“Wealth is now defined, at least in part, by the ability to be offline whenever you want” Fernando Gros.
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Blog // Thoughts
February 15, 2019

This Week I Quit Houzz

A popular interior design platform is the latest in the “This Week I Quit” series. Houzz has had its last week in my digital ecosystem.

It began in a familiar way. An email. We’ve had a security breach. We recommend you change your password. And I wonder, should I bother? Why not just delete my account?

This time it’s Houzz. A cool platform for interior design ideas. From 2011 to 2014, this was a bit of an obsession. I moved house (and country) twice in as many years. I had to set up homes in Singapore, then Tokyo, almost from scratch, having lived for the five previous years in a serviced apartment in Hong Kong with most of my belongings in long-term storage.

But, however helpful Houzz has been, once the need to think about interior design faded away, it was just another thing I’d signed up for, then forgot about.

Except there wasn’t a total forgetting, since reminders, like this security email, kept popping up. Interior design was a project. But joining a platform is like being in a relationship.

This is a cost of digital technology we don’t often talk about. This time it happened to be Houzz. But over recent years, the process has played out over and over again. It started with Tumblr. [IL1] And it’s become a journey into digital minimalism.

I find myself asking, each time, what contribution does this thing make? If it makes none, then it goes away. Because bad commitments are like bad habits and bad relationships. They fragment us. They leave us open to letting our attention drift away from being our best selves.

I think we underappreciate the cost of digital commitments. How can a password and login be costly? Do these digital shadows really haunt us?

I believe they do. They’re always waiting to call us. It’s like that mess in a cupboard that at some random moment you remember needs to be cleaned. But then you don’t do it. Because it’s not a priority. Or you tell yourself “out of sight, out of mind.” At least until it pops back into your mind. Or you have to open the cupboard.

There’s a tension between the way our human minds work and the digital versions of our minds we create online and in our devices. Our fleshy brains forget, and this isn’t a bad thing. But our digital minds don’t.

I first thought about this when quitting Facebook nearly 10 years ago. I had found myself suddenly beset by people I hadn’t heard from since school. But it wasn’t an accident that these people were no longer in my life. I chose not to have them around. I forgot and moved on. Which is what becoming an adult is all about. We aren’t meant to set our relationships in stone at a young age. We are meant to leave room in our lives to grow.

But, Facebook said no, you have to keep that door open. Why? Because someone who was not an expert in either human psychology or human history thought it was a good idea. No thank you.

Given Marie Kondo’s recent popularity. the joke has spread in whispers online about whether you could Marie Kondo your social life. Well yes, of course, you should. This is how people function.

We should Marie Kondo our digital life as well. Yes, of course! Does this platform or website spark joy? Let’s be honest. Few of them do! At least not forever.

None of this is to say Houzz is a bad platform. I liked using it. It helped me design two lovely homes. It works well and has good features.

But, when it comes time to designing another home, I want to work differently: from books rather than websites. My way of working with inspiration, ideas and projects is changing.

So, in the best Marie Kondo way, I put my hand on the screen, touched the email from Houzz, said thank you, and then hit delete.

This Week I Quit is an occasional series where I share experiences of quitting apps, platforms, habits and commitments in a quest to live a simpler and more focussed creative life. Last time I Quit Omnifocus and you can read the rest of the series here.

Responses
Victoria 9 months ago

About Facebook making us continue relationships forever, I was thinking exactly about that the other day. It is not distance or lack of contact or seeing each other in a place everyday what makes us get out of touch anymore, but Facebook algorythms. A lot of people that I sued to see pictures and posts in general of, just simply dont show up anymore, for whatever reason. Maybe they deleted me, maybe they quitted Facebook just like you, maybe they still have it but dont look at it or post there anymore, for whatever reason, facebook ended up deciding somehow who I would lose contat with. Of course it was not Facebook, it was bound to happen naturally as it used to be, people simply stop being part of your life, as it naturally happens. And I thought with Facebook that would change, but it turns out it didnt change, the people who were supposed to go they just did, I didnt even see it happening, i didnt even notice and it was done. A lot of people are still there, as a profile picture or name in the form of a link that I have around my account somewhere, and it bothers me, I want to talk to them but maybe they dont or they are busy or what would we talk about, but for whatever reason, i cant Marie Kondo them (love that it is a verb now) and there they are, waiting for me to say hi on facebook; of course they arent, but in my mind they are always there showing up on a website and even if we have each other on fb, maybe we will never talk or see each other ever again, as it sometimes should be.

Agostina 9 months ago

It is truly awing how those emails, newsletters, etc etc etc etc etc are just there. I think Im getting a useful email or not useful but something I really want to see, but there it is, that newsletter I signed up ages ago and only read two of them, there it is, that app that “misses” me, and I pay not much attention to it but there it is in the form of digital clutter and it bothers me so but I never declutter, I never delete my accounts I just wait till they go to oblivion, sometimes send them to spam, sometimes ignore them, but even if I ignore them, there they are in the background, filling up my email account with unopened emails. Good for you for achieving what we all eagerly desire!

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