The human brain has evolved over 7 million years, and during this time it has tripled in size. If humans had been around for 24 hours, Edison just discovered the electric light bulb 4 minutes ago. Think, then, about how inadequately equipped our human biology is for the technological and social transformation of just the last 200 years.
All around us these days are sources of stimulus. We trigger the little red pleasure button in our brains every time we “check in” on our phones. If we are lucky, we get an extra strong dose in the form of 24 likes on our photos, an email with something for us to respond to, or outlandish headline about politics or current goings-on in the world. A hit of the pleasure hormones oxytocin and dopamine rush through our bodies.
The past few weeks I’ve kept away from social media. I left my LinkedIn on though, and an interesting thing happened – I spent way more time on it. I noticed early on that I was looking for a source of that “checking in” on my phone, any way I could get it. The day also felt longer. I wasn’t living on the “instant” clock, blocks of boredom were more difficult to fill up now that I could not just swipe open my phone and scroll through a few feeds.
It has been a good reset – I feel calmer with the day slowed down. Boredom is not bad, it allows us our minds to process input. Especially in the time right before bed, where we are reflecting and consolidating the day behind us, social media can really flow into and fill up this required empty space.
Empty space is important. These days it is easy to forget that.
The most masterful pieces of music are those where the composer expresses not only notes, but the space between them. The gaps between the end and the start are what give meaning to both of these and give room for meaning and interpretation. The legendary pieces of art are those which recognize this same quality of space, and the relation between presence and non-presence.
Maybe these days we are too concerned with filling our whole canvas with as many things, thoughts, and emotions as possible… but our mind is not designed for this. We could all benefit from introducing more gaps – I definitely will be.
Virginia Woolf (writer)
It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.
Make an empty space in any corner of your mind, and creativity will instantly fill it.Dee Hock (founder of Visa)
Franz Kafka (novelist)
Idleness is the beginning of all vice, the crown of all virtues.