One day over break I spent and hour scrubbing the network of old, unused, or delinquent accounts I’ve been accumulating–the ungainly barnacles of passing, fading interests. I wouldn’t quite describe the process as cathartic; more like inane. For example, I dropped one Twitter account, Twittorician. And I tried to axe Mendeley and CiteULike, both for irrelevance and non-use, but neither of them provide an option to cancel or remove accounts. So, in Mendeley I deleted stuff and in CiteULike I deleted stuff and subbed in a cranky profile. Other candidates for deletion due to dwindling relevance include LinkedIn and Academia.edu. I left them alone, though, idle where they’ve been all along. They’ll give me something to purge next time I have a few minutes to spare.
The other Twitter account, now my only Twitter account, is also rotting on the vine. And while I don’t begrudge anyone their exuberance for Twitter or their invested participation in Twitter, for that matter, I find it less and less and match with the reading and writing rhythms I want (and need) to keep. My reluctance to delete the account, however, comes from…what, exactly, I don’t know. What if I change my mind? I used Twitter with students quite a bit last year, and while it did help me get to know a different and fuller side of EMU, not using Twitter in the same class(es) last fall didn’t subtract anything anybody seemed to notice. That is, when I dropped Twitter from the class, nothing happened.
Jill Walker blogged yesterday about a well-known blogger in Norway calling it quits. Granted, the blogger is a teenager and the reason for quitting apparently has something to do with a commenting quarrel. But quitting is quitting, yeah?
The series of account deletions (actual and deferred) along with Walker’s entry started me thinking again about how we imagine these distributed, immersive, networked writing practices ending. Will there be every bit as much contemplation of quitting (abandonment, retraction) as there is of signing up, joining, jumping into the mix? Call the net morticians; “bring out your dead!” Surely we can abandon it simply and without complication or second-guessing: leave the practice behind. Yet when “participatory” venues are overrun with the molts of once-active, once-present people, the muted exodus must gradually shape the experience. It must eventually alter the practice. Right?
(At least) Two forces operate here: 1) we grow weary of a particular networked writing practice or platform (such weariness itself can spring from many different causes) and 2) the network itself quietly and without much odor rots under our noses. We are not often enough bold about quitting, and when we are it risks sounding like a clamor for attention. Sure, we read occasionally about company-sized start-ups gone end-ups, but at the scale of individual users, quitting accounts, deleting web presences, taking permanent hiatuses, etc., these possibilities and their (non)consequences touch on something subtler, if, that is, we can get anywhere by generalizing about it in the first place.