I just read an interesting post by A Dragon’s Best Friend on how social media makes his mind whizz and asking the question ‘when does it ever switch off’. I can empathise with a number of the issues raised in this excellent post. I started to write a comment in response…but as I typed, the comment got longer and longer, until it felt like it was really worthy of a post in it’s own right…so here is my reflections on the questions he raised:
Is social media affection our attention span? I just started reading ‘The Shallows’ which starts with the premise that the internet (& other tech) is changing how our brains are wired – not just how we behave but physiologically too. I’m only half way through it (as I got distracted reading the Social Animal….also well worth a read. Oh dear… I realise that may simply prove my own lack of concentration?). I don’t have a problem with this concept…technology constantly changes society and our physiology (doesn’t it?). Sportsmen and sportswomen are faster, stronger and quicker – at least in part because of advances in sports technology. It happens… I’ve noticed that most of my writing these days tends to be around the 1000 word mark. When I’m asked to write substantially longer articles I find it much harder. But when I was at college I was more accustomed to writing longer essays (and the difficulties writing them was not down to my writing habits…more to do with alternative things to do). Do we need to worry about it? I’m not panicking yet.
Like you I do find myself often buzzing with ‘stuff’ from interesting conversations on twitter (mostly twitter…not always, but for me, it’s far more common to provide a stimulating discussion than other platforms). Personally I do still feel fairly able to switch things off though. Maybe that’s because it is the ‘off’…the creative outlet for thinking that makes me relax….rather than the ‘must do’ pressure that work can generate.
I also think that my brain has something of an in-built safety valve….as i reach the point of needing to switch off, i see my tweets becoming more jovial, pithy and less serious…and my conversations become less thought-provoking and more relaxing. It’s obviously not the same as ‘switching off’ totally, but it does slow down the brain-mania a little.
Another interesting issue you mentioned is expectations….how often you tweet, blog etc etc…
I’ve got contradictory thoughts here – several far more successful bloggers than me that I know all swear the way to build up your blog is to post every day. Little and often is there mantra – if the goal is to generate increased regular traffic….but my brain and my diary don’t work like that. I have periods of heavy twitter use and then days (usually ones where I’m looking after the kids) where I barely tweet at all. I’d love to blog more frequently than I do, and often I get as far as having something to say which never makes it out of my head – I would say that about 20% of the posts I ‘think’ ever make it onto my blog. then there are other times where I just feel a bit uninspired to write anything…and so I don’t. I don’t feel too much pressure to post during these times (though I do get irritated with myself for not converting thoughts into postings…that’s my bugbear!)
Essentially I think it really depends on what you’re looking to get out of blogging, or tweeting or whatever. For me (and I’ve never really thought about this much, so I’m grateful to you for posing the question!), I guess it’s partly about my work – wanting to maintain a profile and reputation for the work I do (and thinking is part of this), partly it’s social – connecting with people (some of whom I know, others I don’t…except through online chatter). And partly it’s about writing for my own pleasure – whether that’s venting my spleen over issues that make me angry, exploring ideas that are floating around and probably half baked (as a way to clarify my thinking). Sometimes – like this – I read something which makes me think and I just want to respond. I often don’t know where I’m going to end up….i just start with a thought and see where it takes me.
Like writing this post, which was only going to be a comment on your blog, but somehow ended up being a bit long for that…so it became a post in its own right!J