The tireless social media churn

Via Twitter I came across this essay “Better” that struck a chord:

Politics, celebrity gossip, business headlines, tech punditry, odd news, and user-generated content. These are the chew toys that have made me sad and tired and cynical.

I’m usually pretty dismissive of this sort of thing and consider it the equivalent of an old man shouting “get off my lawn.” But this part felt a little too close to home:

What makes you feel less bored soon makes you into an addict. What makes you feel less vulnerable can easily turn you into a dick. And the things that are meant to make you feel more connected today often turn out to be insubstantial time sinks – empty, programmatic encouragements to groom and refine your personality while sitting alone at a screen.

Am I a dickish, overly opinionated addict? Don’t answer that. I’m reminded of a great Avett Brothers lyric that could easily have found its way into that essay:

Ain’t it like most people? I’m no different
We love to talk on things we don’t know about

The author has some thoughts on how to overcome this, but here’s my take: always ask whether the churn is a useful part of a process towards building something more substantive and lasting. My tweeting, blogging, emailing, etc. has helped refine a number of ideas that I’ve turned into essays of which I’m quite proud. Not all of it. But the short, messy stuff is a filter, an incubator, a test-bed and for me it’s what makes the longer, more substantive stuff possible. So when I think about which bits of the social media churn are too addictive, reductive, or wasteful and which are indispensable I will be asking which bits make the good stuff possible.