That was the standard answer my friend Justin gave to his wife whenever she asked what he was looking at on the laptop. The exchange often happened in the evenings when they were both home. She didn’t understand what stuff he needed to check, but I got it. Because I needed to “check stuff” all the time too. I still do.
Justin and I talked about “checking stuff” years ago, before Twitter, or Facebook, or MySpace. Probably even before blogs were common. Back then, checking stuff was email, ESPN, certain searches on Ebay, and what have you. Who knows. What I do know is that there was some kind of urge to be on top of certain things, to be aware of the “right now”. It’s somewhere between neurotic and narcotic.
Now, there is much more to check. There is more “right now”. RSS feeds, twitter, Facebook, and still email, ESPN, and this or that website. You know, what have you. I don’t want to be down on any of these things. I don’t want to rail on the dangers of social media, because I’ve developed and extended a lot of meaningful relationships through all of these. Sometimes, “checking stuff” is a viable activity.
But I’m more aware of when I feel the need to “check stuff”. I often get the urge to “check stuff” at times when I’m facing some kind of creative challenge. And I know that the urge to know what is happening “right now” somewhere else pulls me out of being present with my own thoughts or challenges.
So, lately, my Twitter app isn’t left open so that it doesn’t catch my wandering eye. And golly, I’ve been surviving okay. But it’s not only about closing Twitter, or email, or Facebook, or what have you. Its about learning to see when I’m drawn to step away from whatever challenge is before me, a difficult phone call, or a design that isn’t working right. There will always be stuff to check, and I allow myself windows of time to do so. But I won’t be making any stuff of my own if I’m always checking everyone else’s.