It appears to me that in our social-media saturated culture, we are losing the sanctity of negative space, or the security and freedom to be silent . . . . to say nothing about someone or something. When communicating on social media, particularly Facebook, it seems as though there is an uneasy sense of urgency to say something, say anything about certain people or events . . . one must at least “like” what someone else has posted as soon as possible. Otherwise there is this low-grade anxiety crawling around in our over-stimulated, nervous minds whispering to us that if we don’t say or “like” something, then in our silent, negative space there is an assumed disagreement or an “unlike” of what is being said by others about this someone or something. For example, if everyone is posting or “liking” posts about Robin Williams’ death, does my silence mean to some Facebook friends that I must not care, or even worse, maybe I am having some dreadful silent thought or opinion about Robin Williams that I am keeping from everyone.
Maybe we are losing our impulse control, our natural braking system, in the time-crunching, nervously twitching reality of Facebook world. It certainly seems that way as irrational postings regularly flash across our multiple screens, that are clearly indicative of a mob-like rush to judgment without reason or fact-checking research. The evolved, rational mind of the pre-frontal cortex is being overridden and shut down by the wiggling, worrisome amygdala or reptilian brain, that sends us all into fight or flight mode as we scroll and scroll and scroll. At some point, more often sooner than later, this bothersome itch has to be scratched.
The concept of impulsivity has many different aspects and definitions, but in general it covers a wide range of actions that are poorly conceived, prematurely expressed, unduly risky, or inappropriate to the situation and that often result in undesirable outcomes, or more simply put, a tendency to act prematurely and without foresight.
In art and music, negative space has always been a positive thing. It is a place for the eye, ear and mind to rest in a composition. It is considered good design to balance the two. The Japanese have a word (Ma) for this sacred interval, which they believe gives shape to the whole. In the multiple variations of our cyber world, maybe we are squeezing this sanctified space out of existence. Even as I write this, there is some discomfort, something unsettling about this prospect, because this impulsive Facebook thing is now seemingly in my bloodstream. Maybe it would be wise for us to pause and reintroduce ourselves to a belief in the goodness of negative space . . . to silence . . . to the beauty of no response, no reaction, no “liking” or “unliking.” I think I’ll give it a try.
P.S. Text me if you are worried that I don’t like you in my silence.