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How technology has hijacked our creativity

We really need idle, no-screen time to literally free our minds.


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Posted on Apr 18, 2015   Updated on May 29, 2021, 1:15 am CDT


I have recently realized that my best creative time is when the Internet connection is down or there’s no Wi-Fi available. Or when I forget to take my smartphone for a walk with my dog. Or when my phone’s battery is down and I’m on the tram back home.

Yes, I know it’s not news. Or is it, maybe? For me it was an important realization. I never wanted to see technology as something that would hinder my creativity. Quite the opposite: I thought it was something supportive. I get to read inspiring pieces whenever and wherever I want. I can use all the spare time that I have productively. I can access almost infinite amounts of knowledge within a few taps on a device in my pocket.

But what good is there in stuffing myself with all that, when there’s so little space for digesting it?

I found that I need free mental space for reflection. For free thoughts. For just letting ideas flow around in my head. It is somehow difficult if you take your phone even to the bathroom (oh come on, who actually has never ever done that?) and walk your dog with eyes on Facebook. It is hard to sit in front of a blank page for 15 minutes waiting for inspiration to come when there’s a never-ceasing shimmer of new stuff flowing in the background. Only one of the most traditional “eureka” places, where the best ideas come, is left mostly untouched by tech: the shower. But my environmental conscience tells me I shouldn’t use it without restraint.

What good is there in stuffing myself with all that, when there’s so little space for digesting it?

I am too often defeated by the voice in my head that tells me not to waste time and to use up every available minute. And there’s this insane illusion that it’s possible to be really up-to-date. You can’t be up-to-date even if you hooked up Twitter into your vein. And you’re not really more intelligent or knowledgeable with every article you scan (we don’t actually read anymore), you just create an illusion you are.

I want my idle time back, and without built-in guilt!

I need time to reflect on life. I need space to appreciate what’s around me. I need thoughts to carelessly collide to unexpected outcomes. I need time to really find out what is my opinion, what I feel, what’s my view. I need space to not analyze anything for a change, without having to resort to measures such as dumbing myself down with more Web-based stuff. I need the luxury of staring into space pointlessly for a moment or two, waiting for that fleeting feeling to settle in me.

I want to tell that guilt-tripping voice in my head: Thinking, reflecting, just being and absorbing life is not a waste of time. It is exactly how time is well-spent. This is how wisdom is created, this is how we get in touch with the real life. 

And one more thing: Don’t turn it into a “having idle time to be more productive” trap. Yes, spacing out makes you more effective and creative. But we desperately need some space where we don’t have to be productive, creative, effective or anything. We can just be and see what happens. How did we make it so difficult?

This piece was originally featured on Medium, and reposted with permission.

Photo via trippinlarry/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

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*First Published: Apr 18, 2015, 10:00 am CDT