Something struck me just a moment ago as I was furiously scrambling between tabs and Google Analytics to check usage of one of the umpteen sites I seem to be writing for (mostly blogs, etc.). Part of this are the blurred lines between my professional and personal selves, but stay with me for a bit. I dashed between this, Google+, Twitter, less so Facebook but every so often I would wander there and then a thought sort of crept in there, in the dark matter right up front above my eyes.

I suspect I need to be less social.

And not the kind of aloof, antisocialness of the physical sort. I don’t want to stand in a corner and act distant. I am talking downtime from the online sociality that seems to dominate my current manner of living. This type of sociality has given me untold benefits (a few degrees for one, a large part of my professional existance on the other), but has extracted a price as well. It has stolen a bit of my reflective space. That solitude for long-term extraction of meaning from activity. We are meant to ponder every so often and I have been neglecting that bit for awhile.

So here I stand using an offline document, listening to music, and writing with my wireless firmly shut off. Nothing monumental here, just an acknowledgement that perhaps my writing has suffered from endless skittish reflection, a kinetic restlessness that has noticeably altered my writing into blips and stoccato bursts of pseudo-wit. Not real wit or intelligence, just shuffling along the surface of something meaningful. The wit of not being caught without a chair when the music stops. So perhaps it is time to go dig a bit into the internal, that calm of mindfulness. To acknowledge that being social, even online, extracts often as much as it injects. Occasionally, and I mean only occasionally, the price is too high. Personally, that is. Professionally, it is my lifeblood.


A division of labor is in order; on Flickr, I reflect. On my blog, I make sense of these reflections. These are tools of creation. On Twitter, Facebook, I consume and occasionally banter. Connect a bit. Grow tired more often than I should. On LinkedIn, I collect my professional self, but give to it as much as I think it is due (I leash it). For the time being then, I will revert to my tools of creation, my blogs and Flickrs. Search for “Seoul sunset” or “Paris morning” and then click Slideshow and watch a world of reflection roll by. Naked eyes seeing for the first time. Someone else’s perfect place; profound moment. And then I write and it all makes sense again.

Or better yet, go for a walk or a bike ride in the evening with my wife and enjoy the last few weeks of Princeton. And then, when in Seoul, I suspect my Flickr slideshows will “Princeton autumn” or “D&R Canal Trail” because I am wistful like that. Ideally, a wistful balance of the past and the present, the future unfolding through work, patience, love. Social, yes, but a less aggressive, immediate social universe. One reflectively balance. Mindfully calm, joyous.


By Michael Gallagher

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

One thought on “Reflective space, or the merits of social detachment (Michael+ as Google-)”
  1. Nice post, well written and really captures the soul draining effect social media can have on you. I actually enjoyed not having a great internet connection at the beach this year. By the way, have you seen this quote:

    Facebook is like jail. You sit around, waste time, have a profile picture, write on walls and get poked by guys you don’t really know

    Funny, but not far off the target!

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