The Social Not-Working Phenomenon

Last week, a Facebook friend posted this very telling status update: “The window of time in which my mind is really working is getting smaller everyday.”  Ouch.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingWe used to work together and this guy’s definitely not a slacker–he is however, truly candid.  And he speaks for a lot of us these days.  Between Facebook, Twitter, RSS feeds and website aggregators, we spend so much time staying connected that it’s hard to get anything done.  We’re so busy keeping up that we can hardly keep up.

Two separate experiences this weekend threw this growing time management issue into sharp relief.  First, a friend took me to a booksigning for “In With The Devil” at a home in River Forest on Saturday night. Learning about a book from the author is always fascinating but what intrigued me even more was the homeowner, or more importantly, the projects he cranks out of his garage workshop.  He and my friend had already collaborated on hand building two wood strip canoes–a feat of craftsmanship that bowled me over.  But now, he’s in the midst of building a personal submarine.  In his garage.  By himself.

I feel productive when I make dinner–I can’t begin to imagine researching and then slowly assembling a submersible watercraft powered by electric trolling motors.  I left the host’s house astonished by the ingenuity coming together just on the other side of his unremarkable garage door.

Second, I read John Lopez’ piece in the Arts & Entertainment section of the Sunday Chicago Tribune.  He described how writers, artists and musicians struggle to step away from the relentless e-stream, and the toll this constant distraction can take on their craft.  This challenge affects many people in our increasingly digital world, but it hits creative people particularly hard.   Realizing a personal vision requires dropping deeply into the work, and our overwired lifestyle fights that with every new text message.  Isn’t it interesting how neither the screenwriter (Aaron Sorkin) nor the two lead actors (Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake) of The Social Network use Facebook at all.  Hmmm…

A few years ago, pundits claimed that a sign of true power was to not be reachable.  These days, a sign of true will power is to not reach out.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


4 thoughts on “The Social Not-Working Phenomenon

  1. jno says:

    Sorry, but I am way to busy to read your post or make a comment!
    I just don’t have that kind of time. Do you ever read the news aggregators and find that the same people comment on every story every day. How do they do it? Who has that kind of time?

  2. Poor Lucky Me says:

    I think I will always be most creatively productive in the wee hours of the night: husband is asleep, dog is walked, I’ve read everyone’s facebook status update, and I cannot work out, watch tv, or call my mother. I can just be alone with the glow of my computer screen. I do miss a pencil and paper though.

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