Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Was John Mayer Wrong to Quit Twitter?

image: Azimo

I read today that musician John Mayer revealed why he quit Twitter.  Long story short: he quit Twitter because he felt it was making his mind smaller and smaller.  He started using it as an outlet for riffing, instead of his instrument.

Having recently read Nicholas Carr's awesome book "The Shallows" about how technology and the Internet are changing the way our brains work, I have to admit that I'm not surprised by his reaction to what Twitter was doing to his him.

But, Is It a Bad Thing?

This is exactly what I always say to people when discussing this topic.  So your brain is becoming better at deciphering and digesting smaller bits of information.  So you are becoming better at searching through large chunks of information to find what is important.

If the world we live in is changing and that change is permanent, is it wrong that our brains are adapting?  Take books for example.  I love books, I still read books all the time but are long-form books going to become irrelevant because we no longer have the attention span for them and if so, is this really a bad thing?  Does your job require you to read a 500 page manual or does your profession require you to read a 500 page textbook?

I Don't Think So

I have always felt that we are lucky to be alive during an amazing time.  Never has so much amazing information been available to us for free and in ways that make it so easy to access.  Our brains need to adapt to be able to handle the onslaught.

I feel that our brains need to adapt in ways that help us pick out what information is important faster.  I have personally felt this happening with my own brain.  After going back to school a few years ago and being crushed by the amount of required reading, I learned how to pick the important points out of the reading material quickly (tip: good writers use specific structure like topic sentences and spotting them makes reading quicker). 

The pace of information, media and technology is increasing and that is a trend likely to continue.  If we don't adapt, we risk falling behind.

Never Forget How You Earn a Living

In John Mayer's case, I applaud him for getting off Twitter.  I felt he was conducting himself like a total idiot on Twitter and in the media, so it's a good thing he stopped tweeting, but he was also smart enough to realize that it was affecting his ability to do his job - making music.

If something isn't helping you do what do better, then why are you doing it?