My Favorite Social Media Warning Book

Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 3.05.58 PMHer name is Manoush Zomorodi. Her book is called Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self.

The book is about the importance of down time, spacing out, day dreaming, and mind wandering to create, to think afresh, to make deeper connections. This is an important book, my favorite when it comes to social media stuff. Especially when it comes to the constant warnings about social media.

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The problem is that social media — FB, Twitter, Instagram, whatever — are consuming our time. So much so that many have no idea what to do with down time. No kidding.

The other problem is what we are doing with our minds in the Age of Social Media Absorption. It’s a dopamine rush that becomes addictive:

Scott Barry Kaufman—scientific director of the Imagination Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to advocating for imagination “across all sectors of society”—gave me the straight dope on dopamine. “It’s a misconception that dopamine has to do with our feelings of happiness or pleasure,” he said. “It’s a molecule that helps influence our expectations.’ Higher levels of dopamine are linked to being more open to new things and novelty seeking. Something novel could be an amazing idea for dinner or a new book… or just getting likes on a Facebook post or the ping of a text coming in. Our digital devices activate and hijack this dopamine system extremely well, when we let them.

The imperative comes from the fact that the longer we mindlessly use our devices, the more control they have over us. The effects are cumulative.

Issue: we scan and skim and skip over information bombarding us at our finger tips but we don’t think about what we are seeing. We aren’t absorbing. We aren’t categorizing and pondering. We are skimming and superficial thinking is not what we need. We lose our abilities to think:

Wolf did one amazing experiment on herself but said, “It was a rather disquieting and actually emotional experience for me.” She reread one of her most beloved and challenging books, The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse’s final novel, set in a distant Utopian future where all knowledge, from music and art to science and mathematics, has been encapsulated in a complicated game.

“I couldn’t do it anymore!” Wolf said of reading her old favorite. “I couldn’t slow my reading down to really allocate sufficient attention to what is basically a very difficult and demanding book!” She may be a neuroscientist, but Wolf’s brain had changed as well. She decided to begin a regimen of slow reading to rebuild her similarly atrophied muscle. Every day, for two weeks, she forced herself to read and reread The Glass Bead Game until she had built back up her tolerance for deep, difficult reading. As Wolf put it, “I had to learn how to read again.”

Here’s some of Zomorodi’s own experience, after becoming pregnant and having a child and strolling with that child through the neighborhood and finding space to wander mentally:

As soon as I took a moment to reflect, I realized there wasn’t a single waking moment in my life that I didn’t find a way to fill—and my main accomplice was my phone. … My brain was always occupied, but my mind wasn’t doing anything with all the information coming in.

Looking back at that experience during this hectic period of my life, I saw a connection between a lack of stimulation—boredom—and a flourishing of creativity and drive.

This is an issue of what kind of child we nurture and what kind of person they become and what we will become:

Parents fret about how to raise healthy and confident children in the digital age. If our children are constantly engaged with bits and bytes of information, what is happening to their ability to imagine, concentrate deeply, reflect on past experiences, decide how to apply those lessons to future goals, and figure out what they want for themselves, their relationships, and life?

We need blank time. That is, if we want to create and make breakthroughs. When we are running we don’t smell the flowers or notice the birds.

When we let ourselves space out and our minds wander, we do our most original thinking and problem solving; without distraction, your mind can go to some interesting and unexpected places. Creativity—no matter how you define or apply it—needs a push, and boredom, which allows new and different connections to form in our brain, is a most effective muse. It’s what the futurist Rita King calls “the tedium of creativity.

… you have to let yourself be bored to be brilliant.

So she develops a seven step process of coming to terms with life and social media:

CHALLENGE ONE: Observe Yourself First you’ll track your digital habits—and most likely be shocked by what you discover.

CHALLENGE TWO: Keep Your Devices Out of Reach While in Motion Keep your phone out of sight while you’re in transit—so no walking and texting!

CHALLENGE THREE: Photo-Free Day No pics of food, kitten, kids—nada.

CHALLENGE FOUR: Delete That App Take the one app you can’t live without and trash it. (Don’t worry, you’ll live.)

CHALLENGE FIVE: Take a Fakecation You’ll be in the office but out of touch.

CHALLENGE SIX: Observe Something Else Reclaim the art of noticing.

CHALLENGE SEVEN: The Bored and Brilliant Challenge In a culmination of all the exercises, you’ll use your new powers of boredom to make sense of your life and set goals.

Do you need this book? You decide, but don’t be afraid. Take up her challenges.

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