Keeping up with the marvels of tech life crowds out the space we have for creative thought.
There is so much more to know now. For instance, I must know that my friend will send me a personal text after including me in group texts, and if I’m not careful when I reply, my message goes to the group. I must know that another friend will only occasionally look at texts on her new iPhone, and prefers emails on her old iPad to other forms of electronic contact.
I must know that a family member is rarely anywhere but on Facebook, so if I want to connect with him, I need to post there and make it a good one, too, if I want a reply. I must know that another family member will share her feelings in a blog post, so if I want to really understand her, I will read her from afar. I must know that some friends are never going to reply to email but they’ll answer a phone call, that some friends are never going to check their cell phone messages, and that one sister won’t allow me to post on her wall, while another sister will apply her cheery combativeness to anything I post. And that’s just what I must know about communicating with my family and friends.
There’s a lot more to know about those in my profession, and their online habits: whether they’re sharing their accomplishments on LinkedIn, or in a blog, or in a TED talk, or on a SlideShare, or in an article just written for Slate, or in an email newsletter, or in a YouTube video just made, or in a book just self-published or in the latest of a dozen tweets.
The upkeep on all of my tech toys takes a toll: I realize as I’m writing this that I keep a running list of musts in my head of what needs updating, backing up, or trouble-shooting (and that’s for just one Mac, one iPhone, one iPad), though I also keep tabs on my husband’s iPhone and iPad, too. There’s a new keyboard case to sleuth out for my iPad, there’s a new bluetooth headset that might improve upon my earplugs.
There are new apps to explore, there’s new software to try out, there’s a new social-sharing platform that might be beneficial, there are new themes to try out on my blogs, new plug-ins to add more functionality. There’s email to check, of course, but there are also new posts to read from Feedly, and there are notifications to look at for Google+ and for WordPress and for Medium, and sites I’ve bookmarked to review, and saved articles to get to in Pocket and the New York Times and wherever else I left them. I spend a bit of time wondering, ‘Hmmnn, I wonder where I saved that one?’
How did managing our technologically marvelous tools ever get so complex? The marketplace is so crowded with content and platforms for sharing and communicating, and that’s truly a marvel. Choice is a powerful thing. But having chosen to take it all in, my brain is crowded with the very intricacies of knowing which tools to use how and when and for whom. It leaves so little space for the creative ideas that are waiting to bubble up. Absent that void, the worst crap comes out, for instance, the frustrations that prompted this piece.
Lots of us look back nostalgically on the days when times were less complicated, and perhaps more convenient. Perhaps I am one. The tools we have today are many, they’re fascinating, they’re alluring and it’s so easy to go down the rabbit hole after them (and I do). But if you put me back at my drawing table 20 years ago with just my landline (when I didn’t yet know it would be called that), my T-square and a design magazine that was delivered to my mailbox, I probably wouldn’t complain. ♣