The Sound of Social Media Silence

The Sound of Social Media Silence

How are your listening skills doing these days? Do people really listen to you when you talk? Do you really listen when others speak?

When no one’s listening, communication breaks down and misunderstandings increase. One way to “reset” our ears is to spend three minutes in silence each day, according to Julian Treasure in his TED Talk, “5 Ways to Listen Better,” in which he warns us that we are losing our ability to truly listen.

Silence is a rare commodity even in nature, but one way you can experience it is to take a trip to your local Best Buy. Go to the headphones section and make your way to the Bose Sound-Canceling display. Choose the most expensive display model, wipe the ear pieces with an antibacterial wipe, and pop those puppies on your head. In an instant, you will experience the sound of silence—something you may never have experienced in a world where we create machines to generate white noise to drown out more noise. (Which I suppose may be how these headphones actually work, but trust me, this is closer to silence than running a fan all night will ever be.) When you take the headphones off, you’ll experience sound differently for a time, and you’ll be actively listening to what is going on around you. (Of course if you have more fun money than I have, you could always take a pair home so you can experience silence anywhere headphones can be worn.)

Your eyes also benefit from silence. In a way, reading is like hearing through our eyes. Many of us spend hours staring at words and pictures on a computer monitor or smart phone. Receiving information through the Internet is a bit like sweetened, condensed communication (as opposed to milk). A little goes a long way, and it needs to be diluted with less over-powering input to avoid sensory overload, which also can thwart our ability to listen well.

I’ve cut way back on my social media consumption over the past few weeks. At first, it was necessary as unexpected events limited my free time. Then, I realized I didn’t need to read every Facebook post. I didn’t need to know about breaking news stories first. I don’t need to weigh in on every trending hash-tag topic. I still check out my close friends news feeds, but I may not like and comment as often. If a friend really needs feedback, I know I’ll get a private message or phone call or face-to-face chat. I’m not shutting down my accounts, but I’m cutting back on my consumption for now. By building some silence into my life, I hope I can listen better and communicate better.

What about you? Do you need to build some social media silence into your life?

Cleaning Today’s Slate | Recovering from Input Overload

Cleaning Today’s Slate | Recovering from Input Overload

Last night, I had about 450 minutes of respite from Input, and I slept well.

Deep sleep visited me, unlike the night before—a night of restlessness born from a bubbling slough of unconscious anxieties. The battles I fight right now are mere skirmishes, practices even. In that sense, I have no right to become anxious or sleepless, and yet it happens more often than I like when I allow Input to balloon out of control.

Sleepwalking days follow wakeful nights. I’ve dubbed them “Lost Days” because though I move and function and take care of vital tasks, I’m not one hundred percent. The lack of sleep puts stress on my immune system like a hot day taxing a freezer sitting out in the full sun. I feel physically ill. Sometimes I even run a slight temperature. I am mentally fogged. Taking a long afternoon nap in bed perpetuates the problem of night-time insomnia for me, so I fight through the long, Lost Day, catching a cat nap on the couch when necessary, and then go to bed at a reasonable hour, surrendering to sleep and the comfort of blank sheets.

When I awoke at 5:30 a.m. this morning, I tried to return to the bliss of sleep’s respite, but I could not. Instead, I realized the previous day had been spent recovering from an Input-binge hangover. The last couple of weeks have been full of information and social media and reading and researching ideas for projects in progress. Not only was my desk cluttered, but my mind felt cluttered.

This morning after my night’s reboot, it was time to create a blank slate in my work space as well. So, between 5:30 and 6:04 a.m. I did just that.

  • I cleared my desk.
  • I pulled all of the sticky notes off the wall in front of my desk except for one, “…the blank page is a magic box.” (J. J. Abrams, TED Talk)
  • I thought about writing on paper, but instead I chose to clear my computer—metaphorically. I shut down all programs except my word processor. I did not check email. I did not check social media. I went straight to my no-distractions blank page mode in Scrivener (the writing software I use), and I began to write.

It was a clean start to a new day.

How will you reduce your Input load today?


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