Messy: The Power of Disorder is all about the balance of tidy and messy, yet NOT about our Things. Sherry Turkle’s book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age is filled with research about the younger generations’ need for tidy communications in a messy world of relationships. And yesterday, I heard a Simon Sinek interview about the “messy processes” of being happy on the job or happy in our relationships. The messiness of patience in terms of learning to get from life what you want – joy, fulfillment, confidence, skills of resilience or communications. [I’m also listening to Jodi Picoult’s book, Small Great Things, but I don’t see a tidy/messy theme yet!]
Tidy or Messy? New Perspectives.
I chose a few books which turn out to be connected to this blog’s theme, although my conscious mind didn’t know at the time!
The Messy book does discuss the fetish we have about organizing and keeping clutter at bay, that we spend more time organizing than using whatever we are organizing. Mostly the book is about the value of not always being perfectly tidy, whether it is your choice of words, the choice of colleagues (find some diversity), friends or neighborhood. Messy = diversity. Varied perspectives.
Messy has value in that it challenges the norm. Messy is what we could call curiosity or serendipity; if you don’t schedule your whole life to the minute, then you have white space, time to explore, just be, or to wander and find something new.
Also from the Messy book, that daily plans are meant to be tidy, yet life is so messy. The key to productivity? Control, not tidiness.
Sherry Turkle is the founder (2001) and current director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. Study after study show that people who grew up with technology [phone in their hands] have trouble with interpersonal skills, from self awareness to social skills and awareness with others. They are afraid to have face to face meetings and far more comfortable writing texts and emails, even to argue with a family member. Writing is a tidy, less threatening way to express their thoughts than being in the moment with emotions which might cause havoc [messiness] they would not know how to handle.
Studies show that social media is mainly controlling us, versus the other way around. And, that when we are on social media, we are mainly posting about our aspirational self. Who we want to be or be seen as. Not who we really are. The neat and tidy version versus the messiness of our regular lives.
Devices prevent time alone. We automatically pick up the phone when we are waiting. It’s too quiet to be still. Yet being comfortable with ourselves and quiet instead of distracted allow us to get to know ourselves. Being vulnerable and understanding our own vulnerabilities are both central to our happiness, creativity and productivity. Vulnerability is messy.
Simon Sinek focuses on the millenial generation in the video I’ve posted on my facebook page; click on the picture if you like. He says that it is not their fault that the messiness of empathy and social skills are more difficult than for older generations. [Listen to the video to get more about how this came to be.]
Tipping Point: Where is Yours?
Simon says, backed by research he quotes, that social media is as addictive as alcohol, drugs, gambling. That in moderation it is fine, as the others are, but when it tips to a craving, where social relationships or your job are threatened, you’re on the addiction path.
With alcoholism, we might ban it from the house, change our social circles and attend a support group, but what do we do for social media addiction? Or gambling: a little is fine, but where is the tipping point?
Addicted? Here are two of his questions to ascertain addiction: #1 If you take your phone/tablet to bed; #2 If you look at your device/email before saying good morning to family.
What place does social media play in your life, personally and professionally; that’s the choice to make, not only the time but what you gain from it. How does it add to your life, joy, education, connectedness in deep ways?
Sherry’s point is that once you’ve gone by that tipping point, you’re more attracted to the technology than to people and conversation. Yet people who multitask don’t actually get better at it; they crave multi tasking more.And the more time on technology, the harder it is to read people when you are face to face.Thus, the impact on empathy.
As Seth Godin wrote recently, social media and the hardware it runs on exist to pull us in. When my Facebook page tells me how long it takes me to respond, it’s really asking me to go for the gold and try to improve my response rate … by getting on the page more often. Seth reminds us that the companies make money by keeping us on our phones for longer and longer periods of time. A point was simply to be aware of whether you are in control of your social media and device habits or the technology is controlling you.
The Biggest Impact
The two key areas where we need patience and where things are not tidy but messy? Jobs/careers and relationships according to Simon.
Why ? From Sherry Turkle: If we don’t know who we are when we are alone, we turn to others to support our sense of self.” And “If you don’t have practice in thinking alone, you are less able to bring your ideas to the table with confidence and authority.”
We think of productivity as efficiency. But it is not enough. As you make conversation with someone, which does take time, you share ideas, perspectives and solutions – which makes something better, easier or more fulfilling.
And arguably, technology sometimes makes us more productive yet “the quality of our thinking suffers.” Makes lots of sense when you think about yourself on technology, your memory, your part time attention.
What to do
Sherry Turkle: Start talking. Go face to face more often. A first step towards reclaiming conversation is to create device-free times and places for them to happen. The good news is that with more conversation, our abilities to empathize and communicate in person improve.
Be more mindful. Read or listen to one of these sources above. Awareness is a start. Next time you automatically pick up your phone, you’ll think twice. All you need is the “pause” to ask yourself: is this what I really want to do and think about right now?Wouldn’t we feel less busy if we did that even a few times a week?
Make sure to have other ways to spend your time. If you use social media to relax or fill empty time, what else could you do instead?
Distance yourself from the device. Turn it off in the car. Don’t take it up to the bedroom. Don’t use your phone as an alarm clock; buy a clock. Don’t launch the social media browser tabs on your desktop automatically.
Think about what’s tidy in your life, what’s messy and what your own balance of the two looks and feels like.
Remember that what works for you is important, not an outsider’s perspective on what tidy or messy “should” look like.
Productivity, ADHD or “in transition.” My specialties.