Why the Internet Didn’t Kill Creativity (but I’ll keep blaming it anyway)

By: Josh Colfer

As I write this post on a Monday afternoon, my internet browser is currently open to 6 pages that reflect a smattering of tasks and work that I’ve been dabbling in for the last hour. 6! While I like to imagine that I am a multi-tasker who can perform each task with the utmost concentration, creativity, efficiency and precision, I really can't kid myself. I’m chipping away, but it’s far from the progress and level of work that I would like to be producing. This slow pace illicits a feeling of stress because these tasks need to get done and I sense that I will never move on to the other tasks that I have to complete before the rest of the day ends. This has continued to plague my work-life for awhile now, and I keep telling myself something needs to change….

Yet my laments are nothing new. The debate over whether the onslaught of content and information circulating through the channels of cyberspace are killing creativity, efficiency and originality rages on with little conclusion, only more embattlement. Certainly even this entry is nothing new to the conversation. 

Gary Marshall wrote on this topic and the problem that many creatives face when they spend so much time on the web checking twitter, RSS feeds and more click bait than they can begin to sift through. He believes that the solution lies in withdrawing from the chaos of endless content and allowing our minds to have nothing to do but deal with the silence that we’re left with in that space.

“(Boredom) is what often causes your brain to do all the amazing things that business jargon describes so awfully: thinking outside boxes, running things up flagpoles to see who salutes and throwing stuff at walls just to see what sticks.”

During the first two years after college I lived without internet. The two friends whom I lived with made a decision to forego internet access because a) College frugality had fostered a fervent commitment to avoiding unecessary luxuries (to which we assumed the internet was) and b) Remove any temptation to look at the graphic media that used to be reserved for the back room of the video rental store.

Throughout those two years I actually read a terrific amount of books, wrote daily, relished in the experience of watching a film on an actual DVD without checking my phone every five minutes, and met some great folks at the free Wi-Fi centers around my neighborhood (there are a surprising amount when you start to investigate). I found those Wi-Fi visits to be some of the most productive hours I’ve ever had. The internet was not only a database of infinite information and provided a social bridge to dear friends and family thousands of miles away, but also an incredibly effective tool by which I looked up directions, applied for jobs, furthered an online presence, and launched a blog. Today, I share internet with my roommates in our home and it’s hard to imagine living out my days without this 24/7 access to the wide online world that I populate alongside the billions of fellow digital users...but for a time I did it.

As with all comforts in life, the internet offers an incredible array of services, opportunities and ways to connect with other human beings. But it’s also the source of my greatest procrastination, stagnation and feelings of anxiety in life. If I'm not feeling overwhelmed by the destruction of black bodies or current political climate I'm being reminded of the ten events coming up this week around Memphis. I’m sure there are a plethora of ways to healthily withdraw from the internet and instill creative exercises that will help with this frenzied existence. But who’s got that much self-control?! Maybe this man, who I photographed in the early morning in Chiang Mai during a semester abroad in Thailand:

I would stay and talk a little more about what I’m doing to build up that self-control, but a friend just posted a picture of his wedding and I’m already distracted….


Josh Colfer serves as the managing editor of The Galleon, as well as Digital Media Coordinator for Christian Brothers University.

Posted by Josh Colfer at 4:28 PM

The Galleon is curated and managed by Christian Brothers University, a Memphis-based university founded in the Lasallian tradition (a sect within the Catholic faith). Part of our founding mission is to uphold respect for all persons-regardless of political, religious, or social beliefs. As an institution, we take no stand on political matters; to do so would undermine our commitment to intellectual inquiry and thoughtful response to events taking place in our World by members of the CBU community.

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