“Curiosity killed the cat.” –Ben Johnson, Every Man in His Humour, 1598.
“God fashioned hell for the inquisitive.” –St. Augustine, Confessions, CE 397
Curiosity got a bad name when it became confused with meddling or prying into other people’s business. Or, worse, contradicting church doctrine.
Galileo contradicted popular and church belief that the earth was not the center of the universe, but moved around the sun. He was tried by the Inquisition in the 1600s, found guilty of heresy, and lived under house arrest for the rest of his life. Lucky for us, he used his time to explore and doubt some more, and published important physics and mathematics thinking while under house arrest.
The curiosity I’m thinking about is the seedling sprout of imagination and creativity. The starting point of many inventions and discoveries is “Huh, I wonder if . . . ” or “Really? How can that be true?”
I’ve begun to explore some new creative paths, and that curiosity leads me into a lot of research, checking facts, interesting discoveries, and raw information.
The habit also leads me into trouble. It’s not hard to find bad thinking on Facebook. Much of it is due to lack of critical thinking (a big hot button for me), and the resulting need to pile on to a magic cure, whether it’s eating (or not eating) a food, or believing something that is such obvious nonsense that it makes me want to bang my head on my desk. (A recent example: the idea that Mark Zuckerberg would give away tons of cash to random Facebook users.)
Truth is, people do not want to be corrected on Facebook. I don’t blame them. Neither do I. And my truth involves a simple stumble: I think that people want information, want to know more about science, and welcome change. What they want far more often is agreement, being surrounded by like-thinkers or believers, and validation. We all do. I’m not going to change the mind of a single Trump supporter. No comment I post will make someone quit their magic food or supplement. And really, that’s not my job.
Today I posted a de-bunking fact on a post and the original poster was immediately surrounded by her friends and supporters (who agreed with her). I felt like a meddling moron. I was. So what if this person likes to drink some awful concoction? If it’s not poisonous, and she thinks it is good for her health, why should I contradict? Maybe she will feel better. And if she decides she should give it up and drink some other awful concoction, well, that is not my business either. She didn’t ask for my opinion.
And then the big lightbulb flashed over my head. I often mistake Facebook for real social interaction. Facebook isn’t real conversation or an exchange of ideas in the traditional sense. It is a step into the vast, fast-moving river of popular culture. Interesting and worth watching. Yes, but then move on.
This week, which was rich with possibility, resulted in very little productive work. I was smart enough to jot down how much time I spent on Facebook. Lots of time spent not daydreaming, sketching, reading or writing. Not even cleaning and organizing my studio. There is nothing wrong with playing on Facebook, but it’s easy for me to move my desk and whiteboard in and start to work. And Facebook is not my work space or office.
As so often happens, I forgot what was my work to do. My work is often hard, and Facebook is always easy. Sometimes my own work makes me uncomfortable, and rather than sit with that, I reach for chocolate or Facebook, which has fewer calories and lasts much longer.
I’m not going to leave Facebook. I am going to start limiting my time. I’m going to support (or ignore) more and educate less. Yes, my training evaluations show I’m a popular trainer, but the people who sign up for my classes choose to be there. Educating people on Facebook is much like tackling someone at a bus stop and forcing them to learn long division. Even if it is helpful, they won’t want to learn it, and it’s not ultimately useful.
Back to doing my own work. By myself. Even when it is hard. Without a lot of crutches, gadgets and cheerleaders. Because it’s my work. And it’s waiting for me to get busy.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer and a creativity coach who still loves Facebook.