How To Keep Up With Everything Online

In my own recent experiments with publishing daily and unplugging from the internet, I’ve been striving to find a happy balance online.

One thing that’s become a pressing issue for me – and which seems to be something most of us struggle with – is how to keep up with everything. 

Here’s what I’ve done – and continue to try – to achieve a state where I greatly enjoy and appreciate what I follow and consume online, without feeling overwhelmed.

1. Change your definition of everything.

Rather than say “I want to keep up with everything” (or more likely, “I can’t keep up with everything”), redefine what that “everything” is, what you actually want to follow.

If you have, say, half an hour a day to commit to reading online, but are trying to follow 100 blogs that between them publish 10 hours’ worth of new reading content each day – not to mention trying to digest four or five different social media platforms simultaneously too – it’s simply not going to fit.

You end up skimming everything, and enjoying nothing.

So instead, consider which 10 or five or three of those different sources you want to follow.

Then, keeping up with “everything” is reframed as keeping up with just 10/five/three channels, and becomes manageable – and enjoyable – again.

2. Stop following anything you haven’t found valuable, interesting or inspiring in the last three months.

If you need to be more strict, reduce this time frame to the last month.

Often we follow so many channels and people because they used to once in a while post something interesting, and we’ve never stopped following.

We hope they might one day again share something useful, and maybe we feel a kind of guilty loyalty too, but that wonderful post or update we’re waiting for never arrives.

Reclaim your time, let the redundant sites go and refocus your precious attention on the sources that are enriching your life. You can probably list them right now.

Oh and if you don’t find 35hunter consistently enjoyable or valuable, please feel free to stop following too – I don’t want to be adding to your overwhelm.

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3. Change your thinking from keeping up (or catching up) to checking in.

When you say to yourself “I need to catch up with all the blogs I follow” it’s a presupposition – you’re already telling yourself you’ve fallen behind.

But it’s not a race, or a competition.

Instead, try saying “I’m going to check in with some of the blogs I follow”.

This removes that assumption that you’re falling behind, or forever chasing.

Stating that you’re checking in reaffirms that you’ve found a few sites online you really enjoy following, and spend time checking in with what they’ve been publishing, at a frequency that works for you.

Better to read a few posts, give them your full attention, and really enjoy them, than skim over dozens and not get anything except that increasingly anxious feeling of falling behind.

4. Batch your check ins.

This is an extension of the above in a way. Don’t let the pace and schedule of the sources you follow dictate your preferred consumption behaviours and pace.

Sitting hunched over a device being a slave to every new notification is a generally hollow and anxiety feeding existence. Even worse is constantly swiping to refresh, desperate for some kind of update or other.

I called this the “chacking” mentality in a previous post – constantly needing to check and chase.

What if you just checked in once a day for a set time, read and commented on the posts and updates you wanted to, then walked away again, letting everything else slide, letting go of the need to read and respond to every comment, every update?

Better in my view to spend one 30 minute period a day checking in and again immersing yourself in and enjoying the experience, then finishing before it starts to feel like a chore, than trying to keep up once every 30 or 15 or five minutes, a forever rushing and impatient chack addict.

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Hopefully I’ve expanded these four points enough for you to understand how and why they can work. 

I could have made this post a lot shorter.

If you want the concise version, just compress the lines in bold above into one paragraph –

Change your definition of everything. Stop following anything you haven’t found valuable, interesting or inspiring in the last three months. Change your thinking from keeping up (or catching up) to checking in. Batch your check ins.

Most importantly, remember it’s your time, your energy, your attention, no-one else’s. Use it wisely, and meaningfully.

Over to you.

How do you keep up with everything online? Do you use any of these techniques – in isolation or combined? What other tips can you share? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and remember to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what my photography life looks like right now.

28 thoughts on “How To Keep Up With Everything Online”

    1. Thanks Frank, yes that’s so fundamental. I don’t understand how people complain about stuff like the dreaded F*Book sucks so much of their time and energy, but they don’t just leave. It is our precious, limited time, to make the best use of. It’s unlikely any of us on our deathbeds will be saying “I wish I spent more time on Twitter”…

  1. Good topic. I currently find it very challenging to keep up with all the stuff I follow online. It’s because my private life is a bit messy at the moment and my time for online stuff is short.

    I follow a lot of blogs. A *lot* of blogs! But until lately I was very interested in trying to help build the community of film photo bloggers by reading and commenting on posts as often as I could.

