Solitude vs. Social Media

Solitude = alone with your thoughts.

Social media = alone with everyone else’s thoughts.

In the former, you arrive at conclusions based on what you are thinking.

In the latter, you arrive at conclusions based on what everyone else is thinking.

Solitude shapes your opinion by forcing you to spend quality time inside your own head.

Social media shapes your opinion by baking it inside an echo chamber created by algorithms.

That’s not to say there isn’t value in what other people say.

Quite the opposite. Challenging your own perspective is important for the global discussion.

But, what value is there in being reactive?

An approach like this doesn’t take all perspectives into account, nor does it take the time to get to the heart of the issue.

And is it worth spending so much time analyzing what someone else says, anyway?

Maybe. If what they say affects your life.

But, most things people say don’t.

So, why do you listen to them?

Or me?

Solitude or Isolation

Right now, you might feel confused, constricted or frustrated.

You might find yourself facing the crossroads of solitude and isolation.

There is a difference:

Solitude is being alone without being lonely.

Isolation is being lonely whether or not you’re alone.

In the last decade or so, solitude has become a luxury, an afterthought, or something in between.

Now it’s a necessity.

Walking alone with your thoughts, being in nature, letting the sun fill your body, mind and soul.

That is life.

Doing good, focused work that helps someone else.

That is also life.

In the social media age, minutes pass while anxiety builds. There comes a point when the amount of information we consume starts to lose its value–especially if it’s one-sided.

Spending hours scrolling through social media feeds to get the latest on the latest, or binge watching Netflix in order to escape the cold, hard realities of life: that’s simply waiting for the inevitable.

This is a rare opportunity. Don’t waste it distracting yourself from yourself.

Right now, you can choose solitude or isolation.

So, which will it be?

Choosing

Happiness and Creativity

A person is who they are for a number of reasons, one of the main ones being that they are influenced by their inputs. What you consume has a huge influence on what you produce, and being deliberate about your consumption means you will be deliberate about what you create.

In a previous post, I mentioned that I am quitting my day job. One of my objectives for this new journey is to focus on developing my ability to choose happiness over wealth, creativity over recognition.

Happiness and creativity must be kept separate from wealth and recognition, because the former are things you can control, while the latter are not.

To Help Friends

Another part of my journey is to focus on helping loved ones, with no expectation of receiving anything in return.

This last weekend, I helped my cousin take a load of garbage to the dump. This wasn’t just any garbage. This was disgusting mattresses and moldy carpet covered in cat piss.

But, I didn’t mind doing it. In fact, I kind of enjoyed doing it, because it felt good to help him. Afterward, I felt energized to do more.

That being said, this new adventure may take me to dire straits at some point down the road, but having friends to lean on is a comforting thought.

The takeaway for me is this: I should expect to ask for help at some point down the road, without expecting to receive it.

Future Prospects

I am becoming increasingly of the mind that I never want to go to another job interview again. However, this may just mean I need to shift my perspective about possible job interviews in the future.

The thing is, I’ve always approached job interviews from a place of scarcity and desperation, which makes me nervous and anxious. This is now how I wish to show up in the world. I want to get to a place where an interview means I am the one interviewing the company.

I don’t want to see if I’m a good fit for them; I want to see if they are a good fit for me.

While the thought of being an employee again grows less and less attractive, I am aware of the possibility that I may end up hating self-employment. If that ends up being the case, I’ll need to be sure that my next job search yields a beneficial outcome.

A job is an input. It takes up space in your brain. If that’s the case, I want to be deliberate about which jobs I allows into my life.

The same could be said for my relationships.

Solitude

Both writing and spending time in nature are activities of solitude. The different is that one is output, and one is input.

I’ve been listening to “Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport on Audible. One of the key purposes of practicing digital minimalism is to re-claim solitude.

Solitude allows us to think our own thoughts, free from input from others.

Part of the problem with social media is that it robs one of solitude if they spend too much time on it. This is a result of not being deliberate about inputs.

Final Question

Today, have you:

  • Helped someone else?
  • Spent quality time with your loved ones?
  • Spent time in nature?

Minimalism, Social Media and Convenience

I recently moved out to a rural area, and while I have internet, it’s not exactly optimized for streaming video, which means I watch far less TV and read a lot more than I did when I was in the city. To me, it’s a perfect example of how your environment affects your behavior.

More and more I’ve been realizing how detrimental the excesses of convenience can be to my personal development, so I’ve been trying to use “inconveniences” (like limits on internet usage) to my advantage. When I have less to work with, I find creative uses for what I’ve already got. In short, I’m more likely to take action because there is less out here to distract me.

I took a social media detox last July, and wrote about my experience here. I’ve rarely logged in to social media since, and am quickly reminded why every time I log in.

I also quit Netflix over a year ago and have never looked back. Netflix and other streaming services are included in those excesses of convenience I mentioned previously. For the most part, I avoid TV shows like the plague because it’s so easy to binge. I’d rather read long form stories than watch them.

Filling Your Pockets

I see life like a jacket with a shit ton of pockets which society pressures us to keep full at all times. There is no apparent reason to fill these pockets other than the person next to us is filling their pockets, too. And so is everyone else.

