Have you been living in a cave?

I wouldn’t recommend asking this question of anyone other than myself. It assumes a depth of knowledge about a particular subject that is expected to be of common knowledge.

And I wonder if people these days would be less prone to ask such a question, since the choices for entertainments and media consumption are so vast that we can longer assume shared experiences as we may have in the age of mass media. We are moving well beyond the borders of the age of mass media, where the power of the media came from its ability to direct the flow of public discourse to some degree by the choices made in the editing process. When newspapers were a dominant form of mass communication, the daily question was about what should occupy the coveted position on the front page of the paper?

In web design, we have often come across phrases such as “above the fold” that were a throwback to the mindset of the newsprint age, to which one might respond, “Have you been living in a cave? That does not matter anymore. In fact, the lovely slideshow that you have gracing your home page is a useless distraction for your audience. User experience professionals tend to agree that carousels are not effective, except to appease the marketing department. Research appears to be sparse, but further discussions lean heavily toward the ineffectiveness of carousels.

Of course, one would not say that. It is rude (even if you’re right).

So, back to cave dwelling, it may be quite a viable and perhaps even preferable option to many alternatives. While my wife may not wholeheartedly agree, the option of building our own DIY cave home should be on the list of possible future domiciles.

I am an absolute cave dweller when it comes to popular culture and current events. Ask me a question. I most likely won’t know what you’re talking about. I remain blissfully unaware. So, when I have a question, I ask my wife. She is my litmus test of what’s relevant in popular culture. Ask me about something obscure and I might have some idea of what you’re talking about. Ask me about my area of expertise and you’ll have opened the floodgates. Don’t do it. You’ll be sorry. Did I mention monologuing?

People love to talk about themselves, when given the chance. In the movie, The Incredibles, the retired heroes reminisce about the old days, when the villain usually can’t help but start monologuing.

Lucius: [Bob and Lucius are sitting in a parked car, reminiscing] So now I’m in deep trouble. I mean, one more jolt of this death ray and I’m an epitaph. Somehow I manage to find cover and what does Baron von Ruthless do?

Bob: [laughing] He starts monologuing.

Lucius: He starts monologuing! He starts like, this prepared speech about how feeble I am compared to him, how inevitable my defeat is, how the world will soon be his, yadda yadda yadda.

Bob: Yammering.

Lucius: Yammering! I mean, the guy has me on a platter and he won’t shut up!

Susan Cain, in her book Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking, refers to research regarding the performance gaps between students from different countries where Asian countries consistently rank at the top of the list. These countries tend to be culturally introverted and students can more often than not display traits to which their ability to excel may be attributed.

In other words, excellent students seem not only to possess the cognitive ability to solve math and science problems, but also to have a useful personality characteristic: quiet persistence. (p. 201)

As a self-professed introvert, I do enjoy the cave, where I can concentrate on working through the difficult challenges of developing a solution to a design or technical problem, or researching different approaches and ideas related to code, design and creativity, or taking time to formulate my own ideas in writing. The process usually requires patient persistence, but the end result is often a new approach to an old problem, a different way of thinking about a particular narrative, or a discovery of some interesting connections between disparate fields of knowledge.

I will often retreat to a cave, in terms of social media, as the distractions become too overwhelming to be able to work effectively and to feel creatively inspired. I have been taking the time to recharge, to research, to organize and to prepare. So, I have been taking a while to reengage with the online community, still feeling that I need to get to a point where I have worked through the necessary steps to be able to find my bearings and find my focus. I also have a tendency to want to spread myself too thin. So, I want to take the time to establish a set of habits that I can effectively sustain over the long term.

Being my own worst critic, I also need to learn to have patience with myself. Anything worth doing, is worth doing right, and this will take some time.