I use social media. Specifically, I use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. In the beginning, I did so for utilitarian purposes. As a columnist and aspiring writer of books, these were (and indeed are) useful marketing tools.
I have, in the past, carried around a note-pad to jot down ideas. I was never without my note-pad. I always wanted a small legal-pad with a blue or black gel-ink pen. It was my ritual; have idea, make observation, enter with date.
Then along came the smartphone. The idea is sound, of course. Why carry a pen and pad when you can simply enter things on the phone? Either by text or voice? Indeed. I did that. Some.
But over time, a transition occurred. I began to write my ideas as short blips on social media; specifically Twitter and Facebook. Observations, lessons, insights, daily life. Like too many users of social media, I deluded myself that everyone wanted to read about my every thought or experience. The same phenomenon is rampant in platforms like Snapchat and Instagram. Life as photographic or videographic stream of consciousness.
What happens next? The constant striving to be clever or interesting. I’ve faced this. The need for clicks, likes, shares, and all of the other electronic validation of our inner life and outer existence. The search for acceptance. Like a computer-based revisitation of high school.
As writers give their snippets of insight to Mark Zuckerberg and others, they (we) constantly hurry to come up with new ideas, cool sound-bites, memes. And in the end, we lose some profound things.
We lose the ability to plumb a thought deeply. To dive into motivations and experiences. Rather than letting it evolve over days, weeks or months before we allow it to be born into the light of day, we deliver prematurely. Ideas born this way are often still-born, or badly afflicted and compromised in the interest of speed and approval.
We also lose creativity in general. We provide content, not art, not thought. In part because of the above; a constant desire to get attention. But also because we use our infernal devices so much that we are distracted. And rather than think to ourselves, read something great, look at art, build in our yards or houses, or any other thing, we simply click and are entertained and distracted. Along the way, we embroil ourselves in disputes that will never be resolved in snippets and quips, in link or counter-link. And we become stupid.
It allowed me to go from note-pad and pen to portable “distractophone.” Sure, I get interesting and sometimes relevant news. Yes, I take wonderful photos of the people I love. But maybe I’d have been better off with pad, paper, and camera. Maybe.
My point is this. If you want to create, as a blogger, author, columnist, poet, painter, sculptor, musician or anything else, do not allow the Internet or its tiny pocket minions to control you.
I am on a new mission to reclaim my life and writer well once more. To write deeply. To challenge and inspire. To find the voice I allowed to be muffled.
And to write down the things that matter, in a way that is not dependent on screen time, shares, links or anything else related to my own fragile and ludicrious ego.
Creation, not captivity.
May you do the same.
Edwin Leap is an emergency physician who blogs at edwinleap.com and is the author of the Practice Test and Life in Emergistan.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com