A recent New York Times piece titled, “The Joy of Quiet” implies that Americans are too connected for our own good. Apparently we are constantly distracting ourselves with new information and that, “we have more and more ways to communicate, but less and less to say.”
Author Pico Iyer makes a very solid point in this post about needing to give ourselves time to think, but I think he places too much of the blame on our connectivity, and not enough on our personal decisions while in that state of connectedness.
Iyer makes several points, but the one I take most issue with is that we are becoming a less creative society because of our inability to disconnect from the constant stream of information that we’re consuming and producing. The current trend (solution) to this “problem” seems to be removing ourselves from everything digital. That by going analog and isolating ourselves from such stimuli, we will be more likely to have creative thoughts.
Everyone has their own methods for creativity of course, but do the majority of us really spawn original thinking by depriving our minds of new things?
My hypothesis is that most of us benefit more from the Medici Effect of thinking. The larger the diversity of art, ideas, people, and experiences we expose ourselves too, the more likely it is that we’ll find unique intersections which lead to amazing new remixes and inventions.
People have a very active choice in what exactly they’re spending their time being connected to. What they read. Who they talk to. Where they consume information. All of these things are completely in our control. Our biggest problem is not overexposure itself, but rather the content we’re exposing ourselves to.
Removing yourself from the digital world is a band-aid. Shifting your behavior to interact with ideas and people that are more mentally stimulating (than your current state) is a means to spurring a more creative you. You don’t need time to think, you need time to execute on your thoughts.
The image above this blog post implies a certain kind of content is a waste of your time. I don’t want to go into the right and wrong types of connectivity you should participate in, but I will however make a few recommendations:
1) Change and add to your news sources often.
2) Read non-fiction offline and online with Wikipedia readily available. You’ll go down a wonderful rabbit-hole of learning.
3) Use discovery tools/sites like Kippt, Reddit, and Digg to seek out new categories of content to dig into.
4) Try to recreate or remix tangible objects that you find on visual networks (Pinterest). The process of copying can reveal new and better ways to make things.
5) Don’t lock yourself away in a dungeon. This is a horribly inefficient way to be creative.