As someone who came of age at the same time the Internet was doing the same, I’ve been a fan and a champion of many of the services that cropped up along the way. I’ve been blogging on and off since the early days. I started using facebook when it was just for college students. I was an early adopter of twitter, and used to feel like it made me an even better writer because it imposed a 140-character limit on what I could write.
I marveled at how the Internet helped connect me to people so far away. I’ve made wonderful friends across the world this way, and still love it for that. Lately, the connection I used to feel seems to have dissipated. I see streams of information wherever I turn. Gone is the reverse chronological order of posts, replaced by algorithms which decide what I see next. The chance to make a connection has been replaced by the goal to get the most attention, and I feel more disconnected than ever.
I look for ways to fill my time, dream of writing something that matters to me, and wonder why I struggle. Oh well, maybe if I just look over here, I might feel inspired.
I forget how to think critically and look for small bytes of information to grasp an understanding. The stream moves so quickly that it’s all I can do to keep up, but the faster it moves, the more I want to try. Should I be mad? Should I be sad? If I don’t say something right away, and on every platform, does it mean I have no feeling about this, or am not empathetic enough?
Slow down, I think. Take a step back. Too many things are trying to grab your attention. Too many services want you to use them to say what you need to say. They measure your “engagement” and tell you your statistics, and how to make those statistics grow. Numbers. Meaningless numbers in the place of meaningful connections.
It’s all noise. Noise to steal your attention away from yourself. Away from the people who are important. Away from the things that need you.
Maybe to take it back, you can go back to the place that really started it. Go back to the thing you loved first, before the other things took you away from there. Try it once, then twice. Maybe a third time. See if those dry roots start to show some signs of life.