives you absolutely no right to critique anything except the subjective aesthetics of the design you’re seeing.

And I’m willing to bet money that you hate it when somebody does that to your design.

Remake somebody else’s logo design all you want, but know that it’s utterly meaningless, because you get to do whatever you want and the original designer didn’t.

“Well, sure I wanted to change this, but the brief required…”

“Yeah, I would have liked to explore typefaces more, but the budget…”

“This color definitely wasn’t my first choice, but according to our audience research…”

These are all sentences you can’t hear because you get the luxury of seeing the final product without any knowledge whatsoever of how it came into existence. Remake somebody else’s logo design all you want, but know that it’s utterly meaningless, because you get to do whatever you want and the original designer didn’t. They had deadlines, budgets, parameters, meetings, goals, briefs, revisions, concerns and loads of client feedback. All you have is a starting point that somebody else already created for you and a social platform full of people willing to click the “like” button.

Remaking somebody else’s logo without knowledge of the full process behind it isn’t design; it’s doodling.

Don’t Cheapen Design

Taking somebody else’s work and toying with it is a fine exercise for somebody who’s learning. But it’s little more than plagiarism if you’re telling an audience that this, in terms of real design, has any substantial meaning or value whatsoever.

When you show the world that you can supposedly take something existing and make it better in a single day, the message you’re sending is, “design is effortless. It takes very little time, thought or energy. It’s cheap, petty, subjective and shallow.” You strip design—and every other designer out there—of their value and the respect that they deserve.

Don’t do that. Don’t cheapen what we do. Don’t give the world the message that what we provide is easy, quick and mindless.

Design, at its best and as it ought to be, is absolutely none of those things.

March 27, 2015

As many of you may know, I recently took on the self-appointed challenge of staying off Facebook for 60 days. …Well, actually, that’s only partly true; I initially gave up Facebook for an indefinite amount of time. When I made the decision, part of me hoped that maybe it would result in a permanent termination.

But 60 days was all I lasted.

So was I an addict who couldn’t go more than a couple months without a fix? Or was Facebook actually valuable enough to make me reconsider?

To be honest…a little of both.

Below are the realizations I had from approximately January 1 to March 1, 2015.

#1. Facebook trains you to not read things

…it wasn’t until I’d gotten back on Facebook that I realized how much text was flying through my field of vision with less than a second’s thought…or wondered what I was looking for.

You’re not going to read this whole post. If anything, you’re just going to skim the headlines to see if any of it looks interesting. That’s ok; that’s what I do, too. The internet in general and social media in particular have trained us not so much to read, but to search for what we find interesting. To the human eye, that naturally is not text. But it wasn’t until I’d gotten back on Facebook that I realized how much text was flying through my field of vision with less than a second’s thought…or wondered what I was looking for.

#2. Everything is in Numbered Lists These Days

I didn’t even write this to be a numbered list originally. I just realized at some point in late January how long it had been since I’d seen an article with a number beginning its title and wondered: why are we attracted to this type of post?

I don’t know, but if you’re already bored, or if you’re used to being directed to a specific number, I think #10 is probably the most important.

#3. You don’t get invited to things when you’re not on Facebook

Unless it’s too small to actually plan or large enough to sell tickets, Facebook is the only way you’re hearing about it.

This one was the most surprising to me. Just try it. You will disappear off your friends’ invite radar once you leave Facebook. Somehow, for better or worse, it’s become the de facto vehicle for invitations of virtually every type, and nobody except maybe your mom will bother to actually contact you directly if you don’t respond. Unless it’s too small to actually plan or large enough to sell tickets, Facebook is the only way you’re hearing about it.

#4. You check your phone WAY more than you realize you do

I was astounded how many times my thumb would automatically, without so much as a conscious thought, move to the space where the Facebook app icon used to be. It would happen dozens of times a day.

As part of this exercise, I uninstalled the Facebook app from my phone. I was astounded how many times my thumb would automatically, without so much as a conscious thought, move to the space where the Facebook app icon used to be. It would happen dozens of times a day. I actually found myself wondering—and I’m ashamed to admit this—“what did I do while I was in the bathroom before I got a smartphone?” (Don’t picture that.)

Once I was off social media, I started noticing how often the people around me—often people close to me, with whom I was having some sort of social interaction (however minor)—whipped out their smartphones to stare at a feed through which they endlessly scrolled.

