At yesterday’s GACDL Winter Seminar, Dean Strang spoke, not so much on Making a Murderer but on systemic failures of the criminal justice system that are on display in the documentary series. Those issues include poverty, the fact that the treatment of juveniles has not caught up with the research on brain development, and issue with the media.

However, my takeaway was when Dean spoke about social media. When asked about media attention, he revealed that he has no social media presence. A shy person, he pointed out that he doesn’t always feel particularly social and that he sees no real need to “mediate” some sort of online social presence.

Without social media, he cannot be harassed on it. And he reports having perhaps ten uncomfortable moments since Netflix premiered the documentary (versus many death threats while the trial was going on). But there’s an even bigger lesson.

Cal Newport may well be right when he says that social media is not at all crucial to career success. It turns out that the lack of Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram isn’t a hindrance from becoming well known and respected all over the world.

When you go on a family vacation, the people you live with have the opportunity to learn more about you and how you are feeling. And so it was in Oregon a few weeks ago, that my wife noticed my anxiety level. And when she noticed it, I began to notice it, also. And after I noticed, I began looking for the source. I’m not sure that I’ve found it. But I think I have a few leads.

For one thing, I have been devouring too much election coverage — way too much of it. So, I decided to do the one thing about the election that I could actually control. I voted. With that done, the media’s coverage was fairly irrelevant to me. With my vote already cast, no infomation could possibly influence it. So, I went the next step. I unsubscribed from the New York Times and deleted the app from my devices. When I woke up the next morning, I reached for the iPad to click the app. It was no longer there. Then I noticed that there was more of it on Facebook. So, away went went the app on my phone and iPad. Then there was Twitter. Away it went.

I happened upon a TED Talk by Cal Newport. He encourages his listeners to quit social media. I had his book on my shelf and re-read the chapter on quitting social media. Then I took stock.

I tried to weigh the benefits of it. I could not think of a single case I have ever brought in by being on Facebook or Twitter. I also could not think of a single case I had won because of it. Then I tried to imagine the time I have devoted to them over the years. So, then I took a radical step. I deactivated Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Those services have beeen gone now for two days. Before that, I had not logged in for about a week. If anyone has noticed my absence, they haven’t told me. The people who have needed to talk to me, have seemed to find me.

When I am writing a brief and I hit a rough spot, I find myself reaching for the phone for that quick hit of dopamine. And I realize it is not there. And I almost immediately let out a relaxing breath.

Something else I have done. I have installed an extension on Chrome called Inbox Pause. This nifty service allows me to pause incoming mail everywhere until I log back in and unpause it. I pull in emails every day or two and process it all at once. When the email is paused, it is not available on my phone. I put more thought into emails when I return them. Or I pick up the phone and respond. When I am tempted to seek answer to a question by email, I know that there will be a delay. So, I am either okay with it or I call the person. I find myself having more meaningful interactions. If someone has noticed my new email habit, they haven’t said anything. I have found that email is sometimes an exercise in avoidance. It can be a place to avoid a topic that should be tackled at a higher bandwidth.

Here is something else I have discovered. I find emails that seem urgent. Then as I scan my inbox or call the person back, they say, “never mind. It resolved itself.” Or “never mind. I found the answer.”

Yesterday and today, I sat to write a brief. I found myself in a state of enjoyment. When I’ve reached from email, Facebook, or Twitter, they have not been there. “Oh, yeah,” I have thought to myself before getting back to work.

I need to hang out with my family more. They are very good at noticing things.

 

p.s.

I don’t consider the writing of this blog to be social media. It’s long form and offers the opportunity to reflect.

The podcasts I listen to cost me money. On a recent podcast, I caught an interview with Cal Newport, who discussed his new book, Deep Work. I’ve been taking a break from business books lately, but this one is very different. His thesis is simple. Our technology has created an expectation and a temptation that we work in shallow technological endeavors, miring us down in various inboxes, from our email, to our Facebook feed, to tweets, to photos on Instagram. Knowledge workers (I include lawyers in that category) are losing the ability to engage in deep work necessary to be truly successful at a time when it is more necessary than ever. And if we can reclaim the skill to engage in deep work, we will cultivate rare marketable skill. And he proposes some radical solutions to get there (I actually bought this book in a physical hardback form, versus a Kindle or iBooks download thinking that he medium is also the message. As a result of reading this book a bit obsessively, I’m revisiting many of my work habits.

From another podcast I have found Debt by David Graeber. I’m just past the introduction. But I’m already understanding the Occupy movement a little better. I’m not saying that I agree with Graeber (yet). But I’m challenged by the perspective.

Then, on a completely different note, a colleague on a mutual legal project asked me to go into Clarence Darrow’s closing argument in the Leopold and Loeb trial to pull out some quotations for us in our endeavor. This activity has gotten me obsessed with the Leopold and Loeb trial. And it’s inspired me to do something that I’ve never thought of doing before — finding old transcripts from famous trials. The entire Leopold and Loeb transcript is available online, and it’s amazing!