P018: Life in the Slow Lane

Yesterday, a tweet from Jonnie Hallmann about a new feature from the uber-geeky automation service If This Then That put a name to the concept that I’ve been toying with here at Periodically:

And now that I knew this thing’s name, I knew what to Google for to find out more.

Much like how Slow Food stands in opposition to Fast Food, the Slow Web stands in opposition to the Fast Web. But unlike the food comparison, the Fast Web – the great devil whose mere existence brings the Slow Web to life – is not a universally understood concept. Writer and weekly-newsletter enthusiast Jack Cheng described it best in his seminal essay on the subject from 2012:

What is the Fast Web? It’s the out of control web. The oh my god there’s so much stuff and I can’t possibly keep up web. It’s the spend two dozen times a day checking web. The in one end out the other web. The web designed to appeal to the basest of our intellectual palettes, the salt, sugar and fat of online content web.

If the Fast Web is about destinations and pageviews, the Slow Web is about interactions and notifications. Instead of drawing users in with ever-gaudier attention-getting mechanisms, the Slow Web publisher reaches out to their audience with timely updates. This respect for the user’s time and the awareness of the lack pre-defined context of your interactions is what sets the Slow Web apart.

Awareness and Obstinance

Last week, Jill Abramson was fired from her role as executive editor of the New York Times. The drama surrounding her termination was a major story in my personal River of News but for most people, even some in the media, it didn’t even register as a blip on their radar. Ira Glass (previously featured in Issue 3) is so over insider media drama that he claimed to have no awareness or interest in the story at all.

“I hate reading media news so I actively sort of — I’m not interested in someone getting fired.”

Ira Glass isn’t out of touch – he’s using the tools available to him to limit the kinds of news that he has to deal with. By being mindful of your inputs, you can be aware of what you need to know and let the rest float on by.

The M Word

People who know me irl often are on the receiving end of constant prattling about mindfulness. And I kind of mean it in a pseudo-Buddhist, meditation-as-personal-insight way, but more broadly, I’m talking about thinking before I act. That’s can be as simple as making a plan for the day or carefully choosing what TV show to watch, but I find the most utility in forcing myself to think before I react to an external stimulus. There’s a great post from Jason Fried about this encouraging the reader to give it five minutes before reacting to an idea. Those five minutes will make you slower, but it your response will be more considered and your relationships stronger for it.

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron