Thursday, 17 July 2014

Beyond Facebook and Twitter...

are Pinterest and Instagram. No, this is not a post about social media. I left Facebook, and then Twitter, almost four years ago. For one, they were addictive and I wasted a lot of time on them, and secondly, I had begun to dislike them for the way in which I found myself performing my life on them. This post, however, is not about those things. I may not have been on social media for a long time, but I am still quite addicted to the Internet. If you quit various forms of social media, barring blogging intermittently, what do you do on the Internet? Well, here is what I do.
Feedly is my crack. It requires setting up, but once done, it is simplicity and beauty itself. Feedly is an RSS reader, which simply means that once you enter the names or URLS of the blogs you want to follow, you can read them all together. I follow a variety of different blogs, changing them as and when fancy strikes. Here are the ones that I enjoy the most.
Design*Sponge: A design blog that includes constellations from the night sky and design icons such as the Sony Walkman and the Chrysler building? Yes, please. Design*Sponge consistently offers high quality articles that open my eyes to the beauty of the world around me, and increase my knowledge of life's aesthetic pleasures. I also like An Indian Summer for its curation of various things Indian.
ModernMrsDarcy: With a name like that, how could I resist? Modern Mrs. Darcy talks of books, movies and tv shows, occasionally meandering into clothes and homeschooling. I also like A Penguin A Week, especially for Karyn's determination to read every book in the Penguin series that she has identified, no matter how forgotten or mundane.
The vegan blog Oh She Glows is my escapist fare. I ogle at all the beautiful pictures of the food, though I have not tried even a single recipe to date. Someday...! I also have a love-hate relationship with the Happiness Project, so I follow it for some time and then am off it, and then back again and so on.
I follow two Indian blogs: Jabberwock by Jai Arjun Singh and Baradwaj Rangan by, well, Baradwaj Rangan. I like their takes on cinema, and Jai Arjun's book reviews are always enjoyable. I owe my introduction to contemporary Indian graphic novels in English to Jabberwock.
On minimalism, I read the usual suspects: Zenhabits, The Minimalists and The Minimalist Woman. I used to follow various other blogs on this topic, but I like to think that I have internalised minimalism to the point where I am minimalist about the minimalist blogs I follow too!
I also like this irreverent and highly relatable blog called GenerationMeh. And surprisingly to me, I follow Seth Godin's blog. I nod in agreement when Seth talks about perseverance, rigour and quality, though he is talking about marketing and consumer relationships while I am thinking life and academia in my head. I especially like the way he uses brevity to increase his impact, which I find myself sadly unable to emulate.
I read a wide variety of parenting blogs, perhaps more than is good for Shabdita or me. I keep changing them though. The ones that I like the most and have been following regularly include Not Just Cute, An Everyday Story and Janet Lansbury. Not Just Cute and Janet Lansbury are about respectful and intentional parenting while an Everyday Story follows the project based homeschooling adventures of a family in Canberra, and has the most inspiring photos and ideas.
So you can see how Feedly keeps me busy. Every day, I have around 10 to 15 blogposts/articles to read on a variety of topics, leaving me carrying out various arguments in my head. It makes for a good day. Also, on a self-promoting note, if you set up Feedly for yourself, you can follow my blog on it too!
Apart from Feedly, I also use Dropbox and Evernote a lot.
While reading or writing, I keep the document in Dropbox, and so can access it from different computers and my phone, which spares me from emailing it to myself all the time.
As for Evernote, I have many different notes in it, and I intend to consolidate them someday in an organisational frenzy. For now, it is a great space to store snippets and ideas, and indulge my fetish of making all sorts of lists. Inspired by a blog post I read, I kept a list of the books I read in 2013, and am now keeping one of those I am reading in 2014. Looking at the list at the end of the year was illuminative: it made me aware of the directions in which my reading was headed (more parenting), what I had enjoyed and what not (some books that are so much fun in the moment can seem dissatisfying later - 'why did I waste so much time on this one?') and suggest possibilities ('I loved this one so much that I am going to track down more books by this author'). I'm toying with the idea of starting a new list, this one of all the films that I see this year.
Another useful aspect of Evernote is that I can make notes of different arguments as they occur to me, then shifting them around and assigning them to papers or chapters. I also have a list of ideas for potential blogposts, and one beautiful day, I shall turn them all into substantial blogposts and inflict them on you. Another app that I use alongside Evernote is Houzz.
As the name suggests, Houzz is an app of home design ideas. I save pictures of rooms I like, in Ideabooks on Houzz (that lets you save pictures that you see on Houzz directly) or by pasting pictures I like into Evernote. These pictures are, at one level, pure fantasy. I am unlikely to become an interior decorator or incorporate every idea into any one home that I have, but these pictures and the possibilities they suggest bring delight, joy and colour into my world. Here is a picture from one of my notes, a great space to curl up with a book:
Last but not the least are Zinio, the Kindle App and Podcasts.
Zinio is an app that lets you read magazines. I use Zinio and my local library subscription together, and download almost every magazine possible, and then read them now and then. I credit my reading of Martha Stewart Living and Australian Architecture to Zinio, as I never actually picked them up in a library. Only having to click on a link to issue a magazine makes you willing to try everything!
Similarly, the Kindle app allows me to buy ebooks as well as download various free ones. In terms of the free ones, there is more chaff than wheat. I like working through them, and deleting the ones which seem irrelevant.
Podcasts are a relatively new discovery for me. I like listening to a podcast as I get some work done alongside. The difference from a radio is that here you can select what you want to listen to, though I actually like the varying rhythms of the radio and not knowing what is going to come up next. This is why I subscribe to podcasts selectively and am less enthusiastic about trying new ones out. They may be wonderful, but I am perfectly content with ABC national radio and You Tube playlists for Indian music. The podcasts I listen to regularly include SBS Hindi and After the Jump, which is the podcast of the Design*Sponge blog. I also like The Broad Experience, which talks about women's professional lives. Finally, I like the Radio Lab for making science interesting to me.
So these apps are my additions to my leisure time, my variations on reading or watching television. In a day spent running after a toddler and protecting everything else in the world from her, it feels good to sit down with my laptop or iPad, with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand, and opening up a transient world with the other. You're welcome to peek into this world or build another of your own.