One of the great challenges of modern, digital life is to protect a vacuum in the mind. To intentionally battle for a bordered area of dedicated, empty silence, amongst a world that is constantly humming.
In a mental vacuum, the meaningful is pulled forth, irresistibly. And it is in the transition from disciplined, protected boredom to the irresistibly called upon that one can think, act and work truly.
Most days are filled with noise. The vacuum is left unguarded, and so it is filled with all variety of useless and cluttering things.
I’d like to label this type of noise and content: disposable. It is gum, intended for chewing and spitting out without absorbing a single calorie of substance. And unfortunately, today it is the norm.
On the supply side, it is in part to do with incentives, algorithms and feeds. Feeds abhor a vacuum. They are designed to be filled thoughtlessly and scrolled infinitely.
Disposable content is therefore perfect for feeds. The author knows their creation will eventually be scrolled into oblivion, and so the terms are clear upfront. As Seth Godin puts it — we are ‘off the hook’.
On the demand side, the scroller requires novelty. New content, daily… hourly, even. The creator’s desire for top of mind rapidly degenerates into ‘top of feed’ — and the best way to be top of feed is to always be publishing. i.e. to be noisy.
I don’t quite know. But I suspect it is to do with striving for indisposable content. Things that are worth reflecting upon, pausing for and/or enacting time and time again. Creations, thoughts and designs that leave the viewer with an impression — something which might inspire their own next meaningful breach of the vacuum.
It is an impossible goal, but worth striving for, nonetheless. As a trajectory, not a definite endpoint. At the very least, to do better at protecting the vacuum from noise and disposable things — even when all incentives line up for us to publish the thing quickly, and to ‘repurpose’ for all it’s worth.
I, for one, know that I have contributed enough noise already…
Note: this is not a solution. It is an alternative. An alternative to the norm of publishing disposable content which fills feeds with repetitive punts for top position, and leaves the creator feeling empty and regressed.
The alternative is unlikely to bring ‘better’ results, as measured by engagement, clicks and yes, even sales and the bottom line. Certainly if one is to continue delivering content via feeds.
But if you are simply looking for an alternative on the supply side, as a creator, I will personally be taking up ‘indisposable content’ as my new litmus test for hitting publish. I have no doubt it will be uncomfortable, but I hope to have the courage for it.
The courage to sit with the abyss until something true within it or us bursts forth — for only then can we be sure it is worthwhile.