So I was reading an article online, as I often do. This particular one was about ways to increase your creativity, and one of the suggestions was not to get out of bed right away after you wake up, but rather, to lie there and contemplate before getting going. The idea is that the urgency of leaping out of bed stifles creativity and replaces it with a more directed fight or flight state that may be good for getting you to work on time, but isn't as good at allowing you the luxury of thinking up new ideas. Along a similar vein, the same article recommended taking baths rather than showers.
The stay in bed idea seemed like a low cost way to stimulate the creative mind, so I gave it a try this morning. After I awoke, I lay in bed and tried to relax and let my mind enter a more creative state...
And woke up for a second time an hour and a half later, having fallen asleep again.
In its own way it was a valuable lesson, though. The internet is an incredibly powerful tool. You can find vast amounts of information on virtually any topic you can care to name. Whole books, movies, and television shows are only a handful of clicks away.
The problem is that there's so damn much of it.
Take my Twitter feed. I'm following some 220 different people, most of whom are entertainers of one stripe or another. But there are also political ones, the Real Time World War II feed I blogged about, oh, and a few actual friends and family who also use Twitter. But I almost never see that, anymore. These days Twitter has become a way to get interesting links from different people, and almost never a source of actual communication. Plus the volume of tweets makes it impractical bordering on impossible to keep up with anymore. There's too damn much.
Facebook is much the same way these days. Sure, of the 78 Facebook friends a much higher percentage are people I'd actually consider friends, but there's a lot of people I've never met on there too. And again, there's too much of it. I can't keep up with all the posts and game requests and what nots associated with Facebook anymore.
(On the other hand, the Google+ ghost town has the opposite problem. No one's there. I see posts there from four people on a regular basis. Two of them I know, the other two are Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day. No one else is home.)
So, you say, do the obvious. Cut down on who you follow or friend, right?
Not so fast. Because, as a writer myself who would like more people to read (and, eventually, pay for) my work, it behooves me to have as wide a net as possible. Besides, that brings up a second problem with the 'net. Quality control. If I did want to trim the hedges of my social network, who would I choose?
Or, taking it to the broader question, how do you know what you find on the internet is worth your attention?
Not only is it possible to run into random advice that sounds good, as I did, but it's also possible to be completely unable to find the article for linking purposes only a few days later! Even sites that get used every day like Wikipedia are considered so unreliable as to be ineligible for legitimate sourcing in any kind of respectable journal or magazine. Yes, there's a huge amount of information out there, but how much of it is fact-checked or edited properly?
This all makes me think that if we're going to reform the educational system in this country, and God knows we really should, then maybe we need to be teaching our young people less about what to know and more about how to find what you need to know. Data mining over rote memorization, in other words. Because it sure seems to me that the former is more useful than the latter where anyone can get a bullet point summary of the Hundred Years War in moments from their phone.
With so much information out there, victory goes to he (or she) who can find it.