10HRS 39MIN OF SCREEN TIME, ATTENTION RIPTIDE, and THE 400BC NERF WAR

27 million followers. Not unheardof for a 16yo Instagram bombshell. But attention is a riptide. Maybe an OMG cute! striped-shirt selfie started it. Then sponsor-somebody sends a romper. Then leggings. Then a sports bra. Then bikini. Pretty soon the 16yo wakes up wondering who the hell she is, what the hell she’s doing. Knowing yourself—really truly intimately knowing yourself— isn’t just an artistic concern. Knowing who the hell you really are is now human concern numero uno.

Why? Because the average American spends 10hrs and 39 minutes in front of a screen each day. Since social media is the majority of time online, that’s like 10,000 Nerf bullets shot simultaneously to the brain. Not only in terms of advertising assault, but keeping up with the yogafit71’s one-handed beach handstand and brighteyes82’s paleo plate posts. The hyperspeed of information instantly gets metabolized as comparison. And in the 10,000 person tug-of-war that is the social media scene, our center cannot hold. The self is scattered. Like pool balls after the break.

I feel this scattered self this morning.

Most mornings, the sentences shoot from my fingertips—crushing keys in a 45-minute fit of mania. Barely breath to sip coffee. Not today. Trying to be more pensive. More conscious, deliberate. I wasn’t sure what “pensive” meant until a minute ago. But I looked it up and it means reflecting in deep thought, contemplative.

I’m eeking words out with less RPM today for two reasons.

First, to consciously concoct positive intention for readers. Namaste kind of shit. “The light in me sees and honors the light in you. May this writing practice in some way contribute to the health and happiness of those who find it.” I think writing something with a positive intention is a very powerful practice to adopt. This isn’t to say I’ve had a negative headspace before. It’s just to say I was so intent on digging inside my dome and shedding thoughts that I had little if any extra horsepower going to “intention.” This is another weird word, quasi-spiritual, being normalized by self-help books and new age psychology. But quantum physics studies show that the cognitive intention of a human has a real molecular impact on his surroundings. After all we’re all just electrons. Why not light a brain candle for positivity?

I feel writing feet covered in cement. STOP signs at every turn. And this is why I’m hesitant about the positivity project. Maybe the practice is so new that my brain is like wait wtf, let’s shift back to crank mode and NASCAR! But I also feel that conscious self-awareness and artistic creativity are mutually exclusive. When I write, it’s coming from some place beyond me. The content, the tone, the word choice. I’m just lucky I can hold onto the headspace long enough to peck it into the Notes app on my computer. (Side note: I prefer Notes to Google Docs for the simplicity of the page—basically bare as a bone.) Very rarely do I sit down with an agenda or goal or direction. The best writing just flows.

Second, I’ve become aware that maybe I should be sensitive to marketing concerns. A friend brought to my attention that a project and authorial personality self-description of MELANCHOLY may be off-putting to readers. Melancholy is defined as “a feeling of pensive sadness, typically with no obvious cause.” Which is why I looked up pensive. I very often describe myself as a ‘melancholy millennial.’ Both because of its alliterative allure and its accuracy. My friend’s point is astute, especially in the sales and marketing domain. If SEO prioritizes five or six words from my site, from my writing project, do I want ‘melancholy’ to make the list? On its face, this appears to be strictly a marketing concern. And it is. But it’s also a question of the character of the writer—does my content come from quantified metrics calculated for max readership or from within? Truth be told, regardless of how off-putting, I identify as a human with a multi-stratisphered head space where one layer of this inner atmosphere is melancholy. This isn’t depression or debilitating sadness. But it is a relatively constant recognition of the emotional experience of grey. (What causes melancholy? So much. Environmental, political, social, psychological, financial and spiritual factors. Tracing the causal root system would take too much time for this post but it’s the background story of every post, including this one.)

Know Thyself was carved into the archway leading into the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. But knowing seems like step 1. Holding onto that knowing during the proverbial Nerf War seems like the far more challenging step 2.

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