Articles used to come to me fully formed. Ideas would visit my mind; most evaporated, but some would nest there. I would feed them with experiences, readings and conversations. In moments of life, they grew; in moments of boredom, they fledged. I might have been walking or showering, and complete paragraphs would simply flow out of my head to appear before my eyes. I had only to reach out and hold on to them long enough to write them down.
This doesn’t happen anymore and I suspect I know why.
Nowadays, I vomit my ideas. They have barely reached me that I send them back, thumbs on phone, to a hodgepodge of people who may or may not be interested. Ideas don’t get to mature or prove themselves wrong. They just land with a thump and a few likes and die at the whim of an algorithm.
Much has been written about the narcissism of Facebook or how smartphones make us dumb. I won’t repeat it here because I don’t agree with a lot of it. But as Douglas Coupland wrote, I miss my pre-Internet brain. I worry that I’m losing my creativity – or rather that I keep tapping the tank before it gets a chance to fill up. As I have gained breadth of knowledge, I have lost deepness of thought. It’s not of much value to my audience and it’s really not good for me.
So here’s what I’m doing about it: in 2018, perhaps not for the whole year but at least for the foreseeable future, I am no longer posting on Facebook. I am keeping my thoughts and ideas to myself, not selfishly but because if they are worth anything, they’ll eventually make it into a more thoughtful essay you can read on LinkedIn or on my blog. If not, you’ll be spared.* I have teetered on the edge of this all of 2017: I posted less – you probably didn’t notice – and deleted the app multiple times. There’s no time like January 2nd to make a bold move.
I am not mad at Facebook and I am not “quitting Facebook.” I am a half day in and my thumbs are twitching the second I think of something witty to share, which is how I know I need this mental discipline. This is an experiment in rewiring my brain. I am reclaiming my creativity and my depth, and the boredom that makes them happen. I will explore these ideas further in my writing – when my muse is no longer mad at me – in 2018.
Happy new creative year!
*Practical details: I will still share my articles on Facebook because I realize that’s how many of you discover content. I will of course continue posting on LinkedIn because it’s my job and because the platform is built in a way that enriches, rather than depletes, my creativity. (That’s not my professional bias talking, I promise.) I am deleting other broadcasting apps like Instagram and Snapchat, but I’m keeping all two-way communication apps open, and gladly. You can talk to me on Whatsapp, Messenger, Telegram, iMessage… and I hope you will.