Ubiquity of Social Media: You Can Get Away

By Rob Patterson

Like it or not, social media is an integral element of modern life. As with any paradigm shift as well as form of entertainment that can be sometimes addictive, questions must be asked.

That’s why I found a recent blog I came across, “Is Social Media Hurting Your Band’s Creativity?” quite interesting. And especially so as it was posted on the website for Bandzoogle, a program that helps musicians build and maintain their websites. Its writer noted how over a week’s vacation away from his computer and the constant pull of Facebook notifications and Twitter updates, he noticed a surge of creative ideas. That led him to wonder if social media hurts creative output. I don’t wonder. I know it does.

In recent years I’ve spent far too much time on Facebook. It’s a tendency that results to some degree from working alone at home. The site provides a place to interact in ways I might get from a workplace.

But since the beginning of the year I have taken long hiatuses from Facebook, and it’s been a positive move.

The site can be a nice respite, but also a huge time suck that takes me away from the work I should be doing.

With nearly 1,600 friends – the majority of them people I knew already or had some contact with prior to social media — merely scrolling through posts can waste valuable time.

But beyond just the time involved, there is the phenomenon that the blogger noted of how social media clogs the mind with information that gets in the way of creative thinking. I found this when I took long stretches away from Facebook, and suddenly my muse was more fertile.

I was recently working on a screenplay I was hired to write from a story idea. With that as my focus, and Facebook breaks set aside, I found myself in that joyous creative state where good stuff was continuing to pop into my mind.

The blog linked to an article in the New York Times that explored how “digital downtime” allows the mind to process information, and cited studies that back the contention. We don’t just need time to smell the roses away from the bombardment of messages in this digital age, but also, like poet William Blake, ponder the rose as well.

I have yet to use Twitter and doubt I will (and have noticed that after a surge of Twitter posts also appearing on Facebook when the service started, I haven’t seen any in a while, which tells me that for many it was a fad).

There’s something that irks me about only being able to communicate in 140 characters. The blog notes how musician John Mayer was a dedicated Tweeter with four million followers, and gave it up as it was stunting his ability to think beyond that limit.

Hence I’ve gotten into a mode where I strive to find ways and reasons to get away from the computer. A computer savvy friend and I were recently pondering how we might make a killing in the digital marketplace, and my thought was a social network that led people to disconnect and actually socialize face to face.

Sure, computers and the Internet have been a boon to communication and accessing news and information. But I also wonder if it has created some of the problems of shallow thinking that infect current politics. If you read it on the Internet it isn’t necessarily true. And analytical thinking always trumps reacting.

So the invite I got on Facebook to join Google+ languishes. And as the weather cools down, long vigorous walks where I think are just what my internal doctor has called for.

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2011


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