I don’t begrudge them; I get it. I’ve done the same thing unconsciously, compulsively, a thousand times. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered why I’m even still scrolling. I’m more cognizant of that now; the break made me realize that most of the time when I’m browsing my feed, it’s as a junkie looking desperately for his next fix.

#5. I was a “like” addict

And maybe I still am.

Maybe you can relate, or maybe it’s just my addictive and feedback-driven personality, but I realized I was always posting things with whether they would get a click in mind. When I gave up Facebook, I still held on to Twitter and found it frustrating that I would post things that didn’t get responses.

It’s one thing to like the feeling of connectedness that Facebook might bring, or to use it as a form of entertainment or escapism. But to be using it for personal validation? …That’s kind of messed up. But I guess the first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

#6. The politics on Facebook affect you a lot more than you think they do

Even the political posts I happened to agree with, I realized in their absence, often had a negative effect on my mental and emotional state. This is largely due, no doubt, to the fact that most politically relevant posts on social media are specifically designed to be polarizing. No matter how much you agree or disagree with [insert political voice here], that voice needs you to take action. Those posts need you to react, to feel something. Whether it’s angry, sad, shocked, enraged, despondent, whatever—political posts are literally hurting you. They’re ruining your emotional state and they’re driving you to further political extremes.

ALL of the politics on Facebook—including and maybe even especially those that I agreed with—are the part I missed the least. It was peaceful outside their storm.

When I started using Facebook again, the pages I stopped following weren’t ones that made me angry in disagreement; they were the ones closest to my views. Those views haven’t changed, but I really don’t feel the need to get worked up about them every day of my life.

#7. The “Login with Facebook” button is soooo convenient

Try locking yourself out of Facebook on all your devices and see how many new apps and websites suddenly become completely unworthy of the trouble to create an account or login.

#8. I have social media-only friends (and I missed them)

I never realized it before the break, but a unique class of friend had emerged for me on Facebook.

Somewhere amid the sea of digital friends that I see or call or speak to exactly zero times a year, a little island with some happy, digital-only buddies had cropped up. I didn’t miss family or local friends when I quit social media, because I still had contact with them. But I did actually miss some of the people with whom I regularly interacted on Facebook, people I rarely or never see in real life, but whose online relationship, I was somewhat surprised to learn, had grown meaningful to me.

#9. Smartphones are killing our necks

Seriously; I never realized how much neck stiffness I had until I stopped checking for updates every two minutes.

#10. Connectedness is costing us

Or put another way: I’m beginning to believe that becoming more connected with everyone is making me less connected with anyone.

I’m beginning to believe that becoming more connected with everyone is making me less connected with anyone.

All that time spent browsing, reading, liking…it has to come from somewhere. Any minute you are or could be in the presence of another human being spent on social media is a minute you’re taking from them and splitting up a dozen, a hundred, or a thousand ways. It’s significantly weakening one good relationship in the name of very slightly strengthening many others.

Maybe this is a negative view of the situation, or maybe it’s a bit extreme. Maybe time and relationships aren’t a zero-sum game. But let me ask you a question:

When you’re sitting on the couch or lying in bed, what do you spend more time looking at and interacting with: your phone and the people with whom it connects you…or the person next to you?

#11. Facebook is more of a communication tool than you think

I never realized how many people fit into the category of “good enough friends that I occasionally need to send them some kind of message directly, but not such good friends that it’s easy for us to call or text each other” until Facebook Messenger was no longer an option. I also didn’t realize how many people would completely drop out of my life, most likely never to be seen or heard from again, if I truly cut Facebook out of it.

#12. Facebook isn’t meaningless

I almost hate to say it, because like I said at the beginning of all this, I sorta hoped that this break would result in a break-up. But it didn’t. It left me right back where I was, because I realized that for all of Facebook’s myriad flaws, and for its enervating tendency to exacerbate my own shortcomings, it still has value.

I’m back on now because of that. It’s a valuable networking tool and at least a partially meaningful method of interpersonal communication. I’m at a point in life right now where that makes Facebook important enough to keep it around, at least for now.

I’m trying not to check it as much, not to think about it as much. I’m trying to do the slightly more difficult thing and speak to the people in front of me instead of wondering what distraction the device in my pocket might provide. I’m trying, in short, to be a better person, and to not let the promise of blissful digital engagement affect my thought patterns or my mental state as much.

A break from Facebook was very good for me. I encourage everybody to try it, at least once, and at least for a short time.

Even if it’s just to find out what you do without it in the bathroom.