“People aren’t taking time for mental reflection anymore…they aren’t slowing down and stopping…they’re not just sitting there. When you have no external input—that is a time when there is a creation of self, when you can try and figure out who you really are. And then once you do that, you can figure out how to present [yourself] in a legitimate way, instead of just dealing with everything as it comes in.”
Amber Case, Cyborg Anthropologist
2010 TED Talk: We are all cyborgs now
I get annoyed by [usually older] people who make broad generalizations about younger generations who are too wrapped up in their phones and social media and the interweb. Yes, there is some truth to the stereotype, but much of the criticism is based on assumptions, such as:
- All “young people” use technology.
- Only young people use technology.
- Young people use technology for frivolous reasons
- Digital experiences and “real-life” experiences are mutually exclusive.
- Real-life experiences are better than digital interactions.
I’m not going to address those fallacies in this blog, but I wanted to share them as a backdrop against Amber Case’s quote, above. The difference between Case’s criticism and most of the criticism I overhear is that Case is pointing out a real consequence—and it’s not a consequence of simply being young or of using your iPhone a lot.
It’s a consequence of too much input, from any source.
No matter how old you are, if you don’t have some time for “just sitting there,” you reduce your opportunities for defining yourself. Too much external input—whether from Facebook, or reality TV, or senior group outings, or sports clubs—prevents us from knowing ourselves and developing ourselves.
I confess that I’m too busy right now. I don’t have time for “just sitting there” with my thoughts, and I think my writing is suffering.
I have about 42 blog posts in “draft” stage because I haven’t had time to just sit there and fully develop the thinking that prompted them. They remain half-formed, incomplete ideas. I don’t want to give up on them because I think they are important and potentially interesting. But I can’t release them into the world in their current state.
So for now, they are just sitting there.