The problem, of course, is that the more you have in your pockets, the harder it gets to move around. It takes significantly more energy to take a single step, than it would be if the jacket was less full. I guess I’m just trying to pay attention to what I’m carrying, and fill my pockets with the right stuff, without overflowing them.

Moving into a tiny home prompted me to get rid of a lot of junk. Not having as much stuff in my physical space has allowed me to focus more on what matters. I view work in a different way, and consistently return to the question of why I do any given task. The purpose is to create purpose.

To help me get into this mindset each day, I make my bed first thing in the morning. This kicks my brain into gear, so I can move on to my next task, which is always either writing or exercise (depending on the day).

I’ve also been using Google Calendar to organize my days, so each hour, I know what it’s time to work on (or if it’s time to take a break).

The Perceived Relevance of Social Media

I don’t use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. — basically, all of the tools that many say are required to be “relevant”. I’m not exactly sure what that even means. From what I’ve seen, most content on social media is relevant only to itself and inconsequential to all else. It’s junk food for the mind.

Any value equated with social media can be acquired in a much cleaner way from physical, social interaction, nature and books.

These services have tricked us into believing they are necessary for us to live meaningful lives. And I take issue with that, especially because each of us could do more good for the world if our default state was something other than “distracted”. Everyone is looking for answers inside the screen, when the answers aren’t there to begin with.

That’s my belief, anyway. Of course, I’m always happy to engage in civil discourse on the subject.

Writing and the Day Job

Writing Lessons

Creating threads. I find that as I go through subsequent drafts, I add more things, and re-arrange them. For instance, midway through the story, I might think of something and create a new thread to add more depth to my characters, and then go back to an earlier part of the story and write in the kick-off to the thread there. It’s like putting together a puzzle. Finding where things go, removing pieces that don’t quite fit and placing them somewhere else.

Writing Every Day. This, to me is one of the most important things you can do as a writer. Otherwise, you waste mental energy deciding whether or not you want to sit and write in any given day. 

Reading More. Reading helps me write better. Knowing the right words to put down on the page takes practice and an understanding of good prose.

Social media is a destroyer of attention spans. Everything in our society has to be acquired right now for little to no effort. This is detrimental and anathema to being a good writer. To write well requires a large amount of focus and attention to nuance, which are all mostly lost on social media. Maybe I’m just an old man, but for me, social media does more harm than good. On top of that, it takes people away from reading books. So does TV. 

Writing 1000 words a day

Getting out all my thoughts on the page is really important. I find that it helps me process things and arrive at conclusions I wouldn’t have otherwise. My life is a process of experimentation right now, and reorganizing my schedule has been the result of figuring out what is important to me (and what’s not) by writing out my thoughts.

This is better than just sitting and thinking about these things, because thought without action is nothing, and writing is action.

But, it can’t stop there. In order to have interesting things to write about, you need to have interesting experiences. 

Day Job

I guess that’s another thing about my day job. Being chained next to my computer all day prevents me from doing a lot of things. I can’t have certain experiences. It would be very difficult to garden or just take a nature walk, for instance, with my current situation.

There is so much I’d be able to do if I didn’t have this day job nipping at my heels. So, yeah…I’m going to get out of this really soon. I need to. 

Then, I can finally write about shit besides my day job. I’m tired of writing about my day job. There’s nothing to speak of that I haven’t already said. I know how I feel about it. I need to quit. 

I just need to hold out until I’ve saved up my target amount. Quitting will be a bit of a scary thing no matter how much I save up, but as long as I keep up with the flow of my creative work, I’ll be fine. And If I need to look for another day job down the line, I will, but I’ll do everything I can to make sure that does not happen. 

I sure as hell don’t ever want to work in an office again.

Thought + Action = Change

The Beating Heart of Creative Work

Social Media Detox Project: Day 29

I’m having fun diving deeper into the characters I’m creating for my novel.

Figuring out all their quirks, and how the different world-building elements affect their lives and personalities is an interesting way to examine my own worldview.

I guess I’m learning more about myself, as I slowly uncover the beating heart of my creations.

What I Did Today

Exercise

Novel writing

Posted a YouTube video

Writing critique for a friend

Something I Read Today

“The veined stone will be his monument, when his own veins are drained by an embalmer; when his limbs are set like marble, an inscription of his virtues will be picked out in gold.” -From Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Something I Learned Today

I need to continue to remain aware of my self-doubt, but not let it take control over me. I need to continue believing in what I’m doing and allow the flicker of what I’m trying to say shine through everything I create.

Sluggish Change

Social Media Detox Project: Day 28

Change is hard.

Change doesn’t happen overnight.

Change often feels like a slog.

And it happens so slowly that we don’t really notice it unless we’re actively keeping track of it.

This is why bullet journaling has been so beneficial to me. With it, I can evaluate what I did in a given week or month, and use my entries as a reminder that I am, in fact, moving forward.

Because some days it feels like I’m not.

What I Did Today

Novel writing

Video editing

Family time at the movies

Something I Read Today

People Don’t Change

“(Unless they want to)

Humans are unique in their ability to willingly change. We can change our attitude, our appearance and our skillset.

But only when we want to.

The hard part, then, isn’t the changing it.

It’s the wanting it.” -From Seth’s Blog, People Don’t Change by Seth Godin

Something I Learned Today

That my unscripted YouTube videos are kind of ramble-y. I think I need to do something about that.