About a month ago, I spent several hours doing a self-assessment of my life. I wasn’t sleeping well, which was a huge problem since I already wasn’t sleeping much. Usually, I can overcome a lack in quantity by an increase in quality, but when both of those things are bad, I find myself in a really tough spot.
It felt like I had thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis much to do and thiiiiiiiiis much time to do it. Something had to give. Experiencing that for a few days is one thing (the week leading up to a Kickstarter launch for example), but I had been in that situation for months. It wasn’t good for my family, my mind, or my health.
But as I assessed everything, what I realized is that it wasn’t actually a time problem. The time was there. It was an energy and attention problem.
My time wasn’t being well spent. It was like my watch had a hole in it.
The great algorithm gods in the sky must have known my struggle as YouTube started recommending lots of videos related to this issue. Writers, biologists, psychologists, professors, and former Facebook employees were all posting content with a central premise: The current state of social media is a problem.
Platforms that originally functioned to keep people connected have become much better at tearing us apart. Algorithms that used to show us what we cared about most were altered to show us what would keep our attention the longest.
Companies have spent billions of dollars figuring out how to get us to spend as much time scrolling through their news feeds as possible. The more time we spend scrolling, the more money they make, and the less time we spend on things of actual value.
As I took a good, hard look at my time, I realized I was spending a ridiculous amount of it scrolling. I’d sit down for a meal and scroll. I’d push my son on the swing-set and scroll. I’d wait on my wife to get ready for a date and scroll. I’d edit a podcast and scroll. I’d take a “two-minute” break from working on something worthwhile and thirty minutes later realize I had been scrolling the whole time. I’d sit on the toilet and scroll until my legs fell asleep.
This had to stop.
It’s not like scrolling was improving my life in any way, and a strong case could easily be made that it was making things worse.
And even though I wasn’t wasting my time getting caught up on useless political debate or hopping on board the latest outrage train, I was watching them unfold. And I think that’s a lot of us. Several studies have shown that the vast majority of posts on social media platforms come from a very small minority of users. It’s like a car crash on the side of the highway. Most of us have enough sense to drive around it, but we sure spend a lot of time staring at the carnage as we pass by.
And just like rubber-necking slows us down to a crawl on the highway, scrolling through a news feed slows down our productivity to a near standstill.
Upon realizing how much of my attention was being gobbled up in scrolling, I unlocked my phone and started to delete the social media apps from my phone. But as I started the process and watched as the app icons danced around the screen, I hesitated.
I wasn’t sure if I could do it. What were the consequences of deleting these things from my life? Did I actually want to? If I removed the scapegoat of what was wasting my time, was I prepared to place the blame on myself going forward?
I deleted the Twitter app first. It wasn’t a particularly hard decision because I hate Twitter, and I didn’t spend much time on it anyway. But as my finger hovered over Facebook, I paused for a while.
I thought about all the good things about Facebook and specifically about the BGDL Facebook community. It’s basically the only place I post and comment, and it’s full of nearly 9,000 people all trying to accomplish the same thing I am – to design great games people love.
I closed my phone. I needed a plan.
I didn’t need to delete Facebook from my life. I needed to control it and make it work for me.
I jotted down some notes:
-Delete the Facebook app from my phone.
-See what’s happening in the BGDL group 2-3 times a day, but only using my laptop.
-Avoid scrolling the news feed at all costs.
And about a month ago, that’s what I started doing, and life has definitely not gotten worse.
Instead of scrolling, I now spend more time talking to the people I care about most. My productivity has gone way up, and I’m getting more done in less time. My kids don’t have to pull on my shirt to get me to look up from my phone to pay attention to them. I’m more active in the BGDL group because my time is more focused and purposeful. I’m reading more. I’m writing more. I’m getting better sleep.
Will doing something similar work for you? Maybe. I’m not here proclaiming some “right” way to live, and your mileage may vary. But it’s definitely worked for me.
Searching for a Better Way
A little over a year ago, I started brainstorming and thinking through what it would look like to create a website where the BGDL community could live. The Facebook group was going strong, but even way back then I was very aware of the limitations and downsides of the platform.
I wanted a site with all the best parts of a Facebook community while getting rid of the worst.
I wanted a place for game designers to hang out that was made for us and by us.
I wanted a platform that was focused on helping designers create great games people love.
I wanted training courses to help people grow as designers.
I wanted forums to ask questions.
I wanted a calendar to organize Kickstarter launches, conventions, and playtest events.
I wanted a job board for freelancers to find opportunities and for publishers to find amazing people to work with.
I wanted a blog where people could post articles and design diaries.
I wanted a way for people to create groups and sub-groups around activities and their designs.
I wanted a way to track game design time.
I wanted a random game idea generator.
I wanted monthly design challenges.
I wanted an incredible mobile experience.
And I wanted a news feed that worked for us, not against us.
No algorithms. No data harvesting and selling it to the highest bidder. No drunk uncles.
And after a year of a tremendous amount of work, BGDL+ is almost here.
Is it the perfect solution? No. But I hope you’ll join me in the search for a platform that provides a better way.
Even with all those features, this is just the ground floor, and I’m super excited for what’s ahead.
Thanks for being an amazing community, and I can’t wait to share BGDL+ with you soon!