Monday, September 19, 2016

Enforced Creativity

Gonna try to start forcing myself to do something creative in order to keep my brain active in a productive manner during downtime at work instead of trying to beat my high score at minesweeper again (150 seconds on expert, if you were wondering).

The idea of how much time I spend in front of a screen/device has been prevalent on my mind lately. Call it 7 hours a day of computer screens at work, 1 hour of video games, 2 hours of TV, 2 hours of Phone sandwiched somewhere in there and that's 12 out of 16-ish waking hours spent interacting with screens.

I had a conversation with a school teacher over the weekend and she chalked 'screen time' up as a main reason as to why her students read at a 4th grade level even though she's a 7th grade science teacher which got me to thinking about the subject. Although I consider myself to have above average intelligence (who doesn't consider that to be true though..), I do think that some aspects of my intelligence have been dulled by the constant checking of screens and interacting with these digital overlords of my everyday life. The sub-conscious desire to pull up my phone every 5 minutes, the fact that my phone is within 6 feet of my body about 22 hours a day, and the fact that the only thing that holds my attention for longer than 10 minutes at a time is a video game, which may only be because it requires my eyes, my ears and both hands.

Ask yourself the question, when is the last time you watched an entire movie on your couch at home without checking your phone throughout. I think that the multitasking that seems so benign to our existence drains our ability to have great conversations, to read good books, and to fully enjoy a single thing because we know that we can be partially enjoying 3 different things. I find myself sitting on the couch with an episode of some TV thing (what exactly it is, is besides the point) going, with my beautiful, intelligent wife sitting besides me and what am I doing? I'm on my phone bouncing between reddit and clash of clans mostly.

As with most things, I find myself questioning, is this behavior trend wrong? The sensory overload of phones, tv's, computers, video games and if possible 2 or 3 of those things at once is a new thing for mankind to be encountering, so there's not multiple generations of humans who've experienced this for any worthwhile conclusions to be made about this. But I think most people's gut instincts would say that it isn't optimal.

While saying this, I'm completely aware this is not an entirely original thought. Also, I don't mean to be alarmist as this is something like the 16,000th blog/article/op-ed about the topic spanning back to the time when newspapers on the trains took away from potential conversations back in WWII times. I'm more thinking about the impact on my life, my relationships, my personal health (both physical and mental). Currently, I'm thinking that this might call for an 'unplugged time', whether that means an hour a night, or a night a week or whatever. So that I can be less dependent on outside entertainment, definitely something to consider.

'Til next time

Friday, September 9, 2016

Damn Aaron, Back at it with the Blogging Again

6 month old reference? Check.
18 months since last blog post? Check.
Sleepless night preceding the urge to want to write something down? Check.
Following old behavioral patterns and cyclical patterns here. Check and Check.

My typical writing pattern is to tie some personal experience I'm having with larger trends that I notice in the world around me. Since I'm not a very experienced writer, I'm not yet comfortable moving away from the comfortable box I've created for myself (not to mention the afformentioned 18 months since the last time I wrote something substantive.) So we're gonna stick with the format we know here, sorry.

One thing that's different about this post is the location from which I'm writing it.

I've been feeling especially uninspired about work lately. I had fallen into a routine of doing the minimum amount of work and watching plenty of Twitch streams and doing a large amount of general internet browsing. It started with a few minutes a day, and gradually after the course of many months, I probably had Twitch (or something similar) open for 4 hours plus a day. After 6-ish months of work mistake or two seeped into my work, and then, poof!, Twitch gets banned, and internet monitoring is happening. Now to make things perfectly clear, I have no resentment towards my superiors for their actions, completely warranted, and if anything, I feel like I may have gotten off lightly. I fully understand their reasoning for the decisions that were made and I would even go as far as to say that had I been in their shoes that I  would have done the same exact thing.

What this experience did was open my eyes up to how I think about work. I now have multiple hours a day of being in a medium sized cubicle with not a lot to do. Replacing 4 hours of internet browsing a day with general thumb-twiddling will do that to a person. Not a lot of opportunity for learning new skills, not a lot of opportunity to apply the more high-level skills (i.e. not mindless spreadsheet jockeying) I do have or work on things that I find especially interesting or am passionate about.

This train of thought brings me more to the central thesis of this post. To what degree can we expect a job to be 'fulfilling' on some sort of core personal level. Is it wrong to expect a job to tickle the itches we have to work on passion projects? What if we don't know what our passion projects are? I find it hard to complain about a $50k+ a year job when compared to the struggles that many (read: most) people face in this world. Furthermore, it's a very new thing in the course of humanity's history for a person to be able to complain about the fulfillment of a job when the job they have requires low physical effort, medium mental effort and provides a comfortable living with all the necessities and many luxuries for them and their family.

Now is the part where I plug this into the societal issue I see in the world around me. I've seen a lot of talk about millennials lately (to the point where applying 'millennials' to world problems as a non-sequitur has become a meme), and i think the complaints that I just voiced would be placed into the 'whining millennial' bucket by a lot of people, and rightly so. Does that invalidate my complaints? Does that mean i should sit down and put up with it? I don't think so, but I'm not sure about that.

So that's where I am currently. Knowing that my work isn't fulfilling,  and not seeing a long-term future for myself at my current company. Not knowing what to do about it. Not knowing what real tangible thing I have a true passion for anymore (subject for another blog post, perhaps.) Not knowing what I would do to enable the sort of work I envision if I were to up and quit the job that I have. Do I go to grad school and pursue more higher education? Do I volunteer in some worthy local charity? Do I pick up a hobby that requires blood, sweat and tears?

Unanswered questions. Unknowns everywhere.

'Til next time.