Digital Paralysis

I heard a great phrase from Jenna Walker at Artifact Uprising yesterday. We had a Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network Colorado meeting with her and her partner and in the middle of the discussion about their business Jenna used the phrase “digital paralysis” to describe one of the things she thinks is driving the incredible engagement of their customers.

Her example was photography. Artifact Uprising came out of her original experience with photography, the dramatic shift to digital photography on iPhones and picture storage on Dropbox and Instagram, and the massive overwhelming feeling of having zillions of digital photos. In Jenna’s case, it’s caused a slow down of her photo taking (digital paralysis) because she’s overwhelmed with the massive numbers of photos she now has, doesn’t really have the energy to deal with them, and resists taking more because they’ll just end up along with the other zillions in Dropbox.

I totally identified with this. Amy and I have a huge number of digital artifacts at this point – with our enormous photo library being just one of them. The feeling of paralysis in dealing with them is substantial. After a brief tussle the other day over “hey – just share the photo stream with me of the stuff you are going to take today” followed by a struggle to figure out how to do it the way we wanted to do it and still have the photos end up in the same place, tension ensued and digital paralysis once again set it. I sent myself an email task to “spend an hour with the fucking photos on Dropbox” this weekend which I’ll probably end up avoiding dealing with due to digital paralysis.

Yesterday, my friend Dov Seidman wrote a great article in Fast Company titled Why There’s More To Taking A Break Than Just Sitting There. It’s worth a long, slow read in the context of reacting to being overwhelmed digitally as well as in the general intense pace of life today.

As I sat and thumbed through some of the beautiful photo books that Artifact Uprising creates, I could feel my brain slowing down and being less jangly as I settled into observing and interacting with something not-digital. Try it this weekend, and ponder it while you are taking a break. Pause, and explore why you are pausing, how it feels, and what you are doing about it. And see if it impacts your digital paralysis when you end the pause and go back to the computer.

  • MoonPieMike

    And go for a run…

    • Soon! Later this morning. In the mountains, in Keystone, with no music. Just me and my running shoes.

      • MoonPieMike

        Started with music, must have been a crutch. Never run with it now days. But I’m still bringing along shirt and shorts with my shoes..

  • You might be interested in this relaxation app which can help you achieve the sense of peace and unplug from digital world. Bear in mind that this is our first version, we are working on a new design and features, should be out within next month or two

    • Thx – looks similar to Calm, which I’m a tiny investor in and use periodically.

      • Yea, on first look it does look similar to Calm, but have to say our relaxations are far more effective. Stuff on Calm is very technical and might help you to certain extent, but Oceen relaxations have deep integration in TCM and Chinese understanding of energy field and transmitting energy through voice. They might sound similar on ear but when it comes to actual effect and performance, it’s like comparing Kia with Ferrari 🙂

        • Neat – I’ll definitely try it. Downloading now.

          • Great. Unfortunately technically our audios are still not as they should be, we don’t have a proper studio, but we are working on that and will record new materials soon.

  • David Parker

    Specific to digital paralysis with photos, I think this is one area where Google and G+ reigns supreme. When you take a bunch of pictures on your Android device and you auto-sync photos to Google, then it’ll automatically create a few things for you:
    1. highlights vs all photos- which is a nice way to quickly view pictures from that time
    2. auto-awesome- if you take a bunch of pictures within a few seconds, it’ll create a fun animated gif of those images
    3. “trip to…”- this is a newer feature where it creates an awesome interactive storyboard of your trip, taking highlights of pictures and making a really cool user experience through that trip. I think this is the kind of thing that I would expect Everlater to make if they were around today.

    It’s sad because not many know about these features, mainly because they’re all on iPhones / don’t use G+… but I enjoy them a lot and have 0 digital paralysis (around photos).

    • Good suggestion. I’ve played around with G+ and photos a little and spent a lot of time trying to get happy with Picasa but I’ve never really succeeded. I’ll try G+ again.

  • heyehd

    We need “Life Editors” – cull through the noise to find the jewels and serve them out calmly in place of the digital fire hose. I feel my life is dictated by impatience these days.

    • My wife Amy has a women called “her organizer” who comes to our house and sits with her for hours at a time while so “organizes”, much of which is really “throwing away stuff.” The meta of this service is what you are describing, which I fantasize will be one day done by my computer.

      • heyehd

        So it’s days later and my head is still spinning over this. The bane of an entrepreneur I guess. How do you get a digital Life Editor to avoid the constraints of a filter bubble ( but still do its job. Wisdom is the ability to connect seemingly disparate ideas but can these tools anticipate that? Ultimately I guess, it’s not algorithms, it’s a bond of understanding, a mutual collaboration between you and your Life Editor. The best tool will be one that you can nurture, that you can over time imprint your characteristics on – NoSQL on steroids…

  • Coincidentally, these days, I’m spending time scanning old films. Scanning, cropping/editing in Photoshop, and selecting some for eventual showing/sharing… Very positive experience. Re-connecting with past moments, faces, themes, places… very re-centering and calming. But I allow myself the “pause” to do this because of a project I’m working on.

