Is digital distraction bad for creativity?

There’s been a lot written about how we’re being bombarded with more and more digital distractions. There have been studies into how it’s effecting our memory and attention spans*, and think pieces on how it’s bad for our productivity. But is digital distraction bad for our creativity?

On one hand, there are some people who would emphatically say yes. When it comes to making focused work being sucked into the black hold of related videos on YouTube isn’t exactly ideal. Sometimes you need to just focus on making something with your hands away from a screen.

Plus, if our tendency to just keep scrolling has shortened our attention spans, creating detailed or labour intensive work is going to be harder. We’re also less likely to have the patience to draft and redraft in order to make the best work that we can, and to shy away from the tough tasks that will require delayed gratification.

On the other hand, isn’t distraction where a lot of our best ideas come from? And isn’t the digital world just as big a part of our lives as the physical world? According to one scientific study the more creative you are the more likely you are to be distracted by what’s happening around you.

When it comes to brainstorming, the best creative minds draw from a number of sources including things they’ve picked up distractedly browsing Instagram as if by osmosis. The web is an infinite source of content and distraction, or potential idea fodder, and who’s to say that content is any less meaningful if it’s online. 

Digital distraction, in moderation, I believe, is good for creativity, at the idea generation stage at least.

But it can’t be our only crutch, and it is something you should be aware of, because it can quickly spiral into something negative. In short don’t forget to go outside, speak to people in person and touch real objects too. Finding out what makes your audience tick face to face is an invaluable resource, and fresh air and quiet is so good for you. That might mean limiting your scrolling time or actively scheduling in time to go for a wander without your phone depending on how your day works. But as with everything, balance is key.

How does digital distraction impact your work? Do you actively limit your screen time?

*Digital distraction might not have actually made any difference to our attention spans

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