    But what I’ve learned through this is: if you don’t write something to go with your photographs, I lose interest. And if you do put words with your photograph, it’s best if it’s not usually about gear. Tell me something about the subject or about you.

    So I’ve been unfollowing blogs lately, ones that don’t have something interesting to say. I’ve got to size my online time to fit the rest of my life.

    1. Jim, thanks for your input. That last line is excellent – sizing your online time to fit your life, not the other way around.

      I just took a look at the WP blogs I’m following and it was 26. I easily dropped a few that I’m not interested in anymore so I’m down to 20. Some don’t post often but when they do it’s worth the wait, so it’s not like 20 blogs who each publish daily, or even weekly. This feels manageable for now. I’m curious how many you follow now!

  2. “…if you don’t write something to go with your photographs, I lose interest. And if you do put words with your photograph, it’s best if it’s not usually about gear. Tell me something about the subject or about you.”

    Yep, this is key; a critical element. Too many blog pictures stand mute.

    We, I, for the most part, are not – yet – Henri Cartier-Bresson or William Eggleston or Fred Herzog, whose originality and oeuvre ares widely recognized, whose pictures usually need no supplementals to reinforce viewer engagement.
    Until we, I are, even a mere simple caption can signal the photographer’s intent or the impact a scene had on he or she; what caused a photo to be made, what emotional or intellectual freight it seemed to possess, and will imply an invitation to share in that. Properly done, a – tiny – bit of text may steady a picture in standing on its own legs, unless it be a one-in-a-billion singularity of composition and content.
    And brevity – substantive and rich brevity, an art form in itself – is also crucial. Technical details are anathema, showing as they do a lack of esthetic vocabulary.

    1. I have mixed feelings about words with photographs. Most of my posts are essays if you like, with a few pictures to punctuate the text and hopefully make it more digestible. And to remind readers and myself I am a photographer as well as a blogger!

      I’ve started a “One Frame” series which is just a single photograph in a post with no text. I feel that if I share a strong enough photo, it shouldn’t need any explanation.

      The photos in the books I’ve been reading in the last few weeks rarely have titles. Maybe the date and place.

      Coming from a writing background into photography, I used to sometimes give photographs poetic titles, and it kind of worked as a combined piece. But I just thought I was imposing too much of my own interpretation on the photographs, and not letting them mean different things to different people, depending on their unique set of experiences, filters etc.

      I think the problem with too many single post photos has already been discussed, first they’re just not strong or memorable enough photos and second they usually have a description of the kit used underneath, which turns them into the scientific result of some kind of equipment test, rather than a photo that stands up by itself regardless of what was used to make it. Again, the photo books of the masters one reads rarely have any mention of even the type of film, let alone camera, lens etc.

      1. “The photos in the books I’ve been reading in the last few weeks rarely have titles…”

        The untitled photograph accompanying this article is excellent, and waits for what the viewer my bring to or see in it. It is very well-seen and made, robust and subtle both; equally mysterious and plain.

        Yet most photographs in most blogs are not.

        The photos one sees in books are in books because they, and the photographers who made them, stand above, well above the rising photographic seas and fleets of Internet-floated boats. Technically-competent photography is literally as common as dirt, and it is dirt held suspended in those oceans in which authentic art drowns.

        For those as yet unrecognized by editors or arbiters of art, or simple public acclaim over the test of enduring value over time, whose work does not yet carry the recognizability or cachet of fame, for the developing or aspiring artist, a simple caption cannot hurt, or may add value.

        One can think of as many noted photographers who have used a caption as not. For those who do, they are simple, unambiguous, not clever or wrought, but the directness adds to the appeal: “The Red Ceiling,” “Women of Santa Ana, Mexico”, “Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville”, “Charlene van Tighem, Physical Therapist,” “Moonrise Over…”, etc.

  3. I don’t embrace social media and then I find I have time to follow the blogs I’m interested in mainly
    photo blogs/forums

  4. Hi Dan, I have no issues with keeping up with blogs, social media, infact anything to do with the internet, restraint is the key word…. I don’t follow any social media…. it’s too time consuming and falls into the category of ” following the herd ” …..blogs….. I follow 9… including yours… all in all I ” give up ” around an hour a day…. plus around 15 to 20 minutes on emails from friends etc… so in total 80 to 90 minutes a day, usually this is undertaken after having the evening meal…. I then go on a “surf” checking out items on eBay for 10 minutes or so and thats it… all finished….
    It’s easy enough to get engrossed in something, but I normally bookmark the page and go back to it later.. maybe the next day or even the next week…. I’ve used the novel idea as a way of explaining stuff before , I just imagine the internet as a novel, having a daily intake…and using the restraint when time is called…
    It’s not easy Dan, but to me there’s a fine line between being exposed and being over exposed…. no different than when we take a picture…..it’s all down to who’s behind lens and what they want to achieve

    Lynd

  5. My most recent change was to stop regularly looking at photo blogs and forums on which I have not made comments in the last month or two. It greatly reduced my screen time, and I became accustomed to having more free time.