    Brad… one hour won’t do… 🙂

    • Oh – I know that one hour is grossly inadequate. But it might be long enough to figure out what I’m actually going to do. Or not…

  • rickd423

    One of the best pieces of advice I received was to “appreciate the boredom.” It’s not often when you can be completely unplugged, so take advantage of the road trips or flights by doing nothing.

    • I worry that kids right now don’t know how to be bored (I remember just looking out the window during long car trips with my parents – not being “entertained”) and that the adults have forgotten.

      • On those long car trips we took, my parents kept us occupied with lots of games. I could read in the back seat of the car, so I read a lot. I expect part of my love of reading for long periods of time came from those car trips.

    • I’ve always struggled with being bored, so I’ve translated the concept to “enjoy the nothingness.” I’ve learned how to do this even better with the meditation I’ve been doing.

  • Sign me up for that life editing service @heyehd! I’m in. I think the interesting thing about all of this in so many areas of life right now is the idea of “oversaturation” or inaction when we feel overwhelmed – and the fact that our lives have more noise, more clutter, more more more…Perhaps the future belongs to the idea of less – to make room for more meaning, more real experiences, more connection with the people we care about most. Thanks for the post Brad – humbled and grateful – and thanks for all you do in CO!

    • Great to meet you the other day! Looking forward to being a customer and more interaction in the future.

  • Bradk456

    This is makes me think of the book “Quiet”. I find often times to more research I do or the more time I spend looking for answers in the digital world, the more complicated things become. The most brilliant thoughts and concepts happen in the times where there is no digital influence. My best advice to combat that comes from John Muir – “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

  • 1/ If you find a really good photo app, please let us know. I’m having the same issues and was pondering how to manage loads of digital photos from the past 15+ years. Dropbox is a storage service, doesn’t help in the management of photos. I tried PictureLife and others, but nothing stuck so far. I’m willing to keep trying.

    2/ I found that not only Unplugging helps to re-charge, but Uprooting (to new physical spaces) helps to generate new ideas. My imagination runs wild when I’m outside of my typical environment.

    • 1. Will do. I’m just lost right now.

      2. Totally agree (as I write this from Keystone, after being in Homer for three weeks, with a trip home to Boulder in between for a week.)

  • J Sandifer

    So fun to see Artifact Uprising featured here! Jenna and Katie have a great company and have certainly touched on a pain point in our digital lives! We’re big fans and stoked that they made there way into your stream…

    • Super cool. I thought they were awesome when I met them the other day.

  • Joseph Burros

    You have touched on a huge problem that a lot of people currently have. We are only a few years into having the ability to take high quality photos with smart phones, and already many people are overwhelmed by the amount of photos they have accumulated. I foresee some good potential products to deal with this problem.

    • Yup. It’s a fascinating problem. The explosion of ability to take high quality photos changes the definition of high quality as well.

  • Sounds like a potential Unicorn in the making =)

  • More aptly, when considering our intentions when capturing moments, these are our memories: photos (analogue + digital), videos, diary/ journals, & social media… and it is overwhelming paralysis. + we will inevitably inherent our parents and grandparents memories, including photos of their time before we were alive, our childhood, and our children’s, effectively the entire photographic histories of our families since the advent of the family camera….. an inadvertent but significant side effect of this new world, to say the least….. + every successive generation for posterity.

    Digital paralysis (i.e. friction) is not only due to the overwhelming number of memories, memories that are semi-organized and stored in growing number of albums and shared across multiple apps across the web, multiple hard drives and hardware, and accruing equally across family members, but also because the apps available currently do not directly address the use case of usability ‘over the longterm’. Product continuity and trust as a genuine custodian is not synonymous with photo apps and startups.

    Permanent & intuitive organization, personalized curation, and product continuity are paramount features for this use case. A useable archive. No one will invest the time to scan, tag, share, etc. a lifetime of memories with a product that doesn’t define their current and future use case as a benefit to our current & future uses (including posthumously)?

    We’re all inadvertently building our own messy web of memories – and an emotional web that a Google can’t help us search our way into and out of without considerably more friction. It will only get worse with time.

    I’ve been working on the solution for over 4 years at
    We just relaunched a fully redeveloped and redesigned web app and mobile is 2 weeks away.

    Would love to meet the folks from Artifact Uprising for our printing options if they read this.