Exposure Therapy

March 23rd, 2011  |  Published in this mortal coil

Flickr favorites

I read a short bit a few weeks ago titled A Simple Guide for a Mindful Digital Life, and it offered some suggestions that resonated with me, along with a few that would not be practical for a good many people. I recommend it, though, because I like the author’s take on ownership of online presence. One thing that came of trying a few of his recommendations was a modification to my morning reading routine.

Over the past year, my iPad has become my morning paper. I like to get up a little early and sit by the fire reading the things I consider interesting but disposable. I use Flipboard and Twitter lists to skim through the things with which I’d like to have headline-level familiarity.

I like the morning skim because I don’t have to place any weight on anything I read there. Sometimes I bookmark useful things for later, but it’s the only time of the day I’ve got that I consider solely mine. After it’s over, my time stops being just mine for long stretches.

One neat thing Flipboard offers is support for Flickr as a “digital magazine.” You can subscribe to your own Flickr stream, those of your friends, your own favorites or (and this is the part I really like) the Flickr “Interestingness” feed.

Flickr’s always been a little hard for me the same way the rest of the Internet can be a little hard for me. There’s just so much good stuff going on, so many people being completely amazing, and so many things that seem almost casually wonderful that it makes ever doing anything hard. To paraphrase Theoden, who can stand against such reckless awesomeness? Why even get out of bed, because if it hasn’t been done, it’s in the process of being done and probably in the form of a multi-year project with incredible JavaScript transition effects.

That’s harmful thinking on a few levels:

  1. You never end up doing anything.
  2. Other people have an easier time telling you your limits.
  3. After a while, it makes you crabby about everything, because crabbiness blunts the sheer radiance of all the random awesomeness going on, making it easier to live with.

So Flickr’s been hard, because there are some really good photographers out there, and the Interestingness feed pulls in a lot of their work.

It occurred to me a few days ago, however, that maybe the thing to do would be to just dive into that pool of greatness, so I modified my morning routine a little by tweaking Flipboard. I pushed a lot of the lists about Facts and Things to the second page, and I filled the front page with interesting photography feeds. First in line is the Flickr Interestingness feed. I’ve been flipping through it each morning and marking a few of the pictures I see as favorites (another nice thing Flipboard lets you do). I’m trying to treat it as a mindless exercise, something done without a lot of reasoning, because I think doing it that way allows me to silence the inner critic for others, which makes it easier to silence the inner critic for me.

I try to stop thinking about the things I used to think about: Is this image overprocessed, did the photographer go too far with the sharpening, is the image correct, is the underlying sentiment hackneyed, and on and on. I try to just like stuff. Sometimes, though, I see a picture that achieves something I once tried and failed to pull off, so I favorite that for when I can circle back later, when I’m in a better frame of mind, and consider the things that will help me take better pictures.

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© Michael Hall, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license.