Three Chairs

“I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.”

– Henry David Thoreau in Walden

Please forgive the repetition, but this has been on my mind lately. Namely, what are my three chairs? Is three chairs a reasonable and good sensible default for ones own approach to digital communication?

I don’t assume I have any right answer to those questions. That said, I have some ideas surrounding them.

Solitude

This could be any for working with ones dialog with self. This could take the form of a paper or digital journal, diary, etc. Those that are familiar with The Artists Way would have this with morning pages. Digitally, projects and services like OhLife and 750 Words might be good. Or local applications like MacJournal. Some may find this reflection and introspection simply with writing to plain text files. Regardless, I think it essential to external communications to first foster a healthy and regular internal one, no matter how one achieves it.

Friendship

This is one to one. It is interpersonal and private by default. Digitally, email would fit this idea. As would instant messaging, SMS, or even a phone call. It is dialog between two people. Unguarded and non-judgmental. It is an open exchange. A honest sharing. The opportunity for back and forth.

Society

This is where a social network may fit in. A forum would fit here as well. Even a blog with comments and an active and engaged readership might fit. The idea is that it should be productive dialog between a limited many. Greater than one-to-one but not so many that the conversation becomes noise and ideas are lost.

What are your three chairs?

The challenge, of course, is to use this as a healthy constraint. To choose three chairs that you are comfortable with and abandon or, at least, greatly decrease the use of others. To let others know of your choice where appropriate. For instance, “I prefer contact via email” or “I’m on Twitter and not on any other social network.” And even then, to have a clear intention about how and when you wish to use those chairs and with whom.

I would also like to think that balance is important here as well. That spending too much time in any one chair adversely affects the others. That the health of our internal dialog reflects well on when engaging our friends and society. That, equally true, the quality of those external engagements feed the quality of the internal. Therefore, choosing each chair with care and purpose is not to be taken lightly.

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