Blowing bubbles

In our always-on, real-time, infinite scroll world, why would a website periodically close?

On Friday evening each week, the Uncommon site goes quiet for 24 hours. During that time, someone who stops by, whether a member or not, sees a lovely page explaining that the site is currently closed. We call it sunset.

Sunset reminds us to find inspiration beyond our screens; to stop for a moment, close the laptop, and put down the phone. To make room for meandering conversations with friends, find new paths through familiar neighborhoods, and be fully present in the moment.

Over the past few years, I’ve read article after article about how to have a healthy relationship with technology, how to find balance and resist the addictive pull.

Many sites and services, though, are specifically designed to overcome our resistance. Success is when someone wonders where the last few hours went. And our resistance is lowest when we’re tired from a long week of work and constant decision-making, grocery shopping and classes, daycare logistics and figuring out how to make rent. Like on Friday nights, for example.

The myriad of think pieces and essays have a common thread: the onus is on us. If only we have sufficient willpower, change this setting, try a little harder, we can thwart the proven methods of the most effective, well-funded companies around.

I don’t look at it that way. We have responsibility, of course, but let’s not pretend it’s a fair fight. At some point, the people who make decisions about how sites and apps work have to take a stand on behalf of the people who use them.

That’s all the sunset page is, just a whisper amidst the noise: We’re on your side.


The latest dispatch asked, Do you have a favorite team, past or present?

Elizabeth wrote:

My favorite team at the moment, without a doubt, is West Ham United Football Club. A few years ago, my dad and brother joined the ranks of American football fans paying attention to the Premier League. With my dad supporting Tottenham and my brother supporting Chelsea, I decided that I needed a team of my own. So, loving an underdog, I picked a random team towards the bottom of the table whose claret-and-blue kits I liked. And so my love for West Ham was born. As I've gotten to know the club more and more, I've been pleased to learn that West Ham really is the team for me, from their tradition of blowing bubbles at home games to their current Croatian manager-rockstar Slaven Bilic. I am studying abroad this semester and just got my ticket in the mail to go to the Boleyn Ground and watch them play for the first time. I cannot wait (just like I cannot wait for us to beat Arsenal on April 9th!).

Read the rest of the replies here, featuring everything from roller derby to Australian Rules Football. Enjoy a passionate case for competition, thoughts on what it means to be a true fan, and other insights into the art of living.

If you're not a member yet, please join us. Uncommon isn't an email in your inbox. We're reimagining community online as we meet new friends, share our favorite things, savor Table for Six conversations, and much more to come. You make this bold adventure possible. We've saved a spot just for you on the front porch.

Uncommon reads

Is group chat making you sweat? by Jason Fried:

It’s common in the software industry to blame the users. It’s the user’s fault. They don’t know how to use it. They’re using it wrong. They need to do this or do that. But the reality is that tools encourage specific behaviors. A product is a series of design decisions with a specific outcome in mind. Yes, you can use tools as they weren’t intended, but most people follow the patterns suggested by the design. And so in the end, if people are exhausted and feeling unable to keep up, it’s the tool’s fault, not the user’s fault. If the design leads to stress, it’s a bad design.

How Should We Be Bored? by Ellie Violet Bramley:

And it’s in the context of this hyper-connected reality that a type of nerve-y inattention, often brought on by information/entertainment overload has, to my mind, blossomed to become one version of modern boredom (with the obvious caveat that it’s one hugely privileged version). A grimy kind of boredom – frazzling, but with a residual sense of guilt.

Your turn

What's your favorite way to enjoy a sunset?