In my self-help drive and my writing. I would read books, blogs pick out the good ones and add it to my library or citation manager. Looking back it was as if I was trying to curate all the best ideas in the world.
I felt that if I could have all the good ideas then my life would be better and I would be happier and successful.
However, I found it to be a trap of sorts because I was consuming so much, or Digital Gluttony.
Gluttony vs lean
Over the years of all that reading, and watching I come to see it doesn’t work. A better life was not happening.
It was here I realised just how addictive our information-saturated digital world really is.
With exposure to so many images and ideas at our fingertips, we develop a sort of digital gluttony as gorge ourselves on them out of habit, not from any real need.
That’s the problem today with the Internet. Like Tinder app, we look at a lot and swipe a lot. Bombarded by so much information we get the idea that the more information we consume the smart we will be, the better life will be.
I discovered this when looking to address my anxiety by reading self-help.
I discovered it when learning about blogging and it almost happens to me again in my quest to be an artist.
There a lot of information out there, so much so you could spend the rest of your life consuming it and never fix the problem you were researching.
The more I looked the harder it became to take action because it’s was easier to consume than it is to create. There always more to learn in any field, and if I just learn one more idea I will be ready.
It became a habit to consume because it’s easy and safe.
My gluttonous appetite for ideas lead to me think just having ideas was enough, it never occurred to me, in the beginning, to act upon them. So I was consuming content without really learning the lesson in the books and blogs.
It’s as if I thought I could find certainty in the knowledge and lay those tracks down before me, so I could move over them, safe and secure.
But that’s not how it works. You don’t find the truth and then act, you act to find the truth.
The fast, rapid access to ideas is what devalues them because just like in dating app you will always think there’s a better idea, better date one profile or web page more. Satisfaction is never there because there’s always something new out there.
Our eyes become accustomed to the horizon, never on where we are or what we are doing.
So I have cut down how much I consume and how often I look at social media. Cutting back on my digital consumption to focus more on creative pursuits. Because all that input just drowns out your own voice and needs.
Superficial vs the deep
Because of the constant distraction and input the internet offers we have become a culture habituated to skimming the surface, not diving deep.
I have noted once that I had far too many images of art on my PC, far too many artists I follow, far too many files and citations I had bookmarked.
Instead of really trying to understand a piece of art, I just look for the next. It’s become all too easy to just skim the surface, bookmarking ideas rather than diving deeper to grasp their meaning.
To be an artist it’s necessary to dive deep, to understand what you like and don’t, and to find out what art you want to create. That can’t be done in the deluge of content that fed to us.
For example, one artist was Leonid Afremov. I initially enjoyed his work for the colour but rejected later because it’s too garish. His style makes it an eyesore and whilst I kind of liked the fairytale fantasy of his style/ The colour made it unbearable. Such highly chromatic colour put me off.
So the lesson I learned was that: I like the colour, but I also like the subtle colour too. The loud with the quiet.
This is the lesson I learned from Afremov art. What was an initial excited impulse of enjoyment turned into rejection as a dug deeper into my responses to his art?
Such digging is invaluable as part of the learning process. But can only be learned when you spend time looking deeper art than just skimming what social media offers.
It was the same with my quest to address my social anxiety and becoming a blogger. You have to turn away from the world, turn inwards to find the answers.
Our modern technology is teaching us to be superficially invested in people, things, ideas and art. That’s something we need to be aware of.
Instead of the novelty of new images. Take all the stuff you bookmarked, followed, friended and dig deeper. If it’s art, then find out their technique, ideas, and why they created what they did, why they became an artist.
If it’s a person you admire, contemplate what is it about their story to find so compelling. What have you learned from them?
If it’s a topic or, then dig deeper to find out more and to see how it connects to other ideas.
This superficial engagement with life doesn’t tell you much about yourself or the world. The constant skimming of ideas makes us feel we’re doing something.
But such shallow engagement doesn’t create deeper connections. Neither does it create mastery and skill formation because at some point you have to put aside the books and the podcasts and practice.
To dig deeper and consume less is really to understand the topic of interest.
For me, that’s ideas about anxiety, what I want to write about on this very blog. Or the art I like and don’t so it can inform my own artistic career.
Digging deeper, leaving behind the noise of the internet is one of the most important steps to skill acquisition, self-knowledge, creativity and better life satisfaction.
By shedding the superfluous and focusing deeper on what’s left I have been able to find my passion, my skills far faster.
My artistic voice also comes out when I dig deeper. What matters to me, what I want to say, and the creative skills needed to allow me to share it with the world. (this as Nietzsche’s ideas of the Tag team between Dionysus and Apollo)
It’s a sort of Parsimony, a ‘Digital’ Minimalism. It’s how the best minds work.
As I believe now.
‘Amateurs think they need more, professionals have learned to do well with less. Amateurs aim to fill themselves up, experts aim to empty themselves.’