Digital Detox: The Importance of disconnecting as a digital creative
Perhaps I’m turning into the cliché old man wagging his finger at the younger generation, but as a Millennial, I consider myself lucky to remember life before social media. The need to disconnect as a digital creative is somewhat of an interesting paradox. On one hand, we need to stay connected and up to date on current trends in the industry. On the other, there’s something undeniably soul-sucking about sitting in a tiny cubicle staring at a screen day in and out.
Another risk we run as creatives being so connected through the internet is the convergence of design styles and a lack of true innovation in the visual space. Pablo Picasso is widely quoted as saying, “good artists borrow, great artists steal.” But what happens when all the artists are borrowing and stealing from the same place? Everything starts to look the same. A quick scroll through the front page of Dribbble or Behance and you may think it was the portfolio of a single artist rather than thousands with their own unique styles and executions. We also run the risk of burnout when we create the same work over and over.
I recently returned from a vacation on a small island outside of the country where I didn’t have cell service. The only time my phone worked was when it was connected to the Wi-Fi at the resort we were staying in. We spent the majority of the time away from the room, so I was forced to leave my phone behind all day. When I finally returned home, I felt more refreshed and inspired than I had from a vacation in years. That Sunday, my weekly iPhone usage report said my screen time was down 90%.
On my way home, I had an hour layover in Atlanta, and while I sat at the gate I remember looking around and 9 out of 10 people were staring down at their phones. I couldn’t help but think of what has been lost over the last 15 years. Before smartphones, people sitting at the gate would’ve struck up a conversation with the people sitting next to them. New friends and connections would’ve been made, and through these, new ideas would’ve been formed (and this longing is coming from an introvert who generally hates small talk).
Any creative knows that artistic inspiration is something that can’t be forced, and often comes when we least expect it. The best art in the world that stands the test of time has always started with a unique idea. And it’s difficult to come up with unique ideas when we’re stuck in the loop of going back to places like Dribbble and Behance for inspiration. When I scroll through these sites, it’s rare that I see work that sticks with me or work that I’ll remember even the next day. While more and more of the work is consistently “good,” it’s difficult to find work that’s “great,” because the great work stands out from the rest.
While this may sound depressing to some, I find it encouraging, because it’s becoming easier than ever to stand out as an artist. The solution is quite simple—do what other digital artists are not doing—go outside more. Draw inspiration from places other artists are not. Step away from the screen, take long walks, make small talk with strangers, and observe the nearly infinite variety of wildlife our beautiful planet has to offer. The more random encounters you have, the more likely you are to have that random spark of inspiration.
And on that note, here’s a quick video dump of some of the cool encounters I had on that vacation. If you’re interested in scuba diving, I highly recommend taking a trip to a small Dutch island off the coast of Venezuela called Bonaire.
Matt is a Senior Designer at FoxFuel. He loves the outdoors, his dog Apollo, and being outside with his dog, Apollo. And even though he loves all things motion, he knows it's important to stop every once and while.