I’m on the edge. I’m on that slender precipice that sits between caring and giving up. I feel like I’m watching my heart evolve from some great height and my priorities are passing away to make room for something new.
I couldn’t care less about the next iPhone or Kickstarter project, to be honest. I have very little interest in the latest game or web service or tool. I know this is mildly hypocritical, as most of my professional life is built upon the world of app, book, blog and service branding. I don’t want that to change, but it’s clear to me that my preferences for how I spend my time are changing.
I used to think I could spend my entire day following tech news, trying to stay caught up on twitter and App.net and following digital rabbit trails. Sometimes I came close, in the moments when I allowed it. But I’m busier now, and as demand for my design work continues to grow, I’ve abandoned my RSS reader in favor of silence and peace. Sometimes I feel like I need to go all the way and disconnect from it all. I feel numb most of the time and I’ve been trying to figure out why.
I honestly do want to tweet and post and write, but I often hold back because I don’t have the mental energy for the conversations that will result. I’m far from being an “Internet celebrity”, but I never want to become That Guy who ignores most of their followers. So I’ve just shut down and gone quiet. I’m numb and tired and most likely a little depressed. So what’s the deal?
There are a few things I know to be true. I know that I desire with every fiber of my being to create things of lasting value and usefulness. App icons, book covers, podcast art and logos for blogs and business all appeal to me because they aren’t “disposable art”. They are, at least in theory, meant to stick around for a very long time. I want the things I create to stick around.
It’s not just digital things, either. The physical tools I create and sell give me great joy. I’m making things that help people do better work. That feels like a lasting contribution to the greater Conversation. Writing fits this urge as well, of course.
All of these activities and endeavors require me to interface with a world that increasingly exhausts me and steals me soul. My challenge, I suppose, is finding a way to exist and work and grow in a world where my creations can make a difference, while maintaining my sanity and finding peace.
I don’t like feeling numb. But I have a suspicion that it’s an instinctive reaction to the demands around me. Some people are going to see this as a “poor-me” post, and maybe I can understand that assumption. But just as coal miners in the 1800’s had to suffer with the effects of their work environment on their bodies, maybe those of us who work online in these digital mines need to accept the hazards of our occupations.
I’ll continue to wrestle with how I can be a genuine human being in the digital space while guarding myself from the pointless hype and angry trolls that seem to be everywhere. I will continue shipping what I feel called to create, and building things for the people around me. But it’s clear that I’m worse for wear by doing it.
My great-great-great grandfather’s time in the mines earned him “black lung”. Perhaps my illness is much the same. I certainly can’t be alone in feeling this way, – there must be others out there who also deal with these experiences.
Perhaps they, like me, suffer from the Digital Lung.