Getting News After Leaving Facebook

“But where will you get your news?”

That was a question I was asked yesterday, in response to my blog post earlier this week about my decision to leave Facebook.

The asker went on to say how much he enjoyed getting his news all in one place, filtered by his friends and people he trusted.

And that, I think, is bumping around one of the reasons I am leaving Facebook. All the news I get there is filtered by people I trust and hand select. If I support a woman’s right to abortion access and a friend doesn’t, I can choose to see less of the things she posts about that subject. And the worst part is, I do choose, often unwittingly, by the things I click “like” on, the things I comment on. Facebook learns what I am most likely to respond to, and serves me up more of that.

As a result, I see a lot of things I am likely to respond to, and less things I am not. The only way I would see more of the things my friend I disagree with posts is to comment on them, and since I disagree with her, the comment would likely be unfavorable.

Facebook has designed the system so the only way I can see more content from opinions different than mine is to fight with those people.

It’s madness. The only way to win this game is to not play it.

So, to answer the question: Where will I get my news?

I own a Kindle Fire (which is an amazing deal. For less than $50, you get a decent, fully functional Android tablet). The Washington Post has a super deal for Kindle Fire owners, where you get a six month subscription for $1, and it’s 3.99 a month after that. That is my primary news source right now. With a few missteps along the way, their investigative reporting is amazing.

But I am also sensitive to the danger of only having one source, so I subscribe to a couple of “news aggregation” emails, including the New York Times and Need 2 Know. They both send emails to my inbox every morning with top national headlines. (Need to Know is also good about sharing pop culture things, so I know what latest shenanigans Taylor Swift is up to.) I also subscribe to my local paper’s email updates, where they email me every morning with local and state level headlines. (These are all set up with an email filter, so they all go to a specific folder in my inbox)

So, every morning, I get up, drink my coffee and scan headlines from many different sources, with professional editorial voices at work. I read articles that interest me, and, wonderfully, I have no chance to argue with people I know.

Now, you can argue that this is “harder” than just logging on to Facebook and seeing what everyone else is sharing, and you are right – it requires more effort, at least in the beginning. You have to buy the Kindle, you have to pay for the subscription, you have to search out the email digests of various media (they hide them!), and then teach yourself how to set up email filters (assuming you don’t know how).

But in exchange, you get no drama, you learn things from sources you trust, you don’t have to wonder if this is fake news or satire or legit, and you probably have a better sense of what is actually going on in the world.

Why I Am Leaving Facebook

I’m not sure when it happened. Not really. I can point to the week, but not the day, when I had had enough. When I decided it was time – I am walking away from Facebook.

It may have been while I was in the Bay Area of California at a house where I had no obligations for 48 hours, and I was looking forward to just writing and reading, and instead sat on a couch and scrolled Facebook over and over. I would pull up Word and stare at it for a few minutes, and then pull my phone out of my pocket and see what has happened in the last 4 minutes since I checked last time.

Or on the five hour flight home, when I could not get online, and instead read a whole book and wrote three pages of content in plans for 2017.

Or it may have been the night before the Inauguration, when I wanted to read my new book, but instead clicked links on Facebook all night, filling me with fear about the upcoming administration.

A night where I felt the need to say something profound for the several thousand people who have some connection with me and have either friended or followed me. Marcus Aurelius would have told me that they were not thinking about me at all, but in my head, I had to produce, to be profound on command.

Or it may have been the next morning, Inauguration Day, when I penned most of this post and realized I am losing control of my life – I can’t read for more than a few minutes anymore, and I have already, 224 words into this post, checked Facebook three times to make sure I am not missing something. That morning on the way to work, I stopped for gas and checked Facebook before I got out of the car.

So, I decided to quit.

This is not an easy decision.

A significant portion of my income can be traced to relationships that are maintained on Facebook. I am connected, in some way, with more than 4,000 people there, most of whom are interested in my work in some way. Some of them donate regularly to my work, or supported us when my wife had a heart transplant in 2015, or gave money to make sure I was able to get away for a month in 2016.

But I also know those people love me, and they love the work  I do and the things I create, and the reality is, living in Facebookistan is preventing me from doing either.

So, here is the plan.

At the end of this week, I will delete my personal page. I will lose some things in this (pictures and so on) but I am working on downloading the archived versions.

My Rev. Hugh Hollowell page will remain active, and will be the place that things I write elsewhere are shared. I will also import my Instagram feed there, so not to worry – you will still see pictures of my cats, including Pepe and his magic ears. It will import all my content automagically.

I will maintain a presence on Twitter (for now, anyway) and Instagram. I will be writing on my blog (which you are reading right now) and you can sign up to get an email if you want to be notified when I post something new.

