On Fragmentation, Distraction, and Liberation

I think that when a major life change happens or a major shift in responsibilities happens in your life, it’s natural to get a bit introspective on all of things that you have going on and determine what really matters and what really doesn’t.

I mean, at the end of the day, I’d love to believe that all of us want to do good work, put something good into the world, and give as much of ourselves to our families, friends, and others as possible. It may be a bit idealistic, but that’s a discussion for another time.

The thing is, it’s easier than ever to get distracted with so many things around us.

To be clear, this isn’t a post about how we’re losing touch with reality by looking at our phones and our computers all of the time – there’s plenty of other articles out their filled with op-ed, psychobabble, true psychiatric studies, and so on about all of the above – and I actually think a lot of good has come from this technology. So I digress.

But simply put, this is more of a personal post looking at all of the things that I’ve had that place some type of burden of responsibility on me and ask myself if it’s something that I really need at this point in time.

Fragmentation, Distraction, and Liberation: A Matter of Simplicity

Whenever I think of the idea of simplicity, the following photo always comes to mind:

Steve Jobs and Simplicity
Steve Jobs and Simplicity

Now, for anyone who’s read his biography or understands how fickle Jobs was about furniture, you know the story behind this picture. But that’s not the point of this post.

Instead, I’ve recently been taking a hard look at some of the other things I’ve been involved with and determining whether or not they are something I need to be doing or things that I want to be doing.

Now, to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with doings things that you want to be doing. Sometimes I want to be working (though I also need to be working); other times, I want to play a video game, but it’s hard to argue whether or not I need to be playing a video game.

I guess you could say that I want to make sure that for each thing that I need to be doing, I want to make sure that I’m also doing something that I want to be doing it, as well. And if I’m not, then I’m minimizing the amount of not wanting to do it.

I want to simplify.

First, There’s Fragmentation

The problem is that I’ve often convinced myself that I needed to be doing certain things or wanted to do certain things all of which have fragmented my time in some way such that I literally feel the burden of responsibility – or the obligation – of needing to contribute to something, because I’ve signed myself up for it.

And that’s ridiculous.

It makes no sense to want to contribute to something simply because you have an account or role somewhere. There needs to be some type of intrinsic and/or extrinsic value present with such an association.

Some examples of things that I’ve signed myself up for:

  • Various social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Path, etc.
  • Contribution to various blogs. A personal Tumblr, a blog about music theory, Medium, etc.
  • Certain volunteer roles both online and offline.
  • Contributing to certain project again both online and offline
  • …and so on.

Obviously, this is an overly simplified list. I mean, if I even listed out the social networks alone, it’d be enough to fill up half a post, and I signed up for them more-often-than-not “just to see” how they were. Then I left them in the dust.

I’m sure that’s true than for more than a fair share of us.

Then There’s The Distraction

But over the past couple of weeks, I’ve begun to really pair down some of the things that I have going on in my life in order to try harder to stay at the intersection of what I need to be doing and what I want to be doing.

In other words, I’m going through and deleting and/or deactivating certain accounts other than those to which I can provide value (or receive value), and removing myself from those that create this obligation of contribution that isn’t needed.

Naturally, this is a near impossible task, but the goal is to aim for it – to get closer to it.

Goodbye Medium

What happens is that I think that we fragment ourselves across all of these services and communities online (or perhaps even offline) convincing ourselves that they are things that are making us better, more productive, more present in a particular arena, or more plugged-in to some sort of something that helps us be better at what we do.

To be clear, I love the idea that we have so many choices when it comes to services, platforms, communities, and so on. Never before in history have we been able to find community and contribute to other things and other people’s lives like never before.

But I think that the fragmentation begets distraction and distraction begets really getting deep into some of our core interests or being able to contribute and/or participate in things that really matter to us.

Or it could just be me.

And Then Comes Liberation

But as I work through this period of time of introspection and trying to better manage my place at the aforementioned intersection, it’s crazy the amount of liberation that comes with simply getting rid of some of the things that I used to think that mattered.

More signal, less noise.

Obviously, I don’t know where you stand with a lot of the stuff that’s going on in your life, or some of the things that you feel obligated to do “just because,” but I urge you guys to take a step back and look at everything in which you’re involved, subscribed, or contributing an determine why you’re doing it.

If it’s for the right reason, that’s awesome; otherwise, maybe it’s something you could remove and welcome a bit of liberation.