    But then I went away for a long weekend where I had no internet access and when I returned all of the old urgency to catch up came back. Apparently I had managed to reduce the time I spent looking at the blogs and forums but not the importance I placed on doing so. I don’t have a solution for that yet.

    1. Doug I did a similar thing with PentaxForums. It’s a fantastic resource and the people on there generally are very helpful, enthusiastic and knowledgable. It was very useful when I got my K10D about a year ago.

      But when I stopped using the K10D so much (haven’t at all since about October!) I kept subscribed to a few threads about it.

      Every day I got an update, I just felt bad I hadn’t added anything to the thread(s) recently, because I had nothing new to share.

      Eventually I just unsubscribed to the threads because I have, for now, moved away from using that camera. I know where it is if/when I need to go back.

      I think the only way to wean ourselves off this kind of dependency is to follow less in the first place, and check in less often. After a while you start to wonder why you ever used to try to catch up with so many things, and so often.

        1. Doug this reminds of the point that I think we let our egos get caught up too much too (speaking for myself here) and maybe like to think the little corners of the Internet we frequent couldn’t possible function without our regular presence. When in fact they can, and do, whether we’re away for five minutes, five days or five years.

  6. There are basically two kinds of photographs, illustrative ones and freestanding images. The first are in support of an idea, and require text or verbal description to complete their meaning. The second function independently. They may be allusive or descriptive, infer or explain, but the visual content fulfils everything that needs to be said about the image.

    For example Cartier-Bresson’s famous picture of a man jumping over a puddle tells us nothing about puddles, or the area behind railway stations, or ladders or jumping, but each of those ingredients combine to make a timeless photograph. To call it “Jump” would be visual alliteration, a needless anchor to a free ranging idea. A lot of amateur photography suffers from the need to label shots that are already descriptive.

    1. Thank you Blinx, this is what I meant. To give a photograph a title you either go with something descriptive like “Hamsey Church at Dawn” which doesn’t add anything – except make it easier to find online for someone looking for pictures of Hamsey church at dawn – or use something more abstract to complement the image and lead the viewer down a particular story path, like “The Day She Left”.

      I used to do some of the latter, but it’s almost a different genre in my mind, not just photography, but presenting photography and words/poetry as a combined piece of work. The danger is the words are more interesting than the photograph, and are trying to make the image more evocative or memorable or emotive than it actually is.

      So these days I don’t title anything, and try to let the images stand on their own.

  7. Very funny Dan, I was just catching up on your blog and read thus post first, and i just did this about half an hour ago. When I went to edit the blogs I follow, I was shocked at how many inactive blogs I was still following that have not posted in years. Also, how long I have been following some.(Jim Grey is second oldest) I can’t keep up with all the channels and blogs, so a lot got cut. I guess great minds think alike!

    1. Yes Jon! I only follow 20 now, but some of those have the axe hovering over them, as they haven’t posted that often.

      There are generally two categories though as I see it – 1. Blogs that are worth following as they regularly post interesting content now and 2. Blogs that used to be good and have so many great archived posts, it’s worth delving into them – even if they don’t post often (or at all) anymore. Wouter Brandsma is a good example of the latter, I read his blog from start to finish over a period of a few months, just so much great photography and interesting musings. But this year I think he’s only published maybe two or three posts.

  8. Great article containing interesting and helpful ways to look at blogging, especially for someone like me who is easily overwhelmed. I love the way your posts elicit such great comments and discussions. Congratulations to your readers as well as to you! 💐🌷💐

    1. Thanks Kate, glad you found it useful. Yes agree completely about the readers, as I’ve mentioned before (and have a post in draft about) a key measure of the “success” of 35hunter is the conversation here, much more important to me than visits, likes etc. I want it to be an active, supportive, and stimulating community.

  9. I have been using Feedly and before that Google Reader for quite a few years now. If something interests me sufficiently I add it to Feedly. Ever once in a while I have a clear out and get rid of those sites that aren’t updating regulatory or that I’m not finding interesting anymore.

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