The best way to reach me is email at hugh@hughhollowell.org. If you have my phone number, feel free to text me. The number hasn’t changed in seven or eight years.

I announced this last week on Facebook, and the response has been interesting. Some people totally get it. Some people are almost angry at me. The most interesting response has been my own: I am a little afraid.

Facebook is easily the place I have the most influence, the most voice, the most “reach”. And as I have several ambitious plans for this year – plans that could really use reach, voice and influence to come to fruition – the fear comes to the surface again and again.

Can people still find me? Will people still listen to me? Will I still have any influence?

That I am scared to leave just provides further proof to me that I should, in fact, leave. I often find fear to be a good barometer of whether I should do a thing or not – because the default is easy, but progress is hard.

So, that is the deal. I am leaving Facebook, but will still be very active in the world. Especially on my weekly email newsletter I call The Hughsletter, where I will tell you what is going on in my world, but also share links to books I have read, articles I have enjoyed and links to things I have thought to be beautiful. In fact, in my plans for the future, The Hughsletter is the cornerstone of what I am doing in 2017, so I hope you will subscribe, if you haven’t already. It is the major way I will be communicating going forward as I seek to build things for my true fans.

If you have questions, feel free to email me, or ask question on my Facebook page. And thank you.

Seriously.

Why I Don’t Sleep In

I don’t have to be anywhere this morning until 8:00, and the meeting is 7 minutes from my house. Yet and still, this morning I woke up at 5:30, made a cup of coffee and pulled out the laptop and got to work.

You see, I don’t sleep in.

One advantage to having once been immersed in Evangelical Christian subculture is long-term exposure to what genuinely passionate and devoted people look like. It is life-changing, actually.

I was once listening to a sermon preached by an “apologist”. If you don’t know, an apologist is a person who has devoted their lives to proving their chosen faith “true”. Think of them as trained rhetoricians who want to argue with non-believers about the veracity of the claims of Evangelical Christianity.

So anyway, this apologist was berating us for not having memorized the 5 pillars of Islam and the arguments from the Christian Bible against them, and he mentioned that devout Muslims often memorized the entire Qur’an.

“They are willing to do for a lie what you are not willing to do for the truth!” he shouted at us from the pulpit.

Now, I think his arguments against Islam are full of holes, and how do you argue against faith, anyway? – but the point is that line – “they are willing to do for a lie what we are not willing to do for the truth”. Or, in other words – they are willing to work harder than you are, and that is why they win.

I think about this all the time in my work.

For example, much of homelessness is a byproduct of unfettered capitalism. So, I read business memoirs all the time, because I want to understand capitalists. (You can’t change people you don’t understand).

Almost all of them have very detailed, rigorous morning routines. Virtually none of them sleep late. Many of them take great pride on waking up early, going to the gym and getting to work before anyone else does. Lots of them talk about strategic decisions around clothing (like this article about Obama’s productivity secrets and why he only wears grey or blue suits) or what they eat for breakfast.

In other words, they apply extreme care to their day, and their day is designed, purposefully, to generate the results they get.

Meanwhile, in most of the activist circles I hang out with, meetings don’t start on time, they run over, you aren’t sure if the guy leading the meeting showered today and we spend the first half of the meeting arguing about how the meeting will be run. These people don’t reply to email, and they won’t hire anyone to answer it for them, and then say they can’t afford it, but somehow can afford artisanal food and laptops designed for graphic designers when all they do on them is type.

While we slept in this morning because we don’t want to be held down by the man, the man was up early, ate a balanced breakfast, and planned how to increase corporate profits by laying people off or shuttering a company. And he did that before you got out of bed.

They are willing to do for a lie what we are not willing to do for the truth. And that is why they win.

And that is why I don’t sleep in.

Eight Beautiful Things to Give as Gifts

Every Monday, subscribers to my newsletter get an email with links to at least five things I thought were beautiful. This past week, I sent them these – links to books, CDs and useful things that would make perfect gifts for someone – maybe even yourself.

  1. Peter Taylor is a writer read most often by other writers, in much the same way that Townes Van Zandt is a musician most often known by other musicians. A Summons to Memphis, his best known novel, is filled with family pathos, the experience of trying to return home and a father that is strong willed, yet incapable of managing his affairs. In other words, the perfect story of the Urban South.
  2. Shelby Foote was the soul and voice behind Ken Burns’ documentary on the Civil War. And he is the masterful craftsmen who wrote what is perhaps the best single treatment on the War Between the States, titled simply, The Civil War: A Narrative History. But before all of that, he was a novelist of wide acclaim. His novel Shiloh, about the bloodiest day of the bloodiest war in US history almost cannot help but to be amazing.
  3. MFK Fisher is probably my favorite writer that no one knows about. She was a fierce woman and a feminist before the word existed. She wrote about food, mainly, but saw that as her way of writing about love. She was someone who knew what it meant to face the world on your terms, and yet still have time for a glass of wine with a dinner you made for yourself. In the midst of the food rationing of WWII, she wrote about what to do when the wolf shows up at your door: You cook him.
  4. My favorite thriller of all times is The Silence of the Lambs (if you only know the film, make it a point to read the book, which is so much better). The sequel to that was Hannibal, where we see clearly in the mind of a serial killer. One of the plot devices in both books is Hannibal’s prodigious memory, and in an interview, Thomas Harris mentioned an obscure book that heavily influenced him called, simply, The Art of Memory. Part instruction book, part history lesson and part philosophy tome, it is delightful and instructive.
  5. In the Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal asks his prison guard for a copy of Glenn Gould’s 1955 performance of The Goldberg Variations. It’s perfect in every way – but in 1983, they recorded him doing it again, and it too is perfect, but in another way. Both versions are available on one CD.
  6. Thoreau said that a thing costs however much of our life we had to trade for it. In Your Money or Your Life, the authors take that to heart. It’s sorta a self-help book, but much more a “How to think about money and your life” book. It doesn’t promise you will get rich if you read it, but does promise to change how you think about money.
  7. Lots of us wish we were creating more – we wish we were writing more, or painting, or building or whatever our art is – but something keeps getting in the way. The author Stephen Pressfield gave that something a name, and wrote a book about how to kick that something in the ass and do your cool thing. If you know a person who just can’t seem to get that thing written, this is the perfect book.
  8. I love beautiful things that are also useful. Like the Opinel No8, a French pocket knife that has 4 pieces, no springs and costs less than 15 dollars. Perfect to keep in your bag for slicing that apple, opening a box, or cutting some string. And the design is so epic, it has won awards and been featured in design museums.

And while not beautiful, certainly useful:

  1. And while we are talking about useful – I use my Kindle tablet every day, and it’s less than $50. A computer you hold in your hand for $50. What a world. And if you don’t like sitting down to read, you probably ought to get an Audible subscription, where you have access to almost 200,000 audiobooks for less than $15 a month. And the first month is a free trial.

I Miss You

When I moved to Raleigh, I didn’t know a soul here. I didn’t have a job here, I didn’t have new co-workers. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. It was incredibly isolating.

So I decided to change that. My goal was simple, but not easy – one conversation with a new person each day, and coffee or a meal with a new person each week. I kept that up for years. As an introvert that needs people, it was both a challenge and fun.

And it worked. I soon had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, from many different segments of society. It worked so well I quit doing it.

These days, I have a set of coworkers I love, but that I spend most of my daylight hours with. Instead of walking the streets all hours of the day and night in pursuit of my work, these days I do most of my work at our Community Engagement Center, so in effect the streets come to me. I feel rushed a lot, and always behind, so it’s easy to not prioritize outside meetings or meals.

It is incredibly isolating.

I hate that it is so easy for me to feel so busy that I don’t have time to prioritize relationships, when the reality is, those relationships are my work.

Facebook makes this both better and worse. Better, because I have friends I first met nine years ago in one of those weekly coffee meetings that I have been able to keep up with, see their kid’s pictures from recital, and hear about how they have learned new things, developed new passions, heard about their marriages, their divorces, their hopes and their struggles.

And it makes it worse, because some of those people live six blocks from me and I haven’t laid eyes on them in more than a year. Because I still feel “connected” to them. It’s maddening.

Not only is it bad for me – it’s bad for business. Love Wins Ministries was born as a result of those conversations years ago. So many of the projects I have developed over the years began in conversations over coffee. Much of what actually fed me and kept me alive in those early years came about because of those meetings.

So I intend to make 2017 the year of intentional connection. This is the year I begin having intentional meetings to develop relationships. It is the year I begin to commit to coffee dates again, to meeting new people, to finding new opportunities, to learning new things. This is the year I commit to lean in to the hard work of relationships – because, as I am fond of saying, all of us are better than any of us.

So, if I haven’t seen you in ages – I want to have lunch. If we are really only “Facebook friends”, I want us to be real friends. If you only see yourself as one of my “fans” – I hate that term, but more and more people are introducing themselves to me that way – please let’s really connect. And if my assistant reaches out to you with a lunch invitation, please know that means I thought it was important, and that you are important. Because honestly, if my assistant doesn’t schedule it, it probably isn’t going to get scheduled.