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Social Media and the Pervasiveness of Unfinished Thoughts

I remember someone telling me when I was a teenager that time speeds up as you get older. As I was then so impatient to graduate and move on with my life, it didn’t make any sense and didn’t make me feel any better, but now I look back on it and the truth in that statement. Little did I know how omnipresent social media would be in our lives — even as I spent hours each day conversing on BBS’s with friends. I had only caught a glimpse.

Once blogs took hold, I took advantage of my thirst for writing and poured my heart and mind out to the world, sharing all kinds of thoughts in analytical, long form posts. After social media sites like Facebook became popular, that changed. I’ve written about that change before, but something that has become more apparent to me lately is how the distraction factor combined with the sheer volume of information that we all toggle through day in and day out can absorb the longer thoughts and push them out of consciousness.

I’ve kept a file of draft articles for several years now and as I sat down to write this weekend, just because I hadn’t written a post in a while, I realized how full that file has become. Some drafts are a few notes and mere ideas. Others are 90% completed, waiting for final touches. In part, I put off these posts or articles because I’ve been working on other bigger projects. But truth be told, the real reason they didn’t get finished is much more complex.

The root cause is a combination of overwhelm from all of the inputs I now receive online, a feeling that there’s no rush since plenty of other people are out there lately sharing their ideas that are just as good if not better, and a collective exhaustion from the works I’ve already written and shared. That doesn’t diminish my interest in writing; it does, however, reduce my interest in publishing the writing.

So I go on Facebook and I share my thoughts with family and close friends, people who know me well and can respond. Facebook has become the central blog of our collective consciousness. And it’s much easier to control the comments there, as opposed to most publications where one might submit an article or a post. But I digress. Or maybe not. Maybe that’s exactly the point. As we’ve become accustomed to tweets and shares and likes, we’ve gotten farther from expanding our own ideas into much detail.

Demand for content generally means short and sweet. I won’t rehash the long form vs. short form argument again here, but I will say that this is one challenge of the modern era. How do we hold our own interest — let alone the interest of others — to fully develop important thoughts about the world we live in and to share those thoughts, as opposed to letting them sit on a local hard drive gathering virtual dust, or locked in our heads, disappearing when we’re gone, guaranteeing no one will ever read them? And what about the simple ideas we have that we might tell someone about, but they become lost after we get drawn into a video on Instagram?

I love social media, the Internet, and most things tech, so this isn’t any kind of statement about the downfall of our society caused by the Web, as others have attempted. Rather, I see this as a challenge we can give to ourselves and others to take the unfinished thoughts we have and make a commitment to developing them, for whatever reason, rather than losing them in the chaos of the modern world. You never know when that one great idea might take you somewhere unexpected.

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