To those who read the following in its entirety, thank you. This is not intended to be a monologue but a conversation. In an attempt to practice the collaboration I write about, I welcome all comments- positive or negative – because they are the only way to combat my individual bias. Regardless, thanks for entertaining.
I sit at my computer periodically to compose my thoughts. I do this because most of the time my thoughts are an unintelligible mishmash and therefore cannot legitimately be considered thought. It takes a good amount of ‘me’ time to carefully sift through and transcribe my neurotic ideas to decide whether they are even worthy of the word, or simply bull. Call it naval-gazing, but it is a necessity.
I’m not here to complain about my poor brain’s strain from our overstimulated environment, and be labeled a philosophizing, good-for-nothing hippie. Unless my nostalgic soul actually decides to defy modern civilization and frolic in the fields (which would be great but I’d severely miss my iPhone), I’m stuck with the present life of chatter and noise.
Or am I? My musing today brings an idea that involves reengineering our environment to filter out the haze, one where we can breathe long uninterrupted gulps of fresh insight without being engulfed by dirty thought pollution.
I use this analogy to draw attention to the other environment that is being decimated as we graze the digital sphere: our mind. I opened my clean word processor to write this post but not before checking Facebook, mindlessly flitting between profiles that say a lot of nothing, including my own. It’s the soda of our information diet. Sweetening and yummy- despite zero calories and no sugar!- yet ultimately a nutritionally empty concoction.
I think we deserve better. And by that, I mean a better time-waster.
I often think about how to live a perfect life imperfectly. It’s unrealistic to be a 24/7 carrot-eating, Economist-reading, productive machine when cat videos and Ben & Jerry’s lie waiting. It’s more fun to have our cake and eat it too. But couldn’t our indulgence involve something more exciting than glancing through photos of people whose lives are obviously so much cooler than ours. Facebook makes me feel lame and ugly when all these people I never talk to are always out and about taking beautiful pictures!
“You are a mashup of what you let into your life.” We are what we eat and our creations are unique manifestations of our consumption, even during idle procrastinating time. So, wouldn’t it be nice to snack on something healthier?
Think of it as eating yogurt instead of ice cream, skim milk instead of whole, dark chocolate instead of white, wine instead of beer – just as tasty (if not more) and better for you!
Wasting time isn’t really wasting time if you’re learning and filling your mind with the right stuff. I see so much potential in our generation of Facebook gluttons. Between amazing music remixes to crafty DIY projects or ingenious apps built by tech-savvy coders, amid the trolling, we are talented! Heck even those Shit “insert ethnic group with overused stereotypes” Say videos require a commendable level of creativity and wit; even Leonardo DaVinci would laugh. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not confusing YouTube videos and tumblr reblogs with the resurgence of a creative class. We have potential to be renaissance folks- academics/professionals by day, artists by night, Tebows on the weekend- but it is strictly potential until we actively do. To do, we need a platform to encourage creation and original thought, rather than passive sharing and reposting. Ultimately, Facebook is just a sharing platform that reinforces old connections; nothing original comes out of it.
So imagine a platform that facilitates new connections, that bombards us not with images from last week’s drunken glory but with ideas, creations, substance; then fosters connections that enable us to collaborate on projects of mutual interest. Better yet, what if that type of platform stuck like candy? Talk about a good vice.
If we continue consuming this syrupy social facebook, our potential remains simply potential. We will be known as generation stuck. There are so many people graduating from college unsure of what to do and fearful of going after what they really love, what they really care about. If you like dancing, well go the heck ahead and continue dancing. Knock the world’s socks off. Financial concerns are understandable but with today’s technological tools, there exists a wealth of information online to enhance your trade, and with a bit of savvy marketing, you have all the resources at your disposal to make something of your interest at minimal cost. Content production, distribution, and monetization tools are becoming democratized through the web, enabling anyone to reach and build an audience directly through push-button creation and distribution.
To take this further, imagine a world where bloggers, producers, dynamic artists create their own curriculum, one that consists of a compilation of their interests, connections, and actual projects.
For instance, my curriculum would look something like this:
I know I want to learn about everything related to storytelling, education, and digital media.
To enhance my knowledge, I would actively produce and follow relevant content. I would publish my stories, digital media pieces, and write thoughtful commentary on education issues. These would be posted on my page as a knowledge portfolio/blog of sorts, demonstration of my expertise. I would also repost what I consider to be relevant material to the subject. This would be helpful to others also interested in learning about the topic. If they deem my portfolio useful, they could follow my “content package”.
I, too, have the choice of following people whose work I admire, gaining insight into where they get inspiration from, the books they read, and a direct understanding of what goes into their work. I can easily reach out to them for input on best practices and tips. Better yet, with a little bit of proof that my work is up to par (as displayed on my page) collaboration is possible!
I envision a world where we each create content for others to follow- not just status updates and photos- but real meaningful content. I believe we each have talents. We create. We are artists. We are teachers. On this theoretical platform, users create content packages. You gain followers, not based on friendships or acquaintanceship, but by the substance of your work and the things you choose to publish. You follow people for their “expertise”, their lesson plans, the packages they create.
Of course, this is all still a bit of a utopian shell in my mind. There are many holes and flaws in the proposition. How is this different from Tumblr? And how do you actually get people to actively produce, connect, follow, and collaborate? Doing this requires a shift from thinking “I’m going online to mindlessly browse through people’s photos” to “I’m going online to create something, to learn, to write a meaningful post about the Middle East filled with thoughtful analysis that others can glean insight from.” The former is a lot easier. The latter takes motivation, a lot more than some may have.
Such a platform is not for the faint of mind. But I never said this would be easy. This is where my thoughts go. I can’t do it alone. Only we together can build something great.
Or Tweet Me: @heyguey